Thursday, January 31, 2008

In the comments May Britt asked about the pattern for the Night and Noon. It's from a McCalls magazine that I bought in 1974, and the instructions were somewhat sketchy and the dimensions diabolical. I haven't yet found a site with instructions on the net, but it's easy enough to draft for hand piecing. If I have time I will rough out some rotary cutting instructions, because it's quite an easy block to make. I like mine better than the one in the magazine.

Kathie from Inspired By Antique Quilts wanted to know if it was hard to do starts and stops in the quilting; the Statler has an auto tie off feature that makes it easy. All we have to do is clip the thread ends later. If I were doing an heirloom quilt I would turn that feature off and end the threads by knotting them and threading them into the batting with a needle. And that would be labour intensive, but it gives a nice result.

Karen from Karen's Chronicles asked about the pattern for this quilt;I made this up myself sometime last year, though it may well have been invented before this; it's difficult to come up with anything truly original when we're all playing with the same basic shapes.

It's super simple; make a heap of Rail Fence blocks, with any size strips you want. I made this sample with 2" strips, and so was the quilt. Piece three strips together, lightest in the middle and darker either side. I didn't really use any lights in the quilt, as the setting was light fabrics.
Cut the strip into squares; mine were 5" squares because that's how wide the pieced strip turned out. Cut squares of setting fabric the same size and draw a diagonal line in one direction.
Layer a fabic square on top of a pieced square and sew 1/4" away from both sides of the diagonal line. Make sure you have all the diagonals sloping in the same direction; this block is a pinwheel of sorts, and it can be made to spin in opposite directions and then the pieces won't all go together.
Cut on the drawn line to give two pieced HSTs.
For every two units you can make a block like this;or use a lot of different parts to make random blocks like in my quilt.

The blocks turn out to be 8" finished, which is a nice size. You can make these with any size strips and any number of strips.


Ever since Mereth went on an excursion to Cowell with the patchwork club we have been planning our own trip so that I could see the lovely shop there. It's never been the perfect time though, so we made an executive decision this week that we were just going, full stop. It's a long drive, nearly 600k for the round trip, so it required an early start. We had to go north to Port Augusta and the head of Spencer Gulf, then south, down the other side to Whyalla, and then on to Cowell. We saw the sun come over the hills when we were already 40k along the road, and the early light made the somewhat bleak countryside spectacularly beautiful. We made good time, and arrived at the Spotlight in Whyalla before it opened. We stocked up on a small amount (!) of fabric, had a McCafe Mocha and then set off for Cowell.

This area is full of iron ore mines, and there is even a jade mine at Cowell. I suppose it could be seen as desecrating the landscape, but I like mining areas. They are so full of energy and industry, and the remoteness of them has a pioneer quality.This is what can be seen of one of the iron ore mines from the road. The red earth stains everything, even the white lines on the road and the white marker posts are a pink colour.
Hmmm, I think he has right of way..... There were several pieces of immense mining equipment on the move that day, with full police escorts. There's no alternative but to pull off the road and wait till the the trucks have roared past.

We made it to Cowell before midday, and briefly admired all the old buildings. This pub would be around-about the right size for us to have as a patchwork retreat centre; we can dream. This scene is so typical of just about every small coastal town in Australia; main street running down to the foreshore, pines planted sometime after WWI and an early stone pub.And this is the perfect wrought iron lace for a coastal pub, a heron holding an anchor; there is something written around the heron, but I can't read it in the photos. Next time I'll have to get better details but it's on the second floor balcony and it's hard to get close.
We had a marvellous time at the p'work shop, called Stitch'n'Bits. Mereth had the good sense to take photos inside the shop, but I was overwhelmed by the fabric and didn't give it a thought. We chose some lovely fabrics for current projects, and some for future ones, and some Just Because We Wanted Them. I am unrepentant. Besides, it would have been silly to go all that way and then NOT buy fabric!

Ownership of some of these pieces is being disputed; Mereth badly wants the dusty pink second from the left. We may have to send away for some more of that, because I rather think I own that bit, seeing as I bought it.There's lots to be going on with here; I even bought Orange, most unlike me.
And that is 4m of double pink, that is destined for a project I'm itching to begin. Mmmmm, pink and brown!The last photos are from a deserted garden in Cowell, hopelessly overgrown and abandoned. These bulbs were flowering in profusion, I've never seen anything like them. They were stunning, from the beginnings of the bud to the final, faded flower. I have no idea what they are, sadly. If I were a true daughter of my mother, I would have pinched a bit to grow in my own garden, but I'm not brazen enough, yet. I'm learning though.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stashbusters are having a stay-at-home retreat this weekend, and I have been busy in the workroom. This morning I bound this quilt; I lost the binding last week and discovered it this morning behind a trunk while I was vacuuming. Sometimes it pays to do housework. Most times it doesn't.

I finished quilting the Night and Noon yesterday, and had fun with it. I put lots of different patterns on it, just experimenting, and because that's how I always intended to hand quilt it all those years ago. It's hard to believe it's done at last.20 years ago my daughter had just turned 1, and I was already 6 months pregnant with my son. I had endured 5 months of awful morning sickness with her, and 5 months with the second baby. I was not feeling particularly wonderful, which was tuff luck as far as DD was concerned. She was a bundle of energy, and I spent my days dragging my pregnant self around and keeping her out of trouble.

It was Australia Day, and we had planned to go to a fair in the park, where DD could run off some energy and I wouldn't have to cook lunch or tea for anyone. I was holding my darling child, who had been fed breakfast and was ready for anything that involved movement; being restrained made her yell, and yelling made her bring up her breakfast.

I don't take well to being vomited on at the best of times, but it was a low spot that day. I don't think I moved for a whole minute, just continued to hold the child and wonder how in heaven's name my life had come to this. Then I cleaned her up, changed my clothes,washed the floor, made myself coffee and informed my husband that I would not be available that day. I locked myself in the back bedroom, which was my sewing room, and cut out this quilt.

I made templates and traced them onto the fabric and cut it all out by hand. I laid out the pieces for each block on a tray, covered them with a piece of paper and built another block on top. It took all day, and lots of coffee, and I enjoyed every bit of it. There were only a few moments each day when I could sew, and having it all prepared was vital. I knew I was building myself a little emergency kit with those pieces; when the other baby arrived there would be even less time to sew.
I deliberately chose every bright, clear colour I had in the stash (which wasn't as large as it is now). I wanted this quilt to be the antidote to everything in my life that was dragging me down. And it was. It was pieced in the busiest time of my life, when often there wasn't even time to finish a seam before something else needed doing. But this quilt has always made me feel happy and grateful; what on earth would I have done if I hadn't had my fabric and patchwork to rescue me.

On our trip to Jamestown the other day I took photos of this memorial in the main street; I love that hand holding a bunch of Forget-Me-Nots. I have several images of hands, I must put them into a collage one day.
I'd best get back to the sewing room, it's a quilting retreat after all, not a computer retreat. I'll just look at some blogs while I have another coffee, and some of these Swedish almond cookies.....Yumm!


Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's Australia Day today, and I am spending it at the Statler, quilting a 20 year old UFO. I actually began this on Australia Day 1988, and when it's finished I will post some pictures and tell you the whole story, and why I remember the exact day. I think it's very appropriate to finish it on its birthday.

As to what we did yesterday, just look at this mammoth quilt of mine. It measures 104 x 82, and it stretched the boundaries of the Statler just a little; we only have a 12' table. It was tricky starting each row, because the keyboard and mouse from the computer take up a bit of room, and the machine barely had space to squeeze past. But there were no disasters, and it went smoothly from start to finish.

It was a rather bland top, lots of empty space where there were just expanses of one colour. I used a busy panto called Pearl Bay, with a blue and green variegated thread, and I couldn't be happier with the result. It looks totally transformed, and I love it now, whereas I hated the top before quilting. It's amazing how quilting can bring a top to life, I never get used to the magic of it.

And as for the back......It's a collection of ultra-ugly prints, and it really offended me to piece them all together instead of throwing them away. But I wasn't going to waste good material on this horrible top. Now I like the back too; those fabrics are still ugly, but they are a quilt now, and that redeems them somehow. I certainly wouldn't reject this quilt on a cold winter's night!

And because I met a designing deadline I rewarded myself with a trip to the patchwork shop. I was quite focussed and mainly bought blues, indigos and shirtings. That's understandable. What I don't get is this; I just fell in love with it and had to have it, and it's hardly Me at all. There is a quilt lurking in the back of my mind, and one of these days I'll set out to make it. And everyone who sees it will say 'I never thought You would make a quilt like that....' Oh well, we've all got a bit of Maverick in us somewhere.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Now what would you think if you got a text message from your daughter that read 'I am not in any danger'? Yes, I rather panicked about the danger she WASN'T in. Her little town is in the grip of a huge flood, rather ironic when it has been drought-stricken for many years. But she is safe and dry, and cut off from her place of work, so she has been having a holiday this week. I bet she wishes she was a quilter and could sew all week.

Things have been a bit busy around here for the last few days, as I start design work for the year. I know I will enjoy it once I get started, but getting started is always a bit of a problem. I'm in sewing and quilting mode, and I don't really want to be spending hours at the computer. However, having done this for 14 years now, I know that once I see the designs taking shape I will get obsessed with the possibilities, and then I won't want to be anywhere else, or do anything else. It's like living in another world for a little while; exciting and satisfying and so much fun, but ultimately exhausting and isolating too. It's always nice to come back to the real world for a rest.

Having the Statler to play on this year will be fun, and should help with the design process. My first task was to work on a customer quilt with huge blank corner triangles, too large to quilt in one pass. It was interesting coming up with a design that could be partially stitched, and then completed after the quilt was rolled on; a bit of a challenge, but we worked it out in the end. And solving that problem led to many more ideas, so I will get busy and draft them tomorrow.

After my efforts to finish the Carolina Coverlet (I stayed up ALL night) I haven't felt like starting another project, especially when I know I won't be able to spend a lot of time on it during the next few weeks. I bound two quilts, and that was very satisfying; I also managed to lose the binding of a third quilt, and it hasn't come to light after three days. I just know it will turn up in a kitchen cupboard or somewhere, and I won't have a clue how it got there. I can wait....

Pam commented on the blue anvil blocks in the last post. I plan to make a quilt to match this one, which is a large twin size. This 4patch drank up most of my small blue scraps, for which I'm grateful. The Anvil blocks are using up the rest of them, though I think they will be set like this instead of all the same direction. I like to make quilts in pairs, so that there can be one on two beds in a room, or one folded at the foot of the bed while the other covers it. My DS had bunk beds, and I liked to have similar quilts on them; not the same, because that would be boring, but similar colours and fabrics. These quilts will go in my blue bedroom nicely.

Mereth very kindly sorted out my 2" strips, and even made some 4-patches. I want to make hundreds of them and then decide what to do with them. They will be nice pick-up-and-put-down sewing while I work on designs for the next few weeks. And I dare Mereth to tell you how many 9-patches she found in a drawer last week......


Saturday, January 19, 2008

I seem to have trouble doing what I'm supposed to. I started sewing together the blocks for the Carolina Crossroads, and it just wasn't working for me. The blocks weren't a uniform size, and when I trimmed them to 9.5" none of the seams intersected properly. So I did the only thing I could think of at the time; sashed the blocks with a 1" sashing to separate all those pesky intersections. And then I thought that I really liked how the Rail Fence blocks looked together, and the Ohio Stars looked good in the corners, and this is the result.It took HOURS AND HOURS! The sewing wasn't so hard, but I had to figure out what the design was actually going to look like and I kept changingmy mind, and at one stage I thought of naming it Carolina Cusswords. But things finally fell into place, and I'm very happy with it, and it lays flat, thank heavens. I am naming it Carolina Coverlet, because it reminds me of a woven coverlet.

On Thursday Mereth and I did a quick dash to the patchwork shop 1 1/2 hours away, on a mission to find border materials for the stash. I picked up a blue FQ on a whim, not knowing what on earth I could do with it, and wouldn't you know, it's perfect for the border for this quilt. So it's back to the shop next week so I can finish this.

And there were enough leader ender pieces sewn today to make 36 of these blue Anvil blocks. That's the start of my next quilt I suppose.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Are we half way through summer yet? I am so ready to be 6 weeks away from Autumn, which is possibly my favourite season. I tend to like bits of every season, but if I had to rank them it would be Autumn, Spring, Winter and then Summer trailing in last by a country mile. I appreciated summer a lot more when I was 18 and could wear a halter top and was concerned with getting a tan. The heat and the sunshine were all pluses. Now, none of that applies. I think I'm very lucky to have got to be this age without a skin cancer, when I think of my unprotected past summers. And I probably do have one or two cancers, and just don't know it yet.

And we have 47 days of summer left. 6 and a bit weeks. I can deal with that.

I have done my usual trick, and this quilt grew to be a monster too. It measures 88 x 82". It was meant to be about 64" square!!!!! I need to realise that just because I'm having fun with a pattern there's no need to prolong it by making the quilt bigger. I could make another one, if it's that much fun, or I could immediately start a new project and enjoy that too. I do not need huge quilts, that suck all the fun out of life until they are finished!

There's a slight note of hysteria there. Those borders took four days off my life expectancy, what with the stress of the conniptions they gave me. I spent hours scowling at the design wall where it was all pinned in pieces, trying new combinations and muttering curse words. And yet it's so simple and predictable now; that would be because I abandoned all the clever things and went with the safe options. However, at least it's more adventurous that my usual strips of fabric.

(And it is square, it just refuses to hang properly, and I don't particularly care.)

And now, just for fun and relaxation, I'm going to sew together the Ohio Star blocks from the mystery units, and by golly they'd better behave and do what they're told or it will be in the drawer with them. They should not mess with me when I'm shell-shocked after all those borders. I'm not in the mood for it!


Monday, January 07, 2008

I finished two more tops, both of them positively ancient. The Night and Noon blocks were made when my DD was 1yo, and seeing as she's about to turn 21 that makes them one of the oldest UFOs I have. I have absolutely no idea why I didn't finish this years ago, except maybe I was thinking what I always do; 'I'll make a few more blocks to make it a decent size.....' And then I never do make those extra blocks. It's a nice lap size quilt, and will go into the queue of tops waiting to be quilted.

The pink and white heart quilt was started when my 17yo great-neice was born. It has languished ever since, waiting for just the right border fabric. This would never have been my first choice of border, but it's pretty and it's finished. I'll just have to find another baby to give it to, and not wait 17 years this time.And then, because I love chaos apparently, we covered the floor of the bank building with our orphan blocks and played with different layouts. I started sewing mine together before I could get precious about what went where; these are Unloved, Out-of-Shape, Un-used blocks. Just putting them into a top is going to be a massive step forward. If it looks good at the end I'll be happy. Surprised, but happy.
Many of these are hand-pieced, experiments when I was trying to find the next Perfect Project. These weren't it, obviously. They had too many pieces, too hard to press, just plain boring or way too difficult. They have issues, but they look alright from a distance. I imagine judicious quilting will help tame the worst of the bumps and bulges. The colours go together very well, but I think that just means that I am very predictable in my fabric choices. And a good thing too!


Saturday, January 05, 2008

I finished the Double Irish Chain, and as usual I like it a whole lot better now it's done. Most of these blues are entirely gone from my stash, which I regard as a triumph. This is a testament to stash busting;I have whittled my blues down to 4 drawers instead of the 6 there used to be. And most of them are useable blues too, not the muddy grayed out ones that I used up.
I sewed diligently and finished the 100 Carolina Crossroads hourglass units. I can't wait till next Thursday to see how it all starts going together. It's been fun. I have never made this many hourglass blocks before, I was always a bit scared of them, but not any more. I'm quite comfortable with them now.

And of course there were leftovers from cutting them, so I sewed them into these tiny halfsquare triangle units, and I intend to make some filler blocks for the Orphan box. There is no temptation to do anything more ambitious with these little fellas.And then, because Mereth is so sure that I can't make a small quilt, I pulled these UFO bolcks out and finished them, even though I wanted to make another 10. It's a nice cot-size top the way it is, and I did enjoy the Cotton Reel setting so I will use that again in another quilt. You can see the instructions for that here.

All this sewing has entailed working with old projects and, now that I am wearing glasses and sewing in excellent natural light, I'm appalled at how inaccurately I used to piece. I had to do a lot of fudge work to make these bits play nicely, especially when I cut new strips to use with the old. I can actually see what I'm doing now, and for the last two years I've been guessing. Hopefully all my work will be accurate from now on....

The last two years are going to be known as my Magoo period; quilt historians examining this lot of quilts will nod knowledgeably and say 'These predate the arrival of the new spectacles, you can tell by the mismatched seams and variable strip width....'

Wouldn't this be the perfect car for me, as Ms Magoo? It's in the Birdwood motor museum, and is an electric car from 1929. It even has crystal vases inside. I WANT it!


Friday, January 04, 2008

I made several New Year's resolutions. One was to post to the blog at least every second day, but I haven't done too well on that score. Curses! Will have to try harder. My problem is that I don't like posting progress photos, I want to show the finished product, and if I don't actually finish something, there's no post. That will have to change. Here we have progress photos of the blue and white Double Irish Chain; the top is in one piece, the borders are cut, and today I will combine the two. I desperately want to see the back of this one; while I was sewing those interminable 2" squares together I had to stop myself calculating the sheer number of the little rotters that I had cut and stitched. 999 in fact. Which is interesting; if I ever want to make a quilt with close to 1000 pieces I will just make it 27 x 37.

As if that wasn't enough I cut all these bits for the Carolina Crossroads, and it took HOURS! It also used up loads of strips, so I had to cut some more, and then I started calculating just how much fabric had gone into this quilt - 5.25 yards!

I'm now keeping a journal in a notebook on my cutting table, jotting down what I cut for each project. I also record how much fabric I've bought. At the end of the page I total up the numbers and see if I'm still in Stash Deficit. This week is looking good. I cut up

  • 51" of fabric to finish a UFO from 1988,
  • 6" to do the sashes for another ancient UFO,
  • 2.2 yards for the borders and binding of the Double Irish Chain,
  • 48" for the sashings for the scrap quilt.
That's a grand total of 5.2 yards, plus the 5.25 from the Carolina Crossroads. 10.45 yards.

So the 4 metres I added to the Stash are nothing really......I'm still 6 yards down. I have to stay away from Hancocks though, I could do some serious acquisition there.
It's been beastly hot here, my roses are crispy little shadows; I have no idea how many will actually survive this. I have kept them watered, but the heat is so tremendous and so dry that they can't take the water up fast enough. 108 F. That's not funny. And it's not global warming; I can remember summers like this when I was a teenager, but I could cope with the heat a lot better then. The resilience of youth! These portulaca are the only that seem to be thriving in the heat, and at the end of the long day even they seem a bit weary of the whole thing. Only 2 more months of this........

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