Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Is everyone ready for 2010? I have a feeling it is going to be another busy year, as 2009 was for me. I suppose most people get that end of the year evaluation thing going, and I am no different. I think in some areas I had a win in 2009, and in others, I didn't do so great.

I started 2009 with no UFO's, and, unfortunately, I am ending with several of them. I have 8 quilts started this year that I have not completed. Two of those have all the blocks completed and just need assembly. One just needs quilting and binding.The others are in various stages of production, including one that is only cut out. I also have 6 or 7 garments cut out and not sewn. Three of my unfinished quilts were mystery quilts, although I did do a a fourth mystery this year that I finished. That's not such a good track record with getting my mystery quilts completed.

I had a few other projects started that I am getting done just in time to count them for 2009. I had 7 more burp rags that needed to be finished, and I got them completed yesterday. I have one cherry pit pad left to stuff, and I should manage to finish it today.

I've still been working on string blocks. I switched to working on 8 1/2 inch blocks, so I could use my larger strings first. I like the Care Bears peeking out on this one. I've made about 30 string blocks in the last week.

This is my split nine patch project. I need 112 split nine patches, and I have 51 done. I also needed 8 all light patches and I finished those. I've been making 10 a day, then working on other things. Hopefully by the end of next week, this one will be ready for assembly. I need to get it together before I decide on borders.

I am rearranging my sewing supplies, trying to come up with some more attractive storage. I went to a thrift store this week, and hit the motherload on glass canisters. These glass canisters look much better than the plastic storage containers I was using before. I didn't throw the old containers away, I'm just using them in different rooms.

On January 1, 2009, I grabbed a container and decided to start throwing empty spools in it. These are the spools I emptied this year. I don't know how accurate the yardage is on how much thread I use in a year. Some of these spools had already been started in previous years, and of course I've started other spools that I haven't emptied yet. About midyear I started piecing with 5000 yard spools, and I have one of those about 3/4 gone, but not empty so it's not in my count. I wanted a guesstimate at least, so I added it up, and these spools represent 9,382 yards of thread, or 5.33 miles.

I did make 21 quilts from start to finish in 2009. So all together I had 29 starts, and 21 finishes. I made lots of garments in 2009, but I completely lost count on those. I got lost on my yardage usage and buying. I think I am just over 300 yards used for the year, but I bought more than that, so I am at a gain. I'm OK with that, and I'm two months into the no-buy challenge and doing good so far.

My goal the last two years has been to make 12 donation quilts per year. I still haven't made it. In 2008 I donated 7 quilts, and this year I donated 9. I'm getting closer. It seems I always find someone who needs a quilt before I get them dropped off, so I end up planning on donating them, and giving them away to someone else first.

I've been thinking about my 2010 goals, and at first my list was way too long, so I think I've shortened it enough to be possible, but not easy.

1. Finish all my 2009 starts, with possibly the exception of Perkiomen Daydream, which is my longterm project.

2. Keep a quilt! I still haven't done that, and one of my UFO's is for our bed, so if I do goal number one, I should be able to do this one.

3. Make 12 donation quilts, using my scrap user system or orphan blocks. A sub-goal of this is to cut up my scraps as I make room in my scrap drawers. I got stalled on sorting my scraps because my drawers are full, and I'm not buying any more plastic drawers.

Those are what I decided would be my main goals for 2010. I had thought of a bunch of others, such as busting my flannel stash (I love the feel of flannel, but don't really like working with it for quilts), using up the denim squares I've cut from worn jeans over the years, using up all of my preprinted panels, and a bunch of other things, but when I started thinking about how long each of those projects would take, I decided to shorten my list, and try to be a bit more realistic. Besides, if I finish the 8 starts I haven't finished, and manage to make 12 donation quilts, that will be 20 quilts, which is only one less than I finished this year. That's still a lot of sewing, and plenty to keep me busy. I have a couple of WHIMMS I'd like to start in 2010, and there are always weddings and babies to make quilts for.

Yes, I do believe 2010 is going to be a busy year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Holidays can be a little odd around here. DH ends up working most holidays, in fact, I can't remember the last time he had Christmas off. We had our family Christmas on Sunday morning, with a breakfast feast, which was great. Last night, Christmas Eve, I did a finger food buffet, and people came over as they could. It was a relaxed, fun thing.

This morning DH and I slept in a bit, since the last two days he was getting up at 4:30 AM but today he was working noon - midnight. I made the two of us omelets for breakfast, then DS the Elder came over and woke up DS the Younger, and DD#3, and DSIL showed up. DH had to be off to work so the five of us went to the movies to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie. The kids liked it better than I did, but it was pretty good. I think I may have liked it better if I hadn't seen it on Christmas, it just wasn't Christmas friendly to me. DD#3 and DSIL headed home after the movie so they could sleep since DSIL works nights and hadn't slept since he had gotten off of work.

My boys and I came home, ate some leftovers from last night, and decided to go see another movie. DS the younger still hadn't seen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and since it was at the cheap seats, we decided to go see it. I read that book to my kids all the time when they were young. It was the second time for DS the Elder and I to see it, but we both enjoyed seeing it again. DS the Younger told me within the first two minutes he was going to like the movie, and he did.

I wasn't too motivated when we got home, but I wanted to do something, so I made a few string blocks.

Making some string blocks didn't make the pile of strings go down at all, it made it bigger! I had the strings so tightly packed into the container they were in that as I used them, they kept expanding, so now the pile looks much larger. These string blocks will finish at 6".

I have lots more to make, but they are just an ongoing project and when I have enough I'll make a quilt out of them. I have seen lots of one or two color string quilts lately, and I like those. I was debating on dividing my strings by color and starting some color controlled tops. Obviously, I didn't do that yet. I am separating out the lightest strings, because I have a separate project I want to use those in, but I am still using everything else in these.

I also made my first crumb blocks ever! I just did two to see how I liked them. The picture didn't come out very well, but they are pretty cute, and I like the idea of someday having enough to make a quilt. I don't know if I'll ever take to these like I did to string quilts, only time will tell.

I'm planning on taking down the Christmas decorations this weekend (they've been up since before Thanksgiving), and maybe next week I'll get back to some projects with deadlines, or not :-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Fat Quarters

We did our family Christmas yesterday, and I got 18 fat quarters as Christmas gifts. Since I am on no-buy getting some new fabric was very nice. I am not worried about the addition to stash, since I figured out I've used 65 yards of fabric on garments since Thanksgiving, plus made a 63x85 quilt from start to finish in the same time period. I think I'm either close to or just over 300 yards used for the year. I emptied 5 bolts of fabric this year, and that was exciting!

I did get all 12 pairs of pajama pants done before we opened gifts. I was happy to get that done. I am taking a couple days off of sewing, after running myself ragged for the last month. If I do any sewing this week, it will probably either be some mending or some mindless sewing like string blocks. Next week is soon enough to get back on the fast track on projects. The time off is my Christmas gift to myself.

In case I don't post in the next few days, have a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Carolina Christmas update

Yesterday I sewed all day long, and got my blocks together for my mystery quilt, Carolina Christmas. The final layout is available now, and it is stunning! I'll be waiting to assemble mine, in an effort to get some Christmas-y things done. My quilt looks quite a bit different than Bonnie's because the colors are different, but if this comes out half as nice as hers, I'll be thrilled!

Here are my block 1 blocks.

And here are some of block 2. I think the optional pieced border comes out this weekend sometime, so when I see it I'll decide what I want to do for borders. The quilt is pretty busy as is, so without having seen the borders Bonnie designed, I'm leaning towards plain borders. On the other hand, this quilt went in a completely different direction than I was guessing, and If I like the pieced borders as much as I like the rest of the quilt, I may do them after all!

Today's list? I already cut out 12 pairs of pajama pants, and now it's onto baking! I have two types of cookie dough made and chilling, and I'm just taking a break before I make more. I usually make six or so types of cookies for Christmas. Some go to work with various people, and others are eaten by us or any company that comes over. I'm not making as many cookies this year, but I am keeping the variety. This is very late in the month for me to be doing this. I usually do a lot of baking the first week of December and freeze everything. This has been a very busy month though, so I'm glad I found time to do it all.

Tomorrow will be more baking, and company coming over for dinner, then Thursday and Friday are my last sewing days before our family Christmas on Sunday. I'm hoping to get all the pajama pants I cut out today finished before then, but if not, oh well, they will get them sooner or later :-)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quilting Serendipity

I can't help it, I just LOVE scrap quilts. I needed a quick quilt, so I took some of my pre-cut pieces and made one in a week. Some scrap quilts are divided by color, some are divided by value, and some are completely random. The border on this newest quilt is divided by value. It's a braided border, with darks on one side, lights on the other. The only thing I pay attention to is light and dark as I grab pieces to add onto the braid. When you are that random, sometimes funny things happen. Check out the angel playing football....

I thought that angel playing football was so funny. I wouldn't have planned a quilt that way, but with scrap quilts stuff like that just happens....quilting serendipity! I hope that angel is a Patriots fan, but she probably routes for the Saints.

Here is the completed quilt, which I just put the final stitches in about 15 minutes ago. Can you spot the breast cancer awareness ribbon in the center? It's subtle, but there.

Now that this quilt is finished, I can start working on Christmas presents or get back to my mystery quilt. I did get a few blocks of the mystery quilt put together, but less than a dozen. I'll have to take a picture of those and put in my next post. We moved Christmas up to the 20th in our house, because too many people are working on the 24th or 25th. With everyone working different shifts, and not getting the holidays off, you have to just do what works. That only gives me a few short days to make anything, and I still haven't baked one Christmas cookie yet :-( I told everyone they may end up with Valentine's gifts instead. I can only do so much in a week, and I'm not going to stress over it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

More of the Mystery quilt

I finished steps three and four and four of the mystery now. These are seriously scrappy! For my neutral I am using ANYTHING with a white background. I am ignoring all designs, and only looking at background color. I am anxious to see how this comes out, because this one is way out there.

Here is step three. These units were easy for me, since I had just made a bunch of them for DD#3's wedding quilt border. No mirror images this time, which made them even easier!

Here is step 4. Bonnie called it a Broken Dishes block, and I had to look it up, because the block I know as Broken Dishes isn't this one, though it's similar. I learned that both blocks, this one and the one I was thinking of both go by the name Broken Dishes. Usually I find one block that goes by multiple names, this one was one name with two different blocks.

DH helped me out with this block. After I got all the HST's sewn to a neutral square, I gave the piles to DH as he watching Monday night football. I told him to sort them into pairs, and have no matching fabrics in each pair. I only had to rematch three pairs, which I thought was very good considering the Green Bay Packers were playing, and DH loves them. He really saved me a lot of time by doing that.

I just printed out step 5, but I don't know when I'll get to it. I found out about someone who really needs some comfort right now, so I started another quilt to be finished ASAP. I chose a simple pattern, and I'm using precut pieces (so glad I've been organizing my scraps!) to make it go faster. The blocks are all laid out on my design wall, to be assembled tomorrow. All of my Christmas ideas are on hold, some indefinitely. This comfort quilt is my #1 priority right now in the sewing room. If I get it finished in time to make a few gifts great, if not, oh well, there are always gift cards!

Today we ran a bunch of errands, mailed packages, and hopefully did the last of the Christmas shopping. Tomorrow should be the day my washing machine is fixed. The repairman came last week but he had to order parts. It's been broken almost two weeks, and if it's not fixed tomorrow, I will have to go to the laundromat. I've already been washing some things by hand, but now so much is dirty I can't catch up handwashing. Wednesday is DS the Younger's birthday, and then Thursday is shopping with DD#2 and DD#3.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Craft Crossovers

Did you ever have one craft you do, make changes in how you do things in other crafts? For years I was an avid cross-stitcher (until I messed up my thumb) and that changed how I hand sewed other items. In cross-stitching you double your thread, and put the ends of the thread through the eye of the needle. This leaves you a loop on the long end. You go up through the fabric, and down, then run the needle through the loop before you tighten the stitch. Voila, the stitch is anchored, and you are ready to go on with no knot sticking up. Well, at this point in time about the only hand sewing I do is to sew buttons on, but I use that cross-stitching technique every time. It anchors my button on with the first stitch, and I don't have to start with a knot. It is a craft crossover.

I was busy sewing scrubs today, and I realized how much quilting has changed the way I sew garments. When I quilt, I do a lot of chain piecing. I never chain pieced anything before I started quilting. I am sewing three different tops all with white thread. Look at what came off of my sewing machine! I sewed the top down on the pockets and sewed the shoulder seams on the facing all in one chain, and I did it for all three shirts at once. I've been making scrubs this way for a while, but I guess I hadn't thought about why I started doing it that way until tonight. I'm sure it's another craft crossover. I didn't used to make scrubs this way, and I've been making scrubs much longer than I've been quilting.

I didn't do any quilt-related sewing today. I am just too tired. I did get three scrub tops made today, so now I'm down to three left. I have step three for the mystery quilt all cut out, but I'd like to power sew through it in one mega sewing session, so I'm thinking it's going to have to wait until the weekend. If I can get those other three scrub tops made tomorrow, I'll be in good shape to do that. I think Step Four is supposed to come out tomorrow, but I will just have to catch up. It's not a race, and I'm really pushing to do it at all. I am having fun with it though.

I have some other projects I need to need to do, but some of the fabric has to be washed before I cut it out. That's not going to happen with my washing machine broken. The repairman was here yesterday, and he won't get the parts until next week. I'm having a hard enough time getting the essentials washed for us, I'm not washing fabric by hand. It can wait! Boy, is that washer going to get a workout when it's fixed after being broken for almost two weeks!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sorting Scraps and Waxing Philosophical

I am really trying to get my scraps cut into usable sizes. I started with Bonnie Hunter's Scrap User System on, and I'm trying to tweak it to what I really use. I use lots of strips, so if it's at least 12 inches long, it becomes a strip in either 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, or 3 1/2 inches. I like using squares, and I am constantly rethinking what size squares I should save. Right now, my latest square sizes are 2", 2 1/2", 3 1/2", 4 1/2", 5", and 6 1/2" I don't save 1 1/2" squares, even though my finished quilts have a lot of them. I prefer to strip piece that size, and if the fabric is too small to get a 2" square out of it, I throw it in with my crumbs. I save 5" squares because I have several patterns using nickels that I want to try. I don't save bricks at all anymore. I don't use them that often, and when I do, it's easy enough to subcut them from strips. This is what is working for me right now, and that may change.

I am making progress on the scraps, or at least thought I was until I cut out nine more scrub tops :-) You see, I make a lot of garments, but a few years ago, I stopped using anything but 100% cotton fabrics to make them. There are a few exceptions, like DD#3's kimono, but most of the fabrics I make garments out of are suitable for quilting. So, with that information, you should now know that when I say I am sorting scraps, I mean scraps, as in leftovers from garment making. Leftover quilting pieces are easier to deal with, since you're mostly going to be dealing with strips, rectangles, or squares. Garment leftovers leave you with pieces like this....

How do you iron that shape, or figure out which size pieces to cut from it? I am usually mentally exhausted from a scrap cutting session, because it just takes so many decisions. I have gotten a bit faster at doing it. I have learned that when the weird shapes of things are getting to me, cut it into more workable pieces to start with, like this....

These pieces fit in the ironing board better, and I can easily see that I have a string, and a few pieces to cut squares from. It may seem like a no-brainer to cut it up to make it more easily workable, but it took me a while. I was so concerned with cutting the largest thing I could from each piece that I was actually trying to deal with the top mess. Now that I realize I'm just going to cut it up anyway, I can cut it up into smaller sections, so what if I end up with different sized pieces, they'll all end up in a quilt sooner or later.

I just ordered a couple of new rulers to help in my scrap sorting goal. I hunted around, and found a 5 inch square ruler. I haven't found a two inch square ruler, but if I come across it, I'll buy it too. I use a lot of novelty prints, and fussy cutting squares works much better for those than haphazardly cutting strips and sub-cutting into squares. I find it easier for me to have the exact size ruler as the square I want. I know how to use a larger ruler to get a smaller size, I just prefer not to do it that way when dealing with a huge pile of scraps. I have a small rotating cutting mat, so with the correct size ruler, I can make short work of a scrap by cutting around a square ruler in the size I want. I had to hunt a while to get my 3 1/2 inch square ruler too, but I have really enjoyed having it. When my new 5 inch ruler comes, I will have a ruler in each size of the squares I keep, with the exception of the 2 inch ones.

Now that I've been seriously quilting for a couple of years, I'm also figuring out what I like to do, and what I don't like to do. It's like finding my quilting identity. I'm not limiting myself on trying new things, but I consistently find myself drawn to similar things. I like scrappy quilts, multi fabric quilts, the 'why use one green when you can use 20, 30, or even 100 greens' kind of quilts.

I like smaller pieces. I think nine patches that finish at 3" are so cute! For the most part, a 6 1/2 inch square is the largest piece I'm going to use in a quilt. I consider that a large piece. The patterns that take a fat quarter and cut it into three pieces to make a fast quilt are not my thing. They are pretty, just not me. I do have a quilt in the works with big pieces, and I'm not having fun with it. I have another I will probably make with large pieces, but only because I want to use the fat quarters I bought in Hawaii in the the same quilt, and I want the pieces large enough to not lose the designs. The Hawaiian prints are large scale and would be lost in 1 1/2" strips.

I was thinking about my liking small pieces, and I even came up with a theory on that. I love to piece, and don't enjoy the quilting part nearly as much. Large pieces give all that empty area that screams for fancy quilting. I don't like to do fancy quilting, but I like to do busy piecing, which looks better with simpler quilting. Lots of pieces + simple quilting = my style!

I like small pieces, but I also like to make lots of quilts. Strip piecing really works for me. It lets me have the look of small pieces, without ever having to cut lots of tiny pieces. It seems faster to me, but since you are sewing exactly the same amount of seams it may not be. It feels faster, and I like that.

I don't ever want to make an heirloom quilt. NEVER. I want my quilts to be picnic friendly, and grandkids making a tent approved. I don't want to ever freak out about pets getting on a quilt, or something being spilled on it. If a quilt gets ruined, it just gives me an excuse to make another one, right?

That's what I like to do, and some of what I don't like to do. How about what I want to do in the future? I want to conquer free-motion quilting! I want to have someone teach me how to paper piece and have it make sense to me. I want to make a crumb quilt. I want to take a class on free motion quilting, I want to go to one of Bonnie Hunter's classes. I want to keep a quilt that I make. I have given them all away.