Sunday, September 22, 2013

Getting the better of my stash (Let it go, Karen!)

You may remember from a previous post that I'm trying to get the scrap chaos in my studio under control, and spiffify the space. (You know you all understand what that word means.)  Part of that is a pledge to not have more scraps of any one color than will fit in the fabric bins I'm making.  That I did not put a deadline on that pledge is not an oversight.   One day I'll decide on a deadline.

I'm not a quilter who can take a pile of scraps and systematically cut them into standard sizes; it's just not going to happen.  I'll cut leftovers from cutting projects but I just won't do it with an existing pile of scraps.  (And I also realized this week that I have YET to use any of those standard-sized strips and scraps that I've cut anyway.  Getting control of those controlled scraps is the next step.)  So, my answer?  Crazy patchwork blocks--utilitarian crazy blocks.  (They'll be fun and pretty--I hope--but won't have all the embellishment usually associated with crazy quilting.)  Semi-crazy, maybe?  The point is that the pieces can be fairly large, and I'll make my way through the scraps more quickly.  That was the plan.  It doesn't seem to be working as quickly as I had anticipated but...ever onward.

I just grabbed a few scraps from each of the color-sorted stacks of larger scraps and got to work.   Part of the challenge is to use all the scraps, whatever color or intensity or saturation.  It will all work together in the end. 

The biggest challenge for me, surprisingly, is letting go of small, small scraps.  I have pieced little tiny crazy blocks because I felt guilty about not using every little bit of fabric in a quilt.  I still don't like to "waste" fabric by throwing it away but I need to let the itty bitties go.  I can release them to the folks who make dog beds from fabric and batting scraps but I NEED to let them go.  It's hard for me!

Scraps this size?  Let them go, Karen.  Yes, you could make a little tiny crazy piece but then what are you going to do with it?   Release it to the comfort of our canine friends.

And when I trim the edges of a block?  That is always the end of the line--I won't debate about whether or not the piece is big enough to use in another block.  Let it go, Karen.  (Oh, but what about that red piece on the lower left corner?? It might be big enough.)  Just let it go.  :-)

So, in the end I have blocks that aren't masterpieces but will make a fun quilt. (Do I want to use sashing between the blocks?  I haven't decided yet.)  If I make a block every day or two, I'll get there.

In the meantime I need to make some more fabric bins.  I can use scraps for that, can't I?

How do YOU control your scrap stash? If you're one of those quilters who can cut those standard sizes--and then use them--boy, do I admire you!  I wish I knew how you do it!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Since retiring from public employment I've decided it's high time I organized by quilting studio--again. (You understand what I mean, right?)  It's in the basement, with no windows and some unhandy-man construction and decorating from previous owners. (I could tell you stories--but that's another story.)  Until I can afford a complete gutting and reworking I'm looking to make some small, gradual changes that will better organize and "perk up" the space.  No, it isn't a stalling tactic so that I don't have to pull everything off the shelves and do some rigorous purging.  Not much, anyway.

While I was in Cedar Rapids waiting for Nolting to do routine maintenance on Bertha Longarm I stopped at the local quilt shop and found a pattern for a bin made from fabric and, eureka!   I can make a bin for all the large-ish scraps that are just on mesh shelves, next to the larger yardage of fabric.

Each bin is going to be made from fabric to match the color of scraps that will be stored in them, so I need one for reds, golds/browns, greens, blues, and purples.  And neutrals.  Oh, and Christmas.

Yesterday I finished the first one, for reds.  (I learned some things while making it, and I will do a couple of things differently next time.)

Here is the pile of scraps that is destined for the bin.  You see the problem--and reds are the smallest stack.  King Kong couldn't scale the pile of browns.

So, I have a few choices here:

1) Call it a nice idea, put some patterns in the bin--it  won't nearly hold all the patterns I own--and be done with it.  It also seems vaguely cowardly.

2) Make more bins.  This would be pretty, but counter-productive to my original plan to better organize things and get the scraps in hand.

3) Make larger bins.  See #2.

4) Commit to keeping the scrap level to what can be kept in the bins.  Wow.  I have a lot of scraps to deal with, but that was my original plan. 

Sigh, I'm going to have to choose Door #4, which means I have to do something with the scraps, either cut them up to standard sizes to use in scrap quilts (and go into yet other bins--double sigh) or use them.  Honestly, I don't have an attention span that will happily stand and cut odd-sized and shaped scraps into squares and strips; I cut them with what I have left after cutting for quilts but cutting existing scraps, especially an overwhelming number of them, gives me hives.

My plan, then, is to start cranking out crazy quilt blocks, to be embellished later.  (Or maybe not--they might just go into quilts as is.)   That means finding space to store those blocks or quilt tops.  (It just never ends!)  I'm hoping that Quilts from the Bluffs might find plain-ish crazy quilts useful for giving to community organizations and homes.

You all may need to keep me honest--ask me periodically how it's going.  I'll start with the reds.  And I promise I won't just transfer the scraps to the Christmas stack, to deal with later.  :-)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Crazy Hexies

Last Saturday, as part of my LQS's 1st anniversary celebration, I demonstrated the Hickory Nuts rulers/templates from  Hickory Hill Quilts.   Hexies are a popular shape these days and I ordered the large Hickory Nut with, admittedly, some hesitation.  I like rulers, but I'm not a big fan of buying rulers that have a single function, especially if I can do the same thing with a ruler I already have.   I wondered why I couldn't just cut hexagons of 2 different sizes, and save the money.  It turns out that the nested quality of the rulers is important--or, at least very useful, in making these self-bound hexies.

The instructions come with the ruler, and there are some nice videos on YouTube, but I added a step that I think might be useful to some, so I'm going to outline the steps here. (And it may serve as a reminder to the folks who stopped by the demo last week.)

Using the center template, I fussy-cut the focus fabric and a piece of batting.  I like to use a thin batting, a good thing since I have plenty of thin cotton batting floating around the studio.

The outer template is for the backing (which is also the binding).

The outer template is also a placement template for the focus fabric and batting, so they are perfectly centered on the backing--important for the binding step coming up.

However, I add an extra step that makes the binding more even and consistent (at least, for me).  I use the center template to cut a piece of oak tag (or manila file folder).  Using the outer template placed over the backing piece, I place the oak tag piece in the center of the back and pin it.

Then I use the oak tag piece as an edge so I can press creases on all six sides.

Remove the oak tag, and again use the other template as a placement tool, this time to center the focus fabric and batting.  (You can see the batting peeking out a bit.  I did that on purpose when I set up the photo, so you could see that it was there.  :-)  That's my story.

Then the rest is simply a double-fold binding, done one side at a time.  The pressed crease serves two purposes here:  1) it provides a crease against which to line up the edge of the fabric for the first fold, and 2) it IS the fold for the second fold of the binding.

Just make your way around the six sides, double-folding as you go.  I have used some clips here to prepare a couple sides ahead of my stitching, but I have also done it by simply folding a side just before top-stitching it.  Oh, and the nice thing about binding this way is that you don't have to worry about that awkward angle at the corners--the miter takes care of itself.

The hexies in the photos are made with the Extra Large Hickory Nut, and they would work fine on their own as mug mats or a trivet on a table.  If you want to join hexies, as I have done with some Large hexies for this table mat,  you can just butt the edges up against each other and zig-zag with a matching thread--or a contrasting thread and a decorative stitch. I like the effect of the binding all around the hexies--it adds another dimension, and looks as if you spent a lot of time putting mitered borders on each one.

I decided at almost the last moment before the demo that a crazy quilt hexie quilt  might be kind of fun.  I pieced a crazy hexie on a muslin background cut just a bit larger than the center hexie template, did the stitching and beading, then trimmed to the correct size and followed the procedure outlined above to finish it.   I will eventually (maybe by the time I'm 116) make a quilt but, in the meantime, I can enjoy this as a small, standalone piece.

I'm thinking about doing a four-seasons crazy quilted piece, using batiks, and with a hexie for each season.  There is at least some hope that I'll finish that in my lifetime!