Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Production Line Stitching

It turns out that a little production line stitching has been just the thing to perk me up over the past week!
 All those little tea wallets are finished!
It seems just as easy to make a half dozen as it is to make one and the positive vibes that come along with any finish is always good, right? 
(I originally bought this pattern from Kindred Quilters via Craftsy but of course, that is all gone and my internet searches for the designer came up empty.)
Since the energy was building, I tackled a stack of little (potential UFO) blocks that I made during the summer months as part of Kate Basti's #talltalesblockqal on Instagram.  
She has designed these cute paper pieced blocks to look like a slightly open book.  I started piecing the blocks with enthusiasm but after a half dozen fell into my usual cranky attitude about paper piecing.
Over the past week by setting daily goals, I turned the six blocks into Easy Peasy Drawstring Backpacks using a tutorial from the sewcanshe.com blog (HERE).  I've used it to make bags for my grandchildren and daughters and myself - it truly is "easy peasy"!
First day, I pulled fabric to frame up each of the blocks and make the outside of the bags.
Second day, I pulled fabric to make the linings and cut all the pieces for each bag.
Third day, I added pockets to the linings, found matching threads, wound bobbins and 
prepped all the tabs and casings.
Everything was sorted and stacked, ready for some production line work!
(The pocket is my add-on -- cut 5" by 6", clean finish the edges, press under 1/4" on sides and bottom edges, press down 1" on top edge, topstitch top hem, then stitch to back lining piece before assembling the bags.)
Days four and five, I assembled the bags and got them turned right sides out and pressed.
Day six -- time to face the music and make the straps -- never my favorite job but must soldier through and get it done or there would be six little UFO's still on my shelves!
Step 1- find my 1" Clover Bias Tape Make!
Thankfully, during one of my (rare) obsessed drives to organize the studio, I put all the handy but seldom used little tools in one drawer -- there it was -- waiting for me! 
Time to dive back into the stash and pull fabric for the straps!
The straps have to be pieced and I know from previous experience to do a diagonal seam rather than a straight seam -- the straight seam does not pass through the tape maker easily if at all.
Of course, the instruction sheet for the tape maker is either gone or buried in that drawer but it just took one attempt to feed the fabric into the tool to remember that a point on the end of strip is necessary!! 
Once I've started to slide the strip into the tool, I use a corsage pin to help it through the mid-section.
And here comes the pointed end! 
Pull a couple inches through and get the folds straight and flat, then begin to press the folds.
Pull the tool away from the iron slowly following along with the iron.
It's magic!! 
Soon, this pile of twelve strips . . . . .  
. . . . . became this orderly pile of twelve straps! 
Last step was to fold the strips in half and stitch along both edges!
It was so satisfying to stack up the bags and their straps as the afternoon wore on!
So the evening of Day 6 was spent feeding the straps into the casings and guides.
One done, two done . . . . six done!! 
Their destiny is yet to be determined but I like having a drawer full of little gifts that I can use on a whim.  Even grown-ups like these bags and as I was threading in the straps, I realized that if I skip the lower tabs and pull the straps up like drawstrings -- knitting bag!!
Not a bad week of stitching! 
And that doesn't even include the socks that are on the needles!
One little pair finished and two big pair halfway down the first sock! 
Do you need to see a baby picture again today?
Well I need to show you one!!
Hi, Grandma!!
The smiles and the gurgling are increasing every time I'm with them!

Hope you have a very stitchy week!!
Mary









Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Calm After the Panic

 I know you have days like my Monday.  The time change always messes me up plus I was tired from a little two day road trip to take in the Vogue Knitting Live event in Columbus and visit my friends at Mercantile on Main in Coshocton, Ohio.  I woke up exhausted and fretting about whether to unravel a few inches of this knitting project to fix a sizing issue.  I was hungry and I rushed sloppily through my back stretches (never good) -- before I knew it I was teetering on the edge of overwhelmed.
(Totally, self-inflicted of course!?!)
I hate, hate, hate to waste time dealing with a negative state of mind.  Some would tell me to pray which I do but I keep it short because I'm out of sorts -- "get me out of this, Lord!"
It's rude but to the point.

Food, a proper cup of tea, and some stitching were needed to turn me away from the brink.
So I headed upstairs to do something in my studio. 

Last week, I cut this wine corkscrew fabric up for some 9" square cocktail napkins -- the serger was threaded and getting to work was a no-brainer!
Until the machine stopped right in the middle of hemming an edge!?!
The foot pedal seemed to have failed and I still had eight napkins to do.

So I switched gears to give myself time to think.
I cut out the pieces for this week's #littlemisssawtoothqal blocks.
All the tree trunks are vertical -- yea!!  And that porcupine in the center!!
I have only seen flattened porcupines (roadkill) so I have no idea if they are this cute?!?
And these foxes must all be kits (babies) because they don't seem to be aware that lunch is in their midst (the rabbit).  These are simple blocks and I'll be done with them in no time!!
Well, obviously I needed to recut the rust squares.  
Arrrgh!?!
The blocks got finished and I called a friend to see if she has a serger like mine.  
Yes, she did!  
Could I borrow the foot pedal?
After a quick trip to borrow the pedal, I was inspired to stop at this park overlooking the local river before heading home - God's getting the credit for this idea!  That helped calm me and I determined that since the sun was coming out for the afternoon, I would take advantage of the time to clear off the patio for winter.
By the end of the afternoon,  the patio was finished and the panic had subsided.  
Today, I can barely remember what the fuss was all about?
We all have our strategies for dealing with emotional low points -- some are bad and don't help -- like eating all the leftover Halloween candy (yep, I did that).
  I know that if I just sit down and stitch (there is always something available) or if I head to the woods, I'll perk up and move out of the valley.  I think it's worth while thinking about what perks you up so that you can consciously turn to it when you feel low.

I did unravel a couple inches of the cowl and finished it today -- much better and so glad I fixed it. 
I've spent the past couple days organizing yarn and needles for the annual Christmas sock knitting escapade -- eight pairs for grandkids and daughters!
(Three pairs will be tiny!)
I finished a small quilt top for my charity group's Christmas project!
These little projects where we turn someone's cast-off blocks into a usable quilt top give me such a lift!! 
This afternoon, I started to mass produce some little tea wallets for holiday gifts.
I shared all this because we all have crummy days, right?  I look at Instagram and see all the great stuff everyone else is doing and how cheerful they "sound" but it's just a 30 second sound bit from their life -- I can't see the rest of the day.
You, too?

Time to have a cup of tea and knit me some baby socks!!
Grandma's three peas in a pod!!

Mary







Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Between Projects?

To make the statement that I'm "between projects" is probably misleading as I always have two or three actively going at any one time so to say that implies that I finish one project and then (rationally) chose a new project.

When I finished the #100days100blocks2019 quilt top and it's backing, I decided I better finish the Rose Star quilt top next as the two quilts will need to be presented to my granddaughters at the same time.  So up on the design wall it went.  
The row of blocks on the right are the start of a quilt for their brother.  The blocks are from the #littlemisssawtoothquiltqal on Instagram with @southerncharmquilts.  It's a slow pace with two new blocks every other week so over the weekend I pieced the next two blocks and worked on the Rose Star borders.

The fabrics I set aside (a couple years ago) with the Rose Star to use for borders isn't quite enough so I'm going to make four small stars to use as cornerstones.  Since my y-seam piecing technique is based on chain-piecing, I can bounce back and forth between the corner stars and the quilt along blocks.  You may think working on two different sets of blocks is confusing but it is possible because I don't have to think very hard at this point about the y-seam piecing.  It's like making 4-patch blocks for me.  But I will have to pay attention, think, about the other blocks.
 There were a few of these stitch and flip corners to do and as I was stitching them I was thinking about my long time mentor, Mary Ellen Hopkins who first taught me this technique.  Actually, I think she was the first to teach this -- her series of books from the 1990's used this "connector corner" idea in all the patterns that are so common today -- hearts, stars, bowties.  She had dozens and dozens of teacher/students who quickly embraced the idea and it has filtered throughout the quilting community over the past 25 plus years and very few of you today even know about this inspiring teacher and author.  The one thing that quilters have changed is most of you have been taught to trim off both layers of fabric under the finished triangle.  Mary Ellen taught us to leave the bottom layer in place as you see here.
Her reason?  If you don't stitch a perfect diagonal (which I almost never do), you still have a perfect square corner when the triangle is pressed over as you can see here.  This makes the assembly of the units into a block easier and more accurate.  
(I don't trim HST's either!?!)
I apparently got so caught up in my memories that I lost my focus because this block isn't right!
Wrong star points for this center!! 
Needless to say, it got "edited"!!  My "non-fussy" cuts of the animal prints remind me of pictures I've seen from trail-cams with curious animals doing funny things as they examine the camera and pass through it's field of vision -- a skunk's tail, a bear playing "peak-a-boo".
The star blocks went together much better!
I used these templates from Marti Michell's Set G to construct four starflowers to square up to 
10 1/2" blocks.  I used templates 46 and 50 for the star and 47 and 48 to make the pieced "background" diamonds.  The finished unit is 4" on each side and will sit nicely inside a 10" finished square.
To blend the starflowers with the Rose Star blocks, I pieced the surrounding "background" diamonds to create a "shadow" using a small diamond and two half hexagons.
I like to press seams away from star points to eliminate bulk in the points so I needed to set in every other diamond first. 
If you've worked with my Set-In Piecing Simplified teaching guide, you know I suggest that you don't press until a section is completely pieced.  This keeps seam allowances from getting caught in the wrong position while stitching adjacent y-seams.  
Here's the block before pressing.
Now I press just those sections pushing the seam allowances towards the diamond units and away from the star points.
I left the seams where the remaining three diamonds need to be inserted unpressed. 
Once the star blocks were pieced, I completed the pressing and centered it on top of a square ruler to figure out how to enlarge the blocks.  It was sketched out on paper but the "math" wasn't figured.
After some head scratching and experimenting, I settled on half-hexagons to maintain the angular seams of the stars.
I would need to cut them 4" deep for the right and left sides 
and 2 1/2" deep for the top and bottom. 
Happily, Marti Michell has a multi-size hexagon ruler that made it simple to cut these from strips.  Here I've moved the template over so you can see the left end of the strip which I've trimmed to start.
My stars have 4" finished sides, so that tells me what size to cut and I match those lines on the tool to the trimmed end and one edge of the strip.  Now I can cut the correct size without any fuss. 
There isn't any cutting waste either -- just flip the tool over (the text on the tool is now reversed) and match the correct lines up and cut.
All of Marti's tools include excellent instructions with illustrations so even though I don't use this tool very often, it's easy to use (as long as I'm willing to read). 

All ready to stitch.
In no time, I was pressing the finished units and ready for trimming them into squares.
Look how well all the seams play together nicely and the blocks lay flat! 
My points are crisp because there is no bulk in them.
Look over my shoulder while I trim the blocks to 10 1/2" squares
To keep the star centered, I lined up the 5 1/4" line on the horizontal center seam. 
Then I centered the top and bottom star points on the vertical 5 1/4" lines 
Trim two sides (right and top), rotate the block, line up the ruler on the 10 1/2" lines (left and bottom), trim again! 
Now the stars and the border fabrics are living together on the design wall for a day or two so I'm sure I like it.  I'm also thinking about how I'm going to quilt it.  At this point, I know I can handle it more easily by doing it in two sections and then adding the borders using ideas from Marti Michell's book, Machine Quilting in Sections.  That means undoing one of the center horizontal seams - when I figure out my strategy, I'll show you.
The quilting will happen after Christmas -- there's no rush as the kids are a couple years off from their first "big" beds.  Just trying to be ahead of the game!
Once I get these decisions made, does that mean I'm "between projects" again???

Mary