July 27, 2011

These are the times that try men's souls

Women's souls, too.

After five years of service, hubby and I decided to retire our old desktop PCs and upgrade to something a little faster. Now... I say "a little faster". Well, it wouldn't take much to be faster than the PC's we've been using.

My machine has been taking 25-30 minutes to boot up. And even once it's up and running, it's sluggish. Much of this is simply due to this equation:

old PC hardware + required software upgrades* = Degraded response time

* You can't ignore "fixes" and whatnot for the operating system, browser, firewall, virus scanner and such. Failure to download and install those would be stupid beyond words.

So, Okay, time to get new machines - and we did. We got them last week: lovely new PCs with lots of processing power. We were thrilled. The new machines boot up and are ready to rock-and-roll within 20 seconds.

Then my world came crashing down. I was working away on a client's website when BLAM... my screen went all blue...

and then it went black:

The computer technician came and looked it over. The problem is almost certainly a hardware failure. -sigh-

In the meantime, hubby's PC has also started "coughing". He got a black screen, too, then had to reboot his machine. When it was back up and running he was missing about half the little shortcut icons on his desktop.

Oh dear...

So the my PC is now on it's way back to the factory. Hubby is still using his, but backing EVERYTHING up to a memory stick as he goes along.

I'm back to using "Old Bessy" - and just very thankful that I've got her to fall back on.

Yeah... I know this had NOTHING to do with quilting...

July 20, 2011

Quilt 5: Binding

They tell you to make sure that the batting and backing fabric is wider/longer than the quilt top. When you look at what happens at binding time, it makes a lot of sense.

My binding fabric for this quilt is made by cutting 2.5 inch strips, sewing them together into one long strip, then pressing it in half (wrong side in). Then I stitch the binding to the quilt, matching the cut edge of the binding to the edge of the top like this:

As you can see in the photo above and in the one below, this is fiddly work. The double-folded binding strip makes a good, strong binding. Sewing it on is pretty easy, and the work goes fast, especially since I only have to worry about the edge of the quilt top; the batting and backing are sandwiched to it, and I'll trim the excess off after the binding is on.

If the batting and binding had been cut BEFORE putting the binding on, it would be a serious pain to get the binding on and be sure that the stitches were going through all the layers of fabric (and not leaving gaps on the back because I couldn't see them when I was working).

The binding is on and I can trim. Below is a photo of the edges after I trimmed. I've left approx half an inch of batting/backing hanging over. I'll wrap the binding around that to give the edge some bulk.

I've flipped the quilt over so you can see the back, with the seam holding the binding to the quilt. As you can see, there's plenty of binding (a full inch, double thickness) to wrap around that extra bulk to the left of the stitch line.

Below I've folded the binding over that bulky edging, and holding it as I will when I sew the binding on the back. I'll just slip-stitch the binding along the seam line.

And when I'm done, the front and back will each show 1/2 inch of navy blue binding!

Easy stuff! And NOW quilt number 5 is finally DONE!

July 13, 2011

A Working Lunch - Of Sorts

Oh, the joy of having quilt design software on the laptop! That translates to "portable design studio!"

While visiting the US recently I talked to friend Val about the possibility of making a quilt for her. I told her that if we could agree on a design - and if she were willing to pay for the materials - I'd do the work. We'd arranged to have lunch near the end of my visit in Ohio, and I brought along the laptop. The wait staff very kindly allowed us to park ourselves at a large table so we had plenty of room for the PC.

Here's what we came up with:

I was pleased that Val is interested in a log-cabin quilt. Those are pretty easy to put together and can be truly lovely. On the top of the quilt we extended the border a bit so that the border would be over the pillows on the bed, with the log-cabin blocks laying on the bed itself below the pillows. She may change her mind about that - but if she does it won't be a problem. The borders can easily be reduced and another row of log-cabin blocks can be put at the top to keep the overall size big enough to cover the pillows on the bed.

Val wanted blue and so that's what we set up in the design. The photo above, however, has a teal border. That wasn't Val's idea - it was my experiment. At about the time we had a look at it, she needed to head back to the office.

I kept the design and later developed the variations below (starting with removing the teal border):

The one above still uses green centers for the log cabin blocks, but the border now repeats the main medium blue. But would it look better if the border is lighter? Let's see...

Interesting. But with this version there seems to be too much of the white-and-blue polka dot in the center blocks. So I tweeked it a bit, taking a darker blue and spreading it more heavily around the center inside the log-cabin blocks:

It was a complete hoot to play "designer" over lunch - and to so easily involve Val in the creative process.

We've set the project aside for now. Val's daughter was planning a "wedding cruise" and every available dime was needed for Val and her hubby to attend (she had an absolute blast, the wedding was spectacular - and how many parents get to tag along for a cruise honeymoon?). We may pick it up later on or not. Either way, we had a good time dreaming together.

July 6, 2011

Quilting Toys - Souveniers from the US

What did I bring back from the US as a souvenier? Quilting callico? Sure! More about that later.

While we were in the fabric store I wandered through the "gadgets", too, and found these stitching templates. They were so inexpensive (compared to what I pay for templates in Australia) that I couldn't resist!

Stitching templates are fabulous. They help you to make a quilt more interesting, especially if there are large spaces of plain fabric. The designs add interest.

But, with some of them, there's a price to pay.

I was delighted to find the leafy vine one and the one shown in the middle here excites my imagination, too. But... I have to admit that of these 3 there's only one that I'm likely to truly enjoy using, and that's the bottom one.


Because with the bottom one, you can see there are clearly continuous lines, and no "switchbacks" in the design. With both of the upper 2 templates there will be only a few stitches and then a complete stop - or - a point where the stitching will have to turn and head in the other direction.

I'm still working on my Japanese print quilt (Quilt 10) - and on that one I've chosen to have a swirling-pattern template (shown below). The results look stunning but the going is sloooooow. I have to keep turning the darned thing everytime I come to a place where the swirl turns around. It looks lovely, but frankly is a bit of a pain.