Skinflint Sunday: The week that was.

Evan24 and Jenna on the steps of the Opera House.

Life in lockdown has continued on its sedate path. Here in Melbourne we know the rules and everyone – except the nutters – follows them. The reality of the Delta variant came home to us when Evan24 and Jenna, (pictured above a couple of months ago in happier times before NSW bungled its Covid response), were notified that they had to go into isolation. Their housemate is from NSW and went to a rugby match (ugh) in the city, where a super spreader was. So far they’ve all tested negative but it’s a warning as to how easily we can be exposed to it.

To ease the pain of iso I sent them a half a dozen bottles of shiraz. Tey may as well eat, drink and make merry while they’re stuck there!

I asked about Lentil, the golden retriever, who lives with them. Apparently dog lovers from up and down their street are waiting at the front gate to pick her up and take her for a walk. Dog people are the best people.

2 apple trees

My project for Lockdown #5 was to plant a row of columnar apples along the strip of garden in the driveway next to my car. I bought 4 trees last year just before Lockdown #3 (I think) and they’ve been sitting in pots waiting for winter. I looked at the space and on the day before this current lockdown I went and bought another one. Turns out I should’ve bought 2.

I have 5 of these trees out in the back yard and last year we had a pretty decent crop from such small trees. Only one didn’t fruit and a couple of them went wild. These ones in the front will have slightly less sunlight but hopefully they’ll do the right thing in a year or two and give me plenty of apples. They’re a mix of red and yellow, which will keep things interesting.

Stumps in the ground.

The only problem is that there was an orange tree that wasn’t removed properly when I had the garden bed cleared last year, so of course its roots are precisely where we want 2 of the apples to go. When lockdown finishes I’m going to get Blogless Sandy to bring her husband, Even More Blogless Andrew, to bring his mini chainsaw to gently break it up. Hopefully we can buy another tree and have the whole lot in the ground before Spring.

Red against dark grey.

Look at how pretty the new growth looks against my newly-painted fence!

Next Saturday I get my second shot. I’ll be so glad when that happens. I saw online that over 18s can get the AZ shot, so Ryan26 booked an appointment and 2 hours later his first shot was done. When he’s out of quarantine Evan24 will be rolling up his sleeve as well, with the other boys not far behind.

Dogs on the couch.

The little woofs are all doing well and are still the light of my life. I really believed that after I retired, they’d get used to me being around and would be more chill about me not being in their direct line of vision at all times.

Not so. I didn’t think it was possible for them to be even more attached than they were, but it’s happened. I mean, it’s flattering and all, but it’s still a bit embarrassing when I get an hysterical welcome back after stepping outside the gate to put the bins out.

Fabric hexagons

I’ve begun cutting out hexagons to make a quilt for the lounge room. When I went on last months Little Adventure to Kellie’s fabric shop in Faulkner I picked up fabric that goes with the painting that I bought when I went to Hahndorf.

Fabric next to a painting.

I’ll be machine piecing this quilt, but I’m cutting the hexies out by hand by tracing around a template with a water soluble pen. Life would be easier if the ink in the pen wasn’t so blue… I really should’ve started from the other end of the bag!

My quest to ‘earn’ back my council rates by reading $1,800 worth of books from the local library is coming along well, with only $305 to go. I’ve discovered the most fantastic series by an Australian author called Joy Dettman – The ‘Woody Creek’ novels. I’ve finished the first 2 and – can you believe it? – my library doesn’t have 3, 4 5, and 6. I’ll be putting in a request sometime today for them to buy them. What’s the point in having the first and last books in a series without having the middle ones?

Argh!

Still, if this is the worst thing that has happened to me this week, then life must be pretty darned good. 🙂

Skinflint Sunday: I may be throwing good hours after bad.

Remember the baby quilt that I unpicked for WEEKS and then sewed back together again?

The one that nearly drove me to the brink of despair?

I was throwing out all the weird lozenge-shapes, but then I got to thinking of how much work Past Frogdancer put in.

So I decided to do this:

I have some triangles, some 1″ squares and some 1″ coins.

I think I’ll be able to make something from these… one day.

The pile of lozenges was on the corner of my table, looking messy. But now all of the pieces are in a ziplock bag, all cut and ready for inspiration to strike.

Only took about 3 hours to tidy up. Do you know how many stray threads were on these things? Who knows if I’ll ever do something with all of this, but it just felt too sad to throw them all away.

After reading a couple of quilting books by Amanda-Jean Nyberg, I’ve decided to do as she suggests and sort through my stash, cutting little scraps into usable shapes. When I want to make something, most of the cutting will already have been done!

This jar is filling with 1″ square blocks. These quilting books have LOTS of projects using small squares, so I’m thinking these will come in handy.

At the back is the beginning of a pile of hexagons. Yes – I’ll be learning a new skill and making a hexie quilt. God help me.

These are 2.5″ squares. Up until now they’ve been pretty much the smallest pieces I use.

And this was how my day began today. David27 gave me this mug for my birthday last year, celebrating my favourite episode from (one of) my favourite tv shows. I grabbed it out of the dishwasher and the handle snapped in my hand.

I texted David27 to let him know. His response?

“Noooooo!”

The 2011 – 2021 Couch Quilt.

Long shot of the entire quilt.

Way back in 2011 I signed up to be part of a quilting bee. There were 12 members and each month for a year we’d get fabric and instructions for a quilt block sent to us by one of the bee members. The idea was that everyone would get enough blocks to make an entire quilt, with the blocks measuring around 12.5″ square.

When it came my turn, I decided to ask for a wonky log cabin BUT made as a ‘Quilt As You Go’ block. This means that instead of just sewing fabric together to make a block, the fabric strips are sewn ONTO a piece of batting. Then, all you have to do is assemble the blocks, pop a backing piece and binding on it and the quilt is done. No wresting a quilt through your sewing machine!

I asked for the centre of the blocks to be the piece of green with buttons, then for people to piece the rest as they wished, feeling free to add a piece or two from their own stashes if they felt like it.

The blocks arrived back. I looked online for how to put them together effectively. There were SO MANY different versions. I became paralysed with indecision. Then thermomix came along and I became very, very busy so the blocks were put away for “one day”.

A few weeks ago I was sorting through my fabric stash and I found them. I googled again – found a simple way to attach them all together and so I decided that I am NOT allowed to start another new quilt until this one was put together. These blocks have waited long enough.

In the end, it took a mere afternoon to finish this quilt.

Oof.

Poppy and Scout checking it out on the couch.

I decided to try a few different things with this one.

First off, the QAYG thing was different. The fear that stopped me finishing it 10 years ago was that you might feel ridges between each block. In the end, I simply sewed the blocks tother as usual, then attached the backing with straight stitching 1/4″ on either side of the blocks. Worked beautifully. I’m sitting on it now and there are no ridges digging in to my ample behind.

Two: instead of putting the blocks together as a normal-shaped quilt, I decided to make what I’m calling a “couch quilt”. In other words, a quilt designed to fit the length of the cough to protect the leather. It has enough length so that there’s overhang over the arms of the couch, which is perfect if you own a dachshund. Scout loves to snuggle under things. She jumps up beside me and I can flip the overhang over the top of her. (She’s there right now, snug and sound asleep.)

Three: I decided to attach the binding with the sewing machine but from the back, rather than the front. Then I sewed it by machine onto the front. It’s basically a reverse of the technique I showed you here. Would I do this again? The answer is that although it was far easier than doing it they way I outlined in the tutorial, it bugged me having the little flap on the front of the quilt rather than the back.

Though having said that, I’ve realised that once the quilt is out of the machine and is being used, no one really looks at the binding anyway, so maybe I’ll use it again. No pinning necessary when you do it the reverse way!

Close up of a block.

Here is a detail. You can see that it’s heavily quilted in straight lines. I had to trim some of the blocks, so in the end the blocks measured around 11.5″ square.

It feels really good to get this project done and dusted.

The vintage-look baby quilt for Tom29.

Yes, this quilt nearly broke me. As I said yesterday to Ryan26, “If this was the first quilt I’d tried to make, I would’ve thought quilting was all too hard and I would’ve given it all up. As it is… I KNOW I can do it and I WILL!”

I’m going to do a Scarlett O’Hara and say – “As God is my witness, I’ll never unpick a quilt again.”

The pattern itself is terrific and I’d happily make another.

The backing is the rest of the doona cover that I bought in an op shop to use for this very purpose – there are squares of the roses on the front – along with a strip of very sweet ‘girly’ fabric I’ve had sitting around here for years, along with a pale pink that I bought a while ago, thinking it’d come in useful.

The binding is a mix of the darkest pink fabric on the front, plus a couple of remnants of the binding I made for a quilt way back in 2010. All of these scraps eventually come in handy!

The white stars stand out now. The horseshoes are all pointing upwards for luck and – now that it’s finally finished – all’s right with the world!

The boys and their girlfriends are coming over to an ‘after lockdown’ dinner tomorrow night, so I’ll give it to Tom29 to give to the expectant parents. I hope they like it.

Skinflint Sunday: I hate quilting.

I have NEVER used my seam ripper/quick unpick more on any project. This little baby quilt is killing me.

It’s been 2 weeks since I looked at the finished baby quilt and decided that I had to take it apart. It took a week to get it all unpicked and then I had to pull more fabric from the stash and rebuild it. Yesterday I decided to start the quilting.

“It’s only a baby quilt. It shouldn’t take long at all!” I optimistically said.

In the first row of quilting, I didn’t notice that the backing had flipped, so I sewed some of the flipped material into the actual quilting. That took time to fix.

Then, in the 3rd row, I accidentally sewed the row closer to the 2nd row than I wanted. Luckily, I caught it pretty early in the row, when the bobbin ran out. But I’d sewed the ends in BEFORE I realised, so there was more time wasted. The quick unpick was working like a navvy.

The new bobbin kept snagging and snapping. Over and over again. More quick unpick work.

After my 40th “I can’t fucking BELIEVE this!!!”, Ryan26 put his head around the door to ask how it was going.

“Everything that could go wrong HAS gone wrong. If this quilt is any indication about this baby’s personality, she’s going to lead her parents a very merry dance.”

He told me it was 4:40. I’d only completed 4 rows. Around 1/4 of what I’ll need to do to complete it.

That was it. I was done for the day.

Quilting is horrible.

Skinflint Sunday: Colours are hard.

I’m in the middle of a quilting balls-up and I have no one to blame but myself.

I decided to base the baby quilt I’m making for Tom29 to give to friends on the yellow fabric with the pink, blue and green hearts. I spent AGES first sorting through all of the bins in my stash, separating all the colours into piles. (This was a job I’d been meaning to do for years…)

Had my colours chosen, then thought I’d play with the colour values. This is something I’ve only lately become aware of, since stumbling across Blue Elephant Stitches and Wombat Quilts. Why not have the yellow and white going across the quilt in a grid? What could go wrong?

First off, this quilt photographs better than it looks in real life.

I cut and sewed together the 425 pieces that it takes to make a baby/cot quilt.

Ryan26 wandered through at one stage and said, “I don’t like the yellow against the white.” I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO HIM!

I finished the quilt top. I had misgivings but ignored them and pushed through with pinning the quilt sandwich together. There it was laid out on the floor. I called Ryan26 in to have a look.

He sighed.

I said, “Yeah, I know. The yellow drowns out the stars. When I look at it, all I can see are weird yellow lozenges, not white stars.”

“Well, you can just finish it and give it to them, I guess,” he said. He’s been the child of a quilter for many years – he knows how much time and effort goes into these things.

“Yeah…” I said.

Ryan26 is a wise man. He probably knew what was coming. He left me to it.

The thing is – I should have taken a black and white photo of the yellow and white together. That would have told me instantly that they were of equal brightness.

See how the white stars just fade away?

Did I think of taking a b/w photo before I did the work?

Yes.

So, like I said, I have no one to blame but myself. I hate it when that happens.

I went to bed, saying to myself, “I don’t know these people. Tom29 can give it to them; I’ll never see it again either way.”

But I woke at 3 AM, knowing that I wanted Tom29 to give them a quilt that looks pretty and will be used, rather than stuffed in a cupboard somewhere.

So I decided to unpick the quilt, substituting the yellow blocks for other fabric already in the quilt, with added pink blocks.

It’ll take a day to unpick, I thought.

Um… not so.

This is two solid days’ work, with 1/3 of the quilt still to go. The actual unpicking isn’t too bad because I’ve been listening to podcasts while I work. A great one I found was “Stuff of Legends with Christian O’Connell”, where he gets famous people to bring in their 3 most prized possessions and talk about them. I caught up on “My Dad wrote a porno” and listened to the new series of “The Pineapple Project”. This season is all about frugality, which as we all know is my jam. Today is a ‘Casefile’ kind of day. I feel slightly murderous.

Just to let you know what this quilt is supposed to look like, here’s the original one, only in blues.

Kellie details how to make it here. She has it as a project that you use from scraps cut from the leftovers as you’re making other quilts, which is a great way to tackle this. Making it, pulling it apart and sewing it together again is definitely not the way to go.

But hey. At least I have the time to be able to fix my mistakes.

There’s also something else I learned from this. After 36 quilts, I REALLY need to have a design wall. If I’d had those blocks up where I could see them, I’m sure I would have seen the problem much earlier.

Quilters – which type of batting makes the best design walls?

Ian’s quilt.

So now the second promised quilt from my dinner party in February is done!

This one was made from the rest of the 3 packs of charm squares that I bought from the quilting shop in Victor Harbour on my holiday. Plus the white from my stash and a mix of b/w polka dots and grey, also from the stash. The back is from a thrifted doona cover. I wish I’d bought another charm pack – this quilt is a lap-sized quilt and I would’ve liked it to have been a bit bigger.

Every time I use HSTs (half square triangles) I hate getting the points aligning. Especially when I have to unpick part of a seam and try again. MANY expletives come out of my mouth when actually sewing these quilt tops and I vow – never again.

But once they’re done they look so effective.

Ian requested blues, but I like the way the bits of green add contrast. I think they make the quilt pop.

Yesterday I started work on a baby quilt for Jack29.

No, he’s not expecting! One of his close friends is, so he requested a quilt. In my wisdom, I’ve picked a design with around 450 pieces.

Maybe lockdown #4 has affected me more than I think…

Cathy’s quilt.

You know how when you’re hosting a dinner party, you have a bit too much to drink and you promise to make a quilt for a couple of friends?

I know, it’s happened to us all.

This is the first of them. A quilt for my friend Cathy. We met in form 4 at high school, around 40 years ago. Of course, this is a deep shock to both of us. Neither of us feel we’re anywhere near old enough to have known someone for that long!

I used the following video to make this quilt:

When I was away in South Australia I was driving out of Victor Harbour and saw a quilt shop. Both Cathy and Ian had said that they preferred blues, so I bought 3 charm square packs and a piece of cat fabric. Cathy loves her cat.

What I didn’t pick up on was that the charm pack called ‘Blue’, which I bought two of, had HEAPS of the beige-y squares in it. *sigh*

So I used most of them in Cathy’s quilt, looking to have a graduation of colour intensity moving down the quilt, with the cat squares reaching up.

This pattern is quick and easy to put together, though when laying out all the blocks it’s wise to keep the sequence “7 … L… 7 … L…” in your head. This makes sure that you get the ‘falling’ effect in the quilt.

Quilt measurements are 51″ X 63″.

The backing fabric is from a doona cover I picked up in Savers when I was shopping for a party costume a few months ago. Sometimes you just don’t feel like piecing together a backing for a quilt, so sheets and doona covers make life easier. They’re already wide enough.

When I took the quilt out of the dryer after washing it, the backing was so very soft. This will be a lovely, comforting quilt to snuggle under, with or without the cat.

Home-made binding, like all my quilts. I’ve had this fabric for ever and I’m reaching the end of it. I think I first used it as the borders on my Basketweave Strings quilt back in 2009.

I’ve finished the other quilt for Ian and I just need to sit down for another 6 hours or so and hand sew the back of the binding to it.

I have a Quilt As You Go quilt still to assemble and then I think my WIPs are done. To my shame, I’ve had those QAYG blocks sitting with me since 2011. I couldn’t work out how to put them together effectively, but I think I’ve found a way.

THEN I can start making all of the quilts that I have had my eyes on for the last couple of weeks. I’ve ordered lots of scrap bundles and solids, so I want to clear the decks before they all arrive.

So I’ve gone down the quilting rabbit hole…

It’s a beautiful sunny day. I should be in the front yard painting my fence or finishing off the verandah, or in the back yard chop-and-dropping the spent plants from summer. But instead, I’m inside, looking at all the possibilities for quilting.

A newsletter to a quilting shop mentioned a blog, Blue Elephant Stitches, and I read every post on her blog. Well ok, maybe not every WORD but I looked at every post. I loved her quilts and now I want to make eleventy billion different things.

Of course, one blog leads to another and another and so my Pinterest quilt board has exploded with ideas.

I’m currently working on hand sewing the binding for a couple of quilts for some friends, but I had the brilliant idea of making placemats with all the blocks that I want to try. No rhyme or reason with colours and designs – I have a vision of people coming over and choosing the placemat they like the best and using that. In theory, that means that every family dinner/dinner party will look just that little bit different.

For this first one, I used this granny square block tutorial.

But look at this quilting!!!!! I’m overcome with my own cleverness.

I used this tutorial for the spiral quilting. I saved this post YEARS ago, thinking that I’d love to do a quilt with this one day.

As it turns out, I’m pleased that I tried it out on a placemat first. The quilting is so close together that if you tried to use it on a full-sized quilt, the effect would be as if you were trying to snuggle in under a sheet of corrugated iron. For a placemat/pot holder/coffee mug mat though, the texture is perfect.

I’ve decided to make these mats a bit larger than usual at 20″ X 10″. I like the idea of being able to place cutlery beside the plates on the mats to further protect my table top.

Hmmmm. So now what will I do? Should I continue to hand-sew the binding onto Cathy’s quilt, or will go race off and make another one of these?

I’ve only had it for 6 years…

I’m not one to accumulate a lot of things around me. Partly that’s because The Best House in Melbourne has few extra cupboards, but mostly it’s because I look at my parents’ house that they’ve lived in since 1959 and I shudder to think of the huge job it’s going to be to clear it all out one day.

But I DO like to spend when I’m on holidays. It’s fun.

So I tend to choose useful souvenirs.

Such as this pincushion. I bought it when I was touring the UK back in 2015. I think I bought it at Kenilworth. It came back in the huge parcel I posted from London and then it’s been in a cupboard in Ryan26’s room ever since. I forgot I had it.

I’m on a quilting jag at the moment, with 2 quilts currently on the go. I was looking for something and found this beautiful pincushion. Up until now I’ve just been taking the lid off the tin of pins and grabbing pins from there.

Well! Let me tell you that using this pincushion is LUXURY!

At first I felt like a fool for not using it until now, but then I consoled myself by saying that by deferring its use, I’ve clearly added 6 years longer to its life.

(Yes, I know I’m rationalising, but it hurts no-one!)