Monday, October 18, 2021

A change of direction

2 nights at the sewing machine turned the set of ugly blocks into a top at last. I'm not sure exactly when I cut these out, but it was about 10 years ago.

It's not as ugly as I thought it would be, and it will be a useful couch quilt, at 59 x 71". This is top number 15 for this year, not a bad effort.

I needed a change of pace after that. I didn't want to sit at the machine and just push pieces through for another quick finish, and I didn't want to start something new. I ended up pulling out this UFO from 2015.
I bought a kit from Connecting Threads, because I had no modern black and white prints that would be suitable. 

The instructions say to make 5-10 practice pieces, but I couldn't leave it at that and started making 'practice' units for a small quilt. These were listed in my UFO chart for the last 6 years, and they weren't even supposed to be a project!  I really think I've got this down pat by now, but I'm sort of committed to making about a dozen more in these fabrics.

But I started cutting up the kit fabrics last night, and made a few blocks to be going on with. I love the tealy blue background, and I love the modern black and white fabrics.
It's so much fun working with these prints. I don't know if I'll keep sewing it, or maybe cut all the fabric and put it back in the box.

I'm just having fun right now, and that's what's important.


Thursday, October 07, 2021

Carolina Chain finished

 So much for kitting it and leaving it on the shelf.  It's a finished top, in a little over a month,and I spent two of those weeks in Adelaide. It was a stressful month though, and these little blocks kept me sane.

It looks lighter in the photo than in real life,  and I'm really pleased with it.

I originally thought this pink would do for the setting triangles, but it just looked washed out. I only decided that after I'd cut out all the pieces I needed. First I cut them for a 6" block, realised my mistake, and then cut them for a 4.5" block. So I have 2 sets of setting triangles in this pink that can wait in the drawer until I need them.

This pink is much redder and sets off the other colours nicely.  It's very old too, so I'm glad to have moved an ancient piece out of the stash. With this piece, I cut setting triangles for a 4" block first, I don't know where my mind was that night. There was juuuust enough fabric left to cut the triangles for the correct 4.5" blocks. I have 3, three, sets of triangles in the drawer now.                 

A recent visit to the doctor showed my oxygen levels to be stubbornly low.  I'm blaming my brain fog on that.....


Wednesday, October 06, 2021

The End Is In Sight

My project boxes are full of blocks, there are 5 that just need me to arrange the blocks on the design wall so I can start sewing them together. It's been months of just making blocks and stashing them away, and now I need to begin the big job of finishing them. I showed you the Scrappy Mountain Majesties yesterday; I decided I need another 30 blocks to make it more than a lap quilt, so the box goes back on the shelf while I make the rest.

The Scrap Chain blocks are all done, all 285 of them.
I really enjoyed making these, but I'm ready for them to be finished.  I'll put them on the design wall to make sure all the darks and lights are evenly distributed, then sew them into blocks of four gradually. At some stage in the future I'll concentrate on joining them into the final arrangement, but I don't feel any pressing need to do that right away.

That's a big stack of blocks.

And then there are the Carolina Chain blocks that Mereth and I started in the first week of September.  We both agreed we just wanted to kit them and leave them on the shelf, but she's had better luck with that than me.  I just couldn't help but sew them in batches of 20, they were so easy and fun.

I'm probably one sewing session away from having all the blocks sewn into fours, ready to arrange on the design wall.  Some projects just don't want to wait.

Then there's my pastel Tulip blocks,that have been waiting patiently for me to sash them together.

I really like them, but I hate working with white fabric. There, I've said it.  I hate having to be so careful watching out for anything that might leave a mark, and worrying whether the seams will show through, I'm going to have to find a reel of white cotton for the sashing seams and clean my whole sewing table so the dust doesn't contaminate my precious project. Every little blemish makes me wish I was sewing something more forgiving. At least my usual repro fabrics embrace the dust and coffee drips.

Recently I rediscovered this pile of blocks made from a lot of Judie Rothermel fabrics that I received from her fabric club.  Some are authentic, but ugly, and I made a pile of them into these blocks.  I also used nice ones, to dilute the ugliness, but it didn't work.  I've never been able to get these into a layout I was happy with, so they still languish in the cupboard.

This time I'm going to do something with them, no matter what. If it's ugly, I don't care.It will at least be done.


Sunday, October 03, 2021

A Continuing Project

I have a box of 8.5" squares cut from fabric that I'm not particularly attached to. Mereth and I call these Expendable fabrics; nice enough, but we don't care if we use them all up, either in quilts or to test out ideas. We're not going to mourn using the last scrap of them. The box is leftover from a Scrappy Mountain Majesties quilt that I made in February 2016, and I thought I would just make a backing out of the squares and be done with it.  But I sold that first quilt, and now I'm thinking I'd like to make another one, so I'm working on those blocks.

I love it because there are several stages involved, and each of those stages involves a different level of difficulty. There are times when I really need an easy task to perform, something that I don't have to pay attention to. My vision is worsening as my cataract develops, so triangles aren't my friend anymore.  I tend to do a lot more trimming down of things now, instead of relying on my judgement while sewing.  But I'm just adapting to that as best I can, knowing that cataract surgery is getting closer.

To make the big HST I draw a diagonal line on the light squares.  In Bonnie's pattern she cuts them into triangles, but I sew either side of the drawn line so I don't have to handle long bias edges. It's an easy task to sit down and draw all those lines, when I feel sort of lazy and don't want to stand at the cutting table.

Then I pair the light squares with dark squares. Again, it's a nice lazy thing to do, sitting down when I feel weary. I pin them together and stack them next to the sewing machine, ready for when I feel like sewing them. Because they will be trimmed to size later I don't feel any great need to be super accurate at this stage.

Cutting them apart and pressing them is another mindless job, which requires no great attention. Trimming them to an accurate 8" square is a job I save until I'm ready to concentrate on what I'm doing and I'm not too tired to see the markings on the ruler.

Then I layer the two pairs as in the pattern, and cut them apart. Again, I do this when I'm feeling alert and ready to concentrate. Don't want to ruin it at this late stage.

There are pieces for 15 pairs in this tray, making 30 blocks.

My last trip to Adelaide was a long one, I was desperate to get back to my sewing machine. Even though it was late, I immediately sat down and sent this lot through the machine; it felt wonderful! I had to leave pressing them till the next day, because it was very late by that time. But early the next day I had a pile of blocks to add to the box.

I love this block because it looks so fantastic in the finished quilt, don't think I've ever seen a bad one. I love all the different steps, which I can tackle whenever I'm in the mood. I love that it makes some pretty bleh fabric look great, and that it's so easy to put together.

So I've decided that I will always have a box of 8.5" squares ready to turn into these blocks.


Saturday, October 02, 2021

Stash Upheaval

I have so many projects that need a lot of blocks, and I've been content to work on them over months and just amass them slowly.  There are 5 set of blocks that are ready to go on the design wall so I can work out the final placement and fine tune the colours and tones. I'm actually excited to get started on that, but I had another project going that left me unable to get to the design wall.

My stash drawers were in a horrible mess. I've spent years just throwing things back in there without any attempt to sort them or organise them.  Any new fabric was put in whatever drawer it fitted in, so there were three drawers of miscellaneous fabric that I totally forgot I had. Enough! I put a folding table up in the only available space, in front of my design wall, and started pulling out drawers to sort.

It took a few days, and I had to force myself to stay on track, but finally it was done. I was a bit shocked at the results. I have No Browns. No Blues! Nothing!!

These are all the blue FQs.  I know, I've made a heap of blue quilts over the years, without buying more (because I had so many anyway) but I didn't think I'd depleted them this much. I need more medium blues on my next shopping trip.

These are all the purple FQs, not very many at all. Again, I've made a few purple quilts, but I didn't think I'd made such a drastic reduction. 

The blacks and greys are really slim pickings. Absolutely pathetic. And yet I have 10 drawers of neutrals; white, cream, stone, sprigged, shirtings, beige.

It highlighted how I've been buying fabric in the last few years. I get overwhelmed looking at all the beautiful ranges, I don't know which one to buy for future projects. I can't buy them all, that's beyond the budget, so I buy good old neutrals, can't go wrong with them. And I've got this myth in my head that I don't have many, so I need to stock up. I need to change that thinking.

Another thing that has changed my buying has been the lack of 1800s reproduction fabrics in the shops I've visited. I know there are repro ranges out there, but a lot of the time they're not in the shops here.  Or they are in the $28-$30m range, and I can't always afford that. The English repro ranges like Di Ford's are really popular here, and I love them, but can't afford to stock the stash with them. Buying online from the US isn't really an option, by the time postage and the dollar conversion rate is taken into account it's not much cheaper.

What I can afford are the cheap FQs from Spotlight.  I buy them when they are on special at $1 or $2, but they are rarely anything that would go in a reproduction quilt.  
That has resulted in 3 drawers of modern and bright fabrics, which I'm happy to have for cheerful kids quilts, but they aren't anything I'm passionate about.
I'm glad I took the time out from sewing to rationalise my fabric storage and get a handle on what I have.  I'm a bit disappointed at the conclusions I came to though. My stash is being overtaken by fabric I don't truly love, which makes me sad. 

I think I'm going to start a savings fund for a bit of Stash Enhancement.  When there's a respectable amount there I'm going to blow it all on fabric that makes me truly happy. It's a plan....


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Sidetracked again

 A couple weeks ago Mereth and I were both admiring a quilt on Jo's Country Junction blog. It was made by her daughter Kelli, from a pattern from Bonnie Hunter's Addicted To Scraps book. I'd been thinking of making that quilt for years, ever since I bought the book, but somehow it never seemed the right time to start it.  But Mereth said. 'I'm inclined to kit the whole thing, to get rid of my scraps'. And that was all it took to send us off the path and down the rabbit hole.

I'd been gloating to myself that my cutting table were clear, and the scraps under control, and suddenly none of that is true. I have 2 drawers of 2" strips, and the contents of both are strewn over the cutting tables, with stray pieces littering the mats.  I have piles of pieces stacked waiting to go into baggies, piles waiting for me to find another square to make enough for a whole block,piles of strips that are too small to get a whole block out of.  It's chaos again.

In one drawer was a pile of strips that I'd cut triangles from, at least 6 years ago. 

I took the time to square up the ends by cutting a triangle with the Easy Angle ruler. It took a while, but now I have a stack of HSTs for some future scrap project, 

and the strips were ready to cut into squares for the Carolina Chain. Why I couldn't have done that all those years ago I'll never know.

I don't want a quilt as big as the one in the book, so I did a quick mock up in EQ8. This is 75" x 85", 120 light blocks and 99 dark ones. 

I have 110 blocks kitted, and 52 made and on the design wall.  It's more than half kitted, which is encouraging. 

It's a fun block to make, so quick and easy. I'm really trying not to make the blocks as I go along, I want to have a box of them waiting on the shelf while I finish the things I'm working on now.  And I want to empty my scrap drawers (as if that's even possible).


Thursday, September 09, 2021

A finish

The floor under my sewing desk was covered in bits of thread and clippings of fabric, so I took a moment to vacuum it all up.  There, lovely and clean, for a little while at least.

It had to be clean because I was putting borders on this big quilt, and I didn't want it covered in rubbish every time it dipped down and touched the floor.

I really don't like wrestling with the whole top when I'm attaching borders, and I let that put me off finishing tops.  Having a clear desk and a clean floor makes it less of a chore.  Oddly enough, going slow also makes it more fun; if I'm trying to speed through then I just get cranky that it's taking so long. So yes, it took most of the evening, but I enjoyed it.

The top is called Autumn Sisters and was supposed to use up some rust, brown and red scraps, but I always get drawn back to my favourite colours; blue, green and brown.

These are my favourite blocks, and it would be lovely to make a whole quilt in these combinations,but not right now. I have more than enough projects already started, so this idea can go in the Maybe One Day folder.


Saturday, August 28, 2021

The state of things

Life has been a jumble of incidents lately, lots of things to attend to and not much worthy of a blog post.  We've had a dreadful flu season this year, the grandkids have been laid low for months with various ailments.  Tonsillitis, bronchitis, viral colds, gastro, we've had the works.  Of course they shared their germs with me,and I'm still battling a chest infection that has held on for a month now. Everyone has a lingering cough that makes us sound like a tribe of seals barking; I'm ready for a bit of sunshine and good health.

When not nursing sick children I've been randomly working on projects in my sewing room. It's been very aimless; I do a few hours on one thing, then change to another, just going where I want and doing what I please. I've moved a whole heap of things along, but nothing is near completion. I'm not going to even worry about that until I feel a lot better, but any progress is better than none.

Ages ago I saved this online photo, I have no idea where it came from.  I liked the idea of the dark backgrounds of the blocks, even if I wasn't sold on the red sashing.

 I started a few blocks, then packed it away in a box without any sort of documentation. When I discovered it again I'd forgotten all the measurements, so I had to make a few new test blocks so I could write a note to Future Me about the directions needed.

I sorted that out fairly quickly, but then I started worrying about the setting fabric.  This pink was OK, but I'm not convinced. I do like this dark beige print though, but I can't decide which I like better.  

Back in the box for this project, while I work on other random things.

I realised that this blue and green star kit had sat on my shelf untouched for far too long, since January last year in fact. 
I made 15 of the blocks, then started auditioning sashing fabrics.  I know I could go ahead and make all the blocks before I needed to decide, but it was niggling at me.  What if I had nothing suitable in the stash?  I needed to know so I could plan a shopping trip.  

Luckily I found something in the backing stash that would work, so I cut a couple strips so that I'd remember my decision, then packed all that away too.

My leader-enders were the little 4" scrap chain blocks, and at some stage I got a bee in my bonnet about them, and cut up a pile of scraps to kit the remaining blocks I needed. There's 45 blocks in that box, though it doesn't look it.

 This project has been hanging around since October last year, I guess it was designed to be a long term leader-ender, but I would like to see it in one piece. I have 240 blocks made, 88 sewn into sets of 4.
The end is in sight, and I know that I could make a concerted effort and have all the blocks done in a few nights, but other things are demanding attention. 

The Autumn Sisters blocks are finished, and the sashing cut, and several border choices awaiting a decision. I could finish that in a long night of sewing, but I don't know if I want to struggle with a big bulky quilt.  Maybe I'll just sew it into rows and put it aside.  I'm really in a funny mood.

I cut up more scraps for my new leader-ender, the Double 4-patch. 

I've only been sewing a few here and there, but already there are a third of the blocks needed for a decent size quilt. This one is just growing of it's own accord.  I need to find some more 3.5" squares, but until I do the 4-patches can just accumulate.

I spent whole days just putting fabric away, so my room is a lot tidier. I'll tidy away the fabrics from the Scrap Chain and Autumn Sisters, and then the decks will be clear for me to start working on something else. I have no idea whether I'll work on an existing project, or start something new; that's a decision for another day, but I'm pleased with all the progress I've made so far.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Fox and Geese blocks

 I though this block was Crosses and Losses, but that's a different layout. 

Mereth informs me that this is Fox and Geese, so that's what I'm calling it.

I haven't made many more blocks, I'm up to 6 completed now, but I did so much cutting and sewing over several nights that I kitted 28 blocks, probably more than I actually need, but I do love to have a few extras when I lay out the blocks.

I made all the HSTs in a couple of marathon sewing sessions, and kitted the pieces for each block in a plastic bag.  

The framing strips are cut and waiting, but I will have to wait for the final layout before I decide on a sashing fabric.  The original is muslin, but I may see if I can find a very pale toile or something.  It will give me something to hunt for in the patchwork shops.

So that's another old, old project well on the way to a finish.  I think I've used my fortnight at home very well. 


Floral Stacked Stars

 Another long term UFO dealt with, after at least 15 years.  Floral Stacked Star is a quilt top at last.

Yesterday was my first full day of freedom, after my 14 days of isolation.  It felt pretty good to have coffee with friends, and then run away with Mereth to two quilt shops. I was looking for something to use as the border for the stars, and Mereth was just running away.

The first stop was to buy the rest of that madder fabric for the backing.

The second stop was Jamestown, in the middle of a rainstorm.  I was hunting for a green fabric to use as the border, and not having much luck, when Mereth produced the bolt of original green fabric.  

I had no idea it was still there, and I've gone through those shelves of fabric so many times in the last decade. I'm so glad she found it, nothing else was going to be a match, it's a very unusual shade of green.

I also bought new pins.  Excuse me while I have another rant. Mereth bought us both a box of pins last year, and she was sorely disappointed in the quality. I thought she must have just got a bad batch, but last week I finally decided the pin situation was dire enough to open my new ones.   I threw the 15 year old ones in my little waste basket and broke out the new ones. What a joke.  The shafts were so rough they snagged the fabric, if you could actually force the blunt tips through the fabric in the first place. More than half of them were bent, some had the glass heads missing or broken.  And they cost $8.  I don't know where she bought them, but I think I'll be taking them back and complaining. 

I dug all the old pins out of the bin and crawled around the carpet picking up every last one that had dropped to the floor.  15 year old pins were preferable to the new rubbish.

Anyway, at the patchwork shop the owner listened to my rant and then told me to open a packet of pins and see if they were sharp before I bought them, so I did.  And they were.  So I bought a pack for me and one for Mereth.

Maybe these will last for 15 years too.


2 new projects

This is my new leader-ender project.

Double 4-patch, madder and  red for the 4-patches, and light figured squares between them.  I had so many leftover strips once the madder quilt was done, so I decided this would get rid of most of them,  It's a great L-E, not interesting enough to take over as the main project, but it will clean up a lot of scrap and strips.

My other new project is a Sisters Choice, with rust sashing.  

I was cruising around a few blogs and saw one like this, but I have no idea where I saw it.  I got lost in the blogosphere, and couldn't find my way back there.  Feel free to point me back to that blog if you know who made it, it was a lovely inspiration. I'm hoping that I can have another go at cleaning out the 2.5" strip drawer, but so far I just seem to be cutting more strips to mix in with the old ones.  It's not helping empty the drawer at all. 

I've been doing a lot of late night sewing, which explains how I could sew this in place, and press it, without waking up to the fact that it was soooo wrong. I unpicked it and had another go, then thought I"d better call it quits for the night. I didn't trust myself not to sleep sew and make another mistake.

That's better.

I've already made 15 of these blocks, I'm so obsessed with them, so 15 more to make. Some projects just gallop along to completion, and other take decades. At least this one shouldn't languish as a UFO, not like the madder stars, and the floral stacked stars.

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