Friday, July 19, 2019

I'm still cutting up the shirts, and kitting up blocks to use as leader-enders.  I like having a stack of simple block kits in a box by the machine, ready to add to the end of my chain piecing.  But all too often I get obsessed with the leader-ender project, and my main project gets pushed to one side.  That's why I'm in such a mess at the moment, working on four things instead of one.  But instead of putting aside all but the main project, I just sew faster on all four.  It's a bit exhausting.

I'm kitting these simple blocks, I'm up to 25 sets of pieces ready to sew. I have 20 finished, and I need 80, so I'm halfway there already.

I'll still need to cut more strips, but that's satisfying because 3.5" strips really take a chunk out of the shirt pieces.  I can see the pile growing smaller now.

After I finished the border of little squares on the Churn Dash quilt I realised that I had an awful lot of leftover light and dark squares, already pieced in pairs.  I also had a big pile of 2.5" strips, so I came up with this simple block to use them up.
It's incredibly quick to sew, and it does a nice job of using up the leftovers, and it's an easy leader-ender.  It's a win all round.  Except that it finishes at 5", and to have a decent size quilt I'll need at least 144, and the leftovers won't stretch that far.  So now I'm cutting up more 1.5" strips, and more 2.5" strips; maybe this time I can calculate how many I'll need and cut only that amount.  If I don't do that, I'm going to have a new quilt rise up out of the leftovers of this quilt.  It's never-ending.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

I love my Electric Quilt software, but I have one complaint.  With a few clicks of the mouse I can add a cute border to my quilt, like this little border of red and white squares.

Then it takes me two whole nights to make the thing and add it to my quilt. But I went with dark blue instead of red.
I really love how it turned out, and it's worth the extra work, so I"m not really complaining. This was so much fun to work on, I really enjoyed making all these little blocks. The shirts were mostly fun to work with; some were a bit limp and it was a struggle to make them behave, but I just starched them into submission.  Some weren't what they seemed; they were labeled as cotton, but they shrank and puckered when ironed, so they had some synthetic content.  Those pieces got pitched, except for one lovely green.  I took extra care not to iron it at high heat, and once it's quilted it will never be ironed again.  But it's nerve-wracking working with blend fabrics, so I leave them behind at the op-shop.

This little top turned out to be cheerful and colourful; my first blocks were quite boring, but once I found the pink, purple and orange shirts, they came to life.  I started this after seeing the blocks on Jo's Country Junction, and she got the idea from Floating On A Quilted Cloud.  I wonder how many of these quilts are out there now, all inspired by Jo and Regan. These little blocks have spread all around the world.


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Back home again, and looking forward to some time in the sewing room. The little people wore me out this visit, Thomas in particular is very high energy, I spent most of my time keeping him out of trouble.We have epic battles over what he should and shouldn't touch, and whether he should stand on chairs or beat on the windows in the playroom.  I win, but he puts up such a fight!

Last week, before I left, I quickly added the borders to the sampler quilt. 

I'm pleased with how it turned out, I love that I got to use so many of my blue and red fabrics together.  There are still a lot of them in the stash, but at least I've begun to use them instead of passing over them all the time. 

I have another set of blue blocks in a project box;
the sashing is chosen, and pieces cut.  All I have to do is get it all sewn together and I will have another finish. 
But I'm more interested in making progress on my shirt quilts, so these blocks will have to quietly wait their turn.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

I've departed from my usual focused way of quilt-making, and adopted a more scattergun approach. I'll be sewing madly on one thing, and another project will pop into my mind.  I want to see that other project on the design wall, so I sew even faster, trying to get whatever I'm working on in one piece, so I can rip it off the wall.  Yet I'm not finishing anything.  I'm very busy in the sewing room, but there's no finished items.

I'm trying to decide, while I keep sewing, whether I need to amend this way of working and concentrate on completing something.  It's good that I'm getting things further along, but I cant seem to clear the decks of all the associated fabric and scraps.  No time! Got to keep sewing!

But I need to stop and take stock.  A little organisation would probably make me even more enthusiastic and determined.  So...

The sampler quilt just needs borders, so that should be the first priority.

The Churn Dash shirt quilt is close to being finished, just needs the rest of the blocks sewn together and a little border added.
The little Puss In The Corner blocks need to be sewn in to blocks of 4, and arranged on the design wall so I can make decisions about setting triangles and borders.

The Country Cousin blocks need to be finished, and the borders attached.

I need to cut 3.5" and 1.5" strips from all the shirts, so that I can kit up a heap of blocks to use as leader-enders. Then all the shirts can be packed away till the urge to use them strikes again.
I could go on, but that's more than enough for now.  I've been home a week, and today I'm off to Adelaide again, for a bout of baby-sitting while the parents do various things.  Shonny sent me a video of Thomas saying 'Nan-Nan-Nan', so I'm keen to hear it in person.  I don't miss my sewing room much at all, when I have such delightful little people to keep me company.


Monday, July 08, 2019

Whenever I go to opshops I keep an eye out for good quality shirts to add to the collection.  They need to be washed, then when I have a large pile I'll sit down one night and pull them apart.  I usually do this when I'm tired and don't feel like sewing, and I just watch TV and cut the shirts into usable pieces.  I finished Tumelo Trail last year, and had a pile of 5" Churn Dashes cut out, but then I seemed to stall.  Other projects appealed more and the shirt fabrics and scraps were packed away.

A couple of weeks ago I cut up the latest batch of shirts, and dug out the Churn Dash blocks to see if I wanted to go on and finish them.

They looked better than I remembered, so I started cutting strips from all the new shirts, and kitting up blocks. After  while I felt a bit lost, I had no idea what size quilt I was trying to make, and how many blocks I'd need.

EQ8 to the rescue again.
72 blocks would make a decent size quilt, so I went back to the cutting board and cut even more strips.  Then I cut those strips into 2.5" HSTs, and 1.5" squares, and kitted up the 40 or so blocks I'd need.  I had fun, but what a mess!  And it didn't even make a dent in the shirts.  That's when I decided to cut out enough 3.5" strips for another quilt.
And then I sewed a few blocks to make sure I liked the way it looked.

And now I have another whole quilt to kit and piece.  The pile of shirts hasn't gone down at all, I think I'll have to piece the backings for these quilts out of them too, but I'm really enjoying working with this reclaimed fabric.


Saturday, July 06, 2019

I got so sick of the little Puss In The Corner blocks that I sewed up the 70 kitted blocks, just to get them done.  I get so bored with the same thing again and again.  I need to move these old projects on and get busy with new things.

This is all 220 blocks.  That doesn't look very impressive, does it.
That's better, that's quite a stack of blocks. I will sew them into sets of four, then start arranging them on the design wall.  There's still a long way to go, but the end is in sight.
My Chicago Peace rose put on a beautiful display of flowers through autumn.  The poor plant is spindly and ragged, the only potted rose to survive my frequent absences, but it still managed to cover itself in huge blooms like this.  I'm going to try and nurse it back to health, and grow it into a strong bush.  Maybe one day I'll have a lovely garden again.....


Friday, July 05, 2019

I spent a week in Adelaide, babysitting, cooking, playing with the grandkids. I came back on Wednesday, and I've been trying to make some sewing progress ever since.  Two things have helped; limiting my computer time, and not bothering with an evening meal.  It's wonderfully freeing not to have to cook something, eat it, then clean up afterwards.  At Shonny's place I'm still doing dishes at 8.30, but at home I just grab something at 4 pm, then sew through till 10 or 11. I'm getting so much done, so it's definitely worth it, and I don't get hungry at all.

I put some blue and red sampler blocks on the design wall, made a lightning fast decision about a setting, and got to work.
 I needed a mountain of 1.5" strips, luckily I could cut them with the strip die on the Go Cutter.
It took a few sessions to sew them all into the strip sets needed, and then quite a few hours to set the blocks together.  I have the border fabric cut and ready to piece, so one evening of sewing should see that finished.

I really want to tackle my stack of half-finished projects and see some progress.  Giving up a few meals and some computer time is a small price to pay.


Monday, July 01, 2019

I'd like to finish the Country Cousin blocks and get them sewn into a top fairly soon. I'm not desperate for another finished top to add to the pile, but I would like to clear away all the brown fabrics I'm using and start cutting something more cheerful. I've collected quite a few Kaffe Fasset fabrics over the years, so it would be fun to try using those.  And my batik stash is quite decent now, so I could definitely start a batik quilt.  Kaffe, batik, modern fabrics; seems I'm moving away from just the reproductions at last.

I used up several pieces of black from the stash, making HSTs for the first small border of the Country Cousin.

It feels good to be actually using blacks, I have a drawer full and yet I rarely add them to quilts.  They will help tie the quilt together, I used black in the centre of the blocks as I had lots left over from my Grey Havens quilt. Those leftovers are 11 years old now, it was time to use them.

It shouldn't take long to finish this top; I have kitted up 27 of the 30 blocks needed, so I just need to find time to put them together.
Once I have the units in the kits partially pieced it all goes together so quickly, it will probably only take a day of sewing.

I bought this piece of fabric many years ago, and have hoarded it jealously.
I think it's perfect for the border of this quilt; it 's momentous that I even pulled it out of hiding to audition it.  Maybe I can be brave and finally use it at last.


Sunday, June 02, 2019

Progress on two projects

There has been some productive time in the sewing room lately, which is very pleasing.  It only happened because I limited my computer time; it's so easy to check blogs and follow interesting links, until all your free time has been frittered away. So I allowed myself a few minutes in the morning to catch up on my favourites, then it was into the sewing room to actually get something done.

There were piles of fabric everywhere, waiting for pieces to be cut for the latest projects, and piles to be put away in the stash drawers.  I decided to have a massive cutting day first, so that the ironed fabric could be put away, or used up entirely.  That resulted in a lot of triangles for the Country Cousin quilt, so I have plenty of variety to finish them.  But in the midst of this mad cutting spree I realised I had absolutely no idea how many I needed, so it was off to EQ8 to decide on the finished number of blocks,

While I was there I roughed out what I wanted for the little Puss In The Corner blocks, because I was flying blind on that one too. Then I printed out a copy of each to file in the project box with the pieces.  That really helped me work out what I needed to cut and kit, so it was time well spent.

Turns out I need 72 of the Country Cousin blocks, so I got to work packaging the pieces in ziplock bags.  When I was tired of that I sewed some blocks together, and now I have 38 on the design wall.
I have 27 kitted, so just a few more left to package up, and then I can pack all the leftovers for the next quilt.
I have an idea for that, just need to let it simmer for a while.
The Puss In The Corner blocks are mounting up; there are blocks with light centres, and blocks with dark centres.  I have 60 of each, and I need to keep track of the numbers so I don't end up with too many of one and not enough of the other. 
I need another 30 of the dark centres, and 50 of the light centres.  That seems like a lot, but I can make 10 at a time easily, so it won't take too long.  I have them kitted up and in various stages of completion, so all I have to do is grab them and sew.

I'm hoping that this extra time spent organising will help me achieve a lot more in the time that I have at home.  I feel a lot more enthusiastic about sewing now that the mess is under control, and I'm glad to see the blocks going up on the wall.  Progress at last!


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

There has been so much sickness in out family this year;Flu, colds and that ghastly virus Herpangina, which is responsible for Hand, Foot and Mouth.  Lily and Mia had it, and Lily was hospitalised for 4 days she was so bad.  Nephew John had it and was hospitalised.   Just as the Pirie family was getting over that they all went down with colds, then gastro which unfortunately I caught too.  Last week Thomas and Isla had Hand, Foot and Mouth, Isla for the third time (!) and now she has a UTI and suspected pneumonia. I'm not going down to visit this week, if I took the gastro bug down there I would never forgive myself.  So nothing much has been happening here, except nursing sick kids and trying to survive all these plagues.

Before I got sick I was organising fabric to cut more big triangles for this quilt, Country Cousins.  I have strips ready to run through the Accuquilt, which I should be able to manage tonight.

It's all looking too brown at the moment so I want to put a few greens and reds in there as well.  And I need more light triangles so I have to pull some of those out of the stash drawers.

I also sewed a few seams on my Carpenter's Wheel  block, and I nearly have the second one completed.  I've been playing around in EQ7 with setting options, and I think I've decided on that corner colour....

I'll have to take it easy for a while, but it's so good to even think about working on a project again.  Being sick certainly makes ordinary life seem wonderful by comparison.


Sunday, May 05, 2019

The end of April was hijacked by a visit from DS Rhys.  He and Isla share a birthday, and he decided to fly down so we could celebrate their birthdays and Easter all together.  It was absolutely wonderful to see him, and see him reconnect with Thomas and Isla.  He brought a new mountain bike down with him, and we visited many state parks and mountain bike trails that he wanted to ride.  The trip meter on the car said we did 1800 kilometres, from Melrose in the mid north, out to Burra, and all around the Adelaide Hills.  It was tiring (and I didn't even ride or walk the trails!) but it was a lot of fun to catch up with my boy.  I don't see him enough.

I finished his quilt, but I'll have to post it back because he didn't have enough room in his bag to fit it in.

I added new borders all round, patched all the holes and weak places, and added a binding.  I even had some of the original fabrics still in the stash, which was very useful.  I added patches of material printed with things to represent his interests; bikes and music, a coffee cup to remind him of me, and some palm trees because he spent most of his life in the tropics. It was fun to choose prints of things that meant something to him.  I figure there's probably 3 years left before it disintegrates even more, and when that happens I'll use it as the batting in a replacement quilt.  Rhys seemed happy to know that his quilt will live on, even if it has a new top and backing.

I was stitching the binding down when Isla came into my room.  'What's THAT' she asked, looking at the needle and thread.  I explained what I was doing and she leant against me watching intently.  'Can I do that?' she wanted to know, and I said yes she could, but not right now.  YES!! The chance to teach her to sew is precious.  We'll start with those sewing cards and wool, and see how she likes it.

Mereth and I were taught to sew very early, 3 years old.  I know that because I remember the house we lived in at the time.  Mum gave us some coarse weave fabric and tapestry needles threaded with wool, and we wove those needles in and out of the fabric for ages.  I can still remember the thrill of her showing us what to do; it was like magic, like a door opening on a world of possibility.  And we've been in love with sewing ever since.


Monday, April 15, 2019

Life seems so disjointed these days, spending equal amounts of time here at home and in Adelaide.  I love having long stretches of time to myself in my sewing room, and it's just not happening.When I come home it takes me at least a day to settle in to whatever I was doing when I left, plus I have to catch up with all the stuff I neglected while I was away.  I'm just having a bit of a whinge, and bemoaning the fact that I can't switch from one thing to another as easily as I used to.  Getting older is never what you expect it to be.....

But it's school holidays, and I have the whole week at home, until I go back down for Isla's 3rd birthday. 

She is growing up so quickly, she's an absolute delight, and watching her change and mature is making me feel the passage of time. 

 Thomas is a force to be reckoned with, scooting around the place like a crab, up on one leg and one knee. He loves to pull all the onions out for some reason; maybe he'll grow up to be a chef?

I need some sewing time to balance out the feeling that I'm ancient and the world is whizzing by me, lol.  I've finished one Disappearing Nine-patch, and I'm working on another. 
I was thinking of a Bricks and Stepping Stones, but a lot of these fabrics are too light for that, so maybe it will be this sort of arrangement, bricks separated by little strips of a warm brown. 
It will be easy and quick, and I'm all for that at the moment.

It's been a tiresome day.  The temperature is up in the mid 90s again, and I"m sick of being hot.  I've been trying to wrap up my taxes, plus load all my software onto the latest laptop, and it's been a nightmare tracking down activation codes and software updates, and just dealing with Windows10 all round. I'm about to chuck it all in and go hit the sewing room, with a cup of coffee in hand.  I'll finish everything tomorrow.....


Friday, April 05, 2019

The last two weeks are a blur.  The Adelaide germs caught up with me and laid me low for about 10 days, and then I was scrambling to meet two major deadlines, still not feeling better.  One deadline is still looming, so I'm not having any fun until that is behind me.  Oh well, I feel so much better now, and I'm looking forward to tackling my chores so that I can have a bit of free time next week.

I went and picked up my sewing machine, and I'm so glad to have it back.  She purrs like a kitten, I hadn't realised how noisy she was before.  Everyone at the shop remarked on  her good condition; she has a couple of scratches, but I've tried to look after her all these years and it shows.  She doesn't have a name though, how odd.

The repair shop is Allmake Sewing Machines, and they were wonderful to deal with.  I'm a happy customer.
Check out this wall of machines in their back room!
When I can't sew, I buy.  Sad, but true.  I've been wanting to make some bright, cheerful quilts for the kids in our lives, but my stash is full of sombre, serious reproduction fabrics.  I bought a couple of bundles from a destash group on Facebook, and had an instant stash of suitable fabrics. 
 They aren't anything special, but a darn sight more cheerful than what is in my cupboards. 
I'm making a disappearing nine-patch to begin with, then I might do a Bricks and Stepping Stones.  I don't need these to be clever or original or show-stopping.  I just want some pretty quilts that the girls can drag around and play with and snuggle into.

Isla has a quilt on her bed that belonged to Shonny, and it makes me happy to tuck her in at night knowing there's another layer of meaning being added to the simple Double Irish Chain.  Shonny is quite sentimental about the family quilts now, I think losing her dad last year has changed her attitude to those things from her early life. I have some shirts of his to make into a memory quilt, and I hope she can help sew it with me. Quilts are healing to sew, as well as to wrap up in.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The tally so far

I think my reluctance to work on my projects is due to something I discovered after I finished the string quilt.  I have a folder on my computer that contains photos of the tops that I finish and, as I added the photo of the string quilt, I paused and thought, 'I wonder how many I have now...?'

100 tops.  I have 100 tops on hand, and that seems like an awful lot!  It's made me stop and think about whether I need to race through my projects, or if I should slow down and enjoy them more.  I like sewing quickly, I like moving onto a new project with new challenges and new colours; but I  need to also start finishing these tops, not stockpiling more and more.

Mereth says she has at least 130 tops, and that's it's fatal to start asking silly questions about whether you need to make more quilts.  So long as we enjoy it, we're not hurting anyone or spending money we don't have, then it's perfectly fine to keep on.  I agree with her, but I also want to devote more time to quilting in future.

It can be hard to fit our quilts in when the customer quilts have to take precedence, but I think I need to start loading a top of my own after Mereth has finished for the day.  I can finish a panto in the evening, or get a custom quilt basted or ditch-stitched before the Statler is needed again. If I don't make the effort, then nothing will happen.

I also have a folder of my finished quilts, but I don't have a picture of each one, so that folder is incomplete.  I went through that and realized that I don't have a lot of them anymore, they've been sold or donated. So the current count is 15 donated, 27 sold, and 50 still here.

I'm going to sort out my tops and work out what I want for each one.

Some will be heirloom quilts for the family:
 Lady Of The Lake
 Pink and Grey Mosaic
Tumbling Blocks 
(hand quilting for this one, because it's all hand pieced)

Others will be utility quilts.  Some of the tops will be sold, some will be quilted and sold. I don't have any final figure in mind for how many I want to keep, but making some decisions now will help me feel better about having so much on hand. At least they're all stored nicely, just waiting for the next step, whenever that happens.  Once the weather cools down, quilting will seem so much more attractive.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Last week I stayed with the family in Adelaide longer than I meant; Hayden was laid low for 4 days with a really bad bout of tonsilitis, and there was a scheduled trip to the Zoo on Saturday, tickets already paid for. I stayed two extra days so I could go and help Shonny with the 4 kids.  Everyone was on their best behaviour, and we managed nearly three hours without any drama whatsoever. 

It was helpful to have me there, so that Shonny could take Thomas off alone and feed and change him and I could stay with the girls.  They had snacks under the shady trees by the pavilion, and we saw a beautiful Macaw flying over the grass while his keepers talked about them and what they ate.  The pandas were the favourite attraction, and the penguins.

Zoos are rather sad, some animals seem very unhappy, and others I guess are just happy that they aren't being eaten. Having been around animals since childhood I have trouble imagining what it's like to be a city child who has never seen an animal except on a screen.  At the area where the kids could feed and touch the animals it was sad to see a boy so terrified of a small goat that he was shaking.  Another boy clung to his parents in fright when a bantam rooster crowed, demanding to know what had made that noise. So zoos are unfortunately necessary, to teach children a little bit about the amazing animals that share our planet. 

I came back Sunday, glad to be home, but strangely unmotivated to do anything.  I've pottered around and tidied and washed a whole pile of shirts I got in Adelaide, but I didn't dive into my sewing room like I thought I would.

The worst thing about sharing my time between two different places is that I'm exposed to two different lots of germs.  And if I come down with a cold in Adelaide, I bring those germs back to infect the family here. Sigh.  I dodged the last cold that swept through the Pirie side of the family, and I'm desperately trying to avoid the plague that struck the Adelaide lot during the last month. Maybe if I keep moving I'll outrun all the germs.
I'm trying to get the ditch-stitching done on a quilt before I go back to Adelaide, so I'd better get moving on that.  The backing is pieced, ironed and loaded, the batting is ready, I just have to put it all together and start stitching.  This is turning into a busy year, but I'm enjoying all the activity.  Now if it would only cool down and start acting like Autumn!


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Before I left I was determined to get all those boxes of scraps sorted into piles and stored correctly.  It took hours, and I was more than a little sick of it by the end, but I persevered.  I reduced the containers to this; 2 boxes of genuine strings, and two boxes of pieces to send through the Go Cutter and cut into strips straight away.

There were lots of small pieces that I couldn't decide on right away, so they are now stored in those wire baskets against the wall, waiting for me to come up with a project to use a few of them.
I stopped using Bonnie's Scrap User system a while ago, but recently it's occurred to me that it would be good to stack the strip drawers again.  Not with 2.5"strips, because I rarely use that size, but the 3.5"and 1.5" drawers would be really useful.  I seem to use those sizes all the time, and it would be great to have a stock of strips at hand.  The 1.5" strips can be cut with the Go Cutter, and I will use the Shape Cut to do the 3.5"ones. 
 After I'd cleared the surfaces I tipped out two huge tubs of orphan blocks, and tried to stocktake what I have. 
A LOT, is the answer.  Most blocks aren't orphans as such.  I always make too many blocks, so I can pick and choose what goes into the finished quilt, but I didn't realize how much of a habit it was until I saw them all in one place. Some blocks are singles, but most are multiples. How many quilts are in this bunch?

I sorted them all into piles, then bagged them in plastic bags with a note saying how many blocks, and sometimes the size.  It took hours and hours, and I can only wonder at what makes me make 7 extra blocks for nearly every quilt.  I guess I must like sewing them, if I have that many spare.
 The yellow box on the left contains the blocks with the most multiples, the black box is small blocks and units that I can build bigger blocks out of, or use as fillers if I do an Orphan quilt.  The orange box is all the single blocks.  It doesn't look like much, but it's a big stack.  Not in this photo are all the really big pieces, that measure around 24"square.  I can use them as the centres of medallions, or finish them as small quilts. I'll pull them out later when I have a bit of spare time.

And I found two small pieces, that are already finished.
This one used to be in a frame, but I took it out to quilt it and never got round to it.  It's all fussy cut from one border stripe fabric.  I might just put it back in a frame, I don't know that quilting would actually enhance it.

This one is a miniature copy of a quilt, from an English book I think, I'll have to rummage around and find it. The little four-patches are only an inch across, I had fun with this.  It will definitely benefit from being quilted, and displayed on a doll's bed. 
It will be an afternoon's work to get this finished.  Strange how some things just never get dealt with, until finally it's done in no time at all. 

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