Tuesday, May 03, 2016

 I finished another small top, again set with white but at least it shows up on my green design wall. I started this last November I think, to use up some bright scraps and blogged about it here. I did expect this to be the first top to be finished this year because it wouldn't have taken much time at all, but somehow other projects got in the way. Last weekend I was determined that it would be finished before May began, and it only took me a few hours.

Lori in South Dakota had finished her quilt and written to remind me to check the way the ribbons were twisting- she discovered her mistakes too late. My top was much smaller than hers, but I nearly went cross-eyed checking and rechecking the orientation of the blocks before I sewed them up. My ribbons are set in a mirror image, while Lori's strips were all facing the same way, so they are slightly different, but still easy to put in the wrong direction. I'm pleased with the effect, and think this will make a nice cheery crib quilt for someone.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Pastel Strippy top is a bit hard to photograph because the white borders are lost against the design wall. You'll just have to imagine you can see where they end.

This isn't a big quilt, it should fit a double bed nicely, and hopefully I can do some great feathers in all those white strips. I'm very glad to have this crossed off the list, I think I started it in 2012.

On Sunday we had a picnic at Wirrabera Forest, slowly recovering from the devastating  bushfires  two years ago. It will never be the lovely spot it was, but it was still nice to show Izzy the trees and paths for the first time.

She walked off and stood calling "An-mals! Where are you? You hiding?" After a visit to a childrens zoo recently I think she expected kangaroos and possums and who knows what to come out and greet her.
She did some log walking, helped by Mum and Dad, and then we went for a walk, taking it in turns to carry her.

 There was so much fine powdery soil/ash and so many obstacles that we didn't go far, the tracks aren't really pleasant or easy to negotiate any more.

Still we had a lovely day in the sunshine and enjoyed each other's company.
She'll be two at the end of next month, gosh that time has flown....


Saturday, April 09, 2016

 I've been busy doing lots of things lately, dealing with produce from my son's garden, babysitting and visiting with family, trying to finish some projects and of course quilting.

This quilt was a huge undertaking, custom everything and to complicate matters I couldn't quilt on the applique (too stiff with some kind of bonding material) go too near the embroidery, and the back was a very thick fabric, almost like wool. The seams in it proved difficult in a couple of places where the machine couldn't get over them easily, but in the end it all turned out well.

Some people may not realise it, but it's harder to do larger open motifs; the tiny tight quilting so beloved of some longarmers is easier, if more labour intensive. Launching a feather out into a large open space is a nail biting moment for me- is it going to come out well? Even after all this time I still agonise over it, sigh.

 There are always bits I wish I could go back and smooth out or redo, but I haven't got time to make everything perfect. And I have never come across a customer who would let me put placement marks on their top- I'm sure most of them intend to never ever wash the finished quilt at all. So I do the best I can within all the limitations, including what the customer is willing to pay.

I don't seem to have a photo of the finished quilt, perhaps it's on Keryn's camera.

I have finished another long term project, my Pastel Strippy. So many long seams!

I have to iron it and hang it up for a photo, but as you can see the English Squares is still up on the wall, because I'm loath to take it down.I just don't want to fold it up yet...


Sunday, March 27, 2016

 Finally my English Squares top is finished. You would think squares are the easiest pattern you could ever get, but I had to constantly evaluate this and take out fabrics that I really wanted to use and add a whole lot more neutral and lights to get the effect I wanted. I had a couple of tries to get the border squares the right size and cutting the centre medallion was scary because I only had a very limited amount of fabric.

Some tops I struggle to finish and then want to bundle them into a cupboard and not look at for at least six months, but I've left this up on the design wall at the workshop.  I like looking at it so much, and  I get a thrill when I think "It's done! At last!"

So many different fabrics, and some of them were tiny scraps that I could only get a couple of squares from. They were precious, and it seemed right that they should end up here.
The centre fabric in this photo was from the backing of the second or third quilt that Keryn made, back in the early eighties. I only had a few scraps of this- no doubt donated in one of Keryn's clearouts, and this top was a good place to finally sew it up. There are fabrics in here ranging from the fifties to some I bought last month, an amazing variety.
I'd like to say that it used up all the tub of fabric that I was working from, but alas there still seems to be quite a lot left over. Plus I have stacks of 3 1/2" squares that I cut for the border, before realising that they were too big and overwhelming, and 3" pieces were the way to go. I'm currently piecing them together into strips to go on the back of this, so they won't be wasted.

I hope everyone is having a Happy Easter with family and friends.  Isobel is old enough to really enjoy it this year- she was happy enough to sit next to this big bunny but when he picked her up she gave him such a fishy look..."Who ARE you?" She's not going to be won over by eggs and trinkets...


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

I've been a bit disappointed in my achievements so far in 2016- normally I have  a spate of finishing early in the year and it motivates me to keep on going. I've completed two tops so far, but that's not enough. I've decided that there are some projects that are weighing on my mind ( not to mention cluttering up my shelves) and are stopping progress on all my sewing, so the easiest thing would be to just deal with them. Once I'm no longer expending mental energy trying to work out where to go with these stalled ideas I'm sure I'll feel a lot more enthusiastic about everything.

The first one I decided to tackle was this  project from 2012. I call it English Squares, and it was based on some photos of an old quilt in a small museum. It was folded so I couldn't see the whole thing, and once I'd pieced hundreds of the squares I decided it was all too boring for words and put it away.

On one of it's trips to the design wall I thought it might be nice to have some sort of pieced focal point in the centre, or maybe some applique...but that  never happened and it all got packed away again. However I was looking through a tub of large floral fabrics and was struck by the colouring of this Mary Koval print from many years ago....hmmm, just the colours I was using in the English Squares.

So I began the brain hurty task of working out what size I wanted the panel to be in the centre, mostly decided by the fact that I only had 12" of this fabric. Then I had to choose what proportions to make the overall quilt; did I want it square or rectangular, with the panel set in the centre or slightly higher towards the pillow area, and what about the borders? If I have an antique quilt that I'm reproducing this process isn't so exhausting, but I had very little photo information to use as a jumping off point and it's quite hard to make all these decisions as you go.

I finally settled on a size and then a frame to go around it, with a 1/4" strip of warm brown right next to the print. Other people might just sew a little flange into the seam to provide that bit of colour, but I'm a longarmer, and I hate dealing with that little flap when it comes time to quilt.

All righty, now we're getting somewhere! I threw whatever pieced squares I had up on the design wall and then started sewing them into larger sections, but I can already see that I need to go back and make a heap more ninepatches before I can finish this.

Here's where I am now, that whole upper piece is joined together, and I'm trialing some bigger squares of the same fabrics for a  border. (The centre squares are 1 1/2" finished, the ones in the border are 2 1/2" finished ) The jury is out on whether that will be the way to go, but if I change my mind  then these strips will end up on the back of this quilt.

 These photos look as dull as ditchwater, but the fabrics are nice in person. I think this will be a quilt that is interesting to examine close up, but looks boring from across the room.

So it's still pretty boring sewing, but  I have a plan now. It's so hard to move forward without a sense of direction, but at least now the end is a little bit easier to visualise.


Friday, February 26, 2016

 If I tried to cut all the scraps that I'm given in one session it really would take hours. Unless I'm in the mood for that I would rather do it bit by bit, so that tackling the pile doesn't become tedious.

Every time I turn the iron on I grab a little handful of scraps and press those before I do anything else. I have a tray in a bookshelf near the ironing board and I lay the bits out flat so they don't get wrinkled again.

After several bouts of pressing, when I have the time I start cutting these bits, using the ScrapSaver ruler for single triangles and the Easy Angle for any strips I've ironed. I use my 6 1/2" ruler for squares and bricks, and the 24" ruler for longer scraps.  Using the different rulers makes things a lot easier; I cut all the squares first, then bricks, then triangles so I'm not swapping from one ruler to another and back.

I also use a small mat that came with a magazine. When you are cutting small pieces like this you tend to cut in the same spot over and over  and the small mat saves your large cutting board. It's also easy to turn around if you're cutting multiple layers and don't want to disturb the pile. I also try to turn the scraps at different angles so I'm not always cutting parallel to the edge of the mat, again to avoid cutting over and over in the same spot.

Once everything has been reduced to neat piles of cut pieces I can file them into their containers and start ironing more scraps and storing them on the tray. It might take weeks for me to deal with the bits that Keryn gives me, but I don't get overwhelmed and sick of cutting if I do it like this.
 I love the sight of the neatly cut shapes, and it's satisfying to dump the trimmings into the rubbish container. Order is triumphing over the chaos of the scrap bin, slowly but surely!


Monday, February 22, 2016

Keryn and I are both trying to clean up our sewing rooms and make sense of the stash. We have differing view points on how we use our fabric, and how we organise it, but that's ok. Each to his own. I'm still in love with scraps, Keryn less so.

She wants to get stuck into the yardage and cut up swathes of material; the gorgeous stuff that we've had squirreled away, sometimes for years. I always check the scrap drawers first to see what I can use there, then I start looking at the larger pieces. Keryn gets frustrated by the itty bitty nature of the scraps, I like to tame them by cutting them down to useful shapes.

We were going through some containers in her sewing room recently and she declared that she was sick of the sight of all these bits and said"You can have 'em all" No need to tell me twice! In fact one of the reasons I'm so keen to "help" her clean up is that I always come away with some goodies that she's sick of.

So what's the first step in taming this mess of bits? I like to go through the whole container and make some piles to start with. Scraps are overwhelming if you look at them en masse, so the trick is to start breaking them all down into manageable chunks.

I separate the pieces that I can usually just get one shape from, a square, a triangle, a brick. This takes a lot of the flotsam out of the equation, and things start looking more doable straight away.

If there are any pieced bits like this I put them aside. I can make four patches out of this lot, so they're already spoken for.

I put all the lights in one pile because I can usually cut them straight into shapes to be used immediately. I'm always piecing HST, so these can be cut with the Easy Angle or the Scrap Saver and go into the Leader ender container. I never seem to have enough lights ready to go, so this little pile is a welcome sight.

Then there are the strips of fabric that I have to cut with my long ruler, I straighten them up and then they can be filed in their respective drawers.

Finally there are the bigger hunks that have a few possibilities, I usually just iron them and sort them out according to colour. I don't want to cut larger bits down into one and a half inch squares and then realise I could have used the bigger piece for something.

If I do this  sorting as soon as I bring a bag of scraps home it doesn't get too overwhelming and I know immediately what I've been given. It can all go back into the same container, with sheets of paper separating the categories for the time being, then later I can tackle it bit by bit. In the next post I'll show you how I do that.

After some more tidying, guess what  Keryn gave me?.... back to the sorting!


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