Sunday, March 30, 2014

My accounting software refused to function, I need a new lisence number, and I will have to wait till Monday to ring and get that.  I took that as a sign that I should be working in the garden, and sewing, instead.  So now my veggie seedlings are planted, and I've made more progress on the Snowflake quilt.

The applique blocks had met with a mishap somewhere along the way, and there was a strange mark on one corner of two of them.  I thought I would just soak that area of those two blocks, and if the marks didn't come out, then I would build the quilt anyway, and embroider something over the stains at the end.  Didn't quite go to plan though.  I must have marked one of the blocks with a blue washout pen, and the  block went blue wherever the water touched it.  The other block went blue too.  Panic stations!!!  I filled up a tub with clean water and let the blocks sit overnight, changing the water before I went to bed.  This morning both blocks were lovely and white again, but I then had to wash all of the others, as I couldn't remember if I'd used the blue pen on them.  Oh well, they probably needed a rinse after sitting there all those years. 

 I love taking a crumpled block like this,

and turning it into this.  It's like magic! 
Pressing applique blocks on a folded towel means you don't flattern the applique, or iron creases into it. 
It works well on the finished Sunflower blocks too, sometimes the top fabric can get a bit shiny over the seam allowances, the depth of the towel stops that happening.

This morning I have to finish the last applique block, (I'm only using 9, can't afford the time to do more) and then I'll have to rinse that too, and I'll be done with the applique part.  Except for the centre of this block,

which will only take a few minutes.  I still have all the templates I used for these patterns, just shows you can never throw anything away.

I've cut the blocks and the setting triangles for the Sunflowers, and picked fabrics for the centres,
so my next task is to get them appliqued together.  I know from past experience that my piecing isn't accurate enough with these blocks for me to piece them into a background, so I'm quite happy to applique.  I'll trim the final blocks down to the same size as the snowflakes, and then it will be time to put them all together.  That will be exciting. 

I'll have about 20 sunflowers leftover, but I'll put them together into another quilt, as I originally planned.  I stopped working on them because I couldn't find the fabric I wanted for the backgrounds, but I've found something that will work in the stash, so it will be fun to get started on that.  Only took me 15 years.
The fabric I have is not this pattern, but it's from the same range.  I just wish I could remember where I put it for safekeeping.......


Friday, March 28, 2014

I think I have too many irons in the fire right now; book-keeping and office work and design work and quilting and the postie job don't leave much time for anything else.  Oh well, the only way out is Through, so I just need to keep working away at it all and soon I'll be able to cross a few things off the list.  Tax stuff is the most urgent, so that's what I'll be doing for the next few days;  I want it all sent off by next Monday, so that will be my major goal over the weekend.  I have three customer quilts to finish up and post, and I just might sneak a bit of sewing into the mix after tea tonight.  It can't be all work and no play.

 Yesterday we went out to a restaurant for dinner, an early celebration of Mereth's first born's 32nd birthday next Sunday.   Time is flying and we are all getting older, and some of us are feeling it more than others.  The town we live in has a high proportion of very active elderly people, mostly ex-farmers and their indomitable wives.  It's sad when I can't keep up with one 78year old woman, but she walks so fast it's unbelievable.  I look at all these wonderful people and hope that I grow old the same way, doing what I love and full of energy.

The customer quilts  need to be finished straight away so I can't get into the sewing room just yet.  I've been averaging two blocks a day, before I leave for work at 7am, and I'll need to cut some more pieces soon. 

And start thinking about the sashing, I don't want to leave that decision till the end, and be tearing my hair out trying to find something suitable.  I'd rather build the blocks around the sashing fabric.
 That blue and brown print in the centre of the above block is sooo old; wish I had more of it, it's very pretty.
I want to have a good rummage through the blues and pull out my favourites, so that will be my reward for completing the tax work.

That centre square is cut at 4.75", so it's perfect to use up charm squares; I'm going to search through all my charm packs to find fabrics I can use in that spot.

I've started auditioning fabrics for the backgrounds of the Sunflower blocks, and I think I've made my choice;
hopefully there will be enough material for what I want to do. 
Snowflake no. 9 is almost completed, and I have to make some choices about how big I make this quilt before I go on with any more of the applique blocks.  All these decisions take time, I'm rather longing for a simple scrap quilt that just whizzes itself together.  That might be next on the to-do list.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ta Da!!!!  My first finished Snowflake, after a break of more than 15 years.

It took four sessions to finish this, and they were a bit of a struggle, but I persevered.  By the time I finished, I was actually enjoying the process, instead of gritting my teeth and being frustrated at the slowness of it all.  I can't wait to start the next one, which is a good sign.
My stitching is much better than when I started, it was fun to watch the improvement happening; I'm getting nice smooth curves now, instead of herky-jerky ones.  It's fun to develop a new skill.

Ideas are starting to crystallise about the overall design for this quilt, and I'll start trying out backgrounds for the Sunflower blocks soon.  I'm starting to get excited about the project; once it takes on it's own momentum it will have it's own energy too, and I won't have to make myself sit down and sew on it.

While I stitch I think Deep Thoughts, and I wondered why I don't gravitate to this sort of intensive handwork normally;  there's a limit to how much time and effort I want to put into things I guess.  I'll sew madly away at my pieced quilts, I'll stay up late and get things finished, but I don't agonise over getting them perfect.  It's something I do for the love of the whole process , and the end product is for a magazine article, or to keep family and friends warm, or to donate to someone in need, or just because I love the colours and pattern. And I'm always ready to move on to the next project.

 I don't make masterpiece quilts, because I think there are better things in life for me to be doing, rather than creating something so painstakingly.  I can't justify putting so much of my life into one thing, that is susceptible to moth and mouse attack, or getting dirty and stained, torn or lost.  I don't want to make something to treasure; something to love maybe, but not a monument to my time and patience.  I love other people's masterpiece quilts, I'm so glad that they exist, but I don't want to make one myself.  I guess I'd rather my 'Body Of Work' consist of 400 useful quilts, than 4 masterpieces.

It's all relative though; if I was a pioneer woman confined to a cabin for 6 months of winter, and I had limited materials except for thread and time, I would probably make a quilt that was as detailed and complicated as I could make it.  The alternative would be to sit there and have nothing to do, so I would gladly applique the tiniest details, and quilt it with quarter inch lines, if it meant that there was something for me to do with my hands for all those long months.   It would give me a reason to get up in the morning.

 When I moved to Queensland in 1981 I had no money, and lots of time; I crocheted many, many things with ordinary cotton sewing thread, because it was cheap, a little bit went a long way, and it kept me busy when I hadn't the money for any other sort of activity.  The choice I make these days is only possible because I already have so many choices of what I want to do, and how I want to do it.  I'm very grateful to be in that position.


Friday, March 21, 2014

I assembled all the supplies for appliqué yesterday, and started block number 8.  I was all thumbs for about an hour, and then my hands started to remember what to do.  I know this isn't going to be quick finish, I just hope my patience lasts long enough.  Hand work is so slow, but maybe that will be therapeutic: it's probably just what I need to make me slow down a bit. 
This morning I received the latest of my sewing machine purchases; an old Elna, which I've wanted forever. 
The case is a bit grubby, but a good scrub will take care of that.  The machine itself is lovely, I just need some spare time so I can oil her and see how she sews. 
What is it about green machines that I find so hard to resist?

I know I'm supposed to be down-sizing, but it's ok to add little sweeties like this to the collection; I gave Mereth a Singer201 on the weekend, so the numbers haven't changed.  One in, and one out!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

I'm enjoying my blue and brown blocks very much, but the pull of the old UFOs is still strong.  I don't think I've ever felt this motivated to finish old projects, I'm usually quite happy to abandon them and go play with something new.  It's been so satisfying to cross the tops off the UFO list, and to make backings for them and put them in the quilting queue, I just want to keep on while I feel this way.  I have several reeeeaally old sets of blocks, and I put them aside because I couldn't make the decision about where to go next with them; I want this year to be the year I buckled down and worked out what to do next , and then did it.

Two that have been weighing on my mind are these;

 a pile of Sunflower blocks, yet to be appliqued onto their backgrounds,
and some Snowflake blocks, begun in the dim dark mists of time.  Probably late 90's ??  They were sitting in their boxes next to each other, and Mereth suggested combining them, which is an idea I loved.  But I still haven't done anything with them; it seems such a huge job, working out the actual means of making a sensible quilt out of them.

I like them alternated like this,
but I'm also contemplating setting them on point.
I would have to make more Snowflakes, I have plenty of the Sunflowers, but only 12 of the applique blocks.  7 are stitched, 5 are prepped.  I'm thinking I would need another 4, to make 16 in total; the funny thing is, Mereth and I still have enough of these old pinks to make the extra blocks.  Some things just never leave the stash, even after 15 or 20 years.

The background fabric will be a problem though.  I'm thinking I would put all the Sunflower blocks on a cream print, so that I don't have to bother matching that white fabric, and that would form a nice pattern in itself.  Looks like I'll have to put my designing hat on for this one.

I've never finished an applique quilt; I've made lots of blocks, but I've never kept on sewing until they were a finished top, let alone a quilt.  It's not that I can't applique, it's just that it's never held my attention for very long.  I would be very proud of myself if I got this lot of blocks transformed into an actual quilt; it would be a huge accomplishment, and I'm going to aim for that.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We had a great weekend, I love it when the family gets together.  Mereth was glad that John and Liz could visit too, and we had a great time playing cards and swapping stories and looking at old photos.  There should be more of it.

We spent so much time playing cards that there wasn't a lot of time to do anything else, so no walks on the beach for the dogs, but we had fun.  Dolly was so spoilt for attention that she was in heaven anyway.

Yesterday I cut out a heap of blocks for the blue and brown quilt, and I thanked God for the Go cutter.  Just lately my feet have been so painful, it's crippling not to be able to stand without pain for even a short time.  Of course my job involves standing and sorting the mail, for up to three hours, so that was just a nightmare.  And I have trouble finding a setup that works for cutting fabric sitting down, it just doesn't work for me.  So it was great to be able to cut strips, then sit down and send them through the Go cutter.  I cut enough triangles for 26 blocks, nearly half of what I need, and it didn't hurt too much at all.

I have no idea what causes the painful feet, Bonnie Hunter had a bout  of it a while ago, I've had it before, but never as bad as this.  I don't eat gluten, so it's not an inflammation thing.  It goes away after a while, so I'll just have to wait it out.  I bought a pair of Hideously Expensive shoes with orthotics, and they made an instant difference; I call them my Polio boots as they're so ugly, but comfort wins over stylishness.  (I'm showing my age mentioning Polio boots; we always had kids in our schools wearing dreadful corrective boots and calipers to correct polio damage.  That's not something you see these days.)  The worst thing is not being able to go for our long walks each night, the dogs are missing that; we do a kilometre or so, but it's just not the same.  I hope the cool weather brings an improvement in my mobility.

I watched an old episode of QuiltCam last night while I sewed up 5 blocks;
they go together so quickly, I'll have to make sure I don't rush through this quilt without stopping to enjoy it.  The blocks are so lovely to put together, I'm happy as a clam while I stitch.  It's good to be back at the machine.

The garden is full of flowers at the moment, and the roses are recovering after the horrid summer.
This little bouquet is made of miniature roses, they are about 1.5" across, and the colours are glorious.  My big roses get rain-spoilt and heat-burnt, but these little darlings just bloom beautifully no matter what the weather.  I have to love something so adaptable, and beautiful with it.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

It seems I'm always busy with something; finished my computer work this morning, now it's time to clean up and  make the bed with fresh linen, as Seonaid and boyfriend Hayden are coming for a visit this weekend.  I'll get right onto that, after a cup of coffee.  I don't know what they think of sleeping in my sewing room, but I still enjoy being able to see my design wall from the bed :)

None of my projects are jostling for attention right now, so I don't really know what to work on first.  I have quite  a few ones that I feel I should work on, but I don't particularly want to, so nothing is happening.  While I'm busy with accounting software and tax stuff my creative side seems to switch off.  I can do chores like gardening and cleaning, but not the fun stuff in the sewing room.  It makes for a dreary. unbloggable life.  Luckily it should only take me another couple of weeks to dig myself out of this mess.  Once again I find myself vowing to do better, but I don't hold oout much hope.....especially as I found a journal from 10 years ago, and I was saying the same thing back then!

I'm being tempted by this block again, but in softer blues and browns. 

 I've been putting off my blue and brown quilt for so long, I think I may HAVE to do this one next.  The cutting is so simple with the Go Cutter, so it wouldn't take much effort to cut the indigo blocks as well as some in my lovely medium range blues and browns.  I think I've talked myself into it.

I've been spinning too, in spare moments, and soon I will decide on a project for my yarn.  A couple of hats, or a scarf would take care of most of the yarn I've already spun.  
Below, that's alpaca in the swatch on the left, it spun up very easily; I think I need to do more of it, it's so soft.  
The little swatch on the right is English Leicester/Merino, not as soft but slighty shiny; it would make a great coat, and I could dye it any colour I want...  I need more hours in the day, and a longer winter.

I have several whole fleeces, so I could make a coat if I wanted; I just have to work out how to spin the right yarn, and how to spin enough of it consistently.  It's totally different from piecing, the results vary depending on how tired you are, and if you forgot what you were aiming for, and if you treadle faster when there's something exciting on TV :).  I tend to make the singles finer and finer, just to see if I can do it, and then I end up with laceweight, instead of chunky yarn.  I need a lot more practice this winter, and then maybe I'll have wool to knit up next winter.  It's not about instant gratification, that's for sure.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The last three days have been HOT, summer having the last word, but it's supposed to be much cooler from now on. I'm so ready for real autumn weather, so we can wear long sleeved shirts and wool socks, and go for long walks all rugged up.  It was a brutal summer, I think everyone is a bit shellshocked by it.  I lost at least 5 roses, half of my geraniums and a swag of other plants.  Once the cool weather arrives I can take stock of what's left, and decide whether to replace any of it.  I'm supposed to be downsizing by 30%; does that mean in the garden too?

I managed to finish the spiderweb top by staying up till a ridiculous hour one night;

there are 6 borders in all,and I cut 8 strips for each.  48 strips, sewn to each other, and then to the quilt and the borders mitred.  That was a lot of sewing, and I was glad to see the end of it.  I had intended to put a clever string pieced border on this, then realised that there was enough visual interest going on in the centre of the quilt. 
The multiple borders made a nice frame and contained all that central action.  I've finished 8 UFOs so far this year, and I think it's about time I let myself work on a new project.  I'll do that, just as soon as I finish my design work and the taxes, around about two weeks from now :(


Monday, March 10, 2014

The long weekend went by very quickly, but we finished laying the carpet in the workroom, sorted out all the boxes of threads and samples and paperwork, and now it's all looking beautiful.  I find it hard to believe it's the same room, it looks so much bigger and everything has a home.  We had let it get into a bit of a mess, which tends to happen when there are lots of quilts to do.  Then we neglected it during the hot weather of summer, so it was an unloved space on Friday.  Not now!

The photos are taken from the centre of the room, going around clockwise.

This is the doorway, with the comfy chairs either side, and Queenie ready for a spot of sewing.
  The customer intake table, which is also the cutting table.
 Behind the Statler, silver metal shelves holding customer quilts.
The Statler, with dog for scale.
 Batting storage, on curtain rods between the two units; it's an easy way to make a rack to get the batting out of the way.
Thread storage and sewing area, ready to do two bindings tomorrow.
Ironing table on castors, so it can be moved around as needed.  It's lovely to iron big tops and backings on such a large surface.
The quilt stands can be moved out to hang quilts, with sideways light from the doorway

I wouldn't have chosen red carpet, but now I like how it looks.  It seems to tone the walls down a bit, and next time I'm in Adelaide I'm going to look for some curtains with a modern pattern, something grey and cream with maybe a splash of red.  That's not my usual taste, but I think the room needs something bold and modern.
I wanted to get some backings made this weekend, but that won't happen for a while, too much work to catch up on.  But at least we have a nice workspace now, I can't wait to get Millhouse stitching away on the next quilt.  I just wish I could have another three day long weekend to recover from this one!


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Good golly gosh, but life is boring when I do my work and nothing else.  Taxes, bookwork, design work, computer stuff, housework, customer quilts etc.  I haven't sewn a stitch in 2 weeks, and that's a miserable state of affairs.  Luckily we have a public holiday on Monday, so I'm juggling my duties with a bit of play time for myself.  And that means sewing for sure.

I had already picked out the borders to go on this Puss In The Corner top, so I whipped that together quickly;

another UFO finished, and it was really quick and easy, apart from choosing the borders in the first place.  For a whole day I put different fabrics up on the design wall and left them there while I did other jobs.  This combination was the only one that I liked, but it took some experimentation to get there. It's a bad picture, maybe I can get a better one tomorrow.

Our main project for this weekend was laying carpet in the workroom.  It has taken a LOT of effort, but it will be nice and cosy in winter, and much easier to keep clean. 
 Of course the site supervisor kept us in line....
The carpet was given to us by friends when they redid their rooms, so it's recycled and that's always good.  There is plenty of life left in this industrial carpet, and it will make the workroom look a lot smarter.  It's going to be fun working down there now, we've rearranged everything and it will work better this way.  Photos tomorrow when we've got everything put back in it's proper place and order is restored.

Hopefully there will also be time to do a little work in the garden.
I do love simple flowers like gerberas; these ones came from our Mum's garden originally, and it's so lovely that we could bring them with us when her place was sold.  The pastel pink is a favourite, so clear and serene. The fluffy yellow ones are special too; John wore one on his suit lapel when he and Liz were married.  My garden is full of memories, not just plants.



Saturday, March 01, 2014

Bonnie Hunter is making lozenges for her leader-ender project, and the antique quilt that inspired her is the same one that I copied several years ago.  I started it here, and finished it here, and quilted it here.  Then it went off to be photographed for Homespun magazine, 
 and was published in Vol. 114, sometime in 2012.

Sad to say, it's never been on my bed, not with my gallumping great fool of a dog leaping onto the bed several times a day.  She likes to scritch around in the quilts and make a nest for herself, and that's not going to happen to my nice quilts.

I realised I never photographed it truly finished, so that's what I did this morning, down in the shed.
 I love the fabrics I used in this, there were some very strange Judie Rothermels that just didn't go with my usual fabrics, but they found a home here. 
I had a lot of fun with this.
I didn't do the flippy corners, I cut the hexagon shapes with the Creative Grids House ruler, and cut the 1.5" triangles with the Go Cutter.  The instructions in the magazine are for flippy corners, because not everyone would have access to the tools I used for mine.  And flippy corners are free, and very simple.  My method was simple and easy, but not cheap.  So if you want to sew along with Bonnie, and use her method, the rectangles would be 8" x 3.5", and the squares for the flippy corners 2". 

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