Sunday, September 28, 2014

The wind is disgusting today, tearing through the trees, banging fences and roofs, pulling at the newly planted seedlings in the garden.  As I was walking through the yard, collecting anything likely to blow away, the wheelie bin came bowling along and tumbled into the rose bed.  I had to extricate it while the wind slapped maliciously at me and leaves and branches whirled past my head.  Not a day to spend outside, methinks.

Yesterday I did a fair bit of sewing, watching Seinfeld episodes right from the beginning;  the actors were so young they look like teenagers.  I know it all so well, I can sew madly and just look up at the bits I really love.

I have 2 more blocks left to assemble, and then I will have 20.
 I am debating with myself over the border fabric.  I have 5 metres of paisley that my sensible self says would be fine; my silly self wants to go to the quilt shop at Jamestown and buy 2 metres of a new blue, that I have only a FQ of.  If I use the paisley, it could be finished tonight.  If I drive to the quilt shop, I won't get the top in one piece before Wednesday at least.  We're still arguing about it.

I just did a tutorial on the house shapes I'm using, but I've left it as a separate post, so I can link back to it if I need to refer someone to it. 


I love cutting these house shapes in one piece.

 The 'quick & easy' way is to piece it out of 2.5" rectangles and squares, or squares and HSTs, but I really love that shape without a centre seam.
(I had to do it with this fabric, only had a jellyroll strip of it, but I wouldn't do it from choice.)  I find it's a lot more accurate without extra seams, easier to press, less bulky to assemble, and cutting it in one piece is about as quick as it gets.

Of course, there's the method of using 4.5"squares, and adding 2.5"squares to both top corners with the flippy method.

This is super easy, and quick, apart from the drawing of lines and the trimming etc. Much better than a seam up the centre, but I don't get enough accuracy for my liking.  Some people hate triangles, so they love this method; personally, I love the triangles.

I prefer to cut the house shape with my Easy Angle ruler, either the 6" or the 4" one, because they are always on the cutting table anyway.  The numbers aren't relevant for this sort of cutting, so to find the line I want, I use a strip that is the size of that corner triangle; 2.5" triangle, so a 2.5"strip.
 I stick a post-it note to the back of the ruler, close to the line but not too close.  I don't want to obscure that line, just highlight it.
Then I trim off the bits of paper that show around the edge, so they don't get in the way.

I start with a 4.5"square, and trim off the top corners to make my house shape.  I'll cut the one on the right, then flip the squares over to cut the other side.  I can flip the ruler, but then the markings are on the top of the ruler, and that drives me nuts because it's not accurate; I ALWAYS cut with the markings on the bottom, right next to the fabric, not floating an eighth of an inch above it.

There are other rulers that you can use to cut this shape; an oldie but a goodie is by Trudie Hughes;
the Rotary Mate has these Speedy shapes along the edge, and they are for trimming off corners, very useful for making house shapes, or octagons.  The ruler is so easy to use; if you have this in the cupboard it's really worth dusting it off.
The marked sizes are finished sizes; my 2.5"triangles finish to 2", so that's the size speedy I use.

Then there's this ruler, from Creative Grids.  It works fine too, but it's more expensive than the other two rulers.
I don't understand the markings on this one, and rather than work it out, I'll just use it the way I want to.  I know my piece is coming from a 4.5" square, so I just line up the top and make sure the ruler is centred and away I go.  I cut all the lozenges for my Elongated Hexagon with this ruler.  (This is the same quilt that Bonnie is doing as a Leader Ender;  my measurements are here.)

Of course, once I have my house shape, I need 2.5"triangles to add to the corners.  I cut mine with the Go Cutter, but if you don't have one,  cut them with the Easy Angle.  (Not from jellyrolls, those pinked edges drive me insane.)

If you want to get rid of the dogears, stack the triangles and put the 2.5" line of the ruler against the edge, then nip off the dogears.

I add the right-hand triangle first, lining up the flat tips with the top of the house shape and the side, and pressing the seam towards the triangle.

Then add the left triangle, lining up the flat tips with the triangle that's just been attached, and the side.

The finished unit should measure 4.5" square,
and the point of the house should be right at the junction of the quarter inch line and the 2.25" line.
I might have to trim a skerrick of the triangles away sometimes, my piecing is never completely accurate, but I'm getting pretty good at it.

If you want to make other sizes, it's easy to figure out.  The triangles will measure half the square; for a 3" finished house block you would need 1.5" triangles; the cut sizes would be 3.5" squares and 2" strips for the Easy Angle.  For a 6" house unit,  6.5" squares and 3.5"strips, and so on.

I might just go through Blockbase and see what patterns I can find with this shape;  I'm not sick of making them yet, and it's a nice shape to use charm squares.  Heaven knows I have enough of those hanging around.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Now that I've got a few days to myself, before the next lot of work is due, I'm clearing out drawers and organising the remaining UFOs.  I pulled out a drawer containing some jellyroll strips, and found another project that never even made it to the UFO list.  It was a set of blocks made from Park Avenue pre-cuts, first blogged about in this post.

 At least I know exactly how old it is, it's very useful to be able to date things through the blog.  Anyway, I decided three and a half years was enough time to 'age' in the cupboard, so I started making more of  them.

It's quite a complicated block to put together, but once it's broken down into units it's a lot more manageable. 

The 5-sided 'house' units are one of my favourite shapes, and I cut them from 4.5" squares, nipping off the corners with the Easy Angle.  I'll do a little tutorial on them tomorrow, there are a few ways to cut them.  I know I can make them with 2.5" strips, but I hate that seam up the middle.

The nine-patches in the middle are easy, just a little bit fiddly with the half inch border;

the corner units are simple piecing, and I cut the HSTs with the Go Cutter so it's even easier. 

I'm aiming for 16 or 20 blocks, and I have 4 finished,

8 kitted

and 4 more mostly cut out;

 it's a good project to use up those 30 minute segments before I go to work in the morning.  I try to make all the units at once, rather than whole blocks, it suits my short sewing sessions.
I can just send all the HSTs through without thinking, perfect for early morning sewing when I might not be really alert.  Then the next morning I sew up the corner units.  I like accumulating all the pieced units, and once they're done, the blocks go together so quickly it's like magic.  I'm looking forward to that moment with this project, hopefully before the end of the week.  I get to add the project to the UFO list, and cross it off in the same week!


Friday, September 19, 2014

It's Friday again, and the week just flew by.  I've been really busy with computer work, quilting customer quilts and the of course the postie job.  There aren't enough hours in the day for everything that has to be done.  At least I never have to say "I'm bored, there's nothing to do...."

The customer quilts are really pretty, but they are for a local show so I won't show pictures of them yet.  The computer work is so close to being finished, which is good; the postie run is done and dusted till next Monday, so I plan to get some sewing done this weekend.

My little bits of sewing time before I went to work have paid off in a finished top at last.  My Workaday quilt is in one piece, and looking nicer than I thought it would. 

It's been on the design wall for weeks, and to begin with I shuddered at how ugly some of the fabrics are, and thought I could never get them to live together in harmony.  Then as I worked on it I started feeling affection for it's ugliness, and remembering the quilts the fabrics came from.  Later again I looked at the blocks and remembered all the stuff that has happened since I first started making them, and finally I realised that I loved how precisely I'd pieced together these random, ugly things that weren't of my own choosing.  I could have thrown it together and called it done, but what would the point of that be?  The real value of this quilt is the care I took with it, determined to do the best I could with what had been given to me; and that is a recipe for life as well.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

We had a bit of a scare with the dogs last weekend.  They both went off their food, and that was a worry. There's nothing sadder than a Staffy who doesn't want to eat.  Dolly is fussy, but she always shows up for dinner, or the crackle of a packet.  Pippi's motto is "Eat it quick, decide if it was nice afterwards".  Instead of barging about in the centre of everything they were hiding in corners and staying in bed; not the way they normally behave.

They went to the vet on Monday, and he said it was either a mild case of Parvo, or a really bad E.Coli infection.  They got cortisol and antibiotic injections, and tablets to take for the next 5 days; Dolly was much worse than Pippi, so she got a bottle of white stuff that would help settle her insides.  The first time I gave it to her, her eyes went completely round with shock, and she coughed it back all over me; it was such a strong peppermint flavour, she'd never tasted anything like it! 

I'm glad I completely trust her, especially when I'm putting antibiotic tablets down the back of her throat and all those teeth are around my hand.  She quickly realised that after the tablet she got a treat; when I picked up the bottle she came running to sit between my feet, then danced around in circles after it went down the hatch.  She's a funny little thing, and it's so good to see her back in high spirits.


It's been a busy week, and there hasn't been a lot of time in the sewing room.  In fact, nearly everything was accomplished in the hour before I go to work, between 6 and 7am.  I usually hate working in such short timespans, but just lately I'm grateful for any amount of sewing time.

I have three UFOs on the go, and there has been a little progress on each.  I have the Vintage Rosettes in three pieces, and they were all ironed ready to be joined together.

 Normally hexagons go together beautifully, all the seams fanning perfectly; even the little diamonds aren't a problem.  It's that pesky triangle that is the problem, there's no way to make those seam allowances fan nicely, so they had to be mashed flat.  Oh well, there are two more seams to sew with them, two more seams to iron, and then it will just be a case of adding a border to make the edges straight.  The end is in sight at last.

The baskets are just not enthralling me at the moment, so there's not much to show; I've added the spacer borders, so that the triangle border is easy to attach, but I'm just not very enthusiastic about finishing it.  Maybe this weekend will see me buckle down and get it done.  I have loads of computer work to finalise, maybe I can use the sewing as a bribe when I need a break.

The other UFO is an ugly one; I made a whole heap of Broken Dishes and Pinwheel blocks years ago, out of the triangles cut from binding strips. 
We have done heaps of bindings on customer quilts, it's just mind-boggling to think how many we've done over the years.  There are 36 blocks, each containing the triangles from 2 quilts, so that's 72 bindings represented in these blocks.  More actually, as sometimes there weren't enough triangles in one fabric, and I added bits from other quilts.  I got sick of making the blocks years ago, so Mereth now takes the triangles and they go into her scrap drawers.  There are two checkerboards made from backing scraps in the top row, but then I found  more blocks and didn't need them.  They'll go on the back with everything else that's left over.

I was so tempted to bin these blocks, pretty ugly colours, and definitely not my fabric choices; but they represent years of work and so many memories, and remind me of the customers and their quilts.  I decided that a quilt made of significant blocks was better than a pretty quilt, and now I'm really enjoying putting them together.  I'm using scraps of backing fabrics to sash and border them, and it's looking far better than it should.  This one is making me happy as I work on it.

It's been christened the Workaday Quilt, because all the pieces represent our working days, quilting, binding and sewing. 

And when it comes time to bind this quilt I've got that covered too.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

I finished another UFO last week;  I really love this pattern, but I didn't like the materials that I used in these blocks.  I was cleaning out my scrap drawers and used any old thing that came to hand, and I don't like the result at all. 

I was on the point of pitching them into the Orphan Box, but then decided I could deal with them once and for all by making a large table runner.  It's about 28 x 34, and I'll quilt it simply and then it can go to work protecting my furniture from scratches.

I still want a full-size quilt in this pattern, so sometime soon I will kit up a whole heap of blocks, but they will be made of my best fabric, not the dregs of the scrap bin.  And I get to cross another UFO off the list; 19 finished to the Top stage this year, and I'm not sick of them yet.

I'm working on some old leftover Stack & Whack blocks now, just squares;

 I only had 4 repeats of the fabric, so I had to make do with that.  It's not my usual style, but in the'90s I was teaching workshops a lot of the time and this was the sort of thing I made.
 The colours are sweet, and I still like the big floral print; it makes a change from the reproduction palette I usually work from.

I've been leap-frogging between four UFO projects and I'm tired of it.  Tonight I need to get serious and actually finish one of them.

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