A mini-break

I’m taking a mini-break from the mini-challenge this week, while I draft the next section.  I confess to having drafted the section, pieced it, fouled it up royally, thrown it away, and started the drafting again. 

It happens. 

One day, I want to talk to a pattern designer, maybe even Sally Collins herself…I think she’d take my email…and ask about a professional designer’s process.  Mine is “make it, hate it, try again, repeat until happy” and while that may be the only way I can do it, I’d like to hear that there is another way.  One that doesn’t take quite so much time.

Anyway, the Civil War Stars quilt is in the machine. 


First, all the ditchwork, and then I can start quilting the individual blocks.  I’ll do them with lots of outlining and then fill in the backgrounds with something simple that might have been hand quilted into a quilt of the era.  I just wasn’t willing to take on another hand quilting project right now. 

I’m using a wool batting on this and I am not as impressed as I thought I would be.  It’s “springy”.  Is that descriptive enough?  Cotton has a rough surface that grabs the fabric and holds everything together and stable, no matter how I twist and turn it in the machine.  This wool batting wants to stand up and it doesn’t grab the fabric, so I’ve put in about twice as many pins as I would normally use.  And, I’m being very, very careful to pull the quilt taut as I quilt in the lines.  I’m reserving judgment until I get further along.  I like the idea of a wool bat, but the final result will determine whether it was worth the extra cost and effort to have one.

Thought I’d show the new setup.  I’ve always had trouble with large quilts hanging off the front edge of the sewing surface. I use a drop leaf dining table on the back side of the sewing machine cabinet to hold the quilt as it goes under the machine, but I needed something in front, too.  That drop leaf can be expanded to a table that would hold six, so I can vary the size to fit the project.  I would put a table or a TV tray in front to hold the bulk on that side of the machine, but TV trays are notoriously tip-able and it was a struggle.  For a really big quilt, I’d use a card table, which was more stable, but took up all the extra space in the room and made me feel confined.  Not to mention that it blocked access to the machine, so if I wanted in or out, I had to either collapse the table, or crawl under it.  Now I don’t object to a little crawling, but I really think I might have aged out of that activity.  Especially when I need to stand up in a small, confined space.  I need things to grab onto.

So, I’ve started using one of the roller carts that I keep under the machine table extension.  I keep the extension down all the time, and these two carts live under it.  I can pull one out and sit the bulk of the quilt on it and it helps me fight the gravity effect.  Gravity is not a quilters friend.  If I could only turn on my anti-gravity unit and make the quilt float under the needle, I’d have it made.  I wonder if I could quilt on an air hockey table…now there’s a thought. 


Yes, I did use one of the ugliest pieces of fabric I own for the back.  No apologies.  The only one that will ever see it is the wall on which it will hang.  I’ve had this fabric since I started quilting.  I bought it off ebay, thinking it was gray. 

But, it ain’t, Blanche.  It ain’t. 

It’s a hideous gray/pink.  HIDEOUS!  Okay, hideous is in the eye of the beholder.  Mostly I hate it because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be.  And, because I own NINE yards of it.  Granted, I don’t think I paid but ten dollars, but still, it should have been what I expected, right?  I used less than half to back this quilt.  And, am glad to see it getting used.  Fortunately, it’s a small scale print that is good as a Civil War Repro quilt backing, so I put the other five yards in the Civil War stash.

So, once you have a large enough sewing surface to hold the quilts weight, the next thing is light.  I need a lot of light, especially on dark fabrics…and more especially when I use invisible thread.


We collected several of these drafting table lamps before they got so popular that we couldn’t afford them anymore.  I have four of them, all in the perfect spot to provide the perfect light.  I use “daylight” bulbs.  And, I angle the light in from the side.  This light can be swiveled and provide light for the sewing machine that is two tables away, and faces the Bernina.  Or, it can be turned to the temporary cutting table that I’m using for the mini-challenge block so I don’t have to go to the big cutting table in the garage.  It’s too flipping cold to spend hours out there cutting hundreds of one inch squares.

Well, that’s where the magic happens.  It’s small and confined and people that design studios for a living would say that there’s no way I can accomplish all I do in this small space.  But, I do it.  And, you’ve seen the results, so there’s your proof.

On the parenting front, Sydney is singing a solo at a choir competition this weekend.  She asked several times if she could sing her piece for us last night.  After dinner and dishes, we sat down to listen.  And, it was a disaster!  Five days before the competition, and it was a train wreck.  I had to walk away and think about what I wanted to say.  I wish I was better at this parenting thing, but I got pretty excited and maybe a little assertive, but I basically said that if she was going to sing soprano, she needed to rare her shoulders back and belt it out…actually, I think I said “beat the crap out of it”, but whatever.  And, if you’re going to hunch your shoulders in and sing with a little voice, you need to sing alto.

Oh, you lucky parents that could have stroked her hand and told her she was great. 

I told her that when she opened her mouth and sang, she had a beautiful voice, and she needed to sing loud.  I told her that I knew she could do it, and I told her that her choir teacher, who chose the song for her knew she could do it, too.  And, she just needed to do it.  I even used Lady Gaga’s tribute to The Sound of Music as an example…did Lady Gaga hunch her shoulders inward and look down?  No, she pulled her shoulders back, opened her chest and throat, and let go with it.  (BTW, wasn’t she fabulous!)

Last year, at this same competition, Syd had a panic attack and ended up in tears.  Yesterday, she sang in front of her class and did fine.  Last night, she panicked again when she sang for us.  So, the only way I know to beat that demon is for her to sing for us every night this week.  And, I intend to make it as distracting and weird as possible.  Because if she can ignore me, she can ignore the judges.  Okay, maybe not as distracting as possible, but distracting nonetheless.

Sing, girl.  Sing loud!

Okay, that’s it for me today.  It’s cold out.  Our trees and plants that were trying to blossom are shaking in a cold wind today.  Poor things.  Hopefully it didn’t get too cold to do much damage.  It’s hovering near the freezing mark now.  But, there’s a light rain, so schools are on a two hour delay.

But, work’s not.

Everybody have a great Tuesday.  My boss and I are meeting about high profile projects.  Dang, but I need some big recognition and my small work is not getting it for me.



lw said...

Is your wool batting mixed with something? I've never had a springy wool batt yet.

I kind of like the grey/pink. It works with the civil war. You'd call it "ashes of roses."

The hunching and small voice are fear; my guess is that Sydney absolutely needs your help with her practice to sing out. Once she gets over her stage fright, I'll bet she's great. Tell her to remember, the audience wants her to succeed, and they love that out loud, shoulders back, unafraid approach better than anything.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lane, I live in a small apartment. The only place for my small sewing table is in the kitchen that isn't big enough for a kitchen table. I also had issues with quilt gravity. I found a completely collapsible, folding "tail gating" type plastic table at Walmart. Folded up, it is 18" square. Opens to 18" X 36". More functional in my space than a card table. The legs can be adjusted to multiple heights, one matches the height of my sewing table. I could easily move it behind the table if that's where it was needed, or next to me to hold the quilt weight if I am sewing on the edges of the quilt. Folds up easily or pushes out of the way if I need to move around. It also raises high enough to match the surface where I baste my quilts. $30.00 well spent in my opinion. Just thought I'd share my solution.

Kath said...

Lane, I machine quilted my first quilt with your words ringing in my ears "Gravity is your enemy"!
I enjoyed reading this post, the Civil War Stars quilt is one of my favourite of your quilts, so far.