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.