Saturday, August 29, 2020

 Machine quilting and finishing some projects has carried me through the past couple weeks!  That is all good for sure!!  Last week, I finished my youngest grandson's "big bed" quilt -- major goal reached!! 

 I made this quilt during the #littlemisssawtoothquiltqal led by Melanie at @southerncharmquilts via Instagram.  I used a layer cake I had stashed with 1 1/2 yards of background fabric for the blocks.  I moved through this project pretty quickly, starting the blocks last September and finishing the quilting this week -- not even a year!?!

So this week, I've been working on a small charity quilt. Remember this "sashed 9-patch" block I shared with you in March?  (Here's the original post with my directions for piecing these scrappy little blocks -- it's at the end of that post.)

I pieced twelve of them and set them together with sashing to make a wheelchair laprobe and my charity quilting crew layered it at our July gathering (outside on the front porch, of course).

My current strategy is to alternate quilting one of my own pieces and then a quilt to donate.  The idea has worked well for me because the charity quilts are generally small and by keeping the quilting simple I've been moving through them quickly but this time, after ditch-stitching the sashing, I froze.

My quandary was how to keep the quilting simple while enhancing the piecing.  None of my straight line ideas were inspiring me to continue.  While I don't consciously assign design tasks to my subconscious, I'm glad it goes to work on my creative blocks anyway.   Between looking at the quilt everyday laying on the machine table and some Instagram scrolling, I was inspired to adapt a four-point star motif someone shared so it fit my blocks.  As I worked with chalk sketching the idea, I enhanced it with a pumpkin seed flower to fill up the central space of the block.  Thank you subconscious for the inspiration!!

Here is my chalk sketching of my idea.  I've understood that I'm a visual person for a long time and sketching on the real thing helps me make decisions more easily.  I use "chalk wheel" devices that lay a line of chalk which I can brush off if I don't like my lines.  My original idea was to bisect the center square with straight lines that connected to the inner V's of the star but when I couldn't figure out how to stitch that without back stitching previous lines or extras stop/starts, I experimented with the pumpkin seed flower which could be easily worked into the design with no back stitching and no extra stop/starts.  

So let me walk you through it!

I used minimal marking for each block -- these are the center lines to guide me from point to point.

I start at the upper left corner of the block, aligning my straight guide tool with the corner of the block and the first centering mark.
Once I reach the centering mark, I reposition my guide and stitch out to the lower left corner of the block.  The foot on my machine is a ruler foot designed for APQS machines to use with plexiglass guides.
I continue in that way until I reach this final centering line and am in position to begin the pumpkin seed flower which is a series of free motion arcs.  My goal for each line is to reach the center X in a smooth arc.
Here I am with just two more arcs to stitch and I'll be back at the starting point of the flower at which point I'll use the guide ruler to return to the corner where I started.  One continuous line!!
Finished!!  In about four minutes (which includes marking and tying off the thread ends) I'm ready to move to the next block.  With just twelve blocks in the quilt, I can get half the blocks quilted in under 30 minutes which tends to be my session limit at the quilting machine.  When I stick to my 30 minute work limit, I find it easier to avoid a cranky neck and shoulders!
Here's the progress so far -- I have six blocks left to quilt and then maybe a straight line down the middle of all the sashing and something in the border.  I could have this piece ready to bind by Monday!
Then I can layer up and work next week on a laprobe that I've selected from the "ready-to-quilt" shelf for a housewarming gift!
It's been a pleasant week -- my goal to get back into a regular walking routine is progressing.
I enjoyed two all day babysitting sessions with the triplets!  BLISS!!
I enjoyed a couple small social gatherings (with masks).
Perhaps most important, I decided to embrace a couple perks of the current isolation.

I'm noticing my almost-empty schedule has led me to pay more attention to details and have more patience when needed.  
For example, I've started putting things away when I'm done using them because I don't have to rushing on to something else so the house is tidier and I (almost) always know where stuff is?!?
That's all good!!
  I'm doing more advanced knitting projects but I'm making lots of mistakes in my projects (argghhh - lack of experience).  I still get in a snit but they are usually short and I can back-up, undo, and fix the mistake -- like the sock that I knit twice before I got it the right size.  It was worth it!!

So I hope that I can take these habits forward with me.
It might mean I won't be as "useful" to other people but they are just going to have to get their own act together, aren't they?
Mary, the efficient dependable multi-tasker has retired!!
(All of you who've had your "slow living" act together for a while are smiling.)

So let's go have a good week and if you've had a "light bulb" moment as a result of isolation, share it with us!!


Monday, August 17, 2020


 Did we even know what "rebooting" meant until the computer age? That's what I've been doing over the past three weeks.  First, I said all the "right" sentences to my doctor last month and she urged me to start an anti-depressant to ward off impending depression.  Having already dealt with it a couple times in the past, even though I'm reluctant to start the meds I realized right now I don't have the energy to talk my way out of it this time.  So I'm phasing into the little blue pill!

I'm also strong arming my way back into a more regular walking routine since I've become very sloppy about regular walks.  I've still been birding a couple times a week but that isn't walking -- it's ambling very slowly and I need a bit more go-juice!  The challenge is that it's just so much easier to stay home and stitch and I don't feel guilty because I'm being productive.

At least I think I'm being productive (though being productive may be a bit more important to me than it really needs to be . . ).  So this morning, I flipped through my work journal to see if that has been true since being at home so much since mid-March.  Yep!!

I've made all those masks!  It's been so impressive to see so many of you part with some of your stash to mask up the folks around you!!  

I'm almost finished with the third quilt in the set I'm making for my triplet grands.  I'm starting to think about graduation quilts for the two older ones -- must keep the momentum going!

I finished three small charity quilts and have another one under way on the design wall.  I am realizing how short my attention span is when piecing a new block -- yep, twenty blocks looks like enough to me.  Ready to move onto to something new in spite of the fact that I have enough pieces cut for another 40 blocks!?!

I've knit three pairs of socks with a whimsical fourth pair in process.  I'm hoping this will eliminate the Christmas sock knitting panic later in the year!  I've never had almost half my goal finished so early!

I've finished one shawl with another just past the halfway point.  And more importantly, I resisted my favorite designer's shawl mystery project that is currently underway.  Must knit what I have!!!

I've pieced and hand quilted a lap size Halo quilt based on Jen Kingwell's pattern -- binding is ready for the hand stitching this evening!  To move through a quilt from start to finish in a few months feels like such an achievement for me -- definitely not typical!

I started a quilt that has been on my "wish list" for a couple years -- Christabella by Marge Sampson-George -- it won't look like the Aussie versions of this quilt and I'm machine piecing it.  The fabric selection is slow going but I'm having fun working with two new fabric collections and filling in with some stash fabrics.  Love those zebras!
I've read posts on Instagram about quilters losing their creative focus -- I've thought about that a bit and my long standing habit of escaping to my stitching has definitely been carrying me along through this period of relative isolation.  I'm not sure there have been any big "creative aha's" but I also believe those don't happen when one isn't working, doing, messing around with the stuff.  So I push myself to pick up something no matter how I feel because I know that most of the time, doing that will draw me into a better attitude.  It's good to be able to look back over the past five months and see that trail of finished projects.  

There have been some creative bursts in the garden!  Yesterday, as I deadheaded the purple coneflower in the hope of getting a few more blooms, I tied up several bundles and hung them upside down in the hope that the local goldfinches will find them and harvest the seeds, dropping some of the seeds into other parts of the garden!
 I can't seem to read for more than 15 minutes at a time right now so I've turned to listening to books.  My current tome is The People's History of the United States -- 34 hours!?!  But I've always enjoyed history and this book dredges up the lesser known bits of this country's history which I'm finding helpful in explaining some of our current issues.  I also hope it will help me relate our family history on to my grandchildren in a way that is relevant and truthful.

Speaking of grandchildren -- look at this!!  I can still sit in a low place with a pile of kids in my lap!!  Best part was they all climbed into my lap on their own!!

Oh, yeah and I've lost 4 pounds in spite of all my sourdough baking experiments!!  

Time to clean up the tray table next to my evening stitching spot so I'm ready to keep moving forward.  I love finishing so pushing myself back to the stitching always leads to a brighter spot!
I hope you are able to "make" yourself do the things that engage your mind to continue moving forward during these wierd times.