First day back

January 10, 2018

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First week of term is always a bit interesting. Getting out of holiday mode and back into full work mode is a shock to the system and requires some organization and planning. This year was going to be better. I was going to be fully organized and on top of it. That was great till Monday morning when my car decided it wanted a new ignition lock right NOW. Fortunately a mobile locksmith had time and could fit it in Tuesday and expected to do the job there and then. Expected is the key word when he arrived the lock was past repair and would need to have a new barrel, but there was probably one at the depot and they could do it overnight. Leaving me no car to get to class.

I am lucky to have a really great bunch of students, and one that is local to me. She picked me up, with all my junk, I mean fine and valuable items needed to run a class and delivered me to the community center in Bennetts End. She also helped me set up and bought the class milk, what a star right? At the end of last term several students couldn’t make the last class of term so today was Christmas party day, with presents, food and fun. Fat quarters were swapped and much food eaten. I have a big win, having tried on every pair of gloves I could find locally and found none that came close to fitting I am pleased to announce I have Canadian hands. Well their mittens fit me at least. Maybe I need to head over there again to shop for winter clothes :)

After class my same student not only brought me home but took me to check out the damaged door at my storage unit. Fortunately it wasn’t serious. Nothing harmed and the door is now fixed, though I would love to know how it happened in the first place. I would have said trolley but the damage was below the height of them. It did also give me a chance to show off my fabric stocks, including the wide backings. I still need to figure out a good way to display those in my mobile shop. They are too wide to take a full width strip off each. Maybe I can sneak a small corner. I need to come up with something.

All in all an amazing start to the term. It was fun as much as work and that makes such a huge difference. If any of you are in the Hemel area I have spaces in this class, and you would be most welcome to join us for patchwork and quilting, and general fun.

Listen to your body

January 3, 2018

I am sure we have all done it. We have got engrossed in a hobby then tried to move and found things weren’t working as well as we might like. I am assured that as we age it will only get worse. Apparently regular breaks and changes in task will help, but most of all we should listen to our bodies. As I am fed up with injuries and illness I thought I would give this advice a go and I am now prepared to share my conclusions. The problem isn’t listening to my body, the problem is my body is a lousy conversationalist. It never has anything interesting too say. Some days it just says ouch no matter what I say or do. Come on even tiny people just learning to speak manage better variety than that. Why would I want to listen to that? Or you might get the day when it is like an over protective parent. Constantly tells you to stop doing something you enjoy. So my conclusion is bodies need more variety of conversation, they need to get out and broaden their interests. If they had something interesting to say about something they were passionate about I am sure we would all be much better about listening to them.

In other news, customer quilts are getting quilted and my piecing is coming on well. I am actually enjoying being back in a routine after Christmas. All being well I might finally have some new show quilts this year, and maybe some new class projects.

Best laid plans

December 29, 2017

My plan for today involved a little longarm quilting for customers then some piecing of my own while watching trashy video on the internet. Sadly my net access had other ideas. Instead I ran around like a crazy person looking for my mifi which I had put away incorrectly. Turns out I had dropped it in a not a pocket when it had annoyed me in my jeans pocket in the car. The crazy hunting did nothing for my calm as you can imagine. However I do at least have mifi as my net access will not be fixed until at least Tuesday, there is a fault at the exchange and no one works weekends or bank holidays. Now we just need to hope the other half wont go crazy with a lack of net access over the next few days. I will break out the portable dvd player and watch dvds while I piece, or maybe just listen to radio 4. Yup I really know how to party :)

My happy place

December 27, 2017

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I have had the best Christmas. I have stayed home and seen no one :) Yes that really is my idea of bliss. Even better I have been able to spend the time sewing, and just stuff I wanted to for a change. There is something about coming into my space having a whole stack of pieces cut that just makes me happy. I got so engrossed in sewing them together I totally forgot to blog yesterday, sorry ;) I nearly finished this stack of yellow blocks yesterday and today will move on to the green versions. I am calling this my 50×50 project. 50 blocks each with 50 pieces which will eventually be 2 quilts. So farther I have the red and blue blocks done. Yellow nearly done with green and purples to go. Yes it will be more or less a rainbow. It is from a pattern so no real thinking needed, just sew sew sew. Loving it ,and I am sure it is good for me. Feeling more alert and calm by the day. Tomorrow back to customer quilts but for now, I need to sew.

Another magical block

November 21, 2017

I am absolutely loving the Paula Nadelstern technique with fussy cutting. I can’t claim it’s quick, but it is straightforward and totally magical.

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This is another of my units, I am putting 16 of these into one block. Although you fussy cut the pieces you really don’t know what the finished block will look like and I am loving that. There are always 2 ways to lay out these units to get a quarter of the block.

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When I lay them out on the table this is the first time I find out what my next block will be, cool huh. It’s almost like doing a mystery quilt :) These are the two options with this unit.

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The finished large block (which I forgot to photograph, oops) will have 4 of one of these designs in and then in the centre where those 4 come together I get the other design. So neither option is lost, I just get more of one of them. I haven’t quite decided on a layout for these yet, but I think it will involve framing each block with a fussy cut frame and possibly a large border with more fussy cut parts. This is partly my need for big quilts and partly I want to use as much of each fabric as I can. Fussy cutting is awesome but it leaves you with Swiss cheese fabric, and as you know I cannot abide waste. I have a feeling this project will take on a life of it’s own.

Alice Cooper

November 19, 2017

Thursday I had a day off  from teaching so I could go to Wembley to see Alice Cooper. I have seen him many times and he is always worth the cost. One of the top showmen of the music industry. This time we had amazing seats dead center of the stage and 12 rows back, which can only make things better. The support bands were The Tubes, who were odd but quite fun and The Mission, who I still just don’t get. I assured the mix was also very poor for them so maybe it wasn’t a fair chance. It has to be said that Alice Cooper now attracts a certian demographc to his concerts so more seating without a lot of stairs is going to become essential :)  Not that that is something that would worry him. Despite his age there is no sign of him slowing down at all. A real role model there. Mind you Ialso consider him and his daughter killing each other on stage every night a sign of a great family, so I may have odd taste in role models.

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The show was every bit as good as I expected. I liked seeing the original band and even better having the whole of both bands on stage. Why have one drum kit when you can have two. I wonder if Alice is feeling his mortality a bit with so many musicians dying in the last couple of years. He says he still feels 18 and it trying to get out of here alive. I wish him much luck with that, and well I hope he will be entertaining me (and many others)for a long time to come.

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One of the other reasons I like going to concerts is I always come away with ideas for things to make. That won’t always be a quilt (OK it often is) but this time it was. Hopefully I will have time to sketch out a few ideas sometime this week but before I lose track of what I have in mind. This time I think it is a fairly simple idea. Fingers crossed it stays that way once I get to thinking about how to make it.

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Rulers

November 18, 2017

I had been going to tell you about the concert on Thursday but tonight I finally had a reason to use my new slot rulers. For years I have felt that if I could only have one ruler it would be the June Taylor shape cut plus.  I love that ruler and it is very versatile. I  saw something over the summer about creative grids having a slot cutter ruler now.  I wasn’t convinced, I generally don’t like their rulers I  find them hard to read.  On the other hand the idea of a new slot cutter was too much to ignore. I got both the 20 inch slot cutter and the square up slot cutter. The markings are verycreative grids,  and a lot thinner than the original ruler. The thick lines on that have always bugged me. Each of the narrow strips of the ruler has grip on the back and it works. The ruler feels much more stable and consequently more accurate.  I think the plastic may be thicker too. I don’t know if you can tell but I am very excited by these rulers. Having just used the square up ruler I gad to blog if only to tell someone who will understand just how cool they are.
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Waste and foundations

November 16, 2017

 

Today a blog inspired by a student in class. She was foundation piecing a pattern she had found in a book. It is a lovely pattern, but she had precut all the pieces as the book instructed and was as horrified as me by the amount of waste. I think she was throwing about half of her fabric away. Even though I now sell fabric, and in theory should be pleased to have patterns use as much as possible this was just too much. Always remember you pay the same per yard for your rubbish as you do for the bits you use. Now if you really like crumb quilts or minatures you could argue the precut a huge rectangle method of foundation piecing is fine but personally I make enough scraps when I try not to. I don’t have space or inclination to store ones I could avoid.

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So when I woke up this evening (hospitals really wear you out) I unpicked the 2 foundations I got wrong last time and did a new set. I am working from fat quarters and this is how many I get from one set of strips. You can see I don’t have a huge amount of trimmings, and this is more than there needs to be to be honest. I have a bit extra because I want to use a strip and add all the pieces. I think if I did them one at a time I would save a little more but not enough to get another arc out of. I really wish I had photographed the pile of waste from the class. I didn’t so you will just have to imagine. Whenever I foundation piece I work from strips. I always measure the size strip I need for my pieces then work off that strip. Ideally I sew it onto one piece, press, trim off the spare then add it to the next piece working production line style. It’s quick and you get so much more from your fabric.

Unfortunately my method is not approved by pattern designers or the quilt police. They say that sure the other method is wasteful but it’s easy. I am not so sure. It is easier to write instuctions for yes. Easier to do, not so sure. On the bright side it was nice to be able to really help a student. Some days they all seem to do too well on their own and I feel a bit redundant but a few tips on foundation piecing and she was motoring along with far less errors and much much quicker. Next week we will be able to move on to waste reductions (she had everything cut ready for this week).

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Please excuse the typos, this editor doesn’t mark them, I am correcting the ones I spot.

Houston by proxy.

November 11, 2017

 

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This year I wasn’t able to get to the Houston quilt show, but I  was there in spirit. I  dug out the quilt I started in a class there last year and got back to work on it. I  should make very clear that my lack of progress in class was entirely my fault. Rather than follow the directions exactly  I decided I wanted a Ferret sized quilt and so spent the whole day marking and cutting pieces. The class was simply symmetry with Paula Nadelstern. I did get in touch with her before the class to warn her I was hoping to make something a lot larger than the class sample.  When I got there and understood the plan I realsied that while I could scale up the class quilt the one on the back of the handout would be a much better basis for my big quilt. I do still feel a bit guilty not doing any actual sewing in class but I really did want to be well on my way with the prep work.

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I got 2 sets of pieces cut and ready then packed everything and came home. Then I made a terrible error. I put the bundle of fabric in a safe obvious place. Where it duly vanished for a year. That turns out to have had some bonuses. Just before Houston Quilt Festival is Market. This is when new products are launched, including new fabric ranges. So Paula got talking about her new ranges which spurred me to go hunting this project again. While everyone was having fun in Houston I was having fun here continuing my class :) So morally I was in Houston with everyone.

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The pictures on this post show one set of the pieces from that class. The small block is a half square triangle unit  which can be laid out in one of 2 ways to get a kaleidoscopic pattern.  I chose the one I liked best and made 4 nominally identical blocks. which when joined together  gives the large block shown at the end. These are not the quickest blocks to make . From the 16 half square triangles to the finished block takes me about 2 hours. I think the result is well worth the time though. The finished blocks are stunning and always a surprise.

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A quick catchup

November 10, 2017

Fourth time lucky I hope.

I am trying very hard to get to grips with a new blogging system and so far all I have achieved is losing everything I type. I am sure that is a valuable skill, but it wasn’t quite what I  was aiming for. This one at least saved as a draft then reopened so maybe I am making headway.

Since I last blogged there have been some big changes in my world, some of which you may have heard about. The biggest one for quilters especially if you are local to me is the news that Patchwork Corner are closing. Jenny and Doug decided, quite rightly, they it was time they took things a bit easier and did some things they wanted. So in the summer they put the shop on the market and started to scale back. This meant I needed to find a new location for my weekly classes. I wanted to stay in the same area as that was the best location for most of my students, so we have moved to Bennetts End Community Center. We have a suite there, aka a large room for working in and a small kitchen area for refreshements. Yes we still have good coffee, yes we still have biscuits and yes most of my students are still in the same classes :) It is a nice light room and near a very handy parade of shops. I highly reccomend the bakery. It reminds me of my school days as it smells just like the bakery that was near my secondary school.

As well as a new location I needed a way to keep my student supplied in classes. Some things you can wait for but others can really slow you up if you can’t get them there and then. So I now take a small mobile shop with me.  Needles, pins, blades and threads are all on hand. Fabric was trickier. I settled for bringing a folder full of strips of fabric. Having a full width of the fabric means we can try out borders and sashings but I can bring 120 fabrics in one hand. I am still working on a way to carry samples of wide backings and waddings, but as a longarmer I do have quite a selection of those too :) If you want longarm quilting done that is now my collection and drop off point, so really its a big change not being at Patchwork Corner and not so big a change too. If you ar in the area you are welcome to come and grab any notions or fabric you may need.

Now I am well past my fourth attempt, you don’t want to know how many times this post has vanished and been retyped. Fingers crossed this will now post and I can try and get back to regular blogging.