Friday 31 December 2021

Finishing Up a Year of Crafts

I took some vacation time and am off work this week and I'm really glad I am. We're in the middle of a severe cold spell, with the temperature going down to the -40s Monday night and Tuesday (and even colder with the wind chill factor). Very happy to not have to commute to work in that kind of cold. I've been mostly just hunkering down at home, catching up on some crafting. Initially, my goals were a little different, but then I switched to alternate WIPs/UFOs to complete. 

I started this table runner fairly early in my renewed quilting journey (2013-ish), 

but other projects took priority and it sat as just a top for several years. Earlier this year, I finally took it out again and quilted it on the longarm. Then, because it still wasn't a priority, and because I don't really like binding, it sat again. I finally bound it this week and put it on my dining room table. 
The next binding project was Baby Alter Ego II.

You may remember my other Baby Alter Ego. I actually started this one first and planned it for a baby girl, but again it got put on the back burner and disappeared for a few years during and post renovations to my studio. Meanwhile, I needed a boy's quilt and made the other one and gifted it. This one finally resurfaced and eventually I decided I needed to finish it. The borders were completed and it was quilted,  but joined the binding pile because I didn't have a recipient for it in mind. 
My goal is actually to assemble a small stash of baby quilts so that I will be somewhat prepared should my friends experience a baby boom again (was it 5 or 6 baby quilts that I completed in a year?). The next one for binding was Blast Off.

I made the quilt top earlier this year and had quilted it. But the binding is finally on and both Blast Off and Baby Alter Ego II joined Work Zone in my stash of baby quilts. 
I completed Work Zone earlier in the year, but I never got around to blogging about it. I think I might have mentioned before that I decided that I really don't like Baby Alter Ego. It's just too scrappy for my tastes, with no real rhythm to it. Both Work Zone and Blast Off are variations of my Quick and Easy Baby Quilt, and even though they are scrappy, also being made from layer cakes, they don't just look like fabric vomit, and I much prefer them over Baby Alter Ego. 
Now, before introducing the next project, I'm going to digress slightly to comment on pre-cuts. I might have mentioned this previously, but I have come to the conclusion that I'm really not that fond of pre-cuts. First of all, they're not cheap. Charm packs are $18, layer cakes and jelly rolls are $65, and fat quarters are running at least $5 each (all prices Canadian). The second point is that they are really not all that convenient. Pre-cuts, to me, are only really convenient if you are actually going to use that size and shape. Jelly rolls are probably the most convenient because you often use the full width and length, but having to cut down 10" squares to 9-1/2" (or whatever) is really not convenient. Or chopping up a fat quarter to use in a quilt, leaving huge scraps. Plus, what am I going to do with that 1/2" strip of fabric? Or those odd shaped scraps from a fat quarter. It's just going to waste. And I hate wasting fabric. And I've done enough pre-cut patterns now to know that using yardage for a lot of these patterns would be a lot more convenient and less wasteful. Yes, my Quick and Easy Baby Quilt is a good use of layer cakes, but most patterns for pre-cuts are not like that. I personally cut my fabric to size and seldom trim my blocks. They might not be perfect, but they're good enough. I'm not entering my quilts in a juried quilt show. So, I really don't choose to waste my time and fabric trimming down pre-cuts. I will share a couple of examples from my experience. Moonstruck was one which used 6" pre-cut strips. I don't even think those are available any more, and probably because they were so totally useless. I don't know if there was even a single pattern in the book that utilized the entire width of the strip. The second example is Exploring Space, where I ended up trimming 168 HSTs for one baby quilt! As I stated in that post, "I think I would have been much better off starting with the exact size squares I needed to make the Easy 8 HSTs and not have to trim each individual one. So, using a layer cake was kind of pointless. And that made this quilt tedious instead of quick and fun." Now I'd like to point out that my local quilt shop cuts up overstock, old stock, whatever, into metres and half-metres. And that is a pre-cut that I really do find useful. They sell the metres for $8 each and the half-metres for $4 each. And that's a price I can really get excited about because quilting fabric currently averages at least $20/metre. A half-metre of fabric for less than a fat quarter! And I have put many metres and half-metres to good use. Where the Charming Roses Bloom, for example, was made up mostly from these pre-cut metres. So, that brings me back to the next quilt. When I saw this MSQC tutorial, 
featuring 3-yard quilts, it got my attention. I could easily pick up 3 metres of fabric that would look good together from the pre-cut metres at my local quilt shop. And that's what I did. 
This is Plum Perfect, made from pre-cut metres from my local quilt shop. I had to alternate fabrics for the binding because there was not enough of one fabric left to do a full double fold binding. And, of course, I had to add backing and batting, and voilà, a quilt big enough for a small throw/lap/baby quilt, about 43" x 60". And over all, a much more coordinated look than the ones above made with layer cakes. Leah's Ladder, which you can see in this post, is also a 3-yard quilt, made with pre-cut metres from my LQS. I think I'm hooked and I want to get all of the 3-yard quilt books by Donna Robertson.


They're in my Amazon wishlist. So if anyone is looking for an idea for a gift for me... (By the way, if you purchase from this link, I get a % of the sale, but no one has ever done that, so I'm not going to get too excited). 
Anyway, I had the quilt top done for Plum Perfect earlier this year. The backing fabric was purchased, but that's as far as I got. Until this week. I stitched the backing together, and quilted and bound it. And I have one more quilt for my baby quilt stash. I think that's enough baby quilts for now and hopefully, I'll be ready for the next baby boom. 
And that's it for quilt finishes for 2021. I have, however been playing around with gift baskets. One of my friends suggested that the bowl cozy would make a good gift basket. So I made one up, using some fusible interfacing and regular batting instead of Wrap'n'Zap, and the fabric is leftovers from a layer cake. 
Yes, actually, it would make a nice gift basket, just not for this oversized bath pouf if I wanted to include anything else. I wanted to make a gift basket for my niece and include a floral facecloth and an exfoliating scrubby
And so this basket worked much better. 
Because I wanted to use some leftover backing fabric from Plum Perfect, and it was only 16" wide, I used 16" squares of fabric instead of 18", and made the darts 3", and it turned out a great size. I still want to squish a couple more items in there. It's just been too cold to go to the store to buy them. 
Did you notice how I've rolled up the facecloth to look like a flower. You can do that with just about any size or shape of facecloth/dishcloth if you squish it together right and stuff it in a cup or mug: square, 
or even heart-shaped. 
 I have a super abundance of cotton yarn, much of it left over from the Circles Throw. So I have been thinking of making spa/bath gift baskets for Valentine's Day. 
This heart-shaped washcloth (from A Year of Dishcloths, by Maggie Weldon) and exfoliator are a much better fit for the "bowl cozy" basket. By the way, it took me two hours to make that washcloth, as it did the bath pouf in this picture below. I think I'm going to look for a different heart-shaped washcloth pattern that will be less labour-intensive. 
I do not find Red Heart Scrubby yarn or any of its derivatives easy to work with, and from now on I will stick to using it to edge dishcloths and making the small exfoliators in the previous picture. 
I only had part of a small skein of the yarn I used in the washcloth, so finished it with Bernat Handicrafter Holidays Sparkle. I love bling, but I don't think including a yarn with metallic content in a washcloth was a good idea. Wash and exfoliate at the same time... 
I guess that's it - those are my finishes for year end. It will be sundown soon and the Sabbath will commence - more important to me than New Year's Eve. So, I'm going to put my craft stuff away for now, and share with you a New Year's reading from a devotional book called Our High Calling by Ellen G. White. 

Monday 27 December 2021

Gathering My Tribe of Makers

Most gifts I give are either wholly or partly handmade. They are labours of love and, for me, I would rather give the work of my own hands than something store-bought. Yes, there is a time and place for store-bought gifts, but I prefer to gift something that I've made myself as much as possible.

This year, there were hot pot holders, 

dishcloth bouquets
more dishcloths,
Easter baskets
a bowl cozy
a mug rug, 
a quilted postcard, 
more bowl cozies, 
a Christmas tree skirt
a quilted wallhanging to post the date and the weather, 
and a gift basket with hot pot holders and dishcloths
And that was, of course, in addition to the quilts that I give away.
I can't afford to give everything away, and this year I decided to see if I could sell some quilts. While considering this, I consulted with some maker friends: Lorilee of Ruff's Fashion, who makes dog bandanas, bowl cozies, masks, etc.; Alina of Design by Nature Pottery; and Barb of Purple Peony Emporium, who makes soap and other personal care products. In October, I decided to try selling some quilts and other projects at The Gallery in Holden, AB. (Lorilee and Barb also sell there).
So far, I haven't sold a thing. 😞  Alina said that she tried selling there, and didn't sell anything, but she thought maybe it was because she had her products there at the wrong time of year. I, on the other hand, had mine there in the run up to Christmas and still never sold anything. I added a couple more quilts, including a Christmas quilt, and a Christmas table runner with 6 matching placemats. I'll see how it goes. Barb told me that it took her about a year before her products started to really sell there, but I don't have the time and money to keep my products there on an ongoing basis if they're not going to sell. If nothing has sold by the time my introductory period has expired (January 24th), I will likely just bring all of my products home. I wasn't too keen on selling on Etsy because I'd have to be able to take better pictures with truer colours, and have to worry about shipping, insurance, etc. But I might have to give that a try. 
I have been exploring some other projects and made this for my hairstylist. 
It's a crocheted soap bag with a bar of Purple Peony Emporium soap in it. I was wondering what exactly a soap bag is used for, so I googled. You can put your bar of soap inside and use it to scrub with and then hang it up afterwards. Because your soap isn't sitting in a dish, it will last longer and will not be as much of a breeding ground for bacteria because the air can circulate around it. Made of cotton, it's also more environmentally friendly than a plastic bath pouf. I personally have not tried one yet, but I also gave one to my daughter and one to my grandson for Christmas (including more Purple Peony Emporium products as well).

Another gift I gave to my daughter was a yarn bowl. She asked if it was made by my friend that made the soap dish that I gave her on another occasion (Alina of Design by Nature Pottery). Unfortunately, Alina was not the creator, but I did pick it up at The Gallery. My daughter was wearing a shawl (which she made) when she came to my place for Christmas dinner and said that she would like to get a shawl pin to hold it closed. So then I mentioned that I have another friend (Carolyn of 2 Good Claymates) that makes things out of polymer clay and likely had some shawl pins for sale. I have to admit that I found it rather amusing that I had yet another maker friend that could provide something my daughter wanted. And then I got to thinking that I also have a friend that is an artist and a weaver, and another that is an artist. Well, ultimately we makers are all artists, but I'm using that term in the more commonly held, restrictive sense referring to painters, and not house painters. 😁 And that's in addition to all of the quilters and sewists that I know. 
Ultimately, what I'd like to say is: support your local craftspeople, artisans and artists. Their products may be more expensive than what you can buy at the big box stores, but you'll be buying quality, locally made goods and supporting your neighbours. 
Before I close, I want to share a few other "spa" projects that I tried that will make nice gifts or additions to gifts:
And finally, the Christmas hand towels I made for some of my friends at work. 

Happy crafting to all my maker friends. 

Sunday 12 December 2021

The Cost of a Home-Made Gift

Recently, one of my colleagues at work got married. I wanted to give her a little something as an acknowledgement of her wedding, so I produced this gift basket and its contents. 

It included the quilted basket, 
a knitted dishcloth, 
a crocheted dishcloth, 
and two quilted hot pot holders, 
each with a different quilt block, 
all done in her wedding colours of teal and burgundy. 
Honestly, if I bought all of these items at the Dollar Store, I probably would have spent maybe $10. So, it seems cheap, even for a shower present. But, while I didn't time myself, I know that it took me at least 8-12 hours to produce all of them. Now, I know that there are people that can quilt, crochet and knit faster than I do. However, I'm probably about average in speed. Think about what you make - or what the average worker makes -  per hour. No, I wouldn't expect what I make as an RN, but I would certainly expect more than minimum wage for my skill and expertise. But even at minimum wage, which is currently $15/hour in Alberta, at the least amount of time I estimated, 8 hours, that would be $120 for this set in labour alone. That doesn't include the time it took me to research and choose patterns and select fabric and yarn. Fortunately, these were all in my stash, or it would have demanded even more time to go shopping and purchase the supplies. Then, in addition to the cost of materials - yarn, fabric, batting, specialty batting (I use two layers of batting in hot pot holders - one regular batting and one with a metallic fibre to insulate), and thread, there is also the equipment that I need - sewing machine, seam ripper, rotary cutter, cutting mat, iron and ironing board, knitting needles and crochet hook, etc., plus electricity to power my sewing machine and iron. 
When you add all of that up, you realize that it is a pretty costly gift. 
Recently, I decided to see if I could sell some quilting projects, and I actually kept track of my time, so I would know how much to charge. Again, the time did not include researching and designing patterns or shopping and purchasing fabrics, nor the time it took me to drive to The Gallery where I am displaying my quilts for sale, or to buy the rack for displaying them or setting them up on the rack. So, here we go: 
Leah's Ladder, 43" x 57": 10 hours
Heat Wave, 47" x 59": 12 hours
Puppies for Christmas, Table Runner 44" x 15" and 6 placements each 16" x 12": 11 hours
Sunrise in the Serengeti, 55" x 70": 24.25 hours
Ribbons and Stars, 60" x 74": 16 hours
There you have it. Multiply the number of hours by $20, which is a very reasonable amount for a skilled artisan. Then add the cost of materials, supplies, patterns, if purchased, and maintenance, repair and depreciation on my equipment. I have come to the conclusion that I will either have to find an upscale market for my quilts if I want to get a fair price for my labour or just continue to gift them and forget about selling. Several years ago, I was in St. Jacob's, Ontario, which has a predominantly Mennonite population. I went into a quilt store (I assume this is it, but, unfortunately, they don't post their prices online) and found a queen-sized quilt for around $1000. Today that quilt would likely sell for at least $1500. People must be buying them at those prices in order to keep the store open. I just have to find those people. 😁
Someday, I will post more about why home-made quilts cost so much more than the ones you can get at the big box stores... But in the meantime, remember that a home-made gift is a priceless labour of love. 

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Catching Up on UFOs

 I swear I have ADCD (Attention Deficit Crafting Disorder). I see a project I want to make, so I gather/purchase the equipment and supplies and begin. But it's not long before I get bored or sidetracked by another project that appeals to me. And then I gather the supplies and begin again. And before I know it, I have multiple WIPs (Works in Progress) and UFOs (Unfinished Objects) all over the house. And that's got to stop. Not only does it make my house very cluttered with unfinished projects, but it's stressful feeling the pressure to finish and shows a lack of discipline. So, I've resolved to not start any new yarn projects (with the exception of the odd dischcloth, or perhaps projects with a specific purpose in mind) until all of my UFOs and WIPs are completed. Nor do I intend to purchase any more yarn unless needed to complete a project. 

And, honestly, it gives me such a sense of accomplishment to complete a project. The Savvy Ruana is one such project. I had finished the main part, but still had to do the "fur" collar. And now it's done. It really didn't take long to finish it either. Not sure why I put it off, except that it got buried in clutter. 

Previous to the ruana, I finished I Want That Bag. Again, it didn't take much time as all I had left to do was sew in the jute bag liner. 
This bag fits two good-sized towels for when I take my grandson swimming (which hasn't happened since before the pandemic).
I'm really pleased with how both of these projects turned out. Why did I wait so long?
More of a WIP than a UFO, I was also pleased to get the San Diego Sunset afghan finished. 
This one is from the book, Weekend Afghans, by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss. 

Currently, I'm working on finishing a zippered cardigan. I'm not sure when I started it, but I got the book that the pattern is in for my birthday over 12 years ago... I know I got stalled because the sleeve instructions were so hard to interpret and the first time I completed a sleeve, it ended up about 6" long, and it's supposed to be full-length. I finally figured out the instructions, but then got distracted... And it's now upgraded from a UFO to a WIP. 
Onward and forward!