Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Not a Single Stitch

I still haven't sewn a stitch since I've been home. I haven't turned on a sewing machine at all. So what have I been doing?

Cutting, and cutting, and cutting some more! I took some bricks that I had been saving, decided that size didn't really work for me, and cut the bricks into two different sizes, which I plan to use ASAP in specific projects. These pieces are 1.5" x 2.5" cut.

The rest of the bricks are now 2.5" x 4.5", and these are going into a quilt ASAP also. The solid lavender in the back will pull these scraps together. You may notice my Allietare pieces off to the side, I finally cut the setting triangles, so now I can piece those together, and maybe get those two quilts assembled. One of the Allietare quilts has a deadline.

I'm making a deadline quilt that has 14 different blocks in it. I used paper plates to keep my block pieces separate. The plastic shoebox has the rest of those bricks I cut down.

I finished cutting out a king-sized wedding quilt today. My scraps are getting out of hand again, so I promised myself this huge cutting spree wouldn't add to my scraps needing to be cut to usable sizes. I didn't really have a lot extra, the quilt pattern used almost all of 52 fat quarters.

I'm cutting any scraps to size as I go along. When I'm done this cutting spree, I'll get them all put away in my strip drawers.

So what am I doing tomorrow? Cutting another wedding quilt! I made a decision on one of the weddings that snuck up on me, and I chose a quilt, picked fabrics from stash, and tomorrow I'll cut that out too.

I have at least one more quilt I want to cut out before I get back to sewing. One of the nine patch on point quilts I mentioned in my last post, I chose the solid fabric I want to set the nine patches with, and now I want to get that cut, so the quilt is ready to assemble. The nine patches have been done for two years, it's time to at least get that project to quilt top stage. It may end up being the third wedding quilt too, I haven't decided. I'm still debating easy quilt patterns, in case they get back to me with color preferences.

Oh, and one of the baby quilts I needed to make, now has a direction to go in. They chose a nursery theme, and I happened to have appropriate fabric in stash. I have a quilt design in mind, but I need to play with EQ and design it. I've never seen a quilt quite like I'm thinking of, but it should be a fun one!

I know I am always tweaking my fabric storage and usage, trying to find the perfect system for me. I sometimes decide to stop saving certain size pieces, like the bricks that I cut to other sizes, and plan on using as leaders/enders until they are gone. I'm OK with the fact that I saved them, but I don't regularly use them, so I'll use these up, and not save bricks of any size any more. Bricks are easily enough cut from strips, so from now on, if it's bigger than a square, it stays in a strip.

For the most part, my fabric system works pretty well for me. For example, the wedding quilt I cut out today. The pieces I needed had to be cut from 9.5" strips. Well, I don't save strips over 3.5" So my strip drawers were of no help. I went from there, to my fat quarters, (some of which I purchased specifically for this quilt), and to the fabrics I have one yard or less. I got most of what I needed from there, but when I counted my fabrics, I had more silvers than purples, and I needed 26 fat quarters of each color to get enough pieces for the quilt. I then went to my larger mini-bolts, that hold anything over a yard. I found enough purples to use in the quilt, and got it cut out.

What really does work for me, is going through the smallest usable size first. If I had been able to use something from my strip drawers, I would have grabbed everything suitable from there before I moved to the fat quarters-1 yard pieces on my small mini-bolts. I don't pull fabrics for Bonnie Hunter mystery quilts anymore, because I have made a couple of them using only what's in my strip drawers.

Why is it so important to me to use the smallest sizes first? A couple of reasons. The first and most practical, is that those small bits will take over the house if not used consistently. Every time I cut out a project, I end up with leftover bits. Every time I trim a backing after quilting, I get leftover bits. Those leftover bits can be tossed, given away, or used, and I prefer to use them.

The second reason I use the smallest bits first, comes into play tomorrow. The wedding quilt I am cutting out tomorrow, only uses 5 fabrics in the quilt center. For two of those fabrics, I need over 5 yards each. If I always went to my yardage first, my scraps would pile up, and my yardage would dwindle down. Since I use my yardage last, I keep those pieces as large as possible, for as long as possible. I found all five fabrics in my stash, in sufficient amounts. Every quilter has different habits, different preferences, and different needs, but for me, working from the smallest pieces makes sense.

Once I finish this cutting spree, I'll have sewing set up for quite a while. I'll still need to cut borders, since I haven't bothered cutting those yet, but not all the quilts I'm making will have borders. I'm looking forward to just being able to sew and sew, instead of cut and cut, but it's all good!

Friday, April 22, 2016

It's All About the Process

I've been home a week, and the only sewing I've done is hand sewing closed a hole in a stuffed animal. I haven't been sewing, but I wouldn't say I haven't done anything quilt related.

Remember I brought home 300 yards of fabric from my trip?

Here is a close up of the tone-on-tone design of one of my bundles. I have 17 different colors with this same design. I put all of these fabrics on my mini-bolts, and have them on my fabric shelves.

I knew I didn't have enough empty mini-bolts to hold all the solids, so I started with the fabrics that were duplicates. In both solid bundles I had white, cream, red, black, and dark purple. There were 17 fabrics in each bundle, so since I have 5 duplicate colors, means I have 29 different colors of solids in those bundles. I wrapped the solids I could on my remaining mini-bolts, and the rest are just sitting on a shelf. I will put them on mini-bolts as I empty other ones. I couldn't fit all 300 yards on my fabric shelves, but I did get the excess easily on the two shelves I had just emptied when I weeded out some quilting books. Since all the fabric fit in available space in my quilting studio, I'm thinking that's not too bad.

Now, would you consider putting fabric away, in a fashion that you can easily find it, part of the quilting process? I do. I function best when I can easily find what I need. I don't do well with fabric in totes or boxes, I need to see it. For me, sorting by color works best, although I know some people don't like that. I do have one container with 30's repro prints, because I don't collect those, and I have a couple specific projects in mind for them, so I don't want those mixed in with the rest of the stash, though I do have 30's repros mixed in my scrap user system, when the remaining bits are too small to want to store with the 30's stuff.

Another quilty thing I've been doing? Well, my best friend sent me home with a huge black trash bag full of jeans she couldn't wear. She knew I liked making denim quilts. I've spent the week "de-boning" all those pants. I know there are crafts out there that use almost every bit of a pair of jeans, but I'm not interested in doing all of those. I keep the back pockets, and the fabric left after cutting off the waistband, all seams, and zipper. Someone else may have kept more, but I know I won't use the waistbands, zippers, or belt loops, so I am happy to toss those. There were several pairs of colored denim, which to me is anything not blue or black. I de-boned those, and set those aside for another time. I know exactly what I will use them for, I just don't want to spend the time right now cutting those parts to size. At least will all the excess stuff cut off, they take up a lot less room.

With the blue and black pairs of jeans, I dug out my Charming Circles Ruler, and I traced around it so I have a big stack of circles to cut out. I am aware that they say you can use a rotary cutter with the ruler to cut out the circles, but I have pretty dramatic numbness in my hands, and any time I try to cut at odd angles with a rotary cutter, I either am very inaccurate, or I am in danger of cutting myself. For me, using a rotary cutter to cut a circle is a dangerous proposition, so instead, I just trace around it, and cut with scissors at my leisure.

Here is my stack of circles to cut so far. While I was working with all that denim, I realized I likely had a couple pairs of jeans hanging in my closet, and I haven't worn a pair of jeans in at least three years. I went digging through my closet, and came up with NINE pairs of jeans, that haven't seen the light of day in years. Guess what I added to my pile to process? I got those all de-boned today, but I'll be working on drawing those circles this weekend. By the end of the weekend, I should have one box of colored denim to process later, and one sizable stack of circles to be cut.

Here is the thing that confuses people about the way I work. I won't be making that Charming Circles quilt soon. Maybe next year, definitely not this year. So why am I working on it now? For the same reason I am always drawing diagonal lines on squares ahead of time. So that when I start that project, the drudgery part is already done! I am not good at sitting still and not doing something. If one of the kids wants me to watch a movie with them, I need something to work on. I rarely hand sew, so I need something else to do. Cutting out circles, or drawing diagonal lines on squares for sew and flip corners is pretty much a no-brainer, and I can watch a movie and happily get something boring done, while not really concentrating on it. That really works for me, but you have to plan for those things. I've been asked over and over how I get so much done, and that a big part of it. I'm usually thinking several quilts down the road, and if I can get the non-sewing, time-intensive stuff done before I ever start the quilt, the quilt goes together a lot faster! It helps that I am a planner by nature, so thinking several steps ahead comes easily to me.

Now that I have three wedding quilts on my deadline list, instead of just one, I started going over what quilts I could make queen/king sized, but that are already started. My niece's quilt is already planned, so although it's not started, she will get the one I've planned on making her. The two weddings that snuck up on me are another story. I may just finish a quilt I already have started. Here's what I've got that could work.

1) Pineapple Blossom-blocks done, needs sashing and assembled.
2) Fading Charms quilt- units done, needs to be assembled, and one border pieced
3) Scrappy nine patches on point- nine patches done, need to cut a solid for alternating blocks and setting triangles.
4) Black/white nine patches on point- nine patches done, need to cut fabrics for scrappy alternate squares and setting triangles.
5)  Blazing Star/Courthouse Steps quilt in green and burgundy- Blazing Star blocks done, need to make Courthouse Steps blocks.
6) A log cabin variation- some blocks done, all cut out.

If I finish a couple of those, I could get off pretty easy on the wedding quilts. Most of the parts that I already have made, I made as leaders/enders, while working on something else. I always have a project in mind when I'm doing leaders/enders.

I did ask the newest two couples for color preferences, and if I get a response, I may very well make something new. I'll probably choose something easy like a Strip Twist or log cabin and I could likely find everything I need in my scrap user system. If I don't get input on colors, I'll likely just finish a couple of UFO's, and call it good. Scrappy quilts match everything, right???

I am always happy to have quilts in different stages. Need a really quick gift? Quilt up a finished quilt top. Have a bit more time? Finish a UFO. Have a lot of time? Start something new, but get another project a bit further along as leaders/enders while working on the new start. It's OK with me if the process takes a circuitous route. If I just move a project along a bit at a time, but it isn't finished for several years, I just trust it will be finished when I need it to be. I always give my quilts on time, I don't have hundreds of UFO's. I do have UFO's, those quilts started with no deadline, and those are the ones that get strung along. Quilts done for an occasion, get done on time. I enjoy the process more, when I am not so uptight about finishing every quilt in a timely manner. Not every quilt needs to be finished right now, or next week, or this year. By working on a few without deadlines, it makes me happy, and gives me some variety, to add in with all the special occasion quilts.

Oh, and what about when the process is done, and the quilts are finished?

My friend that gave me all those jeans, also sent me home with a quilt rack, so the quilts we use on the couch have a place to be in the living room, aside from being on the couch ;-)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

12 Days, 13 States, 4,400 Miles

I haven't been around to blog, I was out of town! DH, DDIL, and I went to Fort Benning, GA for DS the Younger's graduation from 91M school. I got to give him his Army quilt after graduation, and DH snapped of pic of us.

I was thrilled to get a photo in front of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which is what DS is trained to work on. My little boy is definitely a grown man now, look at how much he towers over me!

While we were in Georgia, I got to visit my best friend for a couple days. She and her husband came up to DS the Younger's graduation, then we went down to their house for a couple days. It all brought back a lot of memories. You see, I met my best friend when we were both Army wives, living on post in Texas. Both our husbands were active duty Army, and although we moved on from that assignment, and never were stationed in the same place again, we remained best friends.

On the way home, we picked up some souvenirs, but not the normal type! No t-shirts or keychains here. I'll show you DH's souvenir first.

DH found a scooter with a sidecar for sale in Indiana. He's got family in Indiana, so he had one of his cousins go check it out. It looked good, so we wired the money, had him buy it, and then he offered to meet us in Nashville with the scooter. We rented a U-Haul trailer, and hauled it home.

The unplanned detour to Nashville left us in an interesting place. We weren't that far from Paducah, Kentucky, which I'd like to go to someday. We also weren't far from Batesville, Arkansas, where Marshall Dry Goods is located. I have ordered quite a bit of fabric from Marshall Dry Goods over the years, and I'm happy with the quality of it. In fact, the Army quilt I made for DS the Younger has some fabrics from Marshall Dry Goods, and the backing of it is all from there.

DH and I discussed it, and I was very honest. Paducah would be a longer stop, because I'd want to go to the quilt museum and hit a few shops. It would be cheaper though, because I'm not likely to buy a lot at high prices. Marshall Dry Goods would be a faster stop, but a lot more expensive, because I am quite familiar with their stuff, and knew I'd buy a couple bundles of fabric. He decided to go with Marshall Dry Goods.

Here is what you see when you walk into Marshall Dry Goods. This is the retail side of things, you can buy fabrics by the yard, and although most fabrics are $2.95 a yard, they have sale tables at $1 a yard, and have some name brand stuff at $6.95 a yard. Good prices, right?

I was there for fabric bundles, which are on the wholesale side.

On this side of the store they sell fabrics by the bundle or bolt. I've gone through both bundles and bolts of their fabric in the past. Their bundles have five-six yard lengths of multiple fabrics in the same line. A lot of their bundles end up about 100 yards or so. So what did I buy???

I bought two bundles of solids, and one bundle of tone-on-tones. That is 300 yards of fabric, for a grand total of $441 after taxes. Some souvenir, huh? I go though a minimum of 100 yards of fabric a year, usually much more than that. I have used over 300 yards of fabric in one year. Yes, it's a lot of fabric, but I use a lot, and at those prices, I couldn't really go wrong. I tried to be as practical as possible, and buy what I knew would make my current stash of fabrics more usable. The solids were on sale for $1 a yard in the bundles, and I use a lot of solid color fabrics for backgrounds. The tone on tones were $1.95 a yard. Taxes added just over $40, and I think I got an amazing deal! I was tempted to buy a bundle of pindot fabrics, but I didn't want to splurge that much at once. Maybe after I get some of these sewn up into quilts, I'll order some of the pindot fabrics online.

I got some news while on our trip, and now I've got two more wedding quilts and another baby quilt to go on my deadline quilt list. Maybe it's a good thing we opted for Marshall Dry Goods instead of Paducah on the way home ;-)

Friday, April 1, 2016

No Fooling!

Ah, April Fool's Day, which I never have gotten into. I'm just not one to play tricks on people, no matter the excuse. So, I have some news, and I'm not fooling, but I am excited!

I've got another grandbaby on the way! I had a feeling I'd be adding a baby quilt to my deadline quilts for this year, and sure enough, DD#2 is due in December. This will be her first, and the baby is due to arrive right in time for her third wedding anniversary!

I'll wait to decide on a quilt until they find out gender, and headcount! Since we already have grandtwins from DD#3, we always wonder now.

I've still been working on non-quilty items. I just finished my first purse ever, for my DDIL (DS the Younger's wife) DS the Younger is about to graduate from Army AIT, and they've been apart for about seven months, so I wanted to make her something to celebrate too. I already have DS the Younger's Army quilt ready to go.

To my way of thinking, this is the purse front, though it doesn't really matter. I put in a zippered pocket on this side.

I made this side have a patch pocket. There is also one patch pocket on the inside liner, and the purse zips closed.

I used this YouTube tutorial as my base pattern.

I made a few changes, like adding patch pockets, and piecing the front. I also opted to make one adjustable strap rather than two fixed straps. I didn't have any D-rings on hand, so I made fabric loops to hold the strap. Changing the handle took the most figuring, but I may go ahead and make another purse as the tutorial is written, for someone else. I did use fusible interfacing on the back of the outside of the bag, to make it a bit sturdier. If I hadn't been in such a hurry, I likely would have bought zippers specifically for this purse. Instead I used what I had on hand. The only zipper I had that was the right color and long enough for the main zipper was an invisible zipper. An odd choice for a purse, but I just used what I had.

Flinging is still going on around here. A local charity had a truck coming around today, and we had a big pile at the curb. It's nice to see stuff move on after deciding we don't need it anymore.

I have been wanting a larger freezer, but ours is still working fine, so it seemed a waste to buy a new one. Well, DS the Younger and DDIL decided they'd like to have a freezer, so I bought the one I've been wanting, and I'm giving my other freezer to them!

I now have this Kenmore Elite, which makes organizing the freezer so much easier, and I LOVE the lighting in it. I'm using a few plastic baskets to help keep things organized in there, but I love the fact it has two huge drawers built in. I've always been a fan of having some meals made ahead, and in the freezer, and now I'll have room to do that again! I was constantly running out of room in the smaller freezer.

It's great that it worked out so I could get the freezer I wanted, and bless one of my kids at the same time. Win-win!

I have a few things that need to be rearranged after the flinging, and the new freezer. I better get busy doing that!