Friday, September 30, 2011

An Englishman in new York... Quilting

icon of a pencilPen Portrait
Name: Giles
Age: 38
Hometown:Harrogate, England
Current City: Rochester, NY
Quilting Since: March 2011

I grew up in England, spent my early adult life in Wales, and moved to the USA in 2007 when I married Michelle and we moved to Atlanta, GA. I began quilting earlier in 2011 and have just finished my first quilt - the one I've submitted in the Men Quilt Too! show.

Men Quilt Too! logo

I've been legally blind since 2008 and I began quilting largely because I felt a bit remote from the creative things I used to do when I could see more. I began this blog to be able to talk about my progress, about the challenges of doing it blind, and to meet the wonderful friends who also quilt and blog!

photo of me surrounded by rows of fabric (in Joanne's

I'm just starting a second quilt and I've got several projects lined up which I can't wait to try my hand at - including quilted flowers, bowls and bags. I joined the local Irondequoit Quilt Club and am contributing a 9x7 square block to one of the charity quilts, so those are all things that will be mentioned in on this blog between now and Christmas!

Outside of quilting I enjoy all kinds of music - I play a bit of jazz trumpet / flugelhorn and classical piano, and I used to write and blog about all types of pop, rock and electronic music! I love books and writing, and I'm very partial to a cup of tea (hot with milk, not iced) and a slice of cake!

Thhanks for stopping by. You'll find a good dose of humor, as well asquilting stories and photos, and lots of good advice from others on this blog. If you want to know more then look out for the podcast by Quilter in the Gap - there is an interview with me in the next edition, anticipated on October 5th... and of course feel free to follow me and leave a comment to let me know the name of your blog too!

See you soon!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Many Quilters Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

Last night I got the mobility bus from work and headed off to quilt club. There were half a dozen of us blindees on the bus, everybody else heading home after another hard day in the sweatshop... I mean in the call center ;)

Most drivers are nice but don't provide more than the minimum help that you need to get on and off the bus... but last night the driver, when he heard I'd not been to this venue before, he got out, went in and checked it was where I needed to be... and then he came back and guided me in!

It was the first monthly meeting after the summer break, but even so I was surprised to see so many people. I'd guess at least 50 quilters. By coincidence I got the same driver home tonight, and in all seriousness he said there must have been 150 to 200 people there!

I'm intrigued to discover if that's a reflection of it being the first meeting after the break, or whether it'll be a similar turn out next month!

Everybody was very friendly. I stood up and introduced myself with the other new members. Several people said they are keen to see my first quilt, and I managed to pick up a 9 x 7 square block to do for a charity quilt!

I was very happy with the lighting... very bright, thanks to a project with the local power companies, where the church (that was the location) paid 33% and got a whole energy outfit of bulbs for the hall... but hmmm-crikey-that-many-thousand-dollars???!!! well, I suspect it's worth it, all those energy saving watts and it sure helped me see a little bit of what was going on! ... the quilt gang voted to contribute some money to the cost, which seemed fair since it really is a huge benefit...

so that's how many quilters it takes to change a lightbulb: 200. Fact.

Next Irondequoit Quilt Club meeting is actually a sew night, 6pm 'until whenever', on October 7th. I'll be there :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quilt #1

I just ate the fortune cookie that came with my dinner... "A palm can say a lot, especially when it smacks." ... that's not a fortune, that's a threat! Oh dear!

Well, it's 11:15pm as I'm starting to write this post, but the deadline for the Men Quilt Too! competition is 9am tomorrow, so I made it! My first quilt, finished and in time for the competition!

I missed posting a photo of the binding tape, but suffice to say, Friday night we got that ran through the little manual bias tape maker, and ironed (without running over my fingers!)... and this evening I sat down with the sewing machine and attached it to the quilt. It was harder keeping it straight because the seams and edges I had to line up with the quilting foot on the machine were a lot less pronounced than the ditch I sewed in when doing the main quilting... but with a little help (especially at the corners!) I think it is done and looking fine for a first quilt! ... what do you think?

photo of the final quilt, the top corner is turned over to show the reversible underside which is a pattern of owls and apples.

So that first photo shows the main random patchwork of the top, in blues, beige and red type colours. The reverse is a backing of lots of owls and apples, in colours which should complement the top. And then there is a tan coloured binding of about 1 inch along the edges, with mitred corners for a nice fancy edge!

Here is a close-up of the edge detail:

photo close-up of the quilt showing the edge binding

So there we have it! The Men Quilt Too! show and competition starts on Oct 1st until 15th, so I'll remind you when it's time to vote. If you see anything that I could do better or differently then do let me know your suggestions! Tomorrow night I go to my first quilt club meeting at Irondequoit Quilt Club... I'm not sure if it's a meeting night or a sewing night, but I'm looking forward to it all the same!

And if you get the fortune cookie that says "you will do well in a competition" eat it for me ;)

Once I've finished this cup of tea it's surely bed time!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Red Hot (But Maybe I'm Biased!)

So these are my red cords, bought for the princely sum of $4.50. And this is the Perry Ellis jumper... it's a little roomy so might need to try and shrink it in the wash, although knowing my luck it'll end up too small! It's not too big that I can't wear it though, and being woolly it's nice and warm!

And how about that bias tape scarf... the book I started listening to is a bit turgid, but I got my strips joined together while listening to it.

photo of me wearing my red cord trousers, brown squares jumper by Perry Ellis, and the bias tape I made this afternoon draped around my neck

"Gentleman, Start Your Engines!"

Men Quilt Too! logo

It's about a week until the deadline for entries to the Men Quilt Too! blog show hosted by Pigtales and Quilts, October 1 - 15... and I'll be entering my quilt and calling on everyone I know to vote! haha!

I don't expect my quilt to win, but it will be great to be featured alongside other quilters, many of whom I suspect have been quilting a lot longer and have far fancier quilts to enter into the competition!

I'll get a bio, well I think I get to write a post on my blog and put a link to it on the profiles page for people entering the show. So my tasks for the next 7 days include sewing the strips of fabric into one long strip of binding fabric... buying some more fabric tomorrow because there isn't quite enough... running it through the bias tape making device, sewing it all around the quilt, and writing my bio blog post!

I've been having a terrible day with technology battling against me (and winning most of the time)... as the sharp eyed amongst you might have noticed when this post got published comprising of a single letter 'c'... yep, I hit CTRL-C to copy it before publishing and promptly replaced everything I'd written by the letter c when the CTRL key failed to register... so I've just finished re-typing it and hopefully it'll work this time!

Oooh, but in better news, yesterday I got a nice pair of red cord trousers for half price in the Goodwill store, that's less than $5! I've wanted a pair of red trousers for only about 10 years!! ... they have a rather nice rocking chair for $25 too which is proving quite hard to resist... maybe if it's still there next time...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quilty Hilfblogger

Around mid day I ventured onto the sewing machine for the first time! The big question, as was right back in blog post number 1, was: can I sew a straight line?

Armed with the spare row of quilt squares I attempted to sew in the ditch, that is positioning the machine needle in the little groove where the hems of two squares join.

And I'm delighted to say I could keep my fabric lined up, by resting my finger at the edge of the sewing machine foot and using my finger to line up the hem line with the gap in the center of the quilting foot.

I admit I had help to keep the large bulk of the quilt straight and not bunching up while I fed it through, but overall I am very happy with how much I was able to do!

Here's a photo of me (in my Quilty Hilfblogger jumper... what you can't see if my legs under the table, one sock on, one sock off because the sewing machine pedal doesn't run away from me so much if I don't have a sock on that foot!)... you'll also note I found sitting side-on to be helpful. That enabled me to feed the fabric through, or rather pull the fabric through with my left hand, while using my right hand to feel that the fabric was lined up... it was difficult to do that and push the fabric through while sitting directly in front of the machine.

As with everything when you can't see, it's a question of adapting until you find a way that works for you! I'm really glad that there is a way that works for me to use a sewing machine... I'll probably stick to hand-sewing my quilt tops because I enjoy doing that, and then use the machine for all the assembly stages.

let me stop rambling, here's the photo!
photo of me in my Tommy Hilfiger jumper, sat side-on at the sewing machine with my quilting in progress.

So now I'm just waiting for my 2-inch bias tape maker to come from Joanne's mail order... it turned out that what I bought before was the tip for one of the electric machines and not the nice little manual bias tape makers, so I'll crack on with quilt 2 while I wait for the postman :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's a Stick Up!

Everything is stuck to the floor! the quilt top is masking taped to the floor, the batting is adhesive sprayed to stick it to the quilt top, and then sprayed again to stick it to the backing fabric... the spray fumes were rather intense and maybe we'll try a different method next time! I admit, I didn't do any of this assembly!!

Ok the pic will follow soon - I'm having technical difficulties of a screen reader kind! it won't let me insert images... in fact while I've been struggling I gather I've already got one comment... so I'll finish writing and worry about the photo later!

Here is the photo, better late than never!

So everything is stuck to the floor! I am actually pondering hand-sewing the edges, which I can definitely do in one day if I set my mind to it. I'm going to have a go with the sewing machine, but maybe on the quilting part... but we shall see!

I might give up on the hand-sewing idea if I get too infuriated with the clear nylon thread which isn't nice to hand sew with! (not when you need the tactile feelings from the thread that the super-slick nylon thread doesn't give)

This morning I've finished listening to my book (Promise Canyon by Robyn Carr) and sewed 3 squares of my next quilt (Rainy Days) while doing so!

this afternoon I fancy a bit of second-hand record shopping :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Loot

On the recommendation of Quilting Revolution we took a trip out east, to an Amish quilt store called Spring Lake Fabrics in Savannah, NY... I can't say I actually needed these fat quarters, but needed can be such a vague word can't it!

photo of half a dozen fat quarters and a 1 yard piece that might come in handy!

The ducks with the umbrellas will find a place in my in-progress Rainy Days quilt, either to replace or do half-and-half with the ducks fat quarter I got the other day. The tractors will probably form a quilt of some description for my 4 year old nephew who loves tractors. And the rest... well they seemed like they might be useful at some point in the future! :)

I also got a 1 yard piece of check fabric - I could see enough to tell there are different shades around the squares and I liked the effect... again, I've no idea what it'll be used for but at $4 / yd you can't really go wrong can you?!

On the way home we passed a sign advertising worms for $1.75 / lb... I mused that worms probably taste like chicken, so maybe you could make a very cheap "wriggly chicken stew"... but I don't think I'll be running any further with that idea... times ain't that hard yet ;)

Righty-ho, I better stop picking up more fabric and get a move on with my current projects!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hello Kitty

So after yesterday's frustrations, this afternoon was a success! I finished stitching together the extension strips and joined them to my backing material, so now it should be as wide as the quilt top (though this remains to be tested!)

As you can see, Maggie cat was a great help!

Photo of me sat on the floor pinning a long fabric strip to the backing material, with Maggie cat sat on the backing fabric trying to help!

photo of Maggie cat sprawled out on the backing fabric!

In the photos you might be able to see the first long strip of extension fabric attached to the far side of the backing sheet.

I have to say I'm finding these strips of fabric fiddly! And these are 2.5" wide... the thought of making a quilt out of a jelly roll of 1.5 to 2" strips sounds horrendous!! I think I'll stick to squares and just use strips as borders! ( my next quilt has those - strips on 2 sides of the squares!)

Maggie cat is going to be a terror when it comes to taping and spraying the various layers, which is the next step!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Not Very Grown Up

Today was supposed to be a day of sewing some 2.5 inch strips together to form a 2-yard strip, which in turn would be sewed as an extension to the owl backing fabric to make it as wide as the quilt top, ready for binding.

So I pinned the first 2 pieces of strip together and did a nice neat stitching job... pinned the next strip to it and... made a complete hash of joining them!

I somehow didn't have all my thread pulled through, and had a weird loop where I'd done something odd in the process! So I unpicked it... or rather struggled for about 15 minutes! It wasn't easy to get to the ending knot I'd done and not being able to see I didn't want to risk chopping up the fabric in the process!

Eventually I succeeded and re-stitched the strips together. And made an even worse hash of it!! Firstly there was a gap where I'd gone through one piece of fabric but not the other. Second there was a yucky wrinkle or bunching in the hem... so I knew I'd need to un-pick and re-sew again.

At the point where I couldn't get hold of the knot I gave up and threw the whole mess on the floor! So what if that's not very grown up! It made me feel better about it :)

photo of the long strip of fabric, in an ungainly heap on the floor!

Friday, September 2, 2011


I deliberated long and hard, but in the end the bank manager wouldn't let me splash out on an electric bias tape maker... so I've got one of those cheap $8 manual ones that you feed the fabric through and it creases it in all the right places, and you iron it as it comes out the other side.

So, this weekend I'll mostly be making bias tape!

Actually I have to sew 2 strips of 2.5" wide fabric up each length of the backing fabric because it's 43" and my quilt top is 48"... once I've done that the bias tape binding will attach to the top and those extension strips.

I was a little puzzled why my 6" squares hadn't lost 1/2" each in their seams, giving my 8x 5.5" strips, or 44" quilt top instead of a 48" one... but measuring a square revealed each square to be 6.5" - so they did lose their 0.5" seam width, but unfortunately not making them a little bit smaller! ... I will make my quilt tops a better size for my backing next time maybe!

Happy long holiday weekend to my American readers (and me, yay no work on Monday!!!!!)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Not the Sharpest Needle in the Pin Cushion

Recently Magpie Mimi said she felt dumb because her "broken" sewing machine seems to apparently be fine and so has sat unused for several weeks! She asked if anybody else had those moments of feeling a few sandwiches short of a picnic...

Boy howdy! For the last month I've been trying one of my blood pressure pills in patch form, so instead of 3 pills per day I could have a nice smooth constant delivery throughout the day. I've been dutifully applying these patches every Sunday, and I have to admit I've not really noticed any benefit. Nothing to make it worth paying for the patches since I still need the pills too.

But it came to the end of the month and I realised on Sunday just gone, that I was going to be out of patches. So I rummaged in the box in case there was a spare lurking inside... lo and behold! 4 spare patches!

So I read the box. Contents: 4 patches and 4 extra adhesive plasters (band aids for my US readers)... guess what I'd been wearing for the last month - the 4 adhesive tops!! Doh!

So yes, I wasn't feeling like the sharpest needle in the pin cushion!

But I perked up today when I discovered I'd won a copy of Sue Patten's book, "Quilting Possibilities...Freehand Filler Patterns... thanks to Pigtails and Quilts blog! ... see, you can tell I'm excited because I've actually made the blog references hyperlinks so you can just clicky click click over on to read their great blogs too!

Right, off for a bath and to listen to some of my book! Happy sewing :)