Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to Eat an Elephant

...one bite at a time, of course. One my my latest projects feels a lot like eating an elephant, really overwhelming at first.

Before I tell you what my latest project is, I want to give a little backstory. If you've been reading my blog, you know that my 3 1/2 year old grandtwins live with me, along with DD#3, their mom. I watch the twins while my daughter is working, or at the doctor, or whatever she has to do. I love the twins infinitely, but I'd be lying if I said they haven't seriously curtailed my quilting. Now that they are a little older, I'm trying to find ways to get something quilty done while I'm watching them. When my five kids were little, I was into cross-stitch and needlepoint, which really lend themselves to being done while watching the kids, but I rarely do any hand sewing these days, so I'm having to learn how to do quilty things around little ones. Mr. L has a real affinity for anything sharp, loves scissors, pins, etc... and he also loves anything that writes, which he normally uses on everything we don't want him to write on. Miss S loves to copy whatever she sees anyone doing, so if she sees me cutting, and I leave things where she can get to them, she's going to try that. If I'm marking a quilt top, she's going to try that too, even if she finds a permanent marker and not my washable one. It's pretty tricky to find things to work on around them, that won't have them hurt or me angry.

That said, I've been working on a lot of my latest quilts late at night, when I'm already exhausted, and that's getting old. I had to figure out some things to do while they were up. What actually helped me think of something, was that spontaneous getaway with DH a couple weeks ago. I always like to work on something in the car, and I needed something to work on in the hotel. I had no time to kit anything up, so I looked through my old projects that have been languishing.

I brought a string project for my sewing project, mostly because it was already in my sewing trolley. The other two things I brought were a bag of bonus HST's that needed to be trimmed, and squares I needed to draw lines on. Those two projects have really helped my attitude while watching the twins.

I had hundreds of 3.5" squares I needed to draw diagonal lines on. I don't mind drawing diagonal lines, and I find it's a good car project. I've started drawing two lines on all my sew and flip corners, so I have a bonus HST in the size I need from the start. I got that idea here. When I'm drawing lines in the car, I use a clipboard, and before I do another car trip where I do drawing lines as my car project, I plan on buying this, so I can store my pieces, rulers and pencil all in the clipboard. I got a lot of my lines drawn on my trip, but I realized that was something I could easily do while watching the twins, using a TV table. Now I've finished drawing lines on squares for four different quilts I have planned. That's some great prep work done!

My other project, which is where the elephant comes in, was trimming HST's down to consistent sizes. I saved these years ago, before I learned the two sewing line trick. Most of these HST's were a little too small to be cut at 2", but I wanted them as large as possible, so I'm cutting them at 1.75". I plan on using all of them in 16 patches, so I'll end up with 5" blocks. I already made one quilt with some of these I had already cut down. Well, the thing is, sliver trimming in not my favorite thing to do. In fact, sliver trimming is on my "don't like to do" list which is why I strive for sewing accuracy so I don't have to do it. Not wanting to sliver trim, is why my bonus HST collection kept on growing, and growing! I love playing with bonus HST's, and I've made a LOT of projects using them over the years. When I had extras, I just threw them in a Ziploc bag, gallon sized. Well, one Ziploc bag turned into two, which was my elephant. Do you know how many bonus HST's fit in a gallon sized Ziploc bag? Neither do I ;-) I just know it's a LOT. I trimmed some HST's on my trip in the hotel, and I decided this was one thing that needed to be tamed, and if I was smart, I could do it while watching the twins.

Step one of sliver trimming HST's- using the rotary cutter and doing the actual sliver trimming. I trim the HST's before pressing open, using this ruler. If I put a small cutting mat on a TV table, and I have my HST's and my ruler, the only thing that can hurt the twins is my rotary cutter. So, I've been trimming the HST's in the room with them, but my rotary cutter stays with me, everywhere I go. If I have it in my hand, I know they don't have it. So far so good.

Step 2- pressing. I have a small ironing board I picked up at a thrift store. It fits on my TV table, hanging off a bit. I've been using my travel iron and pressing my HST's while watching the twins. If I have to leave the room, guess what goes with me? Yup, nothing like dragging an iron around. Honestly, I tend to just stick it on top of the refrigerator so they can't reach it, rather than dragging a hot iron around. I'm finding my travel iron actually works better for pressing these small HST's than my regular iron. I use this travel iron that I've had for years, and it's fits in my hand quite nicely.

Step 3- trimming dog ears. I use a small set of scissors to do this, again, keeping the scissors with me at all times, or putting them high up like on the refrigerator. One of the twins asked what I was doing, and I told them snipping dog ears. They looked at our dogs and back to me, and I could tell they were quite confused. I reassured them that I wasn't harming the dogs, and showed them what I was actually snipping off, and that it was shaped kind of like a dog's ear.

So how am I doing on my elephant? From two gallon sized Ziploc bags full, I'm down to this

And I now have this to show for my time.

Plus I have this sample block I'm looking forward to making into a quilt.

I'm not done, but I'm certainly making progress. I'm grabbing a handful a day, and try to do all three steps to each day's portion. I'm feeling good about getting these usable, and very thankful I learned the trick about drawing two lines to sew on so I won't have to do this again.

I had some sewing time this afternoon, while the twins were with their other grandmother. I was working on the sashing for that baby quilt I talked about last blog post. I'm making progress on the sashing, but not done yet. Today is my only sewing day for this week. There is a bridal shower at my house on Saturday, and I have lots to do before that happens. I doubt I'll get many more HST's trimmed until next week either, but at least I'm getting there!


1 comment:

phxquilt said...

I admire your organization! I remember the days of working around little people. I used to work furiously while they were in school/day care and then switched gears when they were home. I used knitting, crocheting while they were home.