Friday, February 29, 2008

In my usual distractable, obsessional way I have done nothing but sew the 4-patches together, in any spare moments I had. And the grand total is 485! All from two little drawers of strips. If any of us with decent size stashes have illusions of being able to use it all up we should abandon them now. There is no hope of turning all that material into quilts; especially if we keep adding more fabric on a regular basis. And yes I may have bought more fabric, but it was only stuff I didn't already own. Surely that's OK.......

Mereth and I intend to join Judy's Quiltathon over the weekend, so I was trying to get the 4-patches finished so I can turn them into blocks, and get the Orphans and Siblings quilted so I could load the Carolina Coverlet and be stitching that tomorrow too. And I was supposed to go to bed early, but it's now rather late. But I'm calling it a night; I sewed dozens of patches together before I realised the bobbin had run out, and then knocked my little scissors onto the floor. They landed so close to my foot. I'm taking this as a hint that I need to give up and make a fresh start tomorrow.

There is a garage sale that we want to go to first thing, but then it will be back to the workroom and some Power Sewing! We have found a few interesting things at the Op-Shop lately, including this milk glass vase, and the cute jug and enamel pan. I let my new things live on the dresser in the entry for a few days, so I can admire them every time I go past; then I find them a permanent home somewhere else. I'm just enjoying these colours grouped together.


Monday, February 25, 2008

I spent Sunday sewing strips together, and managed to clear out the strip drawers nicely. The only things left are bits that are earmarked for projects already begun, and a few that I like enough to carry over to the next lot. It took quite a while to sew them in pairs, and just as long to iron them, and then even longer to cut them into 1.5" slices. That was a lot of work to get through, especially with fabrics that I didn't even particularly like anymore. Which may explain why halfway through I cut a few more shirting strips, and some more indigo ones,and began making these 4-patches as well. I AM usingup the contents of the strip drawers. It's just that I may be making these blocks as well, and using the scrap 4-patches as leaders and enders. I don't know how it happened. But I do like this new project.


Friday, February 22, 2008

This photo shows a few of the WIPs on my worktable this morning. I finished all 20 blocks of the True Lovers Knot on the left, so it just needs sashing and borders. The Monkey Wrench blocks on the right are my take-along project for our patchwork club meetings; I need 81 and I have 34 finished. Nearly half way on those, but I don't want to sew them together anytime except at meetings. However I do like to make the HST units beforehand, so that it's just a matter of fitting the pieced units together on the day. I need to cut some pieces out of my gorgeous new fabrics, and start to choose a setting fabric to show off those rich browns.

In between other chores today I put the borders on my Carolina Coverlet, so that's another finished top to join the pile.When I have a spare day it will have a panto quilted on it. It may be a challenge to quilt, with all those tiny squares on point; it's not as flat and square as it could be, but I'll deal with that as I quilt it.

We had a lovely overcast day today, and the gentlest sprinkles of rain. Mereth and I spent time working in our gardens, repotting plants that needed it and fertilising and weeding. My garlic chives are flowering, and the clusters of flower buds on their long stalks are very graceful. I am slowly collecting the herbs I use the most; parsley, mint, rosemary, basil and chives, and some stranger ones like Brahmi. It's a herb to improve memory, and I like to put a couple of sprigs in a pot of tea (if I remember!). It grows like a weed, which is good; the tablets are expensive so it saves money to have it for the picking in my backyard. As soon as it gets cooler I will start sowing salad herbs again, I loved growing them last year.

I rather fell off the Stashbusting wagon with my latest puchases, but no doubt I will come to my senses soon and stop buying. The exchange rate is so low that it's very tempting to put in just one more order; however, there is a time for buying and a time for sewing, and it's sewing time now.

I am a bit jaded with my drawers full of cut strips. These fabrics have been around forEver and I"m tired of using them, and tired of all my quilts having the same fabrics in them. So I'm going to sew all these 1.5" strips into 4-patches for some undecided project, and then replenish the drawers with entirely new stuff. It will be interesting to see how many 4-patches I get out of this lot.......


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thanks for all the kind words about my Orphans and Siblings quilt. I can assure you that it will be promptly quilted and on my bed by autumn, which is only 2 weeks away now. Not that I am counting or anything.

Summer is having a last spiteful fling, and we've had two days of gruelling heat. On days like this there is nothing to do but endure it as best you can, but some of my plants may have given up the ghost. We'll see how many I can coax back from the edge of expiry.

The pattern for my Delectable Mountains blocks came from this 1986 Ladies Circle magazine, and I made them as soon as I bought it. So it feels good to finally put those 22 yo blocks to good use.

For the border I used up the scraps from my Double Anvil border, and because there wasn't enough I went to the brown stash drawers and found this piece that has been waiting for 6 years for the right project. I think the children work in very well with the orphan and sibling theme.
Mereth and I were a bit concerned about how neglected our respective homes were becoming, what with us spending so much time working with the Statler. So we decided to devote a day each week to Powerhouse Cleaning. Over the years there have been several times when we've had cleaning jobs, and we work well together. Our new regime is to spend a whole day going through our two houses as if we were being paid to clean; we tried it out last Thursday, and to put it bluntly, we were knackered by nightfall! We not be young no more. However, it was a raging success; I love seeing polished wood gleaming in the afternoon light, and knowing that there aren't any household chores that I should be doing. I just hope we've recovered by next Thursday, so we can do it all again.

It helped that I had stopped at the Post Office on my way to Mereth's house and picked up three fat parcels from Hancocks and Judy Rothermel's Schoolhouse Quilts. I wouldn't open them until we had accomplished major cleaning goals, and it certainly helped spur us on. Fabric is the best bribe!

Aren't these wonderful swatches of Judie's fabric? Mereth will have to order her own set, because I"m putting these into a scrap quilt.....
I joined Judie's fabric club and received her latest collection of shirtings; I can finally feel as if the shirting drought has broken. I made this sample block up in my new fabrics, and can't wait till the work slows down a bit and I can kit up a whole lot more.

I'm still designing, and amassing a lot of quilting patterns that I will put into packs. It helps to rummage through the antique shops and find little treasures like this Victorian paper clamp. That feather at the top is the same as a traditional English quilting pattern called Goose Wing, and I love that shell shape at the base.
I found these two buds of Julia's Rose in Mereth's garden today and rescued them from the heat. They are famed for their odd brown colour which I don't like, but they are the only roses we've had for weeks, and I appreciate them anyway.
Honestly, it could rain couldn't it? We have clouds for heaven's sakes! These look portentious and a bit surreal, as if they are a fleet of podships from the planet KottonWool.
And finally a picture of puppy great-nephew Curtis, who brought his Mum and Dad to visit me on the weekend. He's such a droob, into everything. I have grubby pawprints on the top of my china cabinet now, but seeing how tall he's become it's not surprising


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

As I said, the McCall's magazine has lost it's cover and is very tattered, though I do have another copy that I picked up in an op-shop (just can't lay my hands on it now). You don't seem to mind when I ramble off down memory lane, so I'll tell you the story of this poor old relic.

When Mereth and I were teenagers it was hard to find good craft books and magazines, especially in our little town. Once we were deemed responsible enough by our ever-careful Mum, we were allowed to take day trips to Adelaide for shopping expeditions. I guess we were 16 or so. We often wax nostalgic over those magical trips to the city; we left on the 7am train called The Bluebird, which was usually packed with other country people out for the day. A trip to the city was always referred to as Going To Town. If it were a Friday or Saturday the platform might be stacked with trolleys full of homing pigeons in wooden cases. They were sent off by train to the far reaches of the state, and let go at the proscribed time, to come winging home hours later. That's not something we see a lot of now!

As soon as we arrived in Town, at about 10 o'clock, we always scarpered off to the Buttery at David Jones, or the tearooms at Myers, for coffee and cake, then set off on a round of shops to track down our treasures. Our favourite knitting, crochet and tapestry books were by Burda , printed in German but we managed to decipher the instructions anyway. There was a record shop we went to for our folk music albums, and european music. Several hole-in-the-wall shops that sold wool and craft supplies, and the best thing of all, Beck Book Co. That remains my favourite second-hand book store; it was a treasure house. We went there last, so we could stagger straight back to the railway station with our puchases and wait for the train. How we did it wearing platform shoes I will never know! There was a ramp down into the station, and we always checked out the newstall at the top, found more than one Burda book there, and then set off down the ramp to the lovely old station to wait for our late train. When we climbed into our carriage we spread our purchases out on the seats and gloated over what we'd found, and ate hot curried peanuts and read as much as we could in the appalling lighting. On one such trip in 1975 I came back with this McCall's magazine, and was thoroughly addicted to quilts by the time I got home that night. I was in Lurve with antique quilts!

The 'full instructions for each pattern' went something like this. 'Sew 29 pieces together for each block. Assemble into a quilt top. Layer with batting. Quilt.' It was not a huge amount of help for a novice quilter, but it got me started.

That lovely railway station is now a casino. I might be heading into old codger territory soon, but I'm awfully glad I knew that place when it was a thriving station. When I read Harry Potter it's our old Adelaide station that I see, with it's soaring ceilings and light filled windows and tall stone walls.

Mereth is ready to thump me, because I am being obsessive. Obsessive=Boring in her eyes. I was obsessing over my Orphans, for four whole days. They lay on the floor of the workroom while I crawled around and tried bits in different places, squinted at it thoughtfully, went and did some work and came back to stare at it some more, place one piece just so and deliberate some more. It was a LONG process. When I did get inspired it involved great activity with piles of strips and scraps, and consequently my sewing area looks like a fabric explosion. I am spending my spare time today sorting it out and restoring order. I don't know how else to work, I'm sorry.

Putting the blocks on point made it so difficult, but it just wanted to be that way. I just built it in pieces and lopped off the excess. I wasn't looking forward to putting on the borders, I thought I'd have to do a lot of work to square it up, because I hadn't measured a single thing. When Mereth and I ran a tape measure over it I was amused to find that the measurements in both directions only varied by 1/4". It couldn't have been any better if I'd agonised over every cut.

I was going to put some words on it, but it didn't want any. I gots to do what it tells me. My favourite thing was using those Delectable Mountain blocks around the edges; they have sat neglected and unused for over 20 years, and they finally have a home. I'm calling this quilt Orphans & Siblings.

And by the way, I just love it!


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Yesterday I was very focussed, and spent many hours on one of my oldest UFOs, started in 1984. It's from that same McCalls magazine that I took the Night and Noon from. There's four or five more quilts in that magazine that I want to make; it was a great issue.
This project has had a long, hard life; there are 41 pieces in each block, and I don't think I ever managed to hand piece one in a single day. It took forever to do each block, and I had almost no fabrics that I deemed suitable for an 'antique' look. There are old clothes and op-shop finds in the first blocks, but by the time I did the final ones I was using reproduction vintage fabrics from America. Times certainly changed while I worked on them.

They suffered various indignities; cats and kids were fascinated by the pieces and the fluttery qualities of the stack of blocks. I ran out of the horrid unbleached calico (muslin) for the background and sashing twice, and had to substitute others. The original, accurate cardboard templates degenerated into ragged shapes as I traced around them repeatedly, and the replacement ones I made were just not the same. The final blocks were a nightmare of ill-fitting pieces, even though the new fabric was wonderful.

The worst thing was an accident that befell the blocks and the partly pieced top 15 years ago, which involved most of them getting saturated and requiring a bath. The magazine suffered too, and is in bits now, but I won't ever throw that away. I rescued it all, but I just never seemed to have enough courage to tackle the job of getting them put together.

Look at those seams! My heart quailed at the prospect of making them all lay flat and tidy again.
But I'm nothing if not stubborn. I made my quilt using only 30 blocks instead of the 36 in the magazine. It's quite big enough, and will fit the bed nicely. I think it will have a cotton batting and some heavy quilting to disguise the mis-shapen bits and crooked piecing. I'm so very, very grateful to have this thing done at last.For the first time in ages I felt like hand sewing, so I'm working on my Periwinkle quilt; only four seams to go and that's another UFO off the list. I'm so amazed that I've finished all these things to the quilting stage; it's most unlike me.
Today has been random; I'm jumping around from one thing to another. Several of these blocks have been sewn together, and 4 of these shopping bags cut out. I am so sick of those horrid green bags, so I am replacing them with these lovely ones made from printed duck. And you thought I only bought stash fabric at Spotlight! There's some skirts to be made next.....


Friday, February 01, 2008

In the comments May Britt asked about the pattern for the Night and Noon. It's from a McCalls magazine that I bought in 1974, and the instructions were somewhat sketchy and the dimensions diabolical. I haven't yet found a site with instructions on the net, but it's easy enough to draft for hand piecing. If I have time I will rough out some rotary cutting instructions, because it's quite an easy block to make. I like mine better than the one in the magazine.

Kathie from Inspired By Antique Quilts wanted to know if it was hard to do starts and stops in the quilting; the Statler has an auto tie off feature that makes it easy. All we have to do is clip the thread ends later. If I were doing an heirloom quilt I would turn that feature off and end the threads by knotting them and threading them into the batting with a needle. And that would be labour intensive, but it gives a nice result.

Karen from Karen's Chronicles asked about the pattern for this quilt;I made this up myself sometime last year, though it may well have been invented before this; it's difficult to come up with anything truly original when we're all playing with the same basic shapes.

It's super simple; make a heap of Rail Fence blocks, with any size strips you want. I made this sample with 2" strips, and so was the quilt. Piece three strips together, lightest in the middle and darker either side. I didn't really use any lights in the quilt, as the setting was light fabrics.
Cut the strip into squares; mine were 5" squares because that's how wide the pieced strip turned out. Cut squares of setting fabric the same size and draw a diagonal line in one direction.
Layer a fabic square on top of a pieced square and sew 1/4" away from both sides of the diagonal line. Make sure you have all the diagonals sloping in the same direction; this block is a pinwheel of sorts, and it can be made to spin in opposite directions and then the pieces won't all go together.
Cut on the drawn line to give two pieced HSTs.
For every two units you can make a block like this;or use a lot of different parts to make random blocks like in my quilt.

The blocks turn out to be 8" finished, which is a nice size. You can make these with any size strips and any number of strips.


Ever since Mereth went on an excursion to Cowell with the patchwork club we have been planning our own trip so that I could see the lovely shop there. It's never been the perfect time though, so we made an executive decision this week that we were just going, full stop. It's a long drive, nearly 600k for the round trip, so it required an early start. We had to go north to Port Augusta and the head of Spencer Gulf, then south, down the other side to Whyalla, and then on to Cowell. We saw the sun come over the hills when we were already 40k along the road, and the early light made the somewhat bleak countryside spectacularly beautiful. We made good time, and arrived at the Spotlight in Whyalla before it opened. We stocked up on a small amount (!) of fabric, had a McCafe Mocha and then set off for Cowell.

This area is full of iron ore mines, and there is even a jade mine at Cowell. I suppose it could be seen as desecrating the landscape, but I like mining areas. They are so full of energy and industry, and the remoteness of them has a pioneer quality.This is what can be seen of one of the iron ore mines from the road. The red earth stains everything, even the white lines on the road and the white marker posts are a pink colour.
Hmmm, I think he has right of way..... There were several pieces of immense mining equipment on the move that day, with full police escorts. There's no alternative but to pull off the road and wait till the the trucks have roared past.

We made it to Cowell before midday, and briefly admired all the old buildings. This pub would be around-about the right size for us to have as a patchwork retreat centre; we can dream. This scene is so typical of just about every small coastal town in Australia; main street running down to the foreshore, pines planted sometime after WWI and an early stone pub.And this is the perfect wrought iron lace for a coastal pub, a heron holding an anchor; there is something written around the heron, but I can't read it in the photos. Next time I'll have to get better details but it's on the second floor balcony and it's hard to get close.
We had a marvellous time at the p'work shop, called Stitch'n'Bits. Mereth had the good sense to take photos inside the shop, but I was overwhelmed by the fabric and didn't give it a thought. We chose some lovely fabrics for current projects, and some for future ones, and some Just Because We Wanted Them. I am unrepentant. Besides, it would have been silly to go all that way and then NOT buy fabric!

Ownership of some of these pieces is being disputed; Mereth badly wants the dusty pink second from the left. We may have to send away for some more of that, because I rather think I own that bit, seeing as I bought it.There's lots to be going on with here; I even bought Orange, most unlike me.
And that is 4m of double pink, that is destined for a project I'm itching to begin. Mmmmm, pink and brown!The last photos are from a deserted garden in Cowell, hopelessly overgrown and abandoned. These bulbs were flowering in profusion, I've never seen anything like them. They were stunning, from the beginnings of the bud to the final, faded flower. I have no idea what they are, sadly. If I were a true daughter of my mother, I would have pinched a bit to grow in my own garden, but I'm not brazen enough, yet. I'm learning though.

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