24 February, 2009

State of the Dining Room

President Obama may be addressing US Congress, and really the world, tonight on the State of the Union, but I am currently concerned with the state of my dining room.  Or should I say, the kitchen table (since there isn't one), the office, the recycling centre, extra fabric/batting storage, obstacle course for the Smilosaurus, and landing zone for nearly everything that comes in to this house.  I love it and hate it.

While the basement is under reno, or as I like to call it, under the idea of renovation, I am stuck quilting on the dining room table.  That means I have to clean up before every meal and if Hubby needs it to look at plans.  Hence the bin of blueprints, a shredder, a sewing machine, ironing board, box of current projects, and cutting mat in the corner.  I want one of those pretty studios filled with organized thread, pretty little boxes of scraps, and an inspiration board. Damn you who have them!

Am I a little bitter?  Hell yeah.  I am so tired of the clutter, of watching that the girls don't play with my thread, and of constantly cleaning up my creativity.  Now I know why kids hate when we constantly tidy their toys and art stuff.  I'm not a messy person (seriously, can't you tell?) but I would love to keep some in progress works spread around.  Oh well, one day.

But I am not telling you the highlight of my day.  I spent almost a half hour on the phone with Mark Lipinski!  We bonded (at least I think so) over discussions about cabbage rolls and the Polish/Ukrainian border.  And I got his commitment for Quilt Canada next year.  He will be the keynote for our Professional Development conference, so mark your calendars for April 26-27, 2010. 

16 February, 2009

Thread Catcher

One of the annoying side effects of improvisational quilting is the constant starting and stopping when you sew.  Depending on your plan of attack it might be difficult to chain piece. That can leave a lot of cut threads, mess, and wasted time.  A good quilting friend of mine taught me this trick.

Take a scrap of fabric and double it up (or use two small pieces).  When you finish a seam, sew a a few stitches in to nothing, then sew in to your scrap.  You can then cut your piece from the scrap without a tangle of threads to deal with.  When you come back to your machine for the next seam just sew from the scrap piece, cutting it off when you go to press.

I usually keep two of these by the machine.  One for the start of my sewing and one when I finish the seam I'm working on.  That way you always have one handy to plug in to the end of your seam when you leave the machine to press.

14 February, 2009

In Progress

There are 7 doll quilts in progress at my house.  One is a present for our friend's little girl.  The rest are for a special order.  This is the first time I've sold quilts.  I'm excited and nervous that the recipient won't like them.  But the process is great.  I do enjoy the opportunity to try something new without great fabric expense.  It is also a great way to play with scale and colour.

09 February, 2009


As in trying to get things done.  Like a reno budget, trips to city hall for permits, laundry, cleaning my floors, getting healthy, finishing curtains, paying bills, and even a little bit of quilting.

In the absence of overlapping naps very little of anything is getting done.  Oh well.  The girls are having fun with Mama all to themselves.  I did get this little doll quilt basted with only our Smilosaurus keeping me company.  Pins are very intriguing to an almost 9 month old. Hopefully I can get it quilted after bedtime tonight and before 24.  Then I can take it with me to city hall when I have to wait in line-ups for permits.  Anything to make that process more interesting.

06 February, 2009

Stash Report

There hasn't been much quilting lately.  The girls are not napping at the same time and I've had other work to do.  On the plus side we have a dishwasher finally!  That is saving me some time. To keep this place active I thought I would do the Sew Mama Sew stash interview.  No fancy photos either - I don't want to wake up the girls and my stash is stuck in a corner of their room. The photo above is from the last time I organized things, before we moved it all out of the basement.

What do you usually sew?
Quilts and that's it.  I have some feeble attempts at clothing and crafts, but they are just that, feeble.

When you shop for fabric, what size cuts do you usually buy?
Because I never use a pattern, most of my quilts are stash based.  When I shop it is either to augment a colour or for something like a binding because I don't quite have enough.  That means I usually buy 1/2 metre cuts.  It gives me enough freedom to do different things with the fabric.  If I am buying for a specific project then the cuts are often smaller, so I can have more variety of fabrics.  I find lately that I get tired of a fabric if I've used it too many times, no matter how much I like it.

Do you buy on impulse or go out looking for something you need?
Both.  Sometimes I'm just missing a specific shade of green or turquoise.  And when I'm looking for that I find three other fabrics I love!

Are you a pre-washer?  If you are, do you wash it before you need it or only when you are ready to use it?
I used to be an ardent pre-washer.  Then my stash started growing and I could no longer remember whether a fabric had been washed or not.  Now I generally don't bother, with two exceptions.  I always pre-wash batiks or a purchased/gifted hand-dye to make sure it doesn't run.  I will do this right before I use them because I don't use them often.  The second exception is reds.  This is the most likely colour to run so I usually pre-wash reds right when I come home from the store.  Then they are ready when I need them.

Do you iron it?
I will iron before using, whether pre-washed or not.  If I need to cut precise strips or pieces I iron to get out fold lines so I can cut to grain successfully.  And if I'm cutting random pieces or scraps I generally iron before sewing, at least.

How do you sort it?
As you can see from the photo above, by colour.  I keep my batiks, novelties, and flannels separate.  Any significantly multi-coloured fabric are contained in two other bins.  There are also a few other bins that contain UFOs and pulls for specific, planned, but not started projects. I don't like making quilts with all one line or designer, so I've never bothered to sort this way.

Do you have any special folding techniques?
Nope.  I fold it rather than stuff it in the bin, doesn't that count as a technique?  If The Monster gets into it she rolls it to put it away.

How do you store it?
I have about 15 plastic bins.  Currently they are in an old closet - minus the doors - in my daughters' room.  I can see each colour and can easily grab a bin or two for some project pulls. 

What tips do you have for building up a well-rounded stash?
Don't get stuck on specific designers and buy their entire line.  Buy your favourites from the line.
It isn't necessary to buy a lot of any one fabric, no matter how much you love it.  Will you still love it after you've made your fifth quilt with it and you still have three metres left?
But, don't be afraid to buy what you really love no matter what.  Then don't be afraid to use it!
Don't be afraid to buy a fabric you just aren't sure about.  If you love the colour but hate the pattern you will use it.  Fabric looks different cut into a small strip or triangle.
Buy fabric in a variety of prints. Small-scale, large scale, stripes, dots, solids/blenders, and even florals.  Having a variety of fabrics in your stash will help make your quilts more dynamic.
Don't cull a fabric just because your tastes have changed.  There may be a perfect use for that one brown one day.
Try to have fabrics in one colour that have both shade and tint.  Again, it will add more interest to your quilt.

When do you say enough is enough?
I don't.  Every now and then I will say that I need to take a break from shopping, but then I need just a bit more for a backing.  And sometimes it is worth adding a few new things to get you jazzed about your options again.  I might by one new multi-colour fabric, do a pull from my stash, and never even use that new fabric.  but it got me to look at my stash again and get excited about what I've got.

What are some of your best stash-busting projects?
Anything I do always starts in the stash.  Lately the entire project or at least the majority of it comes from stash.

Do you have a current favourite print in your stash?
Not really.  I find that I have colours I go to, but not necessarily a favourite print.  That being said, I recently put in an order at Purl Soho for the first time.  I've always hesitated because ordering from a US company can cost a fortune in taxes and duties, but I had to have a specific print and took the risk.  It was so worth it!  And now I have this cute robot fabric from David Walker.

What's your definition of a perfect stash?
Well, I think mine is pretty good.  The only thing I would change is a better way to store it.  I would love to have it in a closet, not the bins, and folded better.    

A good stash is not like your favourite quilt store.  You can go into your favourite store and know you are going to get what you need or like.  But go to a new store and you'll see something you've never seen and it gets you excited.  Sometimes you go through your stash and it is like that new store.  We all have our go-to fabrics, but the search for the perfect pink uncovers that one stripe you forgot you bought.  A perfect stash is full of stand-bys and surprises, is used and added to, and it inspires all on its own.

02 February, 2009

Another Improv Piece

And another baby quilt.

This will be the first and only glimpse of the quilt I can give.  My sister and brother-in-law are expected their first baby so this is for them.  They've done a fantastic job decorating the nursery and the quilt is inspired by their work.

Here is my fabric pull, although I think I need a few more blues.  I have the pattern, or rather, the technique, figured out.  Now I just need the time to finish it.  I better hurry, she's only a month or so away!  I promise to share when the quilt is done and the baby arrives.