Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Bad Before, Continued...

The reorganization of the sewing room is still in progress. Here a second set of pictures pictures which I meant to post soon after The Bad Before. This is my so-called living room. It's really an annex of the sewing room because the only living I do in here is quilt making. I don't even own a couch.

This buffet holds my Singer 401 on the left side; my serger is normally on the right. The drawers in the middle hold cutting and sewing supplies. The plastic boxes hold projects in progress. They're 14 inches square and are meant to be used by scrapbookers. I like using them for quilting projects because 12 inch blocks fit easily inside them. They are also useful for corralling quilt block units, such as the three hundred half square tringles I needed to make for "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll." (I have even more of these boxes stacked in my bedroom. Eek!)

I consider fireplaces to be a waste of wall space. I never use them. Right now I've got this little cabinet on the hearth. It holds Fiona, my Singer Featherweight. 

My cutting table occupies the middle of the room. You can drop the leaves, but I never do. There are a couple of bins underneath it with fabric set aside for a particular project. Just off screen to the right are two bookcases and an easy chair that I seldom sit in because it makes me slump. I should probably get rid of it.

Here's the matching foot stool. The binders hold part of my collection of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine.  They don't fit in the sewing room any more, and I'm not sure where to put them. (The yellow Post-it notes mark the pages which have quilts I'd like to make. I don't think I'll live long enough.)

(Actually, the living room looks worse than this right now because, since taking these photos, I've pulled so much stuff out of the sewing room and just dumped it here.)

Well, now that you've seen the bad "before" pictures, I look forward to finishing my reorganization so that I can show off the amazing "after" pictures. (I hope!)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Crumb Quilt Inspiration: The Case of the Teeny Tiny Triangles

"The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost. I mean the fragments of time, as well as materials. Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be..." Lydia Marie Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1832.

When I read this quotation, crumb quilting immediately leapt to mind as it makes use of my smallest bits of fabric. Though I probably waste too much time rooting through my scrap drawer in search of the right color or perfect sized bit for those cute little flying geese units or star points.

Which also reminds me . . .

Years ago I bought a grab bag of scraps at my guild's Trash & Treasures meeting. The contents included a Ziploc bag of tiny right triangles. But how could I use them? I always work with preshrunk fabrics, but obviously I couldn't toss these little guys into the washer -- not even in a lingerie bag. They'd turn into a tangled mass of threads. So they remained in my stash all these years. And though I considered them unusable, I couldn't bring myself to throw them away.

Yesterday, when I was making my Wonky Star blocks, it occurred to me that these little triangles might be useful as star points. Perhaps I could preshrink them by spraying them with water and then ironing them dry. I put a piece of muslin on my ironing board and gave it a try.

Eek! The color from the triangles leached into the muslin. So much for that idea.

But what if I sewed them into something that would never be washed -- such as a pin cushion?

I'm having a go at that tonight. If it doesn't work out (and I have real doubts about what will happen when all those points meet in the middle) maybe I really had better toss them in the trash. After all, Ms. Child mentions advocates the wise usage of "fragments of time, as well as materials." 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Crumb Quilt-Along #3: Hearts and Stars

I worked more hours than usual this week, so Friday was my first opportunity to sit down with step 3 of "Crumb Along With Me" from Jo's Country Junction. Jo provided her own tutorial and also linked to Bonnie Hunter's instructions for making Maverick Stars. I decided to follow Bonnie's method, but I used 2 inch squares for the background blocks instead of 2.5." Then I added some leftover strips from my scrap drawer to bring the block up to 6 inches unfinished.

I was very pleased with the way this one came out. Small is always cute.

I had a little more trouble with the heart. I was using Bonnie's method for that too, which calls for piecing each half of the star separately and then joining them with a seam down the middle. My first mistake was making two left sides for the heart. But I just made a new right side out of a different fabric, and I now think that the heart looks better than if it had been all the same color.

However, I think I will go back and try out Jo's instructions now. Because you can't have two many piecing techniques under your belt -- right?

By the way, I am charmed to discover that that Chicky Quilts used the same pink kitty fabric for her heart that I did. And if you scroll down to the close up view of her block, that green ivy print in the corner is also in my stash!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Unexpected Pattern Bonus

Last week I was rooting through my collection of apron patterns hoping to find one that would fit this bookish fabric I found at a local quilt store's "yard sale." I've got two one-yard pieces.

As a library aide, I am required to keep a walkie-talkie on my person so that I can be easily summoned when one of the library clerks needs a shelf check. I also need to carry my computer glasses with me. They're perfect for shelving. (If I use my regular glasses, which have progressive lenses, it's impossible to read the spine labels of the books on the bottom shelves without contorting my neck and eyeballs into strange and painful positions.) And during the month of September, the entire staff is required to keep a detailed, daily log of our activities. So I also carry around pencil and a small pad of paper.

That's a lot of stuff to shove into the nice flat pockets of my Crescent Skirt. So I thought I would make myself an apron with ample pockets. I was thinking of using view 2 of Simplicity 8563, a vintage pattern from 1969. (That's the yellow one.)

I found this pattern at a thrift store. In fact, I found five copies of it: two adult sizes and three children's sizes. And I bought them all. (Why not at at 25 cents each?) I couldn't help wondering about their history. Was it a Brownie or Girl Scout troop for which these were originally bought? Or a church group, perhaps? Or just an extended family's special event? 

Only view 1, the red apron with the heart shaped pocket, has been cut out and used. (If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see that the pattern comes with an iron-on transfer for appliqueing the word "Love" onto the pocket in a groovy style of lettering.)

I was expecting to use the adult size 8-10. But because patterns were sized differently in 1969, it's actually too small for me. I didn't have the 12-14, so I opened up the 16-18 to see if it would be too hopelessly large. And tucked inside the envelope was 4 1/8 yards of vintage, jumbo rick-rack -- the exact amount needed for this size. It felt like a special link with that group of unknown girls and women who had made these aprons back in the '60s.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Crumb Quilt-Along #2

Today I finally got to sit down and do my free-hand flying geese blocks for the crumb block sew-along at Jo's Country Junction. These were fun, but very slow to make. I'm trimming them with my six inch ruler which means that they'll finish at five and a half inches.

Here's a picture of the first one before trimming. I wasn't thrilled with it and resolved to attempt some smaller geese.


These geese are smaller and cuter.

Here's another photo taken after the blocks were trimmed.

I like them, especially the one with the smaller geese, but I find that I'm using more strips than crumbs. I read on Bonnie Hunter's website that she makes three and a half inch blocks. I think that would probably make it easier to use up more of the tiny scraps. Not to mention being unbearably cute. But you'd probably have to be really crazy to attempt a whole quilt made with such tiny blocks.

I was trying to explain crumb blocks to a friend when I suddenly remembered that this is not the first time I've worked on a crumb-like project. Years ago I was working on a "Mile-A-Minute" quilt, inspired by an article by Carol A. Coski in the Winter 2000 issue of American Quilter. Ms. Coski speeds up the process of crumb piecing by sewing her small scraps to a long strip of fabric and then cutting them apart to make little two patches.  These "twosies"are then rotated and sewed to another long strip and then cut apart to make "threesies. And so on and so on. Basically, you are making crazy patchwork fabric. (I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a website by the author which might explain this process in more detail. However, here's a link by another blogger giving a short tutorial for it.)

Here's a picture of the quilt top I pieced using this technique:

Here's a close-up of one corner:

The basic unit looked like this:

The sashing and cornerstones helped to stabilize the bias edges which some of the blocks had after cutting. Then I joined them into rows.

I never finished it because I decided that I'd rather have a lap quilt than a wall hanging. I even cut more sashing and cornerstones, but in all the bustle of moving (four years ago), I never got back to it. I'm thinking that perhaps I will sash the special crumb blocks that Jo is teaching us to make and add them to this quilt.

And after that, who knows? My mind keeps returning to the thought of those three and a half inch blocks. Maybe I am that crazy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ta Da!

During the past week I finished the blocks for my donation quilt and assembled them into a top. I'm trying to decide if it should have borders or not. It's only 36 inches square which is rather small even for a baby quilt. I have a dark blue for the binding. Perhaps I should make a border of the same fabric. What do you think? I need to finish by the end of October, so I can't afford to dawdle over my decision.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Crumby Temptation

Oh, dear! So little time -- so many enticing projects.

I just found out about the "crumb-along" which is being hosted at Jo's Country Junction. Every Tuesday for the next ten weeks, Jo will be posting "...ideas on fabric requirements, block construction, layouts and the like. You'll have a week to make 2-10 blocks a week depending on your preference and your schedule." Her goal is to make 36 six-inch blocks for a baby quilt, though participants can make larger or smaller projects as they prefer.

While re-organizing my sewing room I've become aware of just how many crumbs I have. So I'm very tempted to dive into this sew-along. (Actually, I have two other crumb drawers as well as a couple of plastic bags so the situation is dire!)

I think I might try making 3 1/2 inch blocks a la Bonnie Hunter so that I can use up my tiniest crumbs. (See her crumb tutorial here.) Then I could save the bigger crumbs for the project on yesterday's post.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Scrappy Inspiration

I was visiting my daughter in Seattle over Labor Day weekend and, much to my delight, our trip to Bainbridge Island included a visit to Esther's Fabrics where we saw this quilt. As far as I could see, it wasn't from a pattern they were selling, so I took the liberty of snapping a photo. With its wonky construction technique, this looks like a good way to use up random scraps.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sewing Room Makeover: The Bad Before

Sooner or later it comes: the day when your sewing room is so crowded and so messy that you can no longer sew in it. My sewing room has reached that stage, and I have been working to reorganize it. Here are the "before" pictures.

My stash is housed in stacking baskets in an alcove which used to be a closet. (The previous owner of this house removed the sliding doors.) It doesn't look that bad because you can't see the bags of fabric on the floor in front of the baskets.

As I step backwards you can see the other stuff that is in front.

Here is its true awfulness revealed. The plastic drawers have casters and can be rolled about. Theoretically, I should be able to move them for easy access to what's behind them. But it doesn't work out that way because there is so much other stuff on the floor.

Now I begin to pan the camera around the room. As you can see, this is also my library annex. The bookcases fill the entire north wall. Most of these books are children's literature, but you'll also find hardcover science fiction, some science books that didn't fit in the library proper, tall picture books, and a few homeschooling materials. On the top of the bookcase is a bolt of batting, some packaged batting and poly fiber-fill, a pillowcase filled with felted wool, and a box of photos. You can also see two of my sewing machines and my serger.

Here's the east wall. There's a six foot banquet table set up in front of the blinds. My Bernina 1530 is in a SewEzi table set at right angles to it, and there's a four foot table behind the SewEzi. I've got some short Ikea bookshelves on the south wall with a bunch of random stuff on them.

The bottom shelves of those bookcases are firmly anchored by the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Catholic Encyclopedia. The other shelves hold my sewing notions, patterns, boxes with works in progress, and some bolts of fabric I got at an amazing sale.

Here's the edge of that bookcase with my hoop, quilting templates, and rulers hanging on the wall. More stuff is piled in the corner. The French doors lead into the living room. (Why is that random chair here?)

Believe it or not, my sewing room spills over into the next room. But this is enough mess for one post, so I'll show you that tomorrow.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Back to Quilting

Lately, most of my blogposts seem to be about vintage patterns or garment sewing. But I'm primarily a quilter even though I haven't been writing about it lately. To prove it, here is a picture of my current project.

I'm not really thrilled about the fabrics, but I didn't choose them. They're from a kit put together by my former quilt guild. They were sponsoring a quiltathon during which members would spend the entire day together sewing quilts for charity. I couldn't attend, but I took one of the kits home intending to work on it in my free time. But alas! As often happens, I had less free time than I expected. This was back in 2005 when I was a caregiver for my husband who had cancer.

In 2007, when I was packing to move to another city, I discovered the still unused kit. Guiltily, I contacted the guild. They told me not to bother returning it, merely asking that whenever I did get around to sewing it that I donate the quilt to some deserving charity.

Fast forward four years.

In my new town I have frequently been invited to attend a women's group which gathers every month to do crafts, chat, pray, and listen to an inspiring talk on CD. I almost never attend because I'm usually working on the date they meet. But the time before last I was able to make it and wondered what sort of project to bring. Most of the other ladies were making items for the annual fund-raising boutique held by a nearby Carmelite convent. So I decided to sew this long overdue charity quilt as my donation.

And here is the machine I am sewing it on: my sweet little Featherweight, whom I've christened Fiona.

She doesn't get much use because I seldom sew away from home. And normally, I'd rather use my Bernina.

Yes, I know that quilters are supposed to have a mystical love for the Singer 221, but the Bernina and I are so closely bonded that it functions as an extension of my brain much the way my keyboard does. (Here imagine an android voice droning, "We are one . . . we are one . . .") In fact, it had been so long since I'd last used poor Fiona that it took an embarrassing amount of time and concentration before we could manage an accurate 1/4 inch seam.

If I'm to finish this project in time for the November boutique, I'm going to have to work on it outside of the regular meetings. Since I like to use the same sewing machine, from start to finish, when I make a quilt I guess Fiona and I will be getting much better acquainted.