Friday, 18 March 2016

Scrap taming

Firstly a couple of pictures of my spring bulbs in flower, three weeks earlier than the same varieties last year!

As well as trying to reduce the UFO list I am also attempting to keep my fabric scraps under some semblance of control.  I know all quilters consider different sizes to be "scraps", for me it is probably anything less than 1/8th of a yard.  Above a yard it is yardage, between 1/8 yard (fat or long/thin) and a yard it is a piece, but so long as it is bigger than 3/4" in one dimension it is worth keeping.  Of course if I bought a stack of precuts of whatever size they would also be pieces not scraps.  I hope that is all as clear as mud.

A great help in dealing with my scraps is Bonnie Hunter's scrap user's system though I think of it more as a scrap tamer's system :)  I don't follow Bonnie's system with every piece of fabric, but as I come to the end of the cutting phase for a project I do, usually, cut the smaller pieces into strips, squares & strings and put them into boxes.  I used to use cardboard shoeboxes but have now discovered Sterilite 6 quart clear plastic boxes, which my local Home Depot has at 98 cents per box, including the lid!  Slowly I am putting my larger volumes of scraps into those and I can see what I have.  I also keep a box of all the odd shaped bits that I can't be bothered into sorting more formally, including all the triangles that I trim as I make binding strips and other little itty bitty pieces almost too small to use.  These small pieces end up in crumb blocks which in turn make the scrappiest, most colorful quilts full of all my quilting history.  Anything less than 3/4" square does eventually end up in the bin.

This week I have continued working on the elephant quilt for my granddaughter and now have 15 pink heffalumps partially sewn together. In making this I have also ended up with lots of little HSTs* made by sewing an extra line of stitching before trimming off the corner triangles - maybe in this instance these  could be called elephant droppings?  I think I shall press and trim them, sew them together in little blocks and make some pincushions using Amanda Jean's method over at Crazy Mom Quilts in the hope that using up the scraps as I create them will help keep them under control.  All I'll have to do is work out what to do with all the pincushions!

A quick note on another difference between the UK & the USA: driving! My younger son turned 16 at the beginning of the month and I now have TWO teenage sons with learner's permits. Eeeek!

Back in the UK I would have paid to send them out with a driving instructor in a dual control car for him/her to deal with their awkward kangaroo hops in a manual transmission (stick shift) as they learned clutch control and I would only have taken them out once they had already developed some skills, also they would have had to display "L plates" (as in the image to the left) on the front and back of the vehicle whenever they were driving to let other road users know the car was in the "control" of a learner driver.  Here it has been up to me to do the initial skills transfer, starting in DH's work place car park/parking lot and soon they will be on the real roads with no warning to other drivers that they are inexperienced drivers.  Admittedly, starting to drive in an automatic is more straightforward, but I know there are all sorts of skills and habits that a UK certified driving school instills in a young driver that I will not remember to pass on to my sons.  In due course they will be taught how to drive using a clutch, so one thing they already know is not to put their left foot anywhere other than flat on the floor or the foot rest!  From my quick internet search for L plates it seems that even our UK armed forces are not exempt from the L plate rule.

* HST = Half Square Triangle

Monday, 14 March 2016

Alphabet Soup - or a post full of TLAs

In 2016 I am aiming to move things from my UFO list to my completed list - in this instance a UFO is an UnFinished Object as at 1st January 2016.  To count as a UFO the project has to actually have been started in some way, i.e. at least some cutting and/or sewing must have been done.  This means a WIP* at the beginning of the year counts, but PIGS, PITs & PIWs don't, nor do USOs or WHIMs.  My UFO count at the start of the year was about 15 and I would like to get at least one completed each month.

This week I managed to complete a UFO from 2013, unfortunately this is not my oldest UFO, but it is now quilted, bound, labelled and has a hanging rod fitted so I can display it when I decide on where it will look best.  This was a class project from a workshop I took in October 2013 with Jenni Dobson.  The central panel was a joint exercise with another of the ladies taking the class.  I think I may yet replace the letters in the word "contrast" with black fabric, but I shall let that idea mature for a while.....  However it is finished and ready to hang so I have completed my OMG for March!

Of course having completed a UFO I didn't pull out the next one to work on, oh no, I started a new project instead!  This time an elephant quilt for my grand-daughter from Quilter's World magazine Spring 2016 issue.

I am using up pink fabrics for the elephants, many of which are from the scrap box and some yellow scraps for the ears.  The stash and scrap raid yielded sufficient fabrics for fifteen pink elephants and by the end of the weekend the five small ones had been assembled and placed on my design "wall" aka my ironing board.  All the pieces for five medium and five large ones are cut and ready to go.

A bonus this week has been some warm sunny weather meaning I was able to get out into the garden and carry on clearing last autumn's leaves from the flower beds and my plant pots where they have helped shelter my herbs from the coldest winter weather. The herbs were all pushed up against the wall of the house to aid their survival but now they have been moved out into the open to benefit from the rain we are promised next week.  My spring bulbs are also looking good, some of the crocuses are blooming and the daffodils are pushing up leaves and flower buds.  Now I have to be patient before planting my vegetable seeds for the year - last year I was a bit too impatient and the seedlings were getting too big before it was safe to put them outside, this year I shall hang on a bit longer before starting them inside.

This week I am linking up with:
Design Wall Monday and
Oh Scrap!

* WIP = work in progress
PIGS = project in grocery sack
PIT = project in tote
PIW = project in waiting
USO = UnStarted Object
WHIM = work hidden in (my) mind
TLA = Three Letter Acronym :)

Friday, 4 March 2016

Where is "home" ?

My second trip of February was to the UK and before I set off I wasn't sure whether it was back home or not.  I suppose that England will always be home in some ways even though living there full time again is unlikely. Whatever the future brings I will always be an Englishwoman, shaped by my time growing up and for the first 40-something years of my life spent there.

As I wrote part of this entry I was at my husband's cousin's dining table looking out at the greenness of their back garden with its English lawn, trees and vegetable plot together with the more unusual suburban addition of chickens.  I had forgotten how many shades of green were to be found in the English landscape, even or especially in the wintertime, and it has been soothing for my village raised soul.  As I left Pennsylvania the landscape was still a stark white with dark, bare trees contrast against it, even the evergreens only give subdued colour to the landscape and true bright colours are probably another month off.  It would be lovely to arrive back home (there is that ambiguous word again) and at least be able to see the leaves of the spring bulbs poking above the soil, promising a riot of colours to come. I shall be most dischuffed if the squirrels have eaten them over the winter.

Seeing familiar birds such as the European robin hunting for breakfast amongst the plants and tiny cheeky blue tits doing acrobatics on the bird feeders has also been a pleasure, though, thanks to Eugene Schieffelin, the starling has become a familiar sight across the continental USA and I have seen a cock pheasant with his glorious plumage running through our PA subdivision.  Looking out of the window of our new home and seeing the scarlet plumage of cardinals and the bright blue of the jays has been a delight and I look forward to the arrival of groups of American robins working their way across the yard eating the garden pests that they are most welcome to!

My trip ended up being 2 weeks rather than the planned single week so very little sewing was completed in February, though all the sections of my grandson's sweater are now complete and awaiting assembly with a final few rows to complete the collar.  Earlier this week a last minute effort on my part while my younger son was at school resulted in him having a hat to go with his scarf before the end of his birthday!  The pattern is Sideways Bobble Hat by Woolly Wormhead, though this hat has no bobble.

In between my travels I did add the borders and letters to a project from a design workshop in October 2013 with Jenni Dobson. The project reappeared in the unpacking of my quilting fabrics and equipment and I decided to get on and get it done, even though there was no expectation to end the workshop with a completed or ongoing piece of work.

The words around the border are Contrast, Line, Balance and Shape - all elements of design which we were encouraged to explore over the 2 days.  Completing the quilting on this is my One Monthly Goal for March.

To answer the question in the heading? Home is with my husband and sons, wherever we might all be.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Halfway around the world and back again

I thought I had published this entry on 9th Feb as per the heading, but somehow I managed to delete it from the blog during editing, so here it is about three and a half weeks later than intended!

As I mentioned last time I have travel scheduled for half of February. My first trip was to Lithuania, specifically to the Baltic coast. There is no quick route so, on Monday afternoon I flew first to Chicago, then overnight to London Heathrow in England, arriving Tuesday morning, where I waited 6 hours for a plane to Copenhagen in Denmark, there I should have only had a 3 hour layover, but that eventually became 5 hours after technical issues with the plane (something to do with a door!). I finally exited my destination airport at 3 a.m. local time on Wednesday morning or 8 p.m. EST, and arrived at the hotel half an hour later, 27 hours after my first plane took off and 37 1/2 hours after my alarm went off at home on Monday morning. Rarely has a hotel bedroom looked so inviting!  During my outward travel I completed knitting one scarf, started another and also continued with a summer weight sweater for my grandson. This is the back pinned out on my ironing board after I got home.

I had been expecting to be met by cold weather but by the time I arrived it was a balmy 6°C, as opposed to the -15°C of two weeks earlier! Strong gusty winds, grey and wet are in some ways better than 2 feet of snow and bitter cold, especially as there would almost certainly have been a cutting wind with that too.  However I was still very glad not to be out in it for more than a few minutes at a time.  After I had completed the job I had flown out to do I had a couple of hours on Thursday afternoon to wander around Klaipeda by which time the wind had dropped and the sun had come out. This is one of the older buildings in the town.

Now for the important bit of the travelogue: the food! My chosen hotel was home to an Armenian restaurant and the dishes were excellent. I enjoyed salads that had never seen a lettuce leaf in their existence, aromatically spiced meats served with fragrant fluffy rice and a delicious filo, honey and pistachio dessert.  Definitely a cuisine to investigate further.

Travelling home on the Friday I essentially reversed my route, though with shorter stopovers at the various airports along the way. The icing on the cake for the journey home was clearing immigration at Chicago O'Hare in about 10 minutes (as opposed to the, at least, 2 hours it took me on one previous trip) and being able to catch an earlier plane for my final flight, getting both me and my luggage home 4 hours earlier than expected!  More knitting on the homeward legs led to completed scarves for my sons.

An unexpected bonus on the transatlantic flight was flying over the southern tip of Greenland - only the second time I have done that in 20 years of travel between Europe and the USA.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Burning the candle at both ends

Last week was another complete wash-out for all things sewing and craft related, even Storm Jonas didn't dent the pressures of other stuff that had deadlines and so had to be done.  In fact he only brought us about 4" of snow which was starting to recede within 24 hours due to the temperatures hovering around and above freezing.  I keep telling myself that the recent efforts will be worth it in the end.

There was a glimpse of hope this week on Wednesday when, in between loads of laundry, I managed to insert an extra piece of fabric into the backing for my table runner, get it pin basted and started on the quilting.....

After that it was time to head out for an evening of ten pin bowling. Although a complete novice in September last year, I now bowl twice a week - Wednesday evenings and Thursday mornings. Ostensibly this is exercise, but it is mainly good fun, an opportunity for some gossip and a way to make new friends even though my scores are nothing to write home about. Further efforts on the quilting front, and a trip to Stitch Your Art Out for the binding fabric, led to completion of the table runner on Sunday evening. Here it is in place:

Sadly my OMG is just not going to be achieved this month, nor probably next as I know I will be away for two of the four weeks February graces us with. My knitting will travel with me so I hope to have something to show next week.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Busy but not with quilting

Somehow the last week has vanished with me barely finding time to sit at my sewing machine.  A whole lot of other stuff just barged in and pushed out most of my home based plans, so I don't have much to share with you this time. A concerted effort on over the last couple of evenings has led to me completing the top for a wintery (but not Christmassy) table runner.  This was made using some shimmery almost white fabric I had in my stash, together with most of a charm pack and some grey strips from the scrap strip box.  The pattern is, once again, from the Moda Bake Shop with a few extra blocks and skipping the pieced border, as the charms I excluded were largely black and bright red which didn't suit the colour scheme of the charms I had already selected.

Does using just one fabric from the scrap bin and a charm pack make this scrappy? I'm not sure to be honest, but I hope so, so I am linking up with Oh Scrap! for this week anyway!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

A Winter's Tale (part 1).....

Wow! Winter arrived with a bite this week!  UK winters tend to be mild and damp, with a January average high of 6.6°C and average low of 1.1°C (43.9°F & 34.0°F respectively) so the overnight low of 6°F or -14.4°C was a bit of a shock to the system, particularly for Smokey who wanted, nay needed, to nip outside to do kitty things, but certainly didn't want to hang around any longer than absolutely necessary. To put this in perspective the record low at Manchester Airport is about -17°C or 0°F.  I was here for some of the winter last year, but this cold snap still came as a surprise; it was definitely time to break out the hats, gloves and scarves. A couple of milder (and wetter) days gave some relief, but this evening we are back to windy and cold conditions. Brrr!

Nevertheless the weather was largely bright and sunny which made ideal conditions for sewing.  On Monday I got one quilt sandwiched and pin basted and part of Tuesday was spent removing a border from a quilt top, inserting an extra column of blocks, adding some extra border pieces and finally reattaching the removed border.  All this to use up another 8 blocks which turned up as I organised my fabric and projects, but they do add 10" to the width of the quilt, which does make the quilt a better size.

The pattern is Frugal Patch from Marcia Hohn's Quilter's Cache site and I have been using my scraps to make these blocks on and off for more years than I care to remember! Now this top is completed and there are no blocks left I need to choose a new scrap block to make. I am thinking of Simply Woven from the Moda Bake Shop as in addition to fabric pieces I have a box of binding strip remants to use up.

I now have 2 quilts basted ready to quilt and this flimsy ready to sandwich and baste next week now I have bought some backing fabric. Backing fabric is an exception to the "shop the stash" rule as I much prefer working with single piece backings if I can and I didn't have any extra wide "in stock".  Progress was also made on Circle in a Square - all the circles for the border blocks are cut out and ready to fuse to the background squares.

In news from the non quilty part of my life: both of our sons have settled in well in the local school system and our younger son has been immersing himself in the high school music scene.  This weekend he was part of the pit band for the senior thespians' production of Return to the Forbidden Planet which was most enjoyable and well produced, though it was a shame that the Friday evening show was cancelled due to the forecast of freezing rain.

Today I am linking up with:

Oh Scrap!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

OMG or One Monthly Goal - January

An incentive to make achievable progress has come from Heidi at Red Letter Quilts who has come up with a great concept that I am hoping will help me finish off some of my nearly there quilts. Her idea is One Monthly Goal or OMG! For January my goal is to complete the Circle in a Square quilt top that I showed the blocks for last week.

The next step is to cut 72 circles out of a fusible product, iron them onto my fabric, cut the circles out again and then machine applique them to the backgrounds. The wine, whisky and shot glasses in the picture below were used as circle templates......

Added to the squares I have already fused and sewn that should give me the 76 I require for the border.  Then, and only then, will they all go onto the design wall for arrangement and rearrangement until I am happy with the layout.

Thank you Heidi for giving me the push in the right direction to get this top done this month, rather than just sometime in 2016.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Keeping track

This year, now things are somewhat more settled, I am going to take a leaf out of Nann's (With Strings Attached) book and try to keep track of how much fabric I use over the year by counting up on a month by month basis.

As do most quilters, I have a stash of fabric acquired over the years, some with a particular project in mind (not necessarily started), some because it was just right for a current project (and now there are left overs), some received as a gift or in a swap, some because "it was bargain" and some simply because I liked it. My intention is to "shop the stash" before heading out to the quilt shop for more fabric, which may or may not be successful, I tried it last week and still didn't have what I needed, so went out and bought 5 new FQs which don't count in the accounting because I bought them last year!

I also intend to create an ongoing list of completed quilts, some of which are already flimsies (quilt tops ready for sandwiching and quilting, some are complete collections of blocks waiting to be sewn into quilt tops, some are just a few blocks needing more to be made and some are only ideas or uncut fabrics.

First up to be worked on is Circle in a Square, which I started in a class in the Bernina Connection in Phoenix AZ in December 2007.  The class handout, my chosen fabrics and a handful of completed blocks came to light in the Big Move and thanks to some excellent, and most appreciated, detective work by the shop owner and the designer I now have a photo of the finished class sample to guide me. Of course, I can't do things the easy way and am making a twin sized quilt rather than a wall hanging (hence the 5 FQs in the last week of 2015) but hope to make good progress over the weeks.  As of yesterday evening I have assembled all 77 blocks for the centre of the quilt.

Today I am linking up with:
Design Wall Monday