Sep 3, 2015

absofreakinglutely delighted

Our top secret Round Robin has come to an end.

To recap, this was my friend Amber's idea. She and I used to work together, but now she lives in the Ottawa area. She's really from Texas, though, and that's where her Mom is, who is also a participant. And to square it up, my Mum was a willing participant too. Two daughters and two mothers.

We started out with a 20" square design of whatever we wanted. I did a fun little wonky thing with purple in the middle and red and blue on either side, with white as well.

Then the idea was that we'd put it in the mail for the other three participants to add 10" borders all around, or the equivalent, growing it by 20" each way, every turn. Amber had it next and added a yellow border. That let her make the blue transition to green and the red to orange.

After Amber, my Mum got it and she added a sort of a bargello-fied round of super-bright colourful wonderfulness.

Then Amber's Mom got it and she put on the heavy-white final border with some really great pieced squares, some of them doubles, and some wildly fun paper airplanes (made of fabric) with their flight paths hand-embroidered. It's a Whimsical Wonky quilt top and I'm in love with it.

Now we all have an 80x80" quilt top ready to sandwich, quilt, embroider, embellish, whatever, and bind. It kind of makes it look easy when this part is already done, right? We had each step of this process for about two months. That gave us tons of thinking time and lots of sewing time. We could try different things, try different colours, and make a few mistakes that needed fixing.

When I first got Amber's Mom's (okay, her name is Donna) starter piece, I just about fainted. I've been quilting since fall of 2014, right? She did a beautiful art piece that was based on a photograph and had thread painting, clever folding and purposeful lumpiness, hand embroidery, and it looked done.

I put on the checkerboard border that pulled the colour from the lighthouse and the bird, and then did some colour echoing. I found a really neat sand-coloured fabric with footprints in it at a little shop in Oliver, BC. Amber then framed it all and added the compasses. My Mum added the also echo-y frame work in each corner. We all tried not to overshadow Donna's original piece. In the end, it looked like this:

Amber's idea started with a sign she saw in a pub, which she replicated with fabric.

The perspective is amazing, isn't it? My Mum added some flying geese and a tree, and Amber's Mom added another tree (tons of hand embroidering), a bear, a tent and a fire. She also did the zigzag border and the maple leaves. My Mum was a little short on her addition, so Donna, being a Mom, went the extra mile. I figured the canoe wouldn't go anywhere without paddles, so I added those on last.

And my darling Mum. She started off with an 11-sided circle in a square and Donna grew that into a fun thing with 60-degree triangles and an almost-hexagon.

I carried on with the 60-degree theme on two sides, and Amber finished it off. This one is a lot of fun. The picture below is actually a side view - the original 11-sided beastie is going to be in the bottom-right area.

That's all of them. Kind of amazing, right? I would totally do something like this again. It was frightening, overwhelming and really intimidating, but every time I settled on my idea for a piece, I let the stress go and got to work with the cutting and sewing. And I got to buy a new ruler and some fabric along the way, so it wasn't all scary.

There were no spoilers (I've been assured of this), which made today really great. We all opened our boxes at the same time and got a first look at the beautiful finished top. Then we dug into the journal and read all the juicy details about every step along the way. It was Amber's idea to journal things as we went, and that'll be a lovely thing to hang onto for years to come.


Aug 27, 2015

next step: quilting

1. Having a retreat at your Mum's house is awesome. Working with Mum for two days straight, getting to ask all the questions, and having time for shopping, jokes and meals = priceless.

2. Even though you think you have to sew non-stop, there IS still time to go to a fabric shop or two. We proved it by going to two.

3. Two parents do a great job holding up the top-secret quilt top that was finished after a long first day. I really like it! We are likely to have the grand reveal next Thursday.

4. The man-quilt (56 squares) made it through layout, assembly and sandwiching, even with a trip to the store to pick up dog food for the Nan and a bit of show-and-tell upon delivery. (It's the "man-quilt" because hubby accompanied me into fabric shops and even ventured into a few on his own while travelling ... and always went to ask for the .2, .3 or 1/4 yard cutting himself. Awwww!)

5. As stated above, all that's left to do is quilt and bind this puppy. Piece o' cake, right? Did I mention those 56 squares are 12 inches square each? That's my biggest quilt EVER. It's scary. I'm thinking vertical lines randomly spaced in red. We shall see - I won't be starting til next week. I don't have the red thread yet.


Aug 23, 2015

sewing called weaving that is actually knitting

It's weaving in ends, of course! And I have two socks' worth of them planned for this evening. I also have a limoncello and cranberry on the strong side that's going to help me through.

For you IKEA lovers, yes, that's a Sissu  cup.

Sometimes, in knitting, sewing is necessary. It pains us, but we do it. It's really hard when you have a fresh skein of beautifully-dyed-in-Bellingham yarn (Cedar House Yarns) staring at you, though. Like, really hard.

I'm jetting off to a small retreat at my Ma & Pa's house in the morning. And by jetting I mean driving the speed limit or slower. I should have more to show after that ... but not the top secret thing! I have to finish that this week and then get it in the mail to its owner and then, when all four of us have our starters back, we will open the packages and go mental. Round Robin joy.



Aug 18, 2015

and then there were 56

Remember Square 1? I had cut just over half the 450ish pieces then, and decided that that was enough cutting for a while, so I started sewing. I sewed them all up, and then I cut the rest. Since the zombies I faced in Cut Round 2 were really, really fussy cut and not at all square, I stepped away from the rotary cutter and did some serious math. It was a Sunday morning and it was mostly successful to do it that way, rather than the original way I did it, which was to perform every calculation mentally just before I cut. That produced three errors. Writing it down only produced one error. Neither was the end of the world, but method 2 felt a lot less stressful.

My third-to-last square was a sight to behold! I call it Tiger Farting on Dragon's Head.

I changed sewing machines partway through and it took me a while to learn the quarter-inch sweet spot on the new machine. I have some squares that are really not square. I was aiming for 12.5" squares, but I may yet trim them all down to 12". That will shave several inches off the final size of the quilt, but I have the option of throwing in another row and column, either by piecing more squares, or by introducing borderless blocks of solids.

At this point, I'm leaning toward blocks of solid. I would do them all in black or white and I think they'd really tie things together. And is it ever going to need some tying together! I only used so many border colours, but there's a wide variety of combinations and widths. We'll see how this lays out. Very exciting!

Now to prepare to cut the very well planned-and-thought-out addition to Amber's starter. I'll be done ahead of schedule. No sweat.


Aug 14, 2015

sew long ago

As a wee girl, my Mum had a Singer sewing machine. It was not a featherweight. It was white, electric, and it folded down into a table that was really cool. When you weren't using it, the machine faced the floor suspended under the table-top (which folded out and became wings when it was open). I learned to sew on that machine. When I got to grade 8 and had to make a pair of bermuda shorts from a pattern, I whipped them up in no time flat and spent the rest of the unit helping other people. I can't remember everything I sewed at home, but there was a poplin dress a la 1980-something, a grade 12 grad dress in taffeta, and then a wedding dress in satin or pretend-satin.

Now let's go back to 1979 and imagine my wee Nan looking forward to a new sewing machine. She was probably completely stoked because she was looking at the first programmable sewing machine EVER. It memorized stitch patterns like flowers, dogs, etc. and strung them all together into a repeated thing. You could flip them over too. So if you wanted flowers this way, that way, this way, that way, you could totally do that.

She must've been giddy.

It was a Janome Memory 7, which also went under the name of the New Home model 5001. Janome apparently bought the New Home company and I know my machine and its hard cover said Janome, but I've seen some on the internet that still said New Home.

And that's what it looked like. The left side of the dark part to the right of the throat was a cover over the control buttons for the memory functions. It flipped open to the right. The top flipped open as well, and all the feet were stored up there. The whole thing was made of the heaviest metal possible and it probably weighed 50 pounds. I might be exaggerating, but I doubt it.

When it started making REALLY loud noises in 2013, I took it in to see if it was worth servicing or selling. The shop didn't think so. It's not old enough to be a collectible item, and I couldn't see spending a lot to fix it up when I could get a basic new machine for $400. So I retired it.

Two years later, I outgrew the basic new machine. Truth be told, I would have outgrown the Janome as well with the crazy stuff I'm into now. I was going to have to upgrade regardless. All is not lost, though, because the basic new machine can be my daughter's ... if she ever decides that sewing is something she wants to do.

So (sew) that's the history of my sewing life.