Monday, November 15, 2010
This is the time of year when I distribute all the things I have been working on all year. Some churches have an "ingathering" in the fall to gather together all the projects various mission groups have been working on. I have an "outgoing."
Today I did the first drop-off of 44 hats for the Knitting for Noggins project at Arkansas Children's Hospital (http://www.archildrens.org/volunteer/Knitting_for_Noggins.asp). I take my hat to a very special yarn shop in Arkadelphia that serves as a gathering point for lots of charity projects and sells fair trade goods. Knit Unto Others ( http://www.knituntoothers.com/) has lots of great yarn, but more than that, is a place that invites you to have a seat at the table and just hang out and knit for a while.
Today I was smarter than usual, and determined that my visit to the shop was my only goal for the day. That meant I could spend all the time I wanted, without a need to rush off to some other place. Let's just say I went in with two bags of hats and came out with two bags of yarn. I'm on my way to well-stocked for Christmas knitting.
Tomorrow I'm off to Little Rock for the second drop-off. This one is a church-wide effort to create layette kits for newborns. The hard part of the kits, at least in the warm climate where we live, is the little sweater; they simply can't be bought around here for less than $20.00. So I promised the church that I would provide sweaters for the kits they create. This year they outdid themselves; I was prepared to knit 20 sweaters, and ended up needing 30. Amy helped by sending me 3 from her stash, so we were able in the end to complete 28 kits, with a few things left over for next year. In addition, 8 of our kits went out with handmade blankets in them. One of my parishioners loves to crochet baby blankets, and we love for her to do it.
I love watching the hats and sweaters pile up in my yarn through the room. A kitty litter pail full and labeled makes my heart feel good. But even better is the process of emptying them all at the end of the year. It means that all those stitches are on their way to the people that need them, which was the point in the first place. And of course, they go with my prayers. Whether for the child patients at Arkansas Children's or the tiny newborns that go home wrapped in one of Diane's blankets, lots of prayers go with the garments.
Maybe, when all is said and done, it's the prayers that are really the point.
Monday, November 08, 2010
Then after lunch I took out the slanted stars UFO and put the blocks up on the design wall. I did a little bit of rearranging, but didn't get too obsessive about it. I decided to tackle it by color group, so worked a bit on the lime greens, since they seem to pop out in this picture. Tomorrow I'll work on the turquoise blues, getting them more evenly spread out. Other than that, I'm just going to try not to get two blocks from the same fabric too close together, but otherwise try not to overthink it too much.
Because it was my Sabbath day, I didn't work at cleaning. The one thing I did do was put a finished top and its backing fabric back into the drawer of finished tops. I had taken it out and pressed it thinking I might give it as a gift this Christmas, but I've realized I'm not going to work on it anytime soon, so putting it away removed one bit of clutter from the back of a chair. Tomorrow I'll work at clearing the seat of the chair. One step at a time.
Then I spent several hours working on the current project, a Christmas gift in the making. I'm not going to show any pictures of anything resembling finished product, but here's a picture of the sewing table. If you can figure out what I'm making from this picture, please don't tell and spoil the surprise.
In the middle of all this Diane came by, so she got to see the studio for the first time. She remarked on the flamingos, which I guess I've gotten used to. She made me appreciate them all over again; I even got the lighted ones turned on for the first time in a long time.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
It's also a good time because I am nearly to the end of my charity knitting projects for the year. I have one baby sweater that needs buttons, and another that needs sleeves, and they will be the last of those for the year. Next week I will deliver the hats to the shop that collects them for the Knitting for Noggins project, and so however many I have done by then, that will be the end of those for the year. What knitting I do between now and the end of 2010 will be Christmas gifts and things that I myself need for the coming cold weather, but that's not the kind of production knitting I do the rest of the year.
So I'm thinking about quilts, and specifically, setting goals for what I want to accomplish between now and next spring's return to Daylight Savings Time. I have thought up six categories as a way to organize the work.
The first category is anything that relates to the studio remodel. This got stalled out in the early fall when I went to Canada and everything came to a screeching halt. There are still things sitting in the middle of the floor that need some other place to live. And the next "project" is to sort through the pattern books and get them more organized. I need to set aside a block of time regularly to work on this.
Category 2 is old quilts, or UFO's. I really do feel overwhelmed by these at times. I feel like I can't start anything new until I've finished some of the old projects, but then I don't really want to just work on old stuff either. I think if I designate some time to work on those but allow time for new work too, that will help.
Related to #2 is #3, which is stashbusting. In the process of sorting scrap bins I've actually added more to my unsorted scraps, and those bins are now overflowing. I need to work on cat quilts or something to just use up some of those pieces that are too small to save, but too big to throw away.
Category 4 is new quilts. This will include some Christmas things, but also the double wedding rings that are in production. And I won't eliminate the possibility of starting something brand new if the muse gives me the urge to get creative.
The last 2 categories are technique oriented rather than project oriented. The part of quiltmaking that I enjoy the most is hand-quilting. So category 5 is to keep making forward progress on some hand-quilting project. Right now it's James' and Crystal's DWR; if that gets finished before spring, there are plenty of tops in the drawer all basted and ready to go. Especially now that there's more light in the morning, the dining room is a pleasant place to work, so I will work hand-work time into the morning hours.
And finally, I want to spend the time to be more proficient with my sewing machine. Now that I've had the thing for 10 years, I realize I've never done the kind of systematic working out of the decorative stitches and features that I need to do to be really comfortable with anything but straight sewing. The only way it will get done will be if I block out time when that is the priority.
The hand-work category is one that I need to work on daily. Right now I don't have the callouses on my fingers to work at quilting for long stretches of time, so short stints work best. This week I've been listening to new podcasts as I stitch, and I find one podcast - about 45 minutes to an hour - is as much as I can do. So that's the goal - to quilt daily for at least that long.
Some of these are things that I don't want to do every day. Who wants to organize and clean every day? Nor do I want to do scrapbusting or machine practice for long periods of time. So these will get worked into the days when my work schedule is busiest. I'll do what I can accomplish in the time I have - 30 minutes at least - and consider it time well spent, then move on.
The days when I have more time to spend I'll work on the categories that result in quilts getting finished, the old and new quilt categories. Until Christmas, most of the new stuff will be gift related, so it will need to get the lion's share of the time. But just to be able to show some progress at the end of the week, I'll work on older stuff at least one day. I can think of one quilt that is ready to go up on the design wall, and right now the design wall is empty, so that's a good candidate for this week; it won't require putting other things away, other than making space on the sewing table, and that's not hard.
Okay - that's the plan. At least from now until March 13th, when we return to Daylight Savings time. Tomorrow is my Sabbath, which means I can spend most of the day sewing if I choose. I think I'll get those blocks out and start slapping them up on the design wall so I can play with their placement for a while. Then I'll work on the current gifty project. That and an hour or so of hand quilting should pretty well fill up the day.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
The entry for this Christmas runner included 2 photographs and samples of the fabrics used, mounted together on a separate piece of paper.
This was the one where I made a small version of the block and included it in the entry.
This is an example of the EQ layout from another quilt.
When I pulled out the portfolio to take these pictures, I found a bonus in the back - several sets of Stack and Slash blocks in various stages of completion, neatly interleaved between blank pages. Evidently I did a workshop on this technique for my local guild, and these were the class samples. There are 24 blocks all together, so here is the beginning of another quilt (or yet another UFO, but I'm trying not to think about that right now). These fabrics are mostly leftovers from the quilt I made for my dad in the mid-80's, a quilt I sleep under now that the weather has turned cool enough for a quilt on the bed. Not sure where the finished quilt will end up going, but it looks like an easy finish, so it might get done next year.
As for what I am actually sewing on right now, it's a Christmas present for somebody, so I can't talk about it.
Friday, September 03, 2010
Since the UPS man just drove up with the fabric that I ordered from Equilter.com so I would have enough for Theresa's quilt, right now my favorite thing is a Big Brown Truck. When you live in Small Town America, you have to depend on the postal service and the other parcel carriers to bring you the things you want and need. The mail truck is always a welcome sight, even when all the carrier leaves is bills and catalogs; I'll put up with those for the days when the truck also brings me treasure.
Today the treasure is fabric. The kind folks at Equilter.com called to tell me they didn't have a 10 yard piece, but had one that was nearly, and two other small pieces, a total of about 15 yards. I bought it all. Now I know that there is no more to be had in the world, and one way or another I will have to make it work.
I still have a little sewing to do before I'm ready to take a picture of the center section. I'll try to get that posted tomorrow.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
I've learned a couple of things so far. One is that this background fabric is not printed symmetrically, so it's hard to cut all the pieces indentically. I'm doing the best I can and going for overall effect rather than absolute identity. Another is that there is a LOT of waste in the cutting. Fortunately www.equilter.com had more yardage, so I've ordered another 10 yards just to be sure I have enough. I've tried a couple of different layouts and they all seem to leave about the same amount of waste, although this one with the light center at least lets me get 2 pieces out of a width of fabric. I've also decided I may vary the layout from the center to the outer edge, enhancing the light-to-dark shading effect.
In the piecing, I've had to make two modifications from the way I did James and Crystal's quilt. One was to make marking templates so I can mark off where the cornerstone seam would be if there was one, since the end of the melon background lines up with that, and so I can mark the center of the arc, since it's not the center of the piece of fabric. I've also had to clip the fabric at the cornerstone seam when I sew the arc pieces together for ease.
In some ways the sewing seems slower than it should be, but I keep forgetting that I'm not doing the tedious paper piecing of the arcs. So If the cutting and marking takes more time, I think I'm still coming out ahead. The main thing is to keep everything labeled and right side up. Thank goodness for sticky notes, highlighting tape, and a good seam ripper.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
So here's the plan. The fabrics on the left are the lights, and they will go in the center of the quilt. The ones in the middle are the mediums, and they will encircle the lights. Then on the right are the darks, and they will form the outer ring. The one thing I realized as I was drawing the working diagram is that I need another set for the arcs that will intersect the outer edge of those dark rings. But I have a good quantity of blacks that can be pressed into service; I'm not going to worry about those right now.
The basic plan is the same as before, but it has a lot more tones of teal in it. It will still shade from light to dark from the center out. I'm not bothering to redo my colored pencil sketch, because it shows what I really need it to. The most important diagram right now is this one:
It has every block labeled by row and column and every arc labeled by fabric. When I start to sew I need to know that I am working on block C3 and the arc at the top has fabric L1 and M2 in it. This is the chart that keeps the fabric labels straight:And to be extra sure I don't get them mixed up I have each fabric labeled as well.
Tomorrow I should be able to start cutting fabric. I'll do the first block with fabric I have plenty of in case I need to adjust the templates. Before the weekend is over I should at least have something sewn together.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
to looking like this:
Yes, it's a shelf piled high with boxes, but the boxes are all similar in size and shape, and they are LABELLED. The labels are even somewhat color-coded, although I ran out of one color and had to switch. Projects that were lurking in other places have been pulled out of hiding and are now assigned to a storage box. The scrap bins have found another place to live. And I pretty much know what everything is.
The bad news is that every one of those plastic boxes represents an unfinished quilt. Some have completed tops and are just waiting to be quilted. Others have a block or two completed. And I wish I could say that's the lot of them, but I can't. There are other projects I don't have boxes for at the moment, and they are just being shuffled off to a corner for the time being.
Still, it's progress. The shelf got dusted as the boxes got taken down. A couple of projects were declared abandoned and the fabrics put back in stash. A couple of others have moved up the ladder to completion, since it doesn't seem like it will take a lot to finish them. And in the process I've created enough new storage space that I don't think I'm going to have to move in extra shelves after all, although I haven't completely resolved the problem of where to store my dying equipment.
Next to tackle the notions and embellishments.
Sunday, July 04, 2010
I really need a name for this quilt, other than "The DWR" or "The Baby." I need a name that says it is this particular DWR, not just any one. It's going to James and Crystal, but it's not really "James and Crystal's DWR." I need a name that describes the unique beauty of this quilt. Something to ponder during the quilting phase.
Meanwhile I am giving the studio a major makeover. At least in terms of pulling stuff out of cubbyholes and seeing what space can be used for what. Right now it's the UFO's in various stages that have me scratching my head. These are the kinds I have identified so far:
1. There are fabric collections and scraps from finished tops. I know as soon as I put them back in stash and use them up I'll want them for something, so they need to stick together until the label goes on the quilt, or at least until the binding goes on. But maybe if they have their own storage area I can more easily monitor those tops and move them along toward being quilted.
2. There are tops in progress. These have at least one block sewn. I'm including in here collections of blocks I've received in swaps, even though I haven't really figured out what to do with them. This group has blocks, fabrics, scraps, and hopefully a pattern. Again, having them all together might help keep this group from getting any larger than it is.
3. There are quilts that haven't been started yet, but for which fabrics have been collected. Some of these are just a collection of fabrics that need to go together into a quilt, without even a design yet. Those right now are living on the narrow shelves under my main fabric storage. There's room enough for everything and I can see what's there. I'm also putting fabrics that have sufficient yardage for backing there.
4. And there are scrapbuster projects. These have no completion goal, they are just things I work on whenever I want to just sew without thinking. There are pieces cut to size, some finished blocks, maybe some directions. These need to live together so they don't get mixed up with other projects that I really do have a completion date in mind for.
I started with putting projects in plastic storage boxes on the shelf over the fabric storage. But I've run out of room, and the boxes are rather untidily stacked, and I just need for it to feel like more of a system. Labels will help. Maybe color-coded labels?
I'm pondering on all of this while I'm finishing up the Sprout quilt. I finished the machine quilting yesterday, and today I will sew on the binding. Just a few more hearts for handquilting, and it will be ready to send off to the new baby.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
The assembly of the double wedding ring has begun. The first "block" was a bit scary, but I eventually figured out that it was the same kind of seaming that I had been doing in the construction of the individual blocks, the only new element being the seam through the middle of the 4-patch (yellow in the photo above). At this point 6 of the 9 blocks are sewn together, and I'm in the process of creating the extra "melon" pieces I will need for the left and bottom edges.
That and trying to make the blocks lie a little flatter. Since I'm going to be taking it to a long-armer for basting I don't want any major bumps or bubbles in it. Today I decided to try giving the block a good spritzing with water, letting it sit for a minute or two to "relax" the fibers, then pressing the seams well and letting it come to nearly dry on the ironing table. I will then let the blocks lie flat overnight to finish drying. It seems to be helping a lot; as I suspected, I did a fair amount of stretching of the fabric as I sewed, and this is giving all that a chance to relax back into shape. I also changed the direction I pressed the seams partway through (when I went back and reread the directions in John Flynn's book). so am correcting that as much as I can as I go.
Still meditating on how to quilt the large background areas. I'm saying to myself over and over again "Keep it simple, stupid. Keep it simple." It's not just a matter of time; I don't want to do anything that's going to compete with that lovely pattern. Some is needed for the sake of keeping the batting from going wonky. But I'm thinking as little as possible. I even read the instructions on the batting package yesterday; it says 2-4 inches. There's still time to think about that, and Amy may have a good idea too.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Visiting those shops gave me an opportunity to reflect on what makes a quilt shop worth traveling out of your way to visit. For me at least, the first criterion is fabric selection. I want enormous variety. It's why I visited Kay's shop in Vicksburg even when the stuff was so crammed you could hardly move and the lighting was terrible; she has the bolts, and no one else aroun here does. (And her new store is lovely, and I hope she's proud of what her hard work has accomplished.) And of all the shops I visited, The Country Corner in Harrison, AR definitely had the fabric. I had to resist the temptation to spend all my money there and go home. I did, but I still left with 2 bags full.
The second reason I would put a quilt shop on my "Visit Again" list is atmosphere. Some shops have an ambiance all their own. Whether it's the way things are displayed, or the selection of merchandise, it's clear that the shop owner has a vision and isn't trying to do everything, just what she or he can do well. Remember Me in Mountain Home, and Quilted Heart in Horseshoe Bend were two that fit this category. They were the kind of shop that is fun to poke around in, because you know you are likely to find something that not every shop has.
The third reason is the staff. I will visit a shop with a spectacular inventory even if the staff are indifferent, but a competent and friendly staff will make me revisit a shop that has even a humdrum inventory. Quilter's Corner Fabric in Heber Springs is definitely in this group. Their collection of fabric is small (although the bargain prices help make it attractive), but I had a lovely time chatting with the owner. And at the end of my visit, she presented me with a tote bag from the guild shop hop; it was that personal touch that put that shop on the "Visit Again" list.
So, a lovely ramble through the hills, in spite of the heat. Met some interesting people, saw some interesting places, and came home with toys to keep me occupied for a little while. And 4 shops out of 9 that are worth going back to. Pretty shop hop, I say.
I can finally show the picture of the first quilt I've finished this year:
I made it as a birthday present for my friend Amy, so of course I couldn't show it until she had seen it, since she does pop in here once in a while. I bought the fabric on my last trip to the Ozarks about 5 years ago, and found it when I was going through scrap bins looking for fabrics for the Sprout Quilt. I had a great time working out the setting. And the fabric for the backing is just fabulous:
Amy likes it, and I'm pleased with it, even if some of the points aren't quite perfect and the quilting isn't professional quality.
I've started the quilting on the Sprout Quilt, but have temporarily put it aside until I can get to Monroe and buy more lime green cotton thread. I decided to work a feather stitch over the seams between the blocks and the sashings, and that takes a good deal of thread. I'm working on a list; I know I will need more battings soon as well.
While I had the surfaces cleared I decided to go ahead and baste another top that will work for a young child's quilt. Can't get a picture until the basting is done, and I'm waiting on an order of tatting thread to do that.
So with everything else stalled out, it's back to the Double Wedding Ring. Blocks are getting assembled. I can count how many of each type of piece I need. It's a number less than infinity. This is progress.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Right now I am in a basting and quilting mode. I had to clear off a lot of surfaces to get there. The ironing table needed to be cleared so I could iron whole quilts and backs. The cutting table had to be cleared to hold the quilt being basted. The sewing table had to be mostly cleared so I could scoot a quilt around under the machine arm and not send things crashing to the floor. As long as I'm set up, it makes sense to keep going. There are at least 2 more quilts ready for basting. And I'm learning that if I do a little bit at a time I don't get pains in my back or blisters on my needle-pulling fingers. So switching off between the basting and the quilting makes sense.
But in the mean time --- My friend Amy just finished a quilt that she started sometime back in the 80's, and one of her friends has just pulled out one of her antique projects and is giving it aother look. That made me think of a project that's been lurking in the dim dark recesses of my studio. And this morning I decided it would need to come out and play.I've been planning a quick get-away for next week to do a self-directed shop hop, and it occurred to me that this would make a fun project to work on in the evenings. So out it came:
I'm not really sure when I started this quilt, but I know it was in the 80's. For a long time it was a travel project; I have memories of working on it on trips to the mountains or to visit relatives. It's entirely hand-pieced. The hexagons measure 3 1/2 inches across. There are 32 full blocks, and I think each one has a different blue and a different cream floral print.
Two bits of good news. One is that the layout is done, and each block is labeled. If I can sew 1A to 1B, I'll be okay. The other is that all the fabrics used are in the box. I know I will need some partial blocks at some point, and there is plenty of fabric to create them. For now, I'll just see if I can get what I have sewn together.
Looking at the difference between those fabrics - which I was inordinately proud of at the time - and the ones I use today makes me wonder what I will be working with 20 years from now. Part of the evolution I know is that there is so much more variety available now than there was in the 80's, and that was a vast improvement over what had been available 10 years earlier. I just want fabulous colors and lots of choices.
And in the spirit of finishing projects that have been hanging around forever - I finally made the last 2 wire cubbies to finish out this fabric storage wall.
I've had the kit for at least 2 years, but there just didn't seem to be any rush to get it done. On the other hand, it makes me ridiculously happy that it is finally done. I even had enough pieces left over to create a small free-standing unit with 2 more cubbies. Not sure where it's going yet, but for now it's holding the stuff I needed to move off the ironing table - just standing in the middle of the floor. I wonder how long it will take me to move it from there. Meanwhile, the yellows looks quite happy to have a home of their own, separated from the oranges. And clearly they need more playmates.