Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Bit of Progress

Another work deadline met! It was another long week of long days, but I was done by lunchtime yesterday and took the rest of the day off. I've decided today is a free day, too. 

Yesterday afternoon, after a couple of hours of decompression (and laundry, etc.), I tackled the second half of loading the linen quilt into the frame. I'm very pleased with the final setup! 

I was almost obsessive about arranging the layers. In fact, I laid it all out on the floor first, with the backing taped down, just as if I were going to pin baste. This showed up distortion in one end of the top, so I restitched one entire border. It was worth it---it's much better now. I also went nuts with registration marks all around the edges. I figure they can't hurt, and they give me a feeling of security (whether that's warranted is another issue). 
The next two or three weeks are going to be very busy with three editing projects underway, but at least I have lots of hand quilting to turn to. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Observing My Life

It's been a long week and a half since my last post. Yes, I've been buried in work. The good news is that the index got done on time, and the first batch of my new copyediting project was only one day late. In the book end of the publishing business, making a deadline is not all that usual, so I'm pretty satisfied. 

Since my resolution to keep a better balance between work and the rest of my life, and to make quilting a much higher priority than it has been, I was very interested to observe exactly what happened the past few weeks. On and off, I made a conscious effort to note what I was doing and how I felt about it. Turns out that my work saps my brain power and will. I know this sounds weird, or at least like an overstatement, but it's about the best short description I can come up with. 

After more than, say, six hours of tightly focused work (which is roughly equivalent to a good eight-hour work day at most businesses---who concentrates for a full eight hours of an eight-hour work day? ... I certainly never did), I'm still able to take an interest in the rest of my life. More hours than that, especially on consecutive days, turns me into a zombie.  I had plenty of examples of this. A couple of times I tried piecing some scraps ... the colors didn't mesh, the patterns were jarring, and just pawing through the piles of scraps for a piece of suitable size was simply too annoying. I tried a little hand piecing ... all that attention to detail wore me out within a few inches. Trying to think about new projects or how to handle the next step of current ones always led to a sort of murky dead end somewhere in my brain. I couldn't even get interested in quilt blogs. Pathetic. 

Areas that gained were the urge to chat on the phone with friends, and way too much interest in reading crummy novels. Disturbingly often I found myself sitting, staring at nothing, my thoughts a vague jumble. Walks were favorite. I was relieved to find a natural inclination for at least one healthy behavior.

And now that I've taken off about a day and a half? After 24 hours of no significant work, I spontaneously started to think about getting the linen quilt top into the quilting frame---and really taking an interest. Will it last? The next deadline is looming. 

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Little Bit of Sewing

I can't believe how fast this past week has gone. I've been working long hours indexing a book. Indexing takes a lot of mental energy, and I just haven't had much left over for anything else. 

I did carve out several hours to do a couple of fun things. One is that I started looking for stone tile to put around the fireplace. We need so little that I can afford to look at even the expensive stuff. Made me feel giddy with the possibilities! Incidentally, I saw some bright red ceramic tiles that will be perfect for the walls above the kitchen counters and below the wall cabinets. Much better than paint. I love remodeling projects! Well, more accurately, I love the planning and the results. 

The other fun thing I did was attend a free sewing class for my new machine. I admit I had pretty low expectations---I've been using the machine for over two months and haven't had any problems figuring it out. But I did learn a couple of things and made a cute little bag. 

The most interesting thing about the bag is how the bottom corners were constructed. This method is probably far from new, but it was new to me, and I really like it. I'll be using it for the next grocery tote bags I'm planning to make.

The inside of the bag, after folding the bottom edge up and then sewing the side seam:

The outside lower corner of the finished bag:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Another Older Quilt

I was playing around with the new camera again, seeing how well it does in low-light conditions. A perfect subject was one of my quilts that we hung last week. It's the last one I made from new fabrics specifically purchased for a project. It hangs in a hallway that gets a little diffused natural light, mainly early in the morning. This is the best, albeit not very good, distance shot, but it shows the wonderful secondary patterns.

It's a bit too yellow, but really, the colors are surprisingly good, given the low light.  The areas that fade out are made from very pale colors. The following view shows the piecing and machine quilting, and more accurate colors. 

It's a fascinating combination of squares, equilateral triangles, and hexagons. It always amazes me that squares and equilateral triangles can fit together to make a flat surface. The nine-patches are 3 inches, finished. Each hexagon is one piece. They are tricky to cut---it's easy to be just a little off, which makes a big difference in how the neighboring patches fit. I had to do some fudging while piecing. 

One of the challenging aspects of a pattern like this is figuring out how many blocks to make. Math is not my strong suit, and I was woefully off in calculating the nine-patch requirements. So, I had a stack of extras that I only recently figured out what to do with. That top is on the back burner for a while.

This quilt is a near copy of one I saw in The Romance of Double Wedding Ring Quilts, by Robert Bishop. It's on p. 49, and the caption reads, "This quite astonishing piece was made by Susie (Mrs. Harry) Bontrager in Yoder, Kansas. Obviously, the artist had a special feeling for Nine Patch blocks, for she has used them in bright colors to make her rings in conjunction with triangle patches. The happy result is  a wonderfully pleasing variation on the double Wedding Ring pattern. Kansas; c. 1935, 95 1/2" x 78 1/2"." I admit I was astonished, too, when I first saw it---and just had to make one! 

The photo here was scanned from the book and went through several transformations, so the colors are a bit drabber than the original. You can see the fading and stains. This quilt got used! 

Using triangles that are darker than the hexagons really brings out the the wide rings instead of the starlike patterns. I'd like to do another with that emphasis. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

One and a Half Steps Closer

Well, I called Hobbs Bonded Fibers directly, and they said they're not making organic cotton batting at all anymore. I'd rather buy organic, but obviously, it's time to move on. 

I also prefer to avoid polyester, resins, and any finishes, while maintaining high quality and easy needling. These are tough requirements, and every choice has pros and cons. I decided on Hobbs wool, because of the easy needling, good quality, and no polyester, and that I happen to have some. The yellow color won't matter under the linen top. I was iffy about having that much loft, and it contains resin, but I decided to not overanalyze this. 

The new leaders for the quilting frame have been a bit of a challenge. The original fabric I bought turned out to smell really bad, and if anything, even worse after washing. Yuck! So, I fell back on some muslin that I already had. It's on the thin side, but it'll work. I have the leaders temporarily taped in place, ready for the final taping. I really wish I could avoid tape. Adhesives have some really nasty chemicals. But this frame has metal poles, and the alternatives I've tried so far are not really workable. So, I'm using tape with a metal backing, which should at least help prevent some of the outgassing. 

This week is going to be very busy, but I hope to have the quilt on the frame by the weekend!