Thursday, November 24, 2022

Catch Up

 I've had a busy few weeks, lots of appointments and a bit of travel. Most of November is just a blur at this stage, I'm hoping that going through my photos will jog my memory of what I've been up to.

There was a trip to Adelaide to drop my machine off at the repair shop. They have changed location, and are now situated in the Adelaide hills, which rather dismayed me. It's an hour away from Shonny's house, up a terrifyingly steep, 6 lane highway that gives me conniptions. There have been so many dreadful accidents on that stretch, a lot involving trucks that have lost their brakes. I put my anxiety to one side and tackled it, and my dear little car laboured up the incline. The down lanes on the other side were full of emergency vehicles attending a truck that had gone into an arrester lane's brakes had failed. I hate going near that stretch.

I was following Google maps instructions and it was frustrating to be told "Continue straight on Mt. Barker Rd. Take the next left to stay on Mt Barker Rd. Turn right to stay on Mt. Barker Rd. " The only left turn was onto a church frontage, so I missed it, had to circle back, and discovered a little lane that led off to my destination. It was all very pretty, but nerve wracking. We'd just had an enormous storm, so the roadsides were lined with fallen branches and whole trees sawn into manageable pieces. It must have been frightening to listen to all those trees come down.

The machine was delivered, and Google directed me to go the long way home because of current traffic conditions. That way led straight past Costco, so I happily agreed to that. Down the hill I went, past the truck still stuck in the arrester lane with a single police car still in attendance, past lines of trucks crawling down the hill and hoping their brakes wouldn't fail, and finally on to flat land again with a sigh of relief. I'm just not cut out for city traffic, and I never was. I don't know how thousands of people commute up and down that hill every day, I'd be a mess.

I spent a couple of days with the grandkids, who were overjoyed to see me after such a long break. I get three excited conversations going all at the same time, as they try to tell me all their news. I miss them so much, but the sad fact is they pass on all their cold germs to me, so I can only visit when they're all healthy. Between school and childcare germs, that's not often.

I've been sewing on a secret project, and my sewing room is a catastrophe. This project has a deadline, so I'm not bothering to clean up, just cutting and sewing and squinting at things on the design wall. I'm making progress, and hopefully it will be done by the end of November and I can go back to my own projects. I can't even remember what I was doing, it will be enjoyable to excavate old projects when I finally clean up.

My Home Oxygen Therapy set up was delivered, and I've been using it whenever I get breathless; it's made a big difference I'm happy to say. I was feeling a bit like an invalid as I read the booklet that came with it, and then at the back there was a section on Oxygen Therapy for Children. That made me stop feeling sorry for myself. I can't imagine how bad it would feel to have a child requiring oxygen, so I'm grateful that no-one in our family has to deal with that. I'm going to keep thanking God that my family are healthy and that this set up is working for me. (If you haven't read my blog before, I have a chronic lung condition, caused by ...... Budgies! I'm allergic. Who knew that was a thing?)

Turns out I didn't take many photos in the last 3 weeks. The last quilting photos were of Scrappy Mountain Majesty blocks, made from my 8.5" squares. 

I didn't get very far with them, before my commission quilt took over. But there are a few more to add to the pile.

I'm still sewing checkerboard blocks, as leader enders, but I haven't cut the black triangles for them.

 They're just strips of squares, waiting till I can clean off my cutting table and get back to it. 

And I've quilted 4 quilts with the new software, including one of my own, and it's starting to feel familiar.

 Now I need to teach Mereth how to use it, and she's reluctant. I made her video me setting the pattern for her quilt, so if she gets stuck in future she can watch it and see what I did. Fingers crossed there are no dramas there. 


Saturday, November 05, 2022

Fussy Cutting

 I've been making a collection of fabric I think would be good for fussy cutting. 

I toyed with the notion of making a Patchwork Of The Crosses quilt, but I haven't actually begun one. I linked to a pinterest board of beautiful examples, very inspriring, but that hasn't motivated me to start yet.

In 2015 Temecula Quilt Company did a quilt-a-long called Little Gems, using the Jewel shape. I loved it, but just tucked that idea away, along with all the fussy cutting fabric. Last month I decided that either I start a project, or I put all that fabric back in it's respective stash drawers and call it quits. I'm not ready to give up just yet, so I got busy with templates and needle and thread. English Paper Piecing hurts my hands, so I'm just sewing them together on the drawn line.

I have a bolt of this coverlet print, sent to us in a job-lot of cheap fabric bolts. I think fussy cutting this will make some lovely motifs, and I won't cry over the fabric that gets wasted. I have 9 metres, and I never wanted any of it!

This Anna Griffin fabric is full of possibilities. It's very pale, but setting it with darker fabric could work.

Swiss cheese. 

This William Morris style fabric is my favourite, I wish I had a bolt of this so I could make a large quilt of these lovely rosettes. I only have 2 metres, which will make quite a few motifs, but I wouldn't get a border from it as well. 

There are a lot more fabrics in the box, but they don't really go together, so I will probably have to use them in separate projects. Next time I go shopping I might try and find more prints that work with these, instead of buying random prints. And I need to start pondering the setting I'd like. It's a nice change from machine piecing, restful, but exciting when the central pattern emerges. It's like Stack'n'Whack, unplugged.


Wednesday, November 02, 2022

 We've had a spate of equipment problems lately, from software to computers to cables to sewing machines, and I'm ready for some quiet time where I don't have to try and fix something. 

The major problem was the Statler computer finally refusing to turn on, which we knew was coming. It was 16 years old, which is ancient for a computer, and we babied it along for several months, but the day came when there was just a blank olive green screen when we tried to turn it on. Luckily I'd already researched a replacement, so I rang up and ordered that, it arrived in 4 days, and we were ready to go again. There was a minor drama with our monitor, but a new HDMI cable fixed that. The computer is preloaded with the latest Statler stitching software, so I will have to learn how to use it while I do the next batch of customer quilts. They say learning new stuff keeps you young, but I just end up tearing my hair out.  Hopefully I can pick it up quickly.

I did the first customer quilt today; there were some tense moments when I couldn't work out how to use the new software, but I got there in the end. Mereth was treated to a whole slew of exclamations; "What the....!  Where is the ...? Oh never mind, there it is. What on earth??? That's ridiculous!!  Oh, I see what it does.... That's actually pretty cool...." I keep reminding myself that in 3 months time I'll probably wonder why I had such a hard time with it.

Mereth bought a laptop, and I've been trying to load stuff on that. My head is so full of passwords and usernames and protocols and things that need to be downloaded for anything to work. I feel like a dinosaur, I'm so out of date.

The worst thing was my Janome 6500 seized up (again) and now I'm sewing on my old Bernina Record. 

She's a dear old girl, but she can't be hurried, so I have to slow down and match her speed. It made me realise how quickly I sew, I'm always in a hurry. It's quite pleasant taking things at a more leisurely pace, but I'll be glad once I have my 6500 back. It should be 3 weeks till I can take it in to my favourite repair shop, and I'll just have to deal with Bernie in the meantime.

It's been hard to fine tune the quarter inch seam allowance, even though Bernie has a proper quarter inch foot. My eyesight is getting worse, and I'm finally on the list for cataract surgery early next year. They do one eye a time, so it will be a bit dodgy until the second one is done, but I have a contingency plan.  I'll string piece and improv piece when I can't see to do detail work. I'm amassing a folder of string pieced quilts, so when the time comes I'll have lots of choices.

I'm working on (yet) another checkerboard quilt.  Mary at Country Threads showed a quilt made by a reader, and I loved it. (Scroll down to the checkerboard with the black background).

It will use up a lot of those pesky oranges and yellows that I have too many of, and it's perfect to sew on Bernie while I get used to her foibles. I'm using 2"strips, but the original looks like it's made with 1"squares.  I'm not willing to go smaller while I'm struggling to see; I'll make fewer blocks, and they will be roughly 10.5".  A checkerboard is one of the few patterns where a consistent seam allowance is perfectly acceptable, even if it's not exactly a quarter inch. I'm having lots of fun, and I've chopped up a huge number of scraps. 

Rust, orange, yellow, lots of warm colours. But I'm also throwing in greys and reds for a bit of interest.

I would rather have these fabrics as 2"strips than cluttering up the scrap drawers; I'm far more likely to use them once they're cut.

And I do have another pattern in mind, to use up the leftovers. I always have a Plan B....


Thursday, October 27, 2022

 I fell off the grid for a while there, but now I'm back. My absence was caused by getting another (!) cold, getting hospitalised for oxygen and IV antibiotics , then a trip to Adelaide and more tests and consultations at the Thoracic Unit down there. I feel much better after all that, and here's hoping no more colds and viruses find me for a while. There are more tests and scans in the future, but I have a treatment plan now, which includes home oxygen; then I'll really feel like an invalid, but maybe I'll be able to be more active too. Silver linings, and all that.

My sewing room feels like alien territory, I can barely remember what I was working on so enthusiastically before I got sick. I've been tackling the remnants of my scrap cutting mania, packing things away into boxes and drawers, and makings labels straight away, so at least my workspace is ready for me to start work. But on what?

I was thinking back on my decision to work on projects and Make A Difference, which led to many MAD cutting and sewing sessions. That was great, but many of those sessions were with new projects, and my existing ones languished. Some of them are many years old, and they are starting to weigh on me. I really hope I can continue to live on my own, but I need to start sorting out all my stuff, while I'm still able to. So I'm going to buckle down and tackle some of the older UFOs.

The red and cream Jacob's Ladder was top of the list. There were still boxes and trays of red and  cream scraps and strips everywhere, and I wanted the whole thing kitted and the leftovers dealt with. First of all I drew it up in EQ8 so that I knew how many blocks I needed; the answer was 56, and I already had 27 blocks completed.

I had a huge cutting session, and kitted up 14 blocks. 

I sewed the  four HSTs and the five 4-patches needed for each block, and packed each block in a ziplock bag.

 That took quite a while; 56 HSTs and 70 4-patches. I was a bit disheartened to realise that it was only half of the blocks I needed, and I still had 15 to cut, kit and sew. Oh well, the only thing to do was keep on with it. I cut all the strips I needed for the remaining blocks, but I couldn't face sewing the units in one big batch. I'll do them a few at a time in between other sewing.

That was rather tiring, but it certainly made a difference to that project. Red fabric is back in it's drawers; the cream fabric was mostly scraps, so it's all gone or cut into 2"strips for the strip drawers. I'm quite pleased with that effort. 35 blocks finished, and the rest are just waiting their turn.

My leader-enders were the Flying Geese units; I'm going to play around with the idea of a pieced border for this, maybe little squares on point, maybe Flying Geese. Those red fabrics might have to come out again.


Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Scrap Chaos (Again)

My cutting table looked like this again. It never stays clear for very long.

It was a mammoth effort to sort it all, and cut up the bits for all the various projects. It took the better part of a day, and my mind was fried at the end. So many decisions!! So even though I was tempted to abandon it halfway through and go back to making a mess, I remained dedicated. 

It will be much nicer to work in this space now, and I won't lose rulers and cutters under the mess. I can't guarantee that it will stay like this for much longer, because there are still scraps to cut, but at least I won't be building on the mess that was there.

Every time I start a random scrap quilt I pull containers off shelves and out of cupboards and act like I'll be getting rid of the bits once and for all. But every time I find new containers that I didn't know were full of scraps, so they are never going to go away completely. After years of foisting scraps onto Mereth, years of scrap quilts, I'm still inundated with them. 

I drew up the Ladder quilt in EQ8 and it says it takes 4.5m. Is that all? 4.5m of scraps is a lot of ironing and cutting, but it's hardly a dent in the pile. I think I'll end up making at least 1 more quilt in this pattern, using some of the really bright fabrics that I don't like. Someone will like them, and I can just add it to the donation pile. 

I want to be sewing on my good projects, but I'm stuck on the scrap dealing for some reason. I guess I don't want to pull out good fabric and iron it and cut it when my room is still covered in these bits and pieces. I think it will be worth a few more days of cutting if I can get all this stuff dealt with.

This is how I'm working through the piles. First I pull out all the light fabrics and they get cut into 3"squares for my Flying Geese blocks. Any leftover bits are cut into 2.5"squares for my Scrap Squares leader-ender, or 1.5"squares to go into the box.

My dark and medium scraps are dealt with differently. If it's a big piece, like a FQ remnant, I cut an 8.5"strip. This gets cut into 8.5"squares for the Scrappy Montain Majesty blocks. There's often a little bit of the strip left and it becomes a 2.5" strip, which I cut into a 4.5" brick, and a square. The bricks are being amassed for another Brickwork quilt, and the squares go into the box for the current leader-ender.

If it's a smaller scrap I try to get a 4.5"strip from it. That gets sub-cut into 2.5"slices; sets of 4 go into the Ladder project box, the rest go into the bricks collection. If I can get four 1.5" strips at the end then they go into the Ladder box as well. If there's not enough for 4 then the 1.5"strips go into a drawer for a future piano key border.

Little scraps get cut into 2.5", 2", or 1.5"strips. The 2"strips are going to become another Carolina Chain quilt, or a variation of it, and the others go into the Ladder project, or the bricks, or the piano key border. 

And some scraps are only enough for a single square, and that just gets filed in the right box. So far, this system is working really well, it's removed a lot of decisions I normally go through. Should I cut a 6.5"strip, it's big enough, but what will I do with that. Should I cut this or that, or both, or....Just being committed to the 8.5"and 4.5" strips means that a whole chunk of the scrap can be decided with 2 cuts.

My scrap drawers are pretty full already, so cutting directly to projects stops me from scrunching more into them. Once I have a handle on all this I'll have to pick a project and cut from the drawers. And someone needs to call an intervention if I ever buy another scrapbag from Facebook.


Friday, September 30, 2022

Well that's done.  I started this on the 18th of September, and I finished it it on the 29th.

In that time I also put the borders on 5 tops, quilted another quilt, and made 90 Flying Geese units  to stow away for a future quilt or border. I haven't been idle.

It would qualify for MAD (Make A Difference) sewing, but also MAD cutting. I've spent days and days standing at the cutting table, slicing through kilos of scraps.Some were genuine scraps, and some were FQs that I wanted to get rid of.  I cut 8.5" squares from those and added them to the Scrappy Mountain Majesties box, which is now too full to close. That's enough squares for another 100 blocks, and 50 blocks already made. Time for a bigger box.

Guess I'd better have a MAD sewing session for those next.

Of course I have too many pieces leftover, so I'll have to make another Ladder quilt, but it will be a lot brighter. All the scraps that I rejected for this quilt will find a home in the next one.

How on earth did I wind up with so many oranges? I seem to remember that these pieces came from the much missed Patchwork Products scrap bags. They were such good value, and we bought many of them when our kids were growing up, money was tight and we needed a fabric fix.It was a fantastic Sydney shop, so much discount fabric. I don't know of any Aussie shop like that now; quilt shops are charging $32 a metre, which they have to in order to cover costs, but at that price I'll be buying only a few pieces. I'd rather spend my money on my grandkids. And because I have a huuuuuge stash to sew up anyway.

I need to do a review of my project boxes and choose what to work on next. It can't be all scraps, all the time. I have projects started using my good fabric, and it will be fun to be using some of my favourites. 


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Dealing With The Scraps

Lynn Dykstra, of Kleine Meisje Quilts, recently posted a finished quilt called Ladder. It's bold and graphic and the colours are wonderful. Mereth pointed out that it would be a great pattern to use up small scraps, and she made some blocks to demonstrate. I resisted for all of a day, and then completely caved, digging scraps out of the far reaches of my stash cupboards.

The blocks are super simple, and take no time at all to sew up; in a flash I had dozens of blocks on the design wall, I'd exhausted most of the real scraps and was even cutting strips from larger pieces of fabric to include.

I made some half blocks, because I didn't have enough to make a whole block and I wanted to use every last bit. I don't know if I'll use them in this quilt, so they may just be the start of another project. 

They may end up in the backing of this quilt though, so I'm not making any decisions about them just yet.

Mine is going to be more subdued than Lynn's, or Mereth's, because I just don't have those bright intensely coloured fabrics. I seem to be leaning towards the mid greens and golds. I'm not using a lot of solids either, again because I don't have them in my scrap stash. I even included a few metallic prints that were lurking in a scrap bag; it was time to either use them or throw them out. 

I'm aiming for 90 blocks, and I have 70 already. Mereth has kitted hers, packing away the cut pieces in a beautiful tin. I wasn't patient enough for that, I wanted to see straight away if the colours and fabrics were going to work. Now that I've made so many I may as well just push through and finish it. Bur I think I'll keep cutting the pieces for an ongoing scrap management effort. It has certainly cleared out the scraps that were hanging on racks all over the sewing room.

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