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 and follow the links for Ningaloo Blooming. You can also see other versions of this quilt that were made by guild members.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Finish It Friday

I've decided to either work at making this blog something worth checking out on a regular basis, or give it up for something more productive. I've worked out a sort of schedule of topics that will at least give me a starting point for daily posts. These ideas aren't new to me; I've seen variations of them on several blogs that I've looked at recently. But don't they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? I prefer to think that good ideas are meant to be shared, and of course we will all put our unique spin on the content.

So I'm starting with Finish It Friday. This gives me a chance to show off anything I might have finished this week, as well as give me an incentive to finish something that might be close to completion. This week I have two quilts to show (no telling when that might happen again!).

The first is called Positively Negative. It is the end product of a mystery quilt that I believe I started in 2004. I have memories of living on Lakeside Street when I pieced the top, and I only lived there for part of my first year here in Lake Village.
The close-up shows how it got its name; the same block is repeated through the quilt, but with the colors reversed. I like how sometimes you see octagons, and sometimes you see stars, and sometimes you just see a maze of pieces. Making the blocks with the triangle involved using a special ruler or templates, or something like that. They're a little tricky I remember, but in the end, they came together quite nicely.
 I didn't do anything fancy with the quilting, just stitched in the ditch (by machine) around the stars to emphasize them in the finished quilt.

The second finish is called Mardi Gras, for obvious reasons. I'm pretty sure I was living in Tallulah when I started this quilt, so I'm going to peg it at around 2000. The top came about as the product of a class I took with Jackie Robinson through Quilt University which dealt with dimensional patchwork.

The close-up shows how the center of the bow tie is folded so that the sides are loose. This ended up being one of my favorite classes as Quilt U, and I've been thinking about hunting down Jackie's book in my library and using this technique to make a couple of baby quilts. I know little fingers will love exploring all the little pockets in a quilt made with these techniques. 
In the beginning I had grand designs for the embellishment of this top. I mean, what's a Mardi Gras quilt without beads and doo-dads. But in the end, I decided that too much embellishment would detract from the piecing, so I ended up just putting a sort of braid of beads around the outside edge, and some pinned-on doo-dads in some sashing spaces down the center of the quilt (they're the things that show up as white blobs in the picture).

Of course, this quilt will be for display, not for snuggling. For now, when I hang it I will use the clip-on cafe curtain rings to hang it from a rod, or simply pin it to a wall. I might change that by next year, but since it has a limited season, I'm not sure I want to spend a lot of time figuring out a better way.

My Finish It project for today is this little bookmark that I bought last summer at the New England Quilt Museum. I used to do a lot of cross-stitch, but my eyes are older now, and frankly, I find this stitching boring. But I will enjoy the finished bookmark as a reminder of my summer adventure, and it can easily be finished by the end of the day. So I accept the challenge.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Starting the new year a little bit late

It's already January 12th, and I'm just getting around to starting the new year. But since I've only been home from my annual winter trek to Alberta for 3 days, I'm not feeling too badly about it. And the good news is that I have lots of quilty plans for this year, and am anxious to get started on them. So the fact that circumstances have given me a free weekend is really good news, and I'm using that time to get some things done in the studio.

Of course, the first thing that had to be done was a bit of tidying up. Right at Christmas things got crazy, and some of the overflow got dumped in there because it was free space. Most of that has now been cleared away; what remains will require a trip up the ladder to store, and I'll save that for another day. There was yarn waiting to be wound, and a bit of sweeping that was urgent. Once that was done I could get back to the last project I was working on, which was this:

This started out as a pattern called "Eat Soup with the Side of Your Spoon" from the book Country Threads Goes to Charm School by Mary Etherington and Connie Tesene. The fabrics were a set of 10-inch squares I acquired on some shop hop or another, which I cut down to 5 inches, then pieced. I liked the colors and the way the blocks went together, but there was a major problem with accuracy. The squares were not die-cut from a manufacturer, and therefore were not precisely 10 inches square. And since I just whacked away at them, by the time I finished, the edges were pretty wonky. The solution was to add the wide muslin sashing and then trim the blocks to uniform size; any inconsistency in the width of the sashing is not at all noticeable once the blocks are set together.

Adding all that sashing also solved another problem I was wrestling with, which was how to make the top big enough to cover a bed. I started working on this quilt over Thanksgiving weekend, which I had set aside to make some quilts for Superstorm Sandy victims. Those quilts never happened, but this did, and my intention from the beginning was to make it big enough for a twin-sized bed so it could be donated to victims of the next disaster. That thinking set the dimensions for the final blocks, the sashing between them, and all the other decisions about what to do with the pieced blocks.

It's coming along well. With any luck I will have a finished top by the end of the day tomorrow. The blocks are all in strips and I just have to sew the sashing strips that go between the rows, then do the final row by row assembly. At that point I will have to set it aside until I can get to a fabric store and get backing for it, since I don't think I have anything here that will serve. It may be a while before it gets quilted, but I have other quilts that are basted and ready for quilting, so I think I will pull one of those out next and have something finished and ready. There will be disasters, and while I will still feel helpless in the face of devastation, I will be able to send comfort to one person at least.