When decisions get too hard…

…start something new :-)

I still haven’t made up my mind about the border for the Three Dudes quilt (which (prompted by Mum asking why it was called Three Dudes, and me realising that the answer was that it was based loosely on a quilt design that was based loosely on a quilt design that was originally called Three Dudes, so by now it is very far removed from the original concept!) I have decided to rename as the Cordon Fence quilt (because the criss-crossing of the dark strips reminds me of chain-link fencing, and because Christchurch)), I’ve set it aside to think about another day.  Which meant my sewing machine was sitting empty.  Which is a bad thing!

The first solution to this problem was to spend some time consolidating some of the blocks I’ve slowly been accumulating for my super scrappy left-over-bits-from-my-scrap-basket quilt, and start connecting them together into bigger strips. Suprisingly, my occasionally grabbing a handful of scraps and sewing them together added up to quite a bit of quilt:


(The little green stars and blue hearts aren’t part of the design – they’re just post-its I stuck on there to remind me what size blocks I was aiming for)

The longest strip is long enough to go the full width of a quilt, and the others are getting close. I’ll need twice as many strips to make up a full quilt top, but even so, that’s about a third of a quilt made so far, all from scraps I would otherwise have thrown away (plus a few sample blocks where I was testing out how an idea would work).

Hmm, I suppose the real message I should take from this is that patchwork is an incredibly wasteful process!


I also started a brand-new project (because having four unfinished quilts in the production line is never enough :-) ), inspired by a charm pack (i.e. a pre-cut set of 5 inch squares) of Oakshott fabrics I’ve had sitting in my stash since forever. I won them during TartanKiwi’s In Flight quiltalong, and put them aside because the fabrics, though just small pieces, were so nice that they deserved to be used in a project that highlighted them somehow.

Except I had no idea how to do that, so they’ve just sat there for the last couple of years, waiting on inspiration.  Which finally struck the other day, when I came up with an idea that (I hope) will show off 30 small squares of plain but colourful fabric beautifully.  So I spent a very enjoyable hour or so picking out a selection of patterned fabrics to add to the charm pack:

A very busy collection, but that’s the idea – the plan is they’ll provide a contrast to the plain squares, while keeping all the colours in roughly the same tonal range.

I’ve actually made a bit more progress than that on the project – I cut most of the pieces yesterday, and made a start on sewing the units together that will eventually make up the blocks.  But by the time I thought to take more photos, it was getting too dark, so you’ll just have to wait to see what I’ve got planned :-)


In other news, work has been a bit stressful lately. On the plus side, I’m involved in a really exciting (and challenging! It’s definitely going to be stretching my coding skills!) project to produce a digital edition of a medieval manuscript. I’ve been sort of project managing/overseeing the project for a while, but not all that heavily involved in the actual work, but since Lucy-Jane left the lab, I’ve had to pick up a lot of the coding work she was doing, which is involving quite a steep learning curve (especially as it uses a language I’m not familiar with (both in the computer language sense, and in the human language sense, because the manuscript is in Latin! Although thankfully I don’t need to worry about that side of things – we have historians doing all the clever need-to-be-able-to-read Latin stuff, I just have to help make their work appear on the computer screen in the right way. Although I suspect I will have picked up quite a bit of Latin before we’re finished!)). So that’s something fun and juicy to get my teeth into.

On the minus side, a couple of days after Lucy-Jane left, Rosalee also put in her resignation. Not that I blame either of them for leaving – they’re both going to exciting new opportunities that they would have been mad to turn down (Lucy-Jane to a private sector programming job, Rosalee to work in social justice activism), but it’s suddenly dropped the Lab from three staff (plus the boss, who is teaching pretty much full time, so we don’t see much of him) down to one, and there’s no way I can pick up all of the work myself. Which puts the Lab in a bit of danger as to its long-term viability. Luckily the university has approved us taking on a couple of extra staff for the rest of the year (at the end of which my contract runs out anyway, so we’ll be having to make a business case to continue the Lab anyway), but it’s going to be tough getting them up to speed quickly enough that it doesn’t damage any of the projects we’ve got on the go.

Yeah, interesting times… Oh well, better than being bored, I suppose :-)


The Word literary festival, by piggybacking on the Auckland festival, have been having an autumn season, basically bringing a few of the authors who were going to Auckland anyway down to Christchurch.  I’ve only managed to get to one of the events (they all sold out very fast!) – a reading/performance by Ivan Coyote (whose book was one of the ones I bought at Scorpios the other day).  It was a great night – their work manages to be incredibly entertaining while touching on some pretty deep issues.  I thought about staying for their book signing afterwards, but chickened out – I never know what to say to authors at signings, and end up just mumbling a vague “Hi, I think you’re great, please sign this” and rushing away, and then think of all the cool and articulate stuff I wish I’d said afterwards.  And anyway, the queue was incredibly long, so I was worried if I stayed I’d miss my bus.

Of course, the minute I left the venue, I was kicking myself that I hadn’t stayed, so I decided that when I got home I’d write them an email to tell them how much I’d enjoyed the show.  Which I did, and got a lovely reply from them!  Totally fan-squeeing here :-)

Quilts in progress report

(With apologies for the terrible photographs – I keep forgetting that the lighting in the study in winter isn’t particularly conducive to getting colour-accurate photos.  On the plus side, I have managed to reinstall decent photo-editing software, so at least I could crop and resize them without too much pain…)

The jelly roll race quilt is quilted! Although the quilting doesn’t actually show up all that well in the photo. It looks pretty good in person though. So all I need to do is the binding, and it’ll be finished.

It’s the first biggish quilt I’ve quilted on my new table, and it’s definitely a lot easier moving a big quilt around on the machine when everything’s at the same level. Of course, because nothing is ever simple in my life, I’ve now run into a problem with the thread shredding when I quilt in a particular direction, which I’ve read can either be a sign there’s damage to the throat plate or the bobbin holder of my machine, or it can just be caused by using the wrong size needle. I really really hope it’s just the needle – if not, the sewing machine might be taking another trip back to the repair shop… (or I could just never quilt anything in that direction – might make curves a bit tricky, of course)

I also finished putting together the top for the Three Dudes quilt. Well, sort of finished it – I can’t decide whether I want to add a border to it or not. It looks a bit unfinished without a border, but if I do put a border on, I’m not sure what fabric to use (ideally, I’d use one of the fabrics in the quilt, but I can’t find anyone in NZ selling that fabric line, and the postage for buying it from overseas would be ridiculous). This is the disadvantage of using precuts for a quilt – if you add in some random other fabric that’s not from that fabric line, it’s really obvious.

This has been a really complainy sort of blog post, hasn’t it?

Options

One of the fun bits about quilting is once you’ve got your main pieces made, and have a million possible ways to put them together into bigger blocks.  I started playing around with a few options for the Three Dudes block this morning, and there were so many possibilities!

I was tempted by this pinwheel arrangement at first:

It looks really cool on its own, but then when I tried putting it together with a few more blocks, it wasn’t as interesting, because it didn’t make any of the cool secondary blocks that is the whole point of the Three Dudes block.

Plus, I realised I’d made a crucial error in the previous stage when I was sewing the squares together, and had ended up with some pieces that had the opposite rotation to the rest, which is why the top left-hand corner is weird. You can see the problem if you look at the “tick” shapes in the photo below – one ticks to the left, and the other to the right. So a layout based on rotational symmetry wasn’t going to work.

So I went back to the layout I’d originally planned on using (which doesn’t show up the wrongly-rotated blocks so badly). Or rather, three different layouts that produce the same overall pattern, but centre a different part of the pattern, so change the overall look of the quilt because of the ways the colours change between blocks.

Option 1:

Option 2:

Option 3:

At the moment I’m wavering between option 2 and option 3.  Probably option 2.  Possibly.  Maybe.  Too many options!!!


Speaking of too many options, I roped Harvestbird into a shopping expedition this morning, to help me find an outfit to wear to graduation.  For a shopping expedition that started out as “I have no idea what I’m looking for, but here is a very long list of things I absolutely do not want”, it went remarkably well, and, after visiting every shop in Hornby Mall, plus most of the ones in Dressmart,  I ended up with an outfit that is simple enough not to set off all my “arggh, I hate getting dressed up fancy” alarms, but still dressy enough to look like I did actually make an effort.  I even found shoes I liked!  (Spoiler warning, they have sparkles :-) )

Our only failure was to find an 80s-style brocade waistcoat, but as that potential addition to the outfit was mainly inspired by me commenting that obviously my aspirational style icon is Duckie from Pretty in Pink :-), after discovering that that aspect of retro 80s style hasn’t yet come back into fashion (at least, not in the shops we visited), and a trawl through the big second-hand place in Hornby failed to turn anything up, I decided it wasn’t essential.  So we gave up the search and instead rewarded our shopping diligence with cake and yum cha.  Which is how all shopping expeditions should conclude.

Photographic evidence of the shopping success will have to wait until graduation, when I’m sure many photos will be taken.

Progressing

This new quilt is definitely slower going than the jelly roll race one (mainly because the seams have to be pretty accurate for it to work properly), but I am making progress.  I spent a couple of hours this afternoon sewing the squares I’d cut out back together again:

And then this evening I cut them up again:

The resulting block looks a bit weird at the moment, but just wait. It’ll get better once they’re sewn back together (again…)

Productivity

It’s been a busy but very productive weekend.  The first thing I achieved was yesterday morning, when I got a load of firewood delivered, and managed to get it stacked into the garage in record time.  That hadn’t been the plan, because I was supposed to be going to Mr Harvestbird’s birthday party, but when I rang the firewood company earlier in the week to place the order, they had a cancellation that meant they could deliver yesterday instead of me having to wait for weeks, so I said yes, thinking I could leave it to stack today.  But then the forecast was for rain all weekend, so I had to get it stacked inside straight away before it got too wet.  I was pretty impressed with myself that I managed to get the whole load stacked in just a couple of hours, even if it did mean I was a bit late for the party by the time I’d finished and had a shower.

The party was fun – as always is the case at the Harvestbirds’ parties, a real mixture of different types of people (accompanied by what seemed to be hordes of small children) , with pass the parcel and bubble machines (I want one!) for the children, playstation for the teens, and fancy cocktails for the adults.

This morning I scrubbed down the kitchen table so I could try table-basting my Jelly Roll Race quilt.  It worked really well, and was so much easier than trying to do it on the floor like I have with other quilts, because you’re not having to crawl all over the quilt, wrinkling it up as fast as you’re smoothing it out.  You don’t even need a massive table for it, because you work in sections, smoothing the layers out and securing them with clips before pinning them together, then you unclip it and move to the next section.  I even found a great tip (which of course I forgot to save the link to, so I can’t give credit for it) for making sure the various layers are centred on each other properly:  you tape a couple of skewers to the centre of the table before you start, then you can feel them through the fabric as you add each layer of fabric and batting, so that you can make sure all the centres end up in the same place.

Lots of photos of the process:

I didn’t start the actual quilting, because I wanted to continue working on the blocks for the Three Dudes quilt, but it’s all basted now and ready to go when I feel inspired to get back to some free-motion quilting.

Talking of the Three Dudes quilt, that’s what I spent the rest of the afternoon working on. I managed to get all the strip sets sewn together, and then cut the strips up into 10.5 inch lengths so that they’re square. That’s not the final block though – next step is to sew them back together (in a different way, of course!), and then cut them again, and then sew them again… and after all that they should come out looking really interesting. But that’s a job for another productive weekend.

Books and cats and quilts (what else is there?)

Alkaline-kiwi was in Christchurch this weekend, so we had a Bookcrossing meetup this morning.  It was great to catch up with her – plus, of course, the injection of new books into the meetup group is always appreciated :-)  As so often happens, I came home with as many books as I’d gone with, so my to-be-read pile has grown quite a bit.

I picked up:


The other thing that keep growing is my list of quilt projects I want to try. I really must stop watching YouTube videos – I keep getting inspired and adding more ideas to my list.  At least it means I never get bored – I seem to always have several quilts on the go, plus more lined up to start when I want to try something new (which is always – I’m definitely easily distracted by every shiny new thing that comes along…)

Which is all preamble to lead into the the fact that I started another quilt this afternoon.  The other jelly roll was calling to me, so after much deliberation I decided to try a “Three Dudes” quilt, similar to this one (although I’ve altered the pattern a bit).

I spent most of the afternoon just working out the details of the pattern, and then grouping the strips into sets so that the different colours and patterns would be nicely distributed through the quilt (the version in the photo below went through several more changes before I got to the final one), and cutting strips of white fabric to add to them to make up strip sets.

I only got half way through sewing the 10 strip sets I’ll need for the quilt. Once they’re done, they need to be cut up and then sewn back together again a couple of times to make the final blocks, so there’s probably another weekend or two’s work to finish the complete quilt top. Assuming I don’t get distracted by some other project in the meantime… :-)


Gratuitous cat photo of Parsnips sulking on the windowsill because I kept moving her off the sunny spot on my cutting mat on the totally unreasonable grounds that I wanted to cut fabric, not the cat. I also won’t let her jump up on my ironing board, because I’m scared one day she’ll jump up there while the iron is on. I am such a horrible person!