Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmas: home and away

Warning: lots of words, no pictures!

As Christmas approaches, my sewing time has diminished to next to nothing. The reason for that is this:

Yesterday (Tuesday), I got some knitting and some reading (three quilting magazines) done as I travelled for nearly ten hours by train to Coffs Harbour where I was met by DD who took me home to her place. I arrived after the boys were in bed so they had a lovely surprise when they awoke this morning. Around mid-morning, the four of us left for my home. Unfortunately, SIL was not able to join us due to work commitments; which is why I had to make the trip; 591 km – 370 miles is a long trip for one adult with two active toddlers! We arrived home at 7:45pm, just over nine hours after we left Woolgoolga.

Tomorrow evening, my mother arrives by bus and train from her home town of Bingara – a ten-hour trip. I am sure she will be very tired and very hungry (she never eats or drinks on the trip; Dad would be so cross if he knew) but pleased to see her great-grandsons.

On Friday, apart from entertaining my guests, I have an appointment for a  haircut and have to take Mum shopping for some personal items. I also need to do the last of my grocery shopping and cook the turkey for Christmas lunch (we have it cold – it’s summer here).

On Saturday, my uncle (my father’s brother), my aunt, my brother, DSIL and four-year-old niece, will join mum, DD, the Grandboys, WM and I to celebrate Christmas. Saturday evening we will spend in front of the television watching the Carols in the Domain.

On Sunday, after church, we will join WM’s extended family at the retirement village where his mother lives. It is next to a school and there is a large fenced sports oval for the little ones to run around in (and not escape). Some members of the family will bring gazebos for some shade. Lunch is basically a bring-your-own-meat for the barbecue and a standardised pot-luck (in the sense that the women tend to bring the same thing every year – I always being a cheesecake for dessert; apparently if I didn’t, I would be told to go home and make one!). It will either be served in the “rec room” which MIL has booked for the day or on the oval. All very Australian, isn’t it?

My niece will arrive on Monday to take Mum home and DD, the Grandboys and I will spend a quiet 
day before making the return trip to Woolgoolga on Tuesday. WW will follow by train on Christmas Eve (after work). It will be a long day for him: he gets up at 5:45am and the train arrives in Coffs Harbour at midnight! At least he can sleep on the train.

We will stay in Coffs Harbour that night but join DD and the family early on Christmas morning. Christmas lunch will be held at SIL’s parents place, which is nearby. J&A, SIL’s parents, are kindly giving us the use a car while we’re in Woolgoolga, so we will have some freedom to come and go as we please.

We plan to spend the Friday and the Saturday with DD and family and, hopefully, some of that time will be spent on the beach (10 minutes from DD’s home). On Sunday we will catch the train home so that WM can return to work on Monday!

Then, with Christmas behind me, and most other commitments on a summer hiatus, I plan to sew and sew and sew and sew! There will also be more ironing, cutting, sorting and storing of scraps since I am nowhere near done and I’m obviously not going to get much done in the next ten days!

How about you?
Will your Christmas be as hectic as mine?
Or do you plan on a quiet celebration?

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Jacob’s Ladder goes Barn Raising

I had already begun to write this post when I found a link on Sharon’s blog, Vrooman Quilts, about the Scraptastic Tuesday party going on over at She Can Quilt blog. If there’s anything I do know, It’s scraps; so joining in sounded like fun. When you've finished reading here, why not take a few minutes to pop over and see what other people are doing with their scraps?
Scraptastic Tuesday

Over the weekend, I cut and stored all the orange scraps shown in my last post. I pressed the contents of three of those shopping bags screaming at me from under the ironing table.
bags in waiting

For now, they are in two trays, waiting to be cut and stored.
 black and white scraps waiting 
Before class on Monday, I decided to sew some small scrap triangles together – my container of triangular off-cuts (from flying geese, braids and string blocks) was getting quite full.
small triangles filling up

I’m thinking I’ll make some blocks called “Cotton Reels” but don’t hold me to that!
Cotton Reels quilt block

I began to put together the four-patches to make what I thought was the Jacob’s Ladder block in class on Monday. Traditionally, the Jacob’s Ladder block is a nine patch, consisting of five four-patch units and four HST units.

In Scrap Quilt Sensations, Katherine Guerrier uses a four patch block to make a Jacob’s Ladder quilt.

I didn’t think to take the book to class and my teacher and I ended up having a long discussion about how the block went together. In the end, my block is a four-patch but not the one Katherine Guerrier uses!
one block 
Now, I had several choices:
  1. unpick the sixteen blocks I had done and make them up correctly according to Katherine Guerrier’s diagram – no way!
  2. add units to my four-patches to make a traditional nine-patch JL block – maybe!
  3. go with a different layout using the four-patches I had made – yes!
When ‘mistakes’ happen, what happens next comes down to two things: is the resulting quilt of an attractive design, and is my time being used wisely?

Option 3 was not only the easiest but also satisfied both my criteria. When making quilts for donation, quick and easy but effective is often a good route to take given that I spend a lot of time in preparing scraps for use in the first place. The less time I fiddle around with unpicking and re-making, the more time I have to make other items.

In lieu of a fixed design wall and tired of crawling around the floor, I decided to be inventive! I still have the flannel-backed tablecloth that used to be my design wall (hanging in front of a wardrobe/closet) at our previous house. The rivets WM had attached to insert shower curtain rings are coming adrift and it’s fast outliving its usefulness as a hanging system. But those shower curtain rings gave me an idea – my design ‘cloth’ now hangs from our bathroom shower rail. The bathroom is used infrequently by WM and I so it seemed like a great idea and WM approved (at least as a stop-gap measure)!

See how the second, third and fourth rivets are pulling away from the doubled-over-for-additional- strength fabric?
2014 shower rail solution

Here is my design wall in use: with the ‘barn raising’ layout of my Jacob’s Ladder quilt; possibly not traditionally but it works!
JL layout
I'm letting it sit for a while before I start putting the blocks together. In the meantime, I’m using leftover four-patches and HST units to make a panel to widen the the backing fabric.

What do you do when you make a “mistake”?
  • Turn it into a ‘design feature’?
  • Throw it in the naughty corner?
  • Toss it?
  • Or resolve it in some other way?

Saturday, 6 December 2014

scrappy Saturday

Scraps, as most readers would know, are the core of my quilting. I belong to a community quilting group that makes quilts for donation. We, in turn, have fabric donated to us. Very rarely do we get commercial pre-cuts; sometimes the donations consists of yardage, half-metres, quarter-metres, fat quarters or fat-eighths but most of the time (at least as far as I’m concerned) it is off-cuts, fabric with pieces cut out (for appliqué or English paper piecing) or bits of projects long abandoned.

A few weeks ago, a friend in my quilting class gave me two bags of fabric – she is downsizing and needed to pass on some of her stash plus some saved ‘bits’. I store pieces of fabric larger than a fat eighth in drawers by colour; here is my friend's donated fabric after I finished sorting it.
from Brenda Oct 2014
As I arrived at a class a few weeks ago, the owner of my LQS handed me some four-patch units she had been working with and no longer liked. She then handed me the rest of the fabric she was using. Obviously it’s not enough for a whole quilt and I don’t have much Japanese print fabric so I might pass this along.
from Gail Nov 2014
I like the challenge of making quilts from scraps and enjoy looking at patterns and interpreting them as scrap quilts. While working on my Jacob’s Ladder quilt, I realised that just turning or moving the blocks about would result in a different quilt. Very exciting – a new project on the horizon…

I have finished all the units  for my Jacob’s Ladder quilt – 100 four-patches and 100 HST 4.5” squares. Here they are, pinned in groups of ten (saves counting).
100 x 2 units done
What I need now is a design wall so I can start putting the quilt together – I think WM is going to make one as my Christmas present. I certainly have asked directly (I have found that dropping hints is not effective).

For more than two weeks in November I spent every moment in my sewing room ironing, cutting, sorting and storing scraps. I worked my way through purple, blue, red, pink, teal and green. In the middle of the third week, I got a bit antsy. I just wanted to sew, sew, sew and sew! That's mostly how all the units for Jacob’s Ladder were finished: it went from being a ‘leader and ender’ project to being my main project!

I have found a new leader and ender project -- my container of 3" squares is filling rapidly and I have an idea which involves four-patches and HST but not set as for "Jacob's Ladder" quilts.

I still have to sort through and cut a tray of orange scraps and a tray of yellow scraps (both already ironed). The bases of these trays are about 11” x 8” and are about 2.5”  deep so it’s probably not as bad as this photo suggests – I am working with scraps after all!
 orange and yellow ready
In addition, I have all these bags of scraps that are not ironed. These contain black and white scraps, grey scraps, floral scraps, bright scraps, brown scraps and light-neutral scraps. *sigh*  This is just what I need screaming at me from under the ironing board! I need to find a tub to put all these bags in and hide them away – at least temporarily!)
bags in waiting
At least when it’s all done, I will be much more organised and able to sew rather than search for fabrics, iron them and cut them! I am cutting scraps according to my scrap storage system which is both generic (square of all sizes from 2” to 5” in half-inch increments, triangles, strings and crumbs) and designed with specific projects in mind, like Solana Beach (free on Craftsy) and Make It Do (purchased from Craftsy). 

My Dutch Cap Hexie project continues slowly. I have removed some of the papers from the finished units and am spending ‘television time’ basting more hexagons. The last time I showed you this I had only seventeen units done;  now I have twice that. It takes me about an hour to add the seven diamonds to each triad of hexagons. At the community quilting group meetings, someone always remarks that I am still working on this project so I’ve taken to calling it my “100 year project”! I estimate that I will need 104 of these units to make a quilt of the size we donate so I’m going to be working on it for a while yet! Then I will need some half-hexies and some diamonds to make it square. I intended for the triad of hexies to point towards the top of the quilt but I can see that it might be easier to make rows rather than diagonals – I will have to think on it further.
34 units done
I’ve barely done anything on the Rainbow Scrap Challenge this year because I  haven't been organised. Next year, I’ll be able to take the appropriate container of crumbs from the shelf and get sewing! What's more, I know exactly what block I’m going to make for the whole year!  Yahoo! I’m looking forward to that!

Meanwhile, my Relaxing Robin project, Canary on a Pinwheel, remains untouched. Why? Because I have to cut fabric for the flying geese units and I am over cutting for the moment!

What do you do with your scraps?
Use them?
Store them?
Give them away?
Toss them?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

37 years ago

3 Dec 1977

And now we're more in love than ever – thank you, WM, you light up my life!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Something Old, Something New – December edition

Never too hot to Stitch!

Welcome! Come in and read. This post will not be what you expected but you will learn something about me. However, a word of warning: this is a long, wordy post without many photos!

I started Something Old, Something New for several reasons:

  1. Like many people, I have a lot of UFOs here from a variety of crafts. I hoped that if I blogged about them, I would get some of them finished! Hence "Something Old".
  2. I attend a weekly "sit and sew" group at my local LYS. Before attending classes there, I attended a class once a month. My teacher there, Elizabeth Wallace, of Aussie Patches, once said that if I was paying for her classes then I should be learning something new (not doing the same thing on a different project). It was advice that I obviously took to heart. At the beginning of this year, I decided that, since I was paying to be in class each week, I was going to learn "something new".
  3. I still knit; in fact, as many regular readers would know, I tutor for the Knitters' Guild of NSW. Some of my UFOs are knitting projects. Sometimes I'm asked to tutor a knitting technique which is new to me, like shadow (illusion) knitting -- a workshop I facilitated in July. Most linky parties I've seen are quilt, or at least sewing, based. I guess because knitters have Ravelry where there are groups relating to all sorts of knitting, including knit-alongs and challenges. Because most quilters whose blogs I read seem to dabble in other crafts, I decided that Something Old, Something New would encompass all crafts.

Somewhere in the middle of the year, I lost my way. Instead of focusing on two projects (one UFO, one new-to-me technique), I began listing all my projects relating to other people's linky parties! A gentle reminder from a blog friend (hi Lindsey) got me back on track.

In my non-crafting life, I am pretty good with deadlines. I know something is coming up so I do a little towards it, think about it a lot and, generally at the last minute, have a final push to get it done on time. I have always been like this and it worked particularly well for me when I was at teachers' college (1975-1977) and university (2003-2005).

Even in my crafting life, I tend to be pretty much like that. If I have a workshop to facilitate, I will research the topic, try some knitting, think about it a lot then, a few days before the workshop, have a final push to get the samples done and notes typed up. I'm sure this must drive my good friend and test knitter crazy (hi, D.) but it works well for me. 

I rarely cut it so fine that I get in a panic but my "last minute" relaxed attitude has bothered people in the past. When I was in a musical society, some people apparently complained that I was always the last to be ready but they were asked, "Is she ever late?". When the answer was "no", they were advised not to worry, that's just the 'way Lynne is'!

Similarly, I know that our quilting group has its "Airing" on the second weekend of April each year. That means that I am still working on quilts right up to the end of March (and sometimes later) even though (I'm told) most people in the group have all their quilts for the next Airing done by the end of December!

I've known this about myself for a long time. It is the way I am. I don't do it to hurt other people and I always meet deadlines unless there are extenuating circumstances.

However, over the course of this year, particularly in the last few months, I've come to realise something else about myself: if there are no looming deadlines, I have a tendency to do as I like, when I like! 

Now, where keeping house is concerned, this could be a problem although WM rarely complains (that's why  I call him my Wonderful Man). The essentials are taken care of: I am clean, groomed and clothed; food is bought and stored; clothes are washed and ironed and put away where they belong; our bedroom, the bathrooms and the public areas of the house are tidy -- it's the cleaning-related activities that can be a bit neglected. 

As far as my hobbies are concerned, I tend to work on whatever takes my fancy at the time. It doesn't matter that I've listed Project A and Project B as my Something Old, Something New projects -- if there are no deadlines looming, I'll work on whatever I want! Quilting and knitting are my hobbies and I won't allow myself to pressure me! (I, Myself and Me don't always live in harmony! LOL)

November was one of those months. In the three weeks I had to work on my hobbies (after WM's annual leave finished), I chose to spend two weeks ironing, cutting, sorting and storing scraps. My cutting table still looks like this except the containers have a lot more in them and the contents of the basket on the ends has gone from pink to purple to blue (overflowing) to red (also overflowing) to orange:

square sorting

During the last week of November, I had few days to sew. It was hot: the temperature got to 44*C (111*F) one day and was still 37*C (99*F) the following day. The weather knocked me about. I was out of the house nearly every day. The only sewing I did was to finish the four-patches for my Jacob's Ladder quilt. After all the time spent dealing with some of my scraps, I just wanted to sew and sew and sew and sew!

You know where I'm going, don't you? I didn't touch my Something Old project. I didn't start my Something New project. 

Something Old, Something New as a concept didn't work for me. I should have realised that before I started but I was hopeful that putting my UFOs "out there" would motivate me to get them done!

Something Old, Something New started the year with quite a few people linking up but, as I lost my way, less and less people joined in. In the last few months, it's only been the same few stalwarts that have linked up. Thank you, Sharon, Katie and Kate, for your support throughout the whole year. 

There were some months during 2014 where Something Old, Something New was the only post I wrote in a month. However, we did de-clutter our old house by removing one-third of the volume of our possessions, move house and spend time unpacking and getting settled here. There were several times when I considered closing my blog because I had neither time nor inclination to write. I've come out of those doldrums now but who knows what the future holds. 

It is with a touch of regret that I bid farewell to Something Old, Something New but, to be honest, it is also with a sense of relief! There will be no more guilt when I enter my sewing room and realise that I should be working on "that project" when it is "this project" that makes my heart sing! 

I think I will still be blogging in 2015. One thing's for sure, I will be working on whatever craft project takes my fancy!

For one last time, please link up here if you're inclined to write about your Something Old, Something New projects. And please, dear readers, do visit these blogs. Introducing bloggers to other bloggers is part of what linky parties are all about!