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.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Old Favourites

Recently I found some older books online, at ridiculously cheap prices, so I bought them both.  I had a young family when they were new on the shelves, and though I desperately wanted those books, there was no money in the budget to buy them.
  Marsha McCloskey has always been a favourite, and so has Judy MartinJinny Beyer was the queen of quilting in those days. In some ways patchwork was very limited then, but there were some very talented quilters out there.  And they're still around, still making wonderful quilts.
I felt quite nostalgic, looking at the pink and blue quilts, and the old fabric ranges.  There was a lot of fussy cutting striped fabric going on at that time, it really adds something to a block design.
This colour scheme really appeals to me, and I love the setting for the sampler blocks.  So many ideas! 
I'm feeling very inspired by all the ideas in these two books, ready to pull out fabric and start cutting. I have 2, nearly 3 tops finished up to the border stage, and both these books are full of ideas for pieced borders.  
I'm going to finish the last 12 Hunter's Star blocks first, and then work on borders for them, and then the borders for the blue squares quilt.  Once I've done that I can pack away the blue fabric completely.
The leader-ender blocks are going well, but I've cheated a bit and sewn quite a few of them in between the main projects.  I can't help myself it seems.  And I've totally given up on the scraps, and now I'm cutting into yardage as well. The scraps are going to be gifted to Mereth, because they really don't bring me any pleasure. And they take up a huge amount of room, so I can't be doing with that anymore.
I haven't made a sampler quilt since who knows when, but I'm tempted to choose a few of these and start cutting.  I should stipulate that I can only cut them out of scraps, but I know that idea wouldn't last.  I just love cutting into my stash fabric.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Organising the leader-ender project

I'm working away at my Northwind blocks, cutting up piles of scraps and deciding on what colours to use and the best approach to using them as leader-enders.  I can get horribly confused when I'm working on two projects at once, so I needed to have some sort of a system to these blocks.
The 6" blocks are made with 2"and 4" finished triangles. Each block needs three 2" HSTs, and two dark and two light triangles.  I made sets of 5 pairs of light and dark triangles to begin with, then chain sewed the HSTs.  Once the HST seams are pressed (open in this case) I package them up with the remaining triangles for that block and they go into little ziplock bags.
These will become my leader-enders in between sewing together the Hunter's Star blocks.
When I have a fair few of the chains of triangles done I add the big triangles, and voila, a block done almost instantly.
I'm doing mainly red, brown and green scraps, with a touch of purple thrown in every now and again, just because I have the scraps there waiting to be used.
Now that I've decided on a logical way to sew these blocks I can sort all these triangles into kits and tidy up my sewing table.  I love knowing I have heaps of pieces cut and waiting to be sewn together.

I already have 26 blocks made, and I like the colour mix, so I will attack the scraps again and do some more cutting. The 2.5" triangle die I'm using needs a 7.5" strip, so I have cut up some pieces from the stash drawers as well; I'm certainly getting rid of a pile of pieces, which is what I meant to do. I'll need about 120 blocks, enough to keep me busy for a while.
Once the Hunter's Star is in one piece I can get busy working on the Checkered Lattice, I need the design wall for that so I haven't made much progress.  It's fun to be working on all these projects at once, I might even have some tops finished before the end of the year.

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