Monday, January 31, 2022

We've had a run of hot days lately. at the start of it I braved the heat in my sewing room long enough to cut a heap of pieces for the Boxy Bowties and a few QSTs, but then I had to retreat to the workroom.  We've had such a strange, mild, wet summer so far, so I'm grateful that the hot days are few and far between, but still, it was not nice.

That tray hold enough squares for 15 blocks; Bonnie's quilt has 64. I don't think I'll be making mine that big, but it's still going to take a lot of little pieces.  I've about come to the end of the scraps, so I'll be cutting a few strips from the FQ drawers next.

I've been cutting some QSTs every day, and trying to sew at least 10 Hourglass blocks a day. It doesn't take long, I just have to remember to slot them in amongst the other sewing. But then I started wondering about my fabric choices. Were they too dark, too light, too murky, too busy. So I thought I should make a few more blocks, just to check.

And then I thought I should just get busy and do some more cutting, so I would have more choices, and before you know it, there were pieces for another 50 blocks cut out.

The cutting is so much easier with my little ruler guide.

I finger press those seams open, it makes the ironing go much quicker. I could say this was MAD sewing, but it was more like zombie sewing. I just pushed all the pieces through, squashing every thought that might have said, Can we do something else now? It took an hour to do the first seams on 100 pairs of triangles, not bad really.  Ironing them will take 15 minutes or so, and sewing the pairs into blocks will take more than an hour, what with lining up seams and pinning.  But I'm pleased with that bit of progress, and ready to do some fun sewing.

I really wanted to give Isla her first sewing lesson on the machine while she was here. She watched me make her a pair of shorts with a matching shoulder bag for her tablet, then we cut out a little bag for her to sew.

I was in charge of the foot control; she stood in front of me and did what I said to do. She learned how to put the presser foot down, how to guide the fabric along a line,, how to put the needle down in the fabric, how to pivot the fabric under the foot and line up the next seam line. She was enchanted with the word 'pivot', she kept saying "I'm learning SO much, I know how to PIVOT." It was one of the first things she said to her mum when I took her home.

A.n.d I forgot to take a photo of her with the bag she made.  Bad Nan. But safe to say I've given her the sewing bug, she was very proud of her bag and her shorts and her tablet bag. Good Nan.


Friday, January 28, 2022

Home again

 Oh my wordy, Lordy me. I am so relieved to be back in my sewing room, after 11 days in the company of various grandchildren.  The silence is amazing. I love Isla to bits, but she never stops talking, just like her Great-grandma.  It's in her genes obviously. When the two of them got together it was hard to get a word in edgewise.

I'm not even watching a DVD, just relishing being home and being still.

I needed something fun and easy to sew when I got home last night, so it was the Boxy Bowties that I turned to. I'm up to 15 completed blocks, with the parts made for a few more. That's just short of a quarter of the blocks needed. It's looking quite cheerful and colourful.

I'm almost out of pieces though, so it will be a cutting day today, amassing piles of shapes for the next sewing spree. It's going to be hot today, so I'll probably end up in the workroom in the AC. 

I'm limited in what I can work on down there, but the main thing is to keep doing something and making progress.


Sunday, January 23, 2022

First finish of 2022

The double 4-patch is in one piece.

There are so many scraps in this, I'm really pleased that I used up a lot of odd fabrics that were cluttering up the scrap drawers. The diagonal stripes of 3.5" squares were a surprise when I first laid the blocks out. I liked the effect, so I worked to make that a design feature.

I don't know where I acquired the floral border fabric, but I had several metres of it, so I had no qualms about chopping it up to frame this quilt. It grew to be bigger than I had planned, but I'm happy with it. It was a stress-free project, super simple and a great scrap buster.

I haven't given any thought to the next project. Isla is here at home with me for several days, so I'm not finding a great deal of time for sewing. We've spent time at the skate park, and believe me, that's not my natural environment.

I had to shut my eyes sometimes so I didn't panic over her riskier moves. Her mum believes in 'risky play', and so do I, so long as I don't have to watch her doing it. 

A minor skinned knee, but a slushy fixed that.

Maybe tomorrow we can have a sewing lesson, if she's in the mood to sit still. She has so much energy, it's really hard work keeping up with her.


Saturday, January 22, 2022

I have several of these Ikea trays around my sewing machine. I bought a heap on my last visit, as they were only $2, and they looked so useful.
When I need a clear space on my sewing table, when I'm attaching borders for example, I can just pick up the trays and put them somewhere else, and voila! Instantly clear table.

And then the trays can come back for when I go back to my normal sewing.
Before I started adding the borders to the double 4-patch top, I cleaned out the sewing machine. SO Much Lint!! I'm sure my machine will breathe a sigh of relief with all this gone.

I keep thinking of other little chores I should do at the start of another year. I'm going to replace the vinyl backing on my rulers, the edges have started peeling back and it's really annoying. And I'm going to replace the blades in all the rotary cutters. I've been cutting up a storm, and it's time to treat myself.  I may be even more enthusiastic with a bright shiny new blade to work with.


Friday, January 21, 2022

Cutting trick

I've been looking for an easier way to cut the triangles for my Hourglass blocks. With my dodgy eyesight it gets to be a strain, cutting hundreds of triangle pairs . (801 blocks, 2 pairs per block.... I don't want to do the math on that) 
So I came up with a little guide to help me align the ruler for those diagonal cuts.

I layered 5 strips of masking tape, until it was the same height as my paired fabric squares. One strip went on the 45 degree line on the back of a little ruler. Another strip joined it at a right angle, 3.5" along that line. It took a few tries, but it wasn't hard to get it in the right spot. 

Then it was a simple matter of snugging the squares into that space and cutting. 

Perfect!! It was actually better than me judging it by eye. 

Of course I could use the Companion Angle ruler to cut triangles from 1.75"strips, but I like the speed of cutting 4 at once. I'll use both methods, after all I have strips in both sizes to use up. 

I want to cut a few every day, and accumulate a stockpile so I can have a big sewing day soon. My next big push will see me to the half way point, which will be exciting. 


Friday, January 14, 2022

I've been working on the QSTs for the British quilt, just pootling along making the tiny Hourglass blocks and enjoying myself. And then it occurred to me that I should really count up how many of the things I'll actually need.

801.  Holy Cow!!  I don't know that I've ever made that many units for a single quilt.  It gave me pause for thought.
Any MAD piecing is going to require MAD cutting first.
These are the result of two sessions of  focusing on cutting enough pieces for a quarter of the quilt. It wasn't too arduous, except it highlighted how much I had to concentrate on those diagonal cuts.  I need to find a way to make that easier.
I sewed them all together in one long session, then pressed them, and trimmed them to the correct size.

I have seven blocks made, just to check that the colours are the way I want. I think I'll concentrate on using lighter cream prints in the next batch.

Currently the Hourglass block count stands at 270, which includes all the red and white blocks I'll need.  I'm making progress, and I definitely think I've achieved MAD status in this project. Now to go and play with something else.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Set-in seams

I've been sewing steadily on the double 4-patch quilt, and I needed a break. I wanted to experiment with set-in seams, so that I could decide if a LeMoyne Star quilt was even possible. My go-to instruction book is this one, by Harriet Hargrave and Sharyn Craig. Mereth makes her stars with this method and swears by it, so I could think of no better place to start.

It's very comprehensive and in no time I was choosing fabrics and cutting pieces.

I used the measurements for a 6.5" star; the star points are cut from 1.75" strips , and I had a heap of them cut already from my scrap clean up days.

Can't go wrong with pink and green, it's a classic combination.
It didn't take long before I had a completed block, and it wasn't difficult, just fiddly.

The acid test is always measuring the final size.  This one was a skerrick too large, but it was easy to trim it down to the correct size.

I did have some trouble with a few intersections, so next time I'll use this handy dandy gadget to mark the intersections so I don't sew into them

Look at that. It's still available, after all these years.

The cross stitch craze amazes me. I'm enthralled by all those antique samplers being stitched, but I just can't afford to pay $48 for a chart, and hundreds of dollars for linen and silks. It doesn't have to be expensive though, and I dug out my embroidery supplies from the 70s. I did a lot of needlepoint, which is like a half cross stitch, so it's a lot quicker.  I have lots of European books filled with gorgeous patterns, so over the next few weeks I'll go through them and maybe design my own sampler.

I wasn't afraid to do tiny stitches. I was making this as a tray cloth for mum, but never got round to finishing it.  Now I think I'll frame it.

I have several metres of almost white 28count linen, which at today's prices is about $400 worth. It was never cheap, I had to save up to buy what I did, but I'm glad of it now. I can start stitching straight away if I want. There's so much yardage  that I can afford to experiment with dyeing it to get an aged look. I'm looking forward to indulging in a new hobby, especially one that's portable. I may even get a few stitches in when I resume my visits to Adelaide.


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A good start

 I was so keen to start my MAD piecing that I immediately sewed all the double 4-patch blocks that were cut out, then cut out the pieces I needed for the remainder, and sewed them up too. 

Now I'm sewing them into sets of 4, and I'm hoping that later today I'll have it all in one piece. Then I'll decide if it needs a border or not.  I'm trying to make some smaller quilts, more couch sized rather than bed sized. In our shop the smaller quilts sold really well, so it would make sense to aim for that size. I think a lot of people saw a bed-size quilt as a thing to decorate a whole room around, whereas a couch quilt was just an accent. 

While I'm sewing on these really simple things my mind is reviewing what else is on the list of projects that need attention. I don't want my MAD piecing to just be about duty sewing to make a finish, it needs to be about making life easier too.  My cutting table is strewn with strips and fabrics for all the different projects; making progress means that I can finish the cutting and clear away all those strips and fabrics. In order to piece madly, I need to have cut pieces ready for that. 

In order not to feel burnt out and jaded with just one project, I'm taking it in turns to cut QSTs for my English quilt a while, then piece the double 4-patches for as long as I want, then cut some more. All the while I'm doing that, I'm thinking of what I will start next. I know I love all the easy sewing, the scraps and one-shape quilts that just fly together.  But I would also love to start something that made me concentrate and pay attention, something that required honing my skills, and using Good Fabric.  At the moment I'm leaning towards a LeMoyne Star, or a block containing a LeMoyne Star.

I made 2 Rolling Star blocks about 17 years ago.  Maybe I'm ready to try again.

The other day something Jo said (at Jo's Country Junction) struck a chord with me. She was talking about how she'd concentrated on quilts from one designer, and that it hadn't expanded her quilting skills. For me, that designer is Bonnie Hunter. I adore her quilts, but they don't test me, they don't add to my skill set. I've been quilting since I was 15, so I'm not in the same category as a beginner or intermediate quilter who needs Bonnie's guidance. I will always want to make the quilts she designs (Bitcoin is really tempting me), but I need to try a bit harder to develop my machine piecing skills.

One thing Bonnie has taught me though; I made several of her mystery quilts when she first started doing them, and I learnt that making hundreds of one unit really teaches you how to do it quickly and well.  I hated 9patch units, until Carolina Crossroads made me confront them. Pattern is in Scraps and Shirttails.

I renamed mine Carolina Coverlet, because I didn't put the blocks together the way Bonnie did.

Buckeye Beauty (Jarrod Take a Wife )

I didn't like these arrowhead units either, but after a couple of quilts I've learnt to do them without complaint.

Celtic Solstice

Same with the Triangle In A Square units in the border.

I'm hoping that if I apply the same reasoning to LeMoyne stars, with their set in seams, then they will become just another technique in my toolbox, and allow me to design new quilts around them, without being put off by the difficulty. It would be wonderful if 2022 was a year of developing excellence in my piecing, not just churning out another 20 tops. A year of MAD skills.


Saturday, January 08, 2022

MAD piecing

My projects are overwhelming me! I don't like having so many things on the go right now. Sometimes that's the way I like to work, but for now I need to see some progress at the start of the year, so I'm going to do something about it. 

This is the chaos next to my sewing machine. There are way too many pieces from different projects, way too many layers to dig through when I want to find a leader-ender, or the next piece of a block. Those trays are from IKEA and I love them, but I forget they're stacked. Sometimes I lift up a tray and there's a whole other level of pieces that I forgot were there. Which is annoying if I've been looking everywhere for them. 
I'm building these double 4-patches as my main leader-ender, but I'm tired of them hanging around. I need another 30 to finish the top.
These are ongoing, but I'm not making much progress, I keep getting diverted. I don't want to rush to finish it, but it won't get done at all if I don't start working on it.
These are sweet little blocks, but they are stalled for some reason. I need to attack the scraps and strips again and stockpile more pieces.
These spinning rectangles should be close to finished, and yet I've come to a complete halt. I need to hunt out more pieces and make some more blocks and concentrate on finishing it.
This is a strange spur of the moment thing that I started, and now I have no idea what to do with it. I don't want to pack it away until I have some sort of plan for it. It's refusing to speak to  me though, so I'm shelving it for a while. It's not as if I don't have anything to be going on with....

I really want to make more of these blocks.

I've never even mentioned these, but they have their own project box and there are fabrics set aside for future blocks. 

I adore this project, I need to get busy and make some progress.  All the HSTs are already made, so it will be a simple matter of putting those units together.

This is almost ready to assemble, another 15 blocks to go.  I love QSTs obviously.

In order to restore some sense of order I'm going to resort to something I'm calling MAD piecing. It stands for Make A Difference. I'm going to sew madly on one project until I have made a difference in it's status. The sort of sewing where there is a huge pile behind the sewing machine, and it takes an hour to iron it all.

I plan to make MAD piecing a permanent thing. I can still hop around on a dozen projects if I want, but at least once a month (or week) I'm going to MADly work on one thing. Hopefully I'll see results.

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