Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Danger Zone

 This project is in real trouble. After months and months of work, this quilt is on the verge of becoming a WIP (a Work In Progress, otherwise known as a project laying about that isn't actually being worked on) or, more ominously, a UFO (UnFinished Project).

Half of the center applique is done. The rest is mostly pinned on and will be stitched in place today. All of the parts are sorted and just waiting for their curtain call. But I'm losing steam. I'm losing interest in finishing.

It might be the distractions. I have several projects waiting in the wings, projects that I am itching to get to. The beguiling thing is that the projects are sneaking into brand new processes and I am always enticed by the opportunity to learn something new.

I have this stack of software waiting to be loaded onto my computer. It's embroidery software for my Bernina 880, including the cut work tools. The 880 has a stitch designer function, allowing me to create my own decorative stitches. I want to design new applique edge stitches, I can already see them in my head. I'm anxious to get started, but I have this big project I need to finish first.

And then there's this pile of stuff. Have you seen the quilting they're doing with rulers and domestic sewing machines? Check this out. How did I not know about this? Of course I had to run out and get a sampling of tools and equipment. There just might be an easier way to finish quilting Christmas Yet to Come! Of course I'll need to practice, and for that I'll need practice projects. Oh, but I have this big project I need to finish first.

Of course, none of that even takes into account of all of the other distractions around here. I have this terrific new electric spinning wheel to master. And while it is the coolest thing since forever, I still love spinning on the traditional wheel, so it needs some loving attention.

As for the loom, well, I'm just not sure about that. If it's going to take up prime real estate in the living room it certainly needs to be warped and worked on. It may be looking for a new home shortly. Not sure that the weaving bug has really stuck with me. But for now, I really have to concentrate on this big project.

I worry that if I put A Fine Romance aside it will never be finished, look what's become of Christmas Yet to Come. It is still waiting to be quilted. Or worse, it will lurk in the background, making me feel guilty for not wanting it any more. Oh, wait, it's currently staring me in the face and making me feel guilty for not wanting it any more.

I'm not sure when I gave up multi-tasking projects to become a serial processor. Well, that's not completely true. I think of myself as monogamous within crafts, it's okay to work on more than one project as long as I'm cheating on quilting with knitting, or spinning or weaving. (Lucky for me that gardening, baking, and decorating are chores, not hobbies or I'd really be toast.)

Indecision might turn out to be my best friend. I am making good progress even while I think about setting it aside. What do you do? How do you stay faithful to large projects, or is that just silly? Am I the only quilter in the universe who works on one quilt at a time?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just a couple of knots

So much has happened since I started this project that I couldn't remember if I had a plan for the center of the flowers. Well, that's not true. I know I had a plan. I always have a plan. Not remembering the plan meant that I needed to come up with one pretty quick.

I was fairly certain that wool was involved, so I started by cutting circles out of different colors of wool. I had to remind myself that testing isn't wasting, that it would be so much better to toss a couple of circles of fabric than regret dozens and hours of work too.

In the end I settled on yellow. I haven't used much yellow in the quilt so far, and it adds a nice sparkle. I tried different sizes, considered cutting star shapes instead of circles. But, in the end, the yellow circle ruled the day.

(I can't believe how much the glue shows in these pictures. I sure was sloppy with it. No worries, though, it will all be gone in the first wash.)

In the end it was really all about the french knots. They make me ridiculously happy. Using #5 perle cotton makes them look like fat and happy seed beads. Some how the plan (see, I did have a plan) changed from a simple circle of knots to a center full of knots.

All that is left for me to do is to make the bias strips and get to stitching all the parts and pieces to the backgrounds. Doesn't seem like much, does it, after coming so far?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

There, now here

We have all this stuff. Too much stuff, depending on who you ask, but I'm not asking today. The trick is making it fit. Not fit, like finding a place for everything, but finding what's right for this house. I'm having trouble using what we brought with us to decorate where we are now.

To be honest, it was all starting to feel a bit stale. A couple of years ago I realized that I hadn't redecorated in a very long time. It was as if I had finally found just the right thing for each space and then left it there. I was happy with it, and then, suddenly, I wasn't. Now I've brought it all here. I'm torn between comforting familiarity and the idea of trying to make this house into the one we left. (I tried to convince Kent that we should just sell all of it and use the moving stipend to start fresh, but he wasn't persuaded.)

This is the kitchen chandelier that came with the house. Meh.

This is the chandelier that we brought with us. It was perfect in the old kitchen. It has a sweet story. My mom found it at a yard sale for a song. Knowing how much I love blue willow, she thought it would be perfect for me and had it in the trunk of her car when we found the Saginaw house. Hanging it was one of the first changes we made when the old house became ours.

I can't decide. Wall color aside (it will be gone as soon as the weather shifts us from garden to indoor work), does it fit? Can I decorate the kitchen around it? (You have no idea how badly I'd love to paint the cabinets white. If they were real wood it would have already been done.) Does it stay, or does it go?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Small victories

It was truly of moment of truth when the sashing strips were sewn together for the quilt borders. These strips were challenging little buggers, with all the angles and matching points. It didn't help things at all that they were constructed in the hotel room, with a jerry-rigged cutting table, mini ironing board and dodgy hotel iron.

There certainly is a lot of "character" in the edges, that's for sure. Truthfully, I spent more time dreading the easing it was sure to require than it actually took to sew everything in place.

Look at it! They match up to the border perfectly. Perfectly. Not a bit of stretch needed! You know this doesn't happen often, so when it does, you'll have to forgive me my little bit of crowing, please.

I'm proud of the quilts I make, but they are far from perfect. There are a lot of secrets tucked between the quilt top and the batting.

But then we're like that too, aren't we. We like to present our best face and keep our failures tucked away. I think we're the most interesting when the facade falls away and we're our truest selves. Feel free to look for the flaws. I think they are the best feature. But, for once, for this part of the quilt, no easing required!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A garden where none was before

It is fair to say that the folks who owned this house before us were not into gardening. They said so themselves. Most of what lives in the ground here has been in place for almost thirty years. Like the evergreen bushes that left the front yard earlier this summer, and the ones blocking most of the sunlight into the studio.

My original plan was to turn this area into a dry river bed, shade garden. It was dark, gloomy and uninviting. But when those nasty bushes (does anybody really like them?) were removed my whole plan changed.

Suddenly we had sunlight! When I say "we" worked in the garden mostly I mean Kent does the hardest, sweatiest parts and I zoom in at the end and make the pretty part happen. I'm also usually the one who thinks up the plan. Luckily, Kent is willing to play along. The walkway stones are leaning on the retaining wall while the sod goes in.

The angel, who has followed us from Wisconsin to Michigan and back to Wisconsin again has finally found just the right spot. Since this corner remains pretty shady, I've planted ferns around her. The birdbath end of the path gets marvelous afternoon light, so it's planted with sunny to partly shady plants that will bloom in the spring. I couldn't resist adding in a couple of mums for fall color. (I just may sneak a few pansies in there before the end of the planting season.)

With the bushes gone I can see the entire garden from my desk. The bench is a wonderful place to be quiet and thoughtful. I think this will be the last big change we'll make to the yard this year, honestly there's not a whole lot left to do. Next spring Kent would like to turn that screen tent into a true gazebo. Slowly we are making this place into our place. It's hard to feel fully invested here, with the ties remaining to the house in Saginaw, but we're coming along. It may take a while to feel truly at home, but we do like it here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And then there were eight

Step Eight is up. That's it. That's all, she wrote. Ta-da! All of the steps for A Fine Romance have been posted. Actually sewn? Well, that's a bit of a different story, now isn't it?

Considering all that's happened in the last eight or so months, I'm actually pretty pleased with how much I've accomplished. All of the blocks are pieced, just waiting to be joined together with the last of the sashing strips, and that won't take long. The borders are pieced too.

I'm glad that I saved some of the simpler blocks for the end of the project. Usually I like to advance the skills required as the project continues, it's the teacher in me.

This time around I decided that this quilt would really be all about the applique, any teaching moments would be a lucky bonus. This month's step includes the math to make any size square-in-a-square block, so I did manage to squeeze a little extra information in there.

While it feels like the quilt is nearly done, I still have a bit of work ahead of me on the applique. All of the bits are glue basted, just waiting to be stitched together. I feel some embellishing coming on, but I just haven't decided how involved I want it to be. French knots are on the list for sure, beading remains to be seen. For some reason I think I might want to add a bit of black to the center of the open faced flowers. Talk me out of it?

I've got my nest set up. The machine cabinet is finally repaired (it was broken in the move) so I can comfortably sew. A brand new "In Death" from J.D. Robb just came out. I wonder what I'll finish first, the audio book, or the stitching on the applique? Oh, well, I always have Craftsy on the computer to help pass the time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cutting Big

Here is my layout for cutting the strips for the border background for A Fine Romance. The bulk of the fabric is supported by the chair. (What can I say, I liked it so much I bought the entire bolt.) Years ago I invested in a couple of extra large rulers, 16 1/2" and 20 1/2" squares. I don't use these very often, but they make quick work of the job when I do. Using them meant I could cut up the needed pieces for the border easily.

I know lots of quilters are limited in space and budget. I started out as one, I've been building my toolbox for more than thirty years. But I feel compelled to, once again, caution against using the markings on the cutting mat for measuring.

This is a brand new mat. I put my ruler down on the mat with the measurement lines aligned.

This is what I see at the other end of the ruler. In the space of just eighteen inches, the lines are clearly off. But here's the thing. We are cutting huge hunks of fabric for the borders for A Fine Romance. And while these lines are off, in the whole grand scheme of things, this smidgen is not going to amount to a hill of beans. Just be wary of using the mat for anything that might need to be precise.

I don't know why this picture rotated, but here it is. To get my 13 1/2" x 40 1/2" rectangles, I refolded each strip so that I could cut with the least amount of waste at one end. Doing this has the added benefit of placing the fold off center of the piece. Sometimes those folds are hard to remove, so moving them off the center focal point can help to disguise them.

To measure using the mat, instead of trying to align the ruler at the 20 1/4" mark (which will give us a 40 1/2" rectangle), I like to use the ruler to add the 1/4 inch. The one inch marking lines on the mat are easier to see than those little intermediate hash marks.

Now that autumn has arrived I'll be spending less time and energy getting our new gardens up to speed, and more time in the studio. I have just a few circles left to glue baste and I'll be moving on to stitching the flowers together. We are only a few days away from the last step of this block of the month project. How is yours coming along?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Step Seven, with a side of emo

For the more tenacious folks following this block of the month, you've already discovered that Step Seven has been posted for a couple of weeks. For those of you waiting to hear from me, here you go. (And so sorry once again, for the delay in the notice.)

Now for the side of emo. The stress and worries of the job change and big move have caught up with us at last. We've been under the gun, unsure of our fates since the beginning of January. I think that now that we're feeling more settled into our Green Bay life we've relaxed enough to feel all of the pressures of this huge change in our lives. Let's just say that the word "snippy" has been forthwith banned from all use in the household.

The Saginaw house is still for sale. We've finally dropped the price to what I thought we should have started with the first place. And we buried a St. Joseph, which felt a little sacrilegious to me. Once I saw the little statue all boxed up in a special "this is the guy to bury" package I felt a little less squeamish. He's been in the ground all summer. So much for the quick results. On the other hand, while working in the front garden here we found the St. Joe that the former owners of this house buried. He's now on the kitchen windowsill where I can remind him on a daily basis that he's got a job to do.

The wonderful old Saginaw house truly was the house of my dreams. It was a landmark, it had a life of its own which it graciously shared with us for twenty years. I loved saying, "I live in a house built in 1860." Or, "We live in that old farmhouse next to the park", and have everyone know exactly which house that was. (I think half the county walked through it during the estate sale two weeks before we bought it.)

In moving here we were no longer interested in "the house of our dreams". We had that. We have just want we wanted, enough space for our toys, enough dirt to garden, all on a quiet street. It didn't start out as something special, but, as Kent reminds me, it will be by the time we're done with it.