Monday, November 15, 2010

A couple of years ago someone who knew that I did a lot of charity knitting asked if she could do an interview for a local magazine. She said blithely, "I'll be in touch after Thanksgiving to set up a date. Oh, and we'll want to take pictures of some of y."ur work." She was completely outdone when I answered, "That's not got going to work. It will all be gone by then." To date the interview has not been done.

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 ( 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 ( 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

Today was a good quilting day. I worked on the double wedding ring for about an hour while the cats took advantage of being allowed into otherwise forbidden territory.

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.
There won't be much time for sewing tomorrow, as it's a pretty full work day. The Circle will be meeting here in the morning, so I have to put the DWR away, at least into the music room and tidy up the dining room. Cleaning up seems the best way to use a small bit of time, so that's what I'll focus on.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Today we changed the clocks back to Standard Time. It's not a traditional day for making resolutions, or charting a different course for the future. But it is a day that marks a transition from thinking about the world in summer terms to thinking in winter terms. So it seemed as good a day as any to think about quilting goals.

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

Sandy, host of the podcast "Quilting for the Rest of Us," recently did a podcast on quilt documentation ( I am showing here the documentation portfolio I set up about 10 years ago. I will also confess that the most recent entries are from 2001. I think when I made the switch from film to digital photography, I quit making a paper record. And frankly, I went through a long spell where I finished nothing. Sandy has encouraged me to do better, and I'm going to spend some time thinking about how to update this system.
I started the portfolio around the time I was being encouraged to think of myself as an artist, not just someone who twiddles with fabric as a hobby. Having a portfolio is something artists do, so I chose that format rather than some sort of notebook.

The idea was to have a standard page of information about the quilt, at least one photograph,
and anything else that seemed important about the quilt. In one case I included a smaller version of the block that made up a table runner. In a couple of cases, I included a printout of the schematic I made in EQ software. The information included a completion date (but not a starting date :-) ), the name of the block or blocks used, the type of quilting used, and anything that was special about the quilt (made for a raffle, etc.). These pictures aren't the best because the vinyl cover on the pages wants to reflect light, so I had to take them without flash, but they give a general idea of what an entry for a given quilt might look like. Every entry was to be no more than the front and back of one page in the portfolio, but since they are oversized pages, that actually is quite a bit of room.
This is what the printed information page looks like. I had a template in the computer, that I could modify as needed.

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.