Monday, January 29, 2018

Goodbye scraps

Lordy me, the weather has just been insane!  It was 45º yesterday, the worst day of this summer.  Then today it's 25º with a breeze that makes it seem even cooler. 20º difference from one day to the next is a bit extreme, but I'm just grateful that it's cooled down.

I've used my time today sorting out the sewing room.  I am done with the scraps, they are making me miserable and I can't find anything I want in the mess, so I'm donating them to Mereth, or (gasp) throwing them away.  It may seem a bit drastic, but I was overwhelmed with all the baskets and boxes and piles that needed to be dealt with.

This is the first installment of what I gave Mereth;

there is more than this, because I dug down to the bottom of some very old containers and pitched heaps more stuff out.  I'm being ruthless, and it's easier this time round, because this stuff has sat there for 6 or 7 years and I haven't touched it.  I'm certainly not going to miss it now.

I found pieces of blocks left over from projects, and I sewed them into blocks and put them in the orphan box.  Soon I will go through that too, and make a scrappy album, or backing, or donate the whole lot to someone who wants them.

It's been boring and irritating; all those decisions make my brain ache, but I can at last see the difference so I'm going to keep at it.  I want to be able to take a photo of my sewing room and see surfaces, not towering piles of fabric and project boxes.

On the sewing front, I'm up to the dull stuff.  It was so much fun to keep swapping from one thing to another, but now I have to buckle down and finish them.  There is still blue fabric everywhere, and I can't put it away until I put the borders on the blue squares and the Hunter's Star.  I have one more row to attach to the Hunter's Star, and then I can design the border.  I will do a piano key for the squares, so that's fairly easy and will be a good leader-ender.

And the Pretty Tumblers needs one more row and then it can have borders.  That will be three tops finished if I can just stick at it.  Alas, I'll be off to Adelaide on Wednesday, so there won't be much achieved until I get home.  And on the 18th of next month I"ll be helping Seonaid out for a month, while she works a festival and a concert.  I'd better make sure my hand work is ready by then.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Charm Square stash

Three Christmases ago I cut up nearly all my charm squares and made nine-patches from them.

I'm making these blocks with them; 2½" HSTs turn them on point, it's a real stashbuster.
It was a lot of fun, and I remember thinking, Oh good, that's got them out of the stash!  Like it was a virtue or something.

Then two Christmases ago I mourned the loss of my charm pack stash, so I ordered about 10 from The Fat Quarter shop when they were on special.  My stash was restored.

Last Christmas I did the same again.
The trouble is, I hadn't used any from the year before, so now I have quite the pile.
I'm not sorry about this at all.  I've used so much fabric over the past few years that I need to buy certain things to fill in the gaps.  I have very few shirtings with white backgrounds, and almost none with blue prints on them.  I've nibbled away at my yardage, so I don't have any decent amounts left of good background prints.  So much of what I order online turns out to have a yellow cast, or a mottled background (HATE the mottle!), and I end up disappointed.  The charm packs allow me to see the fabric in real life, and decide what I should and shouldn't buy.

I prefer white backgrounds, or a very light stone colour, not yellowish.  It changes the whole look of the block, makes it too warm and cosy for me.  Of course everyone else in the patchwork world must love it, because that's mostly what's available.  When I find a shirting I like, I buy yardage now, it's so hard to get.
My stack of charm packs is waiting for me to go through them with an eye to ordering some new pieces.  And when I've done that, I can start thinking of another project to use a few of them up.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Pretty Tumblers

One of our customers asked for a Queen Size quilt in summery colours of blue, pink and green.  It has to measure around 95 x 80, which is large but not daunting.  I immediately thought of one of my UFOs, a tumbler quilt of my pretty fabrics.  Unfortunately I'd included a lot of brown in the bit I'd already made, so it was back to the cutting table to amass a lot of clear pretty shapes.

I seemed to cut for days, and then spent ages at the design wall, arranging pieces exactly so.  It's so much fun to work with these fabrics, I'm really enjoying it, and it puts me in a good mood.
It's so annoying though, when I agonize over each piece and get it all juuuuust right, and then I go and sew things out of order.  I added a row to the top of another one instead below it.  Really?  But I didn't unpick it because it looked fine, and I just had to spend a bit of extra time blending the new arrangement.
This is 12 of 18 rows, so I'm nearing the end. 
I've added the darker shapes for the next 4 rows, and I quite like the effect of an alternating plain block, in dark or light,  That's just the colour of my design wall showing through, but a pretty tone on tone in white or cream would really pad out the pretty fabric.  Something to think of for the next quilt....

I'm going through my border stripes to see if anything suits it, I think it would look pretty special with a large floral border.

I don't know if this is what the customer had in mind, but I'm perfectly happy to keep it if it doesn't sell.  There are some delicious fabrics in here.


Tuesday, January 09, 2018


I've been watching the English Paper Piecing craze for the last few years.  I made my first project using this method more than 30 years ago, and there have been many, many others since then.  I do like it, but my hands hurt after a while, and I have to give up.  
However, I think I need to have a hand work project for all those times when I'm not near my machine, and so I'm going to have another go with a slightly different method.

I've always tacked through the papers when I cover them, and preferred to do it this way because it was so secure.  I was a bit sceptical of just tacking the material around the paper template because I thought it would shift too much without the stitches anchoring the paper and fabric together.
But what if the paper shapes were cut from freezer paper and ironed to the fabric?  They wouldn't shift then, so tacking would work.  And if I wanted to applique the hexagons to a background then the edges would stay turned down once I took the paper out, because the tacking stitches stay in.  And the seam allowances wouldn't kick up when I ironed the finished units.  This started to sound good.
I have a hexagon cutter, it's by Creative Memories I think, with two sizes of hexagons.  It says the larger one is a 1½" hexagon, but that's from point to point.  It's actually ¾" along the side, which is a bit small, but still comfortable.
I'm using the larger one, and cutting shapes out of my ancient roll of freezer paper.  That roll is nearly 20 years old, I bought it on my first trip to America in 1998, just shows how much I use it..
My first rosette is finished, and I enjoyed the process and it didn't take too long.  The freezer paper is softer and more flexible than other paper templates, and my hands don't hurt.  I even have a little box that's just the right size to make a sewing kit for this project.  I chose the madder stripe for no other reason than that it was close at hand, but I think I'll go through my wonderful madders for the next blocks too.  Madder, black, grey, cheddar;  I think that would be a lovely colour scheme for these little fussy cut hexies.

Another WIP to add to the list.....


Thursday, January 04, 2018

January WIPs

I didn't finish anything in 2017, I can't remember the last time I didn't finish a thing all year.  My UFO count currently stands at 27.  Of those, 7 are actual Works in Progress; they are being worked on as Leader-Enders or main projects as the mood strikes me.

The Economy blocks, Blue Squares and Hunter's Star are awaiting borders; I'm working on blocks called
North Wind
Country Cousin
6" Ohio Star
Checkered Lattice.

Of course I could be making major progress if I just concentrated on one thing, but I don't want to feel obliged to finish anything.  I'm just sewing and enjoying it, and if I don't find pleasure in it then I move onto something else.  I can be quite beastly to myself, pushing myself to keep on and finish things when I'm tired and unhappy.  Part of me is a bully, lecturing and hassling and critical.  I really don't need that right now, so I'm just puddling around amongst my projects.

I don't normally work this way; I'm usually much more focused.  Mereth has dozens of collections of blocks, she can pull out a set of blocks and build them into a quilt at a moments notice but I make a set of blocks, I work on the borders, and then I have a finished top.  I have to admit this is fun, and the lack of pressure is the best bit.  


Wednesday, January 03, 2018


It was another busy Christmas;

I spent 10 days with Shonny and family in Adelaide,
getting home here on New Year's Day. 
Yesterday I spent with the family in Pirie, so it's been non-stop socializing.

I never seem to make resolutions on New Years Eve, either I'm asleep early, or staying up with family, so there's no time for quiet contemplation.  The first week of the new year is when I do my thinking and planning and reflecting on the past year. I don't know what word for 2018 I want, but I keep coming back to Resolve.  It can mean a solving a problem, or making a decision or determination, and all those meanings are appropriate; there are things in life that I have to find a solution for, and I have to decide what to do about them and then be determined to actually do something.  There's nothing life-changing going on, just niggling issues with my living arrangements and my quilting set up.

The other word I'm thinking of is Begin.  So many things never get started, I never take that first step and so there's no progress.  I need to make an effort and actually do the things I dream about.  Surely if I take those first steps then the momentum will keep me going.  I'm tired of staying in the same spot because I can't get started.

Today I'm going to contemplate the sewing room, and list all my projects, and try to tidy up the layers and stacks of fabric everywhere.  I'll list the problem areas, and what I can do to make working in there more fun and more effective.  I might just have to look at what I hope to achieve this year too.  We are getting lots of requests for specific quilts, and have two commission quilts to make, so I need to look at ways I can sew those while fitting my own projects in.  I hope 2018 is going to be a year full of activity in the sewing room, lots of achievements and fulfillment.

2018 is going to be filled with my grandchildren too;
Shonny is expecting another baby in June and we are all so excited about that.  We don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet, but we're hoping for a boy.  These three girls need a little brother I think.

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