Thursday, April 9, 2020

Working at home?

When my son informed me three weeks ago he'd be working from home temporarily, I jokingly quipped "me, too!"  Little did I suspect that situation wasn't going to change for weeks.
My children's librarian daughter is working from home -- hard to be a public librarian without a public -- and learning how to connect via the web in more ways.
So the challenge all around is to stay well and stay busy and stay cheerful.
Very challenging goals!!

In this part of the world, it helps that spring continues to progress and thus far it's been quite pleasant.  The spring bulbs are blooming in the typical progression, I'm trying to convince a pair of robins NOT to nest on top of the power line into my home again, and the neighborhood pair of crows are establishing their homestead in a large tree 120 feet south of my backdoor.
And there are little surprises, too which always brighten the day.  The red osier twigs I cut for my "Monty Don" style cloche are sprouting leaves?!?  I wonder if they will sprout roots down below, too? 
I've been sticking to my commitment to quilt some every day!
This is the view across my kaleidoscope quilt at one of the section joins -- see the batting seam on the left, the center seam of the quilt top sections, and to the right is the backing seam.
If you missed that post, it's right HERE.
Look how flat that quilted up!!!
By Monday afternoon, I was ready to trim the quilt! 
The first step of the binding happened Tuesday morning and I spent the past couple evenings sitting outside on the front porch to work on the hand stitching!
This morning, the sun came out just long enough to recruit my daughter to hold it up for me and
 "ta-da", I have a finished quilt!!  I still need to wash it and next time I change the bedding, this quilt is going on the bed for a cheery spring view! 
I use to feel like my wheels were spinning when I finished a project even though there were always a few waiting in the wings for my return.  These days, I've started thinking a little ahead and decide on the next project while I'm finishing the current one.  
This traditional patchwork quilt is a retired teaching sample that I started to quilt during my charity group's gathering last month and since it just needs three or four more work sessions, I pulled it off the shelf this morning.
If you are joining me this month for the #aprilquiltingmarathon, here are a few tips that might be helpful based on my own experience with machine quilting.

I don't love the quilting phase of making a quilt and burying the threads is my least favorite part of the process.  I have discovered that it is more tolerable by employing one of two strategies.  
First, is to quilt edge-to-edge so there aren't any thread ends to bury!!

Second is to bury the thread ends as I go rather than letting them all accumulate (and overwhelm) at the end of the quilting.  I use one of those self-threading needles to "pop" the short threads easily into the eye (John James is my favorite brand).  
I've discovered through observation that when I pause and take time to pull out a loop of thread before pulling the needle through, the thread is more likely to stay on the needle and come all the way out where I want it to be.  That one little thing has made the task much less annoying.
I always keep a self-threading needle tucked into this little "cushion" within easy reach at my machine so I don't have an excuse for not burying the threads as I go!
During the winter, I misplaced one of my "quilting gloves" -- annoying but at least I didn't stitch it to the back of a quilt!?!  So to "make due" I grabbed one of my light weight outdoor gloves and wore it on one hand.  When I finished the quilting session, I noticed that the hand with the outdoor glove wasn't as achy as my other hand (arthritis you know).  
That was a lovely discovery!
So I bought a bright pair of light weight outdoor gloves and these are my quilting gloves now!
Warm hands are happy hands! 
 I have learned to start quilting even if I just have one idea for a section of a quilt.  With this quilt, all I could think of to begin was to "stitch-in-ditch" along the sashing.  
Next decision was to add the parallel lines to the outer setting triangles.
Two weeks passed and when I came back to this piece, I added the center flowers which are based on the "pumpkin seed" motif. 
Notice that the flower petals are not perfect - but it stills looks like a flower.
While I rarely unstitch and redo a motif, I do pay attention to how I stitched through a motif to learn what gives me the best results.  I know by looking at this flower that the final line (right side of upper petal) was stitched away from myself  and that is always my "weakest" movement.  
By knowing that, I can avoid it or change my stitching path.
This morning when I sat down at my machine, I knew I needed to add more quilting to the blocks but didn't have the energy to trace the outline of the patchwork.
I traced out some ideas with my finger of different ways to proceed around the blocks -- it needed to relate to what I'd already done and it needed to have a minimum of starts and stops!.
Simple diagonal squares that intersect the corners of the design repeat the quilting in the setting triangles, emphasize the central flower, and there are only 4 sets of threads to bury!
Since I use a thick plexiglass ruler and a "follower" foot when machine quilting, I only needed to mark the starting point (X) and stop lines for each corner.  If I didn't have those two tools, then I would draw lines with a chalk wheel or use masking tape to guide my stitching. 
I finished all eight blocks in the quilt -- tomorrow the borders!!
One more thing to mention -- if you are trying to build your machine quilting skills, rather than focus on making everything "perfect", focus on building a specific skill.  For example in the past, I've focused on making my free motion stitch length more consistent.  One thing I learned as a result of that was that when I get tired, my stitch length control is very poor.  Another goal has been to make my stops/starts along a line of stitching invisible so I can't tell where they occur.

One of the perks of quilting up UFO's and charity quilts has been it gives me so much practice.  My skills have improved and I'm finishing more pieces all the time.  As my skills have improved, I've become less of a quilting procrastinator -- much of that stemmed from a lack of confidence but without all the practice, I would not have built the confidence.
So come on, get out a quilt top and let's do this!!
Watch my hashtag on Instagram #aprilquiltingmarathon for more ideas and encouragment!

Let's go back outside!
  Are you contemplating some vegetable gardening this summer?  
I read this morning that an English seed company is getting 8000 orders a day compared to their typical 100?!?
Maybe we should start online seed companies?

My garden helper commandeered a couple straw bales for me last fall after some Halloween festivities and they are being prepared for this year's cucumber patch.
Straw bale gardening is a pretty simple set-up for growing veggies.  My reference for it is Straw Bale Gardening Complete by Joel Karsten -- I've borrowed it from my library and read it a couple times -- this spring I discovered it on Hoopla (a library hosted reader app).
I've planted peas in the raised trough and this morning I opened the cover up to take advantage of the rain.  It's zipped shut now that the sun is shining to absorb some rays and I'm looking for peas to be sprouting in the next few days!
Be honest, did you just skip to the end to see if there was a picture of the crew?
That's my son (Dad to them) playing goofy with them.  They are all crawling and they really are as happy as they look here (most of the time).  I'm missing them a lot but staying away is best in the long run for all of us. 
My mask making count is nearing 50 at this point.  I'm using up that stack of batiks and sharing them to friends now that I've got my family covered.
Do you think quilt fabric masks will be a fashion trend by the end of the year?

Thanks for reading today's post -- I'm feeling chatty and there's no one here to talk with me so you are it!!
Stay well, stay busy, count the daily blessings, share a blessing!
God bless you abundantly!

Linking up this week with TGIFF over HERE!


  1. Thanks for the lovely post. You're certainly staying busy which is a good thing. I'm enjoying hearing all the birds singing this time of year. It's still dark when I go out to the barn in the morning but the killdeers are singing away. Such a beautiful chorus of music. Thanks for all the inspiration!

  2. Yes, yes and YES to all you said about procrastinating quilting due to lack of confidence, but confidence never grows unless you just DO IT! I'm right there with you, about to load up a quilt today if the Procrastinator Gremlins don't get in my way. I like that idea that I don't need to have the WHOLE quilting design planned out to get started. That is so true -- I just need to thread up my machine with monofilament up top and Bottom Line in the bobbin, get the beast loaded, and start in on SID. I'm sure lots of ideas will come to me while I'm connecting with the quilt block by block, seam by seam... Good luck with your April quilting goals!

    1. Whoops -- forgot to tell you how much I ADORE your kaleidoscope quilt! It's beautiful, with just enough splashes of sunny yellow to brighten it up, yet not so much that it overpowers. Very well done!

  3. Your kaleidoscope quilt is beautiful!!! I love the floral edging you did. I enjoyed reading about things going on in your studio, garden and with the GKs!

  4. So many lovely things in this post Mary (and three cuties at the end to top it off). I love the pink and green of the kaleidoscope quilt, it's very springlike to me too. I have a forsythia bush that started from a cut stick in water, it should be out in the next few days. I have a quilt that I have been working on since February, not rushing the quilting is making it a lot more enjoyable for me. Thanks for joining us at TGIFF!