Friday, February 21, 2014

Another weekend ahead, and I don't know how much sewing I can do; I've got to do some long-neglected bookwork, and once the paperwork is spread out on every available surface there's not much room left for sewing.  I probably need a break anyway, I've sewn madly all this year, achieved a lot of finished long-term projects, and it will be therapeutic to put on my accountant's hat for a couple of weeks.

My latest finish is a big one.  I ignored everything else yesterday, and used every available moment to sew the Triple Irish Chain into one piece. 

It seemed like it was never going to end, just one endless seam after another.  There was a small break when I went round to pick up Mereth and Pippi for the nightly walk; Mereth had to put up with me complaining that my neck hurt from so much sewing, and I was silly to have done so much, and I was going to leave it for a while.  Not.  I went home after our walk, skipped dinner, and sewed even more frantically till 11pm.  Then I hung the finished top on the design wall and went straight to bed.   I am more than a little insane; however, it feels very good to get things over and done with.
I felt triumphant this morning, seeing it hanging up.  I'm very pleased with it, and quite chuffed that it lays as flat as a tack, with all those hundreds of seams and itty-bitty squares.  It took ages, but it was worth it.  
The emphasis this year seems to be on completing things that have been on my list for a very long time; all those ancient UFOs, and now this chain quilt which has been on the to-do list for at least 8 years.  How amazing to look at the photo of the antique quilt, and then at my copy, and think, 'I did it!  I made it!' 
I love that feeling of accomplishment; those three little words are very powerful, like a thumping great pat on the back.  I remember my DD as a very small girl, pushing the buttons on the microwave to start things cooking, and her triumphant 'I did it!' afterwards.  Kids take such joy in achieving things, I think adults should be more like that, instead of immediately trudging onto the next job on the list.  Every time I sit down at the machine to sew now I get that feeling as I hear Beloved humming away; I did it, I fixed her.  I finished those UFOs, and this big top.  A little bit of quiet elation is in order.

Next on the UFO list are these two tops, only needing borders.  
I was stumped over them before, hopefully this time I can dredge up a few ideas.  I think I may have to make string borders for the Spiderweb, which will be a lot of work but would fit in well with the centre of the top.  
I will let the ideas simmer while I tackle the bookwork.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I'm glad that I've finished some UFOs this year, it's been very satisfying.  However, I'm in the mood for some mindless sewing for a little while.  I don't want to have to make a single decision, so I pulled out a kit that I made up, about 5 years ago.  All I have to do is send the pieces through the machine.

The magazine that I first saw this pattern in called it Yankee Puzzle, but BlockBase calls it Big Dipper, and Yankee Puzzle is another block entirely.  Oh, well, I'm not fussed, so Big Dipper it is.

 I don't want to finish these blocks; what I like to do is sew all the units and press them, then pin them together in sets of 4.
I can use the sets as leader-enders when I put the Triple Irish Chain together; when that quilt is finished I should have a pile of these blocks finished too.  I think I get better accuracy when I sew all the units at once, if I'm programmed to sew hourglass units, or HSTs, or Flying Geese, I do a more consistent job.

I sewed about 6 blocks together, then checked them to see that they were all the same size.  They were; the problem is that they are all 6 5/8" instead of 6 1/2".  Sigh.If I trim them, I'll lose the points, if I don't trim them I"ll have to cut the setting blocks a weird measurement.  Nothing is ever easy.

The problem is with the strips I originally cut for the triangles; they are oversize, and so the triangles are a little bit too big, and that makes the final block just a little bit too big.  I think I cut these before I got my proper glasses, and with a ruler that wasn't entirely accurate.   I can trim each hour glass, but that's a lot of work.  I can take a wider seam, but then I have to remember to go back to my normal seam on other projects.  I think I'll just sew them together as is and cut the setting blocks to fit.  Least work in the long run that way.

Of course I'd already cut some of the alternate blocks, aren't I efficient, so then I had to do a mockup in EQ7 to make sure that I had enough setting fabric.
 Luckily I will have plenty, so now I can get back to just mindlessly feeding all these pieces through the machine. So much for not having to make any decisions!
I love having them all bagged up ready to sew, even if they are all the wrong size :)


Sunday, February 16, 2014

It was a good weekend, I didn't work too hard, but I got a fair few things done.  It's good to slow down and enjoy time off, instead of constantly racing to do things.  It was just the thing I needed when I was feeling rather bedraggled.
We did take the dogs to the beach, and it was quite cold and very windy. 

The dogs enjoyed their run on the beach, but hated walking out on the jetty in the wild wind; Pips ears were blown inside out, and she couldn't wait to get back onto firm ground.  Neither she nor Dolly are Old Sea Dogs; they just like running through the sand and finding things to investigate.
On the way home there was a rain cloud sitting on top of the pass through the hills; the wind turbines looked very mysterious shrouded in mist and rain.

I sewed my sampler into one piece, and I still can't quite believe it's finished.
 It looks fine to my eyes; last time I sorted my UFOs I thought it was just rubbish, hence the urge to throw it in the bin.
I'm glad I didn't, it brings back memories of my life then.
 I was a hand-piecing advocate, thought it was the 'right' way to do patchwork; I think I only embraced machine work when I started my family and had so little time to spare.  I realised then that I would never get anything finished if I didn't use my sewing machine to help out.  Now, my lovely Singer 538 is my best friend in the sewing room.  Times change.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Looks like we're in for a week of cool weather, most unlike our usual February temperatures.  No-one is complaining, we're just grateful that the rain has stopped the fire progressing, and now the fire-fighters will be able to get into the burn area and put out smouldering trees.  The job isn't finished yet, but Mother Nature is making it easier, thank heavens.

I feel like a wrung out dishcloth; once I recover from the prolonged heatwave I know I'll be going full steam ahead, but right now I'm beat.  The garden is too wet to work outside, and I haven't got the energy to shift furniture or anything strenuous, so I think I'm going to concentrate on the handwork on one of my oldest UFOs.  

I started this sampler of 7.5" blocks in 1984, when I was working at a piggery in Biloela.  (That's pronounced Bill-O-Weela; Australia specialises in weird placenames.) 
I worked with these guys in the day, and sewed at night.
I was one and half hours away from my home in Rockhampton, living alone in a caravan;  there were lots of hours on my own to fill, and various hand-worked patchwork projects were just the thing.  This one languished unfinished, because I had to draft up the triangles around the edges.
 Back then it was a chore to draft anything that size, I could never find cardboard or plastic big enough, and I just never got round to it.  I've considered pitching this project many times, but didn't; now it's time to get it done.  30 years in the making!
I still had the fabrics in the stash, that shows how deep my stash drawers are. That big floral is a later fabric, from the '90s, but it fits the colour scheme perfectly.   I should have the triangles added today, and the borders will take no time at all.  It will be wonderful to see this in one piece, and to get it quilted at last.

I've been sewing on the Chain blocks in between other chores, every little bit helps.  I have all the blocks done, except for the major seams in 7 of the checkerboard blocks, and I may be able to do that this evening. 
I can't wait to put these blocks up on the design wall and start sewing them into rows.  It's been a big project, but the end is in sight.

However, I just may abandon all my plans and put the dogs in the car and go for a walk on the beach.  I love the seaside in cloudy weather, and the dogs haven't been for a walk for weeks. The quilting will be here when we get back.....


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In 2012 I spent a year sewing from my scrap drawers.  I was living in a little house down the street, and I left my stash at the hall, as I didn't want to drag all my material into the new sewing room.  So I sewed many, many quilts from the scrap drawers.  Now, the drawers are nearly empty, and I haven't recut pieces to go in them; it's not as though I don't have scraps, it's just that I haven't dealt with them.

In the past, I filled my drawers with strips cut from small pieces weeded out of the stash drawers.  It felt wonderful to slice up that fabric and see the scrap drawers filling up.  Things have changed now; I seem to be on a controlled colour scheme jag, and I don't want my scraps to be all cut into the wrong sizes for what I have in mind.  I think I've fallen out of love with my drawers of strips and scraps :(

I guess I just have to acknowledge that I'm in a different mindset now.  I want to make quilts with exactly the fabrics and colours that I have in mind, not what's stuffed into a drawer of 2.5" strips.  I'm not sad about that, but it means that I need to rethink my storage requirements.  I don't need  all these long thin drawers for strips anymore, or the little short ones for squares and triangles.  I need large flat areas that I can store my pressed remnants on.

 I have stacks of wire baskets that I find really useful;

 they can take nearly a whole FQ out flat.
 I have these lovely drawers from IKEA, now sadly discontinued, and they are wonderful for any piece less than a FQ.
And I supplement that with cardboard trays that hold other ironed scraps; these just sit on top of each drawer and are easy to move around as I need.

The strips that I do have left are stored in this metal Ikea chest of drawers.
The drawers are long, so strips have minimum folds, and they're lightweight enough to take to the cutting table.  Because I don't have a lot of strips anymore, I can also fit flat containers of squares and triangles in the same drawer as the strips of that size.
How come my strips are always in a mess?  Don't answer that.....I guess I shouldn't rummage in them.

I wonder if my commitment to downsize 30% applies to my patchwork storage as well?  I mean to repurpose some of the smaller drawers and use them as tool and hardware storage; I really need them to organise door and furniture fittings, curtain hanging gear and various nuts and bolts.  They won't be in the quilting room anymore, but I won't have disposed of them either;  I guess if I have uses for them it would be silly to get rid of them. 
I've been ruthless and weeded out approximate a quarter of my clothes, so I am making progress.  Might tackle the kitchen cupboards next, once our predicted cool change gets here. 


Those of you who come here just for the quilting may be bored with fire photos, but this is my diary, and this is what's happening.  Quilting posts will resume later today :)

Yesterday we visited the patchwork shop in Jamestown, hunting for suitable backings for customer quilts.  On the way home we took the backroads to the hills on the east of Laura and Stone Hut, to see what the fire was doing.  We stayed off the main highway, left that for essential traffic, and parked many miles away to take some photos.

We couldn't see any details, just the smoke and the beginnings of the flames appearing over the crest of the low hills next to the highway.  It was horrible, moving so quickly, and the winds and high temps were just making everything worse.  We went on our way feeling horribly sad over the fate of so much bushland, and native animals, and property; this is an area we have loved since we were children.  All of the trees we saw yesterday are gone now, destroyed by this fire that just won't stop.

***I should edit this, as I'm being tooo pessimistic.   The Australian bush is adapted to survive bushfires, some species need the smoke and ash bed to germinate their seeds, and some of these trees may recover if the fire moves through quickly enough and leaves anything standing.  We won't know for a while just how much total damage there is.  But it's still horrible to see this habitat in flames, and the wildlife is not coping.  And the trees in Wirrabera are introduced species; they won't survive at all.  *****

When I got home I looked at the pictures I'd taken with the zoom at the maximum, and saw details we hadn't even guessed at.  I sharpened the edges up a bit, so the details are more obvious.
(it's worth clicking on the photos to see them full size; bit blurry, but they give an idea of the scale and ferocity of this thing.)
 This is the original photo.
 The flare of flame on the left hand hill.
The hill to the right;
 just above and to the right of the single tree in the paddock you can see a line of firetrucks, waiting for the flames to emerge from the trees.  By 3pm there were 300 CFS units and 130 farm fire trucks battling this, trying to keep it away from the historic village of Stone Hut.  They succeeded, but the fire changed direction and is now threatening Wirrabera.  So much destruction is heart-breaking.

 I almost resent the fact that it's beautiful as well....


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Crystal Brook is a hive of activity this morning.  The firefighting efforts are being coordinated from here; the showgrounds are a staging ground for the CFS units arriving from all over the state to help with the Bangor fire.  As I did my rounds this morning I saw convoys of trucks arriving and refuelling, and assembling along the main road. 

It was an amazing sight, all these men and women from hundreds of miles away, coming to help.  Each truck has it's district on the the side, so it's easy to see how far they've come.  What a great effort to try and tame this monster.
A standpipe has been set up near the showgrounds, where the trucks can fill their water tanks before they leave.  The logistics of an exercise this big are mind-blowing; all the water and fuel and food needed to keep these units working.  And it's all voluntary; what an extraordinary system, and how well it works.  It's a fine example of the Aussie spirit.

Our brother Greg is in the CFS at Stirling North, an hour north of here; at the start of this fire he came down with his unit and spent many long hours working to refill the water bomber planes, in 50° heat on the tarmac.
That's him, closest to the camera in the blue shirt.  He's just one of hundreds of caring, compassionate, heroic guys, giving their time and effort to help the community.  We're proud of all of them. 


Sunday, February 09, 2014

I wen t through my stash of UFOs and found the blue and green tumbler quilt that I started in January 2010.  Last time I went to Tricia's I looked for a nice batik for the border, and could find nothing that suited.   I wanted it finished, so I decided I would use  a combination of batik pieces, none of them ideal, but I just wanted the thing over and done with.  Imagine my surprise to find that it had been packed away with a piece of lovely batik fabric, the perfect border.  I dimly remember buying it; in fact I blogged about buying it at Tricia's and then leaving the bag at John's place so I couldn't finish the quilt.  Somewhere along the line I went back to Adelaide, picked up the fabric and packed it away with the quilt.  I just have no memory of that.  It's a bit of a worry.

I love how this turned out, I think I could seriously fall in love with batiks.
 Most of these fabrics aren't batiks, some are dressmaking scraps, some are printed to look like batiks but aren't.
 I just love the strong colours, nothing wishy washy about this one.  Now I need to think about a backing.
I'm being pretty good about attacking the UFO list; two down for 2014 already, and I'm working on a third.  When I consulted the list I saw that a lot of the projects were stuck at the border stage, but even more were just a collection of pieces, barely started at all.  Really, does one block make a project?  I think not.  I have 37 things on the list, and nine of them are just sample blocks; I'm going to do some revising soon, and some of those UFOs are going to end up in the orphan pile.  Time to be ruthless.
 The bushfire which has been burning for over three weeks was thought to be contained.  It flared up again yesterday, and has burnt out an incredible amount of new bushland, in one of our most beautiful valleys.  There are dozens of homes and families at risk, and countless animals; what remained of the forestry area is threatened, as are three towns.  It's just appalling.  Standing at my back door at 11pm the sky to the north was pulsing and glowing red, and Mereth and I went for a drive to the top of the hill to see what was happening.

It was strangely beautiful, except for the insane destruction it is causing.

The column of smoke was climbing hundreds of metres into the moonlit sky, which was pale purple with grey and white clouds.  The moon sailed behind the smoke and glared out like a baleful red eye, but my camera is not capable of recording that, unfortunately.
We drove along the main highway for a bit, and watched the flames pouring down the slopes like lava.  It was utterly horrible.
 We're praying for the safety of those trying to control this thing, and for rain; it's forecast for Wednesday, but we need it now.
My camera has a good zoom lens, we were nowhere near the actual fire; don't want to be either.  I have such respect for our volunteer fire-fighters, to go out and face that. 


Saturday, February 08, 2014

Isn't it amazing how sometimes people on opposite sides of the world start to do the same things at the same time?  I was going through a quilt book recently, and this indigo quilt struck me as the perfect way to use up a lot of the rich, deep blues I've collected over the years.

Those blue setting blocks would use up a lot of fabric very quickly, and the blocks also have a large square that would whittle the scraps down nicely.
I cut some trial blocks, to see if they went together easily, and then I discovered that Lori of Humble Quilts had used the same block for her last Quiltalong.  Must have been something in the air.

The little 6" blocks are so cute and easy to put together; I cut all the 1.5" triangles with the Go Cutter, and then just one 4.75" square from the indigo material.
I think it's worthy of becoming a whole project, and I'm itching to start cutting, but....  I like Lori's quilt a lot too.  I have so many lighter blues and browns that would work with sashing, like hers.  I can't make up my mind what direction to go.  Of course I could do both, but I might be very sick of those blocks if I made two quilts worth of them.  What I need to do is come up with a similar block, that's interesting enough to keep my attention.  I shall investigate that before I start cutting into the pile of blue fabric.

The Large pile of blue fabric.

Every time Mereth and I go shopping in the supermarket we find ourselves exclaiming in disbelief over some new product.  When I was young I was determined never to get 'old' and make statements like 'What is the world coming to!' But I'm tempted to say that about some of the things we find.  I think we're well on the way to becoming crusty old codgers.
I love kale chips, but everyone knows that you can eat a whole bowl full and it takes longer to make them than to eat them.  Now they come in a bag, ready to eat;
I thought the $7.95 price tag was a bit steep.  Then I saw the price per 100g on the ticket; that works out to $139.50 a kilo!!  (over $63 a pound)
Wow, that's an expensive snack.  Guess I won't be trying them.


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

My word for 2014 is Transform.  I want to transform my fabric and UFOs into finished quilt tops, and then some of those tops into actual quilts.  I want to transform the workroom into a functional, streamlined place to work; at the moment it's a bit disorganised and cluttered.  I want to transform the garden into an easy to maintain area.  The bookshelves need to become an ordered array of resources I can easily find.  Everywhere I look I see things that could do with a bit of transformation.  All those makeover shows on TV rely on Transforming the old stuff into a wonderful new creation, and that's always an exciting thing to be involved with.  I hope I can get suitably enthusiastic about transforming my home and garden and possessions too.

I certainly transformed the 8 blocks of this UFO.  I'm so glad I didn't give up on them, because I had the best time making new ones, and putting the whole top together.

 It was a delight to stitch these old fabrics, and they brought back so many memories.

 I ransacked the stash looking for my oldest fabrics to include, and it didn't matter if I used up every last skerrick of a treasured scrap; I figured there was no better quilt for it to be in.
Then, to border it, I used a French General fabric from a few years ago, from the Pom Pom de Paris range.
 A quilt is always dated by the most modern fabric in it, so this has to be circa 2010, but the rest of it is firmly in the last century.  I just love it.

 The number of blocks for the Triple Irish Chain continues to grow, but slowly.  There's just so much piecing in these, it would take a lot of dedication on my part to sit and sew them continuously.  They are being used as leader-enders, and occasionally I'll sew several of them in one go, but I don't want to race through them.  I'm less than halfway, but there are still lots of nine-patches and pieces, it will be a while before I have to cut more.  It's not like me to be patient with a project, but I have to admit it's much more relaxing to sew things slowly, instead of madly racing to be finished.
My indigos are calling to me.  I don't think I can hold out much longer......

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