Wednesday, February 03, 2016

February State of the Studio Report

I'm happy to say that the studio is looking a lot better than it was a month ago. I can't say I've gotten a lot done, but the room looks more like a working space than a dumping ground, and that's progress. And there's evidence of projects moving forward, and that's good news.

Let's start with the fact that the rocking chair is empty. It's not piled with things that should be elsewhere but aren't. I put this chair in this room originally with the idea that it would be a comfy place to sit and hand stitch. It's never quite worked out that way, but I have tried to keep it free from clutter. (Let's agree not to talk about the matching love seat, at least not for now.) For most of last year there was a plastic crate of pillowcases on it. Now that has found a new home, and the chair is once again available for seating. This makes me happy.

The ironing table is free of clutter. This is also a good sign. It means I need the full surface for ironing, which means fabric is being used and projects are being worked on. The cutting table is
also free of clutter; the only fabric on it is stuff I'm using for a current project. Everything else has found a different home, and I actually have room to put the different components that I'm using. It helps that I'm only working on one project right now that involves cutting; that doesn't happen all the time. But I'm liking the amount of space I have to actually work; I may do this more often.

The big news of the month of course was the arrival of Bertie. He is proving to be a very capable assistant, and I've been enjoying having him around this past week in particular now that Betsy is set up for free-motion quilting. His "home" still needs a bit of work. I need to find a place that the serger can live when not being used. That will give me more work area to the left of the machine, which is where it's most needed. I also need more light there. For now I'm making the lamp for the sewing table do double duty, which works, but I think I can do better. Moving the dehumidifier out from under the table will also help, as it's right in the place I want to put my feet. Those things will happen with time.

The design wall has been repaired, and the quilt on it is actually starting to look like a quilt. About half the components have been assembled and pinned up to begin to establish the size and the arrangement. I got the top edge established yesterday, and that made the whole thing feel more like a quilt and less like a hodge-podge of mismatched pieces.

But the star of this week is Betsy. As I said earlier in the week, I'm determined that I'm going to learn how to do free-motion quilting and get some of the thirty-odd unquilted tops lurking in the drawer under the cutting table turned into quilts and out into the world where they can do some good. I made some adjustments to how I set up the machine and got out some equipment I had bought but never used, and all of a sudden it seems to be working. Even on Monday there were parts that were looking good, and even the parts I wasn't happy with weren't terrible. Yesterday I practiced some more, and was all set up to practice more today when I decided it was time to get out a quilt top and start working on an actual quilt. This sampler is a quilt I had basted last year, so it was all ready to go. Today I put the walking foot on and stitched in the ditch between the blocks, so now everything is well stabilized. Tomorrow I'm going to try free-motion stitching in some of the blocks; nothing fancy, basically more stitch in the ditch but without having to rotate the whole quilt top every two inches. I also have those plain blocks where I can practice something a bit more exotic.

So February looks quite a bit different than January did. The possibility that I might finish a quilt this month is actually pretty exciting. And I feel like I'm starting to make some progress toward developing a skill that has eluded me for longer than I care to admit. Finishing that sampler will represent a major step forward for me as a quilter. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 01, 2016

It's February!

A new month means new goals. That's both exciting and terrifying. On the other hand, it means I can cross January off the list, and I'm okay with that. It wasn't a wonderful month, and I'm glad to see the last of it.

As usual, I got more knitting done than anything else, just because I can do it sitting in my big comfy chair with my feet up. I finished a couple of projects that were left over from Christmas, and made progress on a couple others that didn't have a specific time line attached to them. My donation project for the month was white baby blankets for The Preemie Project, and I got two finished and a third started. These are less than 30 inches square, so they go pretty quickly. I also finished a couple of hats that will go toward a couple of different projects, and a prayer shawl. So I worked my way through a good bit of yarn.

This month my donation focus is on using up scraps and leftovers. My favorite blanket pattern for scraps is the Never Ending Spiral. It works up quickly and you can use every last inch of the yarn. You can change colors whenever you feel like you've got enough of a particular color or you just get bored. Or you can exercise some control and keep at least one of the strands the same from beginning to end. These usually go to Warm Up America but I always keep a couple on hand for emergencies. Right now I've got one going in baby yarn, and as soon as it's finished I have plans to do one that uses up all the grays in my scrap bin.

Meanwhile, the studio got neglected for a bit, but with a new month, I'm determined to find some sort of focus and move things along. I got out my Craftsy classes on free motion quilting, set up Betsy with all the tools and accessories, and did 15 minutes of practice.
Even being rusty, there were portions of my stitching that I would have been quite happy to see on an actual quilt. This was one of the good sections. The lines could have been a bit straighter but I was more focused on getting a nice even stitch length, and this looks pretty good for not having done this for a couple of months. I did add a Super Slider to the machine, and I think that may have made a difference. I also ramped the motor down to one-quarter speed, so I could just put my foot down and still have a speed slow enough that I could keep up with it.

There were some other sections that weren't quite so pretty, showing that I still need a lot of practice. I also haven't done much with trying to learn specific patterns or designs. But my goal for this month is to practice every day, and maybe even get up enough courage in a week or two to get a quilt out of the drawer and work on it.

And since I was already there, I did a bit of piecing on Bennett's quilt. I also did a little bit of house-keeping, like sweeping the floor, but that got old pretty quickly. Mainly I was just getting used to being in that space again, thinking about my projects as something I will enjoy spending time with, rather than as something that should have been finished two years ago. I was remembering that one of the basic lessons of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way is that you have to put in the time. Sometimes it's exciting and sometimes it's painful, but if the time isn't spent in working, nothing happens. It's so basic, it almost seems ridiculous, but I do have to remind myself of that every once in a while.