Thursday, June 28, 2012

Good intentions!?!

A few days ago, I noticed that I had two empty days in a row on my calendar -- there was nothing scheduled!?!  Aha, I thought -- two days of sewing time!!  And so I made a plan!  There were 3 quilt tops ready for borders plus organizing their backings.

But I was torn -- the weather was so perfect, it was a shame to be inside bent over the sewing machine.  No problem, just move the sewing machine out onto the front porch!!  And so I spent 45 minutes organizing that, then up to the sewing room to organize the projects. 

The border decisions had already been made for two of the projects, so it was a simple matter of calculating and cutting -- quickly done!  The third border was going to require more thought, so that piece went up on the work wall for comtemplation as I worked on the other two projects. 

The challenge of prepping backings these days is always how to do it with the fabric on-hand?  Because I insisted on having these bees scattered consistently around the border, I ended up with 4 not very useful strips of fabric.  Their length was fine but together they only contributed about 12" of the 55" I needed for the width and it seemed like a good idea to use them in the backing so they would not be lurking in the stash.  I thought using a turquoise fabric with them would look good but when I got to that stack of fabric, there was hardly a piece more than 1/2 yard.  So I pulled a dozen or more pieces and started thinking.

I decided that the leftover border fabric should not touch the edges of the backing because it might get trimmed off when it was time to bind the quilt.   So the turquoise needed to be on the outer edges, so I needed 5 bands of turquoise.  I calculated how much width I needed to generate to get a wide enough backing and divided that number by 5.  The bands in between the border strips needed to be 8" wide.  So I went to work cutting lengthwise pieces from each of my turquoise fabrics 8 1/2" wide and what ever length the piece was -- that varied from 9" to 27".  The only thing left to do was stitch the pieces together end to end to make five bands the length needed for the backing. 

Net results are that I used all of the border fabric and a bit over 2 yards of stash fabric.  Pieced backings with lots of seams can be a problem for hand quilters but for machine quilters, as long as you maintain the integrity of the grain of the fabrics as you put them together, it's not a problem.  The lengthwise grain of all the fabrics is consistent on this backing.  One down and two to go.

But of course, you already know how this story ends.  I did get one more set of borders sewn on but the second backing is still a pile of fabric on the ironing board and the top needing contemplation to design the borders is still on the work wall being studied.  House guests have arrived and it's gotten hot -- still I've burned through 16 yards in June and the running total stands at 97 yards . . . . and there are still a couple days in June?!?!  I can't let summer keep me from my mission to use 212 yards this year!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In Spite of Choas!

 . . . . . I've had a very productive day.  I edged and transplanted in the new garden border before it got hot.  I baked sourdough bread -- it was flat again but I think I've figured out why that is happening, so next week I'll test that theory.  And I finished a quilt! 

Are you wondering how I get so much done in spite of chaos?  It's quite simple -- I ignore the chaos!  Not for long -- usually just long enough to meet a deadline. 

So today, the only way to get this little top quilted by the end of the day was to set up my extra table in the middle of the office which happens to be the only tidy room in the house at the moment.  The view is good, there is a fan over my head, and I can stream music through my computer. 

The piece is 35" by 45" and is a teaching sample for Baby Blocks for Beginners (clever name, huh?) that I'll be teaching this fall at The Sew'n Place in Chambersburg, PA.  I decided to push all the way to the end of the project so that when it has served its purpose, I can gift it to a friend who is expecting his first grandchild in the fall.  He is Japanese and the focus fabric is a gorgeous koi print. 

The quilting design was inspired by the background design of the focus fabric -- one of those lovely Oriental flowing waves designs.  I rummaged through my thread collection (always purchased impulsively) for something that would blend with the fabrics in the top.  I found 3 partial spools, any of which would work, called the nearest shop to discover they didn't have another spool of any, and started anyway.  I used the third choice in the bobbin and my first choice in the top -- ran out of the bobbin thread about 3/4 along and the top thread made it until the last corner.  So it was good that I had another option in reserve.  Best part is that I used up all those ends and no one will ever realize it!

I think to classical music, but I machine quilt to rock-n-roll -- preferably stuff from the 80's.  I stop to stretch my neck and shoulders every hour or so (and maybe dance a bit).  Drink lots of tea.  And in 2 1/2 hours, it was done!!  See the safety pin?  It's my marker for threads that have to be woven back in and I put it there as soon as I stitch past it.  What an easy way to be sure I don't miss any of them!

So here is the finished product.  And it brings me to a total of 93 1/4 yards of fabric used so far this year.  In a perfect world, I'll be at the 106 yard mark by the end of June . . . . but I'll be okay if I'm not.  My sewing groove is back in gear at this point and that's a critical piece of this effort!!!  Right now it's time to adjourn to a lawn chair and finish the hand sewing on the binding!!   

P.S.  Did I mention that I started this quilt on June 13 and I can't believe it's finished today -- June 19!?!?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Another one FINISHED!!!!!

It was a lovely weekend in Northeast Ohio.  I spent the late afternoon on Saturday hand stitching the binding onto this quilt -- another one finished!! 

I call this piece Autumn Hillside -- the color scheme was inspired by a long drive along the Ohio River during the fall several years ago.  The forests in that area have more oak than this corner of the state, so the fall color is more somber, lots of browns and rusts with sparks of red here and there.  This photo does not show the big stitch hand quilting with pearl cotton -- guess I need a few detail photos, too.  I enjoy the technique because it tolerates imperfection nicely and over the past three years since I discovered it, this is the 3rd piece I finished doing it.  I didn't use up much fabric (just 1/3 yard for the binding), but it's good to finish one!

The fabric gobbler this past week was this kaleidoscopic layout of hexagons.  So far I've used
 about 2 1/2 yards of fabric and it's 36" by 48".  The  border will be the large swirly print in 3 of the hexagon motifs.  It's one of the samples for the seminar I'm offering in September that will focus on hexagons, 60 degree diamonds, and equilateral triangles.  I stumbled onto the setting on my design wall but now that I've copied it into EQ5 (still haven't upgraded?!?!), I've been playing with other arrangments/expansions of it.  This one uses 2" hexagons -- think I'll do another in a smaller scale.  Once I mastered "chain piecing" hexagons together, it was hard to stop so the piece almost flew together.   A clever student (named Mary) when I was teaching in Watertown, NY last month figured it out and shared it with me.  Very cool.

This evening, my guild had their monthly meeting and it was a "sit and sew" session.  I spent the time taking the borders off a quilt top -- it just didn't do anything for the quilt and I found a better option on a shopping foray a week ago.  I suppose that means I have to subtract it from the tally of fabric used, but perhaps not -- it could become part of the backing! 

Tomorrow I have to focus on a couple new teaching samples (tops only) that need to be in a shop for display by the end of June!!  More fabric to add to the tally!!  And then Thursday, I'm off to the NQA Show in Columbus for the day -- hope I don't succumb to the stimulation too enthusiastically!!  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Time to refire the enthusiasm!!

It's a piece of rhubarb custard pie with whipped cream (the real kind!).  Doesn't that look like a good way to start the day.  It's more balanced than one might think -- rhubarb is a veggie or fruit and the custard part uses eggs and milk.  There isn't that much sugar and I use a very thin pie crust!!

May was a crazy month -- some of it fun and some of it, not so much.  I did NOT sew 14 days during May between the birding and the gardening and some sort of muscle issue in my upper right arm and a setback for my Mom.  Needless to say, I did not reach the goal of using 17.66666 yards of fabric during May.  But not to worry, there is  always next month and it is here!!

6 new valances waiting to be hung!

For the past week, I've been focusing on getting back into a productive routine and have managed to use about 8 yards of fabric by making a new set of pillowcases for my bed, a Lorax pillowcase for my librarian daughter, new valances for my office (to go with the summer veggie garden wall hanging that rotates into place this week) and backing a charity quilt for my group that is currently working hard to organize a dozen quilts to send with the Chardon United Methodist Church's youth mission team who will head down to Appalachia later this month for their annual work week.

The impact of coming a bit unwound during May is that I will need to up the monthly total goal to about 18 1/2 yards.  Even with slow down, I've managed to use 81 yards this year and that's about 20 yards ahead of myself at this time last year. 

Yesterday, I cut fabric from my stash to use for a workshop with Bonnie Hunter when she visits the Ashtabula Friendly Quilters later this month.  Denise Guthrie from Mercantile on Main in Coshocton, Ohio (nice shop, one of my favorites) and I are taking the workshop together and since neither of us need a new UFQ, we've decided to take the team approach and minimize the impact!  We settled on a fabric theme (Civil War) and she is cutting the lights from her stash and I've cut the darks from my stash.  We also decided to make half the blocks so we'll each have a smaller quilt.  Good strategy -- half the work, half the fabric (all out of our stashs), and we'll get to enjoy working together and learning something!  Something to consider next time you and friend take a workshop together!

Today, I have planned an "artist's date" agenda for myself to stoke the motivation!  Julia Cameron explains this strategy in her excellent book, The Artist's Way.   It's meant to be a day on your own (no shopping with friends), exploring and enjoying the stimulation and ideas you encounter.  I'm presenting my project for the NEORQC 2013 Getaway (I'll be posting the details for this on my website, this morning at their meeting.  It's in Lordstown, Ohio and so I've mapped out several stops to make as I meander back home this afternoon -- they include Olive Grace's Quilt Shop near Cortland, the bulk food store in Mesopotamia, maybe the big daylily farm east of Middlefield (if they are open), and any interesting antique shops I see along the way.  My binoculars are always in the car so I might give in to a birding distraction, too.  The whole idea of the day is to just let it happen.  I forget to indulge in these dates regularly -- it's easy to push what seems like an indulgence aside when the schedule and the commitments are overflowing, but it's just as important as all the stuff with deadlines. 

What will you be doing to motivate yourself today?   Make it good!           Mary