reproduction fabric

GFG Progress

It’s been a while since I shared my Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt progress, and since English Paper Piecing is the perfect traveling / waiting room craft, I’ve spent a lot of time with it over the last few weeks. Seems a good time for a progress report!

GFG update

At the last flower count, I had ten finished. Now there’s 21! Whee! And two more in progress:

GFG update

And a little while back, I cut 285 hexagons from fabric in preparation, which is another 15 flowers-worth:

GFG update

That’s basically how I’ve been working this quilt. I start by laying out my whole collection of 1930s fabrics and pairing prints for flowers. I was really excited about it this time, because I had some new fabrics to add into the mix: a couple I picked up in Amsterdam, a lovely gift from a friend (thank you, Karen!) and some pieces donated by a kind stranger in answer to my plea for scraps (thank you, Rebecca!)! Then I cut hexagons from the fabric over an evening or two, for as many combos as I can come up with. Then make the paper-pieced hexagons and bundle them into little stacks with rubber bands (as you can see above), then start sewing them together. Lather, rinse, repeat. By the time I finish this whole stack of cut hexies, I’ll have 36 flowers sewn.

GFG update

I also finally laid them out on my bed today, to get at least a vague idea of how many flowers I need to make. It’s only a basic estimate, and doesn’t really count the amount that I’ll want to hang over the sides of my bed, but as a start, it looks like I’ll need to make 70 flowers. In theory, it’ll actually be more than that, but that’s a good number to aim for. This is actually not nearly as bad as I’d expected! Once I finish all those cut hexagons, I’ll be about halfway finished – with the flowers, at least. That’s, like, 5 years ahead of my estimate. Sweet!

But. (There’s always one in every project, isn’t there?) My flower estimate is based on one round of white hexgons as the garden path. Like this one. But if you look at my GFG Pinterest Board, you can see that’s not the only option for the path, and I’m suddenly not sure what I like best! Double-white path? Diamonds between whites? Aaak, too many choices! At least I know I can keep making flowers for a while before I have to decide. What do you guys think?

Lists and Balance

30s Hexxies - Grandmother's Flower Garden WIP

Thank you guys for the comments left on my last post, I really appreciated reading some thoughts on the crafting balance issue. I really, properly thought about what you said for a few days, and decided that I do have to put a limit on the time per week I put into crafting for others and leave myself enough time to craft for myself (which includes knitting pattern samples and that sort of thing).

I’ve recently starting using Orchestra on my phone, as a to-do list, and it works really well for getting to-do items of my head so I can stop wasting brain power on keeping track of them. I now have three crafty lists in Orchestra:

1. The ‘shame list’ from the sidebar of my blog.

2. Ideas to remember for later, but don’t need to do in a hurry.

3. Crafty To Do, which is usually the last bits needed to call a project completed: sew on buttons, block a scarf, frame an embroidery, etc.

List 1 is basically the ‘For Me’ list, and List 2 is basically the ‘For Everybody Else’ list. Which says a lot about how I prioritize, because I consider List 1 to be the ‘important’ one, and List 2 to be stuff I’ll do ‘one day’.

30s Hexxies - Grandmother's Flower Garden WIP

If someone asks me to make something, mend something, or I’m working on a gift, I will always make that the top priority, almost no matter what else I’m working on. I hate to let people down and make them wait! Which is so absurd, because I’m really lucky to be surrounded by people who properly appreciate what I do and don’t expect me to treat their request that way. It’s all me.

So combining the powers of Orchestra and your suggestions, here’s what I’m going to do:

List 3 up there is very handy because it keeps track of all those dumb bits that you tend to put off. I will check that every day and see if there’s something I can get done easily.

As for the other two lists, I will leave them alone, they’re more to remind me of things than a literal ‘to-do’, though I may rename them to reflect what they actually are. But I will institute a limit to my not-for-me crafting time, as a couple of you suggested, to about two days per week. Right now I’m thinking one evening and one weekend day. I know weekends are nice to keep for yourself, but it’s not like the projects I work on for other people aren’t fun, it’s just that I never get to do anything but them! And I will have to stop automatically putting things at the top of the list when people ask for them.

30s Hexxies - Grandmother's Flower Garden WIP

I know that, for a lot of people / crafters, this type of organizing is a big creative buzzkill, but for me, I feel like it clears my mind to think about the really important stuff, like what yarn to chose for a new project or mull over the details of a new pattern. Otherwise I feel like I just spend all day trying to remember things! Of course it may fall apart around Christmas, when everything is crazy anyway, and I will always ignore the entire thing if I have an idea I feel it is really promising and could lead to a new pattern or something.

30s Hexxies - Grandmother's Flower Garden WIP

So for now, I’ll work this way and see how it goes. And in that spirit, I spent the last two evenings making more hexagons, just because I felt like it. So there, to-do list!

English Paper Piecing Mayham*

I think it may have started with my hexagon pouch — which I never showed you, did I? Sorry about that, I totally forgot! Here you go:

Perfect for my embroidery tools! Anyway, I think that project started a little bit of a craze – in my head – for English paper piecing, which has now sort of taken over everything. I really enjoyed making that pouch, piecing it tiny bit by bit, and finally admitted that what I really want to make is a traditional, 30s-inspired, Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. I have a weird obsession with those 30s reproduction fabrics, and have been quietly hoarding them for several years now. Bits and pieces, sale buys, a jelly roll, etc. I think I always knew I wanted to do a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, but I kind of know it’s insane. I mean, I actually prefer a long-term project over quick-fix projects – or at least like to have a balance – because I love the slowness of a long haul project. I mean, it’s nice to know that you really put your heart and soul into a thing, to watch it grow tiny bit by bit. It’s very satisfying.

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, madness begun.

But this is extreme, even for me. I realize that this will take many years. That I look at it now, brimming with enthusiasm, but will probably hate the sight of it after a while. It’ll probably go away from time to time, when I need a break. But I want it. What’s the point of making something faster if it’s not the thing you really wanted? I’m using my hoarded reproduction fabrics and will keep an eye out for any on sale as I go, and I’ve already finished one flower!

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, Flower #1

Yes, one out of a millionty, but it’s a start. (Sorry for the not-awesome photo there, I didn’t realize it until just now.) I even made a Pinterest board of vintage GFG quilts for inspiration as I go. Aren’t they stunning?

Then my mother asked for some decorative pillow covers for her bedroom, to add a little color to the room, for Mother’s Day (we still celebrate the US version, coming up next weekend. I’m not sure why, now that I think about it). Of course I thought of a paper pieced design, because why would I do something simple when I could make it ten times slower? She helped me pick the fabric to make sure it matches just right – a gorgeous Kona fat quarter pack from The Village Haberdashery – and she wants something of a traditional design. I teamed the solids with a piece of Tula Pink Plume from my stash and I’m going for a Lone Star-ish design, in part inspired by this amazing quilt by Fancy Tiger Crafts. I’m so in awe of that quilt. Mine won’t be a star shape, I’ll continue the diamonds solidly then square it up, if that makes sense. I’m not sure if there’s a name for that or if it’s still a Lone Star design. In any case, I’ve got a little start:

Lone Star-ish pillow covers, WIP

and just over a week to go. Oy. There may also be something going on with some extremely tiny hexagons and two crazy people, but that’s a story for another day!

* No, that’s not a typo. Paulie Walnuts fans will understand. Everybody else, just pretend it says ‘mayhem’.

Quilting, but not for me

This post is the last bit of my Big Week Off, as well as a little catch-up from, um, Christmas. I finally finished a quilt that has been a WIP for about 20 years, then realized I’d never shown the finished quilt I made for my brother at Christmas.

For Liberty or Union

I posted a WIP photo of this quilt back at Christmas time, but without my brother himself to hold it up for me, I was unable to get a photo of the full thing at the time. I won’t say much about it here – I already told anything there was to tell in the original post – except that I named it ‘For Liberty and Union’ after a line in a U.S. Civil War-era song, and he likes it very, very much. He tells me a lot, which is awfully nice.

For Liberty or Union

The quilt I finished just recently was actually made by my father but finished by me. He received all the materials about 20 years ago, as a birthday gift. As far as I know, he started it right away, but then our whole family moved to the Netherlands. International moves being just a touch disruptive, he lost the thread (haha, no pun intended) on this project for a good while. Then he started up again and actually finished the top on an antique Singer machine from 1893 (more on that another time). After which the family, in bits and pieces, moved to the UK. For various reasons, Dad decided that hand-quilting it as he’d always wanted wasn’t really in the cards, so he asked me to machine quilt it.

Here Comes The Sun

Not that I really know what I’m doing! Before this, I’d free-motioned one small lap quilt and that was my whole experience with quilting. I did the straight lines last fall, before concentrating on the one above, and that was fine except for not basting well enough and having to pick out several full-length lines after realizing it was bunching up. Lesson learned.

Here Comes The Sun

But we’d decided on a feather motif for the border. I got Dad to lay it out and transfer the pattern; he’s good at stuff that has to be measured all properly and stuff. I was terrified to mess it up, but after a lot of practice on scrap fabric and then a few false starts, I just went for it and vowed not to fuss over every little not-perfect line. (Sorry, it’s not that easy to see, I did actually try to make the quilting lines as visible as I could in photo post-production.)

Here Comes The Sun

Which really is the way to go. Even with my tiny bit of experience, I can tell that it’s better to get a flow going than keep starting-and-stopping. But yeah, it really could be a millionty times better. From a distance, seen as a whole, it’s fine. But up close … well, let’s just say I did for one split second consider not showing it to you. But then I thought it might be nice for beginning quilters like myself to see someone else’s first attempts. It’s encouraging to see that your first tries are just like other people’s! I did feel like there was a significant difference between where I started and where I finished, so that’s something.

Here Comes The Sun

I named it and made a tag in secret with both of our initials and the details of the quilt’s long journey. I chose ‘Here Comes The Sun’ because it felt like just the right level of cheerful but not peppy – it’s hopeful and comforting. I always name things after music, and especially in this case, because Dad and I have the music geek thing in common. But since it will really belong to both of my parents, I didn’t want to pick something that excluded Mom. I know that ‘Here Comes The Sun’ is a special favorite of hers, so it seemed pretty much perfect all around.

Here Comes The Sun

Chapter 3: Wildwood Flower (the end)

Wildwood Flower - finished

It took about two months, with lots of breaks in between to make decisions, but my mini-quilt is bound, signed, and ready to hang. It’s been named Wildwood Flower after the lovely Carter Family song of the same name. Well, it’s not an original Carter Family song, but they did it so wonderfully and perfectly that it became their song the minute they recorded it. No one’s ever been able to top it and I doubt they ever will. I don’t know a lot about 30s music, but The Carter Family is, in my head, what the 30s must’ve sounded like. These fabrics look like how The Carter Family sounds: simple but beautiful, bright and cheerful but ever so slightly faded.

Plus, I’m a music nerd and I just can’t help naming stuff after songs.

Wildwood Flower - finished

A few notes about this project:

– Every dang stitch of this – piecing, applique, quilting, and binding – was sewn by hand, and with almost no real modern tools. Just scissors, cardboard templates, needle, thread. This was not a plan, it was a little bit necessity and a little bit accident. Being away from my machines, I knew I’d be sewing by hand, but I didn’t really consider what I’d do without a rotary cutter, a big cutting mat, that sort of thing. I pretty much figured it out as I went using ordinary household materials. Cutting small patchwork pieces was a cinch with little cardboard templates and a ruler; I even used a wee strip template to mark 1/4″ seams on everything. Cutting the large cream pieces was more difficult – I was terrified I’d mess it up and have no more to work with (I was very strict about using only materials and tools that I already had for this project).

Wildwood Flower - finished

– Having recently been to the amazing quilt exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, this mini-quilt gave me a cool little glimpse of what quilting must’ve been like before all our modern fanciness. I’ll still use the tools that I have, of course, but it did make me think that a lot of them are really not necessary. Sure, they speed up the process, but where am I in such a hurry to get? It was nice not to rush through a project for once. I admit those tools can help with precision as well, but I’m convinced my cardboard templates were just as accurate.

Wildwood Flower - finished

– Except the center circle of the Dresden Plate, all of the prints came from a 30s-themed jelly roll (ordered from The Quilt Room about a year ago). I love pre-cut fabric packs – they give you a lot of design bang for your buck, especially if you’re trying to craft cheaply, and they force you be creative with their limitations. But then, I do tend to love small projects, or at least projects with small pieces – it’s like knitting socks: when working small, you get a lot of entertainment out of a small amount of material.

Wildwood Flower - finished

I’ve been reunited with my machines and I’m already back to whipping up some quick projects (see yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday photo for a little peek), but I do hope I continue to sew by hand here and there. I loved every minute of this project and it gave me what I think could be a really great idea for the future. More on that in good time!

(More photos in my Flickr photostream!)

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