Saturday, October 22, 2016

It's my birthday today, and it was Keryn's yesterday- remember we wrote about it here, and here, and also here.  If you haven't read those posts, it's worth it as the story seems to be pretty unusual.

When I moved to Crystal Brook I was friendly with a lady in her eighties who I discovered had been a midwife  around that time-(late  1950's). I told her the story of our birth and she seemed very doubtful. "I've only heard of one case like that," she said and mentioned Mum.  I cried "That was US!" I'm very glad the story had a happy ending, or I wouldn't be writing this. To put it in perspective,  Keryn was  born at ten in the morning after an eight hour labour and I wasn't born till the following day at ten that night. Apart from having to spend time in a humidity crib, I seemed none the worse for my experience. And if we hadn't each had our own placenta it might have been a different ending too.

But here I am today, sewing yet another project and wondering where it's headed. I've been making these blocks for ages (think years) and my original plans have been discarded. It just wasn't working the way I wanted, so I've decided to finish this any-old-how and start again if I want to.

I think the block itself was from a Pat Speth  nickel pattern and it's a delight to sew. Very easy and the pressing makes it fit together beautifully. I wanted something very soft, with almost no contrast, but I think perhaps these might be too boring.

I was playing with the idea of them set on point, but now I just want them done without fiddling with setting triangles. My new revised plan will explore that possibility and for now I'm concentrating on finishing all the cut out pieces and getting the blocks in one piece. It will be quite large, which tends to happen when you sew without specific measurements in mind.

I uphold the sentiment of "no work on your birthday", but I have to continue quilting  a huge Wedding Ring top that has to be finished very soon. I've nearly done the ditch stitching and today I'll focus on the borders, which are full of spectacular applique. I'll probably spend about six hours standing up, after that my feet feel like they're imploding, so that's my limit.
Also hindering me was a thorn that I got in my finger a couple of weeks ago. I dug out some bigger ones, and thought this was too small to bother with. I ended up with a red painful lump about 1/4" away, and the original entry point had healed up completely. It got so sore I was trying not to bend that finger at all, not conducive to good quilting. So last night I got out the soap and sugar  and made a poultice, and though I haven't taken it off yet the pain is almost gone.

I googled it out of interest and while I couldn't find an acceptable scientific explanation (but lots of references to doctors dismissing the idea) I just know it works. My Gran did it, my mum did it, now I've taught my kids to do it. It's a wonder someone hasn't tried to market it!


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Oh my goodness, life is back to Busy with a capital B. After announcing our retirement our former boss, who is also our friend, damaged her back so badly she ended up in hospital for a week and was only discharged with orders to pick up nothing heavier than a piece of paper. So of course we came back to help out, on a semi permanent basis until they can find someone to totally replace us. So now we're only semi retired, sigh.

On top of that South Australia had one of those "weather events" that are only supposed to happen every fifty years or so, which resulted in huge storms, flooding and a total state blackout. We were without power for 23 hours, so the little metho stove came out again and the candles, and the musings on how dependant we are on electricity for everything now. Certainly for our amusement! I love to read, but if you don't have that to look forward to it must be pretty boring.

The footpaths in our little town aren't paved and so this is the sort of slop we were riding through to deliver mail- I did some impressive skids but fortunately didn't come to grief. It was not very pleasant though, and just emphasised that I do not want to do this anymore.

I've been quilting custom quilts  too, they seem to be coming in a never ending stream, lots of embroidery and candlewick spreads to do. I have a huge fancy wedding ring top to quilt next, that will take me at least a week, so Millhouse will be getting a workout.

This is the little ninepatch I was working on, finished at last. I think I made the blocks last year and then lost them in my sewing room. Every now and then I'd wonder where they got to and knew they'd turn up somewhere. They were actually in a container that I didn't look in because I was absolutely sure I knew the contents...yep, they were underneath the other project, for some reason. It seems I can't trust my memory these days.

The colour in the photos isn't quite right, the border is a much warmer brown but you get the idea. I wanted it to look like an antique crib quilt- it's only about 43" wide so it's only little.

These are three inch blocks, by the way.

I keep telling Keryn to make small quilts, I seem to have churned out a few over the years, even though I love making bedsized quilts.They are such fun to do, and you see results so quickly. She remains hesitant, and battles on with her big projects, but I think a little quilt would be like a palate cleanser in between big tops. I've got a couple I haven't photographed yet, that's for another post.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

 I've been plugging away at the chevron border, I'm nearly out of cut pieces and I think I'll start doing some maths to work out how many I need. Sewing the units is the easy part, now I have to work out spacer borders and how to turn the corners and stuff like that.

I've also sewn twenty-six Jack in the Pulpit blocks, and I'm still enjoying them immensely. I haven't thought about how I'll set them (hmm, is there a pattern emerging here?) but it will probably be a straight setting with sashing. I'm not keen on this block on point, although there are plenty of previous quilters that liked the idea.

I think it looks a bit "boxy" set like this,

 whereas a straight set emphasises the diamond.

I like the blue grey setting fabric,

or a pinky brown, or even a soft yellow. So many decisions, it's easier to just keep sewing and think about it later.
I'd unfolded some yellow fabrics to audition with these small nine patches, which I recently found in a container. I made them to use up a rather dull blue grey that I'd been given in a scrap bag, thinking it would make a small top. I ended up getting about seventy blocks from the fabric altogether, so it's larger than I expected. This just has to have a border sewn on, photos when that occurs.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

I'm still cutting and cutting, but any sewing screeched to a halt last Saturday when I blew the circuit in my meter box. I had electricity for lights, but nothing else. I was glad for that small mercy, but pretty cranky that it was a weekend, and I was not going to pay a whopping call-out fee, as well as whatever it took to fix the problem. However it took a further two days to get everything up and running again, so I couldn't sew, watch telly, or do any of the things that I really wanted to. My chest freezer was stuffed absolutely full, not of meat fortunately, but tomatoes and vegetables and fruit from last summer, and I wrapped the outside of it  in towels and blankets and nothing deteriorated. I think the fact that it was so full helped, there was no air space at all to warm up. But I must make that sauce and chutney...

The switch was "stuffed" in the electricians words, and was replaced, and I had all mod cons again, yippee! I keep a small methylated spirits stove, so I could boil water and cook, or heat up rudimentary meals, but not having access to my plug-in fluros and lights meant I couldn't even cut accurately. I went round the workshop and read books and pottered in the garden, but I am super glad to have everything working again.

I'm making progress on my chevron border, and I tried it out against the top I had in mind. I started setting it together here, eighteen months ago, and I think it's going to work very well.

I get so enthused when I finally figure out where I'm going with a UFO; at last, some direction!! I'm a long way from finishing the sewing on these, but I'm eager to get them done.

On the way home from Pirie the other day I stopped and took a photo of this part-rainbow that was touching down in front of the hills in a spectacular way. We've had heaps of rain lately, and I love seeing these rainbows in unexpected places.


Friday, September 02, 2016

I looked back over my posts and I can't seem to find a photo of my little applique top after I finished setting it together. I love the triple sashing and think I should use it more often. It looks special, and yet it's so easy to do, everything lines up nicely and it's not complicated to cut. The next time I get out my stacks of finished blocks and audition settings I'll have to remember this one.

My design walls have been empty for weeks, and it's starting to get to me. All my projects are at a plodding stage, and I'm itching to get far enough that I can throw some blocks up there and start getting them together. I probably need to pick one project and work intensively on that for a while so that I can see more progress, but I've really enjoyed the last few weeks of cutting and fiddling with scraps, even if I haven't  done as much sewing as I normally do. Go with the flow, but I think the direction might be about to change.

 I'm glad that I enjoy all the stages of quilting, I love the designing, the cutting, the sewing, the setting, even borders and binding. It would be no fun to dread one part of the process and keep putting it off. I suppose the worst part for me is the decision making, this setting or that, this border fabric or a pieced one, square or on point: I can get bogged down because I can see too many options, or I hate them all. If I followed other people's patterns it might be different, but unless I'm exactly copying an antique quilt I usually just make it up as I go. And I need time for that, to think about each stage and try out my ideas and work out the dead ends.

I think that's why I'm tempted when I see quilts I love, like Bonnie's Garden Party and Jo's Rail Fence. Someone has done all the thinking for me! I just have to get stuck into the scraps and start sewing. I'm fighting the impulse to dive into both those projects and finish them up in double quick time. They are meant to be leader-enders, and take a while to put together in between my own ideas, not gobbled up in no time flat. The sewing is so easy I just want to keep on going, but I need to resist the urge to work on them exclusively- if I finish them I'll have to choose yet another leader-ender.

So I'll keep plodding on the other projects, and cutting more scraps for both tops until the urge to get one of them together becomes irresistible and then I'll give in. By then I'll probably have found another pattern that insists on being made and that can become my next "This will be a great leader-ender!" project.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

 I'm still waiting for life to settle into some sort of routine after 'retiring' from the postie job. We've gone back and worked odd days to help our friends out, we've been busy with the family social life and there's always the quilting to be done. I keep telling myself we're in a state of flux until we find new routines, but everything feels a bit chaotic at the moment. And I'm not revelling in  heaps of new found time either, which is a bit disappointing.

The chaos extends to my sewing room, where I seem to be very busy, but making little progress. I know I have to stop and choose one project to concentrate on, but I have so many ideas and if I start them, at least they won't get shuffled off to the back of the queue...Well that's my reasoning anyway.

The leader-ender remains Bonnie's Garden Party, but it needs to be sorted out again. Sooo many tiny bits to keep track of, my orderly piles have vanished and I'm scrabbling through the bits as I go. I think I'm halfway to the number of blocks I need with this.

My main  piecing are these Jack In The Pulpit blocks. I adore these even though I have no idea how they will be set. I'm just making thirty or so and then I'll start playing. Twelve finished, and another fourteen started. The centres look cute just as they are..making a mental note of that..(you can see why I can descend into chaos, every project sparks at least one other)

I love Jo's rail fence and I was cutting the 1 1/2" red triangles anyway. No reason not to start this and get all those scraps cut up and in a new home.

I won't be sewing this now, just making myself a kit.The 1 1/2" drawer is nearly empty. (Insert virtuous smirk)

I'm piecing leftover 3 1/2" squares into strips to be set into the backing for the English Squares top. I need two more of these 16 patches, and I have them laid out ready to sew. The rest of the fabric has been tidied and put away. Empty container. (Even more virtuous smirk)

Experimental blocks to use up mid blues and checks and stripes. I'm not sure about these, have twelve done but I don't know  where they're going. They were based on an antique quilt, but I'm having second thoughts. They might go away for now.

A border I'm working on for a UFO. I'm cutting the rhomboids with an accucut die which makes it very easy, as long as I remember which way up to place the darks and mediums. I haven't tried it on the top yet, but if they don't go with that I have heaps of other tops in need of a pieced border. I'm having fun with these so that's reason enough to continue.

This is some (not all, mind you) of the cutting cutting cutting I've been doing. I don't particularly feel like chaining myself to the sewing machine, so I'm going with the flow. Nothing has jumped out and cried "Me! Pick Me!" so I'm advancing slowly on all fronts; very slowly, but the pile of last snippets  in the bin is increasing daily. All that fabric gone, so I must be getting somewhere. A strange way to measure progress, but I'll take it.


Friday, August 19, 2016

 I found this small top while I was cleaning up the work room, made  a while ago when I was thinking about two colour quilts. I've attempted to work using just two colours before, but I always made things scrappy; lots of blues, lots of pinks or reds or browns instead of one fabric. I felt the tedium of cutting and sewing with just two main colours would be more than I could take. But I also love the simplicity of two fabrics, the pattern can really take centre stage. There are some gorgeous antique examples, surely I could grit my teeth and limit myself to a background and ONE contrasting fabric?

Hence the small quilt, just to see if I could do it. Surprisingly I didn't find it boring at all. The pressing of two larger pieces of fabric instead of multiple smaller ones seemed easier and the cutting went quickly. There were no decisions to make about what to put where, I just had to pick up each piece and sew. It was almost zen-like in it's simplicity and repetition.

Another advantage that I hadn't thought of was that I could begin setting the blocks together straight away. When I make scrap quilts I always do a pile of blocks, then lay them out to see whether I've got the colour and tone balance that I need. I never sew them together until I've finished all the blocks because I want to make sure that the fabrics are distributed around the top in a pleasing manner. Don't want all those darker blocks on one side, or the same fabrics touching!

With only two fabrics you can start setting blocks together straight away and build the rows on the design wall from the beginning. As someone who has multiple sets of blocks sitting around awaiting their final setting decisions, this was a novel experience for me. Far from hating the experience of using such a limited selection, I actually enjoyed the whole process, and now I'm seriously thinking about a larger quilt to see if that affects my findings. (I would still be using a scrappy leader-ender, so I could get my variety fix from that.) So this was a succesful experiment, I would say.

I've been a cutting fool in the sewing room, and I scraped up all the fragments on the floor to put in the bin. They made an astonishing pile, so I must have hacked up a fair swathe of material if this is only the trimmings. I don't measure fabric as 'used' until I finish a top, so I can't see any difference in my  tally, but I definitely feel as if I've cleaned out a few scraps and lightened the stash a bit.


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