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.


Friday, August 12, 2016

I might have retired from the Postie job, but that seemed to be the signal for everything else to crank up a notch. We've been so busy running around  visiting family and finishing quilts and to top it off I developed the worst cold I've had in years and felt quite ill. I'm on the mend now, but I've still got four days of commitments before I can have a breather. I'd love to pretend it's Christmas and read some books, do a jigsaw and just potter around, but even now I can hear the quilts cracking their tiny whips, "Back to work!!"

I've been trying to tidy up the workshop and came across some of my quilts that need binding, so I got busy and finished three of them.

These were smaller quilts that I quilted some time ago- I think the blue and yellow one had been sitting there for five years!

I had the bindings prepared and stored with them, and somehow I just never made it a priority.

Now they are done, and can be used or sold or given away. I don't know why I put off binding, because I love that final step, and we've done so many over the years for customers (hundreds in fact) that it only takes me an hour or so for these small ones. I'm just a procrastinator I guess.

At least they don't have to live in the workroom anymore, so I've cleared a bit of room.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

I've been pretty busy doing some intensive quilting over the last two weeks, but deadlines have been met, quilts delivered and I hope to have a bit of a rest this weekend. In the midst of the  heavy quilting schedule I developed an infection under a tooth and had to have that dealt with, which made me think about why I hate going to the dentist so much.

I have to admit that in my adult life I have rarely experienced much actual pain while having dental work, but in our childhood, the '60's era, there was one local dentist who was known as "The Butcher". As children, we didn't know that, and our Mum just told us to be brave, so we endured visits to him as best we could. He didn't believe in analgesics for anything but removing a tooth, and my terror of drills is directly traceable to him. If you flinched he growled "Be still!" and kept on going. He was fierce and smelly and had wiry hair growing out of his hands, but I can't remember his face except for horn rimmed glasses, because it was better if you kept your eyes shut.

Looking back I really think he might have been a sadist, and enjoyed the pain he inflicted on us. I thought he might have been better with adults, but our SIL went to him as a young woman and he was so horrible she never went back.

I don't think Mum ever knew how much pain he caused, and in our family you didn't complain, you just dealt with things. When we were in primary school a Dental Clinic opened in another school and we were all trucked over there en masse. They discovered so much work to be done it was genuinely astonishing, but no-one complained because at least they were preferable to the Butcher (and I think it was free). I can remember Mum wondering why our teeth were suddenly so bad, but years later a teacher from that time told me one of the dentists from that clinic admitted they were all training, and did a lot of the work "for practice". Again, no one complained or got a second opinion.

In my adult life a lot of those fillings fell out and had to be repaired, and one tooth broke repeatedly until there was nothing much left to save. So I wanted it removed, despite the very nice young dentist's offers to try and save it.

While I was waiting in the chair I thought of a story our older neighbour had told me years before. She was a child in the thirties, and they were very poor, living in a little cottage 12 miles from town. When she was ten or eleven she developed a raging toothache and after putting up with the agony for a day she and her mother set out to walk along the train lines into town. This was marginally shorter than the road, and they walked all the way there; someone (probably the barber) pulled out the tooth with no painkillers, and then they walked all the way home. She was grateful because the pain was so much relieved, and while she realised that it seemed quite barbaric she said that's what you did in those days.

So while I was sitting there enduring the pushing and pulling and having a tooth with very stubborn roots removed, I thought of her and was thankful for modern dental practice, and I may have cursed those trainees from my childhood a bit too.


Friday, July 15, 2016

 My next UFO to be tackled is this applique project from about four years ago. While I adore hand applique I hadn't done much for a long time, and I wanted something easy to get me back into the swing of it. This photo in a book caught my eye, and I decided to make small blocks, and only twelve, just for practice.

(the book was this one..)

It was a great plan, but somehow when I was drafting the leaves the points got a bit sharp and it turned out that they were a bit of a pain to do and the whole thing got a bit unenjoyable and it was thrown into a container at the back of the cupboard.

Every now and then I'd pull it out and tell myself sternly "It's only twelve blocks, and they're tiny! Come on, pull yourself together." I'd add a few leaves, hate it all over again and back into the cupboard it would go.

Eventually there were only three blocks left to do and I bribed myself with all sorts of rewards to finally get them finished. YaY!! Lesson learned I hope, don't draw shapes that I'm not happy sewing. I don't know quite what it was about these leaves, I've sewn many skinny points before but this shape was not nice to do.(Perhaps the fabric was too thick to turn under easily, who knows.)

I spent a couple of hours finding a faded pink for the sashing, and now I'm trying to work out the colouring for the nine patches in the setting, and whether I'll have solid green pieces in the border. Finally I'm having some fun!


Friday, July 08, 2016

 I've been doing some customer quilts that were very involved, and I can't post them here because their owners want their Show and Tell to be a surprise, so here are some photos of a little quilt I did a while ago.

I've never said much about our other job of being posties because we have to think about people's privacy. While a lot of our experiences are funny, they might be litigation worthy if we wrote about them here!  I love the fact that everyone recognises us and says hello; it's been great being part of our little town like this for six years now. I always said I didn't want to do a seventh year, and hopefully we've found a way to quit without leaving our nice bosses in the lurch. If it doesn't quite work out I might help out a bit, but the writing is on the wall. I don't want to be riding a motorbike when I'm retirement age! Still a long way off, but our predecessors were in their sixties and seventies.

It's also made the quilting job harder to fit in, and we're hoping that we'll be increasing our output dramatically from now on. I'll miss the job in lots of ways, the chats with people, seeing the gardens change from season to season, the dogs that just adore me and wait to get their pat every day. One beagle insists on standing up and giving me a kiss every time I see her, and if I ride past I can hear her howls of protest all down the street.It's mostly been a laugh, although this winter has tried our sense of humour..

We've been pretty lucky and only had a few really rotten days with being rained on, but this year has been particularly wet. There are teams of technicians digging up the footpaths installing the National Broadband Network and I unsuspectingly rode into a patch of soupy mud that swallowed the back wheel before I could get out. (We have no paved footpaths in our town). I couldn't put the sidestand down and go get help because the whole thing just sank sideways so I yelled at some guys in the distance who came and helped lift the bike out. (They are 110 ag bikes and weigh a lot more than you'd think)

As you can see by my grin I considered it funny at the time, but it makes me think about the possibility of injuries and the increasing weight of parcels and all the less appealing aspects of the job. These hands were made for more creative purposes than dragging cartons of wine around.

 I have lots of good memories and I'll remember in particular the amazing events, like having a kangaroo jump in front of the bike, or riding down a country road lined with gumtrees and being joined by a flock of pink galahs, who flew next to me as if they were enjoying the race. Both things that I wouldn't have experienced standing at the longarm!


Sunday, June 26, 2016

I'm sewing another set of blocks together and it didn't seem to be flowing smoothly. I'm loving how the blocks look together, but something wasn't quite right. I finally worked out that it's my leader-ender project that is slowing me down!

I'm making Bonnie's Garden Party, and all the little 1 1/2" pieces are great for chewing up those scraps, and the tiny seams make the units mount up quickly. I'm using orange for the setting blocks instead of red, and they went together fast and kept things moving along. I've made 49 of them and I'll need more but I decided to make a start on the alternate blocks as well.  As soon as I started on the cross blocks I seemed to slow down to a crawl, which slowed down my other project too.

Once I realised that, I examined what was going on, and found that I don't like just grabbing bits out of a huge tray of cut pieces. The orange blocks are totally random and I'm fine with that, but I wanted the cross blocks to use only two contrasting fabrics(besides the white). I seemed to spend a lot of time trying to find a particular colour or a missing square, or discovering that there weren't actually enough pieces of that matching fabric.

So this afternoon I sat down and sorted the whole mess out; I put all the corner bits together so that I can sew them as  units, and added the centre square so that it didn't get used in another block. Then I added the light squares for the corner so that it was all in one little pile ready to go.

I'm so much happier now that I can see where I'm going with this and I can make a rough count of how far along I am and how much more to cut. This tray will live next to the sewing machine, and I'll just pick up a little bundle and sew that together in between the seams of my other project. No more scrabbling around....The only danger is that it looks so tempting I'll have to stop myself sewing them all up at once.
And in other news, I finally bound my Floribunda quilt, it's only a year since I quilted it! I love finishing the binding, I don't know why I put it off.


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