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Monday, June 06, 2016

Back to the Usual

My father is home from the hospital and his prognosis looks good. Extracting that much information out of him was difficult, and perhaps he’s not really saying what’s what. There’s not really a choice if he doesn’t want to talk about it, so I’ll have to accept what he says. Oh well. He will probably be here later this month, or sometime in August.
The past few weeks have been busy. Butterfly’s stitching in the ditch is finished, and a lot of time was spent unsuccessfully trying to quilt it. To say there were bobbin tension issues is an understatement. After too much time spent messing around, it has been set aside to quilt the Fancy Fox top. Although I think the problem has been resolved, Butterfly and I are currently licking our wounds and need some time apart.

As for Fancy Fox and me, well,we’re getting along very well. While there are plenty of slips in the stitching, this is the best free motion quilting effort yet. Stitches are becoming more even with each session at the machine, and the quilting more fluid with fewer blunders. Most of the background has been quilted, but the background thread ran out last night. Some more should be in hand soon. Now, what to quilt in those faces?

Oh look. Some picking out to do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Frustration and Distance: Too much of Each

The last time I posted was to talk about the flimsy for my father’s girlfriend, which now only requires the long bits of sashing. He had a heart attack that very morning, and was in intensive care for a few days. Circumstances have not allowed me to speak with him. It seems I have called at inopportune times, and connection is made through the nurse’s desk. That’s rather inconvenient for the nurses. Not to mention, they're nurses - not social secretaries. My sister lives about an hour from the hospital so finding things out is not necessarily easy. Particularly when the man in question thinks it’s none of your business. Really. It’s like that. He went to Halifax today for some tests and perhaps a procedure, so now there's no knowing what's what. He’s said no heroics. What that means to him seems to be somewhat nebulous. Would open heart surgery be heroic? Stents? I don’t know, and finding out is like having teeth cracked out of your head. Hard going. And what is it with older people not wanting to take a pill? I hear this all the time from my older relatives. What? You want to have a stroke and become incapacitated? Perhaps so much so you’re no longer in charge of your care or future? Hey. Take that freaking blood pressure medication. Grrrr.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Waiting for Butterfly

That title just doesn’t have the same cachet as Waiting for Godot. Unlike Godot, Butterfly will show back up in about a week, so the waiting’s not interminable. Basting has never been easier, at least for me since it’s out being basted on a long-arm. The batting had to be pieced for a bit of extra length. Funny how queen sized batting (from a roll) at 90” wide isn’t enough to cover a queen sized quilt’s dimensions. Whatever. The top is approximately 88” square, hence the Frankensteining required for the batting. I can hardly wait for it to be ready to quilt, and am happy there are other things to work on while Butterfly is busy becoming a quilt sandwich. Meanwhile, bobbins have been prepped for the ditching. Mono-poly on both sides for that activity. And speaking of ditching, my sister has started ditching her Butterfly. She despises that mono-poly as much as I do.

Since there’s some free time, the assembly line for Dad’s long neglected flimsy has ramped back into production. The project was started way back in the fall, and needs to make its way to the finish line pronto. Dad’s girlfriend is not well and something to keep her warm is a must. A good start has been made on the sewing, although it is somewhat of a slog. It’s the colour scheme – it’s just a bit too sweet, but Phyllis will love it. It certainly helps that I love pinwheels of almost any variety. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Butterfly Flimsy

The Butterfly flimsy is at last complete. It took about a month to get the border together, primarily due to lack of interest. I am not sure why it was a slog, only that it was. It was so hard to pay attention to it that it only ever saw progress on weekends. My sister finished hers up over the weekend as well, and she’s already started basting. Hopefully I’ll get that done over the weekend. This morning half of the backing fabric got a light spritzing of starch. Wrestling with 2.5 yards of 108” fabric is not really that much fun, but I thought I’d give it a shot to see if it makes any difference.
My Aunt Carolyn, Uncle David and I went to the Creativ Festival (no that is not a misspelling) last weekend, where several sit-down quilting machines were given a go: Pfaff, Handi Quilter, Bernina and Janome. Price immediately rules out the Bernina ($12k show price), and the Handi Quilter had visible vibration issues (you could see the table shake) and a high-pitched running sound that immediately knocked it out of consideration. It’s fun to fantasize that a dedicated quilting machine might come home with me one day. Of the remaining two machines, I’d go with the Janome. Not because it was any better than the Pfaff, just that it could be purchased and serviced less than three kilometers from home. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Butterfly Border and a Cute Little Dress

The Butterfly flimsy is finished aside from the top and bottom borders, which are slowly being constructed. While the original design calls for wide swathes of fabric as borders, I wasn't at all crazy about that idea. 

A couple of border ideas for Butterfly were tried and rejected. What I really wanted were 1” squares for an 11” deep border. Let’s just say my sewing skills just aren’t there. What is underway is a border made with strip sets resulting in pieces that are 1.5” wide. The skill for sewing straight and consistent strip sets really isn’t all there, but it’s good enough, and whatever the errors are, they won’t really be noticeable in the end. 
 I’ve been a bit bored with Butterfly since the initial ideas for border construction did not work as planned (and spending 2 full weekends on them). The project is now firmly in slog land. With most of the strip sets sewn and ready for cutting, and the prospect of quilting near, the enthusiasm will hopefully return.

There was a bit of down time while waffling about Butterfly’s border, so it seemed only right to take advantage of it to make a gift for a baby shower. Since baby girls become little girls, a larger size seemed appropriate. Hopefully the new Mum will like the dress. I certainly loved making it.
Things to like: The fabric. Oh my! Simple design with over the top cute factor. There’s so much to learn about sewing.

Not so much: There’s so much to learn about sewing. There’s a minor alignment issue where the front bodice and skirt are attached under one arm, and I could use some practice in getting smoother armholes. Since I wanted the seams to be fully finished, the skirt has French seams. This was a mistake for the bottom border – it leads to bulky seams at the sides and back of the skirt. Hopefully these issues won’t make the dress uncomfortable to wear.

Pattern: Geranium by Made by Rae, in size 3T

Fabric: Main – The Hypnotizer. Trim - The Wanderer. Both from the Chipper collection by Tula Pink in Raspberry. Many thanks to Liz at Needlework, who helped select the fabric combo.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A is for Archer

The Fancy Fox II quilt has left the house, destined to be given to a new baby boy. His name is Archer in honour of his grandfather. It had a slower finish than expected and it sure feels good to tick it off of the to-do list. Work has also been occupying some weekend time, due to an upcoming project launch. Volunteer activities have also ramped up due to year end requirements of organizations I do some data analysis for.
The trying-new-to-me-technique effort was continued with the binding for Archer’s quilt. My heart had been set on a piped binding, but the wrong kind of cording made it home. Rather than wait for another shopping opportunity, a bi-coloured binding was made instead. It was easy and I love the result. The binding was sewn on completely by machine.

Things to love: EVERYTHING. The noses, the glasses, the pointy faces. I love it. Certainly the quick construction factor helps with the love thing. May Archer drag the quilt around until there’s little left to make it recognizable as a blanket.
Not so much: Most of the techniques used for this quilt could use improvement, but there’s nothing wrong with feeling like that. Overall the project is a screaming success and I am proud of the end result.
Details: Fancy Fox II pattern by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh Fransson. Lap sized. Background fabrics, binding flange, letters, eyes and noses are Free Spirit solids; backing is from the Noe collection by Erin McMorris. Two foxes from Mochi by Cotton and Steel. That’s all I can remember.

There will be another fox quilt finish soon, this time with smaller blocks. The flimsy’s finished, but it lost its spot for attention when my sister sent me a picture of her assembled-but-for-the-border-Butterfly-flimsy. I have almost caught up with her. We’ve been discussing border options, and we each have decided on slightly different versions of the same kind of thing. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fancy Fox II Progress

Elizabeth Hartman’s whimsical aesthetic pleases me greatly, and given the time, I’d probably make everything she designs. Everything. Last month a Fancy Fox II quilt top was assembled for my friend Natalie. Returning to the project on the heels of Gravity has been fun, and I am excited about free-motion-quilting the piece and trying some other new-to-me techniques.
Technique 1: The backing was embellished with the baby’s name. It’s on straight, and is centred. And yes, that surprised me too! Bias tape was the first choice for writing the baby’s name on the quilt, but that failed miserably. There was bulging at the seams which did not make for smooth lettering. The thin strips cut for the resulting ¼” binding weren’t done as well as they could have been, also leading to less-than-desirable results. Thankfully there was enough fabric left to make the name as it now appears. It was typed in Adobe Illustrator (Creative Cloud)* using a large font. The colouring on the text was set to outline the characters, and the whole thing stretched so that ‘A’ would fit onto a letter sized sheet of paper. Fabric was then ironed to the plasticized side of letter sized freezer paper and then sent through the printer (inkjet). Depending on what would fit on a sheet, one or two characters were printed at a time. Guidelines were marked on the quilt back for name placement. Once the letters were cut, they were then stuck down using a fabric glue-stick. Fusing the letters down would have been a better option, but there was nothing suitable in the house at the time. Two trips around the letters with a straight stitch secured them on the back. This technique will probably be used again and was learned in the Craftsy class Word Play: Personalize your Quilts, with Sarah Fielke.
Technique 2: Wood grain quilting. Easy to learn, and easy to sew. A very forgiving quilting design for a newbie free-motion-quilter like me. There are loads of slips, macro/micro stitches, and variations in stitch length in this quilting. Mistakes are largely hidden by the density of the quilting and the nature of the stitch pattern. Irregularity does not really matter. As ever, practice is making a difference, and the quality of the stitch length and stitching lines improves with every session.

Hopefully this feeling that free-motion-quilting is the entire reason for breathing right now will last. Aside from this project, there are 2 completely finished flimsys (Vintage, Postcards from Sweden), and 4 that are mostly pieced (Reflections, Butterfly, Fancy Fox lap quilt and Dad’s pinwheel-like top). I’d like to get most of these items to completion in the next few months so I can feel good about starting some new ones. 
And my favourite fox of the group. They myopic one.
*Adobe offers a number of products for use on a subscription basis. From time to time, something special needs to be done that the usual tools cannot handle. Ideas are collected, and every now and then, 20 USD is spent for a month’s subscription to Illustrator. It’s more manageable than buying Illustrator (a lot of money), and cheaper than hiring a graphic designer to do it for me. The down side is that like most Adobe products, it’s got a steep learning curve and is hard to use. Cancelling and restarting the service is easy, and I’ve never experienced an issue with the on again/off again relationship I have with this subscription.