Search the Web

Thursday, July 24, 2014

So many quilts, so little time!

Here I am at my home-made quilting frame from my previous post.It worked, for basting purposes. For quilting though, it was a bit low - I prefer the quilt close to me. I found, even for basting, that I was bending down a lot. That increases my "hump" and my tendency to migraines. So if I were to do this, I'd need to raise the height somehow. In it's current higglety-pigglety configuration, that would be a tad unstable - balancing tv dinner tables on large books, etc. So for now it's back to the hand frame. Any day now, I hope to start the actual quilting...but read on...

I've been trying out a very modern project for an acquaintance who is leaving my workplace soon. She had seen a printout I had stuck on my wall called " The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense." She looked it over and said "I wish I had that!"

So I started to make it. My machine has alphanumeric stitches, and I usually use it to make quilt labels. This calls for a lot of words on fabric, but I've been longing to start doing the types of quilting I did when I first started - thread painting, words on fabric, raw-edge quilting... I saw this as a "back to my roots" project after so many years in my guild learning the (necessary, but boring!) basics.

See the link above to get to the site.
Well, it's a LOT of words! And the machine does do two sizes of letters, but it's an extra button to push to get the smaller ones, so I'm doing my best to make it all fit in the normal text size. I'm 3/4 of the way through my first attempt. I have one month before she leaves the university, so I'm hopeful of getting it done it time.

Then there's a belated birthday present for my one-day-to-be-son-in-law. I've got as far as buying the fabric, washing and ironing it, and printing the pattern. But he's going to be around longer than my friend from work, so I kinda bounced his gift a little lower in the line. No picture for this one - it's a secret! Shh!

And yesterday I received the news that a very, very dear friend of mine will be undergoing chemotherapy and radiation this month. I had been working on a design for a quilt for him, and I fear I may need to really put on a burst of speed to get it done in time for him to have the use of it.

So who knows when I'll be able to do my dear Cousin's quilt? There seem to be an awful lot of projects, with shorter and shorter deadlines!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Uniquely Modern Problem

There is no part of the quilting process that could be described as "fast." I keep wondering why I'm doing it, at each separate stage. Picking a pattern, getting fabrics, washing and pressing said fabrics, cutting, sewing the blocks, squaring the blocks, sewing the rows...finally one day you have a quilt top ready for sandwiching.

Sandwiching is my least favourite part of the process. Get a big room, move several tables together, lay down the backing and tape it down with masking tape. Then lay the batting down and tape it. Then lay the top down and tape it. Then either crawl onto the table or lean waaaaaaay over to the center and start basting. If you're alone and its a queen-size, around six to eight hours later your quilt will be basted. And you will have a near-broken back, near-crushed neck vertebrae, aching arms and legs, and a very sore finger that's been "stabbed" about a thousand times unless you've been using a spoon to lift the pointy end of the needle all day.

And then you get to pull off all the masking tape and move the tables back to their original position, and limp home as best you can, one sandwiched quilt under your arms that, quite frankly, by this time, you'd be overjoyed to never see again.

Every time I finish a top and have to get ready to sandwich it I keep saying "there HAS to be a better way!"

When we did the "quilting bee," I rolled the quilt onto 2 2x4s so we could start our quilting from the center and work the length of the quilt and then move gradually along the rows.

So I asked a friend of mine if she thought I might do the same thing in order to sandwich the quilt. She is a longarm quilter, and she said she often bastes quilts for hand quilters. And of course, for a longarm machine you start at one end of the quilt and work your way down to the other end. This is what she does when basting, just putting parallel lines the length of the quilt.

It's a far cry from the basting from the center out to the edges, up & down, across, and diagonally, but I needed a way I could do this at home. And, not having 12 feet in both directions to work with, or several tables to put together, I decided to give it a try. If it worked, it means I can take all week to baste it, giving my back and neck a rest, instead of trying to get it all done in one day.

So I began in the guest room, laying the backing, batting, and quilt top out to make sure the back and batting extended beyond the edge of the quilt. Tricky, since all three layers are much larger than my guest room bed...but I managed.


So here's the 2x4 with the backing attached, the batting going on, and the quilt top on top of all.


A quick trip round the other end of the bed to check that everything is dropping and that the backing extends beyond the quilt top.

I brought it all out into the living room and supported the 2x4 on some small tables. This is the first line of basting - I was trying out letting the end of the quilt just drop to the floor.
That didn't work though - because there needs to be some kind of tension gently pulling the backing taut.

So in the end, I rolled the loose end of the backing onto another 2x4 and rolled it up till it was taut. I took a third 2x4 and rolled up the batting/quilt top together.


There's a third table under there, supporting both 2x4s. Now I can adjust the tension on the backing separately from the batting/quilt top. It's working really well. Oh, and I hold the 2x4s where I'm basting apart by attaching clamps to the tables that keep the wood separated.

And of course, my cat Bijou is sleeping on it now. So, aside from cat hairs, and the occasional splinter, I think I might have found a solution.

I kept wondering, through all this process, how they did it in the "olden days." It took me a while, but I finally realized they didn't have this problem in the olden days. In the olden days, they didn't have our big beds! Real Kings and Real Queens slept in beds we would call "double" now, or even "standard." Our Queen-sized and King-sized beds are huge by comparison! So this is actually a uniquely modern difficulty. You didn't used to need 12x12 feet of floor space or table space to sandwich a quilt. Your average dining room table was big enough.

I do wonder how the Amish quilters handle it now though, if they've worked something out. Though, there seems to be an ample supply of helping hands there, unlike here, where my occasional pleas for sandwiching assistance are met with stony silence...

But in the absence of a large extended family, or cavernous rooms, I'm hoping this is a viable way for an old lady to get her quilt sandwiched without breaking her neck and back in the process!



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Consolation

So, it's kind of a funny name for a "tekkie" quilt - "Consolation." When I had it registered with the Quebec Quilt Registry Program, I had the opportunity to explain it to the ladies there, and by the nodding and the smiling I decided I should explain in depth why this new-age quilt was given such an old-fashioned name.

Like every story I tell, it's long and has a few turns. It begins with my friend Ray, who I met when I was 17 years old - forty years ago this year.

We met in film class at CEGEP. At that time, he looked like another friend of mine for whom I had been longing. When I saw Ray sitting in that class, I rushed up to him in astonishment ready to throw my arms around him. When I got close enough, I saw it was a stranger, but we sat together and pretty much became friends on the spot anyway.

Now we can skim over details and just look at the overall dimensions of this friendship. A few years after CEGEP was done, we were off and running in our marriages - for me it would be only the first, he had more staying power. 

We produced children. I went through a divorce. He started and ran a business, successfully, I might add. He sold the business and went back to university to get a Bachelor's degree. He had a partial separation during this time, but went home on weekends. Then he moved back home and got his Master's degree.

Our children brought us joy and pain, they had health issues. We went to movies, with or without our spouses and/or other pals. I had health issues, big ones.

Through forty years of friendship, not a week went by when we didn't talk, and during times of crisis it was often several times a week. It seems to me I had more crises, and he was more helpful to me than I was to him. All those years we kept up the same kind of relationship we'd had in film class - arguing over details, postulating "what-if"s, finding humor in the blackest of situations.

Ray is a catalyst - you want to get the party going, invite him! He can make the most mundane become hilarious.

To sum up, I have taken great Consolation from our friendship.

That's the first part of the story. Now to a small section of details.

We both worked at McGill in an audio-visual center, albeit at different times. (I was hired when he handed in his resignation and was starting his business.) So our paychecks said "Audio-visual Technician" on them. He was more technical than me, having an insatiable curiousity, but I was pretty much more technically-minded than most women my age, and working in Audio-visual was kind of a natural progression after film class. 

So when the internet got invented and I got my first Mac computer, it was only natural that I would eventually end up at Ray's house  and we'd be fooling around with what you could do on the internet. I'd always enjoyed writing, and he had always been after me to do some seriously, so he set me up with a blog.

Ta-da! You're reading it! I have since set up my own blog (debrant.blogspot.com), but of course it's a much simpler setup than this one. This one has ads and generates statistics that go over my head, but he still reads the stats, and the blogs. He "follows" both my blogs, so his computer goes "bing" whenever I post.

Now for part three.

A few years ago, Ray embarked on a different kind of journey. He became a spiritual advisor in Ignatian spirituality. (That's St. Ignatius of Loyola, for whom Loyola campus, high school, and formerly University are named.)

I'm not going to talk about religion here, because spirituality and religion are two very different things. But it's important to the story to mention one thing: In Ignatian spirituality, being in the presence of God is called "Consolation," and being apart from God is called "Desolation."

Now, right about the time Ray was taking all his courses to become an advisor, I was going through my second big depression, "Desolation," if you will. In the throes of my second depression, I gotta say, I was pretty desolate.

I reached a point one day where I said to Ray, "I have to believe in something bigger than me. I just can't do it all by myself. I need something to look up to."

And that's when Ray became my counsellor. He had to tread very carefully with me, because I'd had rather a traumatic religious upbringing and at first couldn't tolerate the word "god," and especially couldn't tolerate the concept most people have of "god." It took us some time to forge a working vocabulary that wouldn't drive me away, but Ray was as patient and understanding as he'd been for thirty-five years, and we managed to find a way for him to guide me to a better understanding of Consolation.

The final part of the tale involves me becoming a quilter, ten years ago. I was on some pretty serious psychiatric meds then, and my quilts reflected that. They didn't know how to classify my quilts when I first landed on the scene. I had working curtains in the stuffed windowframes of my "House that Jack Built" quilt, which had large thread paintings in every window depicting the story. My "Safe Passage" quilt had a thread painted Mariner's compass in the center, an abstract, randomly-pieced, machine raw-edge appliquéd ocean, and borders made from blocks called Ocean Waves, Wild Waves, Storm at Sea, Beacon Light, and North Star. It was chaos. I hadn't seen it for a few years and recently helped my husband hang it up in his bedroom (we no longer live together), and my first thought was "They must have thought I was on drugs!" Then I realized I had been!

I've honed my craft over the past decade, learned that I prefer hand-quilting over machine quilting, and became Program Coordinator for my guild. This year I gave them a Challenge: Quilting in the 21st century.

And my QR quilt was born. 

A QR code is like a bar code, but your cell phone reads it, and it's a web address (url). You turn on the app, hold your phone up to the QR code as if you were going to take a picture of it, and your phone then takes you to the website. No more having to remember or write down long urls. And your phone remembers them for you.

So I got a QR code generated for this blog site - wrote about it in the post called "Welcome to the Blogathon," and then decided that "Quilting in the 21st Century" would be a good challenge theme for the guild.

And I am giving it to Ray (who didn't know that until this moment), in appreciation and thankfulness for the consolation he has brought me in forty years of unbroken friendship. In this small way, I hope my quilt can bring him some consolation too. At least it can keep his legs warm while he labours at his computer, or wrap him and his girlfriend up while watching tv, or his cats can get fur on it. I like to think that he'll wrap himself up in it and "set a-while." And I look forward to our next chat, and the one after that, for however many more years we both have on this earth.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Coordinating a Program

I (foolishly!) volunteered to be program coordinator for my quilt guild this year. Unbeknownst to me, I was volunteering for a 2-year stint! Woe is not only me, but my poor guild!

Here is a photo of the first project nearing its completion, called the Cottage Square quilt.
The whole point of this project was this particular event, the Quilting Bee. Nobody at the guild had ever been to one, so I thought it would be a great idea!

I'm like that - I try to pick out things that I notice people haven't done and try them. There is actually method to this kind of madness - it's called challenging people. Encouraging (dragging?) people out of their comfort zones. Getting people to try new stuff.

In this case, the quilting bee is a very old "stuff," just new to us! And it was a learning experience (not another one!).

For instance, if we were going to do this again, I'd have people working on two rows instead of working on just one. Even though we sat across from each other, our arms and elbows still got in the way.

I did learn that you don't need a fancy quilting frame, just a couple of 2x4s: however, you DO need to clamp the 2x4s down onto a surface so they don't slide around. In our case, we clamped them down to a table on either side of our makeshift "frame."

We got seven squares done in half a day. When we reached the natural stopping point, we quit for the day, and the quilt is now being handed around to members of the guild for individual quilting.

I would do it again, but I'm not so sure of my guild! It was actually quite comfortable quilting that way - we could get our left hands underneath the quilt easily, and though we often had to stand up and twist to get around a curve, it was never for long. And I found I could go back and forth switching sides whenever I had to go around a corner. I thought I might actually set something like this up at home for the next large quilt I'll be doing by hand.

Onwards we go, to the Curved Seam Project!

Here we are, basting it for machine quilting on home machines. Yes, the idea was to pass it around so individuals could practise machine quilting on it. At the end of the year we'll draw for it.

We just had the demo on how to do the machine quilting last night. Everyone was enthralled, right up to the point where I asked who was going to be first to take it home. Then I was met with a room full of blank stares. What? We have to quilt it? Ourselves? On our own machines?

I was reminded of one of Murphy's Laws: If you explain something so clearly that no one could possibly misunderstand, someone will. 

In this case, everyone. Not a single person in the room understood that this was something they were supposed to practise on, in our homes, on our machines.

Sigh.

I have another project on the go too, the Appliqué project. I've been giving demo after demo. Most were well-attended. But I have yet to see any evidence that anyone is trying to actually do the project, which involves a simple pattern done in eight different techniques of appliqué. I keep showing them my sample. I keep handing out patterns. But I'd lay bets at this point that no one is actually doing it.

So here we are. I only created this program because people had responded to a survey saying what they wanted to learn. God knows it's been hard on me - I'm not an organized person, and I've had to have everything practised and perfected ahead of time all year.

I'm wondering just how serious people were, when they were answering last year's survey, about actually learning stuff!

Well, at the least, I've learned a bundle. Nothing like having to teach stuff to make you learn it!

Next year's program won't be half so ambitious. I'll look over the survey and pick ONE thing. One. Single. Thing. Then they can hire a teacher for it. And then I can go to meetings and watch. 

For anyone out there thinking of being a program coordinator, I have some advice. Take your surveys, but be careful about taking them too seriously. Yes, people tick off "I want to learn this..." but they don't necessarily want to learn it that year. It's like we all say we'd like to lose weight - right up to the point where someone takes away the cookie jar and says "Let's go for a walk!" You often find yourself walking alone.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Quilt for Attawapiskat

Well, the First Nations community of Attawapiskat has suffered yet another blow. On the CBC, they reminded us of how, two years ago, the sewage system suffered a fatal breakdown, and the response was to install temporary housing for the families there.

Two years in temporary housing. Well, to some people that doesn't seem like such a bad thing. But have you looked at a map? We're talking just about Arctic here.

Families. That means old women and children. Babies.

One working toilet for 80 people. One working kitchen for 80 people.

I would hate to share my bathroom with 80 people. And I can barely tolerate my Boyfriend helping me in the kitchen, much less having 80 people trying to get meals going.

I'd be discouraged. Wouldn't you?

Then two months ago the power went off. Did Ontario Hydro rush to the scene? I mean, this is sub-Arctic climate here. Was it an emergency that all these people had no power?

Apparently not.

When we had the Ice Storm here, people started using fireplaces, Coleman stoves, candles, anything they could to stay warm.

And of course, that's what the people of Attawapiskat had to do.

Here, we had people burn their homes down in trying to keep warm. And two weeks ago, that's what happened in Attawapiskat.

Of course it happened. 

Now, I'm not a historian or a specialist in Aboriginal affairs. I can't begin to guess at how this situation got the way it has. I'm sure of one thing - there has been bad faith, mismanagement, lack of understanding and lack of trust, maybe on both "sides," more likely on "ours."

But I am a mother, a daughter, and a quilter. And I'm 56 years old. I've had experiences that have taught me that a little compassion goes a long way. That nobody gets up, yawns and stretches in the morning, looks in the mirror and says "Today, I think I'll become a statistic."

I've learned that life throws us curves. That some of us are luckier than others. We got born into a relatively affluent society, on the right side of the color-and-creed barriers.

And others weren't so lucky. The cynics would say "So what, that's life, it sucks to be you."

I'm pretty sure that if any of us had to live in these kind of conditions, we'd squawk. I'm also pretty sure that if the power went out here, they'd be working hard to get it back on.

Because. We. "Count."

Well, I could go on about this forever, but in the interests of getting to the point, I'm going to send a quilt to one of the persons who has been displaced by the fire.

It's nothing. It's a drop in a sea. It will actually be a large investment of my time and will take determination to see that it ends up keeping somebody warm, because I don't actually know anybody from Attawapiskat.

I'm well-placed in my job to have some contacts, and earlier this week I met with two Aboriginal women to discuss the way I could somehow get a quilt to one of these displaced persons. I'd like the label I will put on it to eventually read "You are not alone." Or "you are not forgotten." Or something like that. But that's even harder to figure out, because then not only does someone have to point the way to a displaced person, it means finding someone who speaks their language and can write the syllabics for me to embroider or appliqué onto the quilt.

One step at a time. If all I can do is send one person a quilt that will keep them warm, that's one thing I can do.

So, has anybody had experience with wool batting? I have a feeling it's warmer than cotton, but I wonder about shrinkage.

All kind comments are appreciated.