Sunday, December 29, 2013

 I estimated it would take a week of agonizing before I decided on a border  for the Framed Cross blocks, and I wasn't far wrong.  Sometimes I know exactly what a quilt will be like, I can see it in my head and I just make it without any indecision.  Other times, as with this quilt, I have no idea where it's going.  I made the blocks years ago, to use up some red 2.5" strips, then once I'd chosen the setting fabric I became paralyzed over whether it should be on point, or set straight. 

As soon as I dug the blocks out of storage and put them back on the design wall I knew that I wanted them set straight.  On point looked very classy, but I felt this needed to be more a humble quilt.  Then I had to decide how many blocks to use for a rectangular quilt; I wanted a pieced block in each corner, which meant that it would be two blocks longer than it is wide.  It meant that the blocks measured 55"x 77" without borders, and that was a weird measurement.  If I put a 8 or 9" border all round, to get the width I wanted, it would be ridiculously long.  Sigh.  Nothing is ever simple.

And what should the border be?  If I'd had another metre of this madder stripe I might have just used that and been done with it, making the top border narrower.  But I had less than half a metre, so that was out.
Maybe the quilt wanted Flying Geese units all round?  Nope, didn't want that at all.
 Incidentally, these are the squares on point from my Border Tryouts box, and I just covered half of the strip to get the effect of triangles.  I love having all these bits and pieces to play with.

The quilt seemed to want squares, not red but brown, and luckily I had a piece of brown and orange and madder fabric that looked wonderful with the setting fabric. 
Once I had the basic idea for a stepped border it was just a matter of working out the maths, adapting it for a narrower border top and bottom, and then getting it done.  Simple!
I'm pleased with how it turned out, I like the quirkiness of the different borders, and I love how rich all the colours look together. 
That setting fabric is my most favourite of all time fabrics.  It's from the Stone Cottage range, and I had the foresight to buy a whole bolt of it.  I adore it.
 I came across some blue and brown bird fabric online, for a very good price, and bought 5m for a backing for a blue and brown quilt I have percolating in the works. 
When the material arrived, there was a very pronounced green  in the birds, that doesn't show up in the pictures.  I immediately thought of my blue and green double nine-patch, with the bird panel, and changed my mind.  This is the perfect backing for that top, so I'm going to dig it out of the cupboard and start thinking of a quilting plan for it.  I want 2014 to be the year of the finished quilt!


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Now that Christmas is over for another year I might be able to return to the sewing room.  DD Seonaid was home for three days, which was wonderful, I love having her home.  She cleaned and organised my kitchen, and then we made a big mess making two lots of iced gingerbread men.  One batch was for nephew John, to go with the Ninja cookie cutters that were his present. Ninjabread Men will become a Christmas tradition I think.

 Seonaid did a great job of icing them. And her bath of Christmas Star cookies.
 Once the visiting was done we broke out a jigsaw and put together 75% of it before she had to go home. 
We had a system going, me sorting and her finding the right places for the pieces, we were pretty efficient by the end of the day.  It's lo-tech entertainment, but it keeps us happy.

This morning I got up early and sewed until I had these blocks put together.  I have no ideas for a border yet, but I'll come up with something.  If I stare at it long enough.
 My stack of nine-patches is growing;
 I have 80 now, and I might make up some of the Triple Irish Chain blocks, just to make sure that I like the overall look.  I'm using Bonnie Hunter's instructions,  which is a really easy way to do this particular pattern but I can't seem to find the page on her site anymore.  I will keep looking, and link it if I find it.

I'm ready and waiting for the next mystery clue, due out later tonight.  I'm glad Mereth and I are sharing the responsibility for this, I wouldn't be half so chipper if I'd had to make double this amount.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Our heatwave was disgusting, got up to 46°C on one day, and that's too hot in anybody's language. 114° F.  I was locked in the a/c with the bird and the dog, and didn't come out till evening, but it wasn't very cool at night either.  Revolting weather, and the garden is struggling, with 9 weeks of summer left to endure.

You know it's hot when....... 

In spite of the heat I've managed to achieve things; the lounge room is clean, and the furniture rearranged to accomodate the Christmas tree.  I put it up and added the lights, never my favourite part.  Mereth came round the next day to help decorate it with baubles and a few choice ornaments.  It's not a large tree, so only a miniscule percentage of our many decorations went up, but it's pretty and we had fun doing it.  Wrapping presents is next on the list.

Now we have to get through the last two work days before Christmas. Being a postie at Christmas is no fun, in  the heat especially, the number of parcels is incredible.  Mondays are always bad anyway, but the Monday before Christmas is unbelievable. I'm writing this at 6am, just before I go to work,  enjoying the cool air and the birdsong, so serene and calm.  Today is going to be a lot of hard work, there will literally be a truckload of parcels, which will take hours to sort even before we start delivery;  but at least it's cool and overcast, and everyone is so happy to see us arrive with their eagerly awaited package.

Onward!  Full steam ahead to Christmas.......


Saturday, December 14, 2013

I've gone a bit mad on the sewing these last couple of days, but I have a finished quilt top to show for it.

I'm very pleased with it, and I'm contemplating making another one, with a different set of blocks, because I had such fun putting this one together.  There are so many variations possible too, I've enjoyed playing with the possibilities in EQ7.
These blocks were so simple to make, I may just make another set of them as leader-enders.  You can never have too many sets of blocks, waiting for the right inspiration.

I managed to cut out and sew all the HSTs for the mystery, thanks to the Go Cutter. That machine is invaluable, I can be sewing in 15 minutes instead of cutting for twice that time.  I need some more cutting mats for it, I've worn two out already.
I should have these all sewn into the required pinwheels later today, and then I'm ready for the fourth clue; this is Fun!
What's the next UFO to go up on the design wall?
I think I've decided on the setting for these Framed Cross blocks from two years ago; they should go together quickly, and then I can agonise over a border for another week or two.  I hope it's quicker than that, but there is Christmas looming on the horizon.  Not long now....

Right now it's time to do some work in the garden before the heatwave that is forecast for this week; three days of temps over  37° so it won't be pleasant.  I need to repot a couple of things and renew the mulch on others.  Then I can stay inside and wait out the heat.  I don't know if I will sew though, I'd actually like to start my Christmas jigsaw soon. 


Thursday, December 12, 2013

I've talked before about my tendency to become obsessive over projects.  I quite like being obsessive, because I get so much done when I'm like that.  I've spent weeks choosing fabrics and cutting up a small mountain of it, but I wouldn't call that obsessive, that was just focused; nothing I couldn't stop. I had it all under control.

 Except for that whole putting the fabric back in the drawer thingie.  I haven't mastered that yet.

Then, I had an idea for the 16-patches that have been sitting forlornly on a chair, waiting for me to sew them together any old how, just so I could call it done. 
I'd already decided on a simple on-point setting, but I couldn't bring myself to actually sew the bits together.  That always means that I'm not really happy with my decision, and I'm stalling while I wait for the right solution.  You'd think I'd recognise the signs by now.  And sure enough, along came the Idea.  And that idea took over all my spare sewing time.  I've been so busy the last two weeks, my sewing time is limited, and I had to make time for the Celtic Solstice clues as well.  But all I wanted to do was sew on these 16-patches.  I even gave up meals and coffee breaks!  That's dedication.

I thought a triple sashing would look great, with the sashes going under and over each other.  It's a rectangular quilt, which made it more difficult to come up with a plan.  Square quilts are much less trouble.  But EQ7 came to the rescue, and I was able to work out a layout that didn't involve too many partial seams.  The quilt is made in four corner sections, then one is joined with a partial seam to the centre four blocks. It was pretty straightforward from there on, except I did a colossal amount of unpicking; seems I can't take anything off the design wall without rotating one piece before I get to the machine.

It was so much fun to do, I had to concentrate very hard,  but it was just simple straight seams.  I would have saved myself a lot of unpicking if I'd slowed down and checked each piece before I sewed it, but that's obsession for you.  And I'm awfully good at unpicking, having done so much in my time.  There's lots of computer work to be going on with, but I'm glad I made time for this.  I have 2 more seams, and then the border, so hopefully I will be able to show the finished quilt in a day or two.

While I was madly sewing the blocks together, and unpicking it all and sewing it the right way, I made more 9-patch units for my Triple Irish Chain, 60 of them in fact. 
They were a wonderful leader-ender, and instead of grumbling because I had to sew some seams twice, I was happy because it meant I made more little blocks.  I'm halfway there on these, and they've just seemed to materialise out of the mess of pieces next to the machine.  Got to love leader-enders.

I haven't finished all the units for the Celtic Solstice, but I'm more than halfway, and I'll try and cut out all the pieces for Clue 1 & 2 before Clue No.3 goes live later tonight.  If the pieces are there, it's only a matter of time before they get sewn together.  So long as I don't have any more Great Ideas....


Friday, December 06, 2013

Mereth and I decided to each make half of the units for the small Celtic Solstice mystery, and I've done 50 of each of these Tri Recs units. (that picture is upside down, I wish blogger had a rotate button)

 Mereth can make the rest when she has the time, but she hasn't got a lot of spare time, what with the puppies and all.  They are at an age where they need lots of interaction, and feeding, and sorting out of play fights that turn nasty.  No matter how many toys they have, they still prefer chewing on each other.  Plus she's a bit poorly too, an ulcer flare-up the doctor thinks;  it's no fun to be ill in the leadup to Christmas, there's too many other things to deal with.  So I hope she gets better soon.

I usually get home around 10.30 on Friday night, after dinner with the brother and sister-in-law.  Bonnie's new clue goes live here at 11pm, so I wait up and see what we're in for next.  Chevrons!  I made a heap of these for Carolina Christmas, and hated all those flippy corners.  That was before I thought about using the Easy Angle ruler to cut the rhomboids, and before I had the Go Cutter to make accurate triangles.  

 These are smaller units than the ones I did before, so I made a couple of trial pieces to see if it was accurate.  I also experimented to see if it was easier to cut both corners off at once, or if it worked better just doing one at a time.
It was easy to cut both corners at the same time, and the units are accurate, so I can get busy now and cut out enough pieces for 50 or so chevrons.  Mereth and I decided to have Pennsylvania Dutch colours, green, blue, pink and cheddar plus shirtings.  I don't really like orange, I think the 70's scarred me for life, so Bonnie's choices just wouldn't work for us.  And it's fun doing something a bit different.  I'm not using exclusively reproduction fabrics though, this won't be a 1800s quilt pattern, so I can use any style print I like. 
I love this green and blue print with the red birds, so I'm using that as a touch of Christmas, and the pink is a modern print from around 10 years ago (it's all gone now!).  My stash now contains very few fabrics that aren't reproductions, so it's good to get these old fabrics out of the drawers and into quilts.

I've got office work to do this weekend, so I will only be able to sew in odd moments, but I hope to finish these before the next clue is released.  Friday seems to come around awfully quickly these days, but it's such fun to look forward to each new clue, and the weekend of course.

And there's this lot to get through too, but the nine-patches are working well as leader-enders, so that's what they'll be for now.  My sewing room is a shambles, but I'm enjoying myself.


Monday, December 02, 2013

The cutting frenzy will have to stop soon, I need to put away all the fabric I've pulled out for the past few weeks.  I've had so much fun, and there are 5 kits waiting on the shelves, so I've achieved my goal of having things ready to sew in the hot weather.

I may have all the pieces for the basket quilt cut out, but I haven't been able to decide on a layout yet.  The quilt will be roughly 70" x 80", which will fit on a single bed or my double bed.  My problem is the direction the baskets should face.

  Should they all face in a single direction?
 Should they face the long side or the short side?
 Half one way, and half the other?

It's a knotty problem.  Old quilts with directional blocks often have half the blocks reversed, as they only thought about how it would look on a bed.  But nowadays we often hang quilts on walls, or enter them in exhibitions, and they look better with the blocks facing the short side, and all the same way.  On a single bed I'd have the short side at the head of the bed, on the double bed I'd have the long side at the head.  Which way will look best on both?

I'll have to think about it while I piece the blocks, and hopefully I'll have made a decision by the time I have to assemble the quilt.


Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Singer 631 did a beautiful job sewing on the borders of these two quilts, she behaved perfectly.

I hate it when a sewing machine slightly gathers the bottom fabric onto the top fabric, it's very annoying when adding borders, or strip piecing.  But there was none of that, which I'm happy about.

I love this paisley, I bought metres of it for this quilt, but it's all used up now.
Pretty fabrics in these blocks, including apricot, but I like it in this quilt.
I've put light coloured borders on several quilts lately, the quilting will show up nicely on them.
So these two can be added to the collage of finished tops, and then go into the To Be Quilted pile.

This afternoon I will tackle the rest of the Tri-recs units for the mystery quilt, and maybe a general tidying of the sewing room.  I think there's more fabric out of the drawers than in them. 


Friday, November 29, 2013

How annoying is this?

BonnieHunter releases the first clue of her new mystery, Celtic Solstice, and I have to go out and run errands this morning. I've made a couple of the tri-recs units, but the rest will have to wait till I get back.
I'm not mad enough to do a king-size quilt, so I'll be making a quarter of all the units, and then decide how big my finished quilt will be. This is such a fun time each year, thanks to Bonnie's generosity. Happy sewing to everyone who is doing the mystery too.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Goldilocks rides again

One morning this week I got up early and decided to start cutting out a triple Irish Chain that I'd been wanting to do for ages.  It was all in red, blue and white, with a touch of grey and pink; wonderful colours, against a green background.

I'd worked out a cutting plan, knew roughly how many blocks I wanted to make, so I dragged out material and cut up a mountain of strips.  It was great fun.  I even made a few test nine-patches, and that's when it occurred to me that I had intended to make it with 2" strips, not 1.5" ones. Doh! The blocks were just too tiny for the prints I wanted to use.

The material hadn't been put away yet, so I cut out a few 2"strips, and made a nine-patch from them, and thought, 'You know, that looks a little bit Big to me'. 
 So I did the only sensible thing and made a block out of 1.75" strips.  And they were juuuust right.  So now I have enough wrong sized strips to make a whole other project, but that's OK.  I'm sure I'll make quite a few red, white and blue quilts, it's a lovely colour scheme.

I cut madly for a couple of days, and sewed four complete blocks. just to make sure I was happy. 
I AM happy. Isn't it amazing what that extra quarter inch per square does?  The 1" squares look so cramped and dark, and the 1.25" ones seem a lot happier and brighter. 

Then it occurred to me that I wasn't supposed to start anything new, until I'd finished two old projects.  Failed big time there.  So I went through the drawers of almost finished tops, and found two that just needed borders.
This Jacks On Six only needed a border on one side, so I cut the needed strips and joined them and now they are ready to sew on. 
This pretty apricot, blue and rust top stalled at the border stage too.   It took about an hour to choose the fabrics for two borders ; I've cut and sew them into strips and I'll add them later today.  So now I don't have to feel bad about starting that Irish Chain quilt.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I'm devestated. I did something really stupid yesterday.  I needed to do some mending, and I was too lazy to get out the Janome 6500.  I patched some work pants, and I BROKE my beloved Singer 538.

That bottom gear should measure another half inch; what's left of it is in pieces all through the bottom case.  I'm as shattered as the gear; I have so many other machines, but I've never had such perfect patchwork with any of them.

I should have known not to try heavy duty sewing on such an aged machine with nylon gears.  Metal gears would have coped fine, but these were just waiting to break, they are so brittle.  I hastened the end though.

God bless Ebay, help is at hand.
It will take a while to get my darling fixed, but I will sew on her again.

 Until then, I will have to use my 631, which is a lovely machine; it's a slant shank, and it's very nice to sew on.  I'm still fine-tuning the quarter inch seam, I haven't found the perfect spot to guide the fabric yet, but I'll just keep working on it.
I do like the little fold-up table at the side, it makes for a very nice work surface.
 But I still miss my 538. Sob.....

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