Sewing In A Time of Social Distancing

My heart and hugs go out to everyone affected, directly or indirectly, by the COVID-19 outbreak, wherever you are in the world. Here in the UK, life has become tinged with a sense of unreality. Mum and I are being careful about staying home and limiting contact with the outside world – although the lovely weather over the last few days has at least allowed us to enjoy lunch in the back garden!

I’m very fortunate in some ways – working from home and being a hermit by inclination anyway have fitted me pretty well for the current social distancing strictures. Plus I have a mountain of fabric and thread to play with! Mum’s enjoying it less (she loves a good shopping trip and she’s missing time with the grandkids), but she’s bearing up well so far and entertaining herself with the gardening.

So what have I been entertaining myself with? Well, I’ve got no shortage of WIPs, UFOs and ideas to get on with so…. obviously I started something new instead! My sister mentioned the Window Rainbows that children were putting up to spread a bit of cheer and for kids to spot when out on walks in their neighbourhood. Who doesn’t like a rainbow? Entranced by the idea, and being fairly recently in the possession of the Inspiring Improv book by Nicholas Ball, I raided my scrap bins and started to make a scrappy improv rainbow based on his strippy circles. For my background, I fortunately chose a white-on-white print that I have vast quantities of, having purchased lots of it for some other project that proved not to merit that much attention. I had a wonderful time cutting strips and piecing the different colours of my rainbow.

Yep, I went for the full seven colours – I am a Rainbow Traditionalist apparently! Pleased with my efforts, I considered where rainbows come from and decided to create some improv raindrops.

Rainbows need sun too, right? And to balance everything going on above the rainbow, perhaps there needed to be something happening below it as well?

…and now you can see why I was glad I’d chosen a background fabric I have lots of! Improv piecing doesn’t come very naturally to my perfectionist, control-freak soul, but I enjoyed making these units a lot. And my inner perfectionist was about to get a thorough work-out during the assembly of all these disparate bits into a recognisable quilt top. The top half was pretty simple to do, no partial seams or anything awkward at all. Even the measurements were mostly fine, somehow I managed to get the raindrops and sun to finish with vaguely sensible numbers.

The diamonds, on the other hand, were a challenge. Having pieced the top half of the quilt to give myself some mulling time, I decided that some of the diamonds were much bigger than I wanted them to be, so I ended up un-picking and reducing the green-blue-purple ones to better match the red-orange-yellow ones. That done, they needed an arrangement. Random? No, I tried it and I didn’t like it. I quite wanted them to look like they were dripping from the ends of the rainbow, but didn’t like it when they were all bunched up close to the ends of it. Eventually, I spread them vertically and used a weight on a string to line up each diamond with its respective colour on the rainbow, and I mixed up the heights of each colour so that it looked more random but still had some underlying order. Perfect.

Joining them, however, was a trial! Because of the way the diamond blocks overlapped, butted up or didn’t quite align with each other, I ended up juggling a few partial seams and finicky measurements as I worked on putting them together. The result, however, is well worth all the fiddling about, I really love how it turned out!

I think we’re going to need a bigger window! It’s a very long quilt top relative to its width, but I think it’ll make a grand wall or door hanging. I’m looking forward to quilting this one, it’s been a really enjoyable and educational make so far and I think we all need some brightness and joy at the moment. Stay well, everyone!

Scrap Heap Challenge

To return to more familiar, less sad topics, one of my goals for 2017 is to do more with my fabric scraps, which has already begun.  However, to keep up the good work, I realised that I needed a better system than a large bin full of bits of everything I’ve made since I started quilting.  What I had was this:

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…but absolutely full to over-flowing with bits of fabric.  The only way I could fit everything in was to stuff everything in as hard as I could, and to find anything I had to upend the entire thing onto the floor and paw through it in the hope that I’d find the specific bit I was looking for.  Obviously, not really a great solution.  Enter these:

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During my shopping excursions last Saturday, I made sure to go to Cheapie Charlie’s and pick up a dozen plastic baskets in two sizes to sort my scrap fabrics into in colour groupings.  However, it wasn’t until yesterday that I got a chance to prise them from the world’s stickiest labels and actually put stuff in them.  Despite fears at one point that I’d underestimated the required number/size of baskets, it worked out really well:

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As I guessed they might, blues, greens and white/cream/neutrals vastly outnumber all the other colours, so I suppose I’ll be doing a blue scrap quilt next.  🙂  Other colour groups I chose were red, orange, yellow, brown, pink, purple, grey and black, plus one basket for very mixed prints that refused to fall obediently into any specific colour group.  I also threw away a fair bit of volume in terms of really ratty old wadding that was still attached to the trimmed edges of previous quilts and the really super-tiny scraps or ultra-skinny strings that I honestly couldn’t see myself doing anything with.  I’m sure some fabrics ended up appearing in more than one colour grouping, but that’s ok.  I’ll either re-sort if necessary or they’ll add a nice bit of variation.

To continue the organisational theme, I’ve started to sort my embroidery threads into the shiny new plastic storage boxes I bought for them.  I say “started” because it’s quite a slow process (great for when ignoring watching TV!), but it really needs doing and it’s super-satisfying to see a tangled soup of flosses become nice, tidy, usable rows of bobbins.

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Years ago I bought a whole load of embroidery flosses in plastic bags.  They weren’t in skeins, they weren’t labeled, heck, I don’t even think they were really sorted.  Maybe they were left over from kits?  Anyway.  At the time, I sorted them as best I could, knotted them into approximate skeins and kept them in a ratty cardboard box, as you see here, along with other skeins I bought subsequently, plus tangles of WIP friendship bands (remember those?  I was a lil obsessed with making them when I was a teen).  They weren’t really useful like that though because as soon as I went looking for anything, the whole lot ended up in even more of a bird’s nest, so like any normal person would, I put the lid on and ignored the whole lot for umpty years.  Now, though, I find myself actually wanting to use them and to know what I’ve got, so I bought three large embroidery thread boxes, which handily came with card bobbins, and slowly, slowly, progress is being made:

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The perle cottons (bottom left) and the Kreinik metallic spools (bottom right) may well find a different home, but I’ve already en-bobbin’ed all the metallic and rayon flosses I bought for using on quilts, plus a good amount of the mystery flosses (the pic of the cardboard box above is after my efforts last night – it was much fuller before I started!).  I’ve also got about 10 intact (or nearly intact) skeins (from a variety of makers) that were in the same box, which I may put on labelled bobbins if I feel especially enthusiastic about it, plus I have all these DMC flosses that I picked up a while ago for almost nothing at Craft, the local thrift-type shop:

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Who can resist cheap brand-name craft supplies?  Not me, clearly!  I was doubting my ability to fill three thread boxes, but actually I’m starting to think I may manage it after all!

The Scraps of my Heart(s)

After making all the heart blocks for the Wedding Quilt, I was left with a whole bunch of half-square triangles trimmed from the corners.  The larger triangles come from the bases of the hearts, the smaller ones are from the top points of the hearts.heart_scraps_largeheart_scraps_small
I didn’t keep all the off-cut triangles; some weren’t cut well and I chucked some of the smaller ones because I wasn’t sure they’d be big enough to do anything sensible with.  But there’s still a whole bunch of the things!  😮

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