Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's the Little Things That Make Me Sew Crazy

When the boys were really little, we lived in a smaller house.  Two bedrooms, one bathroom, large living room, but no dining room.  Nowhere I could set out a project I was working on and leave it out.  The only table was the kitchen table, and we kind of needed that three times a day.

Through some unusual circumstances I got a sewing machine, but I had absolutely no idea how to use it.  I had a vague idea that I'd like to learn to quilt someday.  Somehow quilting seemed kind of homey.  Practical, but maybe fun.  And the bright, saturated colors in the fabric store appealed to me.

Quilting, I told myself, was for later, when the kids were older.  And I had free time.  (Free time?  Yah, laugh it up.)  But my friend Gini had other ideas, and talked me into taking a beginners quilt class with her.  Just one evening a week for five weeks.  I could manage that.

And so it began.

I discovered I really liked quilting.  I think it has a lot to do with doing something that stays done.  Unlike most of what I do which is immediately undone (cleaning), consumed (cooking), or needs to be done again (grocery shopping), quilting stays done.  Granted, I give most of them away, but I have a few things I've kept.  Like this tumbler quilt, this batik quilt, and this mosaic quilt.

And now, years later, I'm still trying to get it right.  And you know what really makes me crazy?  Pinwheels.  All those little points - eight of them - coming together in one place.  You'd be surprised how many quilt blocks have some variation of it.  Trying to get all those points to line up just exactly right is like... well, like herding grasshoppers.

So every once in awhile I make myself practice.  When I made this quilt, last spring, and made all those star points, I saved all the little triangles and practiced sewing pinwheels.  Little, bitty pinwheels.

Guess where most of them ended up?  Yah, the garbage.  The rest were "orphan blocks" in my sewing basket for months and months.  Every time I did a sewing project I'd pull them out and wonder what to do with them.  Until Gunnar announced that we needed more pillows in the living room.  Aha!

Sew them into strips, with some white blocks between, add a couple of scrap strips to two sides to make a square, make an envelope backing, and WA-WAH... a pillow.

Gunnar's quite happy with it, but he - fortunately - is pretty easy to please.  However, if you look a little closer...

... you'll see that there are some hits and some misses in the lining-up-the-points department.

Not too shabby...

... but what on earth happened here, to the triangle on the bottom?  It's wavy.  Oops.

This yellow one is okay, but I should've ironed some of the seams the other way - you can see the yellow through the white.  Oops.

Then there's this sad, turquoise fellow.  The bottom right is okay, but two of the points have lost their points, and the other didn't quite make it to the party in the middle.

Closer... I'm batting about .500 here...

And then this one almost works, but I wasn't paying attention to the print on the fabric (bumble bees) when I cut it, and a bumblebee appears to be getting caught in the vortex at the center. 

Well, it's fine for my living room, but not quite ready for prime time.


sara said...

Julie, the first time I tried to quilt I had no one, NO ONE to advise me, so I started with pinwheels. It came out about like you'd expect.

Now I have a project in storage that I plan to break out soon that is only a little better than pinwheels - I can't remember the name of it. I'll do a post on it soon so you can see and tell me how crazy I am. :)

Joyful Reader said...

I guess I am much like Gunnar on this one. It looks beautiful to me! I have tried these "pinwheel" patterns and they are NOT for the beginner! very frustrating!
Like I said before, I would love to learn to really quilt and do it well! Maybe in another season. :)

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Pinwheels drive me to the Cliffs of Insanity. I've found an alternate that goes by various names. I made a baby quilt using it - "Whirlygiggle", I think. It's on the blog in the quilt category, a year or so back.

Can't wait to see your project, Sara :D

And Monica, I totally get the "in another season"!

Q said...

Corners-schmorners. You're trying, you're learning. You're still out-sewing those who won't even give it a go! :)

Rebecca D said...

I think they are fantastic! WAY better then I could hope to do!

Crystal in Lynden said...

Your quilts make me smile! So pretty!
I loved hearing that it all started with a beginner class. Makes me think I could try that someday.

melanie said...

I guess it's the Nester who is blog-famous for saying, It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. I love your pinwheel pillow top <3

My mother is a PERFECT piecer. {and you should see her pie crusts} Might be one reason I haven't made very many quilts?? However, the "grandma" quilt project awaits in my sewing storage: yep, a scrappy pinwheel. Queen size. Cut it all out more than 10 years ago. Maybe I should put it on my calendar for 2015? It could be The Year of The Quilt. Oh, AFTER I buy a new machine that feeds evenly... first things first. :D

JC said...

Wow. You seem to describe my life. Two bedrooms, little people. I sure would like to know how other people made it work. I feel like I am staring at a rubics cube trying to figure out the "trick" to it.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

JC - it's tough being in a small house with three active little ones, especially in a rainy climate! Our three kids all shared a room - no problem since they're all boys, but when they're little it doesn't really matter anyway.

I think what really helped me keep my sanity was more behavioral than spatial. I kept the kids on a really consistent schedule. They all took naps (or had "quiet time") and they all went to bed fairly early so we grown-ups could have some peaceful time in the evening.

Still, it's a challenge!

The only way I could do any crafting was to go somewhere else. Fortunately my husband was "on board", and committed to giving me a fairly regular girls' night out. (Not out on the town, but scrapbooking or sewing with a group of mom-friends.)

Ann said...

Last year I saw a demonstration of pinwheels with tricks that make it so much easier. I just can't remember the details! I'll see if I can find an online demo to send your way.

I think the pillow is beautiful!

The dB family said...

I still like it very much and believe me when I say it's waaaaay beyond my skill level. I keep thinking I need to get at making some nice pillows for our furniture.