Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Home Again Home Again... Jiggedy-Jig

The testing for the new job went very well.  I knew I had nailed it as soon as it was over.  When I got home last night (to an enthusiastic greeting by my lonely fat cat) there was a voice-mail message inviting me back for a panel interview next week.  Hooray!  Not that I have previously found submitting to a panel interview is necessarily something to look forward to with anything but trepidation, but at this point I'd be excited at running an obstacle course set up by the military if it meant I could get a good job.

That gives me a week to do a little catch up on my Modern Monday and Traditional Tuesday Sampler blocks, finish my pieced border on the Great HST Caper, sew the binding on a queen size quilt that has been languishing since it got back from the long-arm quilter, and generally surf all my favourite quilt blogs to see what everyone else is up to.  I'm glad now that I did not jump in on Orca Bay as it would have to be put aside while my life is in transitional turmoil.

Off to fondle my fabrics and make nice to my neglected sewing machine...

Friday, December 2, 2011

New Blog Home for Modern Monday & Traditional Tuesday

Jenifer Dick has launched a new updated fancy-schmancy blog.  It's bright.  It's cheerful.  It's got quick links to all the blocks for the two samplers currently underway - Modern Monday and Tradtional Tuesday 
If you follow her old blog, you'll want to sign up on the new one, cuz a little birdie whispered in my ear that when she's done transfering her files, pics, patterns and tutorials - the old blog is going to slowly fade away...
Meanwhile.... back in the mess that is the distracted quilter's home (and fat cat too), I am anxiously getting my crap act together to skedaddle out of town for a job interview (blogger really should have a sound effect - something dramatic or angelic would be appropriate here).  I'd love to be sewing, sorting, quilting.... but I need to land a job or I, my cat, and my fabric will all be homeless soon.  I have no illusions as to Lucas's fidelity.  He may be affectionate, but his priorities are food, some place warm to snooze, and catnip.  So I've been studying, drinking gallons of coffee, biting my fingernails and alternately laughing with excited joy and crying with anxious terror.
I'll be back next Tuesday, and will have time to do a little catch up then, while waiting for the results of the first round of testing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

MIA - Laid up with a bad back

My neighbour knocked on my door today.  Haven't seen your light on in the front window where you sew, she said.  Haven't heard the hum of your sewing machine through the paper-thin walls of our kitchens....  thought you might be dead.  Ha Ha.  Presumably the only thing that could keep me from sewing is passing on to the Happy Hunting Ground.

There's a simpler explanation.  I'm laid up with a bad back.  I'm not exactly sure how it happened.  I think it was from moving the boxes in my spare room (to give access to the heating system by my landlord and his heating specialist).  One moment I was fine and the next, I was twisted like a pretzel.  I walked around bent over for a couple of days.  It's very annoying, not to mention painful, not the worst of which was that at that angle I could see all the dust that has accumulated on top of the base boards.  I'm somewhat taller and straighter now.  And I'm keeping busy reading novels from the stack of dusty to-be-read pile of books.  I hope to be back sewing in the next couple of days.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lessons we can learn from geese

My post today is not quilt-related, though I do believe a room full of quilters can sometimes sound like a flock of geese... Maybe 20 years ago, I attended a team-building exercise with a group of co-workers.  The following article was in our course materials without attribution to the author.  I spent some time on the web today trying to track down the original author, and came up with three different names and a whole lot of confusion.  So, you'll forgive me, I hope, for not having the full attribution information.

I always loved the article.  I grew up on a ranch in the middle of Alberta, where the geese fly in by the thousands in the fall, and (to the general annoyance of farmers) stop to snack on the ripe grain before flying south.  It is an awesome sight to behold the sky filled with them.  I always kept this article in my inspiration file.  In cleaning out some paper work today I came across it again and thought I'd share.  The noble Canada Goose, our national bird, can live 30 years in the wild, is monogamous, loyal, brave, and flies thousands of miles to and from it's summer breeding grounds in the north to its southern winter grounds every year.

Lessons We Can Learn From Geese
Humans, like geese, were created to work together and to support one another. When we encourage each other and support our leaders we can accomplish amazing things much more than trying to work alone.

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. 

Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one's heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

So, the next time you see geese flying above, take a moment to remind yourself just how smart they are, and what we can learn from them. The geese teach us to work as a team, work together in unity, share the hard jobs when it comes to leading, and honk from behind to encourage others.

What does your honk say about you?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Zig Zag Components done

It may not look like much, but it took 4 hours today to get the sewing, pressing, and cutting to finish all the zigs and zags for my Great HST Caper border to this point.

I still have about 250 bonus HSTs to press open, but I'm done for the day.  My energy level just drooped, so it's a good point at which to stop and spend a little time catching up on what everyone else is doing.  Going blog surfing now.  It's another of my all-time favourite things to do.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Zigs and Zags

I made a few zigs and a few zags, then laid them out with the light floral next to the Great HST Caper quilt top.  I love it.

At this point I can't imagine liking flying geese better, so I'm just going to proceed making my little scrappy zig zag border treatment. I had enough squares cut with lines drawn on the back to sew the pieced border bricks for one long side.  I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting squares and drawing my sewing lines for the next three strips.

And the bonus half square triangles I nearly had a melt-down over yesterday...

They are going to trim out at 1.5" square and finish at 1".  I decided to just make them and figure out what to use them for some other day.

As for Orca Bay, now that I have the black tonal fabric to use in the first step, there's no reason why I can't get started on making the 2.5" hourglass blocks this week, along with ironing and folding my new stash fabrics.

Here, have a cookie!

I never indulged in tantrums as a child.  My mother had a way of just looking at us that told us that was not a wise choice, not if we expected to live to see another day.  As a result of that upbringing, and because I never had children of my own, I tend to look on people dealing with screaming children in stores with a jaundiced eye.  Here, have a cookie I've heard some desperate parent say in a cajoling tone.  One should never under estimate the effectiveness of a sweet treat to calm a fractious angry child, and turn tears into smiles.  The same thing goes for quilters.

I bundled up to go out this morning.  It's gotten even colder.  First there was the garbage that had to go out.  With no respite in the weather until Monday or Tuesday (we're supposed to get back up above freezing), I was not willing to live with it in the house.  Lucas has a strong attraction for plastic bags, especially those containing smelly garbage - a remnant of his life as a stray, no doubt.  More urgent, I was out of coffee.  I pulled on my winter boots for the first time since last winter, shrugged into my winter coat (sheesh they're heavy), and while digging in the pockets for my mittens, found $20 in the pocket!  That bit of good fortune would have been sufficient to make my day.  But wait - it gets better.

I stopped by the mailbox on the way out the door, flipped through the advertisements and the bills - then came across three parcel pick-up notices.  Three.  I stared at them, blinking in confusion.  Three?  What the heck had I ordered?  and more to the point, why hadn't the Postie buzzed my apartment to deliver them when he dropped off the notices?! Somewhat confused, but with a light heart now leaping with joy, I made my way to the Postal counter at the convenience store two blocks from my apartment, not noticing the cold, or the wind, and not even feeling annoyed with the Postie who had obviously had my parcel all along, but didn't bother to ring my buzzer (probably under the mistaken notion that I was at work and not at home).  The first parcel had the black tonal I ordered, plus a few other fabrics I had forgotten about completely.  The black with grey and the grey are both Kaufman fabrics, the black tonal is from Kansas Troubles by Moda.

And, then the rest of the package contains fabrics I added to the order to fill up the USPS envelope (it's the same shipping price whether the envelope is half full or jam packed, so definitely cost effective to add a few other items - the rationalization of a fabric addict) - the Timeless Treasures celery green tonal because I don't have any of that happy colour in my stash, the Sandy Gervais Burnt Orange (plus a fat quarter to make up for the fact that the yardage was short) because I can't resist a gorgeous orange, and a cream neutral (another Kaufman) because one can never have too many neutrals. 

I made a pot of fresh coffee and turned my attention to the next two parcels.  I now knew what was in them - Kaufman fusions - from a sale I found in a wonderful new-to-me online shop Craft Town Fabrics in Indiana.  They have Kaufman fusions on sale for $7.48 / yard, whereas those same fabrics (if you can find them) are over $20 / metre here.

I did exercise some restraint (though it may not be immediately apparent) by restricting my purchases in the most part to colours I have little of, buying 1/2 yards instead of yards for at least half of them, and 1 yard instead of 2 for the rest, well... except for one of the oranges and the neutral.  This is my early Christmas present to myself, a luxurious indulgence, and I should add that I did go a full 18 months without buying a new fabric.

Now I have a stack of fabric to iron and fold.  I am persnickety about folding my fabrics so that they all fit nicely in my stash.  I don't pre-wash.  For years I belonged to a swap group that insisted on unwashed fabrics, so my stash is 95% unwashed, and at $4 to wash and dry a load of fabric, it's going to stay that way.  When I participate in a swap that requires washed fabrics, or work on a project that is using the last of my pre-washed stash, I will toss the fabrics I need into the laundry.  But I've learned from experience, that I can mix strips of pre-washed and unwashed fabrics without trouble.  I wouldn't do that if the fabric pieces were large, but when dealing with small pieces it doesn't seem to have any adverse effect.

In walking back to my apartment, I noticed my Filipino neighbours have kept their drapes drawn to minimize cold drafts from the windows and feel great sympathy for their struggle with the cold.  It all comes down to preference.  I would rather deal with a colder apartment if I can have bright daylight, than be warm in the dark without daylight for days.  Besides, I find ironing is a good way to get warm.  I leave you with a couple of pics of my windows and the winter sparkle art between the double glass panes by Jack Frost.

My dining room view.

And my bedroom.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beware of Disgruntled Quilter

You've no doubt seen Beware of Dog signs and Beware of Falling Rocks signs.  You may have even seen humourous Beware of Dieter signs in a friend's kitchen.  I just thought I should warn y'all, I'm feeling very grouchy and disgruntled.  Maybe you should go to bed, my Mom would say, ever practical.  And maybe I will... I am feeling that grouchy.

Bonnie Hunter's Orca Bay Mystery begins today.  It requires the black fabric that I bought online, that hasn't arrived yet.  Now it seems to me with post offices on both sides of the border complaining about volume of mail going down dramatically with everyone using email and smart phones, that they could get my 2 measly yards of Kansas Troubles black tonal fabric through in half the time.  I even held my breath in excitement as not one but two postal trucks pulled up and double parked in front of my apartment building at various times this morning.  But no, neither postie had my fabric.  Contributing to my misery is the first frigid day of winter (-27 with the wind chill), stepping on a stray straight pin my vacuum cleaner didn't pick up, and jabbing my right index finger on the discarded sewing machine needle when pushing down on the garbage so I wouldn't have to brave the cold to dispose of it.  Life as we know it has certainly taken a turn for the worst.

So, I returned to working on my Great HST Caper, proceeded with considerably disgruntled mien to unenthusiastically count out 160 scrappy 2.5" wide bricks from my scrap box and trimmed them all to a uniform 4.5" long.  Even the thought of using up more of the old fabric stash didn't raise my spirits or fill me with a heart-warming glee.

Then I cut some 2.5" light squares and started drawing lines down the backs, muttering something rather harsh about my not being able to point and sew with any reasonable accuracy.

And drawing the second line 3/8" from the first for oversewing to create a bonus half-square triangle.

And then I questioned what I was doing.  Didn't I want to start by making just a few zigs and zags, to audition the look?  If that was the case, why had I just cut so many bricks and squares?  And the bonus HST sewing line?  Really?  It's going to end up being 1.75" or smaller after trimming.  I lined up my diagonal line of the bonus pencil line to check... probably 1.5".  Do I really want to bother with something that small?  made with these fabrics?  The fabrics I've been trying to use up to get rid of?

And the 1.5" x 2.5" bits I trimmed off the bricks?  Crumb bin? garbage? back in the scrap box for yet another project?  At what point do I get to throw out the left-overs?

Even my face hurts from grimacing all day.  Poor Lucas has been in hiding since I yelled at him this morning.  Maybe a nap is a really good idea right about now.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

To Piece or Not to Piece, that is the question....

This is what 1,080 half square triangles (size 2.5") look like all joined into a quilt top.

It's 60" x 72" and I'm so pleased with the block layout. Standing directly in front of it, the diamonds and zig-zags are predominant and the four-petal flower or four-leaf clover design are rather pretty, I think. If you tilt your head on an angle you really see the crosses, or Xs and Os, like hastily penned hugs and kisses at the bottom of letters - the old fashioned kind written by hand.

I'd like to try adding a pieced border, a scrappy zig-zag, to see if I like the effect.  It may turn out that I prefer a simple border treatment in the end, but I'm going to fold this away for a while and make a few scrappy zigs and zags to audition next to it.  I only need about 130 of them and I still have lots of scraps of the same fabrics I used to make all the HSTs.  The box is half full of 2.5" x 4.5" bricks, so I have lots of bits already cut to size that I can immediately start piecing with to experiment.

What I learned from making this all-HST quilt top:
1.  Pre-washed fabric made this top possible. (I prefer to piece with unwashed, but these are really old stash, from the days when I pre-washed everything, and I think that using unwashed would have made the seams bulky and stiff beyond my patience to deal with them).  That said, I've made blocks using bonus HSTs from unwashed fabrics and persevered.
2.  Be prepared to re-press HST seams in the opposite direction to make it less bulky (or press all your seams open from the start.)  If you know what pattern you are making, try putting a block together to see how many HST need to be pressed towards the light fabric and how many to the dark and keep them separate as you make them.
3.  Break the block design down into four patches (if you can) and twirl the seams.  This ensures all joining will work like a dream, even if you turn all your patches around and go with an alternate design at the last minute.  This, of course, assumes that you always twirl in the same direction.
4.  You can live dangerously and join your HSTs into 4-patch components before trimming (assuming they are close to the end size) if you line up your sewing at the diagonal HST seams, and then at the two patch seams, not from the fabric corners.  That will reduce your trimming time to 1/4 the effort and time.
5.  Use a hot iron with steam (or spritzing from a water spray bottle) when pressing seams, especially when they are bulky.  Be sure to let your HSTs, 4 patches, or block components cool down and dry completely before doing any trimming.  I often let them sit overnight.
6.  Do not store different size HSTs in the same box if you want to save yourself heart-ache when you run out of the size you need and the remainder are smaller.  At least if they were bigger, I could have trimmed them down instead of having to make more.
7.  When you keep hearing  a soft pucka-pucka-pucka-thunk-thunk-pucka change your needle, it's grown dull.  Can't believe how beautifully a new needle sews threw multiple fabric layers in the block corners!  When did you last change your needle?