Something to Think About

The Ides of March • New Design Wall 2020

Ides of March

When I was in high school, the incredibly dweeby drama kids would go around campus on the 15th of March saying “Beware, beware the Ides of March!” and it took the rest of us a day to figure out what in heavens name they were talking about.  My apologies to you if you were one of the drama kids — dweeby, or not — but apparently Julius Ceaser was stabbed 23 times on the Ides of March.  Ides come from the word divide, which brings me to the the process taking place in my life: once I divided all that stuff in my sewing room in boxes, how do I get it all back in there?

It began with the dividing:

March SRoom redo_1.jpgMarch SRoom redo_1March SRoom redo_2March SRoom redo_2a

We eventually moved all the boxes back into the sewing room, and it’s pretty daunting to see all your stash that way.  I had wanted a glass top on my sewing desk for-e-ver, and bit the bullet and had a piece of glass cut really big to fit the top. When I got home, I realized there was no way I could get it upstairs (my husband was traveling) so the young men across the street who lift weights for fun, were willing and able to get it upstairs for me.  I paid them in cookies.

After I winnowed down the boxes, the fun began: the design wall needs to take shape.  In the past my design wall was made of foam core artboard, but when I went looking for it this time, it was not to be found in the size/thickness I needed.  And the next best thing was going to cost me over a hundred bucks.  So I used the advice found in Christa Watson’s post, and purchased two insulation sheets at our local Big Box Construction store.

I didn’t want to use a giant bed sheet like she had, as I had been spoiled by having a grid on my old design wall.  So I hunted/haunted the internet and soon found a gridded flannel made by Robert Kaufman on Amazon, and snapped up six yards.  Measure before you buy, as we had Just Enough.   I did NOT pre-shrink it, as I needed every inch.  I cut it into two three-yard lengths, sewed it together along the one long (3-yard side), matching the grids.

I set it aside while we did this:

March SRoom redo_3

My room is much smaller than Christa’s, so we had to cut down the insulation.  We used a linoleum knife, which has a hooked shape and a sharp blade on the inside curve.March SRoom redo_3a

Then we had to account for the outlet on my sewing room wall.  First (above) a template made out of newspaper).  We took that upstairs and traced around it, then double-and-triple checked it.

March SRoom redo_3b

We even checked it against the real wall.

March SRoom redo_3c

Back down in the dining room, on the dining room table, we taped the two insulation sheets together using white duct tape, only better stuff than duct tape.  I don’t know what it was, but it really holds.March SRoom redo_3d

I taped around the cut edges of the socket hole.March SRoom redo_4

Like Christa, we laid out the flannel, and stretched it around the boards, stapling it in place.  The staples did NOT like to go through a double layer of flannel, and we didn’t quite stretch hard enough, but it doesn’t affect the performance in the least.

We followed her advice and purchased these screws and these washers.

March SRoom redo_6

Slipping a screw into a washer, we placed them top and bottom and two on each side of the foam insulation seam.  While the foam board seams go East-West, my flannel seam goes North-South for stability (which you can see in the photo, right in the middle).  The covering does pucker a bit and my husband asked if I wanted to re-do it.  I didn’t.

March SRoom redo_6a

Why does it not matter that much to me?  Because I like to cover my design wall with Thermolam, a type of fleece.  They have renamed it, so look for this number —  TP970  — on the bolt. (Here’s a post on how I did my old design wall.)  I had thrown my old Thermolam/Quilters Fleece/Whatever in the dryer to fluff all the threads off from previous use; it works fine.  I smoothed it out over the flannel, using straight pins to keep it on, and letting it overlap by 1/2″ at the seam (which you can see in the photo below).  It really grabs the blocks and pieces much better than the flannel by itself, and is easily cleaned by running a sticky lint roller over the surface.

March SRoom redo_7March SRoom redo_7a.jpg

I cut out around the electrical outlet and pinned that into place, too.  Immediately I put up the blocks I’d received from The Gridsters, who jumped into #sawtoothmania feet first.  I have only one I’m waiting on, but will start playing with them once I get the last one.  Their signature blocks used my Tiny Envelope pattern, found free on this blog.

March SRoom redo_7a

Most recent item was the Daylight lamp, suspended over my cutting table.  My husband screwed it onto my window sill for me, as I couldn’t figure out any other way to get it here.

I emptied the last box today, which was all my doo-dads that had been placed all around the room over the last 15 years.  I love my doo-dads (I’m not a minimalist) but after living with clear walls for a month, I edited down what I want to hang back up. I also sorted through my scraps, separating them into strips and scraps, and found the bottom of that bin, not seen in too many years.

Old Recipe Card_1

That process has a parallel in this recipe card.  It’s one of a collection of cards that I’d purchased at a garage sale some twenty years ago.  I’d had it at the back of a shelf, always meaning to go through it, and use it to form the backbone of that novel I meant to write when I was in grad school.  Who was this woman who had used this recipe for the spaghetti sauce so much that she had to affix on the corner with a straight pin? I went through all of her cards, photographed some (you may see them again), but threw away most. I’m kind of at a dividing line in my life. Much like I realize that there will be no more spaghetti sauce made with this recipe again,  I also recognize that there will be no novel written about this person, whose recipe cards I purchased when her children cleaned out her house and sold them to a stranger, standing on her front lawn.

In the last few weeks, I have gone through nearly everything in my house with the exception of the kitchen and family room, and like my scrap bin and like the box of recipe cards, I have had to distinguish between the old life that looked forward into mountains of possibilities, and this current one that gazes backwards, happy with what she sees, no longer wishing to be the caretaker for old hopes, for old dreams. While I realize that there still remains in me a creative force, it flows in different ways.  Yes, the scraps that were divided reminded me of projects I’d done, as well as suggested promises of what might lie ahead. But who was that young sewer who cut up all these fabrics?  I hardly know her now.

Today I dutifully divide what might have been, from what is probable now.  While I wonder about that quilter from the past, I must work with this version of me that is sitting here sorting: relinquishing those bits, those scraps, opening up a space for what calls to me now.

Old Recipe Card Box.jpg

Creating · WIP

WIP–Still Those Scrappy Stars

They’re going to drive me crazy.

Like Leila, who left me a comment, I could see that the greens read like a solid, which is what these stars needed.

But after a visit here, I am rethinking this.  I guess I should reveal at this point that I am a Charter Member of the Thinking-About-Quilts-Obsessively Club.  By the way, self-help groups are forming.  Check back for dates and times.

Which led to this.

And another couple of stars.  I decided that I just couldn’t live with two of them.  Call them my Stars-with-Training-Wheels Stars. And I’m not going to tell you what I’ve decided to do.  Check back for the reveal.

I graded all the students’ papers today during their test, as I wanted to give them immediate feedback on how their research essay is going.  (And I didn’t want any grading this weekend.)  But even though I don’t have to grade, I do have to evaluate nine different textbooks for the new class I’m teaching in fall, as book orders are due May 1st.  Yes, you read that right.  Because of cutbacks to the budget, our community college has cancelled all summer school courses, and it’s very likely that no staff will be working.  So I have to set the direction within two weeks for the course I will teach in four months.

You can see why I’ve been fixated on getting this quilt off the wall.  I have a life to live that doesn’t involve cutting up diamonds out of cloth.  The bright side of this upcoming switch is that I can now make a quilt completely out of diamonds.  I felt so peaceful when I wrote that last post, and fairly floated to bed, Zen-like.  Smugness goeth before a fall.  And that fall came after I’d cut up all my precious Japanese fabric and placed it on the wall.  It was at this point that my husband walked in and said “Gee, you really can’t see those stars, can you?”  I just looked at him, because as a scientist, he tells it like he sees it (and yes,  I’ve learned never to ask him “Does this dress make me look fat?”).  Of course, he was right.  After he left, I turned my back on the quilt and graded my brains out on Tuesday, among other things.

Today after school I went to Ginger’s Quilt Shop (I’ll blog about them later).  I just needed to talk to someone about what was going on.  This is where a brick-and-mortar shop is so valuable over online shopping (although I do both).  The woman there laid out several bolts, talked to me about what I was seeing, and then disappeared down an aisle and came back bearing The One.  The stars sang.  I sang (inside).  We all smiled and grinned, as by now we’d pulled in another quilter or two in the shop for their input.  I pulled out my credit card, and yes, at this point, I’ve cut out more diamonds.

Thanks to Lee, of Freshly Pieced Fabrics, you are getting this long tale of woe. . . and triumph!  Check over there for more lovely quilts in progress.


Scrappy Star, part II

This is a continuation of Monday’s post, where I began showing you how I put together these scrappy star blocks.  Head to yesterday to download a PDF file of my paper piecing template.  But if you hate paper piecing, even though this one is an easy block to paper piece, consider making strips of fabrics (one selvage-to-selvage width should be fine) to match the widths on listed on the template, then merely use the diamond as a pattern to cut out your blocks.  I’d still do the stay-stitching on the outside edge.

As with anything, the first time you make a new pattern, you’re in the process of figuring it out.  I first thought I’d sew them all together with the paper on.  So I did, but the ripping off the paper was horrid. So don’t do that.  First rip off the paper, then piece it together.

I used “fatty thigh method” as taught to me by Katie Pasquini-Masopust in a class I took from her at Houston.  Yep.  Set it on that little thigh of yours, poke and rip that paper off.

Actually, it comes off a lot easier if you crease it with your thumbnail and you use that vellum paper.  First rip off the outside 1/4″ edges, then go for the interior.  Be careful not rip out your stitching; I sometimes rip from the side, like tearing off a piece of paper from a pad.

Set it up on the ironing board, give it spritz of spray starch, press it flat. Now lay it out to decide:


Funny, I how never get tired of playing this game.

Piece two diamonds together.

Don’t stitch right off the edge on either end of the seam — stay within the stay-stitching on that outer edge.  Tighten up your stitch length as you approach the place where you are going to end.  At the outer edge, the Y-seaming, that you’ll later have to do when you inset the outer pieces, is made easier with a little bit of wiggle room. And at the top, you’ll need room for all those points to meet together.

After you seam two together, then add one more to make three.

Then line up the edges, and stitch the two halves together, again, being careful to not sew across the point, but instead staying within the stay-stitching lines, breaking your stitching as you travel across that center point area.

You might freak out at this point because it has that “training bra” look in the middle, but be patient. Press each seam open, bit by bit, using a little bit a steam as you go.  It will lay down flat.

Then take your thumb and place it in the center.  Press hard and give it a twisty-twirl to get those seam allowances to lay down.

Back after twirling and pressing.

Front, after twirling and pressing.  Remember that you left a little hole in the center because you stayed within the stay-stitching line.

Here are my first four.  The first star took forever.  The second one I finished in about an hour, from start to finish.  The first two stars were scrappy, and the third I went into the stash so that’s why it looks more blended.  There’s no rules.  Because they are so big (about 20 inches across from point to point) they make a great impact.  I’ve laid them out with points touching, so you can see that the diamond pattern will also serve as the template for that missing filler piece, if that’s the direction I head.

As soon as I get my other blocks made, I’ll start thinking about settings.  I am wondering if I have enough guts to do a rich visual background, a la Material Obsession in Australia.  I’m also thinking about some kind of borders that will punch up the stars somehow.  I have no clue where I’m going with this, but I hope to enjoy the journey of creation.

Check back for tomorrow’s thread Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway.  There are ten of us participating; you can hop around and enter to have lots of chances for some great thread!


Scrappy Star, part I

I’ve been diving into scraps this week, as I had a couple of days all to myself.  Inspired by a quilt I saw in the Scrap Attack Flickr group, a scrappy star by Svetlana of s.o.t.a.k homemade, I decided to try it myself.  It looked similar to lots of spiderweb blocks found in many traditional blocks, some published ages and ages ago, I thought I might be able to draw on my years of quilting and put it together myself.

First, download my scrappy stars paper piecing template by clicking on the link (NOT the picture).  It should measure 10 inches from tip to tip when you print it out.

A tip I learned from Becky Goldsmith is to print out your paper piecing templates on vellum paper.  I bought a package some time ago from my local paper store, so I went to the copy center and printed ONE copy of the diamond.  Then I pulled the original off the platen glass and checked it for size.  Yep.  Same size.  I wanted to make about eight stars (and there are six diamonds in each star), so I printed off 60 copies — about ten more diamonds than I needed, just in case.

Okay, so PANIC!  When starting a new process or project, I can feel overwhelmed by it all.  But then I said to myself, just choose six fabrics that go somewhat together, in fact the less they go together the better it will be.  That’s all, then you can take it from there.  I chose fabrics, laid them out, liked them.  I cut 3″ squares for the two tips, then I cut the rests of the strips 2 1/2 inches wide by 6 1/2″ long.  Yes, I know that’s way wide, but I liked some squoosh room when working with them.

Line up two at first, peeking through the parchment template to line them up straight.  Stitch on the line.  If you are not familiar with the technique, there are several YouTube videos (just google “paper piecing”).  I don’t trim up the sides yet.

As you progress, you’ll need to trim off the excess in between your seaming.  Lay it out flat on your cutting surface, and crease back the template on the stitching line, making a nice crisp crease.  This also helps when you rip that paper off, later.

Line up the ruler, slice off the extra.  Iron the fabric down into place, then keep going until you fill up your diamond.

From the paper side, use the marking to stitch around the outside edge.  Since you are using scraps, some may be off-grain and this stay-stitching helps stabilize that outside edge.

Trim.  It looks sooo pretty now, but now comes the real fun!

Lay them all out.  * Smile.*  Since you are working in such a large scale (20 inches from tip to tip), that star really makes an impact.

Or do I like it this way?  Flipping them around creates a totally different look.

I have this clever device: a hinged mirror.  I place ONE diamond, set the edges of the mirror on it, and voila! My block, in reflection.

This is what it looks like from the top, sitting on top of one diamond.

Check back Tuesday for how I put the pieces together.  AND. . .Don’t forget to come back on Wednesday for our thread giveaway.  We have ten different bloggers participating in the Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway.


Scraps Into LOVE

This challenge of Rachel’s is looming in my mind, now that I’m past the red/white quilt, and feeling like life has resumed its rhythm.  She has a terrific Flickr group, and I spent some time there this morning, looking at various ideas.

I used to be a real scrap saver until one day I looked at what I had and realized it was mostly junk.  Making a quilt can be a bit like falling in love, with that rush of excitement, the novelty, the promise.  You work your way through the fabrics and patterns and ideas and a quilt evolves into something that becomes comfortable and comforting.  I don’t need the scraps because I have the real thing.  But every once in a while, I do get on a saving jag, but I have decided to confine my scraps to this large bin drawer in the bottom of my studio closet.

I printed out the paper piecing chart from Sew, Mama, Sew for this mini-quilt by Kelly of KelbySews, setting the printing to 50% as I wanted it tiny.  Quick.  Something to do this afternoon while I listened to my novel on the computer.  Something to keep my hands busy and into the scraps.  I don’t know why the corners are skewing like they are–I’ll have to figure out what’s going on before I stitch down the binding.

One way I’ve heard to hang a mini is to make folded triangles in the upper corners of the back.  So I did.

I found many other ideas while browsing.

This one, titled Veggie Star Quilt, by Dana who write the WaterPenny blog, is really wonderful with its wonky star blocks and twisty layout.

This is from the balu51 and her own Flikr pool, and I wish I know who that was, but she has a cute fluffy white dog and lives in a place with LOTS of snow.  She attributes her inspiration to Amy of Badskirt.  (Who wouldn’t find inspiration on that blog?)

And who wouldn’t want to make this variation?  I found this on Rachel’s Stitched in Color blog, but you can also find it on Ayumi’s blog.

I tried to balance the day with some looking, some sewing.  I sleep better at night knowing there’s something begun in a day, whether or not it is completed.  I’ve put all these links and pictures in here, not so much for you, but for me–to remember my wandering journey (a hallmark of the internet is this wandering quality).  Rachel has laid out her plans, with a culminating Festival of Scraps the last week of March.

And an reminder: the Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway is in less than a week!  I’ll have two giveaways, and one of them has a wee packet of fabric to go with it–something to help you with your scrappy quilts?  See you on Leap Day!

Creating · Quilts

Quilt Ideas

Over at Stitched in Color, Rachel has declared a scrap manifesto: Use Them!

I think that’s a brilliant idea; she’s culled a lot of ideas using scraps to make quilts and has a challenge going to use up our scraps (see her website for more details).  I think the idea, really, is to stash-bust, using up all those bits of fabrics leftover from our projects (or a too-ambitious buying spree).  I’ve been looking for a few of my own ideas on how to use up the stash.  Here’s one, a free pattern from Lila Ashberry, titled Summer House, and you can find the download *here.*

I’m looking for patterns that have a complexity to them, and will use lots of fabric and be quickly put together.

Or how about Mayra Dubrawky’s Sticks and Bricks pattern?  There would be a LOT less angles/triangles in this one, although it doesn’t have that complexity of the other.

Here’s one idea I’ve had in my files for a long time: a scrappy log cabin.

Join Rachel’s “Festival of Scrappiness.” Your finished quilt top is due by the end of March.