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Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year in Review

I just spent some time pulling together pictures of the projects I did this year, and even with just one or two of each, there were 25 photos in the folder. I obviously can't put 25 photos on this blog. So I am only going to be able to do a sampling of what I did this year. Most of the projects were small. All of them were learning experiences.

I've sewn since I was 11, so about 60 years. In the past I've owned good machines but the last one that I had for about 20 years was not a good machine. It was a basic Singer. I wasn't sewing all that much. I had always made clothes and the main reason was to save money, but over the last 30 years that has become less and less possible. Clothes just don't cost as much as they used to in real dollars, and to some extent in actual dollars as well. I'd done some machine piecing and a bit of machine quilting, but I was working and wasn't all that well, and just did not have the energy for much of that. The sewing machine finally got put up into the attic. It gets hot in a California attic. I doubt it did the machine much good.

In April 2011 I bought myself a gently used machine for my birthday. It wasn't a top of the line model, but it wasn't a bad machine either. It was superior to the previous Singer even when that machine was new. It was also a modern computerized machine. I liked it a lot and began to try stuff out. I literally had to relearn how to sew, and for most of the rest of 2011, that is what I did.

Here is the Tempo sitting on an old folding table and doing some very basic four patches.

I knew how to hand piece and hand quilt. I'd started machine piecing on that old Singer. One of the last projects I made in California was the RIME Quilt, a friendship quilt based in one of the conferences of the old echoed nets, from before the Internet. It got stopped and restarted multiple times. I finally finished putting it together on the Tempo and hand quilted it. It is probably the last thing I will hand quilt. I no longer have decades available to finish projects.

I moved into projects that were just a bit harder to do. I fell in love with this kind of braid and made several things using the pattern. This color scheme was very unusual for me. These are mostly fabrics from several scrap bags my local quilt store sells. I love scrappy looks, but when you don't have a stash that isn't all that easy to come by.

I took some Craftsy classes and tried out a lot of different techniques.

I learned how to quilt in the ditch with a walking foot from two of the classes.

I did some blocks from a Civil War block class that were extremely traditional. The idea was precision machine piecing, and to some extent I succeeded, and to some extent I did not succeed.

I've got 4 or 5 blocks in this colorway. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them, but it won't be a bed sized traditional sampler quilt.

I made art quilts using techniques from more than one of the classes. And started doing some free motion quilting and even more walking foot quilting.

I learned fusing from Art Quilt 101.

I took Stupendous Stitches and tried out couching and designs from my sewing machine and hand stitching all on one piece.

I made two of them and started a third, still unfinished. And I combined techniques from both classes and added in some ribbon embroidery on a project I designed myself.

I made a bed scarf using a ruler I'd bought at a Quilt Show and did the walking foot stitch in the ditch quilting and put it aside until I'd gotten more experience in free motion. I made pillows and used free motion to quilt those. I tried some improvisational piecing making one of the pillows and used my last strip of braid piecing on the other. I tried more improvisational piecing on my Cross Quilt. I finally felt ready to try the Class Project Quilt from Beyond Basic Machine Quilting. 

Both of those are quilted, but they aren't bound. I needed to relearn how to bind a quilt.

Earlier this year I bought an upgraded computerized sewing machine. It was obvious that I was going to be sewing quite a bit, so it made sense to get a good machine. I'm really happy with it and it has the advantage of a much larger area to stuff a quilt into when you are machine quilting.

I'm so glad Leah Day suggested that we look over what we accomplished this year. I really did not recognize just how much I had done, and how much I'd learned.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Bed

One of the things widows do is make changes, generally slowly. In February 2012 I was forced to get rid of the king sized bed and replace it. The mattress had just worn out. I bought what we used to call a double and what they call a full sized bed now. I bought new sheets for the bed. And I turned two pillow tops that had been finished for years, and even decades into pillows. The two pictures had been three when the bed was larger, but that was all I managed. The blanket was a single blanket in a quilt cover (aka duvet cover).

In early March I finished the RIME quilt. This was another project that had been sitting around for decades. RIME was a pre-Internet echoed net. You got to it through a local bulletin board. One of the conferences was a stitching conference and we decided to exchange friendship blocks. Most of the blocks were signed in 1994 and 1995. It was machine pieced and hand quilted. The hand quilting didn't get started until 2010 and didn't get finished until just before this photo was taken. I was working through my UFOs and getting some older stuff done.

In April I got the quilt on the wall above the bed. I also located the cross stitch fan I'd finished up some time in the late '90s when I was living in California. And now the bed had 3 pillows.

I started making a bed scarf in late May. I like the look of something at the bottom of the bed. I quilt so I wanted something quilted on the bed, but not a full scale quilt. I've never slept under an American style quilt. This is the first block that got finished. And pieces of two more.

This is actually just a mock up. The bed scarf top was completed when this picture was taken except for the borders. I just laid the blocks down on the fabric the borders would be made out of to take this picture in late May.

In July I was doing stitch in the ditch to stabilize the bed scarf, but I put it away while I learned how to free motion quilt.

I made some pillows. I worked on a couple of practice quilts and I finally took the bed scarf out and quilted it.

And then it sat again because I needed to learn how to bind quilts properly. It is still sitting and waiting, but I will be getting to it soon.

In the meantime there have been some other changes. And this is the widow thing. I've always slept European style. That means with a quilt cover over a blanket. My quilt covers are sheeting and they take the place of the top sheet. They get washed along with the bottom sheet every week just the way a top sheet would. My mother made the decision about how a bed was made when I was a baby. It was the way she always made beds. My husband made the decision when we got married. He was from Europe and it was the only way he knew.

During the aftermath of Sandy, while I was without power and heat for 6 days, I bought flannel sheets to stay warm at night. Those shrank and I no longer could use them so I bought some good quality fleece sheets right afterward.

Those fleece sheets (from QVC) were like sleeping on a cloud, and I began to wonder what it would feel like to use the top sheet instead of the quilt cover.

It has been 3 weeks now. I LIKE top sheets, but there is a problem. The single blanket that worked perfectly in a quilt cover doesn't work as well with a top sheet. It is too narrow. I've ordered a new full size blanket from Kohl's. Stay tuned.

There is the bed scarf waiting for its binding in the last photo. I'm also considering a real quilt, maybe for the summer.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas All

Pretty obviously I have not been blogging. I also have not been sewing at all this month. I took a vacation from both for a little while.

I have never been big on making presents. I'm not sure why. I've made sweaters and the occasional scarf, but not much else. It is something to really think about before next year.

But I want to wish anyone who regularly comes past this blog a very merry holiday season. I'm planning on enjoying the days to come with family, and I hope all of you do as well.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Moving Along

I've been working on my quilting, but because of the new camera I have been having problems getting the pictures out of the camera and into the computer. I called Olympus this morning. Problem solved in a way I can live with. Yes, I have to attach my camera to the computer. Yes, it will immediately start charging. But I can get the pictures into the folder I want the pictures to be in. Now I can begin to learn the other things I need to learn.

I am hung up on the hand sewing on the Cross Quilt. What is left is a small sleeve for the quilt hanger. I'll need to sew it on both sides, and I just have not done it.

I have spray based the blue art quilt. I tacked the backing down on the wrong side of the cutting board. That is what you are seeing in the picture. There is no way I will be pin basting anything in the future. Frankly I've got too many disabilities to get down on a floor, or even stand around a table. I would like to make some quilts that are quilt sized, but until I get my back issues taken care of, that is not happening.

I spray very lightly. I pin the backing and the quilt front to cardboard in my garage, open the garage door so basically I've got excellent ventilation and I spray very lightly. It is possible too lightly since everything doesn't stick all that well. But pinning really isn't all that much better. Watching Leah Day quilt with pinned quilts has made that obvious. Things are moving around a lot with her quilts and she is an expert.

This sandwich still needs to be heat set, which is part of the Ann Petersen system. I will also sew down the outer edge of the art quilt. I have found that with this system, that works very well indeed.

It is going to be interesting to see what happens with this piece. Basically I am winging it.

I plan to cut the binding fabric for the Class Project quilt I did for Ann Petersen's Free Motion Quilting Class. I seem to do better when I've got the next step prepped for more than one project. Something to remember.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Camera

I just received my new Olympus camera from QVC. It is what I wanted. A basic camera with fewer bells and whistles but with a lot of zoom. And that is what I got.

My problem is that I have worked out a method of organizing photos that works. I've always put the memory card into a card reader of some sort and moved my files where I wanted them manually. Possibly not the best way, but it has worked for me. But this new camera is also new technology. It has a 4 gig HD memory card and my 2 year old computer's built in card slots can't read that kind of card. It probably didn't exist when the computer was built.

The camera came with three kinds of software. I've installed the first two. One will read the photos and move them, but they go where that program wants them. It also wants to tag the photos. I've been through the while tagging thing twice already with older computers and software I no longer own. I'm not doing that again. Frankly it is a waste of time, and not as useful as people expect it to be.

The second program does look useful. It does photo manipulation and has to be easier to use than Photoshop. Photoshop is a great program, but if you aren't using it on an almost daily basis, you forget how to do things and it is about as intuitive as a rock. But this second program doesn't see the camera. I'm going to call Olympus support tomorrow. They had an email form, but they suggest a phone call instead for the kind of problem I've got. Maybe they have answers. I hope so.