Saturday, April 26, 2014

Time Savers

A question I routinely receive is, "How do you get so much done?" Lately I find that question pretty funny, because I don't always "feel" like I got a lot done. I do, however use some time saving methods, that help me accomplish more in less time.

When I first started seriously quilting, I had more available time to sew than I do now. One of the best things I did with that extra time was read through Bonnie K. Hunter's website,  Bonnie has been quilting far longer than I, and she has some incredibly valuable information on her blog. I learned from her to pre-cut my scraps, use leaders/enders, make use of my scraps, string piece; she's literally influenced my quilting in dozens of ways. Now that I've been quilting a while, I've learned which of her techniques work for me, and which don't.

I've seen women in my online groups rant about cutting for Bonnie's Scrap User System, then never using those pre-cut scraps. I, however, do use my pre-cut scraps all the time. I think the difference is, whenever I am going to start a new quilt, I think about if any of my pre-cut sizes will work for that quilt. If they will, I go to those first, before I ever look at yardage in stash. Sometimes I have gone ahead and pulled stash, then used none of it because I had enough pre-cuts. Now I just go straight to pre-cuts, and use as much of that as I can before touching stash yardage. By changing the way I pull fabric for a quilt, it changed how many scraps I use.

Another thing Bonnie got me doing was using Leader/Enders while piecing. I don't see the point in making random four patches or nine patches for a "someday" quilt, but I do see every reason to work on a second quilt at the same time. I am usually working on multiple quilts at once while piecing, and I love it that the secondary quilt is often done before the primary quilt. It feels like I got a quilt top done without ever working on it.

Some of Bonnie's ideas don't work well for me, at least as she uses them. For example, the way she assembles a quilt top, she calls Webbing the Top. I do not like assembling quilts this way, BUT I do use this same technique for assembling blocks. The reason I don't like assembling quilt tops this way is that you are dealing with most of the quilt, a lot of the assembly process. I find it hard to manage. What works for me is assembling horizontal rows, which I normally do as leaders/enders. All odd numbered rows get the seams pressed to the right, all odd numbered rows get pressed to the left. I then start sewing the rows to each other in pairs row 1 to row 2, row 3 to row 4, and so on. Once that is done I sew the pairs together 1/2 to 3/4, 5/6 to 7/8, etc... Only the center seam has me wrangling the whole quilt top. I've heard other women say they hated the way I assemble quilt tops, because they don't like dealing with the long strips of blocks. It works fine for me, and if you don't like that, try assembling in quarters or something. There are so many ways to do things, don't stick with something that isn't working for you.

I took some pics this morning while I was sewing, so I could show you how I web a block, based on Bonnie's method of webbing a top.

^Here is a 25 patch, laid out ready to sew. I'm going to refer to the horizontal rows by number, 1-5 from top to bottom. The columns will be a-e going left to right.

^Here I've sewn 1a to 1b, 2a to 2b, 3a to 3b, 4a to 4b, and 5a to 5b. I don't want to cut this chain, so I need a leader/ender.

^Here I'm using a block from a quilt for one of my grandsons as my leader/ender. Now I can snip off the chain from my original block, and add the c column to them.

^Here I am adding the last of the d column, see how I only have the e column left from my original lay out?

^Now all the rows are done, and I've turned it 90 degrees.  I am not cutting the chaining threads. I finger press the first, third, and fifth rows seams up, the second and fourth rows down.

Flip the fifth column over the fourth and sew that seam. Since I finger pressed the seams in opposite directions, they nest nicely together. I sew a leader/ender in between each seam on my main block.

^This is right after sewing that last seam. The fourth and fifth columns are sewn together.

Now it's time to flip the pair of columns over so I can se the next seam. You keep on with this, until the block is complete.

^These are the two leader/ender blocks I completed while working on the one 25 patch.

^Here is my completed 25 patch.
One of the biggest helps to getting a lot done, is picking a good starting place, NOT a good stopping place. Right after I finish this 25 patch is a fine stopping place, but where does that leave me to start next time I sit at the sewing machine? I have nothing ready to follow the leader/ender under my needle. 

Now, if I take an extra couple minutes and lay out another 25 patch? That is an excellent starting place! I can sit down and start sewing immediately, so if I only have 15 minutes to sew next time, I can actually see something come together, instead of just laying out a block and feeling like I got nothing accomplished.

A good starting place depends on what I'm doing, but it is basically making sure when I get to the sewing room, I can immediately sew something. I may have to make sure I press my units before I stop, or do some sub-cutting if I'm strip piecing. Whatever I have to do to make it so that I can sit and sew immediately next time, is what I need to do to have a good starting place.

Some other time savers? If I have one of those rare days I can sew most of the day, I try to put dinner in the crock pot in the morning. If I don't have to stop and make dinner, and the family gets fed, it's all good. Sometimes I even put the bread machine on the timer and we get warm bread plus whatever I put in the crock pot.

I tend to cut out multiple quilts at once. I like to make a few quilts to donate every year, and with time at a premium, that's hard to do. If I know I have more than enough fabric to make whatever quilt I want to make, I cut extra blocks from the same fabrics, and however many extra blocks I get go into donation quilts. I just cut out quilts for all three of my grandsons, and they will be my leader/enders while I work on the quilt made of 25 patches. I find it most time saving to do things assembly line style, cut several quilts, piece them all, quilt them all. Some people can't work that way, and that's fine too. These are some of the ways I get more done. There are some great tips out there, find the ones that work for you!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Circle of Life- Fabric Edition

The above fabric and selvage demonstrates one of the reasons I love quilting! There always seems to be so much connectivity through quilts. I have spent whatever spare time I've had this week cutting out quilts for my grandsons. I plan on using their quilts as leader/enders for the wedding quilt I just started. I am making a fishbowl quilt for my oldest grandson, Zak. I had originally chosen a black for the shelves the fishbowl will sit on, but I didn't have quite enough. I found this gray, and it has a wood grain look to it, and I had just the right amount of it.

When I pressed the fabric, I realized this piece was from DH's grandmother's stash. She passed away a couple years ago, and my MIL brought me most of her remaining stash. I've used her fabrics in multiple quilts already, and I think she'd be pleased they are being used. I thought for her fabric to end up in Zak's quilt was especially fitting, since he is her great, great grandson.

When I cut off the selvage, I noticed the date of manufacture. 1988, the year DD#1, Zak's mother, was born. So, Zak will have a fabric purchased by his great, great, grandmother, transported by his great grandmother, to his grandmother (me), which was manufactured in the year his mother was born,  sewn into a quilt for him! Yes, indeed, I love things like this!

I haven't sewn since I finished the blocks for DS the Elder's quilt. I'm just cutting right now, so I have several projects ready to go.

Oh, DD#1 is expecting again, and if it's a girl, she'd like a coral/teal color scheme. My stash is low on those colors, but guess whose stash wasn't? Granny may be helping me with fabrics again ;-)

This weekend promises to be busy, with plans to go to the county fair on Saturday, and then all the Easter festivities on Sunday. I'm happy to be reminded all Jesus sacrificed for me.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My First Finish of 2014

I got the binding on the this quilt Saturday morning. I machine apply bindings using a serpentine stitch on my Bernina. I used to used clips to hold the binding in place, but I've figured out how to do it without the clips. I can bind almost any size quilt in less than two hours, usually much less. My bindings won't win any awards, but it gets my quilts finished and they won't come loose. I never enter my quilts in contests anyway, I make quilts to be used. In case anyone is wondering, this quilt is made with the Smith Mountain Morning pattern found in Bonnie K. Hunter's book Scraps and Shirttails 2.

I'm not sure if you can tell the quilting thread is variegated in this pic or not. It is King Tut thread, I think the color is Bulrushes. I bought the big cone, and it's pretty much gone, just a little left, maybe enough for a baby quilt.
I had to laugh when I changed thread to sew on the binding. This was all that was left on my quilting bobbin. I'm so glad I had just a few inches left instead of running out with just a couple inches to go which seems to happen so often. I used two 1000m spools of Aurifil in the bobbins, this quilt used a LOT of thread.

After I finished DS the Younger's wedding quilt, I finished the last of the Aussie blocks which will be a quilt for DS the Elder.

This photo is a little blurry, but I laid out four blocks so you could see the secondary pattern that emerges. This block is called Garden Path, and I found it free online. I plan to make one of my grandsons a quilt out of this same pattern, using car fabrics and black for the paths so he can drive his Matchbox cars on it.

It feels amazing to have had such a productive weekend. It seemed like pure luxury to have so much quilting time. I should have a few hours during the next week, and I plan on cutting out a couple quilts. I gathered fabric today, and went through my precuts for things I could use. I also ran the numbers to figure out yardage requirements and how many of each piece I need. I hope to get quilts cut out for each of my grandsons. My plan is to use my grandsons quilts as leaders/enders for the other wedding quilts I need to make.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Done the Quilting!

Here is the back of DS the Younger's wedding quilt. It took over 2 miles of thread just to quilt this monster, no wonder it took longer than I anticipated! Well, not to mention I've had next to no time to sew. I hope to get the binding on tomorrow, then I'll take a good pic of the front.

Let's see, it's been a couple weeks since I posted. DH and celebrated our 30th anniversary. We hoped to catch a flight to South Dakota, but that didn't work out, so we ended up going to California for the weekend. It was great and we had a hotel right on the beach. The only downside was that we had packed for South Dakota and not the beach! We even got to feel an earthquake and made our anniversary even more memorable.

One of the reasons I hadn't posted, is my laptop was dying, and I just bought a new one to replace it. My old one had Windows Vista, obviously old, and this new one has Windows 8 and I'm still trying to figure out how to use it! So far I can't even find the calculator. I had wanted to wait until May to buy a new laptop, as there are usually great sales around graduation time, but I was afraid my old one would die completely before I had a chance to get the photos and quilts I've designed off it. I've only had this new computer a couple of days, and I did manage to get EQ7 loaded onto it, but I have yet to try transferring data from my old laptop to my new one. If I don't get around to doing it before Easter, I could probably get my computer savvy son-in-law to do it, but I'd like to try doing it myself first. I love what technology can do, but I hate changing systems, and struggling to reload information.

Things have been crazy around here. All of the remodeling is done for now, two weddings are done, and life should be settling down a bit. I know financially we could surely use things to calm down. That didn't happen this week though. I bought a new laptop, our car battery died and we needed to replace it, Miss S's bed broke, but thankfully, DH was able to repair it. The next thing on our list is to replace the ceiling fan in our bedroom, since the switch broke, and with summer pretty much here in Southern Arizona, we need a working ceiling fan in the bedroom. Things tend to come in groups, and I'm hoping we're about at the end of all of this, and can maybe look forward to an uneventful summer? We're already looking at several big things happening in the fall, so an uneventful summer sounds perfect!