Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Free at last...

Finished the last of the customer things today - the borders on the slightly wonky quilt. (No photo.) It looks ok, just has a number of points chopped off, but the edges were so uneven, there was no way around it. Glad to be done with other people's stuff, though given that I made £15 for each of the things, I shouldn't complain too much - that's £45, which will keep me in thread and batting for some time - heck, it might even translate to actual money - usually it never gets that far... Probably won't sew at all tomorrow as it's Sarah's birthday tea (birthday today, but Brownies tonight meant we had to have friends around tomorrow) and I'll have ten 8 & 9 year olds here after school - after that I'll probably need a couple of large gins, and never mind the sewing!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A day lost, a day found

Well, yesterday afternoon I had intended to do some sewing - some work on the "icy cool" Christmas blocks (my alternative colour scheme) which I had thought I might get done - but as it happened, I broke a needle in a thick seam and spent ages trying to make the machine run again. Thought I'd thrown the timing out, but after a good clean and careful checking, it seemed fine when I stitched manually with the wheel, but the minute I put fabric in, clunk, it wouldn't sew. This reminded me of some trouble Lana and I had with the Fun Quilter at the FoQ, which in the end, turned out to be the da** machine not threaded properly. Hmmm, thinks I. And yes, sure enough, a simple rethreading and hey presto, ready to go. Of course, that was a good half hour wasted by the wayside!

However, I gained the time back today, as I thought I'd spend most of the day finishing the quilting on the brown and blue star quilt I started quilting with the Circle Lord last week, but in fact, it only took a few hours - just meandering with loops and stars and it went really quickly. And now it's done! The binding is on, and halfway sewn down (after this photo was taken) - hopefully one more night in front of the telly will do it. And it will be ready to go to America with us. Hoorah.

So with the time I had this afternoon, I DID work on the blue Christmas blocks (here's one - the rest later when they are done - I am doing nine and I think I've finished 4 or 5 and have most of the others started). Didn't do a lot else - mitred some borders for another customer of Lana's - not too hard, except for the one tail which she didn't leave long enough to mitre & I ended up having to piece from offcuts of the other tails...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Christmas in September, revisited

Spent most of the day today sewing, thanks to a cooperative family - we had friends round yesterday so the day was spent mostly cooking and eating, with a walk in between some of the gorging, so today I made up for it while the kids lazed around in front of the telly in the morning and did crafty things in the afternoon - not sure entirely what the project was, but it involved a box, some glue, and cutting lots of pictures out of discarded catalogues - whatever, it kept them happy while I sewed and DH edited another chapter or two of the book he's editing (on invertebrate neurobiology - aren't you glad you asked?)

Anyway, I finished all the blocks I had to make for the Christmas block swap, so they can go out in the post tomorrow, hopefully. I am also making 9 of these for myself in colours that are more "me" - blues, silvers, etc - finished one or two of those and partly finished a few more, but there's no deadline on them, so it's not so pressing. The ones I get back from this swap, I think I will make into a Christmas lap quilt for my mother in law - haven't given her a quilty present in a few years, so I think I can get away with it again.

I also worked on some blue and yellow "liberated" nine-patches for another swap (yes, I know, I'm a bit over-committed on swaps at the moment, though I think I've just about caught up - usually I don't have quite as many going on at once, but there were a lot I couldn't resist, for one reason or another) - not my normal colours, but I had quite a bit of yellow in my stash for a change, so I decided it would be fun and quick. And I wanted something to contrast with all the little bitty pieces of the Christmas Star block, which these did really well. I intend to make a few more - I think I have another 6 pairs or so cut out (you start with two squares - one yellow and one blue - and you end up with two blocks that are the negative of one another). I think they look really nice, actually, and I'll probably use the blocks I get back (eventually) for a baby quilt - nice neutral colour scheme for the baby of unknown gender...

Not a total loss...

Friday's sewing time, that is. I got to work on this piece - it's not mine, it's a log cabin belonging to a customer of Lana's - the customer has a degenerative illness of some sort and is unable to finish several quilt tops she had started - I think she was just beginning to do patchwork. Anyway, Lana has two tops which needed borders added to them before being quilted, this one, and a square in a square. She offered the work to me, so that's what I did in my little bit of sewing time Friday afternoon - put a mitred border on (it really needed mitre-ing, between the strong diagonal in the log cabin pattern and the striped border fabric). It looks ok - the colour goes well, and the construction of the top was fairly good, so the quilt doesn't look too wavy. The square in square is going to be harder to work with, as there are several places where there is just no seam allowance beyond the points; I'll be forced to chop some of them off when adding the border, though hopefully not too many. I decided not to tackle that one today, but get some of my own stuff done... At least I am getting paid to do these, as adding borders is such a fun thing to do! (Well, I don't really mind it that much, but I don't want my sewing life to consist only of putting borders on quilt after quilt...)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Stripe Hell...

...aka "Participant's Mystery Block" - a challenge type thing with an online group - you sign up and then each month someone nominates a block to do. You can do it in any way you like, most people pick a set of fabrics to work with or one feature fabric or whatever. This time, I chose a stripey fabric as my feature fabric. If I ever do that again, someone should shoot me. Anyway, this block is last month's nominated block - not really my style, but pretty enough. I decided to use the stripe in the flowers because I did some tulips before in a different month, where they were the stripe - it's a whole striped-flower theme thing going on. The other blocks are here - no idea what I'm going to do with them, but it's been a good exercise in working with stripes. This month (because I'm not allowed an easy block so I can catch up!) the block is a Blazing Star. Sigh. I'm going to have my revenge though - I haven't picked mine yet, and I'm thinking New York Beauty... (evil grin)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Aztec Template of the Circle Lord

Nope, not some bizarre cult, but a gadget for use with a longarm machine, which helps you do arcs and petals and octagons and stuff like that. It's kind of like using a Spirograph - remember them? We also used a "sqircle" which is a square template you use to make circles with. Anyway, with these templates you can acheive all sorts of fun effects - I haven't photographed all the blocks, though I have done all 16 - too many to do, and I'm not sure they show that well in photos anyway, although they look great in person, if I do say so myself. Also, still working on burying the ends - and we didn't do anything with more than about 4 stops and starts... Next week, I will finish the quilting, by doing a meander - probably with loops in it - in the border and sashing. And then binding and done, hoorah!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Quilting morning

Managed to get the borders on this quilt now - I think it looks nice. No idea what I'm going to do with it yet, but it can go into the box of finished tops (yes, I have a box of them) and wait until it's needed. Which works for me. I also managed to get the binding sewn onto Cathi's string quilt, which I tied last night watching telly. Tonight and tomorrow I will sew the binding down, then it's ready to be posted off. Hoorah.
I'm pleased with the way it looks - the ties don't really show in this photo, but they are there, in several colours - at the junctions of the blocks and in the centre, which makes them a little less than 4 inches apart in all directions. Hopefully that will hold it - it's not got any batting in it anyway, I just used a thin soft furry fabric - no idea what it is, but it's washable, which I thought was important with small kids in a house! And of course, the binding hasn't been turned and sewed down yet, but you get the general idea.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Better late than never...

I have a quilt top I put together with blocks from a block swap, which is going to be a wedding present for my friend Michael - those who know me well won't be surprised he's coming up to his 1 year anniversary, but besides the fact that he lives in the US and therefore I haven't seen him in a few years, I often don't get quilts to people until after they've been married a while. It's not just a time thing, it's partly that I think you are so overwhelmed when you get married, it's nice to get something a little later - and if I am going to see someone in person 6 months or a year after their wedding, I'd rather wait until then to gift a quilt and be able to do it in person. A baby quilt is a different story - you want that straight away, so the baby can use it! But hopefully, a marriage lasts long enough that having a quilt as an anniversary present won't matter. Anyway. That's my theory of wedding quilts - more than you wanted to know, I'm sure. Once in a while, I have something waiting which is suitable, but for people I know well, I like to come up with something just for them...

Anyway. About this top - I put it together ages ago, and it looks like I might finally quilt it. Lana is going to help me use the Circle Lord on the longarm machine to do different kinds of circles, spirals etc in each of the star blocks. Not sure what I'm going to do with the rest of it. Hopefully I will get to play with it on Tuesday, but I decided that I really ought to seam the backing together if there was a chance I might work on the quilt... So I did that today.

Also pinned together Cathi's string pieced housewarming quilt (they have officially moved now) so I can begin tying it tonight while watching telly. Hopefully I will be able to get that posted off to them in the new house next week or so. Hoorah. Otherwise, just a few blocks from ongoing things, nothing too interesting. Tomorrow I might put that seashell border on the neutral top. We'll see...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

There's always one...

Did a bit of sewing this afternoon after Alex got home from nursery - he was a bit tired and watched Dora for a while, so I had a little bit of time, and the choice of doing the hoovering or sewing. Gosh, hard choice! Anyway, managed to get the sashing done between the neutral blocks - the photo is a bit off as the sashing is a dark brown fossil fern and in the photo, basically just looks black. But you get the idea. However, I've decided I won't ever sash blocks from a block swap with really narrow sashing (this is 1" finished) again, because there's just not space to deal with those blocks you always seem to get in block swaps, which are either too big (in this case) or too small and which you can't really change without taking the whole thing apart and so you end up having to cut off the points because there's no seam allowance, either. How a block can be half an inch too big and STILL have no seam allowance outside the triangles, I don't know. But this is one of the things you have to be prepared to deal with when block swapping, and for me the fun of swapping outweighs the errors you get in blocks sometimes - at least in this swap none of them were unusable, which I've had before. If I wanted all my blocks perfect, I' someone to make them for me! Now I just need to get the seashell border on - I've got a thousand errands to run tomorrow, but hopefully I'll get it done Saturday.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Christmas in September

Spent some time today working on these blocks for a Christmas block swap - I am making blocks in traditional Christmas colours & fabrics (most of which I got from a fabric swap with a friend) for the other participants, plus a number of blocks in less traditional colours (blue, silver, dark red, etc) for myself. I plan to make 2 lap quilts - the traditional coloured one perhaps for my mother in law as a Christmas present. And the other one, for us. I also started putting together the neutral blocks to go with the seashell fabric I bought at Hever on the weekend - I am using a dark brown fossil fern to sash between the blocks (only 1" sashing) then will use the seashells as a border. So far, it looks great - hopefully I will have it sashed tomorrow or Thursday, so a photo should come soon...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ammended Ostrich

I was saying the other day that I thought my Ostrich wanted a bit more black space between the centre strip and the quarter-square triangle units, so tonight while watching The Aviator (excellent) I took it apart and put a strip in, and put it back together. Much better! I also added a black strip at the bottom - probably wider than I want, but easier to trim later than to add. Still not entirely decided how I will quilt it but should make a decision in the next few days so I can get started. I think I will do it by hand (gasp!).

Neutrals plan

I have a lovely collection of blocks all in neutral colours from a block swap (I know, I know, I shock you) a while ago, and I've been trying to decide what to do with them. Yesterday at Hever, I found this seashell fabric in a sale rack (end of bolt) and decided it would make a nice sashing or border. I also found in my stash some dark brown fossil fern, so maybe a narrow border around each block with that, then the seashell fabric. Not sure yet, but at least it's a step further!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hever Quilt Show, Kent

As expected, didn't sew much today, although one advantage of your 3.5 year old getting up at 7am on Saturday is that you do get an hour or so before breakfast, so I did do a few more of the batik corners I was working on yesterday. But the main quilt related activity today was visiting the Hever Quilt Show in Kent - a nice, small show, not judged except for the "Hever Challenge" (this year with an autumn theme - there's a size restriction on the quilts in the challenge, too, not sure what, but they are all reasonably small). 150 or so quilts hanging, including a few displays by a group or single artist - Annette Morgan was there this year with some fabulous pieces, even Geoff was very struck by several of hers. I love her work - I was particularly taken with one featuring a lot of discharge (snippet of this quilt is the photo on the blog today) - and she's lovely to talk to. I hope she's there again next year - any Hever organisers reading this blog , take note! More photos from the show are in my yahoo album. The colour is terrible on some of them - that's what you get for trying to take digital photos inside a marquee...

Friday, September 08, 2006

bits and pieces...

are what's all over the upstairs hallway, aka ironing station. This is because my helper (only a few more days until my smallest helper is also in school) wanted to glue small bits of fabric from the bin onto paper. At least it kept him busy while I tried to actually sew. Today I did some batik log cabin corner thingies for a swap on Quilt Shoppe Forum, as well as some more of the nine-patches and four-patches I was doing yesterday.

Tomorrow I won't be doing any quilting, but I will be spending the day in quilt-related pursuits, as I am going to the QGBI (Quilters' Guild of the British Isles) Region 2 Annual Show, at Hever Castle in Kent. It's a nice, fairly small show, but because it's in the Castle grounds, it's a lovely outing, when the weather is nice. The kids love going because there's an adventure playground and a water maze, so we're having a family day out. Unlike Festival of Quilts and so on, you can actually see ALL the quilts, several times each, and actually look at them. My virtual quilt group is having a small showing of quilts we made for a black and white challenge this year - one of our members was one of the originators of the show, so she still has ties to it and is able to arrange things like us having our quilts hung together... The only requirements were that the quilt be within a certain size limit (so they'd all hang together easily) and contain a certain percentage black and white (can't remember what, but it wasn't a huge amount). I did mine with curved pieces of hand-dyed fabrics and a collection of black and white prints I'd had for a while. It's not quilted, but rather, fastened using "o" shaped beads in a dark metallic grey.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

3 cheers for school and playdough...

Two kids in school, one 3 year old who will happily play with playdough for a good 2 hours, only occasionally needing my input - what's that mean? Sewing time! Hoorah. Finished 3 more blocks for the library swap (haven't taken the paper off the back yet, but that can be done in front of the telly, so needn't eat into my sewing time), did some nine-patch blocks for a swap my dyeing group is doing - we are leaving the 9 pathches whole, but most of us intend to split them into 4 and rearrange them, like this or this. And even did some 4 patch blocks (that's what the main photo is) for a swap I wasn't going to take part in - but I needed some leaders and enders, and these seemed well suited. They are really quick...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Ostrich done...

...except I think it wants more black space between the original strip in the middle and the QST strip - seems unbalanced there, particularly as there is a black strip between the centre and the pineapples to the left - so I think I will unpick it and add a narrow black strip all the way down to help space it out a bit...

I'm very pleased with how the flying geese came out - not as difficult as I'd feared doing the curved ones, though I think I'm glad I was hand-sewing them, rather than trying to sort all those pins on the machine. I did use a lot of pins!

I'm not trying to be an overacheiver, particularly (this was the September round, and I know it's only the 4th), but it's to be a Christmas present for my mum and I want to leave it with her when we visit in Oct/Nov, so I need to get it quilted before we leave. Not sure what I will do yet - may try hand quilting it in black, fairly large stitches (to disguise the fact that I can't do small stitches!). I'm sure you'll see it as it comes along.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Border land

Today was mostly a putting-borders-on day - I finished putting on the borders to the nesting robin - one more round to go and that one is done. Or rather, the top is done. Obviously it will still need quilting, and who knows how I'll do that...

I also put the borders on the double four patch quilt I mentioned before. The border fabric really suits the quilt, so I'm pleased with that. Decided to be a good girl and actually mitre the borders - again, it suited the border fabric.

And also helped Sarah (DD1, aged nearly 9) work on her current quilt, which is a log cabin in a variety of colours (and neutrals). She was working on her blue blocks today - she made 3 of them & she also has 3 red blocks done. She needs 7 each green and purple, but I'm thinking we might wait on some of those until after we go to the US, so she has a chance to buy some more green & purple FQs for her stash first. The girl would steal all my fabric if she thought she could get away with it. (I know, I've trained her well!)

So, a bit of a day for quilt helpers, though really today the helpers were quite helpful - sometimes, it's debatable. But I wanted to photograph a few larger tops and as it was quite windy, I needed someone to hold the bottom so the quilt top didn't completely fly away...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

September Block Lotto

I mentioned a few days ago that I'd been making blocks for a block lotto on, but as it wasn't public yet I couldn't post the photos - with it being officially September now, I can now show these blocks - I really love them. Those who know me will already be aware of my fondness for batiks, but in this lotto, the required background colour was "cream or tan" - having used a lot of cream lately in other things, I decided to break out some darker fabrics which would qualify as tans - and I just love how rich they make the batiks look. Photos of the rest of the blocks I made (there's a limit of 5) can be seen in my flickr album. I like this block so much that I'm going to make some more for myself - chances are, I won't win the lotto anyway...

I also had a chance to put two of the final four borders on my nesting robin - they are just plain blue, like the ones inside the ribbon border. This is another project like the ostrich I was working on yesterday - like a round robin, but you do it all yourself.
And I started to cut out some squares for a 9 patch swap my dyeing group is doing this autumn. Not a bad day's work. And now, off to make soup (beetroot) for lunch.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Geese are flying

Well, I did get a chance to make a start on these - did some handwork while watching telly tonight. I drafted them up more or less freehand (the "less" being the use of a cardboard "learn to tell time" clock which happened to be around, and more to the point, round...) and then am breaking them into sections and using magic paper (thin paper for foundation piecing - I like it when piecing by hand as it's really easy to sew through and you can leave it in) to piece them. The big challenge is adding the black background, as I have done some very sharp curves... The piece on the left is before the background has been added (there's actual one or two more geese to add to the top) and the one on the right is with the background added. I should add that I haven't chopped off as many points as it seems in the photo, but I haven't pressed the pieces yet, so they are still a little puffy in places. Really. :)

Ostrich Plan

Might not get any sewing done today, but I do have a plan for my Ostrich - this is a round robin style challenge except that it doesn't "fly" (i.e. move from person to person), hence the Ostrich - even though we only received the instructions today. I did a row quilt this year, intended to be a wallhanging, and have done one narrow strip each month according to that month's theme - curves, paper-piecing, quarter-square triangles, stars, nine patches or square. The one strip that doesn't look like any of those things is the starting strip. This month's theme (this is the last month) is "flying", to be interpreted how we like and I know just what I want to do - a narrow, curved row of flying geese, mostly red with maybe one or two white ones, on a black background, on the right hand side of the piece. I think it will look fantastic. Must draft it out on paper...