Saturday, August 02, 2014

August State of the Studio Report

Well, sometimes we start out with the best intentions, and then life throws a monkey wrench in the works and we have to fall back and punt. I was all set to take a set of pictures for a July State of the Studio report when I ended up in the hospital with pulmonary emboli and DVT. Being able to breathe seemed more important than taking pictures. But getting into the studio has been good therapy. When I first came home I could sew for maybe 15 minutes at a time, and now I'm good for at least an hour so long as I don't do too much standing all at one time. And I've managed to finish a couple of projects, so the word for the year is still "forward."

Some things haven't changed. Robby's quilt is still in its bag and still in the chair. Theresa's quilt is still draped over the back of the chair. And there's still a pile of books and magazines on the floor because there's no room for them on the shelves. That is going to change this month. I have a plan.

The first project I finished was Anita's Arrowhead. This project seemed determined to bite me in the backside as often and as painfully as possible. The fact that I was working with a set of 10" squares didn't help because I had no extra fabrics unless I made the quilt smaller. So cutting a piece wrong was catastrophic. I managed to find a blue and white print that blended in pretty well, and I moved on. Then I started sewing the blocks together wrong. And I had the wrong number of blue blocks in relation to the number of yellow blocks. And some of the blocks didn't get squared up quite the way they needed to be. But in the end I got it all worked out and got everything sewed together, and the top is finished.

Someday I want to make another of these. I want to learn from my mistakes and do it better. I think this would make a stunning 2-color quilt - maybe red and white. While it's not a particularly difficult quilt to make, it's not a fast quilt. You start with big pieces and sew and recut and resew and square up. If you do it right, everything should fit together perfectly.

The second project was designed to use up some of the leftover strippy fabric from the kaleidoscope quilt.
I used a set of kitty panels that have been sitting in my stash for a long time. and just used the strippy stuff for sashing. The orange border was just there to throw something extra into the mix. This one took only a few days to put together, and it has now joined Anita's Arrowhead in the drawer of tops waiting to be quilted.
As always, the surfaces are piled high with things that haven't found a home yet, or that are sitting out for some purpose. On the left side of the ironing table is a stack of fabrics that are destined to become baby quilts for the newest members of the family. I'm not sure when I'm going to actually start those; I know it won't be until after at least one of them has been born. On the right side is a piece of knitting that needs buttons sewn on. It came down here to get blocked and has yet to find its way back to the house. Perhaps having eyes will help with that.

The card table seems to have become a permanent part of the floor plan of the studio, although that was certainly not my intent when I set it up. It has become the dumping ground for everything that's in the way somewhere else. And now something new has been added to the wire cubes on the side closest to the cutting table:
a large muslin "pillowcase" for holding fabric and batting scraps. The idea is to fill it moderately full, then sew the end closed and make a washable cover for it and call it a dog bed. I guess if I can crochet kitty cozies out of leftover yarn, I can use scraps to make a dog bed. 
The sewing table is pretty much filled up with my current project, which is putting together a bunch of quilt-as-you-go squares I made back in the spring. I'm working from the back side so I don't end up with all the lime green backing squares in one corner. I have made one significant change in this one compared to others like this that I have done, and that is I have widened the sashing. I didn't like the look of the narrow sashing, and it was difficult to sew together, so I did the math to figure out how wide to cut the strips to end up with a 1" sashing and that's what I'm using. The seam is a 1/2" seam which works perfectly with my walking foot, and the whole thing is going together quite easily. Right now most of it is on the sewing table; the rest is on the design wall. 
If I don't screw things up and if my foot and leg cooperate, I may have this one finished by the end of the weekend. Since that will be my first complete finish since March, I'm pretty excited about it.

There is one surface in the studio that's looking pretty good, and that's the cutting table. Sitting proudly in the middle of it is the next quilt I plan to baste and get ready for the machine. I have one already basted that I will start stitching on next, but in the meantime I can be getting this one ready to go. I made the top when I was in seminary - I think in summer of 1995 - so it's time for it to come out of the drawer and see the world.
I leave for my summer trip to Canada in less than three weeks. I plan to spend that time getting tops quilted and more or less get my mojo back. Then when I get home in September I'll be ready physically and mentally to tackle Robby's quilt. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June State of the Studio Report


It's been a while. I was going great guns for a while, and then I got caught up in the Ravellenic games and some yarn stash-busting and sewing just sort of hasn't happened for a while. But in the last week or so I've begun to switch gears and get more into summertime mode, which means less working on big lap projects and more time spent on things that don't trap extra heat. So it's time for a State of the Studio report.

First, a couple of projects did get finished. The Kaleidoscope top is finished. I decided to let it be crib-sized, mainly because I got tired of cutting triangles. For now it's hanging out in the drawer with other unquilted tops; someday I'll get it out and quilt it.

The Tilted Stars did finally get completely finished. The new packaged binding doesn't match the old exactly, but I wasn't about to take the whole thing off and start over, so it is what it is. I seriously doubt the kid that sleeps under it will care.








I ended up with a good bit of strippy fabric left over from the Kaleidoscope, so I got out a set of cat panels that I've been saving (hoarding) for a while and decided to put them together with strippy sashing. There are 30 panels all together, so this will be another crib quilt. It's hanging here because the design wall is currently occupied by another project.











This block is known as Anita's Arrowhead, and, like the strippy quilts, it's coming into existence because of a Craftsy class taught by Anita Grossman Solomon. The construction is interesting. You start with 2 squares, sew 2 seams, then cut the squares apart and reassemble the pieces. I had seen this technique years ago when Anita wrote it up for a quilt magazine but the class was the incentive to actually create a quilt using it. I had a set of 10" squares I had acquired on a buying expedition and some dark blue tone-on-tone that seemed like a good companion. I'm going to end up with 42 blocks that are 10" square, so it's going to be a generous twin-sized quilt. I've finished more blocks since I took this picture, so I'm nearly half done with the piecing. I'll work on color placement when I get the first 21 blocks done; there are 2 of each fabric so the 2nd half will mirror the first half in some way.

Because you sew, then cut, then resew, this quilt has taken up nearly every surface in the studio. You can see some pieces of it on the sewing table next to the machine, along with the bag containing the spoils of my last trip to Vicksburg. There are also bits of it on the cutting table and the ironing table.

As for Robby's quilt, here it is, still in the bag I brought it home from the long-armer's in. I haven't gotten up the courage to work on it yet. The new projects are meant to be a kind of warm-up exercise, getting my quilting brain and muscles talking to each other again. You can also see the pieces of Theresa's quilt on the back of the chair. The good news is that's all that's in the chair except for a couple of stray tools.




All the rest of the junk is piled here, as always. I'm more interested in sewing than in tidying right now. Some day I'll work on this.

So this is the state of the studio in mid-June. I hope there will be progress to show by the beginning of July.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

End of February State of the Studio Report

I wish I could say the studio shows as much progress at the end of February as it did the end of January, but it just isn't so. 
Tilted Stars is still in the rocker, although if you look closely you can see that a package of quilt binding has been thrown on top of it. I've got what I need to finish it, but I haven't gotten to it yet. Hexagons are still on the design wall, although I have made progress on that top in the last couple of days. 
Otherwise, there hasn't been a lot of quilty activity going on this past month. 

There were two reasons for that. The first was that I was in our local community theater's production of Les Miserables. It was a fabulous production, and I loved almost all of it, but it was a huge drain on both time and energy. And there were costumes to be sewn.  Which is why my cutting table looked like this earlier this week. All that has now been cleared away, but for a few days at least, all of that was on every flat surface in the studio.  

And then there were the Ravellenic Games, a fiber event that occurs simultaneously with the Olympic Games. I decided my challenge for this year would be to finish an afghan that had been taking up space in a corner of the yarn room for years - 5 or 6 at least. So while I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, I got out what came to be known as The Beast. At the beginning of the games it looked like this:
 and smelled quite strongly of cat pee. At the end of the Games, it looked like this, and smelled of fabric softener:
 Needless to say, it was two weeks worth of rather monogamous knitting that got The Beast finished and cleaned up good enough for company. There was no time for quilting (or much else) if I was going to get my gold medal.

But now that's done, and the musical is done, so it's time to get back to sewing.


This morning I was able to spend a little time with the hexagon quilt, and when I left for the theater, I had the top ready for its final assembly. All the green triangles are attached to a hexagon, so now there are just a few seams to assemble the rows, then sew the rows together. A couple of simple borders, and it will be a top.
Once that is done, I can finish the binding on Tilted Stars, so it can be sent on its way to its new owner. By then it will be high time to get going on Spring Meadow, which is back from being basted and ready to be quilted.

Now excuse me while I get back to sock knitting. I still have 10 pairs to finish by the end of June.

Friday, January 31, 2014

End of January "State of the Studio" Report

I'm very happy to report that the studio is looking much better than it did on January 12th. To begin with, the design wall is showing a different quilt:
This is the kaleidoscope quilt that was cluttering up my cutting table at the beginning of the month. It's still cluttering up the cutting table: 
but other projects have moved along to where I can now work on it again. It's a project from the Craftsy class "Mining your Stash." The basic idea was to create new "fabric" from strips of other fabric, then cut that "fabric" apart into pieces for your quilt. I have enough triangles cut to make the quilt shown in the instructions, but I'm not sure that's a finished size I want. So I'm going to put those pieces together, then see how much more I want to add. 
The quilt that was taking up the whole design wall and more has moved on to the next stage in its life. The top of Spring Meadow is finished, and I've sent it out to the longarmer to be basted. Since it measures 110" by 110" I need all the help I can get to bring the quilting down to a manageable task. But I think it's looking good:
and I expect to have it back in a week or so. Then the quilting will begin. It's a big quilt. It's going to be a big job. I just hope the end result looks good.

The rocking chair looks different as well. Theresa and Devan's quilt is still lurking in a corner there, but most of it is taken up with this quilt:
This is the Tilted Stars quilt I pulled out of the drawer in hopes that I would have it completely quilted and bound by the end of the month and I would have a finished quilt to show off. Alas, that plan fell a bit short. When I pulled out the project box to see what I had in there that might serve as binding, hoping at least to find some of the border fabric, I found 2 packages of navy blue quilt binding. I rarely use this because I think it's too expensive for what it is, and doesn't come in very many colors, but there it was, so I sewed the ends of the 2 pieces together and started attaching it to the quilt. That's when I discovered that 2 packages weren't enough to go all the way around. So it's going to sit in the chair and wait patiently until I can get to Hancock's and get another package of binding. So very close, but not quite there. 

The other quilt that was in the rocking chair on January 12th was Ms. Zula's quilt. I am happy to report that that top is now finished and has now taken up residence in the drawer for unbasted quilt tops. 
I will do a separate post about this quilt, because it is rather special, even though it's quite humble in appearance. My goal for the month was to get the top completed, because it also needed design wall time, and that's been done. That makes me happy. 

Other surfaces are showing improvement. The ironing table is completely clear except for irons and ironing gear:











 The card table is still here, but it has a lot less stuff on it. The pile of cat fabric is still there, but in putting away other things on the table I found a pattern book that I may have thought of using with these fabrics. I'm still not sure about that, but now they're stacked together and I can think about the possibilities.






The little cabinet behind the sewing table has been tidied.
The serger table still needs help. There's the stack of fabrics left over from the Spring Meadow quilt, at least one piece of which is destined to become binding. I'm thinking about ideas for using the rest of it, since it is a lovely coordinated group of fabrics, but that's not a priority at the moment. The fabric is there because there are no empty project boxes at the moment. There is also the bowl of pieces for the strip-piecing project. It usually lurks somewhere near the sewing machine. 

 And the sewing table itself is empty except for a few tools. I've been working on big pieces in the past week, so all loose items had to find new homes or end up on the floor.









 The one new project I've pulled out is this small top that is waiting patiently for the cutting table to be clear enough for it to get basted. It's a wall hanging that I pieced when I was in seminary nearly 20 years ago. When I pulled it out I realized I still like it a lot, so it's time it got quilted so it can show itself off.

And I didn't take a picture and my camera's memory card is now full, but I also have a stack of 36 quilt-as-you-go blocks ready to be made into a donation quilt. I just have to decide what I want to use for sashing. I did a sort of sew-in to mark Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, with the focus being on doing good for someone else. The sew-in ended up lasting almost a week; I decided to keep going until I ran out of something already prepared, which ended up being batting squares. 

So on to February. In February the Olympics will be going on, and that means the Ravellenic Games will be running concurrently. That's an occasion to work on yarn-related projects, so there might not be as much quilty stuff going on for those two weeks. For now I'm going to go play with triangles. 






Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's 2014 Already!

Where did 2013 go? I got a lot of things done last year that never got recorded in this blog, and I'm not going to try to go back and list them all now. But I still managed to end the year with the studio in a mess, and the weight of a ton of unfinished projects on my back. The fact that I went to Canada for 5 weeks and was gone through most of December didn't help, although most of that time I was working frantically on the Christmas knitting.
So I'm going to start with a "State of the Studio" report. It may not have the same significance to the world as a State of the Union address, but it has more significance to me.

As usual, every flat surface has fabric and a project in some stage of completion/incompletion on it. On the design wall is a quilt that should have been finished and gone from my life before Christmas:
There are also pieces of this quilt on my ironing board, my sewing table, my cutting table and the stool next to the cutting table. It's a commission for a good friend, who wanted it for his daughter's first winter in her new house. I'm gunning for Easter at this point. First goal is to have the top pieced and at the long-armer's for basting by the end of the month. The block rows are all pieced, so all that's left is the rest of the sashing and the borders, which are not pieced. I think this is achievable without too much stress and strain, even though it is a king-sized quilt.

When Jane Gower's quilt went up on the wall, two other projects had to come down, and they are now draped over the back and arm of the rocker:
The first is the double wedding ring quilt for Devan and Theresa. I think they will celebrate their fourth anniversary this year. Once Jane Gower's quilt is off the wall, this one will be the next big project that gets attention.
The second is what I'm calling "Miss Zula's Quilt," named for the woman who sewed these blocks into strips while she was in the nursing home. This is not fine quilting by any stretch of the imagination, but I want to finish this quilt for her and enjoy it. Since she stitched by hand and was in the early stages of Alzheimer's, the seams need reinforcing, although the seam width is remarkably consistent. This is an auto-pilot project, for those days when I want to just sew, and not make design decisions or worry about precision.

The cutting table has a strip set on one end of it:
This strip set is from a Craftsy class called "Stripping Your Stash," taught by Nancy Smith. The basic idea is to cut strips from a bunch of different fabrics, sew them together to create new fabric, then cut that into pieces to make the quilt. I've been cutting triangles from this, but had to put it aside when I started work on Robby's quilt. I'll get back to it someday.

Continuing the tour around the studio, here's a pile of fabric sitting on the card table that was a temporary addition to the studio and which may now be a permanent fixture:
I forget why I originally pulled these fabrics out, but they are all black and white and red cat prints. I think I had a plan for them once. I don't know what it is any more, but it's a nice collection, so I don't really want to just put it back in stash.

Against the back wall is a set of shelves that have become a sort of catch-all. On top of the pile is the big pink tub that holds scraps for kids quilts. On top of the tub is a set of squares ready to be assembled into a donation quilt. I've already set aside MLK day as a "donation quilt sew-in day," so maybe I'll have a donation quilt done by the end of the month.

This little pile sits on the set of drawers behind my sewing table:
They're string-pieced strips made from the leftovers from James and Crystal's double wedding ring. I often use this as a leader/ender project when I'm working on other stuff, so I keep them handy. Someday I'll have enough for a top.

And just when I thought I had enough projects scattered about to keep me busy all of this month and half of next, one of the bloggers I follow issued a UFO challenge to finish something by the end of the month. Since I need a baby quilt for a soon-to-be-born wee one, I pulled out this:
It's all basted and ready to be quilted, and I think "stitch in the ditch" is all it needs, so this is now sitting on top of the pile on the love seat (I'm not even going to think about what's underneath it).

That's the state of my studio today. I think I'll make this a monthly feature through this year. It seems like an easy way to show progress, and might even be fun to look at come the end of the year.



























Friday, March 01, 2013

Finish It Friday

This week's Finish It Friday was actually finished on Thursday because I was working on it as a challenge that had to be done by the end of the month.

The project was a pair of thrummed mittens that had been languishing in a UFO bag for years. I bought the kit, which included both yarn and roving, on a trip to Celeigh Wool in Alberta several years ago. The yarn is by Fleece Artist, who is Canadian and does lovely yarns, and I knew I would end up with a lovely pair of super-warm mittens to wear on my trips to the Frozen North.

What I ended up with is this: The hands are too short, the thumbs are too fat, and I ran out of roving before I finished, so the tip of the hand and the thumbs aren't thrummed at all. I know what the problem is; the original pattern had almost no ribbing, so I added 2 inches of ribbing at the cuff. But because it was designed with no ribbing, the thumb gusset starts a good way up the mitten. On my mittens, I have a ridiculously long cuff. But there is no way I'm ripping these apart and redoing them. They're done, or at least I'm done with them. I'll put them in my Arctic Gear box, and wear my Vancouver Olympics mittens instead.

I'm glad that I experimented with thrumms. I don't want to think that there's some knitting technique that I haven't tried. I doubt I will ever do it again. I didn't enjoy fiddling with the little bits of roving, and had a hard time making them small enough. If I ever do decide to rip these out, I will ditch the roving and make a simple pair of mittens out of the yarn, which was quite lovely. In the mean time, there is one less project bag hanging on the coat tree, and a project that's been hanging over my head for way too long is done. Hooray!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Finish It Friday on Saturday

This week I decided was the ideal time to take a few days away from home and go visit some friends that I don't get to see nearly often enough. I had planned to come home on Thursday, but Mother Nature had scheduled a mix of sleet, freezing rain, and snow that day, so none of us went anywhere, and I came home yesterday. Of course that meant I was away from my studio all week. But on the drive home I remembered something that I had left undone for quite a while that was really no big deal if I just put my mind to it and did it. So this afternoon I cleared away a few other things and got it out.

In 2008, North Star Quilt Guild of Cadillac Michigan offered a mystery quilt called Ningaloo Blooming. The name comes from the Ningaloo Marine Park in Western Australia. I did a good job of keeping up with the steps in the mystery, and while I don't remember if I finished the top "on time" it was done shortly after the last clue was published.





Delighted with my finished quilt I laid it out to photograph and this is what I saw:
Somehow in the assembly of the components one piece had gotten sewn in the wrong place, and that meant the whole unit got sewn in backwards. And since I didn't see it until other pieces had been added, fixing it wasn't a simple matter of ripping out one seam and flipping the unit. I was so disgusted that I folded up the top and stuffed it into a drawer, saying "I'll fix that another day."

Clearly, today is another day. I cleared off my sewing table, took care of some housekeeping to make more clear surfaces, then pulled out the top and looked to see what was needed. I peeled back the outer border, then started releasing the section that was reversed, which was actually 5 squares. One of the plain squares had gotten sewn onto the wrong end of the unit, so that had to be picked out and moved to its proper position. Once that was done, the unit could be rotated so it fit properly and sewn back into place. Once the outer border was reattached, the repair was done. I now have a finished top for Finish It Friday a day late.





I like this quilt as much as I did 4 years ago when I started it. The background fabric has always been one of my favorites, and it always surprises me how well it handled being cut up and sewn back together. Even though the pattern is interrupted, it doesn't look chopped. I like the bits of tropical fish in the center of each block, in honor of the theme. I've put it up on the design wall for the moment to think about how I want to quilt it. I've thought about having a long-armer do an all-over meander, because I think this is one case where an all-over pattern might work. I'm also thinking I might quilt it myself with horizontal wavy lines to mimic water. I'll study on it, and think about what I might have in stash that will work for a backing.
By the way, the instructions for the quilt are still available on the North Star Quilt Guild web site. Go to http://www.northstarquiltguild.org/mystery.html and follow the links for Ningaloo Blooming. You can also see other versions of this quilt that were made by guild members.