Sunday, May 24, 2009

Miles of Muslin

It seems like I'm always running out of muslin. The nice white muslin, not the tea dyed that I need to save for the sashing of the cat quilt, or the heavy craft stuff that a cousin gave my grandma who gave my mom who gave to me, or the cheap stuff I bought a bunch of because I wasn't paying enough attention and thought it was the same as the last stuff I bought.

I didn't know about Kona muslin until my best friend bought it for her glorified nine patch. It's much nicer than the cheap stuff I had been using, and I bought a bunch for my Birds in the Air quilt. Since then, I've decided that if a quilt uses that much muslin, I should probably splurge for something decent.

There should be enough left from the bird quilt to make the buzz saws, but I can't find it. And even if it does turn up, I need more for the curved blocks. So I bought five yards this morning when I went to the Memorial Day sale at Joann's. Even with a coupon, I have a hard time spending that much on muslin, but I wanted to make those quilts and I wanted to use that fabric and and that was what it cost.

Then we detoured to an estate sale because I'm still on the prowl for cheap cotton shirts. Fifteen dollars for an old iron seems kinda high -- especially when I paid less than ten for an identical one at Walmart fifteen years ago. I was headed toward the door when Alex asked if she could look in the cabinet with the sign that said "open -- more stuff inside."

The "stuff" turned out to be a stack of very nice white cotton sheets -- nicer than the muslin I'd just spent twelve bucks on. I've been watching garage sales for sheets to use as backing, but they always seem to want more than I'd be willing to pay for new sheets for my own bed. These were a dollar each. And did I mention that they were thick and soft and in perfect condition?

I bought four. In hindsight, I should have bought all five, but I was sulking over the money I'd just spent on the muslin and not thinking about how many yards of fabric are in a full flat sheet and how many future projects that'll make.

I like muslin. Almost as much as I like sheets that are going to pretend to be muslin.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

When I first started knitting and quilting I read stories about how stash, sometimes lots of it, just fell into people's laps. Even after Alex and I were given a nice pile of yarn that had come from my great-aunt's dentist's wife's dead mother, I still had my doubts that so much yarn and fabric was just floating around in search of a home.

I'm starting to believe it.

Thursday, I called a quilting friend to see how she was doing. Turned out she was on her way home with a few bags of scraps in the trunk of her car that someone had called to see if she could use, but she didn't have the heart to bring them into her own sewing room and deal with them herself. Did I want her to drop them off at my place?

Personally, I'm still at the stage where the answer to offers of free quilting cotton is always yes. I can find plenty to do with two large white trash bags of strings and crumbs. Not sure what that'll be yet, since I'm focused on finding three inch strips for the Bento Box quilt and 225 different calicos for the curved one, but knowing that it's there waiting for me makes me very happy.

There will be quilt tops in my future, whatever other stupid crap may happen. If it seems like my priorities are skewed here, I've got confidence that we'll buy groceries and pay the mortgage and everything else, but fabric and yarn, which aren't a necessary part of the budget, might be severely limited for a while.

If I was buying my supplies one project at a time, I'd be very worried, but I've got crumbs and strings and scraps, not to mention a whole bunch of UFOs.

Yesterday, my best friend talked me into going shop hopping with her. She was seriously after fabric, but I was just along for the ride. I was kind of hoping to find another Moda scrap bag with dark colors, which would make finishing my Bento Box much easier.

At the first shop, I found a bunch of nice fat-sixteenths that should be perfect.

The second shop had scraps for fifty cents and ounce. A little rich for my blood right now, but I dug through the big basket to see if there were any good dark florals for the Bento Box. No luck with that, but there was a huge bag of scraps sitting on a shelf with a piece of paper taped to it.


It didn't seem like that could possibly be the price. From the outside, it looked like mostly little pieces. I had those two brand new bags of scraps in the sewing room, not to mention the big box of calicos I got at the yard sale last week.

I walked away from the bag. I followed my two preschoolers around while my friend picked out fabric for an entire quilt shop. The differences between her fabric shopping style and my fabric shopping style are endlessly entertaining.

I decided that if I didn't ask if that was actually the price, I'd regret it. There was a little handful of novelty prints from the scrap basket that were too neat to leave behind, so I went up to the cash register feeling stupid -- four bucks was just too good to be true. Grandma usually spends more than that for the scrap bags she finds at the thrift store, which are about the same size.

It was four bucks -- and she threw in the handful of expensive scraps! I haven't had a chance to spread it all out yet and see what's actually there, but there are some fairly big pieces in there including a bunch of black wool felt. I'm not sure what I need that for, but I'm sure it has something to do with birds.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I have enough blocks this time! Monday afternoon, I sewed the last triangles onto my Weed Whacker strips and got them pieced into blocks. It was a couple more days before I found the time to press the last bunch of blocks and the courage to actually count them. I needed forty-eight.

Assuming that I counted right -- and I was VERY careful this time around -- I've got fifty-one. Hooray!

I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to get the top assembled, but right now I'm content just to have the blocks done. This hasn't been the most fun quilt ever. It's not the horrible waste of perfectly good green fabric that I started to fear I was making, but I'm not in love with it. It will look better once the blocks are assembled into a top. And better than that once it's quilted.

The problem with that plan is I'm going to quilt the tops I love first, so who knows when this poor thing will gets its turn. I don't have a whole lot of time to play right now, let alone worry about when I'm going to get a free day to drive up and use the long arm.

This forced semi-no buy is going better than I thought it would. With eleven days left in the month, I've spent --

  • less than $2.00 on postage for a fabric trade
  • $5.00 on a big box of calico from a yard sale
  • $1.50 on thrift store shirts in really good colors
  • $3.79 on muslin so I can make more little curved blocks and a fat quarter for the Bento Box
  • $6.17 for Scrap Basket Surprises by Kim Brackett

    I think that's a respectable job of keeping my spending in check. Not good enough for me to buy that bobbin case when the month's up, but bad enough to be ashamed of either.
  • Sunday, May 10, 2009

    Traditional quilts with pieced curves make my heart go pitty-pat. Up until this afternoon, I'd only pieced one block with curves, but that hasn't stopped me from aspiring to do a Double Wedding Ring, and a Pickle Dish, and a Drunkard's Path, and Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, and whatever that block I played with today is called...

    Just got up and checked the pattern, which calls it the "traditional Rose Dream" block.

    The pattern is from one of those magazines Lori sent me. I'm sure I've seen this block before and mentally added it to the list of quilts I was going to make when I got brave enough to tackle curves.

    I don't know that I was feeling brave today, but the kids were outside and I had to do something with that precious alone time. I thought I remembered where my template plastic was and I really didn't feel like sewing corner triangles onto those Weed Whacker strips, so I gave it a shot.

    I could seriously fall in love with pieced curves.

    Saturday, May 09, 2009

    Many years ago, I could touch type close to a hundred words a minute and actually keep whole sentences organized in my mind while I did it. But I couldn't knit or quilt back then, and I had far fewer children, so this has been a good thing, shifting from my old skills to my new ones. Quilting is much more fun than writing romance novels, and easier to do with a pack of little kids underfoot.

    But it does get frustrating when I want to write something and have to work much harder at it than I used to. I wonder if I'd be able to type faster if we moved the computer from the bedroom floor onto an actual table?

    But I can make paper pirate swords, inspired by my new favorite blog, Filth Wizardry. And they are the coolest idea anyone ever came up with.

    My little boys will make anything into a sword, complete with ching ching noises and dramatic swordplay. It's all absolutely adorable until someone gets hit a little too hard.

    The Dollar Tree had foam swords a while back, but ours didn't hold up well. Ours appear to have been gnawed by hungry sharks.

    Newspaper swords don't cost anything but a couple of inches from Mommy's secret stash of masking tape, and if they only hold up for ten minutes, they're a total success. But they've held up longer than that. They're amazingly durable.

    I wish I'd known about all of these great possibilities when I had extra kids at the house all the time!

    Friday, May 08, 2009

    The giddiness has subsided into a nice sane happiness. There's been no quilting here for going on three days, but I've really been too busy to notice. Right now, I'm typing fast and trying to get my thoughts down before it's time to stick dinner in the oven.

    Things have been going very right.

    I finally, after several months of searching, found another Core Five on eBay selling for a decent price. It's on its way to us now, it's insured, and I've got tracking numbers so I can keep obsessively checking to see when it might actually get here. This means that I can stop writing my own curriculum for my oldest as we go and stop searching eBay every single day. But it means I'll be obsessed until it gets here.

    I also found Guest Hollow, a website with printable schedules that tie in so perfectly with what we're already using that the whole thing could've been put together with my kids in mind. So I've been printing and searching the online card catalog and made an extra trip up to the library to get books to keep Alex busy until the real curriculum gets here. Too bad I didn't find this in January, which would've cut way down on my stress.

    My wee tiny sock arrived earlier this week from Michelle -- can you see those tiny little watermelon seeds? Aren't they adorable?

    Lori sent me some fabric for my Bento Box, along with about a dozen quilting magazines I haven't seen before. I've only flipped through a couple, but I've already found a bunch of quilts I think I can piece with what I've got. I can't wait to go through the rest of them.

    Gotta go heat the oven! Hopefully I've have more time, or be able to type faster, tomorrow.

    Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    I finally got that chicken grit I've been waiting for. Actually, Alex found it when she was cleaning the porch and asked me where to put it. Now I can't find the pincushion I wanted to use it in.

    But I was going to use it in something, so I sewed some of the bonus triangles from my weed whacker into a pinwheel and cut a square of green fabric and made a new little biscornu.

    Isn't it cute? I put grit in the very center and then some extra scraps of batting around that to make it soft. And although chicken grit is really heavy in the bag, it didn't add much weight to my little pincushion. Another source suggested uncooked rice and since I've got several cups that my darling babies dumped into the bottom of a kitchen drawer, so I'll try that next.

    The giddy descent into madness continued yesterday when I sewed four of the pastel string blocks together to see how they'd look and absolutely fell in love with how they felt and how sturdy they were. I've done the whole string piecing on a fabric foundation before, so it shouldn't have been a surprise.

    I had been kind of reluctantly slogging through this project, but seeing those blocks together got me going and now I've only got a few left to piece.

    And that's where I lost my mind. There's a five gallon bucket that I toss my threads and tiny scraps into and all of the edges I've trimmed from those blocks have it about half full. I've read over and over how some people save those little scraps and stuff pillowcases with them to make beds for animal shelters.

    I've always thought that was overkill, but yesterday I decided it might be nice to have an actual bed for the barn cats who sleep on our porch. I could get rid of the pile of nasty blankets that came with the house. It'd be perfect if I had a ratty old pillowcase.

    I kept piecing and letting my mind wander and now, somehow, I'm using those string blocks to make a bed for my daughter's favorite cat. The one that sometimes sleeps in the house.

    I don't even like that cat. I don't truly believe for a moment that she's going to sleep on a bed instead of in my clean laundry. Or in my drawer of folded clothes.

    Monday, May 04, 2009

    I'm just a bit giddy this afternoon. First, there was the new addition to our household --

    To see really giddy, you had to be here in our living room when Alex came in with the news. Our girls, who spent weeks sitting on infertile eggs last year, are finally mamas. This fella (or gal) looks a few days old, so I'm not sure if there's hope for the other ten eggs or not.

    We've got a baby goose! And it happened in our backyard, which does not in any way compare to driving down to the feed store and buying a baby goose.

    Then I realized that today was the new clue for the Big Busted mystery quilt, and the kids are going to take a nap and Bill's out shopping, so I can actually sew my pieces together!

    Then I found the Panda. I need to quilt a panda. I have a cousin who's expecting a baby in a couple of months, so I have a genuine need for a panda.

    And there are quilted chairs out there in the world. I need one to live in my sewing room.

    Sunday, May 03, 2009

    I cast on a project Friday night and actually managed to join 130 stitches in the round without twisting them, and to get the pattern established with the right number of stitches and continue the pattern through a full repeat.

    Not a big deal, unless you're me and your knitting has been going horribly for the past four months.

    The pattern is Square Cake, a cute little bag that was in Knitty a while back. I've been wanting to make it since the pattern was published a couple of years ago, but never got around to casting on.

    The knit and purl diamonds don't show up in the picture, but I love the texture and depth they add.

    Now the question is whether or not I've got enough yarn. I should have enough to make the large size as written, but I'd really like to add another pattern repeat and make it deeper.

    Where's the rest of that sweater? I made a small shawl out of part of it, but there should be another ball or a sleeve or something around here somewhere. Where would I have put it?

    Friday, May 01, 2009

    What does this look like to you?

    I see a noose, but I'm not sure if that means my kids have a morbid streak or that their Mommy does.

    It's been an unproductive afternoon. Well, I did read to my kids and help them with math and give them spelling tests and everything else that was on the schedule. And I ran a load of laundry and did a bunch of dishes, but I missed out on my afternoon quilting time. I need to make up for that when I'm done here.

    While I was trying to convince the littlest ones to fall asleep in my lap, I fell in love with an elephant quilt. I've seen the block (Ararat from the Kansas City Star) quite a few times, but I've never seen a bunch of them put together into a quilt. I can't even find a picture of an elephant quilt online, so I had to take a picture of my television screen so I won't forget how wonderful it was.

    I want one!

    Now that its safely arrived at its new home, I can show off my second knitting finish of 2009, a wee tiny sock for the wee tiny sock swap.

    I knew I was knitting 20 stitches on size 0 dpns (first time I've used those!), but it still shocked me how tiny my tiny sock turned out. I did mine toe up, with a short row heel that's garter stitch partly because I've been thinking of trying one of those on a big sock and partly because I didn't want to fiddle with turning and purling back across those few itty bitty stitches. And there's a bit of lace up the front that doesn't show up in the picture.

    I want to knit some more of them with cables and fancier lace, just because I can. I've gotta do something with my yarn and needles, right?

    I found the pattern for the Cheery Buzz Saw quilt, which isn't on the magazine's website anymore and which I was thoroughly annoyed at myself for not taking better care of and I think I've decided to use my Country Essentials Breeze sampler. I'll save the Mama's Cottons for something else. Now the question is whether or not I've got enough good muslin left.


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