Saturday, 23 March 2013

Leaders & Enders Mark II

A week or so back, I promised some more info and photos on the L&E project on which I was currently working, and here it is.

It began with a pile of half square triangles I found in the cupboard at Stitching Hearts.  Obviously donated at some point in time to the group by someone who'd had enough or triangles.  There was such a pile, that I thought it would be a crying shame to toss them, and figured it would make a great L&E project.  Besides a few of them had been pieced already.

Here are the triangles.  You can see that they are lovely country colours, matched with quilter's muslin.  The bag is now half empty as I have pieced quite a few of the HSTs by now.

And a pile of some I have pieced, waiting to be ironed & trimmed.

And here is the pile which has been trimmed, with squares ready to piece into a block. These half square triangles make up into a 3" square once they are trimmed.

Fortuitously, I had seen a photo of a variation of the block called Broken Dishes in Australian Patchwork & Quilting (sorry folks, but the photocopy I have of the page does not have the volume number it came from printed on it.)  I thought this would be a perfect fit for my HSTs

So I have made up a test block with a few of the completed HST units.  Here is the test block, and I have laid it on a piece of yardage which I am going to use to sash the block.  They will have corner stones as well (good stuff - a way to use some of my 2.5" squares!!)

This last photo shows you how I work with a L&E project.  My current piecing project is a Migrating Geese border, and there is no way you can chain piece this.  Lots of little pieces you have to put on one at a time.  So a pair of HSTs goes at the start of the seam which you can just see peeking out on the left of the yellow fabric, and another pair at the end. 

This is my bonus L&E project happening with no effort at all, in between the geese I am putting together.  Not only that, it saves an enormous amount of thread as you aren't pulling inches of thread through at the end of the seam.  The only downside in working this way is that you can't really match the thread to the fabric you are sewing.  Because I am working on bright yellow fabric for the Migrating Geese border I am using a bright yellow thread, and that is what the HSTs are being sewn with.  Such is life.  I find that unless you sew with black thread on white fabric, it doesn't really make much difference what colour thread you use.

What do you think?  A great way to use up the enormous bundle of HSTs I have found, and I am sure that someone will be over the moon to receive a quilt made up from these.  It will go back to Cabarita when its finished, and be distributed to one or other of the projects we sponsor.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Ducks Crossing

One morning earlier this week, David and I were out relatively early.  He was off to do a spot of voluntary work at the bridge club and was dropping me off at the local shopping centre on his way.

We were a couple of kilometres down Avoca Drive from our place, when suddenly the cars in front of ours abruptly screeched to a halt.  Now there is a set of traffic lights just there, but I could see perfectly well that they were green our way.  Finally we inched our way to the place where the action was, and all was revealed.

Two frightened ducks with their very anxious drake were trying vainly to cross a 4 lane highway.  They were stepping off the kerb, and venturing out amongst the cars, then taking fright and retreating to the safety of the footpath.  The drake was running back and forth in a very agitated manner quacking loudly, trying to round up his little harem and get them safely to the other side.  You could just hear him saying "come back, come back, it's not safe to cross".

As we carefully inched past, I craned my neck around to see what was going on behind us.  Cars all still piling up, and finally, when we were almost out of sight, I realised that the ducks had made it to the median strip.  That was a relief, but then they had to negotiate the other side.  Thankfully, not as much traffic on that side as it was the tail end of the morning peak hour, and the majority of the cars were on our side of the road, not the other.

For the life of me, I don't know why they were so determined to cross the road.  Brisbane Water is on the side they were on, just 50 metres or so down the side road, and the side they crossed to was houses for 50 metres, then bushland - no water at all on that side.

I worried all day, and well into yesterday as well, wondering if they got back home to the Brisbane Water side of Avoca Drive in one piece.  Sadly there was one duck on the side of the road as we passed that morning, which had evidently not made it on a previous excursion.  Too hard to tell if it was that day or not.

Isn't it lovely to live in a place were the morning peak hour traffic on a busy 4 lane road all comes to a halt to allow a little trio of ducks to go from one side of the road to the other?

Ducks come to visit us moderately often.  They waddle up in a little procession from the waterfront across the road, usually in the early morning, and make themselves busy in our front garden checking for some yummies for breakfast.  Once in a while I throw some birdseed out for them as a treat.

Here is a photo I took from a while back:

That little lot are mostly drakes.  It is more usual for them to arrive in a ratio of one drake to two or three ducks.  Maybe on this occasion, the girls were all minding the babies at home.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Sewing Machine Rescue

Early last Sunday morning, I was standing at my kitchen window washing up, when I noticed my neighbour putting a sewing machine out onto the grass verge.  Our Council is great.  Each household is allowed 6 rubbish pick ups per year, either general household rubbish or vegetation - you simply need to phone them a week or so in advance.  So obviously she was putting out the machine as part of the household pick up she had ordered.

I called out to the hubby & pointed it out.  Bless him, he said "do you want me to go and get it?".  What a dumb question, of course I did!  So he ducked out and scuttled across the road to retrieve it.  It was a grim and showery day, and he had just got back to our side of the road, when it started to bucket down.  The poor machine would have been drowned if it had been left out.

My thinking was that if it was in working order, I would oil it, and clean it up and then offer it around to some of my quilting buddies.  If no-one wanted it, I was planning to sell it.  If it didn't work, I would offer it to my local sewing machine repair man as a spare parts machine.

So I set it up and pulled it apart to see what was what.  It turned out to be an electric Singer 533 Stylist Free Arm, made in England about 1980, and looked in terrific condition when I took the cover off.  BUT it wasn't working.  On investigation I found it was absolutely filthy under the stitch plate, and so in need of oil, poor thing.  It had obviously not been cleaned or oiled in a very, very long time. 

The bobbin shuttle was not moving, it was so choked up with lint.  I tried to search for a maintenance manual on the internet, but there were none for free download.  I wasn't prepared to pay for a manual, so just got on with the job of basic cleaning & oiling.  By the time I had done all that, I had the shuttle moving, when I moved it manually, but when the machine was operating the bobbin shuttle still did not move.  So that was how I left it as I had run out of time.

I mentioned the machine at Friday Quilters, and my lovely friend Di piped up that she would have it.  She gives sewing classes at the local Shelter, and said she needed an extra machine, as the numbers in her class were increasing.  I explained what it was doing and she said she would come around that night to investigate.

The two of us had great fun as we sat there with screw drivers and cleaning cloths, and pulled the base off the machine.  And there we had the answer.  There are three gears set up on the drive shaft from the motor to the bobbin shuttle, which is what makes the thing go round and round.  And on all three of the gears, which were plastic by the way, the teeth had been shorn off.

What a shame that they put plastic parts into an obviously well made solid metal machine!  But it does mean that it should be a relatively cheap repair, and all that will be needed is to buy 3 plastic gears and replace the worn ones.

Win, win all around.  The Shelter will have a good basic machine for the girls to work on, and it hasn't gone to landfill.  I am delighted I spotted that sitting on the grass verge.

Now where can I do a crash course on machine maintenance??

Til next time....... keep on stitching.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Leaders & enders

I am a complete miser when it comes to fabric, and I don't throw anything more than a 2" square away.   I have even been known to fish pieces of fabric others have thrown away out of the waste bin.  Mad?  Probably.  You can rest assured though, that what goes into my waste bin is definitely not useable!

As I am cutting fabric for projects, I cut the left over scrappy bits into whatever size fits the scrap - either as strips or squares.   Its quick and doesn't seem like a chore when I am cutting other things.   Sometimes I take my small cutting mat upstairs and sit in front of the TV at night chopping up scraps into useable pieces.   As a result I have bulging clip lock bags of every size square from 2" to 7" in half inch increments, and strips of every size from 2" to 3.5" in half inch increments.  

I use these as leader and ender projects, sewing the squares into pairs, then 4 patches, and when there is a whole bunch, I make up something, usually for Stitching Hearts.

So what is a leader & ender?  Most people use a scrap of fabric at the start and end of each seam when they are chain piecing to stabilise the seams, and they sew over and over this scrap until it is a mess.  Well instead of a scrap, I use 2 squares which I sew together.  Not much sewing at the time, and after only a very short while, you end up with a sizeable, useable stack of 4 patches.  You can do the same with triangles too.  The leader & ender queen is Bonnie Hunter.  She has done a magnificent tutorial here so I won't reinvent the wheel and put up a tutorial myself. 

Since I have read that tutorial, I do it to, and have put together several quilts for Stitching Hearts this way.  Layouts are endless.  Some examples are sashed 4-Patch; single or double row scrappy checkerboard borders; add a triangle to each side of the 4-Patch to make a square in a square; increase the size to a 16-Patch. 

For the larger squares you can simply sash them to make a very quick quilt (add the sashing on as a leader ender project as well).  Or you can use them for a scrappy border, or a disappearing 9-patch.  I like to use the 5.5" or 6" squares for that.

I have learnt that with scrappy quilts anything goes.  Just chuck it all in a pile and dip into it willy nilly.   I do try to pair a lighter value square with a darker value one though.  That gives the scrappy quilt depth and movement.   You just don't need to worry about matching the fabrics at all, it all seems to work out fine in the end.  And if you have an ugly fabric, just chop it up into small pieces and hide it in a scrap quilt.  As the saying goes "if you can still see the ugly fabric, you haven't chopped it up small enough".   So true.  LOL

Sometimes I will theme the scraps, so I will go through and pick out the florals for example, or the blues or purples or browns or greens.   Whatever I seem to have a lot of at the time.  I've done some scrappys for Aussie Heroes too, and then I pick out the more masculine fabrics out of the pile.  Doesn't do to send pretty florals to a big boofy 6 foot soldier!

My current leader ender project is to use up some of the 3.5" squares.  I am planning to put them together into square in a square blocks.  When I'm a bit further on with this, I'll post some pictures.

Hope this inspires you to try this.  It works a treat for me, is fun to do and it uses up those scraps!

Til next time ........ Keep on stitching