Monday, February 07, 2011

The retreat is officially ended. I knew this afternoon it would end when the last disc of the audiobook "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert ended; to try to listen to something else and continue sewing would be anticlimactic. And I was coming to the end of what I wanted to accomplish for the weekend as well. So it's over. And I'm pleased with the result.

The Christmas project is 2/3 done. I finished the last bit of that sewing this afternoon, and have now set it aside so I can work on other things for a while. It hasn't gone far; I haven't made a project box for it. It's good sewing for a day when I don't want to have to think too much. But it's time to look at something different.

I've started sewing the Tilted stars together. I posted a picture of this quilt when I first put it up on the wall on November 8th (wow! November!), and I didn't take a new picture today before I started sewing. I'm putting 16 blocks together, so the final assembly will be 3 units wide and 4 units long. It's easy sewing; nothing matches except at the corners. All I have to do is remember which way is up, and which side is left.

I did another hour, give or take on the DWR. My fingers are starting to toughen up, but today my back was hurting some, so I didn't try to push.

That left the spring wall hanging, and it didn't get as much attention this weekend as it probably deserved, but it didn't get totally ignored. For the record, this is the way it looked at the beginning of the day:

The problem is the block in the upper right with the flowers on it. This one:

It's got sweet yo-yo flowers and dimensional leaves, and I love the way it looks. But it's the only dimensional thing on the quilt, leaving the rest of it looking a bit - well - flat. The obvious solution is to add more dimensional embellishment, but that means getting creative, and that's when my anxiety level goes up and I start sewing tilted star blocks together instead.

But I had gotten so far as to assemble a basket of fabrics and doo-dads and stuff that I thought I might be able to use some day. At some point I had made this sweet origami flower:

I think with some leaves or something around it, it will fit quite nicely into the Ohio Star block. In fact, there's a piece of lime green ribbon in there that might take ruching quite nicely. So there's the beginning of one solution.

Then I got into the drawer of yo-yo makers and got out the one that makes flower shapes. I'm thinking that 3 of those, with a couple of leaves, will nicely fill the basket. So with just an hour of work, I was able to pin a couple things onto the quilt and begin to see possibilities.

So not a finished project, but one that might be ready for sandwiching and quilting in a fairly short time. I'm hoping to find some time to work on it this week; there's another snow forecast for Wednesday, and that might help.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

I guess today was the payoff for the past two days, because today things began to come together. The work I had planned on the Christmas gift project is nearly done; I have about 2 more hours work on that and I will be where I want to be at the end of the retreat. In the course of the piecing today I got out the "leaders and enders" project I had worked on while I was piecing the DWR; I have a plan for those blocks when I have enough of them, so it made more sense to stick those blocks in the string instead of pieces of waste fabric. I kept having to stop and add more fabric to them, so it made sense that the "real" project was getting done too.

I also took advantage of a nice sunny afternoon and decent light to work on the Tilted Stars. I think it's at the stage where I'm ready to call the layout "done." I can see places where I might tweak it, but it's going to be hard to come up with a layout where two blocks of the same fabric aren't at least in the same neighborhood. And the overall effect looks balanced. So it's time to quit obsessing about getting it perfect and just start putting it together. It's a kid's charity quilt after all; perfection is not a requirement. I'll take it down from the wall in 4x4 sections, photograph the sections as I lay them out on the flannel board, and hope to get them put together the same way I have them laid out now. I make no guarantees, knowing me. But I can at least try.

I did another stint on the DWR, also taking advantage of good daylight. I'm nearly to the next corner, another marker of progress. I think the plan to quilt close to the edge, then bind the quilt and secure the edges is still a good one. Maybe with forward progress on a nearly daily basis I can get there by the end of February.

That leaves just the spring wall hanging untouched of the projects planned for this weekend. And in a moment of serendipity, there was a segment on ruching on "Sewing with Nancy" this morning, a technique I have thought about incorporating into the quilt. I suspect I will not get to this project until Monday, because there will not be a lot of sewing time tomorrow, and I will probably use it to move the Christmas project off the list. Ultimately I think it will be a process of auditioning things and making choices. That means trusting my creative instincts, always difficult for me. On the other hand, I'm getting tired of seeing this at the top of my UFO pile; I'd much rather see it finished and hanging on the wall.

Friday, February 04, 2011

I have no idea where the time went today, but I ended up with precious little time to quilt. Trini came to clean this afternoon, and of course I had to pick up around the house to be ready for her. I cooked pork chops this morning, and got the roux ready to make gumbo tomorrow. After Trini left I realized it was the 4th and if I didn't pay my water bill today it might get cut off, so that meant going out in the rain and slop. Then "Funny Girl" was coming on, and of all the movies on today, I wanted to watch that one. The next thing I knew it was 7:00 and I hadn't been in the studio yet.
I did manage about 15 minutes on the DWR. It was just before the movie came on, and so the last of daylight. The pictures are from yesterday. Taking a picture of my own hand seemed like the most logical way to prove that I had actually been quilting. But of course I couldn't stitch while I was trying to focus the camera, so it ended up being just as staged as if I had never taken a single stitch in the quilt. And then Bart came to help out gravity, and I tried taking a picture of him. But of course he's all black, and when he turns his face to the camera he ends up with "demon eyes."
When I did finally get to the studio I realized that my left shoulder had been aching all day. This is the one I injured in the accident years ago, and a cold damp day got to it. Even moving pieces from their stack to the sewing machine was causing me pain, and it was a kind of repetitive motion. So I worked through one side of a CD, then decided to just tidy up and get ready for tomorrow. Here's the table all set with cut pieces and partially assembled components, all ready to go. My glasses are even there waiting for me.
So I'm about to take some ibuprofin and head to bed. I have work to do tomorrow, but I plan to start the day in the studio. Saturday morning usually brings sewing and quilting programs to PBS, so I'll start with those, then get on with Sunday preparation. I really want to get into the studio in daylight and work on the placement of the Tilting Stars blocks, and tomorrow seems to be the day to do that.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Day One of the retreat has come to an end. I didn't have that many hours I could spend, by the time I went to Lake Providence, then went grocery shopping and had a nap, but it counts.

I first spent about 45 minutes on the DWR. It was already nearly dark when I started, so the light was not real good, and the podcast I chose was relatively short, so 45 minutes was enough. The kitties came in to keep me company, of course, so it was a pleasant time. I do wish sometimes Bart were not so completely black; it's next to impossible to get a picture of him. I'll try again another day.

Then I went down to the studio, where the primary goal for the evening was to get more pieces cut for the Christmas project. I did that, got sewing lines marked on a bunch of pieces, sewed a couple of strips together, and generally got things ready to make an assault on this project tomorrow. Because it was already after dark, I didn't try to work on the Tilted Stars; relocating colors is definitely a daylight job. Then before I left, I got out the spring wall hanging and pinned it up where I can look at it while I sew pieces together. I still can't say I have a plan, but I'm working on one.

So that's where we are, ready for tomorrow. In the morning I will have to do some cleaning to be ready for my help in the afternoon, and do some laundry. I also will do some cooking. But there will be sewing time in between tasks, and by afternoon all those things should be done. Tomorrow there may even be pictures.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

It's now official; the quilt retreat is this weekend. I don't have any special meetings or anything going on, and there doesn't seem to be any reason to put it off. And with the Super Bowl on Sunday, there is a kind of holiday feel to the weekend already. So from tomorrow night until Monday night, I'm going to be in the studio except for the times I need to be working. I even went looking for crockpot recipes today so I would have good food to eat (gumbo and pork chops, in case you're wondering).

Here are the projects I plan to work on:
1. The Christmas gift project - I'm a little over 1/3 finished with the piecing, and I plan to be 1/3 finished by Monday night. This is not a stretch by any means. The fabrics are already on the table, although I'm nearly out of cut pieces. The piecing is pretty mindless. A good project to work on while I listen to an audiobook.
2. The Twisted Stars quilt - arrive at a "final" layout. I'm not far from there now; I just need to do some climbing to work on the upper rows. This works well in small increments. Whatever condition it's in on Monday night, I will photograph it and declare it ready for assembly.
3. The Double Wedding Ring - I still can't manage more than an hour a day of hand-quilting, but 5 days is 5 hours. Forward momentum.
4. A spring wall hanging that's been on my table for a while. It needs dimensional flowers to supplement the few that are already there. Last summer I bought a whole bunch of the new Clover yo-yo makers. It's time to get them out, along with the book on origami flowers, make some decisions, and move this project closer to done. It also satisfies the requirements of the Quilting for the Rest of Us challenge.
5. Finish quilting the Yellow Brick Road quilt that I started machine quilting a few years ago. This one is a maybe, depending on getting the other machine work done. It's about half quilted, and not very skillfully at that, so I'd like to just move it off the list. If there's anything that has a chance of being completely finished at the end of the weekend, this is it. That's the incentive to move other things along so I can set up the machine for it and work on it.

So that's the plan. Tomorrow I have Bible study in Lake Providence and I will make a Walmart run for groceries and pet supplies on the way home. Once I'm home, the retreat can begin. Today I got some work out of the way, and went into the studio long enough to clear away some of the clutter and finish up the one piece of the Christmas project that was nearly done. We won't talk about the condition of the floor or the clutter in the corners; I'll deal with that stuff when it bothers me.

Oh, and I will post pictures from time to time. Progress must be recorded and celebrated.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A second trip to the doctor and another round of prescriptions, and I'm actually starting to feel half human again. Yesterday I managed a hair appointment, grocery shopping and putting away the last of the Christmas things all in one day. A week ago I cancelled the hair appointment because I didn't have the energy to do it. Today I tidied up the books on the coffee table and loaded up a stack of books to take back to the office, which freed up shelf space to put some of the other work-related books that were cluttering up another surface. Forward momentum.

I also spent some time today quilting on the DWR. I had done a little bit last week, but today managed to put in a little over an hour on it. My goal is to have it finished by mid-May so it can be carried to Canada in the truck that will be taking a load of stuff northward. This is going to mean many days of stitching, but I think it can be done. I find this makes a nice mid-day break for me, so that has helped me figure out when I am going to fit this into my life. After lunch I can load up a podcast or an audio book, and that helps serve as a time marker, as well as entertainment. I don't want to work much more than an hour at a time until my callouses are back in working condition, as that just leads to sore fingers and unhappiness.

I reset my "yarn bank" to $0 at the beginning of the year, since I knew I had depleted the balance, and then some, in buying yarn for Christmas gifts. Since yesterday was the end of the month I added up my contributions for January, and was pleased to find that I've earned $17 in credits. At the same time I realized that I really don't need any yarn. I have plenty for a year of charity knitting, as well as some lovely yarns for gifts. So I'm not planning any yarn purchases in the near future. I'll just bank the credits and see how long I can go before I find something I just can't live without, or some clearance yarn that has to be "rescued."

Right now I'm working on a set of dishcloths for Theresa and Devan's new house. It's a little late to call them a housewarming present, but that was the original intent. They should be finished in plenty of time for MJ to take them back with her in March. I also have a baby sweater and a hat on the needles, working toward this year's charity projects.

I finally decided I'm going to make a kind of "knitting journal," using an artist's sketchbook I bought on sale last year and incorporating the ball bands I'm saving. I haven't decided what all I'm going to include in the journal yet, but I'm open to ideas.

I haven't done a lot in the quilt studio yet this year, mainly because of my health, but I did do a little stitching last week on what is now going to be a Christmas present for 2011. I'm not calling it a UFO because I never put it away and worked on something else; I just ran out of time to work on it. Since it was sitting there, it was pretty easy to just pick up and start sewing. I also have the Tilted Stars on the design wall, and I'm slowly working at getting the colors distributed more evenly and identical patterns separated from each other. That one does count as a UFO, so I have both a new project and an old one going.

My next goal is to schedule a quilting retreat for myself. I'll need to study the calendar and see when I can string together a couple of days to focus just on quilting. If I can go from Thursday evening to Saturday night, I should be able to get quite a lot accomplished, including some of the clean-up tasks I want to do.

For now I'm off to finish a dishcloth and work on a scarf. The weather is turning cold again tonight; working with wool sounds like a good idea.