Sunday, August 22, 2010

Machine Quilting Binge

It's that time of year again. . .time for the machine quilting binge! I always have several quilt projects in the works, and once I finish a quilt top, I'll piece a backing, baste it, fold it up, and tuck it away under my sewing table (or sometimes, I'll just put the top away and figure out a backing and baste it later). Once or twice a year, I pull out all the projects that are ready for quilting and binge. Usually one or two projects get put off until next time because I haven't figured out how I want to quilt them yet.

There is a reason for the save and binge. I free-motion quilt, which is a skill that has a kind of zen. You control the speed of the machine, the rate that you move the quilt, and the pattern you are sewing. It takes practice, and I quilt better if I do a lot at once. I usually use a small wallhanging or neonatal charity quilt to warm up on. I find that it is stressful at first and all the muscles in my shoulders tighten up, and then as I keep doing it, I start to relax and the quilting gets better. I find the zen of machine quilting.

Here are my warm-up projects.

And this is me, working on a lap-sized quilt, the first in the stack. It took me a couple of hours to find the zen this time, but I got more than half of this one quilted today. I have two more basted quilts in the stack, plus two more basted wallhangings. I also have two tops with already pieced backs ready for basting (I ran out of batting and safety pins for basting), and two or three lap-sized tops without backings. I usually piece my backings from fabric in my stash. I have a lot of fabric, but I tend to buy 1/2 or 1 yard cuts, so I rarely have enough for a quilt back. Pieced backs are more interesting anyway. Sometimes the back of the quilt is almost as interesting as the front. I'll post some quilt backs on here later as I complete the quilting on this stack of quilts.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Green Quilt

Here is the completed chevron quilt top. A number of changes have occurred since the last iteration. I added thin gray bands to emphasize the diagonals in the quilt as well as borders. I'm still not sure if the coral pink inner border is the way to go. I already made it narrower (it was originally to be 3/4", now it is 1/2"). I suppose I can always applique another border on top if I decide it really has to go. I am piecing leftover strips to make a backing for the quilt, and, of course, planning my next quilt.

Two Very Different Books

My reading tastes are fairly omnivorous, so here are the two I finished most recently (Jane Austen's "Persuasion" doesn't count, since I reread it).

John Scalzi's "The Last Colony" was quite enjoyable. It is third in a loosely connected series set in the same universe. Humanity has colonized the stars and now competes with other races for planetary territory by recruiting the elderly to serve as soldiers and giving them new, genetically enhanced bodies to fight with. An alliance of alien races called the Conclave has formed and declared that no nonmember species (including humans) will be allowed to colonize new worlds. John Perry (retired soldier) and his wife, Jane (retired Special Forces soldier) are enlisted to start a new colony in defiance of the bann. These books are like popcorn, but they also bring up some interesting ideas about leadership and governments. One of my favorite authors, Lois Bujold, says that Sci Fi/Fantasy books are really about politics and power, and there's plenty of that here.

Shay Saloman's "Little House on a Small Planet" was also interesting, although I wish it had more pictures. It's a book of anecdotes and interviews about and with people who live in small houses. It's an advocacy book about ignoring the call of the McMansion and living small; I found it less annoying than some (does that mean that it is really less annoying or just that I find it so because I agree with a lot of the ideals in it?). It made me think about life in general, what we value and how we order our lives. I live in what is, by American standards, a modest-sized house--about 1200 square feet--but nowhere near the 120 or 350 square feet size of some of the truly tiny houses profiled in the book. I know I could live in a smaller space--I have before--but it seems hard for me to make the change now. I guess it is because I like my neighborhood and don't really want to move. Maybe my inertia is just too great for the kinds of changes needed to downsize my house. The only way I could think of doing so was to build a guesthouse in the backyard and live in that. And I'd have to fight my husband over that, because he really wants a garage instead, so he has somewhere to work on cars!