Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Sewing at last


Since I arrived home on Sunday I've barely set foot outside the door.  Normally I run around and visit friends and family to catch up, and then I've no time left for quilting and playing with my stash.  So this time I've become a hermit,sewing late into each night and waking up later in the morning.  It might be anti-social, but I feel like I've had a real holiday.

I thought perhaps I might try and get a few UFOs finished, maybe these Northwind blocks,

but that didn't really appeal.  What I really wanted to do was cut up some stash fabrics to go in my Farmhouse quilt.  I was tired of the fabrics from the box of strips, and desperate for some variety.  Another thing that annoyed me was the frayed edges of some of those strips;
a lot of them felt tattered and worn, and I was sick of threads hanging off and getting stuck in the seams. It seems like the more disordered my life is, the more I need my quilting organised and in control.
Time to add some purple to the mix.

And those charm squares?  It turned out it WAS possible to cut the pieces for a whole block, with no wastage at all.  But then I had to exercise so much care as I used those pieces, allowing for pinked edges and the odd piece that was just too small.  Some 5" squares just aren't 5" after all, which is frustrating.  I tried to trim off the pinked edges where I could, but that created fabric dust that got into my eyes, all over my clothes and the black carpet. (Really?  Black?)  It wasn't the sort of piecing time that I'm used to.  The first little block that I made at home, from my freshly cut, accurately cut strips, was like a little burst of happiness. 

THIS is how I like to work.
I'm up to 100 blocks assembled,

 and many more pieces cut out and bagged up.
It took me so long to work out how I wanted to press it, so that it all nested together the way I wanted, with the seam intersections spinning.  I know it was because I was tired and a bit stressed, but I just couldn't work it out at Shonnys, and it it took me several tries at home too.  But it finally clicked, and now I know how I have to press and arrange them.  Full speed ahead with the next 420 blocks.....

This afternoon Shonny and family are coming up for a quick visit, and then we'll all go back to Adelaide tomorrow, so I need to get some blocks prepped ready to take back with me.  I feel like I'm getting somewhere at last.






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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Our beautiful baby boy arrived, 1 day after his due date, and we are beyond delighted to have him here.

 Thomas Charles, weighing a respectable 3.9k, (8lb 11oz). 

I'm so glad Hayden was there to support Shonny through the labour, I'm sure I would have been useless.  Mum told the story of when she was in labour with her first baby Gran was supposed to bring her things to the hospital.  Gran got halfway up the stairs, heard Mum yelling, and turned and ran away.  She was such a softie, couldn't bear to think of Mum in pain, so she scarpered.  After having 10 children herself you'd think she would have been just the person to have around at a birth, but no.  She never even warned Mum that it was going to hurt, so Mum thought something was horribly wrong and that she was going to die. 
Isla is delighted with her baby brother, and is very loving with him.  All the girls are thrilled, he spends a lot of time being cuddled by each in turn. He's been very good, waking only to have a feed and then obligingly going back to sleep. 

Isla was 5 weeks old before she reached his birthweight; a bigger baby is so much easier to care for than a tiny wee one. 4 hours between night feeds instead of two, settling to sleep straight away, no problems feeding.  In fact, Shonny is managing so well, and Hayden is so attentive, that I'm having a little holiday at home.

It's lovely to be in my sewing room, with my projects on the design wall and my fabric at hand.  I was getting mighty sick of having no choice about what I was putting in my teeny little blocks.  Now I can raid the stash drawers and get some variety in there.  Bliss.

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Thursday, June 07, 2018

New project

A while ago I bought The Big Book of Civil War Quilts.

There are some beautiful quilts in it, and I have plans to definitely make 4 of them.
This one caught my eye, firstly for the blue and brown colours, second for the tiny pieces,; then when I read the directions I realised that I already had a box of 1.25"  and 2.5" strips ready and waiting.  It was so easy to grab those boxes and bring them down to Adelaide with me.
I arranged all the 1.25"strips in stacks of four, and then cut out my rectangles and squares.  It helped me to visualise what I had left to cut, rather than be overwhelmed by a whole box of strips. 

I spent two days sorting, cutting and arranging in whatever spare time I had, and finally managed to sew 9 blocks.

It took forever, arranging each block, then sewing each in turn.  I felt like I was getting nowhere; 520 blocks at this pace?  Really? 

So my next sewing session I concentrated on just pairing the rectangles with the large squares, then chain sewing them to two sides. 

In no time at all I had 20 sets of pieces sewn together.  It was so much quicker to just choose two fabrics to use together, rather than planning the whole block.

My next window of time I used to match a stack of small squares to each set; I pressed what I'd sewn, and added the small squares to the remaining rectangles.  Then just two more seams and I had a pile of blocks.

I know that it's probably the same time per block, but it was much more satisfying to see progress on a large number of blocks all at once.

Amazingly, I've cut up nearly all my 1.25" strips, so it's back to the charm square stash to cut more pieces.  I'm trying to tell myself to ignore the pinked edges and use the whole 5" square. 
I can cut one 2.5" square, four 1.25" rectangles and four 1.25" squares from each one.

1 charm square equals one block, which is pretty neat.  But I HATE the pinked edges, I hate having to guesstimate where to line fabric up, and what edge to use for the seam allowance.  And the pieces are just too tiny to lose that much in the seam allowances.  Sigh.  I just may have to cut the shapes accurately and deal with the waste, because then the sewing is a breeze and I get perfectly accurate blocks.  I think accuracy is going to win the day.

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Sunday, June 03, 2018

No progress on any front

I'm down at Shonny's, waiting for our baby to arrive, but he's in no hurry. It's so hard to be patient, especially when Hayden has a limited amount of time home. But I'm making the most of just having Isla, it will all be different once the new baby arrives.

I did get some more sewing done, and put all the blue-green blocks together. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and pleased that I didn't go and buy more of that colour to have more variety. It worked out just fine with what I had. I will have to get a metre of darker print for the borders, but that's OK. I won't have to add that to the stash.
The picture above is very washed out, the colour in this photo is more true to life.

The pattern was Checkered Lattice, from Missouri Quilt Company.  However, that method created bias edges on the outside of the blocks, and I can't be doing with that.  I cut 7" squares, cut them on both diagonals, and used those triangles to build the blocks.  All the finished blocks were trimmed to 7.5" and because the edges were on the straight grain it went together really easily.  I could use even small pieces of fabric instead of the 10" squares in the video.  It wasn't as quick, but I enjoyed the process of choosing fabrics for each block.

I have several things to work on next, I'll spend today sorting out some blocks to sew. I want to have things ready so that I can quickly sew a few things together in any spare moment. 





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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

I have had nearly two weeks at home, which has been pretty wonderful.  I haven't achieved much of the big clean up I wanted to tackle.  I've spent a lot of time in the shop, so that the other people who run it could take a break.  I've sorted out stuff that mice had got into in my absence (poxy little creatures). I've spent time catching up with family here.  So overall, not a lot on my list was ticked off, but it has been relaxing.

I did take a couple of days to sew like a mad thing, and as a result my Tumelo Trails is done.


I'm really happy with how it turned out, it was a lot of fun collecting those shirts and then choosing combinations for the blocks.

I couldn't face that piano key border, so I used leftover 3.5" triangles to make the border.  I like how airy it makes the finished quilt. 

I left it on the design wall for a day, then folded it up and out these blocks back up.
It's been forever since I worked on them, and I had fun last night moving it further along. I love he blue-greens in this, and the back and white is so crisp. They are a fun block to make.

 But alas, I'm back to Adelaide again today.  Shonny is nearly 38 weeks pregnant, and Isla is sick, so I'm going down to help wherever I can.  Shonny needs a few nights uninterrupted sleep.  Hayden is home in a week, and I'm hoping that baby stays put until he gets here, otherwise it will be me in the birthing suite with Shonny.  I'm useless, I had two C-sections, so all I could do is hold her hand and be encouraging.  I guess that will be enough.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The last three months have been hectic, looking after Isla, then the trip to Queensland. We were home for three weeks, then went back for the funeral; it was delayed so that a family member could attend after the last of radiation treatments. Way too much cancer in this family.

Shonny decided to stay an extra week to catch up with friends, and I flew to New South  Wales to visit my friends Kaye and Bruce.  They gave up their Gammil dealership last October, but there are still 3 machines to play on.  I did a customer quilt for Kaye, using the latest software, which was a bit nerve-wracking but it went without a hitch.  Might have to see about updating my system soon, even though I'm never home to use it.

I had a lovely time catching up with Kaye, and sleeping in late every morning in my beautiful 4 poster bed.


The quilt on the bed is made with nine patch blocks made in 2009 by myself and two friends.
We made hundreds of nine-patches over the course of three days, 1 person cutting and 2 sewing. We all had a set of them, and mine are a top, but still not quilted.  I should make that a priority, but there are so many other tops that need quilting.  Some day.....

Kaye was helping plan a Biggest Morning Tea fundraiser for cancer, and we spent the week stitching out mug rugs for the 70 people attending, and making 70 microwave bowls.  They work really well, so I need to make some for myself, now that I know how easy they are.  I also quilted a 60" white sateen wholecloth for a raffle quilt, but luckily someone else offered to bind it so I didn't have to tackle that myself.

Kaye always moves at a million miles an hour, which is how she gets so much done.  She can pin on a quilt in minutes, while I'm still debating whether to get out of my chair.  I was complaining that my feet hurt after the 11,000 steps that day, and Kaye looked at her Fitbit and said '20,000 so far, and I still have stuff to do...'  I'm just not in her league, and she's older than me!

I flew straight home to Adelaide when the week was up, and was met by Mereth.  Surprise, she'd brought Lily along, so after parking the car we bundled Lily up against the cold and the rain, and went back to wait for Shonny and Isla to arrive.  Isla was delighted to see us all, and she and Lily held hands in their car seats on the way home, so sweet.

We didn't have to go back to Crystal Brook in a hurry, so we stayed 2 days and just relaxed.  There was a trip to Costco, which Lily absolutely loved.  So much to see, so many people to say hello to, and a pizza crust for lunch.   It was very exciting.

Finally we drove home, and I walked into my sewing room and thought, What on earth was I doing before I left?  There was stuff everywhere, things have just been dumped and piled all over the place.  I've been sorting out a bit each day, and I'm finally able to see the floor! I have to tackle the cutting table next.

Shonny and Isla came up on the weekend to stay with John and Liz, to celebrate Mother's Day and the twins first birthday.  What a year it's been!  It was Sunday evening before I finally sat down and sewed, but family comes first.  The only redeeming thing about the last few weeks has been so much time spent with family and friends.
So this is my design wall.  Time to get busy making more nine patches.

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Monday, April 09, 2018

I'm always cautious about how much of my private life I share on the blog, so I'll just say that the last two weeks have been a very sad time for our family.  Shonny's dad was diagnosed last year with lung cancer, just after a trip down to visit Isla.  A week after Shonny finished work we were flying up to Rockhampton to say goodbye to him.  He and I stayed good friends, and I was glad to go back, to help with Isla and feed all the family and friends that gathered. It's been devestatingly sad, and Isla was the only bright spot for all of us.  We came home on Saturday, and a day later he was gone.  I'm so glad that we have photos and videos of Isla with her grandad; I just wish she could have grown up with him in her life. He was an extraordinary man.

I'll be in my sewing room for a couple of days, finding comfort amongst all my projects. The sweet, calm monotony of sewing fabric together is a great healer.


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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Last day of the Adelaide Festival today, thank heavens.  Depending on Shonny's workload I could be home as early as Friday, but we'll have to wait and see.  I'm really looking forward to getting home and catching up with friends and family, and seeing what's happened in my absence.  Autumn is my favourite time at home, and I'm missing it while I'm away.  I'm trying to arrange to take Isla home with me, so Shonny can sleep for as long as she wants and make changes to the house uninterrupted.  That new baby is only 2 months away, and we need to sort out a new bedroom for Isla, and put the nursery back to tiny baby mode.

I've been trying hard to use up every available scrap of time, I don't want to go home and think. well I got nothing done down there. 


I've sorted through my charm packs and weeded out the multiples in each one, and pulled out ones that I don't love. 

They've been cut up into 1.5"strips and I've made nine-patches from them.  It's such a good way to get variety, there are colours in those blocks that don't occur elsewhere in my stash, so the finished Tumelo Trail blocks are going to look different from my normal quilts.  I'm really loving the charm packs, I'm pretty sure I'll buy another stack next Christmas.

I forgot to bring my all 1.5"strips, I only had a handful of little bits.  I've been using up every last little scrap, and I have a renewed appreciation for the little offcuts and scraps.  They are useful, if I take the time to deal with them.  But in future I'm still going to give most of them to Mereth.....

I'm way behind on cutting up my shirts, but it makes such a mess.  I've been very good about vaccuuming up all the threads and snippets, but I'm sure Shonny is a bit appalled at the mess.  She's nothing like me in that respect, I can live in the chaos quite happily, knowing that one big clean up will see it all put to rights again.

Isla and I went to Bunnings yesterday, and I found these cute little boxes. 

My 9" blocks fit in them perfectly.  I'm so addicted to plastic, and finding just the right containers for everything.  But it does help me keep everything organised, so I'm unapologetic.

Dear me, that baby is awake, I'm off to fed her some lunch. Maybe we'll go back to Bunnings for more plastic boxes and a Bunnings sausage....

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Sew good

I'm not getting a lot of sewing done unfortunately, life is busy and there is not a lot of time when I can sit at the sewing machine, or cut up strips.  Hayden came home for his week off, and we organised a seven year old's birthday party and cleaned up afterwards; 15 kids and 13 adults.  Seonaid would have done a much better job I'm sure, but she was working so we did the best we could.  So much Sugar! But everyone was happy, there were no accidenets,  melt-downs or tantrums from the kids or the adults, so we're counting it as a success.
I've accumulated about 20 shirts, it's been a lot of fun finding opshops and visiting them to see what's available. 

This is my favourite so far, I love the blocks I've made with it.


They have to be washed, then cut apart, which seems to take forever.  I don't use scissors or the quick unpick around Isla, she would want to snatch them and run off and I can't be chasing an armed toddler around the house.  She's too quick, and I don't want there to be any accidents with sharp things.  She sleeps about one and a half hours in the late morning, and then goes to bed at 7.30, so my sewing time is limited to those hours.  When she's in daycare I cook and clean, put the house to rights and do whatever shopping we need, so there's not a lot of free time there either.  But I have made a bit of progress.  

I've made 6 blocks, and I love how they turned out.  I fear that I'm also making a Churn Dash block that I saw on Jo's Country Junction blog.  I might be a bit obsessed with this quilt as well; I'm cutting the pieces as I cut for the Tumelo Trail.  Lots of cutting, no blocks made yet, but I'll be ready to start swing on that as soon as I have time.

I have quite a few of the 3.5" HSTs that I need, enough for 8 more blocks.  Now I need to concentrate on the nine-patches and build up a stash of them so I can get those blocks done.  It's nice to have something to think about besides babies and housework. 

 
One more day of the Adelaide Festival, and then Shonny can go back to regular working hours as they wind up the admin over  the next week.  I'm so ready for things to go back to some semblance of normality, and so is Isla.  She misses her mum....

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Fun day out

Mereth and friend Deb came down to attend an auction, and I went along to catch up.  I'm not really into the auction scene, it's a lot of sitting around in uncomfortable, hot surroundings, with some very dubious people, watching them buy a whole heap of really weird stuff.  Deb and Mereth enjoy it though, and they got some wonderful bargains. 
There was nothing there this day, except maybe a couple of dolls that were quite nice.

But I wasn't going to pay $75 for a job lot of really ugly dolls to get the one I wanted.  The auction was an estate auction of a collector, and she had hundreds of dolls and paintings and china and collectible plates.  I have a lot of stuff too, but it's not as indiscriminate as this lady's collections.  Some of the dolls were like little nightmares waiting to happen; the cast of every creepy doll movie ever made.
I wasn't upset about not getting anything at the auction, because I visited three op shops and got three bags of cheap men's shirts for my Tumelo Trail quilt, and that made my day.  I was wondering if I"d be able to afford to make a shirt quilt, at the prices I was seeing.  $5 a bag is affordable, especially when I can cram it as full as I want.  So my quilt is off to a fine start.



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Sunday, March 04, 2018

All set up

I've been down here for 2 weeks already, that time has flown by so fast.  Isla and I are having a good time, but she's starting to miss her mum.  Shonny gets to spend about 40 minutes a day with us, then she's off to work and we don't see her again that day.  It's hard on a little girl, but she's tickled pink to have me around.  When we go out she tells everyone 'My Nan!!' and points at me. I don't do any housework when she's around, so I'm a lot more fun than Mum apparently.

I've set up my own little space so that I can sew in any spare minute, and I even have a coffee set-up, so I don't have to disturb anyone else when I get up early.

The desk was left out on the footpath as hard rubbish, and Shonny and I  carried it home minutes before the truck arrived.  

It has lovely big drawers to hide all my sewing stuff from Miss Busyfingers, and I appreciate it all the more for being free.  I'm hoping to get some machine time in today or tomorrow while Isla is at daycare.  I miss being productive, but I have to cram in as much housework as I can before Isla gets home. 

I have a handwork project started, and it's a pattern that I've wanted to do for years. 

 I decided to use a colour scheme of pink and grey, also something I've wanted to do for years.  I'll be glad to get a single block finished at this rate, but it's a long term project.
Well I'm off to hang the first load of washing out, and tidy up the lounge room, but then it will be sewing time.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

State of the Stash

Last year I didn't finish a single top or quilt, so there was nothing in the fabric used column.  I did do a bit of buying as compensation, or consolation, (both apply).  Luckily I didn't keep track of it last year, because I think I'd be horrified it I did total it all up.  I have a lot of fabric to find homes for in the overcrowded stash drawers.


Time to sort through all this....
Doesn't look any better from this angle either.

I'm keeping track of the Stash this year, because I like to know what I've used, and I think I"m going to be adding quite a few finishes to the tally if I can just stay focused.  But I need to track the purchases as well, so I've made up a Google spreadsheet, and I've entered the totals of the three shopping trips I've made this year.  The running total is 31.3m so far, about 4m a week :) which seems a lot.  I've bought even more than that, but I shared some pieces with Mereth so they don't count.  She has several colours that she just seems drawn to, so when I see rich, rusty, mahogany colours, or that antique pale green, I pick them up for her.  No complaints from her!

Nearly all the fabric I buy is reduced in price, so I don't feel guilty.  My batik stash is growing nicely, I think I need to move them into their own stash drawers instead of the baskets they now occupy.  And I snap up cheap yardage for backings, I scored one from Spotlight that was $2 a metre.  I love having a backing stash on hand.  Alas, it's been absorbed into the sewing room, and I can't even find it right now. 

A couple of years ago I went through my yardage stash and cut FQs from the longer pieces.  Most of them have been on the shelf for 10 years, and in that time I could have incorporated them into quilts but I was 'Saving' them.  It's been good to have them in the FQ stash, so I can get an idea of how the colours behave when mixed with others, and if it's a nice fabric to work with or just thin and nasty.  I'm going to go through the yardage again, and take out more.  A 3 metre piece can easily lose a half metre and still be useable.  I figure this will give me a whole 'new' set of fabrics for piecing and keep me entertained for no extra cost.

I recently found a FQ of a nice green from at least 10 years ago, and it had faded beyond redemption, and it wasn't stored in the light anyway.  All the fold lines had turned a dirty yellow, I don't even know if I want to put it on the back of a quilt if it's so unstable.  It's a very old piece, so hopefully the more modern fabric won't lose colour like that.  And I would show you a photo of the FQ except, the sewing room ate it and I haven't seen it since.

I have GOT to clean up, but I'm off to Seonaid's  today for an extended stay, so all I can do is turn out the light and I'll be back when I can.  Sob.....

I made an extra couple of blocks in between my computer work (taxes, blech) and now I have 6 blocks on the wall and about 5 more complete nine-patches.
I'm loving this, and if I have time I'll organize a tub of parts to take with me, but I also have to take the machine and the iron and the pressing board, because Seonaid doesn't own an iron. I know I"ll be so grateful to have those things to help keep me sane, but I have a ton of work to do before I leave and I don't know if I have time to sort through stuff.  Life doesn't slow down, when there's grandchildren involved :) .

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nine-patch scrap

I don't want to take the Hunter's Star off the design wall just yet, I'm enjoying seeing it there.  I can't work on my other projects until the design wall is empty, so..... nine-patches it is.  
I have heaps and heaps of 1.5" pieces in boxes and baskets all around the sewing room, so I collected what I could easily find and put them in the project box for Tumelo Trail.  These four-patches will be built into nine-patches leader-ender style, I have boxes of 1.5" squares as well.
I like the completely scrappy nine-patches, but I'm going to use these ones in two fabrics just to get them out of the orphan pile.  They are left over from my Double Nine-patch quilt, and it's time they found a home.
Lots of white prints in the strip drawer, so I don't need to cut any just yet.
And I'll be using up lots of little ends of strips to get the variety I need.  I don't have a colour scheme, I just want to get things used up, so anything goes.  It doesn't take long for the finished blocks to build up, but I need 200 more, so there's a fair bit of sewing ahead of me.  I like knowing I have everything set for a few hours of sewing happiness.

I picked up another sewing machine in Adelaide; I've wanted a Pfaff for 15 years, but never found one at a price I was happy with, or that was close enough to pick up.  This one came from a lovely quilter who upgraded, and I was so delighted to have her old machine.  I'm going to name her Pauline, after Pauline Rogers of Quilter's World in Toowoomba.  I taught quilting workshops there for many years, and Pauline always loaned me a Pfaff to demonstrate on.  I fell in love with them, but in those days I couldn't justify the expense of a new machine when my old one worked perfectly.

I'm going to get Pauline Pfaff set up with her new 1/4" foot, and stitch my nine-patches on her, fine-tuning the seam allowances and getting used to her Pfaffy ways.  In future, when I say I'm just faffing around, I might just mean sewing.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Shirts, shirts, shirts

Bonnie Hunter's workshop slideshows often include quilts in the Tumelo Trail pattern, and the more I see of them, the more I want to make my own. It's in the Scraps & Shirttails II book, and it's on special! 

 I love the shirt prints in this block, and just lately I've come across a fair few cheap shirts on my op-shop visits.  I guess it was inevitable that I would start this quilt before long.

On my trips to Adelaide I try to pop into a few op-shops, but I was gob-smacked at the prices they are charging. $14.50 for a second hand shirt??  That's insane. Pity the poor guys trying to find a new outfit at that shop.  I did find a few at another place for between $2 and $3, but they were marked down from much higher prices.  I won't be adding to my stash in Adelaide.
The local op-shop is a whole lot more reasonable, so I bought up big when they threw a heap of stuff out for .50c.  That's more like it.  I don't have enough yet for the whole quilt, but it's a start.

I'm hoping to clear out the 1.5" strip drawer making the nine-patches, and use up lots of teeny little strips that are very messy.  They will make great leader-enders while I get busy on those remaining borders that need to be sewn on.
One block made, 41 to go...

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