Monday, May 25, 2009

Just a Spoonful of Sugar...or Something

I could really use a spoonful of sugar right now...or maybe something a little stronger. Or Mary Poppins just waltzing in and clicking her fingers. Yiminies.

My sewing room has descended into complete chaos at this point. I had been making such good progress on the fabric; my shelves were looking more orderly, I could move from one end of the room to the other with only having to sidestep a couple of stacks of books and one 8' table holding the fabric-in-waiting.

But I realized my wall-mounted set of shelves that holds the quilt library would soon be going the way of its matching set of shelves that holds my work library--early last summer, that set of shelves threw itself out of its anchors and onto the floor with a very dramatic crash, splintering of wood, and not a few choice words flying out of my mouth once my heart had returned to it's correct anatomical position. Fortunately, no animals or humans were near enough to get hurt, although I did have to jump in and very carefully pull some books off precarious positions lest it rip more of the wall out as the rest of the shelves came down. With only a few minor bruises and cuts, I saved the rest of the shelves and restacked everything, and then got on the phone to a handy-person I'd worked with on Mom's house. "HELP!," I sent up the flare. He and his son came about a week later and described the best possible fantasy for me at that point--sturdy shelves that would hold all the books I need and stay exactly where they were meant to stay. Woohoo! And fix it he did.
So now that I knew I was probably doubling the weight of my quilt library, I figured that set of shelves could probably use some reinforcing as well--especially since (like the first shelves) they had NEVER looked entirely level to me but I'd figured it was some optical illusion. Nope--neither set was level. And they'd been professionally installed, too. Go figure. Steve measured this current shelf for me and realized that the center had sunk down and pulled the bottom a good 1/4" out of whack. So yes, those shelves were probably counting the days until they could also leap to their death. But he'll work his magic on them as well.

That being said, DH and I joke that these are now probably the most expensive sets of shelves we have ever owned. And no one but family sees them! But hoo boy--our house could get swept away in a flood and those shelves would still be exactly where they were supposed to be.
Steve is coming in probably starting tomorrow so I had to remove everything from on and around the shelves and find places to stack it. And this is the same week that I plan on changing out my current stash shelving to a different set of wall-mounted shelves (I have high hopes for the Rubbermaid "homefree" series!). So my sewing room will continue to get completely trashed before it gets better.
Just so you can be on the journey with me, here's some pics of where we're at at the time of this writing

It starts out so neat and organized at the top of those shelves, and then turns ugly as you get towards the floor.
The table pulled in for temporary staging as I move everything around. Can't wait to get that puppy back down to the basement were it belongs again.

The offending shelves in question. They look so innocent in this picture--but notice how far away from the door trip they are on the top, and then look at the same spot on the bottom. Definitely not a great install! Keep your fingers crossed that this set of shelves works as well as the last one does, and that my own shelving experience later this week goes smoothly and is the shelving system of my dreams!

Monday, May 18, 2009


Teals and blues are now done!

And I've decided I need to completely reconfigure the shelving to hold it. I'll be shopping for one of those wall-mounted do-it-your-self shelving systems this week. I guess it's worth the money for the shelving to hold all the free fabric.

I had a good chuckle when one of my non-sewing sisters looked around Mom's quilt studio at one point, before we'd started taking anything, and said, "Wow. I guess Mom had a few hundred dollars worth of fabric, eh?" You should've seen how wide her eyes got when I corrected her, "Try a few thousand." You know it's more than a hobby when you look at the price tag. :-)

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Maiden Voyage

Tonight I finally sat down at the sewing machine that I've inherited--Mom's Janome MemoryCraft 6600 Professional. The "professional" simply means, in this case, "more machine than Sandy can handle." It's a little intimidating. My other machine--my former only machine--was also a Janome; I am, after all, Shirley's daughter and she was a Janome girl so I became a Janome girl. But mine was slightly-better-than-purely-functional. It's computerized, it's got a few fancy stitches and nifty do-jobbers and thingies, but it's a pretty straightforward machine. I really like my usual machine; I was quite ready to use it for several more years. At least until we finish paying college tuition, anyway.

But now I've got one of Mom's machines and my former machine has become my portable-take-to-class machine, tucked away in a corner with its dust cover. I guess it's earned a bit of a vacation.

I've had the 6600 installed in my sewing cabinet for about a week now, the new plastic insert in place, the knee lift inserted...but it took me awhile to get up the courage to sit down and start playing. Part of it is emotional, of course. But part of it is also hearing my Mom's voice every time any of us got near her machine when we were kids..."Be careful! That's not a toy!" For years, any time an offspring used her sewing machine, we'd manage to jam it. Mom got understandably a bit gun-shy about us coming within breathing distance of them. Even after I had been quilting for years, I maintained a bit of a fear-factor when it came to Mom's machines. I've known she had some pretty cool new machines for some time, but I never asked her if I could try them out. What if I jammed it???

I read the manual cover-to-cover yesterday over breakfast. I reviewed it again this evening sitting at my desk. Finally, carefully, I approached my sewing cabinet, sat in my chair, opened the manual at my side, and addressed the machine. I began to familiarize myself with all the buttons, toggles, do-jobbers and thingies. Finally, I was off and running--playing with embroidery stitches, writing silly messages with the monogramming features, setting it at high speed and letting it rip just to see what happened. Yes, I could still hear Mom's quick intakes of breath as she nervously watched me messing with buttons and craning my neck to see behind the needle as the patterns developed ("Honey, be careful!"), but I could also see her smile as I figured out all the nifty new tricks this puppy does. "Isn't it great? I was really excited to get that feature when I bought it." And that very satisfying whisk and thunk of the automatic thread-cutter? Our hearts were both pounding with excitement over that one.

As I shut down the 6600 a few minutes later, figuring that I hadn't jammed anything yet and probably ought to quit while I was ahead, I felt a bit sad. This is Mom's machine, and Mom should be using it. But I also felt inspired--challenged--motivated--to work on my technique to be worthy of having it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Global Warming...Contributing to Climate Change

I'm thinking I'm pretty close to creating a micro-environment in my sewing room with all the steam my iron is kicking out these days. I'm still pressing fabric from Mom's stash, working my way through by color family. Neutrals? Check. Reds? Check. Between all my task lights, the computers that live in the same room, and the steam iron, my sewing room/home office is a good ten degrees warmer than the rest of the house, and my hair takes on a rather unattractive frizzy curl when I walk in the door from the hallway.

Every time someone opens the door to come in, I half expect a tornado to develop in the region of my ceiling light.

Ah, but the visual comparison of sloppy, casually folded stacks of fabric laying in waitful repose next to the regimented, ready-for-action measured fabric soldiers awaiting my next command makes it worth it. I would almost think that there was a light compulsive gene that ran in my family but after going through Mom's stash, I know I'm much more anal about these things than she was. Even my collection of 2 1/2" strips from scraps is neatly folded in a bin. Mom's? Well, not so much. Although we all have our own personal compulsions. Mine is for as scrupulously organized a work space as possible. Mom's was quite clearly for gadgets. I'm not sure those two compulsions play well together.

Mom's quilty-friends came out to the homestead yesterday, at my invitation, to go through Mom's quilty stuff and take whatever they wanted. At first they were hesitant; I don't know if they were worried I'd burst into tears or that I'd leap off my stool and say, "Hey, I didn't see that one before! Mine mine mine!" I reassured them that, as for #1, I found it quite comforting to know that Mom would be so happy that people she'd loved and quilted with for so many years would be using her things; as for #2, although I did ultimately take one additional piece of fabric that everyone else had passed over but still tugged at my aesthetic center, I was very much aware of the stacks and piles awaiting me back home that I had yet to find space for. I already have everything I needed and wanted, and I was glad to be able to share the bounty. As I had suspected, sitting and listening to Mom's long-time compatriots and watching their joy in being able to take physical remembrances of their friendship with Mom was at times healing, at times a hoot. I hope I can someday look back at 30-year-quilty-friendships and know that, in that way as well, I had turned into my mother.

Thankfully, they made a nice dent in what was left after my sister and I both went through it. Now all that remains to be done is to clean out my Mom's summer sewing studio up at our family cottage near the Thousand Islands and combine it with what's at home, and then set up the quilter's garage sale. "All that remains...." A smallish phrase for a rather daunting task.

On the docket for tomorrow night? I do believe I'm feeling a teal mood coming on. Watch the Weather Channel for news about unusual weather patterns forming in Western NY.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

And Miles to Go Before I Sleep...

So here I am, in the middle of the rather daunting process of adding what I took from Mom's stash to my own. I decided to wash all of it, which then means my way-too-persnickety eye for detail kicks in (to put it crudely, I can get anal about certain things) and I end up wanting to iron most of it, so that it will look "just right" when it's finally on the shelf. So it's taking me for-freakin'-ever.

The first two photos at right are most of the fabric waiting to be pressed and folded, sitting on my cutting table and on the side of my sewing table. And this isn't all of it. When I took these pictures a couple of days ago, I'd already worked my way through part of one stack, and some of it was still in the laundry.Picture #3 is sort of a "before and after" shot. I needed to get at my cutting table and sewing machine so I emptied off my storage shelves and moved the fabric-in-waiting, so now you can get a feel for the neat, tidy, organized stacks of fabric it will eventually turn into. Note, however, the distinct lack of enough shelf space for my new stash. Picture #4 is folded and labeled (by size), but in the midst of being sorted and reshelved. I'm going to have to do some reconfiguring of my sewing space to fit it all in.

Once-upon-a-time, my stash was small enough that I kept it sorted by size--1/2 yard stack, 1 yard stack, etc. With what I took from Mom's stash, I have at least doubled my stash, if not tripled it. I was going to be careful about what I took, but a good friend and fellow quilter told me I'd be sorry, and just to go for it. So I took her at her word. I may also be taking her name in vain as I try to figure out how I'm going to store all of this! In any case, it now seems to make more sense to organize my fabric by color now. Using this folding method, it's pretty easy to tell at a glance a ballpark of how much of each fabric I have anyway, just by the size of the folded piece. Plus I label it anyway.

In picture #3, you can see that one area of Mom's stash that I decided to take full advantage of was her neutrals/background fabric. Just a few weeks ago, I'd been thinking that my small, well controlled stash was actually somewhat difficult to work with--trying to make a quilt only from my stash was virtually impossible, because I didn't have the right mix of fabrics. I found that going through Mom's stash was a real learning process for me--I paid close attention to the types of fabrics she had, what she tended to buy larger quantities of versus what were relatively small cuts, and so forth. I'm also keeping in mind how she had it organized as I reorganize mine. I guess, since I can't ask her for advice anymore, I have to learn by observing. Not quite as good, and certainly not as satisfying, but she's still passing on her wisdom to me, so I'll take it.By the way, even though about 75% of the fabric in these pictures is from Mom, my sister also took at least the same amount of fabric as I did, and there's still a TON left. Mom's quilty-friends are coming by this week to go through and take "remembrance pieces" for themselves (yes, you do grow to associate certain types of fabric with people), and then my afore-mentioned friend will be helping me put the rest in a quilter's garage sale.

Mom always laughed at me when I told her I was determined to keep my stash small. Now she's getting the last laugh.

I'm pausing in my stash-action in order to get a binding put on one of Mom's quilts--the first of her UFOs I'm tackling. I imagine that might be my next post.
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