After some time away… Or Where it all began

Nina With Freckles - Miranda Innes Traditional Quilts 2015-08-30

Hello everyone, I’m sorry about the blog gone quiet for a few weeks. Since the blog is celebrating being 4 years old today, the post is a bit longer than usual :)

First I’ll mention the reason for my silence, so I can move on to nicer topics thereafter. I’m currently unemployed, looking for a PhD position, and things became rather intense around the time of when I stopped posting. The situation is overwhelming due to the on-going recession here and I feel surprisingly emotional at times, seeing as sciences should be something fundamentally important to invest in out of humanity’s perspective viewed, yet there simply is no proper funding for projects. Instead, lots and lots of money is poured into silly consumerist things, whereas science and medicine is left without :(

In this interesting interview, Millie Dresselhaus, the Queen of Carbon (a nanomaterials pioneer), speaks warmly of science and research, and in theory I agree, but in practice not so much. In particular in Finland there are quite a few academics unemployed right now, and also it seems like people have been sort of overly educated, yet once they wish to earn a living, things aren’t as rosy anymore.

I don’t want to keep singing a sad song, but suffice to say, I have other roles, too, not just that of a crafter, and so I thought I should bring my readers up to speed regarding what’s been going on lately. I think what frustrates me the most is that I as a divorcée without kids have all the time in the world, but when I make phone calls about the PhD position, all I hear is “no money”, “no new projects”, “just last month another PhD project had to stop”, and so on.

Something as trivial as not having received my 100 Universal 80 Schmetz needles as soon as hoped for also derailed me for a while, but enough about that, because there’s a box with 95 needles next to my sewing machine now! (I gave five to mom, who said she’d need only one or two :) See, that’s how little I knew not too long ago about the tools I’m using so often. I had to force all five of them on her, haha.)

Progress has been made on my SewMyStashMiniQuiltSwap mini, although I’m fervently trying to use up a nasty 90 Universal needle in that case, with fresh, new Schmetz ones on their way as we speak. (I will never use other needles again, if I can help it.) Due to newbie mistakes, my pattern had to be corrected twice, and I’ve posted the first few photos on Instagram, since a check-in date,1 September, is fast approaching. I’m really excited about working on this project!

The remaining Simplicity blocks will be posted soon enough, and I apologise for the lack of communication as well as lack of publishing them when promised. Usually I take commitments like that very seriously, but the professional life turned a tad too challenging to handle for a while.

Since my Tokyo Subway Map QAL is starting tomorrow, I’ll grab the opportunity to share with old and new friends alike my story of how it all began.

The photo above is of the Swedish version of Miranda Innes’s Traditional Quilts From Around The World, and it was bought on a whim on sale. According to my book, it was printed in 1995, and I may have bought it at the end of the 90’s or early 2000’s.

Nevertheless, it just sat in my bookshelf until I got the idea to sign up for a beginner’s quilting class in autumn 2010. At that time, I recall having felt a bit isolated, and so I thought it’d be a good idea to meet new people whilst learning a new craft. I picked out a pattern for a baby quilt from my book, and find it very cute still:

Nina With Freckles - Miranda Innes Traditional Quilts - Pinwheel quilt 2015-08-30

Guess how much I had to shell out for the fabrics and a spool of thread, though? Close to 100€, which corresponds to over 110 USD today. That wasn’t even for full metres, but 50 cm cuts, a tad more than half a yard each, a total of 6 metres. The quilt shop closed not long after my one and only visit there.

Some weeks later I found another shop, but they were closing as well, and when I asked whether I could buy quarter yards (skinny quarters – forget about fat quarters…), they said no can do and told me to buy full metres. Right. Same price level as in the aforementioned shop. I think if a craft is as little spread as quilting is in Finland, as a shop owner, perhaps a slightly more accommodating, flexible style of customer service might do the trick? Bundles, fat quarters, skinny quarters, fat eighths even – ya know… :) As a beginner, I’d rather buy small cuts of many fabrics than large cuts of very few fabrics (the secret to my seemingly wide stash, yet its total yardage is quite small compared to many other stashes I’ve seen online), but that wasn’t possible.

Right now there isn’t a single, proper quilt shop with lovely fabrics of all newest collections and great customer service in the capital region; a sad state of affairs :) And so I shamelessly import for less money and more selection. Only earlier this week did I hear of a shop in Lahti, which is quite a drive away from Helsinki, but currently they don’t seem to have the new collections of the big designer names for offer, so internet shopping it still is for me. Supposedly the shop in question is expanding their quilting cottons section, but they have recently closed the webshop and from what I gather, there are no plans to keep it open in the future. Sad state of affairs :)

I would LOVE to be able to walk into a real quilt shop in Helsinki to actually see fabrics prior to buying them, though! Truth be told, if I had the finances right now, I’d simply open a shop somewhere in the capital region and create myself a job in the process.

But back to my pinwheels baby quilt, where it all began… I enrolled in the quilting course for beginners, but – long story short – went only twice. Half-square triangles were a mess and explanations were a mess. I didn’t trust the teacher after she told me “to wing it, I’m sure it’ll turn out just fine” (Um, lady, have you seen the amount of HSTs and QSTs in that pattern???). The problem, of course, was the pattern itself by Miranda Innes, or rather the translation of it…

I simply didn’t get the mathematics to work for me, and detested the prospect of using fractions of centimetres, in particular since it soon was obvious to me that 0,8 cm and 0,9 cm were approximations, too. Never mind telling me the trick of adding the 1/8” when cutting, then trimming down to the correct size, corresponding to 7/8” of the squares – in centimetres of course. Have you ever seen a millimetre ruler? There are lots and lots of lines to keep track of, which is fine and dandy as long as your fabric is light. Mine, however, have black lines, which is disastrous on dark fabric. But then… :)

Nina With Freckles - Miranda Innes Traditional Quilts - Pinwheel quilt templates 2015-08-30

Then I had the heureka I had been waiting for, when scratching my head and deciding not to cut into 100€ worth of fabrics without knowing for certain I was doing things correctly – convert to inches. And angels began to sing, I’m telling you. They sang and it was glorious.

I had bought two metric quilting rulers and now use them only for their straight edge (mainly as extension ruler in combo with inch rulers), because in the second quilt shop I visited, which also closed its doors, I got a 15”x15” and a 6”x6” ruler, and things were blissful. Quilting in inches is something I can wrap my head around and it’s so easy. (Don’t make me think in yards or such in other contexts, though, because that’s positively dreadful! :D)

So what happened to the pinwheels baby quilt? It still sits in a pile of mostly uncut fabrics, waiting for the day I feel like drawing up the pattern from scratch, in inches. I’m fine with this, though, because it’s turned into some kind of milestone project for me, and for now it’s reached its first milestone only – the significant step that made me into a beginner quilter.

If something had shifted a bit in me after having flicked through the book by Miranda Innes, my mind was blown in a second milestone moment when deciding that the beginner’s course in quilting wasn’t for me after all, and that I’d look online instead. The first project I found was Elizabeth Hartman’s Tokyo Subway Map Quilt – and my mind simply exploded.

Quilting isn’t a thing here, and what I had seen were dark, slightly depressing things in earthy colours only, with the odd batik thrown in for good measure (sorry, no fan of those either). But the bright, cheerful, fresh fabrics in rainbow colours, grey, and black, all set against a crisp white background, with straight quilting in minimalist fashion, oh my, be still my racing heart. I have no words, but my reaction was incredibly emotional.

Looking back, now I realise that Elizabeth’s quilt-along was well on its way at the time of my finding her blog in between those two classes of the quilting course (because I googled due to sheer frustration with the teacher). Oh, Fransson! was not only the first quilting blog I found, but also the first for me to feature modern quilts. And the first modern quilt I ever beheld was Tokyo Subway Map Quilt. The quilt I’m hosting a quilt-along for starting tomorrow. I feel like a circle is about to close, but when I recall having been completely awestruck by the mere idea of cutting 1600 small squares back then, now I’m about to tackle the project with glee.

So, happy 4 years and here’s to another four years equally full of life! And please do join me tomorrow, it’s such a beautiful scrapbuster of a quilt!

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