Making it Easier – May

One thing I’ve begun to understand about making things easier, is that it’s hard work. It’s the ‘making’ part of that intent – thinking of the change that would make something easier then doing the work and organisation to get that change to happen – that takes all the time and energy. It’s only after you do the ‘making’ that life gets easier. If all goes to plan.

If I’d decided ‘take it easier’ was the motto of the year, things would have been much more relaxed. As it turned out, May was a month in which I worked very hard to make life easier.

For ages now I’ve been looking at the rooms I use for work and play and feeling something had to change. For a start, two were dedicated to activities I wasn’t doing much any more: writing and weaving. It seemed crazy that I was making art in half a laundry while those rooms remained mostly unused. Adding to the pressure was our cat getting old and suddenly refusing to go outside to toilet. Having the litter tray in the bath isn’t fun for cat or humans. The laundry is a better location, but it was full of my art stuff.

The physical roadblocks for change were mostly physical: I couldn’t see where to relocate the Lotas loom, I worried about doing art in a carpeted area, and I didn’t want to ruin the comfortable combination of furniture I had in place for sewing. I hadn’t realised there were mental blocks, too. (Other than simply knowing it would be hard work.) It turned out that changing anything to do with my writing set up was an acknowledgement that a significant era of my life had probably drawn to a close, and I hadn’t been ready for that until now.

What removed these roadblocks was staying overnight at Dad’s place after he’d had a minor procedure with anaesthetic. It was so impractical, compared to having him here, for reasons too long to list. To make staying overnight at our place appeal to Dad, we needed a proper guest room again and a bathroom free of cat toilet smells.

That meant reducing the area I was using for work and play from 3 1/2 rooms down to 2. Or did it? I realised that a pared down set of office furniture and contents could easily exist in the guest room. Guests would only limit my access to them a couple of times a year at most.

While getting 3 1/2 rooms down to 2 1/2 sounded easier, or 2 1/2 rooms dedicated to hobbies down to 2, it was still an intimidating prospect. I reminded myself that I’d had one room for hobbies when we first moved here (ok, I’d painted in a classroom and hadn’t owned a floor loom) and when we eventually downsize I’ll probably have the same. I’d watched The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. I could do this.

The strategy was this: the office would become the Textiles Room, the craft room would become the Art Studio, the Loom Room the Guest Room. It only involved moving every piece of furniture. Since I don’t have Illustrator any more and probably wouldn’t remember how to use it, I mapped out a floor plan and made cut outs of the furniture. After working out where most things would go, I did a mock move and found that everything had to be relocated in a particular order to avoid double-handling.

The Lotas loom was never going to fit in the Textiles Room. It might go in the Art Studio, or in another part of the house. I can put that decision off for a while because moving everything else is going to take plenty of time and energy, and moving the sofa bed to where the loom is now is the last item on my list.

May’s making it easier tasks will become June’s. And this is a classic example of how ‘making it easier’ turns out to be hard work, both physically and mentally.

But in the end, easier.

Bazaar Times

So ask I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve been doing some yarn culling. First there was the big rug yarn/fabric cull last year that triggered the Summer of Quilts, thanks to me thinking it would be easier (ha!) to just sew up all the flannelette strips into quilts. Then in April I culled some dyeing supplies and knitting yarn. As May arrived the rest of the stash got thinned and I figured it all may as well go into the yearly weaving guild sale. I added magazines, a pin loom, a 16 shaft loom I was going to fix up but no longer want, and circular knitting machine to the pile.

And it was quite a pile.

More like a wall.

Estimated total number of items was topping 100. Aside from the possibility it wouldn’t all fit in my car, the thought of filling in ten forms, and deciding on prices, and labelling it all, and carting it to the guild sapped my will to live. It had me wondering if I should just have a studio sale instead. That reminded me that I’ve seen people hire a table at the Bazaar and have their own eftpos machine. Both Paul and a friend have organised such things before so it didn’t intimidate me. Doing it that way would remove the need for filling in forms and I could change prices or put together bundles as the day progressed. I called the guild and asked if I could do that instead.

After a few days they got back to me, and the answer was ‘no’. So I looked at the pile/wall and figured I had to reduce it to a more manageable size. I decided to donate the knitting yarn to op shops and toss the magazines into the recycling (I’d got them for free at the Bazaar two years ago when nobody wanted them). I was all ready to take the rug yarn to the tip when a weaver I know said that friend of hers would take it. Perfect.

That got the items down to just under 70. It took me 4 hours to fill in the forms and write and attach the tags. It and the rug yarn (which I delivered the same day) filled the back of my car.

And, thankfully, most of it sold.

Looking at the Loom Room now, the difference is obvious. Only half of the shelving and little wardrobe contain weaving things. The rest holds either knitting/crochet, embroidery and spinning items, or empty tubs. I’m not sure what my next move is, but it might involve even bigger changes.

As I always remind myself: nothing in life is more sure than change.

Colour-blocked Corduroy Jacket

Or is it a shirt? I guess it’s a ‘shacket’, as it works as either.

It felt like I had a lot left to do when I tackled the next stage, since the sewing up is the main part of garment construction. But in truth, it was no more than an easy day’s work. I took breaks for cuppas and lunch, and one to write the bulk of this post before tackling the buttonholes.

This was a ‘just for the fun of it’ project. Though it was done in the spirit of using up fabric, the main aim was to play with colour-blocking. I bought fabric for it and have enough of five of the six kinds to put to other uses, though not for any full garment.

What’s next? Well, some sewing thread I ordered for topstitching a quilt back in January has finally arrived, so that might be next. Or perhaps I’ll fix the wool skirt that got shrunk last year first.

Making it Easier – April

This was supposed to auto-post. Well, better late than never!

For the first third of the month it seemed like I was only making life more complicated. I volunteered to arrange the plein air/still life sessions while the organiser was on holidays, which wasn’t helped by sudden and inexplicable email problems, and the weather switched to winter mode so it was cool enough to do the weeding… at the rare moments it wasn’t raining.

Making things easier seems to require ongoing work. A while back I realised that if I always paint on the same sized canvas sheets I can just swap then around in inexpensive frames from IKEA or Kmart. But I’ve started participating in exhibitions where the art is on sale, and those works are supposed to hang from a string or wire. The cheap frames only have a ‘hook’ on the backing board, and the composite board the frame is made of is too weak to hold a screw and wire. I’ve found a framing shop that sells wooden frames that look the same. They’re more expensive, of course, but at least I can still switch art around.

We went away for a long weekend, which disrupted my sewing momentum and I came back in what my painting mentor used to call “right brain mode”. The wardrobe got a mild cull and that was made so much easier using Stylebook ap. I started preparing for the weaving guild’s yearly sale, which was a very tiny bit easier for having already culled a heap of rug yarn and some dyeing materials, then harder because I figured I ought to cull the rest of the stash and suddenly I had a LOT of items to tag and record on forms.

At that point I started seriously considering forgetting the Bazaar and having a big studio clear-out sale. It might just be less work overall.

Quilted & Bound

The Purple Quilt is done. It’s a cosy couch quilt size.

This one makes me feel competent. The strip sequence came out nicely, and the newer way of binding went well. I like the colour combination.

The back is a brushed cotton plaid.

“Stitch in the ditch” on every second row seems to work just as nicely as every row and takes half the time and thread. If I was to make another quilt, out of those blue leftovers, I’d do another one of these strip quilts.

The Blue Quilt – Finished!

It turns out I’ve been doing binding wrong. Well, not the usual way for quilts. I’m supposed to be making a wide strip, ironing it in half, sewing the raw edges to the back of the quilt, then folding it over to to the front and sewing it down. I’ve been making a narrower strip, sewing one raw edge to the back, folding the other edge over then sewing it to the front.

I tried this new method and it is slightly easier. However, I forgot which side of the quilt I was supposed to be sewing it to first, and wound up having to hand stitch it down. Never mind. I do quite enjoy hand stitching, even if it sets my back off.

Here’s the back of the quilt:

Here’s another shot of the front:

It’s far from perfect. On the other side of the galaxy from perfect. But I actually finished it, which I doubted more times than I can count. I’m calling it the ‘learner quilt’.

The Summer of Quilts…

…is done.

When I started, all these boxes were full of flannelette strips and some uncut fabric:

And this is what I have left:

Whatever I do with the leftovers, it’s not going to be quilts. I might make fabric-wrapped rope baskets from it. I might made fabric pompoms. I might use it as stuffing. I might just send it all to fabric recycling.

What I do know, is that a bag of scrap fabric can go a loooooong way. That huge bag of flannelette pieces I bought for $100 in early 2020 became five woven floor rugs and nine quilts from knee to double bed size. And that’s after a third of pieces were culled at the beginning because they weren’t the right size and shape to become strips.

I won’t be buying random bags of fabric again!

I also won’t be making flannelette floor rugs again. There’s too much time spent ironing the strips to conceal the raw edges, and I don’t think my body (or even my loom) is up for the pounding of the beater to get a tight rug. That’s fine, because I have three big rugs in my storage chest ready for when the one I’m using wears out, which is probably a lifetime’s supply considering how good the current one looks.

I might make a flannelette quilt again. The fabric does make a cushy quilt. But it wouldn’t be a big one.

I’d like to try making a ‘normal’ cotton fabric quilt one day. But not for some time, I think. I’ve had enough of quilting. It’s time to get back to the sewing I meant to do before all this started.

But wait, I hear you say. What about the topstitching and binding of all those unfinished quilts? Well, I decided I only had to get the flannelette strips made into quilt tops by the end of summer. My plan after that is to tackle finishing one quilt a month, and hopefully have them all done by the end of the year.

The Blue Quilt – Part Four

I was a bit fed up with the numerous problems this quilt kept throwing at me, and tempted to pack it away for a while, but I knew I’d probably forget how I was fixing the rows of blocks so I had to get that part done. To preserve my will to live, and because the Sew Mini was old and I didn’t want to overheat it, I also decided to fix no more than one row of blocks at a time. I got distracted by the Purple Quilt top, but once that was done I returned to the blue quilt and finished the last three rows of blocks one hot Sunday when I just wanted easy, brainless sewing to do.

Then I did put it aside. Using a walking foot would make the topstitching much neater, and I didn’t think the one I had would fit the Juno. Instead, I made the Square Cat Quilt and Crayon Quilt.

That left me with this:

The leftovers from the Blue Quilt.

And everything else.

I didn’t want to do anything with the blue leftovers it until I’d finished the blue quilt in case I wanted to add more sashing and patchwork to the sides. The mixed leftovers batch didn’t inspire me. Not even the skull-themed fabric strips. I was almost left with nothing to work on.

But then the Juki was back and working beautifully. I launched into finishing the Blue Quilt. The quilt-as-you-go method is designed to lesson the time you spend wrestling a big, heavy quilt. But the more you add, the bigger it gets and in the final stage you do have a big, heavy quilt to deal with. During the break I’d had an idea to lesson the strain. Instead of just adding rows of blocks and it getting bigger and bigger, I could work from both sides simultaneously, creating two smaller sections that would be joined at the middle. Only when the middle section had to be top-stitched would it be a PITA to handle.

To add the middle section, I sewed it onto one already quilted part, then sewed the other side of the top onto the other already quilted part, then hand stitched the backing in place.

Then I just had to top stitch it. Yeah. What a monster. I had to unpick nearly half of it and sew from the other end to try and smooth it out, but I tell you, if there were quilt exams this one would get an F-.

But it was assembled at last.

And I hadn’t needed to put aside the blue batch of leftover strips. There wasn’t any way I was going to wrestle the monster Blue Quilt a minute longer. Well, except for the binding, but that’s another story.

Squares & Borders

When I considered what quilt to make next, I considered the leftover strips and asked myself what I would hate to toss out. My eyes went to the crayon and psychedelic fabric, and the uncut pieces of fabric with feathers and cat-in-a-garden designs.

I started playing and found myself making borders around a white square. I’d seen this method of building blocks in videos, and it looked simple and fast. I began matching solid coloured strips and chose three that matched well, and I was ready to start the construction.

I began with the squares, which I fussy cut. I wasn’t able to get one of the types of cat cut from the fabric and managed 8 squares. But when I laid them out it seemed obvious that a 3×3 grid would work best. So I cut around the cat an appliquéd it to a square cut from a plain garden part of the fabric.

Next I laid out coloured strips for borders. Then I took three of the multicoloured fabrics I liked – feathers, dots and psychedelic stripes – and added the next round of borders. Then more colour, and sashing in white.

And I got sewing.

I’m calling this the Square Cat Quilt

I really enjoyed the patchworking method, so I decided to do another quilt using it. This one used the crayon, dotty and thick stripe rainbow fabric cut across not along the stripes. I was able to make twelve blocks before I ran out of fabric.

This became the Crayon Quilt

At this point, I was also spending time cutting backing, batting and allocating fabric for binding. By the time I finished the second squares and borders quilt, I had five quilt sandwiches ready for top stitching. Add to that the Blue Quilt, which used the quilt-as-you-go method, and I had six quilts to finish.

And one or maybe two more quilt tops to make before I was done for the summer.

Bookcase Quilt

So, thanks partly to the Juki requiring a service and repair, I have a new machine.

I’d had a shop web page for it bookmarked for many months – maybe even a year – as a machine for taking to friends’ houses or lessons. When the Juki started eating needles I checked on the web page and to my delight it was on sale, reduced by 33%.

So the Sew Mini went back in the cupboard and I put the Juno to work. Oh, it was nice to have a variable speed foot pedal again!

I turned my attention to the batch of striped fabric strips. I discovered three things: firstly, I had leftovers from the Snakes & Ladders quilt already sewn together; secondly, the overall combination of stripe patterns didn’t combine that nicely; thirdly, it also contained some uncut pieces of fabrics.

Regarding the already sewn pieces, some were in pairs, some were several pairs sewn together in a short column. They were of similar widths so if all the pairs were joined I would have a longer column. Four of the fabrics – about half of them – were a combination of strips cut along and across the stripes, and could be sewn together the same way. I could do a column of each, then join them all together with a strip of white between. So I did that.

It’s a good knee rug size.