Monday, December 31, 2007

The holidays just aren't complete without a jigsaw, but I'm ready to give up on this one. 3000 pieces and 4 feet wide is just too big in my book. We've done even more since I took this picture yesterday, but it's only getting harder and harder. The pieces that are left are just a blur of muddled colours- I don't think photos are meant to be blown up this big.
Keryn is more obsessive than me(she's done all the hard bits in the foreground and I did the roofs and hills, which were much easier. But I did them upside down, because we can't both work on one side of the table, so that made it more difficult. I have a lovely jigsaw that I really want to do, so if this one gets the flick (my goodness, look at that SKY!!) I'll have the new one set up in a flash. And that's only 1000 pieces, so it should be done in no time....

Keryn helped me weed out some material to cut up for pieced backings. There were a few tussles over bits she thought should be cut up, and which I was still a bit too fond of, but we managed to agree to the total of 12 and a half metres. Not too bad. According to her theory of stashout=stashin, does that mean I can go buy 12 metres? (perhaps I'd better sew these up first, I haven't technically used them up yet)
We each chose a project that we wanted to finish quickly this week and here's mine. I had the anvil blocks as a kit that I took to our patchwork meetings, so they didn't get worked on regularly. I was a bit sick of them hanging around and wasn't in love with how they were turning out so I decided to make a little top and call it quits. The broken dishes blocks were from another lot of scraps and became the border. I like this idea of using two sets of blocks in one top, and it turned out so well I might make it from nice fabric next time.
Also completed were 48 leader-ender four patches from 1 and 1/2" squares, the drawer is almost empty now so I'll have to cut up some more scraps. I'll tuck these away for later, Keryn and I want to tackle the orphan blocks soon, and these may be good for spacer units.
Three more bindings done, and I don't want to see another one for a while, thankyou very much.!
Keryn and I are making New Year's Lists and we'll probably see 2008 in with a glass of port or wine as we reflect on the year behind us, and welcome the one ahead.....


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Well, Christmas is over for another year, and very relaxed it was too. Matt and the dogs came in for lunch so it was only the three of us, and the dogs had their special present of raw lamb shanks.I'll stick to the turkey breast and roast pork thankyou.

Have you seen one of these strange little objects?
No it's not an anorexic rocket ship, it's a clothes airer- Keryn used to have a wooden one but it fell to bits. I found this in a second hand shop last week, and decided it would be perfect to hold projects that I'm working on.
It has ten arms, so I can work on ten projects at once. Hmmmm, is that a Good Thing? Oh well, they're pretty to look at while they wait , and wait , and wait...
I wish to quell the scurrilous rumour that I had cheesecake for breakfast. (Apricot nectar with marbled chocolate to be exact.)I would never be so indulgent and decadent.

Now if you will excuse me, I'm feeling a bit queasy..........


Friday, December 21, 2007

There hasn't been much time for sewing lately, I guess it's the season. These are the quilts I've got bound; there's another two that need the binding sewn down on the back and another four bindings made. So there's progress, but it's nothing exciting, sorry.

I have been trying to cut out some more kits, in between other chores, like this framed cross and a blue square in square that I started a while ago. Need more bits to keep that one going, but as it's all scraps I had to wait to get some more blues first. And the album block below is a project I've started to use up all the leftover border fabric, those huge paisleys and florals and strange prints that look good in large pieces but not so good cut up small. This will be an on-going project too, I'll just piece it as scraps become available.
And during our visit to Adelaide I managed to get some fabrics that I'd been looking for, a border for a set of blocks and some fabric which I'll tell you about in another post. I love having new ideas and trying to find the perfect bits to carry them out; even better when you find what you're looking for!
My boys are coming for Christmas dinner today, as it's the only time we could all get together. I'm doing a vastly downscaled meal, compared to what we used to enjoy, but they all agreed we HAD to have pavlova.

So last night I got out my darling Kenwood and spent ages whipping eggwhites and adding castor sugar one spoonful at a time....Keryn, who has never made one, was amazed at the process (and probably a bit appalled at the mess and the time it took), but the boys will be happy. And you know what? I Hate pavlova, and although I've made this every year, sometimes two of them, I've never eaten a bite. I judge everything by the look and feel, rather like a teetotaller making moonshine, and I was worried because I've never cooked one in a fanforced oven before. But it turned out fine, and covered with cream and chocolate it will be demolished in short order. Keryn and I are having cheesecake, which we adore- each to his own!

Yesterday we had some unseasonal rain; it was hot but the heavens opened up and poured out quite a bit on our little town.Matt and the dogs had come to visit, and look at these two idiots.
Rather than sit in the shed where it was dry, they preferred to crouch on the back steps looking forlorn and trying to shiver pathetically. Bit hard when it was so warm, but they tried. I wasn't letting them in, because I want to keep the house clean for the Christmas visitors today and I didn't want 12 muddy feet racing all over the floors. Heartless aren't I?
And you ask, why 12 muddy feet? Well, look closely in the background....Jessie the dog of little brain at least knows when to come in out of the rain.....
"And they call ME stupid......."


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Grand-puppy Curtis came to visit, he's growing in size, and Silliness too. We had the telly on, but needn't have bothered; everyone was watching the puppy and shouting with laughter.His legs are so long and wooly, and mostly out of control. He'd fling himself up and down the hall, skid into the loungeroom across the polished floor and crash into a chair. Then he'd give one hysterical bark and dash off again....and again... and again.All the attention must have made him show off because I was assured he didn't act like this at home! Do you like the curly tail?And what a face! Keryn and I have been cutting up heaps of fabric for bindings and backings, as she reports in her last post. She also accuses me of going through the bin in search of scraps. It seems she may have grown a bit cavalier in her attitude because this is what I fished out yesterday. What?!! throw this lot away?
Not bleeding likely! Lookit all the squares and triangles I got out of that pile.
Now we can put this in the bin. You can see why it takes me so long to accumulate enough for another scrap castle.
When I cut small piles of scraps I use this cutlery holder as a temporary sorting tray. When it gets full I put the strips away in their respective drawers.
There hasn't been one night when it was too hot to knit, and so I figure I'm about two nights away from finishing my stole.It's Leda's Dream by Melanie Gibbons of Pink Lemon Twist and it's been such fun to knit. I plan to start another project straight away; I'm pleasantly surprised that I can still knit comfortably at night and I want to keep my hands in knitting mode through the summer if I can. If I don't knit for long periods of time they complain bitterly and ache like mad when I take it up again. Much better to keep them in training with a light project like this.
And because I can't just focus on quilting I'm also doing a bit of painting when I can. So much so that I need to clear some things out of my studio and with this in mind I've set up an Etsy shop. I plan to put some quilts in there too- the trouble with being productive is that you have to find somewhere to put the stuff afterwards. I'm not going to stop sewing or painting, so I'll have to try and find new homes for some of it!


Monday, December 10, 2007

The Stash Saga: Part Two

Yes, the braided rugs ate the sheeting stash, but then followed a time of gathering cotton fabrics, from op-shops, from friends, from second-hand stores,garage sales, wherever it could be found. 'Cheap' was the key-word, but 'free' sounded even better. It's amazing the number of people who would offer me dressmaking scraps or unwanted yardage, sometimes complete strangers who had heard that I 'did patchwork' and would send bundles via mutual friends.

Keryn may have exercised some restraint, but if fabric needed a home, I was there! Let me worry about the quality, amount, fibre content etc when I had it home in my sewing room! I did discard the most unlovely bits, and the poly, but even the cheap chinese cotton fabric, so thin and nasty, found a new place in my 'rug' stash. It was cut into 4" strips straight away and rolled up ready for braiding, so I didn't bother to feel guilty about THAT!

Eventually however, I began to actually buy decent amounts of nice patchwork fabric, and then the ugly cheap stuff wasn't looking quite so attractive or desirable. I was still obsessed with using it though, and struggled on trying to get rid of it until I made this top. During the making of it, I realised that I was deliberately only using stuff that I didn't like, that I wanted to get rid of. I decided that this wasn't motivation enough to make a quilt; that like the sheeting, I was putting the same amount of time and effort into something I would never love, as I would into a quilt of new beautiful fabric.

Yes, the finished quilt turned out ok, it used up lots of the ghastly fabrics and doesn't look as bad as the individual bits. Matthew has used it for years and I washed it in the machine for this photo and it came up fine. But, from then on I wanted to make quilts that I loved, that I had a vision for, that would fill me with enthusiasm.

I think I would be worried if I was still collecting fabric without any form of discernment, as I once did. But I can see that my attitude to fabric has changed dramatically over the years, and my collecting habits have evolved with it. I don't feel guilty or worrried about the amount I have, and certainly wouldn't go 'no-buy' in the foreseeable future. I love just about everything I have now, and the scraps that people still gift to me are more about the excitement of the new and using resources wisely than any need for more material.

I've enjoyed examining the motives for the Stash, and realised that fabric exercised considerable fascination for us almost from our first conscious memories. I can remember clearly examining the patterned fabric of curtains, of the cotton playsuits Mum made us, the textures of upholstery and rugs when I was no more than 18 months old. So it's no wonder the love has stayed with us.

When we were children our Mum sewed most of our clothes, and the bottom drawer in her huge cedar dressing chest was always filled with material. We loved nothing better than to rummage through this with her, all of us kneeling on the floor around the open drawer, planning what each piece of fabric could be. Sometimes if we begged hard enough we could even wheedle some remnants away from her. All the large lengths were folded up into important parcels, mostly still in their paper wrapping from the store,but once a fabric was cut into the leftovers were rolled into a neat little bundle and tied with thin strings of selvedge.

These are two of those little bundles, the gold was something Dad bought home from the manchester store where he worked and the brown flannellette was the remnants of a shirt I made in high school during the '70's. I guess I'll never use the gold fabric now, because Mum's hands tied that bow, and I'm so sentimental I don't think I could bear to undo it. So these will remain in what Keryn and I call the 'Archival' stash, which is material that is kept for an historic or significant reason, and will probably never be used. My great-grandmother Hannah's black dress fabric is in there, and other things too precious to contemplate cutting up. So the stash is about preservation too.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Here's a blackbird pie funnel for Meggie, I can't remember where this came from ; I don't think it's old, but I certainly used it when I cooked for a family. Now I just think he's cute.
It seems everyone is examining their stash and the reasons why they built it in the first place. Judy explained here and Keryn in this post. My stash started to be enhanced in the early '80's, when I decided it was allowable to buy new fabric just to use in patchwork. I can still remember the shop and the fabrics I bought when I made this groundbreaking breakthrough, and the three fat quarters (I sent the other half to Keryn) were the start of my 'good' patchwork stash. By the way, no-one had ever heard of a 'fat quarter' back then, we just bought skinny little slices of fabric, sometimes 10cm (3") if the shop would oblige.

They were 'poor' years, when the boys were little and the family farm my husband helped to work was battling with dreadful stock prices and interest rates were 18%. I've always been drawn to the idea of self-sufficiency and so I threw myself into raising vegetables, making nearly all our clothes, cooking everything from scratch, preserving and bottling the produce from my huge garden.

Patchwork fitted right in there, and I had huge stashes of not just cotton fabric for piecing but corduroy and denim and fleecy for clothes. I look back and wonder how I ever did it, but I loved the activity; there was always some project vitally interesting to fill my time. I knitted, I sewed, I baked, I dug in the garden and picked the produce. If only we hadn't been quite so strapped for cash it might have been an idyllic time.

Imagine my delight when I discovered the Actil Factory in Adelaide. They made sheeting and if you went round the back you could go in this little door and just about choke with the fumes of new poly material and the bargains to be had. I knew it wasn't cotton, but there was so Much of it!!
They used to sell rolls of it for a few dollars, up to 15" high and hundreds of metres long, and I staggered out to the car with all the colours I could find. I learnt to park close to the door, because those things were Heavy. This stuff turned up in my sewing for years and years afterwards, it was gifted to Keryn and other patchworking friends, who likewise were so poor that they fell on it with delight. And still the rolls didn't seem to diminish, there were borders aplenty and I began piecing the strips together to make laundry bags, mattress covers, backings, whatever needed huge swathes of material, and still it wouldn't die. The damn stuff didn't wear out either, I suppose the poly gave it unnatural powers of endurance.

Eventually, as I came to have more money to indulge serious patchwork, I gave up on the sheeting and relegated it to the back of the stash. I realised that the effort you put into quilting is wasted if the fabric isn't good quality to begin with.
This is what became of the last of my sheeting stash, two huge braided rugs that gobbled up all the blues and browns and a few other bits. I couldn't tell you how much fabric is in these, but they are seriously heavy and solid. I adore these and appreciate the power of poly in them because they don't ever look like wearing out either.

All the other sheeting I just quietly put in the bin.....

I shall continue "Stash Through The Ages" in another post, I have more to say on the subject.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tonya's first on-line class decided to make our names and send them to her, to say thankyou for her guidance. This is mine, and it's rather slapdash, but never mind. I feel like I didn't do enough to participate in the class, but there was so much going on at the same time that I was totally distracted. (You know, going to Sydney, shifting Keryn down here, setting up her house, getting the Statler, stuff like that...) However I feel that I did learn a lot from Tonya, and I loved getting to know the other people in the class. Now I know that I can actually do this sort of pieceing,I have an enormous amount of respect for our teacher because she makes this look so easy. I'll keep on building on Tonya's lessons and become more proficient, because I've got lots of ideas now for what I want to do.

I was sewing away quite happily on this when I was suddenly struck by the most appalling thought- Tonya was going to see the back of this! Now it doesn't look Too bad from the front, but there are a few seams that I had more than one go at, and I was too lazy to change the thread from a dark grey and there are snarls from the automatic thread cutter on my machine. Oops! Don't look at the back willya ,Tonya! Thanks for the class!


Thursday, November 29, 2007

I've been sewing a little and decided this leader-ender project needed to be pushed up to the finished stage. I didn't want this to be too large, so it's only about 32", and there will be a couple of borders which I haven't decided on yet. I really enjoyed these little blocks and they were pretty mindless to do, and used up the smallest triangles I'd ever want to use. The squares end up at 1"; smaller than that is just masochism.
The customer quilt is being done on my Janome, because I don't want to sew over the stitcheries and it's not a very big quilt anyway. Plus I can sew it at my house and the Statler is at Keryn's. I can do this in the early morning or late at night, as the mood takes me.

Bonnie showed a photo of her bin recently and I decided to show you mine. Understand that when fabric reaches this place there's no further use for it.
I've known patchworkers who throw away every scrap, and I'm not ashamed to say I delve through their bins when I visit and salvage quite a lot of decent fabric. In fact one friend has given up and now saves her 'rubbish' in plastic bags so that I can vet it before it gets thrown away. Keryn and I, in our early poor days of piecing, back in the 70's and '80's, used to visit a patchwork store that let people go through their bins after classes, and we couldn't believe what some people would toss out. Whole strips of fabric in some cases, and it felt good to be so frugal and use it.
But when I throw fabric out, it's done for. If I throw it out it's too small to use, has poly in it, is dreadful quality or has something spilt on it. I don't throw away any bit that I can cut a little 1" triangle from, and that's small. So it takes a while for me to fill my bin up, months and months. I keep squashing it down and squashing some more, until I can do this.......

Scrap Castle!!!!

The scraps at the very top of it are from the chenille quilt, so it's like an geological slice, I can date it by what I was working on in each layer. Oh well, that's proved how very immature I am, now I can get back to the serious business of filling up the bin again.....


Saturday, November 24, 2007

This is the first customer quilt and wouldn't you know it, it was a big one! It just has a pantograph over it, Keryn's Celtic Scrolls but it still took a long time to do. I did just about all of it myself and I was glad to unroll it from the frame, hours later. Phew!
I guess I was tired because I'd already done this smaller top of mine in the morning. I made this about 15 years ago, from a picture in a magazine. (I think it was a 30's quilt, but I can't really remember now.) I pieced it during the school holidays when the boys were little, and I loved doing it, enjoyed every bit. I used to look forward to the holidays, no worrying about lunches and school clothes, and we all did whatever we liked- no routines to follow! Some mothers used to complain about having their children home for weeks, but I never did. The boys still talk about the time we built an entire medieaval village from Lego on the dining room table and it stayed there for the whole holidays. We had to eat meals on our laps, but who cared?
The back was made from ten inch squares, a la Bonnie, and it worked out well. It's easy to measure, just count the squares and times by ten.
And here is another addition to my doggie grandkids. Middle son Rob and his partner have bought a puppy, a cross between a Brittany Spaniel and a Golden Retriever. The words Seriously Cute do not adequately describe this darling. His name is Curtis and he had us in fits of laughter at his antics; let's just say he's not very co-ordinated yet. I couldn't get a full length picture because the camera batteries died after I took these, but his legs are very long and fluffy and seem to all go in independant directions.Mac was overpoweringly curious about him, and poor Curtis was a bit overwhelmed at times. I think we'll wait until he's a bit older till they can play together, Mac is far too boisterous a companion for a ten week old puppy.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I've declared a day off, to do Whatever I Want. I'm working on four quilts, but none of them are mine, and I think I deserve to focus on my stuff for a day. It's been so long since I did any pieceing I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms. But lo, when I went to use my little Singer, something was amiss! It made a terrible thumping sound even though it still sewed perfectly. I traced it to the belt, which is made of leather and has split almost through. Every time the split piece went round it made the motor housing knock against the body of the machine, hence the noise. I was glad it was something so fixable, that I'm able to do myself, but it means a 28k trip into town for a replacement.

I'll have to use something else for my piecing fix, but there are at least three other machines I can use so it's not as bad as it could be. I love this little singer though and I won't feel entirely happy until it's all back together again.

There are more bindings to make and sew on, I seem to be cutting up metres and metres of fabric just to make into binding. This is a good thing I suppose, because I do want to use the fabric up, and some of the bits I'm using are unlovely to say the least. Pretty soon I should have enough off-cuts for a scrap binding too, so that will be a bonus.
I finished another little quilt yesterday, but the photos are on Keryn's camera so you can only see the back here. Now I've got to find a binding material for this, so it's back to scrabbling in the green drawer again.It's been dreadfully hot here, and the workroom has no airconditioning, so nothing gets done in the heat of the day. Macca as usual has his own methods of cooling off, but when he came to visit Keryn this was the most water she could come up with.
Oh well, a fella makes the best of things, doesn't he? Last night a cool change came through, and look! Raindrops on roses.....

It's lovely and cool, but it won't last for long. It's perfect piecing weather though, so I'd better make the most of it.


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