Wednesday, March 02, 2016

March State-of-the-Studio Report

I'm always glad to see the first of March. I feel like if nothing else I've accomplished surviving another winter, and that has to count for something. I'm expecting my yard man to show up any day to clear away the winter debris and knock the weeds back. We're supposed to have temperatures in the mid-seventies by the end of the week, and that makes me very happy.

My studio makes me very happy right now, too, even though I haven't done much in the last couple of days. Some good things happened this month.

First of all, the top of Bennett's quilt is nearly finished. All the pieces have been made and some of it has been "chunked" together. It's a bit wild and crazy, but it's for a toddler, and I hope he has fun looking at all the crazy prints and hunting for elephants that are turned the wrong way. I have high hopes that it will be finished all the way to binding and label by the end of the month. That will make me very happy indeed!

The reason I have such high hopes for a finish is that I've been working hard at learning free-motion quilting. Now that Bertie is in residence I was able to set Betsy up for FMQ and leave her that way, and she seems quite content with that. I had bought a Supreme Slider for the bed of the machine, which Leah Day recommends, so that is now installed. I found my gloves with the sticky dots on the fingers and palms and have convinced myself that they are worth wearing, even though I don't like them. I started watching Leah's Craftsy classes. And most importantly, I started practicing. Practicing a lot. That's my pile of practice sandwiches, and they are all filled with stitching. I still have a lot to learn. I'm not good at following a line yet, whether it's travelling back over a line of stitching, or following a line drawn on the fabric. And I can't make a round circle to save my life. But I can't do it with pencil and paper either, so I offer that as an excuse. But my meandering has gotten pretty good, and a couple of the designs from Leah's class look good enough to be seen in public.

In fact, I got so enthusiastic about my progress that I got a real quilt out of the "basted and ready to quilt" drawer and started working on it in between practicing on scrap sandwiches. I tried working one block as "stitch in the ditch" and that looked really bad, so I'm in the process of picking that out, and I'm doing a simple sort of flower motif in the pieces blocks. In the rest of the blocks I'm just doing a meander. I'm using black thread in a red and black print, so the stitching can hardly be seen except in the pieced blocks, so there's no point in doing anything fancy. I started by stitching in the ditch between the blocks with my walking foot, so everything is nice and stable. There have been some issues to work out, but I've dealt with them, and I'm satisfied that when I am finished I will have a quilt that I will be willing to send out into the world with my name on it. Since this is the first time I have even tried to FMQ on an actual quilt, this feels like a HUGE accomplishment.

Other than that, I haven't done a lot. I did clear away the leftovers from Bennett's quilt so I could use the cutting table for other things, and I started cutting Christmas stockings from old jeans. Someone gave me two trash bags full of jeans, and I have hopes of turning them into things that will sell at Christmas Marketplace. But cutting is slow work, especially since my wonky hip limits how long I can stand, so it will be a while before I have anything more than a stack of shapes. I do plan to sew them with the serger, and bought the navy thread so I can do that last week.

The rest of my accomplishments for February involved yarn. During Lent I work at making blankets out of my leftover scraps, and I already have 3 finished ones in the closet, ready for the next appeal following a natural disaster. I'm also working on things that can be Christmas gifts. And then there are the hats. Lots of hats. Some will go to Arkansas Children's Hospital. Some will be offered for sale at Marketplace. Some are available for donation. I just like making hats. They're small and can be cute or sophisticated, simple or complicated, made from scraps or cashmere. I keep several in a bag that goes with me every time I leave the house. It's what I do.