Tuesday, 18 September 2018

How (not) to make a TATW quilt

Months ago, in a fit of tidying up, I "borrowed" lots of storage boxes from Management and sorted out various piles of fabric.  Some of the boxes contain unfinished projects, some have a collection of material that is intended for something which has never been started, and some are together because they just go together (if you're a quilter you will understand that completely - if you're not, don't worry, we're a strange breed!)    Trouble is, that's about as far as it got - and there is not a lot of point organising all this fabric into kit-like form so it can be used, if I don't then use it.

But a couple of weeks ago, 9th September according to the date-stamp on a photo,  I decided it was time that a small collection of Halloween themed fabric became something other than a pile of material.  It was obvious (to me at least) that a Trip Around the World quilt would be a quick, easy and satisfying way to create something*, even if it was small and might end up a table cloth or dog blankie. Everything started so well:  pull fabrics and spend all afternoon laying them out, auditioning them to decide whether they blended nicely with others, and what the order should be.

( * quick, easy and satisfying way to create something - hold that thought, it might be useful later😊😊 )

With the TATWs for the campervan I wanted in-your-face loud & colourful, but for this piece I wanted a gentle blend between colours and patterns, more like the batik quilt which started this current obsession.

Eventually I settled on 11 fabrics, cut 2½" strips and sewed them together, a 'dark' stripset and a 'autumny' stripset.  On first glance it looked like they would be OK together, first mistake:

But I sliced up the strips and had a play with different layouts.  Apart from the obvious one which does not work (and ignoring all the versions I didn't photograph), it seemed that the quilt was far too dark and I needed more 'autumn'.

Some stash hunting produced four more FQ's which fitted the bill.

So now, "all" I had to do was unpick every single loop, insert a new section, and sew all the loops back together again. Sheesh.  It was about this time I discovered that one of the new fabrics had been badly cut and I could only get seven strips from it, instead of the eight I had for every other . . . ignore that problem until another day.

Sometime later, I now had a stripset of 15 fabrics which I was happy with, and various layouts were played with ending in this one.  At one point I had all of the top half of the quilt laid out, but for some reason there's no picture.

It was about this time I realised I hated the black fabric with little stars - too dominant, too prominent.  Once upon a time I'd have kept going but not any more.  What started as a little "wet weekend project" had - as usual - morphed into "I have to make this as good as I possibly can, even if it takes twenty times longer than planned", and experience tells me if one fabric is bugging me at this stage, carrying on and finishing the quilt is not going to make me like that particular pattern/colour any more.  What it will do, is spoil the whole quilt - forever.

Such fun to unpick a 2½" seam, 120 times (60 strips), and then sewing all the strips back into loops . . . the little black squares are now in the compost bin.  As 100% cotton they can do some good in the garden, because they sure ain't going to do any good in a quilt.

For the next stage I decided to try and take advantage of technology:   I have fifteen fabrics and laid the strips on the design board in 14 different ways.

Then I took four variations and wasted spent the best part of an afternoon trying to get to grips with my newly upgraded Electric Quilt 8 which has a photo import feature.  There were sweary words and much muttering of "bloody software developers", but I got there in the end.   I suppose I could have done all 14 but then I'd have lost the will to live.

You would think I might be happy now - getting rid of the black fabric was definitely the right thing to do and I thought I had a decent layout which emphasises the autumn colours.  Only, now I look at it again I'm seeing a dark "bullseye" in the centre, which I don't like:

There are enough gnarly weather fronts due in the next two or three days that I'm going to have a bit of indoor time to play with this some more  . . .  and this was meant to be a quick and satisfying little quilt, clearly that is another plan which hasn't worked out too well.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Still here . . .

Hmm, I did not mean to have a bloggy break but nothing I am doing at present feels particularly "post-worthy".  September is bumbling along very gently with more signs of Autumn every day.  I can no longer put off closing curtains throughout the whole house in the evening, and naturally the woodburner is lit at supper-time every night.

With strapping and conservative & careful management my knee seems to have recovered, but there have been no mega-gardening sessions.  The weather is "changeable" to say the least; the following is a regular occurrence:

1.   Decide to get changed into tatty jeans and go into the garden
2.   Realise in the time it takes to do "1" the clouds have rolled in and it's not exactly raining, but wet & drizzly enough not to be nice outside
3.   Decide to make a coffee
4.   Realise in the time it takes to do "3", that the sun has come out . . .

With the above taking about 15 minutes, and happening multiple times a day*, my best effort has been to get outside for an hour at a time and then call it done for the day.  But by taking baby steps the most amazing thing has happened - I've done most of the pre-winter clearing up in the Cottage Garden, including finally cutting down two very straggly honeysuckle that were making a mess either side of the arch.  When I did this to a similar plant outside the bedroom window earlier in the year it responded with masses of fresh healthy growth, it will be interesting to see what happens to these ones.

* but sometimes being more than a little drizzle:

Shock horror, not sure this has ever happened so early in the year but it's bloomin' wonderful.  So wonderful that in the non-precipitous hours I've spent a fair bit of time actually sitting out the front, reading, and just enjoying the space.

Management has managed to get into the garage nearly every day in the last fortnight and is making great progress doing 'stuff' to bike parts, so much so that this morning he actually said it was starting to feel like he really WAS retired, and not just on an extended holiday, which is lovely.

This week my hour-a-day has resulted in clipped box hedges which sounds much grander than it really is because I have left the tops and nothing is very precise.  I find myself liking the formality and contrast to the slightly out of control abandon that happens elsewhere at Bag End.

The newly sown lawn behind the house had its first cut and whilst most of the wildflower seeds sown in June did not germinate thanks to the drought, there are a couple of red clover and cornflower which are quite beautiful.

I've also tidied up the dry border behind the house and the weekend plan was to work on the big bed behind the Top Pond.  That hasn't happened thanks to "1, 2, 3 and 4 above" so I'm messing around inside with fabric (which gets a post of it's own, maybe tomorrow).   I declared earlier today that it was OK not being able to get into the garden because whilst there was a lot to do, nothing was at 'critical stage'.   "Could you try to remember that?" said Management, having experienced far too many periods of my angst when I claim I need to be getting on outside . . .

Small Person takes it all in her stride and like most old dogs, spends large parts of every day sound asleep.  This is one of her favourite beds because it's next to my desk but surely this cannot be comfortable?

I've spent hours online researching some possible trips in the campervan, one of which was due to commence next Tuesday.  Management and I had agreed that there is no point waiting until the weather is just right because at this time of year "just right" might be weeks away.  However, currently the forecast for next week includes Met Office alerts for the tail end of Storm Helene bringing very high winds and heavy rain along the west coast, last I heard we were being threatened with 60mph.  Where was I planning on going?  Down the west coast of course, so I might need a Plan B, C or D.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

An odd sort of week, or "no wonder we're always tired"

It has felt like an odd sort of week, and I haven't blogged for seven days, so what on earth have I done to fill my time?  The poorly knee continues to feel weak and a bit fragile.  I don't think I have done any serious damage, whether it's a strain to the ITB or a tendon, but I'm now sporting a fetching assemblage of Kinesiology tape which is making a huge difference.  Be relieved I resisted the temptation to take a knee-selfie πŸ˜€  A fell-walk planned for Friday had to be cancelled and (by my daft standards) I have been taking it easy.

Management and I were talking and I said I was remarkably tired for someone who had allegedly "not done much" so he started listing all the things I had done, or we had done together since Sunday - gulp - I have a feeling we've missed a couple of things and it is still a ludicrous list:

I continued to rest my knee completely on Monday, which gave me an opportunity to hand-finish the binding on my batik Trip Around the World.   Very happy - a random experiment has turned into a fabulous lap quilt and brings my total of August finishes to three.  I was still shocked to look back and see I started it over Christmas last year.

Big log pile: move more logs, do a semi-temporary fix of the tarpaulin, move remains of last year's logs to a dumpy bag, split some logs to make a start on what we want/need for the coming winter

Green shed:  it was old, semi-kackered and very tired when LP gave it to us and we've concluded that it will probably be more cost-effective (long-term) to get rid of it next year and replace.  So rather than spend time and money on new roofing felt, we've rigged up a tarp to keep it as dry as possible for the next few months

I have tidied the greenhouse, got rid of the remaining tomato plants (we're sick of them, it's been a most bountiful year), started to prepare for winter salad crops and sowed some seeds.  For once I am thinking ahead and Management helped me put up a rail to support the fleece I am bound to want to use when it gets really cold

Being very careful with bending and not kneeling I have nearly completed pruning and weeding in the big fruit cage.

With Management's help to carry away the clippings, I had a walk around the whole garden - behind the lawnmower!   It makes SO much difference when the weather allows us to keep on top of the mowing.   Leave it too long and it is a dire job that can take half a day,  this time I was cutting less than a week's growth, the whole garden was finished in under 90 minutes and no-one was knackered.   Next time out I will be giving the recently sown new grass its first cut.

I made a silly little quilted holder for the salt & pepper mills which travel in the campervan.  Over the last few months I've sewn loads of things like this and never managed to document any of it, something I would like to do.  I'm a bit neurotic about not having things rattle around when I am driving and a constantly evolving collection of quilted bags has just about succeeded in making our travels in Bill as quiet as they possibly could be.

In addition to all that, every day I have taken Daisy for a couple of very short walks (Management does her 'big' walk after breakfast each day), cooked for us, done laundry & ironing, and generally picked up around the house in a never-ending attempt to keep us tidy.

I arranged for my car to be serviced, and for the window cleaner to pretend the greenhouse is a conservatory and do the outside glass on his next visit, booked annual maintenance for the wood burner and the caravan, and there was a quick trip into town for a haircut and some shopping which still managed to take the best part of half a day.  On Friday afternoon instead of the fell-walk I taught a beginning quilter how to strip piece and start to make Trip Around the World panels.  It was good fun and incredibly satisfying to see someone with zero self-confidence go from "I can't possibly do this in an just a couple of hours"  to  "goodness, this is such an easy and sensible way to do things, look how much we've got done!" (previously she had been taught the "old way" cutting every single patch individually before sewing them together again).

On top of all that there's been reading, and far far too much browsing around online.  I'm cooking up a new "project" which involves holidays in Bill that I shall keep to myself for a little longer, but for now "All hail Google StreetView and Apple Maps"!!

So on reflection, no wonder I am always tired if this is an indication of us having a "quiet week".

Monday, 27 August 2018

Unexpected opportunities

Unexpected opportunity #1.   A friend came round Friday afternoon and we settled down in comfy chairs with big mugs of coffee for a lengthy natter and a catch up.  I'm not very good at just sitting so I picked up the denim Picnic Blanket and made a start on hand-sewing the binding.  The quilt was finished after supper and it's lovely, I am definitely going to be fighting with Daisy as to which of us gets to snuggle under it on chilly evenings.

Unexpected opportunity #2.  Saturday was lovely - blue sky, fluffy clouds and completely dry, so Management and I had a big sorting out session with the log store.  We started out planning on fixing a small section of the siding which had some rot in it, and ended up replacing the nearly whole side with leftover metal sheeting.  There's one more piece of timber to fix at the top, and it could do with some dark green paint.

Few photos of my clambering around on the top of the log mountain; it was precarious and at times unpleasant as we got rid of old tarpaulin and fitted a new one to weather-proof the timber supply.

Unexpected opportunity #3.  On Sunday morning the effects of tricky balancing and contortions were obvious the minute I tried to get out of bed and found myself with an incredibly sore knee that does not want to walk far or bear much weight.  As the weather had gone back to grey, damp and blustery, I took the opportunity to spend nearly all day in front of the TV catching up on BBC Four.    Just like Friday, I'm not good at sitting with empty hands so I tackled the big Irish Chain quilt.

Took all day, with lots of very necessary breaks to stop and stretch, but by supper time I had another quilt finished.  YAY!   And there I was thinking there might not be any complete quilt finishes this month.

"Who said you could jump on my best quilt?"