Wednesday, March 20, 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.


Tuesday, March 19, 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. 


I had to turn the light out in the sewing room just when I was getting enthusiastic about cleaning up, and drive off to Adelaide again.  Shonny is doing a course on Events Management 2 days a week, and I like to time my visits so I can help her get off to school.  I get the kids up, feed and dress them, do Isla's hair and Shonny can just concentrate on getting herself ready.  The kids go off to daycare, and I'm free to drive allover town running errands.

Yesterday I put 100 km on the clock, driving to the other side of the city to drop my machine off at the repair shop.  They had a wall of secondhand machines that were waiting for repairs, it was so interesting to see about 50 vintage machines on the shelves, I love the old styles.

Two repair guys had a chat about what was wrong with my 6500, and the consensus was that I'd killed the motor with overuse.  :(  The good news was that they would simply take the old one off and bolt a new one on;  the part would be ordered straight away, and as soon as it arrived it would be done.  How much work has it done? one guy asked, and when I told him they both went all wide-eyed, and said I needed an industrial machine.  No thanks, I can't cart an industrial machine around, they weigh a ton.  However, when I go back to pick up the machine I'm going to try the new Juki that is about to be released.

Also, they told me to bring in my Beloved, the Singer 538, and they'll see what they can do to get her running again.  They have a heap of spare parts, and I could see from the wall of vintage machines that they are familiar with the old girls.  I'm so glad I decided to take my machine to them.

Today I'm staying closer to home, I'll just visit a couple Op-Shops down the road, and do some cooking so that Shonny doesn't have to think about dinner.  I love being able to help out, and I love catching up with Isla and Thomas, so I don't miss my sewing room.  Then when I go home, quilting is my consolation for being apart from my family. It all balances out.

It's still not completely Autumn, we're facing a return to 39° temperatures next week.  102° F doesn't spell Autumn to me.
The garden at home is producing a few little flowers, before I left I picked some geraniums and blue plumbago to put in a little jug. It's a tiny bouquet, but it's cheering. When it finally cools down there may be another round of roses, which is something to look forward to.  When it's cooler I can tidy up the garden beds and discover exactly what has survived this horrible summer. 


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Enough Already

I went through my sewing room yesterday, and put away every FQ or piece of yardage that was sitting on my tables. Some of the stacks were from 4 quilts ago, and I'm just terrible at cleaning up before I start the next thing.

 Look at it!. Stuff everywhere, and no rhyme or reason to it.
That's my sewing table there; I'm now sewing on a little 99K, as my 6500 is displaying an error message again.  I'll take it to the people in Adelaide this time, and find out exactly what is wrong with it. But dang if that little black machine doesn't sew like a dream.

I really enjoyed Mary at Country Threads tour of her sewing spaces, here & here. And Connie's here & here. I love seeing where people sew, and what they have, and how it's stored. I trawl through Pinterest looking for ideas, but so many of those spaces are just for photography.  They're pristine and colour coordinated, with some really dinky ideas on storage. One picture was titled, Ideal Way To Store Scraps, and every little piece of fabric was clipped to a rail on the wall.

HaH!! Those aren't scraps; THESE are scraps.

Bear in mind that I have made two quilts from scraps recently, I've cut up heaps for my strip drawers, I've gifted many baskets of offcuts to Mereth, and I wage war on scraps every January, and this is what's left.

I've spent a lot of time working around all this clutter, and it's time I said 'Enough already!' It's OK to have all this scrap fabric, but it's not OK to have it stored in 17 different make-shift containers.  It's not OK to stash it in a cupboard and forget it even exists.  It's not OK to search high and low for something, and find it days later inside one of those piles of fabric.  

It took nearly all of yesterday to put away the FQs and yardage, and label every drawer so I could find things more easily.  It will take most of today to sort out those containers so that something can be done with the scraps, and there will be hours of decisions and cutting and labeling after that.  But I have to start somewhere, and I'm not dismayed.  It feels good to actually be tackling the problem, instead of ignoring it.


String Finish

I decided the other day that I wasn't leaving the workroom until the borders were on the string quilt, so I got to it.  It was 8pm when I turned the machine off and threw the top onto the design wall.  I didn't even trim the last border strips after I ironed it, because I was a bit tired and wanted my dinner.

The lighting makes that pink around the outside look dreadful, it's much lighter in real life. 

I'm pleased to have it finished, and pleased that it used up a pile of strings and that dark cheddar fabric.  Now I need to choose a backing, and hopefully it will also be something that needs to be used up and moved on.  It's a good feeling when something finally makes it's way into a project.

I'm glad that this top and the scrap one before it are done at last.  I feel like I haven't sewed on my other projects in months; in actual fact, I've been stuck on those two for two months.  I'm going to dig out another project and make some blocks and forget about the strings for a little while.

That will be after I finish cleaning up my sewing room, though.  It's a fright.  And I'm actually going to show photos....


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The weather has been lovely this week, and I'm celebrating by rearranging the furniture in my sewing room.  I don't know why I have these compulsions to shift every last thing in there, but it's a regular occurrence.  Having done that, I have to clean up the mess I created, and then get used to the new set-up, including the fact that I always lose something in the process.  Oh well, it's a hobby. On the plus side, I always find something that's been missing, so it all balances out.

I haven't been able to sew much, because of the furniture shifting, but this afternoon I took the scrap quilt down to the workroom and vowed I was going to finish it.  It took till 8pm, but I did it. 

While I was sewing on the third border I did question the wisdom of pieced borders.  They involve a lot of extra time and effort, but the result is usually worth it once they're finished.  It just doesn't seem a great idea when there's a long way to go.
But it was finished in the end, and I threw it up on the design wall, with two other quilts behind it, and called it a day.  I'm happy with how it turned out, it's very light and pretty, not at all what I imagined it would be.  But it's a nice surprise.

Next up is borders on the scrap quilt.  The blocks are in one piece, and I really like how it looks.  I have to choose a pink and a red fabric for the borders, so that will be the next job.  I'm o glad to have a finished quilt for the year, and maybe another one within the week.  Good progress!


Tuesday, March 05, 2019

A NewToy

 I'm collecting blue and green fabrics to make a chevron quilt, and bought a new toy to help with all that cutting.
 I've wanted one for a while, but couldn't really justify it to myself. However there was a sale, and cheap postage, so I splurged.
It's not just for cutting strips,there are other ways to use it, so I justified the expense.  Maybe I need to call it an investment, which makes it sound wise and virtuous, instead of indulgent..
I cut up a few FQs into 2 x 4 bricks, and it was so quick, very simple and easy on the eyes and hands.  Of course, there is a risk of cutting things wrong and making costly mistakes, but I'm sure I'll learn to double check every cut.
 There was very little waste; 8 cuts and I had 32 bricks to add to the collection.
I also sub-cut some 1.25" strips for the little Puss In The Corner blocks, and kitted up another 50 as Leader-Enders.  Then I cut nine 2.5" strips for a binding, and it was so easy. I was pretty impressed with what I can do with this ruler; I'm thinking that it will also be good to cross-cut strips when I'm strip-piecing 9-patches.

I'm sure I'll get a lot of use out of this, especially paired with the strip dies from the Go Cutter. I don't have the 2.5"strip die, I don't have a problem cutting bigger strips like that and I really don't use that size much. This will let me cut that size easily, with a lot more choices for sub-cutting.

I really need to find fast ways to cut kits for quilts, with a minimum of fuss, so I can quickly get back to sewing.  My free time seems to get less and less, and anything I can do to streamline the prep means more time for the actual sewing.

It's a lovely cool day today, only 25°, and I turned my front room upside-down, sorting and cleaning.  It's been shut up against the heat for months, and it's wonderful to let the light and the fresh air in.  I'm really hoping our hot weather is over, the cooler temperatures give me an energy boost to get on and get things done.  I want to see some progress around here.

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