Sunday 26 April 2020

Helen Godden Classes

2020 was going to be my year of quilting. Not that I don't quilt every year, but this year Quilt Canada was to be in Edmonton in June. Central Sewing Machines was going to sponsor a Handiquilter Quilt Academy in October, the first time in Canada. I was also thinking of going to Heritage Park in Calgary for their Festival of Quilts in May. And in early March, I was able to take some Helen Godden classes at Central Sewing Machines in Edmonton. I'm really glad I took those classes because they may be the only ones I am able to attend in my "year of quilting". Thanks to the pandemic, Heritage Park is closed, Quilt Canada has been tentatively rescheduled for September. And the Quilt Academy has been put on hold until the organizers know that it can actually be held. Also cancelled are any of the local fairs where I was hoping to enter some of my quilts. So, the Helen Godden classes may be my only quilting event this year. And we got them in just under the wire. The classes were March 6 through 9, and the pandemic was declared March 11. 
Because I'm a knitter and crocheter as well as a quilter, I took the Couching class. Couching is embellishing a quilt with yarn, though this project was actually creating a picture with couching. What fun! I had already purchased the couching feet for my Amara, but hadn't used them yet. Now I at least have some knowledge and experience. I just have to find a quilt that it would work on.
I debated on whether I was going to take the 2-day class, Flying into Colours. Painting really isn't my thing, and I couldn't imagine that I would ever use the skills learned. But I decided to anyway, and I don't regret it. It was a lot of fun, and, as I said, these may be my only quilting events this year.
Thanks Central Sewing Machines for sponsoring these classes, and thanks Helen Godden for coming from Australia to give them.

Transform Me

This is one time that I had to pay full price for fabric. I seldom do it, but once in a while a project comes along that I don't have much choice. 
Peter, one of my adult nephews, collects Transformers. As I've likely mentioned before, my goal is to make every sister, niece and nephew and great niece and nephew a quilt. And I like to customize the quilts as much as possible. So, when it came to Peter's quilt, I promised him a Transformers quilt. Originally, I was planning on applique because I hadn't seen any Transformers fabric. Then one day, as I was browsing in a fabric store, I came across Transformers panels and fabric. And this particular fabric store doesn't have much in the way of sales. They do have some clearance fabric and a reduced price on "end of the bolt," but the Transformers fabric wasn't in either of those categories. I bought the panel first, and had it kicking around for at least a couple of months before I finally went back and bought the fabric. The solid red is the only fabric that came from my stash. I came up with the design myself.
Some time ago, I saw a video on Trapunto, which is adding extra batting to certain areas of a quilt to give it more emphasis. I'm really not all that adventurous when it comes to quilting, sticking with my comfort zone, pantographs. But I decided to give Trapunto a try, especially since I have lots of pieces of fibrefil batting kicking around. And that's what the batting of choice is for Trapunto, to give the extra loft. So I added one layer of fibrefil and one layer of cotton batting to the word, "Transformers." 
Honestly, if you're going to try Trapunto, I don't recommend that you start with a word. All of those tiny spaces in the letters that needed to be cut out! Start with a simple shape like a circle. 😁 Well, I did it, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. 
In order to make the Trapunto stand out, it's necessary to quilt densely around the object to which the extra batting has been added. Which meant I had to do free motion quilting around the word. Definitely not professional, but I'm still happy with it. 
I used the pantograph, Game Night, to quilt the rest of the quilt. 
It's finally on its way to my nephew. First, I had to get a negative result to my Covid-19 test so that I could end my self-isolation. Then I had to find the right size box. Then I had to have a day off so that I could mail it. Canada Post's hours have been cut back because of the pandemic and they close at the same time that I finish work. So, it was mailed April 20, and I hope he loves it. 

Country Christmas

When I discovered this panel and the coordinating pillow panel, I decided that I had to have it and hopefully make a relatively quick Christmas quilt. That was sometime before Christmas and, well, you know what they say about the best laid plans... I just didn't get a chance to work on it until March of this year. And now here it is almost May and I'm finally blogging about it. 
I realized that I likely would not be able to match the reds or greens in the panel with alternate fabrics, so I chose two Christmas prints with a black and a white background to create the blocks to fill in the spaces around the panel. I selected the Anna's Choice Quilt block from one of my books of quilt blocks, and created it without a pattern. Not really difficult since it is just 16 HSTs. And they are 16" blocks. 
At the same time as when I bought the panels, I was able to find this fabric, which was perfect for the backing. 
Isn't it awesome? You can see the quilting in this picture, too. Rather than use a Christmas-themed pantograph, I chose the Cowboys pantograph. 
This pantograph had no "shadow lines" to help line it up when advancing the quilt, so I had to add my own. 
I'm quite pleased with how it turned out and now I have a jumpstart on next Christmas. 

Sunday 12 April 2020


Earlier in this pandemic, a lot of quilters and sewists got on the mask-making bandwagon and began churning out masks. My employer, however, was not "caught with its pants down," so to speak and had a good stock of both surgical and N95 masks. They were not asking for home-made masks, nor were they recommending them. The feeling was that home-made masks were not very effective in preventing the transmission of germs and could give the wearers a false sense of security, as well as possibly causing them to touch their faces more because they weren't used to wearing masks. In addition, the average member of the general public does not have annual training on wearing masks like health care professionals do. They could be doing more harm than good. So, I was taking a wait and see approach and chose not to commence mask-making production. 
However, the experts now recognize that the opportunity for spreading the virus by asymptomatic individuals is greater than first thought. And while not dictating that everyone should be wearing masks, it is no longer discouraged. They did, however, point out that wearing a mask protects others from your germs more than it protects you from theirs. So, the idea that everyone should wear a mask is probably a good one, but they really should learn how to put one on, take it off, how often to change it and what to do with it once it's contaminated. I have been encouraging people to find appropriate training online so that they can do it properly right from the start. If people are going to be wearing masks they should do it properly. 
Now I've started my mask-making by making these masks for my youngest sister. I used Leah Day's pattern because she left an opening to insert a filter. Here's her video: 
She also added a chenille stick (pipe cleaner) at the top so that the mask can be conformed to the nose. The only thing I did differently was serge the short ends of the piece of fabric from which the mask is made. Otherwise, there would be raw edges on either side of the filter opening, which could lead to fraying. The mask does gap a little at the sides and bottom, but as long as the wearer is maintaining the 2 metre (6 feet) social distancing rule, it should still be sufficient. Remember masks are not a substitute for social distancing. They are an additional precaution. 
About filters: in the research, it was indicated that vacuum cleaner bags are almost as effective as surgical masks. So, initially, I was considering the possibility of cutting up some bags to fit into the masks. However, most of us don't have a huge surplus of these around. In addition, one of my friends said that they have fibreglass in them. Not something you want on your face. Some people are using interfacing that's used in garment sewing. I have concerns about using interfacing, unless the user is going to be disposing of it each time. I have seen the results of repeated washing of interfacing. It's not likely to endure for the long haul. I had heard that coffee filters could work as well, so I decided to experiment. 

On my first shopping trip post self-isolation, I found these. There are 200 in the package  for just under $4 and they are about the right size to fit into the mask. However, I found them quite papery feeling and I was concerned as to how breathable they would be. 

So I also grabbed a couple of the coffee filters from work, on the left in the picture above. These are thicker, but more of a fibre-y feel. I don't drink coffee and I have no idea what brand they are. They are folded in half, so I separated the halves and used one half in a mask. 

The opening in the mask is only 3". If you choose to follow this pattern, you might like to make it bigger if you plan on using a filter. However, I did find that by folding in each side, I was able to get the filters in without much trouble. I then had to spend a little effort to unfold them and spread them out to cover as much of the mask as possible. The pattern actually recommends that you cut the filter down to 5" square, so that might have worked better, but I also wanted to cover as much of the mask with filter as I could. I found that I could breathe quite easily with either filter. However, if you wear glasses like I do, you must exhale gently or your glasses will fog up. I found this true, even without the filter, but less so. 
Now on to caring for your masks. I suggest carrying your clean masks in a Ziploc bag. 

If necessary, the outside of the bag can be wiped down with a sanitizing wipe. 

Change your mask if it becomes damp. When you remove your mask, only touch the elastics, not the mask itself. And once you remove it, it is considered contaminated. Don't try to remove the filter. Don't put it in your purse or on your car seat. If you look in the top photo, you will see a small drawstring bag.

This is for putting your used masks in. Pull the drawstrings tight for transporting your contaminated masks.
When you get home, take your bag to the laundry room, open the drawstrings and bag and all can go in the washing machine.
You don't need to remove the masks from the bag as the agitation of the washing machine will do that for you. Can you hand wash your masks? I don't recommend it. As mentioned above, once you have worn a mask, it is considered contaminated. All of the germs that you were trying to keep from getting into your nose and mouth by wearing a mask instead landed on the outside of the mask. So, the less you handle it the better.

I made the drawstring bag about the size of a sheet of copier paper, so started with a piece of fabric about 12" by 16", folded in half. I serged the inside seams to keep them from fraying and made buttonholes for the drawstrings. A double drawstring closes more easily than a single one. 
And back to filters. Once the bags were done in the washer, I removed the filters.
This is the coffee filter from work. 
Not sure how well you can see that, but the Melitta coffee filter turned into a ball at the bottom of the mask. However, both filters stayed in the masks in one piece. I was concerned about the possibility of them coming out and either ending up clogging the drain on the washing machine or getting filter shreds throughout the laundry. Kind of like when you accidentally leave a Kleenex in a pocket. But that didn't happen. So, it appears to be safe to leave the filters in when you wash the masks. No guarantees, however. And I did only check these two filters. 
The washing machine is pretty hard on the chenille stems. They were pretty twisted up when I took them out of the washer, so you'll need to straighten them out. And because they are not as wide as the masks, they will shift in their little pocket to one side or the other. I recommend that you stitch at each end of the chenille stem to help keep it in place, which is not in the instructions. I did this with some masks, but not all. Online, someone suggested floral wire instead of the chenille stems, which might be sturdier. 
I threw my masks into the dryer, but it likely would be better to just dry them on a rack. The dryer can be hard on both the elastic and the cotton fabric. 
One other alteration I made was to make some masks with elastic that goes around the head instead of around each ear. To do this, I used 15½" for the top elastic and 11" for the bottom. You may have to adjust these measurements, depending on the size of your head. I used ¼" elastic for this and ⅛" elastic for around the ears.
So, how many masks do you need? That depends on how often you will be changing your mask between laundering. As a nurse, my employer provides my masks, and I wouldn't be allowed to wear my cloth masks at work because they've never been tested to meet any safety standards. For the odd time that I may have to go out to buy essentials, I have made myself three masks, and that would probably be more than sufficient for most people. However, if you're working in an essential service, like a grocery store, where you will be meeting the public all day long, then you will need as many masks as you have breaks, plus two, per shift. Let me explain. Mask 1, you put on at the start of your shift. You will take that one off and put it in your drawstring bag at your first break. Remember that you don't put a used mask back on. After your break, you put on Mask 2, which you remove when you go for lunch break. After lunch, you put on Mask 3. Mid-afternoon break, you switch to mask 4. And you should have at least one extra mask in case any of them get damp or soiled. So, if you have two coffee breaks plus a meal break per shift, you should have at least 5 masks (3 breaks + 2). Unless, you don't plan on eating or drinking anything during your breaks and plan on wearing the same mask all day. 😝 And if you only plan on laundering your masks once a week and you work 5 shifts a week with 3 breaks per shift , then you would need over 20 masks - 4 per shift, plus 2 or 3 extra. And a bigger drawstring bag. I'm not the mask police, so whether or not you follow these guidelines is entirely up to you. I'm just sharing some of the principles of mask use and disease transmission that I know from healthcare.
Finally, a note about hand-washing and mask-wearing: You should wash or sanitize your hands before putting your mask on, wash or sanitize your hands before taking the mask off, again after you take the mask off, and once more after tossing the bag into the washing machine.
There you have it - my mask-making, use and care guide. 

Saturday 4 April 2020

Lessons from Self-Isolation

I have allergies. And while there are times when the symptoms get worse (like when pussy willows are pollinating or when the canola is in bloom), they are with me year round. The symptoms are runny nose, sinus congestion, cough (sometimes mild, sometimes bad enough to keep me awake at night), and sore throat. Do any of those sound familiar? As in symptoms of Covid-19? It's made me a little paranoid that I might have Covid-19 and be unaware of it and spread it to my clients. And I work with the very vulnerable - hospitalized seniors. And I don't want to be the death of anyone, literally. So, when my sore throat got worse, and it wasn't improved by nasal irrigation, which usually improves it, I decided to self-isolate at home. 
Now, self-isolation really wasn't a great trial for me for the following reasons: 
  1. I'm an introvert.
  2. I like being at home.
  3. I have 2 cats, who are really good company (sometimes too good).
  4. I have lots of fabric, thread and yarn to keep me occupied. 
  5. I tend to buy in bulk, so have lots of grains and legumes, and wouldn't go hungry.
  6. I have enough toilet paper. 😆
  7. I'm never alone.
Regarding point number 7, I'm not talking about the cats. And I don't mean friends, family or room-mates. I live alone. But I'm not alone, because God is with me everywhere. 
Many years ago, I learned the three "omni's" about God. God is 
  • Omniscient - all-knowing, or knows everything
  • Omnipotent - all-powerful, or has all power
  • Omnipresent - present everywhere
Psalm 139 says:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you. (vv.7-12; NIV)

I can not hide from God and I wouldn't want to. He is my Heavenly Father and best friend. He is with me at home, at work, when I'm shopping, when I'm driving, everywhere, all the time. He has promised, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Hebrews 13:5. And, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Matthew 28:20. And, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." John 14:18. 
And I can talk to Him any time, sometimes out loud and sometimes just in my mind, but He hears even my thoughts. 
If I'm having a challenging day at work, He's there. If I accidentally leave my purse in a shopping cart in the Walmart parking lot, He's there. And when I'm at home in self-isolation, He's there, too. 
So don't be afraid of being alone, because you never have to be really alone. Try Him, He's there.