Making, Not Blogging

Sometimes I feel like a helium balloon, tethered on a very long string. I drift and float and bob along, feeling increasingly disconnected from anything solid. I have to hope the mooring holds, as I’m powerless on my own. I have to hope someone will reel me back.

The busyness of making reins me in, as well as my continuing connection with Jim. Occasionally, like this evening, I hold tight to him. “Am I too close?” I joke, knowing he’ll say “no.” I explain my feeling of disconnect, that it’s harder to listen to him, almost harder to hear him. But the ongoing political farce, and heartbreaking news items, drag me farther and farther away.

The busyness of making. I depend on it. And I’ve been making, not blogging. It’s too hard to write, to form words into sentences that aren’t filled with exclamations, with curses, with lamentations for the meanness of those who would claim to be “good” people, even people of faith.

Making. Today I finished three quilts. Each needed binding, applied and finished by machine. Fast. Too fast? What shall I do next?

Next, clean up. Do you clean up between projects? I do to some extent — I like to vacuum and wipe surfaces — but I’m not always as thorough as I should be at the rest of the job. As I began an experiment this evening, I remembered to change my needle, abused after binding the quilts, as well as longer-than-optimal service with piecing. And with that I decided to clean the lint mess from under the needle plate. Good thing, too, as the space was fuzzier than the slicesΒ of bread I discarded recently. (Homemade bread gets moldy quickly.)

fuzzy machine
clean machine

And hey, as long as I was at it, I changed my rotary cutter blade. When I discard needles, pins, and blades, I put them in an old yogurt cup. I’ve had this thing for years and it’s only half full. They don’t take up much space, do they?

sharps cup

As to the experiment, I wanted to try something with a half-square triangle. I used HST to make my Delectable Mountains quilt (blog post still to come, photo in here.) I wondered what would happen if one half had two different fabrics in it. Here is an idea of what that does.

hst sliced rearranged

So, huh. Interesting, I think. Worth pursuing with a bigger idea.

And the projects I finished today? Funny enough, they are of three different formats. One is a strip quilt (blog post to come); one is a block quilt (blog post to come); and one is a medallion. Here are two of the three.
projects on floor

There now, I’ve used up all my words.

33 thoughts on “Making, Not Blogging

  1. Neame

    I feel about making similarly. It allows me to escape, mentally and only for awhile, from contemplating the ugliness of some human behavior. It is work to remember that these actions represent just a small fraction of humankind and that the majority are opposite of what is seen in so much of the news. News-free holidays are also useful to allow mental adjustment. Still, I feel our responsibility includes knowing about such behavior and doing what we can to counteract it. So some of the news-free time is given to that. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Melanie McNeil Post author

    Thanks for taking a look. Is the link your site? Those create very fun blocks. I’ve done that kind of work before but it’s not natural for me. Yes, quilting is good therapy for lots of ailments. And keeping a focus helps, too. I have a handful of blog posts to write over the next couple of weeks. We’ll see how that goes. πŸ™‚

  3. chaosfay

    I’m much the same with needing to stay grounded. Creating quilts has been a great form of therapy (especially so because no therapist within 100 miles accepts Medicare) and keeps me busy. I love that experiment! Putting things together just to see what happens. I’m currently using this method to create blocks: I have so many scraps and this is just a lot of fun. Simple but busy work. By the time I’m finished with a stack of blocks I’m ready to get some rest. Perhaps try a similar design to use the stash of scraps you have? Another way of keeping myself from dissociating is making tutorials. A focus point helps a lot instead of throwing words into what I call the void.

  4. sandradny

    This is a depressing time of year, isn’t it? Seems that we are on the cusp of the unknown (a new school year, a presidential election year, the threat of a geopolitical storm). It’s good to hide in your sewing room every now and then. But for me, it’s too darn hot to be next to my iron and all of that batting. I’m trying to find solace in outdoor walks in the evening when it cools down a bit. It seems to help when seaming fails me.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, thanks. I (we) usually walk in the morning, quite early when it will get hot later in the day. But now I’m nursing a knee injury, so not getting out much. Today, about 2 miles!! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading and commenting today.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      The original sliced-and-rearranged HST became a Delectable Mountains quilt. You can see it (being quilted) at the link. But for the modified version, I have a plan I’m working on. Thanks for reading and commenting today.

  5. allisonreidnem

    We do need an anchor or two in life – glad you have Jim and a creative outlet. I find sewing gives me an opportunity to feel ‘stable’ and clear my head of the tensions and frustrations the broadcast media create in me. Also digging the garden – it appears mindless but I can get thoroughly absorbed in retrieving trailing roots and unearthing large flints and stones.

  6. KerryCan

    The news really is dreadful these days, isn’t it? Watching the Olympics is giving me a little boost but it can’t offset all the bad. I do think those of us who are makers are lucky–we seem to have the ability to lose ourselves in the making and to feel productive and strong and useful, in spite of what the news has to say about the dismal state of the world. And, my goodness, you’re putting your time to great use–three quilts?!?!?

  7. zippyquilts

    Austin Kleon recently linked to a piece about why it’s OK not to follow the news closely. Maybe you should go on a news diet for the sake of your mental health?

  8. snarkyquilter

    Hmmm, turns out I must actually over clean at least one thing in my life – my sewing machine. Ever since the darn thing seized up due to lint I’m a demon with my little brush and Q-tips. I also change needles frequently as my machine starts skipping stitches the instant the needle isn’t as sharp as it likes.

    Having something tangible to do/make does relieve feelings of helplessness. One can achieve order and purpose in at least one small area.

  9. claire quilty

    As usual, I love your blog. You are not alone by any means in being distressed by what is happening in the world around us. Home is where I am the happiest with my little honey of a husband. At times I have to remind him that Everything is changing around us except our love for each other. Great idea about the stripe in the HST. Gotta try it. Also gotta clean the race (the bobbin holder) as I suspect it is full of gunk also.

  10. tierneycreates

    Great post and now I better go clean and oil my machine (I have a Bernina and you need to oil it regularly). On the serious side, I hope you feel more connected and less “floating”; glad you have something to focus on to reel you in.

  11. piecefulwendy

    Well, we must be tracking lately. I had to smile when you talked about your bread that you threw out. It reminded me of this morning when I was eating my toast (obviously not as awake as I thought) and found myself with a mouthful of mold. Y.U.C.K. And I was just thinking that it’s time for me to clean my machine and replace my needle. I’m not as disciplined as I should be, but I do try to change it often. Quilting for me is like reading a book — I can escape from all the weariness around me and just play.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It is a good escape. When I am busy with a project, I don’t think about the outside world at all. But ICK on the mold on your toast! What a nasty surprise that must have been!

      Now you can make a note for yourself to do the cleanup work needed. And then what? Put it on your calendar? That might work. (Note to self… )

  12. jeanswenson

    Enjoyed reading today’s post. I agree that the state of U.S. politics, and the depths of cruelty and meanness that we see too often in media stories, saddens me, and also makes me tend to bury my head in the sand. To find balance, I remind myself that it is the media’s primary job to get our attention, and that the stories of kindness and well-intentioned acts are alive and well, but just don’t rank “news worth” by the media. But alas, I must not leave my head out of the sand for too long, so that is all I have to say about that πŸ˜‰
    And, I love what you are doing with your half square triangle experiment!

      1. Melanie McNeil Post author

        Thanks for that reminder. When I’m at my best that is easy to know. But somedays it is hard to remember.

        Thanks also for the comment on the HST experiment. I’m going to try again with a much narrower color band, so it shows up more as an outline. I think both have potential, but can be used differently.

  13. katechiconi

    I looked at the Delectable Mountain strip layout and thought “oooh, great pieced border idea!”, so thank you for that! I dust my machine and table and clean out the bobbin race and put in a new needle after I complete every quilt. I don’t use a different needle for quilting; perhaps I should, but I can never remember to change it over. And I use a manual rotary blade sharpener for the blades I use in my ‘dull blade’ cutter, the one I use for cutting heavy fabrics, batting, etc, and trimming out a quilt before binding. It doesn’t bring it back to new, but gives me a couple of extra months out of each blade, so worth the small investment.
    Love that medallion quilt, especially the millefiore fabric and stripy bias strip!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I don’t keep a “dull” cutter, but when I need to cut something really objectionable, I pull out that last one from the little cup. Another trick is to clean the blade when it’s covered with gunk, and turn it over when it starts to dull. Both of those will extend the life. AND final hint is to also clean the mat! When it gets gunky it can cause the blade to skip.

  14. Cindi Lambert

    Reading your post, I laugh. Last night I’m happily sewing along when all of a sudden my machine starts making this horrendous noise. Not sure how it can go from working smoothly to just absolutely refusing to sew, but it did. I started taking it apart. When I took the needle cover plate off I could easily see what the problem was. There was thick black lint covering the entire surface. I had broken a needle at one point and couldn’t find the point of it. I found it under the needle plate with all that lint. After a good cleaning and a few sprays of canned air I put everything back together and things seems to be working normally. Guess I better clean a little more often!!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I guess so! I clean out the lint after every 3rd or 4th bobbin. I wind 3 or 4 at a time, usually, so when I need more, I know it’s time to clean. It helps!

  15. Amanda G

    I am great at cleaning my machine out between quilts, but NOT great at switching out the needle. I need to make this part of my process. I am horrible at this on my domestic machine. It can’t be good that I only remember buying 5-6 packs of needles in 10 years…

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      hmmm… That is probably not enough. I do change needles “regularly” but not really, as I don’t have a routine. I would say I remember to change them several times a year. Does that count? And I clean the gunk underneath after about every 3 or maybe 4 bobbins, so it’s never very bad. This was about as bad as ever, and that’s largely because of those bindings, stitching through the battings.


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