Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A bit of sewing here and there over the last few days, and the Big Dipper top is finished.  I just love it, I love the indigo and double pink together, love the graphic blocks and the four borders.  This turned out exactly the way I wanted it to look, like an antique, and I'm so happy with it.  It only took 7 years.

Hilary asked in the comments, what do I do with all these quilts?  Well some of them get published in magazines, some of them I sell patterns for, some of them are donated to charity or given to family members.  Lots of them sit in stacks waiting for a home, but I use many of them on my beds.  I make some tops so I can try out quilting designs on them, some are to try out new piecing techniques. 

The ones I've been finishing this year, 13 to date, are mostly from the UFO list.  Some were started more than 20 years ago; the finished tops don't worry me, but the pieces in a box niggle at me.  I don't like those old projects laying around uncompleted.  Obviously I've ignored most of them for a very long time, but 2014 is the year of the finish.  I didn't plan it that way, didn't make a resolution on January 1st, it's just evolved that way.  I'm having a great time dealing with these old things, and rediscovering that I love them after all. 

I have 26 things on the UFO list, and 8 of them are 10 or more years old.  They are going to be my priority in the next few months, but there are some difficult ones in there.  Several are at the border stage, and I'm just as stumped now as I was back then, which is why they are on the UFO list.  I'll have to do a lot of thinking and contemplating, and listening, as they try and tell me what they want.


Monday, April 28, 2014

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I almost did it, but that fourth quilt was just too much.  I totally finished the applique quilt and the Travelling Stars, did the final seam on the Log Cabins today, but the Big Dipper blocks are still on the wall.  Not that I'm surprised, it was a lot to attempt.

Travelling Stars
 Sun and Snow
 Log Cabin

Love all those teeny tiny strips....
Big Dipper

I lost an evening to a family dinner, and an afternoon to hunting for some photos and mementos I wanted to show the brother on Anzac day, which was Friday.  I guess I could have stayed focused and achieved more, but it's nice to have a life beyond quilting sometimes.  I'm going to keep on with the Big Dipper blocks this week, but I will be doing other things as well, gardening, quilting, spinning and knitting.

It was good to set myself the challenge; when I think of how many times I had to resist wandering off to check blogs and internet, I know that I wouldn't have finished these quilts in the time frame if I'd given in to those impulses.  It's so easy to waste time and let myself be distracted; the only way to stop that is determination and dedication.  And for a reward, I get to mark these quilts off the UFO list, and add the amount of fabric used to my spreadsheet, and write these finished tops up in the To Be Quilted list.  That will give me a sense of satisfaction, and I'll be ready for the next challenge, whatever that will be.  Time to look at the UFO list and see what's next.


Friday, April 25, 2014

So far, so good; my stars have borders and I'm well on the way to finishing my second top.  I was a bit silly and stayed up till 3am, but it was fun at the time.  This morning I felt a bit weary, even though I got up later.  I might even have to have a nap in a little while, but it was worth it.

I'm so pleased to have finished the stars;

I was saying to Mereth how I pieced them while travelling around Australia teaching, and they even came to America with me; she suggested I call it Travelling Stars, so that's it's new name.  It looks finished now, whereas it didn't before, and it's such a relief to have it all sorted;  this one made me feel guilty whevever I saw it in the UFO drawer. 
We went to the brother's place for tea last night, so I had no applique time; when I came home at 10.30 I started sewing the Log Cabin blocks into sets of four, and got 10 completed before I crawled off to bed.  This morning I'm working on the other 10 needed, and also starting to sash them with light strips and cheddar corner posts.  I'm pretty chuffed with how it looks, I love all those narrow strips of so many different fabrics.  I've really enjoyed working on this quilt.
The Big Dipper blocks will be next on the design wall, some time later today, and I'll make a start on setting them together.  I'm not going to be disappointed if I don't finish them this weekend, at least I'll have begun the process of getting them in one piece. I just need to find time tonight to do that little bit of applique, and I'll be right on target.  I think a DVD will help me focus on the handwork, maybe Call The Midwife.  They did a great job of bringing that book to the screen, it's a pleasure to watch.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Aim high

I have an ambitious plan for this long weekend.  I would like to finish 4 UFOs, over three days; most of them are within hours of finishing, so it's entirely possible.  I don't want to sew myself to a standstill, but I would like to get these projects done and dusted, so I can move on to more recent projects.

First up is the star quilt; I spent the last three days choosing borders for it, and now I'm ready to put them on, so that will only take an hour or two.

Then I want to put these Log Cabin blocks together; they've been sitting around for quite a while, and I should never have let myself get distracted from them.  Maybe 4 hours work to do that.

Next is the applique quilt, which has probably 2 hours of stitching left to do.  I'll sit down tonight and do that while I watch a DVD.
And finally, the Big Dipper blocks are nearly all done, I just need another 3 of them, and they will be my leader-enders as I work on the Log Cabin blocks. 
They are going to be put together with a simple on-point setting, so that will take the best part of a day I suppose, but there won't be any decisions to make with that one, I'll just be sewing seams.

It's a lot of work to commit to, but if I succeed I'll be a very happy quilter.  Best get a move on then!
This isn't going to sew itself.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

We were walking the dogs at the football field the other night, and Dolly climbed up into the grandstand on a scavenging hunt. She knows that people drop food up there, and she snacks on some disgusting stuff if I don't stop her. By the time I climbed up after her I could hear an almighty racket, and this is what I found.

She had her head jammed so far in there that she couldn't pull it off.  Was it mean of me to take a photo before I rescued her?  She was none the worse for her experience, and cantered off in high spirits, reeking of  barbeque chips. Wot a life she has...


Monday, April 21, 2014

The weekend went by too fast, even for  a four-day weekend.  I worked non-stop, gardening, cleaning, organising, so I got heaps done, but there's lots more to do.  Luckily we have another long weekend at the end of this week,  our Anzac Day is on Friday, so I have another chance to get some big jobs off the list.

Of course, all I really wanted to do was get that applique border finished, and I'm almost there.  I'm not showing much of it yet, I'll save that for the reveal post, but this is the first finished corner.
I have three left to do; I did all the remaining vines on Friday, prepped the leaves on Saturday, and finished the applique Monday afternoon.  Then I sewed like a mad person, putting the borders together and attaching them to the top.  Let's just say that it would have been a whole lot easier if the border fabric hadn't needed seams to be matched and corners to be mitred.  The pattern sloped, so I had to cut it slightly off grain, and the repeats didn't match up particularly well, so the whole thing took a lot of fudging.  I think I'm over it right now, a bit jaded, but I"m sure that I'll love it again, as soon as it's completely done and I don't have to work out any more design issues.  My next quilt is going to be Easy. Peasy.  No thinking necessary.

I think it's time to put this stack of Log Cabin blocks together; that should give me a quick finish, and I'll be encouraged by that.
The next UFO will probably be this one;
 it needs borders, but nothing has occurred to me yet, after more than 8 years.   I might just put a triple border of skinny strips on it, and move on to the next project.  I could take the time to piece an intricate border for this one, or I could use that handwork time to make progress on another UFO.

 I think what my applique project has taught me is that my time is limited; spending so much of it on one project means there is no time left for anything else; no spinning, no knitting, no quilting.  From now on I'll have to aim for a more balanced approach to hand work.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

I've got my work cut out......

The prospect of four days off is intoxicating!  All the things I could long as I don't waste too much time relaxing.

I'm determined to make good progress on the appliqué border, so first thing this morning I prepared the remaining background strips, cut the rest of the bias strips
and cut out enough paper leaf shapes.  I'm doing a few at a time, in between other things, so I don't get sick of it.
There's going to be a lot of hand stitching in this, so the sooner I get serious about it the better. Here's hoping I get most of it done this weekend.
Tonight we're having a family dinner, so no stitching time there: maybe I'll stay up late afterwards doing some of the mindless sewing like tacking the bias strips.
For a quick piecing fix I've been sewing more Big Dipper blocks, only 7 more and I'll  have enough. They are a fun block to piece.

Time to go work in the garden, I have lots of seedlings to plant for my winter veggies.  There are eggplant and capsicum and chili bushes to strip, and then I'll have to get busy cooking to use them all up. 
And you know its my favourite time of the year approaching; the crysanthemums are out in flower, and soon there will be great bunches of flowers all over the house.  I need to get out there and give them all some more soluble fertiliser and make sure the blooms are the best they can be.


Monday, April 14, 2014

The vine takes shape...

I've appliqued the vine in place, which took a couple of hours on Sunday night.  Now I'm onto the leaves, and I think I will make them out of a few different fabrics, just so there is a bit more interest.  It's a very simple pattern, and it will look better with some variations in the colour.  First step was to print out the leaf shapes onto freezer paper;
if I didn't have drafting software I would just make a template and trace it multiple times onto freezer paper.  I'm all about the shortcuts, seeing my sewing time is limited.
Then I cut out the  individual shapes with very sharp scissors,
 and ironed them, shiny side down, to the wrong side of the fabrics I wanted to use.  I cut around them with a good quarter inch seam allowance, pulled the freezer paper templates off and then laid them back on the shape, shiny side up this time.  I then press the seam allowance over the edge of the shape and it sticks to the plastic coating.  I tried a few times to press the seam allowances around the curve at the bottom, but it's a bit fiddly on such a small shape.  
To get round that, I ran a gathering thread in the seam allowance around the curve, ironed the straight edges and point down onto the template, then gathered up the remaining seam allowance.  I held the gathering thread taut while I ironed the gathers down on to the template, and my fingers were well away from the heat of the iron.  It worked beautifully to give me a nice smooth curve, and it only takes 10 seconds to put that gathering thread in there; once it's ironed the thread can just be snipped, and it's onto the next one.

Sweet!  or should I say Smooth!
Next up will be the actual applique, which should go pretty quickly.
This is turning out to be a lot of fun, but I'll be glad when I've got all the borders prepped; then it will just be a matter of taking the time to sit and sew it all.  The preparation is what takes all the time.


A good day out

Our day at the beach was wonderful, it was a glorious autumn day and everything looked special.  I didn't have my good camera with me, and the phone just couldn't capture the quality of light.
Dreary photo; in reality everything looked significant, all the colours of the beach and sea and water were like a perfect colour study.  It was a very uplifting experience to be there, with happy dogs, warm weather and superb food.
These are the best fish and chips in South Australia, I'm sure!  OUr happiness was complete when we discovered a new coffee place had opened up on the shorefront, and the coffee was very nice. Bliss.

We walked a lot further than we normally do, and at the end of the beach found a lot of shells, and many of these bleached crab shells.  They are so weird; if I was inventing a cartoon monster, I wouldn't have to look far for inspiration.
They don't look happy....


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Off to the beach

We're about to set off for the beach, where the dogs will run wildly through the sand and seaweed, and we'll enjoy fish and chips for lunch.  It's a beautiful day, and much as I would love to get some sewing done, I'll appreciate a day with family more.

I made haste to prepare the first border strip, so that when I come home I'll be able to start work on the applique straight away.  I've never done an applique border, so I'm being ultra careful, and what I learn on this first strip will help the others go more smoothly.  I've prepared a length of bias for the vine; Mereth taught me this method of folding a strip into thirds and tacking it together. 

The folded edge is nice and plump, easy to get the needle into.  I have used other methods that iron the bias strip, but that sharp crease at the edge makes it harder to get the needle in the right place.

I drew lines 3" apart on the wrong side of the background strip, then tacked along those lines so I can see them from the right side.  This may be caution overkill, but I don't want any lines visible on the front.  I might do away with this on future strips, but I'm just experimenting so far.

I made a template of the centre of the vine, and marked that on the strip.  This pencil line will be entirely hidden by the bias, so I'm not fussed about that.  I'm using a Karisma ceramic pencil, it's very nice to work with.
Now I'm ready to start stitching that vine into place, but it will have to wait till tonight.  I'm a bit excited about this :)
And look!  I even ironed a rosette like I was supposed to.  I AM being good.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Another hard week at work, and still more stuff to do on the weekend.  I'm so glad we will have time off over Easter, what a luxury that will be.  All the more important to make sure that I'm up-to-date on all my various jobs, so that I can lounge about like a lady of leisure.  Or sew like a crazy quilt lady, one or the other.

There has been no time to make much progress on anything quilt related; however, odd minutes here and there are better than nothing.  I've searched out a fabric that will work for the borders, then ironed it and cut the four strips I need.

 I chose a fabric for the vine; it's been in my stash for about 20 years, and those creases do not want to come out.
I will have to completely wash it I think, and have another go at ironing it.
I went through my UFOs and discovered a tin full of rosettes made from vintage fabric.
Hmm, these would be nice stitching on Friday night, when we watch DVDs with the brother and sister-in-law.
I needed more of the tiny blue diamonds, so I found the fabric without much trouble;
 I dyed this about 15 years ago, so that in itself was a trip down memory lane.  Then I located the templates, cut a few out and sewed them in place.  I enjoyed that bit of handwork; then I decided to give it a bit of a press, and that's when I realised that I hadn't pressed a single seam.  Not on the pieces I'd put together, (though you can see I've now made a start in the bottom right),

and not on any of the 38 rosettes in the tin.

Why do I never press my hexagon projects?  I always end up with a whole quilt top full of contrary seam allowances, it takes the gloss off finishing something if I have to spend 5 or 6 hours persuading hundreds of tiny seams to go where I want them.  So my new rule is, every time I turn the iron on I have to press a rosette.
It should only take me a month or so.....


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

In between other chores today I've been trying out different ideas for the border of the applique quilt.  I want to make a small vine border, and then use some pink fabric as the outer border.  I made a mockup in EQ7, which also let me calculate yardage amounts;

I used the measurements from this to draft up a small vine in my cad software, then printed out a couple of copies to pin to the quilt. (Mereth does all this by hand, using pens and compasses and coloured card, her applique mock-ups are little works of art).
I also used a setting on my phone to convert the photos to black and white, which let me concentrate on the shapes without being distracted by the colours.
 I didn't like that small inner pink border, it was much better to have the vine border against the centre part of the quilt, and the outer pink border as a frame.
 I went back to the drawing board and decided to reverse the little leaves, so that the rounded end was against the vine, and designed a corner motif so that the vine ended behind it, and I won't have to figure out how to get the bias strip going continuously around the whole quilt.
So now I have some idea where I'm going with this, and I can get busy making lengths of bias for the vine, printing out templates for the leaves, and choosing the fabric for the vine background.  The original white fabric is long gone, so I will have to find something that matches, but I'm not too worried about that.  The two fabrics won't ever touch, and the difference between them will be toned down by the setting triangles.

I'm doing this little border mainly because I have two other UFOs that need applique borders, and I want to have a practice with something simple before I tackle anything more complex.  I'm getting very impatient to see this finished, because I will be able to take two things off the UFO list, and I will finally have an applique quilt top to my credit.

Arrgghh!  Now I like the leaves the way I had them the first time!!  Good thing I have plenty of time to decide which way to place them, I have to get all the vines appliqued first.  It will be quite a while before I start on the leaves.


Saturday, April 05, 2014

I was up bright and early this morning, ready to start sewing the blocks together.  It all went without a hitch, but took several hours as I was being very careful.  It would be catastrophic to scorch a block, or make a slip with the rotary  cutter at this late stage.

But my diligence paid off, and the blocks are as square and flat as I could make them.
I love these sunflowers, they are so pretty, and there are many, many antique quilts using these blocks in amazing settings.  Once I get this set of pink and brown ones done I'll start another set.  I used the Marti Michell templates,
and it was very easy to churn out the rings.  Adding the background fabrics is what slowed me down on these.
I see I have still more sets of pieces to sew together...

One of my most favourite ever quilt books is A People and Their Quilts by John Rice Irwin.  If I could only ever have one quilt book, this would be it.  The quilts are beautiful, the stories are wonderful history, and the photos excellent.  No patterns, but I don't need patterns.
 I love this glimpse of a sunflower quilt, held by Mildred Locke. I must track down similar fabrics to make my own version; I can make the sunflower rings while I hunt around to find setting and border fabrics.

I knew I would love A People And Their Quilts when I read these words on the first page;
"I'd druther quilt than to eat on the hungriest day that ever I seen".

At the time I bought this book, very few people I knew quilted, and they regarded it as an amusing hobby.  I thought it was a way of life.  I felt an instant connection to Ethel Hall when I read her words, and I knew Mereth and I weren't alone in loving quilting so much.  The whole book is an affirmation that quilting is so much more than just cutting up fabric and sewing it back together.

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