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?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Great HST Caper - Blocks done

Filled up my design wall with finished Great HST Caper blocks.  My last row doesn't fit on the wall or in the picture.   I've got every light on in the apartment to counteract the grey day outside and it seems to be making photos a little washed out or yellow.  Or maybe my camera battery just needs recharging.

I didn't notice until I was laying out my blocks that I had pressed the last two seams joining my block rows in the wrong direction.  I proceeded by turning every other block one quarter turn anticipating that it would all work, then noticed the error.  I will have to repress them all towards the block centre so that they'll interlock as I join my blocks.  Take a look at the back of this block - what a hodge podge of seams.

Now I'm thinking about borders and experiencing my usual border anxiety (serious border disorder, remember?) - not exactly breaking out into a nervous sweat, but definitely chewing on my bottom lip.  Didn't we just go through this not that long ago?

This light coloured floral actually works quite well, assuming I want this quilt to read as light.  Most of my quilts are quite dark country colours; it might be nice to have one that looks summer-y.  The blocks use equal amounts of dark and light scrappy fabrics, so if I add a dark border, I think it would read as dark.

If I don't use this floral for borders, it's definitely going to be used as the backing. Now I'm thinking if I use it for borders, I will want a dark zinger for a narrow frame around my blocks. Pretty much any colour will work for that.

Call me crazy, but I'm also thinking of making a couple hundred dark flying geese from scrappy 2.5" x 4.5" bricks for a pieced border... or a piano key border?, or a couple of columns of staggered upright bricks?  or maybe parallel sew-n-flip corners to make that zig-zag looking border strip (reminiscent of my sashing strips for the Shady Lanes quilt in my post - here )  I would love to work in more of these fabric scraps into this top.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Traditional Tuesday - Week 9

Jenifer has posted the traditional version of this week's string block - Traditional Tuesday Block 9.  The strings were 1" wide (a size I recently swore off because I thought they were just too small) and, of course, they had to be that narrow since the blocks we're all making are 6.5".  Bigger strings just wouldn't have the same graphic appeal in a small block.  Check out the pattern links in my TT blog page if you want to jump in on this sampler (we're at block 9 of a 64 block sampler).

I used two more squares from my stash of thin cotton foundations, starched for today's sewing and trimmed to about 7.5" square. Then I laid my ruler's diagonal line down the centre two fabrics to have the corners end precisely on the seam between the light and dark before trimming to 6.5".  It worked perfectlyMaybe I'm going to rethink that too small for strings standard.  There are some really great quilt layouts for this small string block on Jenifer's blog post today.  In fact, this size string block would make a fantastic project on it's own, or as a border treatment.  I'm thinking of a table topper size or wall hanging, where small piecing can be really effective.

Meanwhile, back on the daily scrap trimming front.... Looky here what I hit in my scrap trimming pile today.  Just yesterday I told another quilter that I don't have any soft pastels in my stash... none at all.  Then today, I lifted a big dark rust-coloured christmassy scrap off the top of the pile and came across this stack of 4", 5", and 6" full width and half width of fabric strips of whisper soft pastels.  I didn't notice them when ironing the scraps in this pile, that must have been at a critical moment in the murder mystery I was watching on the PVR.  It's quite a substantial pile - Two yards worth.  (Yes, Janet, my roguish friend, I weighed them to figure that out. lol)  These are going into stash as a bundle for a future something sweet project, I'm thinking for a baby.  Do I know anyone having a baby?

I keep waffling back and forth on whether I want to start working on Bonnie's new mystery project Orca Bay starting this Friday, or keep my nose to the grindstone on unfinished projects.  I bought some black tonal yardage online for the mystery, but could just as easily tuck that into stash for future use.  I've just got so much on the go right now.  I've been sewing with single minded obsession, trying to finish some projects so I can fit it in.  I tell myself I'm working this hard to get to more UFOs and finally get them done... but secretly I know I'm trying to free up some daily time for the mystery.  I think I put in almost 8 hours yesterday when all the trimming, sewing, pressing and blogging is added up.  That's an unusually big sewing day for me.  I did get all my Great HST Caper units sewn into 3 block rows and all 180 seams pressed.  Just two more seams per block and I'll have my 30 12.5" quilt blocks ready to join into a new quilt top.

Today's mail brought me the long-awaited copy of Tonya Ricucci's book Word Play Quilts.  This means I can get back to my Crumb-Along project, which I set aside because I was struggling with piecing letters on my own.  Yeah, I like that excuse, it sounds reasonable. 

This morning, I was so distracted thinking about all the quilty things I want to get done today, I stepped into the shower with my glasses on.  But at least I had taken off my pyjamas this time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Modern Monday - Week 9

Jenifer's Modern Monday Block 9 has been posted.  Hooray for string blocks!  They are so quick and easy to piece.

Some quilters use the pages ripped from the Yellow-Pages phone book to sew strings on.  It stabilizes the thin fabric strips as you sew and press.  I personally don't like having to remove the paper when I'm done.  Others use dryer sheets after they've gone through the laundry cycle.  Those have the benefit (so I'm told) of being alright to leave attached and becoming part of the quilt.  But, as a single, I don't have a lot of spent dryer sheets saved up.  Presumably I could haunt the local laundro-mat and dig through the garbage cans, but that just feels wrong to me in so many ways, not the least of which is people would see me doing it.

What I do have, is a stack of thin cotton squares (all cut from a cheap bed sheet).  This was one of my less than clever purchases.  They were advertised as Egyptian Cotton, but so cheap I should have known there was something very wrong with them.  These are so thin you can literally read through them.  The fitted sheet just shredded down the centre (while in use) after being washed a couple of times.  Ah well, you get what you pay for and hopefully learn your lesson.  I sliced the top sheet into a stack of 8.5" squares for string blocks.  I starched a couple and cut them down to 6.5" square.  My modern monday string blocks were done in no time at all.

This is the view from my living room this afternoon.  First, to the West.

And then to the East.  I feel like I'm living in a snow globe.

And the temperature has really dipped (which is noticeable if you live in a building as old as mine) - Lucas is hiding under the quilt on my bed.  Change of plans.  It's too miserable to go out for groceries (I am without car, so generally walk) so I think I'll just stay in, make a sandwich out of whatever I can find in the human food cupboard, and start chain piecing my Great HST Caper blocks.  I have them all laid out in piles of 30 next to my sewing machine.

When I stacked these up last night, not once did I have to move a component because it was next to another of the same fabric.  Now that's scrappy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Great HST Caper - ready to assemble

Today, I'm going to write my post backwards.  Instead of starting from the beginning of my day, I'm going to start with the end result.  And here it is.  A box full of 4-patch components, all ready to be joined into the final blocks.  Is it not a thing of beauty?!

It's hard to believe this all started out as a box of untrimmed unsquared ten year old half-square triangles made with fabrics I didn't like.  When I opened the box 2.5 months ago, I thought there were 1,000 or more, but it turned out there was a little less than 900.  While still a jaw dropping number of HSTs, it left me short of my goal, by 250-something which I pieced together in a marathon session yesterday.

And this is what I'm going to make with those components.  I have enough to make 30 12.5" blocks (5 x 6) resulting in a quilt top 60" x 72" (before borders).

I had to trim all the flying geese units I made today.  But I was right about trimming 70 four-patches being preferable to trimming the 280 HSTs I made yesterday.  The four patches I made today were almost 1/4" bigger all around than all the ones I made with trimmed HSTs.  I think there's a lesson in that for me.  My habit of working with trimmed perfect components is not just a manifestation of OCD.

I trimmed off quite a bit to make them square.

And this was the pile before trimming, just after ironing and twirling the back seams.

And this was the string of flying geese after I finished sewing them this afternoon.

I think I've earned an evening off.  No ironing.  No cutting.  No trimming.  No sewing.  I might take my new box of tidy 4-patch components and start laying them out as blocks for chain piecing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Back in HSTs

I spent most of the morning cutting, sewing and ironing all those extra half-square triangles I need to finish my Great HST Caper blocks.  (See, I thought those plastic containers would come in handy once the chocolate bars were finished... no, I didn't eat them all myself.  I bagged up the bars from these two containers and dropped them off at my salon when I went in for a trimHonest!)  I've got the HSTs separated into two piles - seams ironed to the dark and seams ironed to the light.

I have about 280 HSTs made, more than enough to finish off my flying geese components with a few extras for colour choice as I make them.  I rank high on my list of most annoying occurrences in quilting - the getting to the end of a long line of scrappy chain piecing only to discover that the last half dozen units being sewn together are all the same fabric.  Unless interrupted by something more exciting, I will be sewing flying geese this evening.  I had intended to get these done in a more gradual approach (like, say, over a few days), rather than with the single-minded obsessive maniacal intensity I had today, but once I got started I couldn't seem to stop.  (That may have something to do with the housework chores I had assigned myself today.)

The one good thing about sewing triangles cut on the bias for these HSTs, is that they are almost perfectly sized from using my Easy Angle ruler.  So I am going to try sewing these together without the added labour of trimming off a thread or two from each one to make them absolutely perfect.  I figure I can always square them up as four-patches if I have to.  Squaring and trimming 62 is a whole lot more preferable to squaring and trimming 280.

I feel like such a rebel... a rebel who has a very grubby apartment but 280 new HSTs to play with.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Great HST Caper - out of HSTs

I found an alternate layout I like better for the blocks of my Great HST Caper.  This happened entirely by accident when I was putting some four patch units up on the design wall this morning and got some components turned around.  I continued with the alternate layout until I had four blocks on the wall to look at.

Then I put four blocks up of the pattern I was originally going to make, for comparison.

After looking at them both for a while, I find I prefer the new layout.  And since I took the rather wise path of twirling my seams, the layout will not be a problem because of seam butting.  I'm eager to get the blocks put together.  My excitement, however, was tempered by a problem.  I've hit a minor road block in my piecing...

I chose the name Distracted Quilter for my blog but could easily have used Oblivious Quilter or Forgetful Quilter and have it describe me very well.  In preparing to sew the last 60-something flying geese units for my Great HST Caper quilt, I discovered something horrifying... the bottom of the HST box is filled with 2" HSTs - not the 2.5" HSTs I've been using.  A little voice in my mind said "See, I told you so!  You should have stored these two sizes in separate boxes."  I hate that voice.  It always seems to deliver common sense logic with a rather patronizing or amused twist.  And, of course, now I remember that there were, indeed, two sizes in that box.  As I recall, I did it to reduce the number of boxes so it would fit on my closet shelf.... this was back when my entire stash fit in a few boxes that could be tucked away on a closet shelf.

So I have enough centres and corner units to make 30 blocks, but only enough flying geese units to make 15.  I almost cried.  But it's Remembrance Day and I've been listening to radio interviews with some of our brave veterans - in particular one young soldier who lost both legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan.  As I listened to him quietly describe his love of freedom and country, of doing what needs to be done.... well... somehow my miscalculating the number of half-square triangles for a quilt project no longer ranks up there with major disasters.  And I found myself wiping away tears for a more important reason.  My sense of the true importance of things re-established, I was better prepared to deal with the minor glitch that has my HST Caper off track.

So..... (deep steadying breath) I need another 62 flying geese units, which translates into 248 HSTs.  I can't believe I'm going to have to make more of them.  And I need them to be ultra scrappy to fit in with the rest of the components.  I pulled out a box that contains the scrap fabrics most of my HSTs were made with and started pulling 2.5" x 6" bricks and 2.5" x 4.5" bricks.  You really should stop buying fabric, my inner voice said.  "You could make another two quilt tops with just this box alone."  "Shut-up!" sez I, startling Lucas from a sound sleep.

I pulled out over 80 dark bricks, and as many light ones as I could find in the box, relieved to recognize most of them as fabrics used in the other 800-plus HSTs  of my block components.

I can use my Easy Angle ruler to cut them.  With this ruler, I can get a 2.5" HSTs from a 2.5" fabric strip.

I can get three 2.5" HSTs from two 2.5" x 6" bricks and two HSTs from the 2.5" x 4.5" bricks.  The cutting on the first 60 HSTs is done.

I just need to cut this many another three times, then sew, press, square....  And, of course, the left over small triangles are going to be thrown into the crumb box.  I briefly considered piecing them into 1.5" HSTs then dismissed that as an act of insanity.  This project already has me talking to myself.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Great HST Caper - update

I am making speedy progress on my HST project since yesterday.  Today I chain pieced all the 30 block centres and the 120 four patches for the corners.  I have half the 120 flying geese units pieced.  They are piled up on my ironing board for pressing.

I'm almost finished trimming the first pile of ironed scraps.  Last night I ironed up another big pile for my daily scrap trimming, and bagged all the remaining poly-cottons for flinging.  They filled a plastic grocery bag - about 10 yards worth.  The good news is that I won't have to trim them, although it hurts my heart to get rid of some of the fabrics.  There are some really pretty ones in the mix, but it seems that the prettier they are, the more they stink under a hot iron.  That must be a quilter's law or something.

My scrap bin is looking remarkably empty.  There are still six solidly filled plastic bags full of scraps at the bottom of the bin, but they are so compressed and flattened, the bin almost looks empty.

A lot of wasted time happens in the kitchen just standing and waiting - for coffee to brew, water to boil, baking to finish, etc.  After I moved a cutting mat to the kitchen counter, finding 15 minutes for daily trimming was no longer a problem.  Where do you waste the most time waiting?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Great HST Caper - block assembly

I couldn't help myself... I started assembling blocks for my Great HST Caper instead of using them as a leader n' ender.  I'm just so eager to get these done now that I've chosen a pattern and finished trimming them all.  It's kind of exciting to get this close to using up all these half square triangles.

I finished 240 two-sies, all the left leaning lazy diamonds to make the 120 corners I will need for 30 quilt blocks.  Next, I'll sew these two-sies into the 4 patch corner units.

And I made 30 flying geese - half of the block centres.  Here I ran into a minor glitch.  I had pressed all the HST seams towards the dark fabric and that meant 6 layers of fabric were competing at the centre point of the flying geese blocks, forming a substantial lump, and making it almost impossible to get a crisp point.  I would have settled for a good point, but it just wasn't working out.  So I stopped, ripped out the sewing on the half dozen I had made, and proceeded by finger pressing one of the blocks so that one of the seams was flipped.  I found it annoying to have to hold the seam in place against my excellent pressing job while trying to feed it though my sewing machine.  (I am a thorough presserNever thought I'd have reason to regret being thorough.)

After making 30, and wasting a lot of time by fiddling with the fabric seams, and almost running my fingers through along with the fabric, I stopped.  I'm exactly at the half-way point of assembling my 2 patch units and will spend a little time with an iron tonight, going over half of the remaining HSTs, pressing towards the light fabric.  Then I can get back to making flying geese, without the fiddling.  I should have all the two-sies done and a good start on making 4 patch units tomorrow.

While I'm ironing those HST seams in the opposite direction, this is a good time to drag out my big scrap bin and start ironing up my next big pile of scraps for daily scrap trimming.  It's either that or get busy on at least an hour or more of housework... I'll take the fabric ironing over that any day.