Easily Distracted

Because of various influences–a blogger friend who wrote about English paper piecing and the quilts of Lucy Boston (I ordered the book,) my BF, who took a class on English paper piecing, and so was talking about hexies, and a closet cleaning episode, where I discovered a treasure box filled with a lot of little hexies from a long forgotten project, I started putting some hexagons together.

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The whole time I am working on these, I enjoy the project, but of course it goes slowly, so I wonder what I am doing and if it will end up as anything at all.

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Sometimes you just have to try. And sometimes you have to give yourself permission to do “stupid sewing” that might not lead directly to anything, but might just be the inspiration you need for the Next. Great. Project. 🙂

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Recovery and Creativity

Well, here I am, three weeks post-op already! If you want to read more details about my knee replacement surgery, you can check my other blog. I’m writing several posts detailing my experience in case it might be helpful for someone else considering knee replacement surgery. For the most part, it has all been so much better than I had heard from other people, and I am so grateful for that. The doctor did not know before he actually started the surgery, but it turned out that I only needed a partial knee replacement. Such good news for me in the recovery room!

I thought I’d share here about my creativity (or lack of it!) during my recovery time. You might remember that I was all prepared with four neatly arranged projects for me to choose from while I recuperated. Well, it turns out, none of them worked for me. I didn’t like beading in my lap, and I’d take the other projects out of their boxes and just stare at them. It was too hard to make a decision about where to start, or what color thread to use.

My best friend was here, and she tried to encourage me with various ideas. She had brought practically her whole studio with her 🙂  One of the things she brought was her AccuCut machine. She suggested using a charm pack that she had bought (and that I had admired,) and using that along with some of my reproduction fabrics to make a hexagon quilt. It turns out, that was just what I needed. I like sewing those big hexagons together. And of course, I love choosing fabrics for a new quilt.  Choosing which hexagon to sew to the next hexagon didn’t tax my brain too much.

Here’s the beginning of my fabric choices (you can see the charm pack in there–brighter colors than the rest):

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And here it is in progress:

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After a while, the only way I know to figure out how a hexagon quilt is progressing is to lay it out and then sew a chain of hexis in a straight line so you will know where the edge is supposed to be.

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And here, after 2 1/2 weeks of recovery, which included a lot of exercise, a lot of naps, and a lot of sitting, sewing, and TV watching, is the finished quilt top. It measures 50X70 inches. It will be a nice lap quilt for someone.

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This week I have done little bits of sewing on my machine, and even a bit of quilting on the Juki. I still don’t enjoy letting my leg hang down, so have kept those sessions short. I was finally able to start embroidering on one of the projects I had pre-prepared, and soon I will clear off my cutting table/desk and set up a beading station. I am determined to work on my beading!

The Trouble with Teaching

The trouble with teaching is that it takes a lot of brain power to prepare for it. At least that’s how it is for me. I can’t really think about starting a NEW. IMPORTANT. PROJECT. when I am thinking about teaching. All I can think about is “oh, I could share this,” or “wouldn’t that be great to have a sample of that to share.” And you can see, those are not bad thoughts. I just won’t be starting one of the big projects I have in my mind until after this teaching gig is done.

In the meantime, I wanted to have as many examples as possible to share with the class. I had a LOT of unfinished samples…ahem…have I mentioned I don’t like binding quilts?

In fact, I had five small pieces that needed to be finished. So one by one, I set out to get that done. I also didn’t have any handwork for my evenings, so finishing these substituted for that for a few days.

This is the “header” for the “what they said” series. It has a facing instead of a binding. This is my favorite method to face quilts now. 

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You’ve seen this before. Its not finished (I’m planning to bead it) but I wanted to take it to share with the class. So now it has a binding on it.

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And a binding on this little wonky piece, just to keep it contained. Oh, you’ll notice that I hand-stitched the binding to the front. Usually I machine sew my binding down. But I always say I think its weird that quilters do all of that beautiful hand-work on a binding, and hide it on the back.

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And this piece has been hanging around FOREVER, with unfinished edges. That was partly because I just didn’t know what to do with it. It was stitched almost to the very edge, and I didn’t want to cover up any stitching with a stupid old binding. I thought about zig-zagging the edge. And then it came to me–just do that by hand! It took quite a while. But I think it is the perfect edge for this little piece.

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Close-up. Hint: if you do this, it goes a lot quicker with #5 perle cotton 🙂

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And then I had this hexagon piece. I just didn’t know WHAT to do with it. I thought about mounting it on a board. I thought about putting it on top of another quilt (which is what I did.) But how to finish all those dang edges… I just didn’t want to fool with binding it. I was pretty sure it would not be my best work, trying to turn all those corners. So because I had “zig-zagged” the previous piece by hand, I thought, hey, that might work! I literally took 5 stitches, and said, no way am I going to go around this whole piece by hand. So then I decided to try zig-zagging by machine. I auditioned several green fabrics, and in the end, this beautiful piece won out. I placed the hexagon, which was already a complete quilt sandwich, on top of the piece, got it just where I wanted it, and pinned it carefully in place, on a flat surface. First, I straight stitched about 1/8″ from the edge, all around the piece. I thought zig zagging might distort it. Then I started zig-zagging. Three colors of thread, and three rounds of small zig zag later, it was firmly in place. Then I could cut out the back of the foundation fabric. Made a sandwich, and quilted it simply. It came out just the way I envisioned. Oh, and side-note. I thought I would just quilt it on my Janome, since I had a big quilt under the Juki. I had to stop three times in the first five minutes for stupid things, so I switched over to the Juki. Ahhhhh… much better 🙂

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Close-up:

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As I mentioned, I didn’t have any piece to work on in the evening. This was driving me nuts. I also have seen quite a few things lately that have little tiny pieces of fabric sewn together. I got this book. Her work fascinates me. So finally, after all these little quilts were finished, I decided one night to just make a sandwich out of some leftover muslin and batting that was laying around in the studio.I brought the sandwich, my bag of Cherrywood little scraps, and four or five “neutral” fabrics out to my comfy chair. I was somehow going to sew patches on top of this. As soon as I sat down, I knew I didn’t want to have muslin showing through on the front. So I set about hand piecing little bits of fabric together. Yesterday I got tired of hand-piecing, so I put the rest of it together by machine. And now I have a fun little piece to stitch on in the evening.

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So you can see, there are more good than bad things about teaching! I am looking forward to this assignment.

Too Much of a Good Thing

I am a multi-project person. I always have been, and once I accepted that reality about myself, it was much easier to move ahead with my work. But once in a while, it gets to be too much. I can’t keep track of all my projects. My chair, where I do hand-work in the evening, looks like a rat’s nest. And something conspires to make me stop starting new ideas (they never stop!) and to work on finishing what is in front of me.

I signed up at the last minute to go to rug hooking camp! I’m so excited about this. And it served as the impetus to get my projects in line. So I put away the latest embroidery project (I only had the quilt sandwich made, and then got “stuck.”)

I got busy working on the “sea” part of my rug. I wanted to have that finished before I went to camp.

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I kept at the hexagons every night until that was done.

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I love how it looks. One of these days something will strike me as to how I want to use it as a background.

And then I worked on finishing the latest rag rug. I want to use it as a sample, because I got it into my mind that maybe some of the rug hookers would like to make knitted rugs, and so I cut tons of my scraps into one inch strips. (They have a student sale one afternoon at rug camp.)

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I always think it would be fun to knit a bigger rug, but they are extremely heavy and burdensome by the time they get to this size. This rug weighs three pounds!

I also got up one morning and decided to untangle this rug. I knit it in squares (see above about the work being too heavy.) I thought that was a clever idea. But when I sewed the squares together, something happened, and one of them became “unknitted” but was still attached to the main piece. I’m pretty sure knitters will know what I mean. A total nightmare. But I was able to untangle and re-knit it, and I do love it. I knitted it specifically for my new kitchen long before the kitchen was completed.

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Sophie always has to “claim” any new rug.

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Finishing projects, and not starting new ones allows me time to do all the things I need to do to get ready to leave for a trip. I organized all my rug wool, and have everything by the back door, ready to be packed in the car. Little by little I cleaned up most of the studio, so when I come back from camp, full of energy and new ideas, I will find a clear place to work. This is a relatively new concept for me, and I highly recommend it!

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The garden is watered, and the doggie room is vacuumed! I will return in a week, rested and full of creative ideas!

In the Hexagonal Maze

Somewhere, someplace, I saw a quilt that used hexagons as a background. I really like that idea, and I had the thought that I would like to use bigger hexagons. I have done quite a lot with small paper pieced hexagons, and although I like them, they are pretty labor-intensive, and hard on my hands. I thought that bigger ones, without the paper, might be easier to work on. Plus, to be honest, I thought it might give me an excuse to get that Accuquilt that occasionally calls my name.

So I discussed with my BF (who already has an Accuquilt and thinks it is the BEST NEW TOY ever 🙂 ) I said, well, I should find a template and see if I even enjoy piecing the hexagons before I invest in an Accuquilt. And just like a good BF, she jumped at the chance to send me some pre-cut hexagons. Because, hey, she has a little extra fabric and an Accuquilt.

Like in one day, my little pack of hexagons arrived. Included was a cardboard template of the hexagon. It is the hexagon with 2″ sides, which makes it about 5-6 inches across.

Oh yeah. This size is JUST RIGHT for my hands. I love hand piecing, especially when you are making something that just cannot be done easily by machine.

And because my friend had included the cardboard template, before my first night of stitching was over I was in the studio adding more hexagons to my little pile. And I remembered how much I like drawing around a template and then cutting the pieces out with scissors. Yay! Kindergarten for adults 🙂 Bye-bye, Accuquilt. I do not need you now.

But if any of you have ever worked with hexagons, you know they have a mind of their own. Its just very hard to know which direction you are going in. It starts to develop this weird amorphous shape.

So I came up with a solution. I laid it out on the floor, and decided how big I wanted it to be, and then defined the two sides with lines of hexagons stitched in place. I thought this was very clever.

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And now I am having much fun filling in the empty spaces. I do not remember what my original idea was, but this will be a very fun blank canvas to work on, once the muse gives me an idea.

And because I did not have many pictures to share with you today, here is a picture of Bess, reveling in the warmth of the wood stove.

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