Sunday, December 27, 2015

Slow Sunday Stitching: Let the Hand Work Series Begin!

As noted in my last post, I am currently machine-less.  This actually happened at a good time since I had planned to start a big hand work project for New Year's and had a few projects that I had planned to finish this year that are easily adapted to hand work. 

Considering that I got into quilting because it could be done completely by machine, over the years after admiring all the beautiful hand work done by many quilters, I've been slowly learning and adopting hand work techniques like hand applique and hand quilting.  Now I get to add another one:  hand piecing! 

Back in October I started doing Pam Buda's most recent Pocket Patchwork Sew Along called "Tucker".  I still had a lot of Civil War scraps from past projects and thought it a good project for putting some of them to use. 

After decorating for the holidays, I also realized I had the perfect place to display it (see Pam's explanation for why the project is called "Tucker" in her reveal post).  This would have been a quick turnaround by machine but when my machines became unavailable, I realized this little project could still be finished if I chose to hand piece it.  Even better, this little quilt isn't meant to be quilted (although you can if you want to) just backed and bound so that simplifies the handwork even further. 

Fortunately for once when I wanted to sit down and stitch, I had a day free of outside obligations so didn't have problems getting to it.  So while watching today's NY Jets football game, I've managed to get this much done so far:

Since this is the first time I'm doing piecing by hand,  I of course went to the Internet to see what advice was out there for what I expect to be a bit of a learning curve.  The first source was the queen of hand piecing, Jinny Beyer.  She has a whole section of her website that provides "Tips and Lessons" for various aspects of hand piecing. 

The other most helpful blog was one that hasn't been updated recently but had two really useful tips on it.  Chris aka "Crispy Quilts" hosts the blog "Hand Piecing With Crispy".  On it she had a great post showing how to make a "No Knot Knot" and I found her instructions on sewing seamed intersections very clear.

At this point, I'll be breaking for dinner and will go back to stitching while watching some of our favorite evening shows.  Hopefully, there will be a finish update by next week!

Linking up over at Kathy's Quilts on this week's (the last of the year) Slow Sunday Stitching post.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and a Holiday Projects Wrap-up

I've got some things to share and expect to be busy tomorrow so wanted to get in a quick post before we have to head out to see the relatives this afternoon.  It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted so forgive me that this is a bit of a long one (although that is usual for me). 

First off, to those of you who celebrate it, I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

And to all a very Happy Holiday Season!!
It turns out the last few weeks did not go quite as I expected.  In my December "Get It Done!" post, I talked about realizing that due to life changes, I have to rethink how and when I do my quilting.  That process is still going on although it is not fully settled yet.  However, paying more attention to how my days flowed, I did mange to get a few things done, even if they were not the things on my list!

For the holidays, the plan was to finish up the wool ornaments I had been working on all year (well, at least in the first three quarters of the year!) in preparation for getting a Christmas Tree and to finally quilt the "High Strung + 2" Christmas quilt top I had started last Christmas.  However, I also wanted to make some other holiday decorations and figured they would be quick and easy enough to whip out as a warm up to the other projects.

Right after Thanksgiving, I went shopping and saw this pillow in a local Marshall's:

I've always wanted to make an Advent calendar quilted wall hanging but when I saw this pillow with the little pockets for each day, I just knew this was a better option.  Part of that reasoning involved the fact that  I already had this pillow that lives on my couch: just knew I could make up a pillow cover that would kill two birds with one stone!  So after pulling stuff from stash (fabrics, fusible web for the numbers, stabilizer and ribbon trim for the front), doing some measuring, making some calculations, choosing a font in my wordprocessing program and figuring out how much to enlarge it, and then just generally making a (albeit, creative) mess:

....I wound up with this:

 I bought a few chocolate Santas to fill the pockets and I was good to go!  I even had a fabric in stash that pictures "The 12 Days of Christmas" which I used for the back of the pillow.  I also managed to whip up a label for it with some of the leftovers which was sewn onto the back of the front at the same time the pockets were sewn down:

I also love that I won't have to find a place to store another pillow all year.  When the holidays are done I can just take off the cover, roll it up and add it to the other quilts stored in the bookcase behind the couch.

I thought that would add enough holiday spirit to the couch since I still expected to hang the other quilt and have the tree in the area behind the couch (to the left of where this pillow sits).  However, I still felt the couch would need just a little more balance in the decorations.  No problem since I've collected a number of holiday decorating designs over the past few years.  One of them was this one:

A pattern by Debbie Busby of Wooden Spool Designs, this would be another in the series of projects where I get to work with wool applique.  The details of the design seemed to me to be simple enough that I thought it another thing that could be run up quickly.  However, it should be noted that the pattern is for a 9" x 7" table mat and I was looking to cover this 18" square pillow:

So needless to say, once again I needed to do some calculating to figure out how to translate the design to a pillow and enlarge it to the needed size.  I liked the scalloped edge of the original mat and needed to figure out how to easily translate that to the pillow.  The decision was that instead of the black fabric being a background with the text area appliqued on it, I made the black portion a frame to be appliqued onto a light background and the exposed center would serve as the text area.  All of this was made up from stash:  a Connecting Threads flannel for the background, the black frame and most of the red pennies from my wool stash and two of the red pennies and all the green pennies from the scraps from my (still to be quilted) Home & Heart wool BOM project.  It was also top stitched with the Aurifil Lana wool threads I stashed for that same project.  So that finished up as this:

Now at this point, with it now being the week of Christmas and the two projects I mentioned at the start of this post still to finish, I SHOULD HAVE moved on to those right?  However, by now we found out that we were not going to have to host Christmas (whew!) so decided not to go with a big tree as originally planned which took the pressure off to finish the ornaments.  I'll just add what's left to next year's "To Do" list.   However, I still wanted to do some more small space decorating and since I'd need to clear off my cutting table in order to layer the "High Strung" quilt top (which also no longer needed to be done by Christmas Day), I decided to try to work on something else that was sitting on my table.

During Black Friday weekend, the Primitive Gatherings quilt shop held their "Primitive Christmas" sale.  I had purchased my Heart & Home BOM from them as well as most of my wool stash through a Monthly Wool Gatherers Club mailing back in 2011-2012.  One of the things I purchased in the Christmas sale was a kit for a wool table mat.  I had special plans for this kit that involved these candles (battery operated) that I purchased from Leisure Arts.

Once again, the belief was that this was a really simple design that would make up quick and then move onto the layering of the Christmas quilt.  The good news was that for the most part the cutting and stitching was quick (finished over about two days):

The kit also came with the brown homespun fabric on the left for the backing and was supposed to be finished by blanket stitching the edges.  I had, however, also considered backing and binding it with the red plaid on the right from my stash or even doing a "pillow turned" edge for a cleaner finish and then maybe still adding the blanket stitching as more of a decorative element.  Also as I was stitching around the applique motifs, I thought about how cool it would look to add beads to the trees as "ornaments" possibly to something in the center of the mat (maybe some more applique or a small oval cut-work doily?) for when I decide to actually use this as a table mat in the future.  I admit I wanted to entertain all these ideas but there was no time for it and for what I wanted to use this mat for right now, it was actually just fine as it is!  So executive (and time crunched) decision:  Let's just leave it as is for now, put it in place for decoration until New Year's and add further embellishment of it to the "To Do" list for next year.  I know, I know, I'm asking for trouble but we executives sometimes have to make the tough decisions!!   So that said, up it went:

It is sitting on top of a pretty (turned over) basket that had been part of a food gift basket given to us a couple of Christmases ago.  I always kept it hoping to use it for some kind of display and this was perfect!  I actually have another plan for a display for in the basket come Easter so let's hope the "To Do" list doesn't get the best of me next year and I can get to it!  Oh, and I 've got to say those candles are a great investment.  Here's a better shot of them when the lights are low:
They are remote controlled and can be changed to twelve different colors either separately (as you see here) or as a group.  They also can be set to cycle through all the colors and can be set to "flicker" at two different speeds (hmmm, next time I'll make a video of that and post it). 
Now, I'll bet you're saying:  "that wall behind it looks a little bare".  Well that's just what I was thinking and I had a plan for that too!  Again, back in the December "Get It Done" post, I had led off talking about starting on Pam Buda's "Tucker" Quilt Along.  At the time I was waiting for the final reveal post so I could finish mine.  I didn't do it right then but after finishing the candle display, I realized I had the perfect spot for that little quilt.  Also re-reading the reveal post I realized just how easy a finish this would be since it was not meant to be quilted (although you can if you want to).  Ok, this means I could take just one more day, sew the rows together, make up some quick Flying Geese units for the last part of the QAL, back, bind and hang it up!  So I pulled out the project boards holding the project (these are my Lori Holt (of Bee In My Bonnet) design boards that I made with her tutorial but the Fat Quarter Shop also sells some premade ones now here).  Digging into my CW stash and started cutting some more squares to finish the set up of the Part Three unit (on the right below):
As you can see on the Part Two unit (on the left above) I started to sew the rows together and....what don't you want to hear on Christmas Eve with rows to sew together and another quilt waiting to be quilted?!?  Yes, my Janome machine which had already starting making noise as I was sewing up the table mat, really started acting up as I started to sew these squares. 
The machine in better days when it came back from service in April.
As far as I could see, the bobbin case is not staying in place as the machine begins to sew!  Drat!  There is no way I can take this machine in for service until next week at the earliest and I know that even if I do there's a good chance it won't get worked on until after the New Year!

Ok, technically this shouldn't be a problem since I also have another machine, my old Euro-Pro.  I had used this machine for the first eight years and thirty-five quilts of this quilty life.  However, this machine, purchased from one of the TV shopping networks, had never been serviced and I think it was a little "dodgy" when I last used it.  But, in a pinch, you've got to work with what you've got.  So I loaded it into my table:

...and...Ugghh!!  I'm having the exact same problem!  The bobbin is not staying in place.  Now, I've been sewing since I was a teenager so the workings of machines are not completely foreign to me but these are definitely issues beyond my control.  O.k., there's one last possibility....

I've had this featherweight since my mother died eleven years ago.  I believe it was her boyfriend's machine who had been a tailor.  Ever since I took possession of it, I always wanted and used it as a display piece although I know these are much coveted as "work horse machines" among quilters.  When my Janome was out for service for a very extended period earlier this year, I began to think about pulling down this little machine and figuring out if it was possible to get it in shape for service.  To that end, after reading a few recommendations, I bought David McCallum's book "The Featherweight and I" with plans to one day sit down and learn about what I had.  I've never had to chance to do this until now.  So I pulled it off the shelf, began reading and looking and....

...discovered I was (still) sunk!  The "V belt" that drives the motor is broken!  I did plug it in and the light and motor do work but without the belt to drive the flywheel which drives the needle mechanism, this option is now too a bust.  However, I've started figuring out where to get parts both locally and online.  The belt fortunately is readily available and not that expensive, however, I want to do a full work up on the machine so will need some other supplies to do a thorough job.  So while this won't be an easy solution, it will be yet ANOTHER project for the "To Do" list next year!

So what does this mean for the outstanding projects?  Well, let's just say that on the plus side, this all kind of works into the plans I had set for New Year's anyway.  As I said, I expect to be busy tomorrow but am hoping I can put a post up on Sunday.  For a hint of where I believe I'm heading.....


Hopefully, I'll be back soon with an update!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Get It Done: November Recap, December Goals

Well, there'll be no recap list this month because NOTHING FROM LAST MONTH'S LIST GOT DONE!  Despite having a shorter-than-normal list last month and checking it twice (yes, 'tis now the season!),  I didn't manage to sew anything quilt related this month. 

For starters, back in mid October, I had started work on Pam Buda's "Tucker" mini quilt-along because I thought the mini project would make quick use of some of the Civil War scraps that I already had cut.

However, when I got to step three at the end of October, I felt that I didn't have enough of a variety of scraps to complete it.  I decided to wait until the reveal at the start of November to see if what I had might actually work.  What was revealed was cute (and I already know where I want to put it if I can get it done) but also confirmed that I needed more squares in some other colors.  Rather than cut more just then, I felt I had bigger fish to fry so put it aside for the moment and moved on.  Then there was the issue of the cutting table:

Yeah, it was a big mess!  It took me almost a week to get it cleared enough to be able to actually work on it.  By then I needed to get some cutting done for the November fabric swap at the next guild meeting.  The themes for November were "Brown" and "Holiday/Winter" fabrics.

Oh, I also did some non-quilting sewing -- finally making a cover for the Styrofoam packaging that I use to store some mini pizza pans we have.  We had pulled the pans down to use for dinner one weekend and knowing that I have had the fabrics for the task for ages (which also just happened to be sitting on the messy cutting table), I figured I'd stop putting this off and just get it done. 

By now it was two weeks into the month and I finally pulled down the box for my long simmering DWR. This was to be my finish (well, at minimum the top) for Jo's Pre Mystery UFO Challenge.  However, when I laid out the center (finished back in 2012) with the borders (that I had cut back in April of this year) and tried to work on the applique for them,  all inspiration and enthusiasm for it left!  At that point other community and school obligations and the baking I needed to do for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday (three pies) all began to tumble in and I admit I was only a little too glad to be diverted, hoping inspiration would hit in the interim.

And that was it for the rest of the month!  I did try to rearrange some of the "To Do" tasks to try to take advantage of the days right after Thanksgiving.  However,  Black Friday (actually, Saturday and Sunday) running around nixed that.  This forced me to take another really hard look at my planning and at that point I realized something important.

Up until recently, I usually quilted in the late afternoon/early evening, after getting the day's chores or errands done and before I had to start diner -- which I usually didn't do until my DH (who works for UPS) called to say he had finished his delivery route for the day and was headed back to his base.  I could also continue to sew while dinner was cooking and until DH got home.  However, back in September, DH transferred from package delivery to driving tractor trailers for the company which also meant a change from working days to working nights.  I adjusted my schedule too but hadn't really thought until now about how it impacted my quilting.

Now that he works nights, I try to go to bed fairly early so I can be up early when he comes in from work (anywhere from 4 - 7 AM).  Since we no longer have the evenings to spend together, we usually spend the mornings together over breakfast.  Then we use the rest of the time to tend to any joint planning, chores or errands we need to do until he has to go to bed early in the afternoon in prep for leaving at night.  After that I "start" on my own chores and errands which is much later than I used to.  When they're done, I have to start right in on making dinner so he'll be able to pack a meal to take with him to work.  By the time he leaves for work in the evening, I'm pooped (having been up since REALLY early) and usually eat dinner with DS1 and wait for DS2 to get home (he's a high school senior so usually has after-school stuff to do and doesn't get in until late) and then I'm about ready for bed.  Unfortunately, this has also just about nixed my usual quilting time.  So going forward, I now realize I've got to really think about when I would like to "schedule" my quilting and be mindful of how much time I can realistically expect to put towards my projects.

So it's time to regroup yet again!  While I fully see how tough my circumstances are going to make finishing up things for the year, I still need to push on because whatever gets done, no matter how small, is still progress!  To that end, the December goals remain pretty much the same as the November ones:

1. UFOs:  The big priority project is still  my Autumn Double Wedding Ring.  Whereas before I just wanted to bring it to at least the flimsie stage, now I'd also really like to get it layered and quilted by year's end. 

2. Wool BOMs:  Xmas ornaments.  Time to finish these now and put them on the tree when we purchase it (and now have to decide when that will be).

3. To Be Quilted:  Last month I had two options but now am down to one:  the priority is High Strung +2, my Christmas quilt which is needed (well, wanted) for holiday display. 

4. Hand Work:  Slight change in plans here:  although I still want to get back on track with my QAYG, I've actually got a big bucket list hand work project I plan to start in 2016.  To that end, I'd like to get myself "warmed up" using the QAYG project (and still shooting for two per week).  But I've also already penciled in the prep work that needs to be done for the 2016 project for the end of the month after Christmas. 

5. WIP:  The blocks for the Halloween Quilt project remain as the leader/ender project through the end of the year and into the next.

6.  Gift Quilts:  The Baby Quilt.  Once again I must make a final decision on what I will make for this so I can start choosing fabric. I recently found a fabric that might make short work of the quilt theme so with some judicious planning maybe this can still become a Christmas gift.

7. HSY:  Now definitely want to get done  little wool wall hanging for my kitchen called "All In A Days Work" before Christmas since we might have to host this year (plans haven't been finalized as yet).  I still think this is something I could squeezed in if I plan it right.

That's it for me.  Have you ever had to rethink or plan your quilting time?  What did you decide to do?  Please share any tips you have for working in tight time frames.  Happy Holidays and Happy Quilting!!