Saturday, November 20, 2010

Improv Scrap Blocks

Please forgive questionable photo quality, mystery sizing, and iffy color rendering in this and probably my next several posts. I've spent the past week upgrading to a new computer (yay!) which does not yet have Photoshop installed, and am stumbling around in the freebie pre-installed programs trying to figure out if/how they will do what I want. Verdict so far: "meh".
I'm on a mission to free up some space in my scrap drawers (and yes, I will be counting scraps for the 100-Yard Challenge). In addition to Santa's workshop projects I can't show you yet (future recipients have been known to read this blog), I've been busy the past couple weeks piling up the scrap blocks. Here you see 24 Wonky Log Cabin improvisation blocks made from a combo of the "small" (inner bits) and "long" (outer parts) strip scraps on hand.

There's not much log-cabin-ish about these blocks, as the strips are all different widths and I made no attempt at light-dark patterning, aiming only for variation of color and tone within each block. I did start with a square of the same blue fabric at the center of each, but that's it for regularity of design with this batch.

Quite an eyeful, placed all together on the design wall. These have not been arranged in any way, just slapped up there one after the other as they came out of the trim-to-size (9" finished size + S/A) step. I could just sew them all together as they are and call it a quilt top, but I think I can come up with something better.

I have a plan, but nothing further to show you yet...

In the meantime, I've also been stitching away on a set of strip-pieced blocks made on used dryer sheets foundations:

First, I ironed the huge pile of dryer sheets I've been collecting from laundry loads over the past year or so. Be warned, this will make a mess of your ironing board cover, which is why I did that step before putting the new cover on my board. It may make a mess of your iron as well, but mine has some kind of spiffy space-age non-stick super-duper ceramic or teflon or something coating which resists such things, so it's fine.

Next, I trimmed all the ironed dryer sheets to 5" squares, then I placed a scrap strip face up corner to corner, and added other strips to ether side. I made 48 of these (and still have a hefty pile of foundation squares). Trimmed to 4.5" (4" finished size + S/A) and cut the dryer sheet off the back (not as difficult or time-consuming as it sounds). These are up on the design wall in random order as well.

Again, I could just sew them all together this way, but I think they're more interesting in sets of four, with a little breathing room around them.

I have a plan for these, too.
I've even started on it.
I'll show it off when it's closer to done.

The calendar says it's almost Thanksgiving, which means I need to stop playing with scraps and focus on the XMas projects. I'm not making a lot of stuff, but there's one secret project in particular that really should be farther along by now than it is.

* * *
BTW: You might very reasonably be under the impression that I have completely forgotten about providing pics of some finished garment projects that I've gone on and on about here (pants! tops!) -- but that would be incorrect. I do realize that weeks have passed without an update, but somehow I did not get pics of me in my trip clothes while on my trip, and since returning home have not managed to coodinate a day when I'm wearing some of those clothes with good photography weather. Right now the tops are in a laundry pile and the pants need to be pressed. So you'll have to live with the suspense a bit longer. (There's a chance something will happen in this area tomorrow, but if I were you I wouldn't hold my breath.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Super-Quick Ironing Board Cover

I posted a while back my "someday" intention to do something about the truly grubby cover on my ironing board. I finally got around to it a week or so ago.
Key to making this quick and easy was starting with the replacement muslin cover that had come with the ironing board when I bought it several years ago. I came across it when I was tiding up the sewing room, pre-trip, and was smart enough to set it aside where I would see it again when I got back.

This end-of-bolt length of butterfly fabric -- a bit over a yard and part of my in-person FabricDepot binge -- was a good size, so I lay it out on the hall floor, face down, lay the muslin cover on top of it, and cut that shape from the fabric with pinking shears. I lifted up the edge of the muslin as I went along so my fabric cut-out was just slightly smaller than the muslin.

Then I flipped both layers over and added a few pins to hold things in place. Here it is before pinning:
If it looks wide, that's because I have one of those extra-wide ironing boards, which is great for pressing quilting yardage. You can see exactly how careful and precise my cutting was here:
When pinned, I took it to the machine and sewed around the edge with a zig-zag stitch, equally carefully:
Lickety-split and it was ready to go.

The thin padding beneath the old muslin cover was not adequate. My iron puts out a lot of heat and steam on the "cotton" setting (which I use a lot) and the metal grate under the pad would get very hot. I sacrificed a towel from the "workout towels" pile for additional padding. I simple lay it over the board with the old pad on top (you can see the indelible grate impression below), put my new, double-layer (muslin + print) cover on top, and tightened the drawstring to pull it all into shape around the board.
Then I cut off the edges of the towel that were hanging out (didn't finish the edges, or nuthin', just snipped 'em off), and was done.

Total time for task: didn't track, but I doubt it was more than 10 minutes. That was after I waited for the cat to fall asleep so he wouldn't pounce on the fabric laid out on the floor and roll around on it.

How long it took me to get around to this quick and easy task? I'm not saying. If I'd had any sense I would have waited a couple more days and done this on Nov. 1, instead of in October, so it would count toward the 100 Yard Challenge.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

100-yard Challenge

Two weeks ago my sister and I each had a lot of fabric. Here's some of mine:

Now we have even more, thanks to our buying frenzy at FabricDepot and additional indulgences at Bolt during our recent weekend in Portland, OR (partially documented in previous posts). And I bought more when I got home, too: three FQ sets of Kona solids in purples, blues, and greens. All the stash shelves, drawers, and bins in my sewing room are full or very close to full.

It's time to use some of it up, so Sis and I have issued each other a 100-Yard Challenge. The rules are simple:
  • Open time frame (we'd considered 100-yards-in-a-year but we both have multiple other priorities competing with sewing for our time/attention). This is not intended to be a lifetime goal, though. Some attention to sustained momentum is implied.
  • Only completed projects count. This is a tough one, and we may regret it, but we are both highly susceptible to the lure of a new project and have long histories of UFO production to show for it. So in addition to using up some yardage, we will be focused on getting things to "done." The exception is that projects to be sent out for long-arm quilting by someone else can be counted when they get to the ready-to-be-mailed stage (since the budget for paid quilting may not be available yet).
  • Only fabric used beginning 11/1 counts. If I now add borders, back and binding to an existing UFO top, I count those when it's done, but not the yardage for the top itself.
  • We went back and forth on scrap usage. Abby is focused on big-piece yardage, but If I don't use some scraps soon (especially the smaller ones) I will need to buy another scrap bin. Adding the scraps generated by 100 yards used for other things to my already overflowing scrap drawers is not an option. So we agreed scrap use is optional. Finished scrap projects will be counted by size of finished project + 10% for seams.
  • NO STASH-BUILDING until the challenge has been met! This is the tough one. There's a little wiggle room here, as fabric may be purchased if, and only if, necessary in order to complete a project. But that's it. The idea is to sew as close to completely from stash as possible until 100 stash yards have been used. I am already wishing that I had a bit more garment fabric (vs. quilting yardage) in the stash, but the quilting yardage is what I most want to make a dent in, and I wear mostly cotton clothes, so I'll make do. Maybe this challenge will inspire me to sew up some of the garment yardage I keep passing over each time I decide what skirt or top to make next.
Every good challenge needs a good reward, and we've got a great one planned: When we have both used up 100 yards of stash, we'll get together for a weekend again! This will of course involve giddy self-indulgence at every fabric store we can find. What's the point of challenging ourselves to use up so much fabric if we don't get to buy more when it's done??

How am I doing so far? Well, Nov. 1 came and went with no sewing done whatsoever, so I'm not exactly off to a full-sprint start.