Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Make It Stop (No, Don't)

I signed up for a class today at A Notion to Quilt. A quilting class in which I will learn how to use "the big machine" to top stitch my own quilts. This is probably good because quilting anything bigger than a wall hanging on my machine is not at all fun. But I am not planning to buy a $10,000 long-arm machine that takes up the whole house. And hand quilting - well, I toyed with the idea briefly, but since this is 2013, and we have the option of machine quilting, who am I to stand in the way of progress? I've got one project ready to go and another one soon to be ready, and plans for a minimum of three more right behind these two. There's no way I could quilt those all by hand AND write a book AND keep up with real life. My ancestors may be spinning in their graves, but polyester thread and machine quilting, here I come! I wish I could stop obsessively sewing fabric into quilted things. Or do I?

I am trying to take the edge off of my new-found quilt problem with some simple projects, like napkins, more place mats, and flannel baby blankets. I love flannel unreasonably and I have tons of scraps in my stash; enough to do a scrappy flannel quilt, which I plan to do someday - just not today. Today we focus on simple baby blankets. These blankets are super fast and easy. They are made from two layers of flannel and so don't really count as receiving blankets - they're more like a tummy time blanket, or a snuggle-down-for-the-night blanket.

I begin by cutting two pieces of flannel to 43" x 43" - or "width minus selvedge square". Pin neatly around, and then sew them right sides together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving open about 10 inches along one side to turn right side out. Clip the corners on the wrong side, and then turn the whole blanket to the right side. Then press all the way around to set the seams, and finally top stitch 1/4 inch from the seamed edge. The sewing part is done now, and really they could be considered finished at this point. I wanted to amp them up a little, so I am crocheting a simple edging on them. I haven't done this in ages - since my friends and I were all young and having babies of our own, in fact. I used to use the awl from an old leather working kit to poke holes around the edges to accommodate my hook.
But today I used the doffing pin from my drum carder and poked holes through the two layers of flannel about 1/2 an inch apart, and worked 3 sc in each hole, then a chain one between shells. At the corners I worked one 3 sc shell, ch 2, and a second 3 sc shell in the same hole.
I will probably change this a little for the second blanket. The gauge of the yarn for the second blanket is smaller, so I may make the holes closer together, or change the number of stitches in each shell. I am in love with both of these, and I still have four other pieces to make two more blankets from. The problem with flannel is that I see one I love and I buy it (and a coordinating piece to go with it), and I bring it home, and I sew it up or just ogle and pet it for a while until i decide what to do with it. But then I go out again, and the seasons change and new fabrics come into the shops, and the next thing you know I am buying more - and more and more and more. I always buy 1.5 yards of flannels because I know it's enough for a blanket OR for pj pants for me should I decide I can't part with a print. I wish I could stop buying flannel...but really I don't want to stop at all.
The garden has been kind of amazing this year. We didn't get anything in last year because we were busy just settling in. This year I planted in the "lasagna" beds I started last fall. I didn't expect much to come of them. It's been a pleasant - mostly - surprise to be wrong. But I wish I wasn't quite so very wrong. Well, what I mean is, this is probably not the best year for me to have a bumper crop of tomatoes, and a minimum of 6 small to medium eggplants every few days. I put about 8-10 lbs of tomatoes in the freezer some days, chopped up and put into zip lock bags. When the kitchen is done and I have counter space again, I will pull them all out, thaw them, and process them in proper canning jars. We've also had a huge outpouring of zucchini and cucumbers and baby lettuce from friends. The result is that we're eating salad daily, and there are three huge jars of refrigerator pickles tucked behind the raw dog food and bags of baby lettuce. Some mornings I think if I see one more eggplant, I will scream. Mostly I am grateful for the bounty, if a little tired from all the extra work. I could say no to friends, and I could hand the tomatoes and eggplant over to the chickens - but make hay while the sun shines, so they say!

It's fair season here, with our local county fair kicking off with a parade Thursday. That fair will end this weekend and will be followed by "The Big E", also known as the Eastern States Exposition. When my kids were small I spent the weeks leading up to fair time canning, sewing and baking like mad. I would enter things and come home with ribbons to show for all my efforts. I beat my mother more than once in the canned goods classes which always felt really good! One year I even entered "Homemaker of the Year", and won. I was so thrilled! I also had a couple of "Best in Show" items over the years - most notably a hand-crocheted infant's christening gown that someone later insisted on paying me $150 for. I would appear at the round house on Wednesday afternoon with my wares in hand. Everything would be neatly labeled with my exhibitor number, class number, and description. It was the focus of weeks for me, and I loved the simplicity of it - and the good honest competition. I miss that side of life. They changed the rules though - you have to enter weeks in advance - and I am more a last-minute, pull out all the stops and make something amazing sort of girl. It's how I got through college, and it's how I go through life, most of the time. Stop, think, plan, plot, debate, decide, stop again, discard, reevaluate, plan anew, plot, and at the last second, produce! 

I doubt if I will go to the local fair this year - it has changed so much in the past decade, and not much for the better, but I'll most likely make it to The Big E. Now that the kids are grown I've traded the round house and french fries with vinegar, for state buildings and smoked salmon on a stick. Now that I don't want to stop ever! 


Kristi C. said...

Love those baby blankets! Maybe even *I* could actually make one.

Cathy said...

Enjoy your quilting class! It has been a long time since I have quilted, but am hoping to learn how to machine quilt soon. Not sure if I will ever get one of the 'long-arms', but I want to be able to at least use my sewing machine to quilt.

I agree - fairs 'ain't what they used to be'. Have fun though!