Friday, May 30, 2008

QFAH - Hour 7

Between work and working in the yard, it's been another really busy week. Something had to give, and it was the sewing. I did manage to get another 19 blocks made during the evenings, 6 for the Orange Crush mystery and the rest for a new project I'm working on for Koleen; but the QFAH project fell by the wayside for most of the week. I spent quite a while today catching up, and I've finished Hour 7 and have gotten started on Hour 8, the last hour!!

I wish the picture was a little better, but I lost a lot of space in my sewing room when I brought the long arm in. My design wall is actually 6 feet by 12 feet--an awesome space in which to work--but there are too many things in the way of it now to get a good photograph the way I used to. I may eventually move my longarm into another space, but for now this is it.

The landscaper has been here all week. We asked him to pull out about 6 stumps of lilac bushes that we cut down because they were old and overgrown, and he tilled up most of the yard on the one side of our front walkway, leveled several areas, put down new topsoil, limed, fertilized, and seeded. Our job now is to keep the area moist so the seed will sprout. It is astonishing how much space the lilac bushes and a former garden took up in the yard; and now the yard is so open and looks so much larger. Because the landscaper scraped off the top few inches of dirt, I'm hoping that will solve the problem with the wild violets.

On the other side of the front walkway, however, we have seeded and overseeded some areas, and I've spent hours digging out dandelions and wild violets. They seem to sprout up and spread overnight, but we are on the attack now with some herbicide and just plain hard work digging them out. We WILL get the upper hand!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

Nothing in this week, and I used 1-1/4 yards for Part 5 of the Orange Crush mystery. Bonnie posted the latest part last night, and I cut up the fabrics for it this morning.

Today JudyL asked if we had a goal for stashbusting and if we were approaching the halfway mark since 5 months of the year are nearly gone by. When I first started tracking how much fabric I was buying and using, it never really occurred to me to set a goal; and even if it had, I wouldn't have known what kind of a goal to set. How can you do that if you've no idea how much fabric you actually use in the course of a year or even a month? I certainly haven't been very good at being a stashbuster because I've bought far more fabric this year than I've used; but tracking it has been a real education for me nonetheless. I never would have guessed that I would have used up over 70 yards of fabric in 5 months, or that I would have bought over 125 yards so far this year.

Maybe I'm really a Stash Manager, not a Stashbuster, something that Evelyn has alluded to before. I'm pleased that I've been busy enough to use over 70 yards of fabric this year. And I'm deliriously happy that I've gotten rid of a lot of fabric that I've had for far too long, especially some of the ugly stuff, and replaced it with something more current in my stash. I've already finished 8 quilts and quilt tops this year and expect to have at least 4 more tops done by the end of June. Not as many as some folks, but back in 2006 I only finished 2 quilts, so it's really good for me. Thanks to JudyL, Bonnie Hunter, and my good friend Koleen, I am more motivated, I'm working smarter, accomplishing much more, and having the most wonderful time doing it.

Maybe next year I'll actually set a goal for stashbusting...maybe.

Orange is in the Air

Bonnie posted Part 5 of the Orange Crush mystery last night, and this is the orange I'm using for the next set of blocks we're supposed to make. Pretty bright, isn't it? I wavered when I took it out of the cabinet; but emboldened by VickiW's choice of fabrics for her Quilt for an Hour project, I decided to live on the edge and put it in my quilt. It may be obnoxious, but you can't deny it will be bright and cheerful. And anyway I like it. Besides I've already changed my mind once on the orange, and I'm not buying any more fabric for this project! What do you think, Margo?

Because this is going to be a busy quilt, I decided to use just one blue in the centers, and not a particularly bright one at that. I'll use up a few more blue scraps in the half- and quarter-album blocks.

The mystery deepens... I still have yardage left over from the red, black, blue, and orange fabrics. What do you think? Sashings? Borders?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday Update

This afternoon the bathroom got scrubbed, and I ran to the grocery store for a few things. Then it was back to the sewing room, and I made 9 more blocks for the Orange Crush mystery. Thats a total of 30 blocks I've made today! Tomorrow I'm going to finish the last 9 blocks for Step 4, and I'd like to play on my Tin Lizzie for a while in the afternoon. I've had enough for today though. My shoulders are killing me, so now I'll have a little supper and plant myself in front of the telly for the rest of the evening.

QFAH - Hour 5

Done! I am really on a roll today! I had 9 of these blocks finished by bedtime last night, and I finished the rest of them this morning. And I think I've finished 6 of the Orange Crush blocks today too. That's 21 blocks I've done today--it must be some kind of record! For me, that is.

I was thinking about something when I sat down at the sewing machine this morning. Judy said we should be able to make 12 blocks in one hour, which means it would take 5 minutes to put one block together, which is pretty impressive. When I first started making these blocks the other day, it was taking me 15 minutes to make one; but I was also watching TV, running the washer, chit chatting with my son, and I was up and down from the sewing machine...because... that's what I do.

So I decided to try a little test. I set a timer to see how long it actually took me to make one block with no distractions--no TV, no kids, husband, dog, or cell phones; and no way can I construct a finished block in only 5 minutes. I discovered that I CAN do one in 8 minutes, however, and using a timer certainly kept me focused on what I was doing. So I set that timer off and on all day to keep myself on track.

It also occurred to me that if I used the units from the Orange Crush blocks as leaders and enders, I could also get a few of those blocks made. I really should do that more often. I still have a bunch more Orange Crush blocks to go, so my goal is to finish 9 more today and 9 tomorrow, then I'll be done with Step 4. Woohoo!

I worked out in the yard, annihilating dandelions and wild violets, for an hour or so this morning in between sewing sessions, hoping to give my shoulders a rest. Now they're really hurting, so I'll need to take some Tylenol and several hours away from the machine to rejuvenate. Hope everyone else is getting lots done today!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

QFAH Hour 4

I worked on the star points for Hour 3 for quite a while last night, made more of them this morning, and finished up the last four units after supper tonight. Then I started working on constructing blocks for Hour 4. The light green one was my test block that I made last weekend, and I was only able to finish four more of these in an hour tonight. Clearly JudyL sews circles around me, but I will doggedly pursue getting the rest of these blocks made over the weekend.

I am off this weekend and hope to get lots of sewing done. Besides finishing the QFAH blocks, I'd also like to finish the Orange Crush blocks. Bonnie has not yet posted Step 5, and I'd like to get these done before she does.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Another Top Done

You may recall from back in March that I started a new quilt for my good friend Koleen that I was referring to as the Courtney quilt. That title was actually based on the name of the fabric line used in the quilt. The pattern is actually called "Road to Many Friendships", and it is one of three new patterns now available from The Quilted Cardinal. "Gingerbread Jingle" is cute as can be, and I'll have to add that one to my collection!

I have asked Koleen if she will quilt an all-over feather pattern on my quilt, which is probably my favorite quilt design, and which I think will be gorgeous. It will be a while before she is able to get to the quilting, but I can't wait to see it!

Credit where credit is due:
Road to Many Friendships quilt design by Koleen Painchaud, The Quilted Cardinal

QFAH - Hour 2

I finished 34 of the required 48 units for Hour 2 last night. The first one or two units I constructed did not come out to the correct size, and I spent quite a lot of time fooling around with these trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. What finally worked for me was to place the star fabric slightly back away from the edge of the background fabric and sew the normal quarter inch seam allowance. In most cases, once the pieces were pressed open, I could trim off just a hair for a perfect 3-1/2" unit. It also eliminated any possibility of shadowing of those dark star points through the light fabric on the top.

I did finish sewing the last of these units this morning. I love, love, love these colors; and I have my good friend Ann to thank for the inspiration. I was quite enamored of a gorgeous quilt that Ann displayed in our chapter quilt show recently that used a similar color palette. Ann's quilt also won Best of Show. Congratulations again, Ann.

Judy posted Hour 3 this morning; and now that I have a method for doing these units, the rest should go more quickly.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Quilt for an Hour - Hour 1

JudyL's Quilt for an Hour, which shall be known hereafter as QFAH, is now in full swing. Hour 1 was posted today, and I started working on it after dinner this evening. All the fabrics were cut over the weekend, so I was ready to start sewing right away. We were supposed to be making 72 half square triangle units, and I've finished them all.

We got a few showers here today, but probably not enough to do the lawn any good. We're hoping for a little more rain later in the week.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

Spring is a busy time of year for most of us, and it must have been a busy weekend for everyone as well. I saw lots of Quiltathon posts for Saturday but none for Sunday, and only a few Stash Reports. Maybe more folks will add them in a day or so.

Our yard is in terrible shape after many years of not really caring for it properly, so this spring we're trying very hard to whip it back into shape. One of the things we're having a real problem with is wild violets. They are lovely, with their tiny white blossoms, but they are incredibly invasive and fast spreading, and they crowd out the grass. Although we spent some time digging weeds out of the lawn this weekend, there are too many violets in the lawn to dig them all out by hand; and I'm not sure exactly how we can tackle the problem. If anyone knows any magic that might work to get rid of them without also killing the lawn, I'd appreciate hearing from you.

Day lilies are also incredibly hardy plants and expand in the beds every year, so we dug them all out of one bed and transplanted hostas to fill up the space. We are beginning to grass in some of the many beds in our yard from when we bought the house, as we simply don't have time for all the maintenance; but we want to keep some of the hostas, and this is a good place for them. We set out a hummingbird feeder every spring and have lots of visitors, and the hostas will continue to attract them. The hummers also seem to like the Solomon's Seal, which is clumped in the corner, and which has small cream colored blossoms.

I worked odd shifts this week, which threw my schedule way out of whack; but I did manage to accomplish a few things in the sewing room. I cut out all the pieces for JudyL's Quilt for an Hour, which used about 5-1/2 yards. Then I thought I'd try to get just one block together because I was anxious to see how it would look. Morah was commenting on her blog a couple of days ago that she was having a little trouble getting those Peaky and Spike units--the star points--to be the correct size. I tried a couple of them, and I'm having a little trouble myself. They seem to want to pull in at the top of the larger triangle, throwing off the size of the unit.

I tried paper piecing an entire block, which turned out better. I'll try a few more of the Peaky and Spike units; and if I still can't sew one the right size, I may paper piece just those units. There's really no need to paper piece the whole block, as I have no problem with the half square triangle units. Judy's method of making them slightly oversized and then squaring them up works like a charm.

I also got all the black/red half square triangle units finished for the Orange Crush mystery, which used up about a yard and a half; and I've started putting the blocks together. I want to get all of those finished this week, and I'm hoping Step 5 won't go up just yet. Nobody else in the family likes these blocks so far---thank goodness for quilters who will tell me what I want to hear!

So here's the Sunday Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 6-3/4 yards
Fabric used year to date: 70-1/4 yards
Fabric added this week: 0 yards
Fabric added year to date: 125-5/8 yards
Net year to date: - 55-3/8 yards

Monday, May 12, 2008

Machine Quilting Class

Yesterday my good friend Koleen and I finally had a chance to get together for my machine quilting class. It was a six-hour class and worth absolutely every minute I spent with her. Koleen has been a long arm quilter for five or six years, I think, and she is very accomplished at what she does.

We spent some time in the beginning of the class discussing the various controls on the machine, batting, threads, tension, some reference material, and a few other things as I thought of questions to ask. Next, we loaded a four-yard long quilt sandwich; and I learned how Koleen loads her quilts, how she prepares them for quilting, and how she advances them after she completes a section of quilting. I've been doing pretty much the right things at home, but I did learn some things that never occurred to me--like, you can get the side clamps attached upside down, which will weigh the edges of the quilt down.

We started with meandering, which I'm feeling pretty comfortable with; and we added different elements to the meandering to change the look of the pattern. Koleen would stitch out a little bit of the new pattern to show me how to do it, then she'd draw a little of it with a blue wash out marker. I'd stitch on the drawn lines, then I'd be in virgin territory. Sometimes I was able to reproduce the pattern, and sometimes I'd get so lost I couldn't reproduce even a single repetition. I can get it in my head when I see her do it, but it doesn't always translate so easily to arm movement!

We worked our way down the entire 4-yard length of the quilt, each new pattern a little more complicated than the last. Near the end of our practice piece, I tried some feathers. They were a disaster (of course, it was my first time!), but it was such a blast. My favorite patterns that we stitched are here in the photos. They are all Koleen's handiwork, because these were also the same ones I had trouble duplicating. I think any of these would be fabulous to free motion on an entire quilt, either on a longarm or on a domestic.

The last thing we did was a pantograph, and it was much harder than I imagined to keep the laser light on that line. Still, I don't think I did badly for my first time out, and I think the trick might be to keep the curves smooth and the points sharp even if you get off the line a little, and no one will know the difference, specially on a busy print.

I took my practice quilt home, so I have a lovely repertoire of 15 or so free motion patterns to emulate and enough practice material to keep me busy for months.

Sunday Stash Report

I'm a day late with the stash report, but better late than never. I sewed all week long but didn't use up any stash. I am, however, still headed in the wrong direction for stashbusting (is that a surprise?). I did buy 8 yards of fabric, but all of it will get used in short order. I found a different orange that I liked better for my Orange Crush mystery plus the red I needed for it. This is a BRIGHT red, and I just love it. Actually it had to be bright to keep up with some of the scraps I used. I wanted to see right away how a block would look with the red and black units, so I put a few together and just laid it out on the table. Only 29 more to go!

I also bought 4 yards of background fabric that I plan to use in JudyL's upcoming Quilt for an Hour. Many times I don't have yardage available for backgrounds and borders; and while I stock up on these now and then, I still don't always have available what I want. The remaining fabrics all came from my stash; and I'm using all batiks, except for one piece of fabric I hand dyed at least 10 years ago. It's in the upper right corner of the photo. I hated to cut into it because I liked it so much, and now I've found the project I've been saving it for all these years!

Somewhere I've got all the figures recorded for the stash report; but truthfully, I don't want to know right now. Next week will be better!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Another Finish

The Scrappy Bargello is finally finished and hanging up in my son's room. I'm so happy this is done because I'm tired of writing about it, and you're probably tired of reading about it!

Bonnie posted Step 4 of the Orange Crush mystery today, so I'll be starting on that next week. We're finally sewing blocks!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Orange Crush Step 3

I had a late shift today, so I knuckled down this morning and finished up the last of the half split four patch units before I went to work. 44 units for Step 3 was really a baby step compared to the first two steps. Now I'm excited to see the next step.
There are now 94 people on the Mystery Quilters Web Ring! As much as I enjoy seeing what other folks are doing, there's just no way I can get through all the blogs on the ring. So I try to choose a few different ones each time I have an opportunity to do a little surfing. How does everyone else do it? A few at a time, like me? View them all once a week? Bloglines?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Quilt Show

Backroad Quilters of West Gardiner presented their 12th annual quilt show this past weekend. I think we had about 150 quilts in the show. My good friend Margo over at Heart In His Hand Quilting has a very nice write up about our show plus a lovely sequence of photos, if you're interested. Below are some of my favorites from the show.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

I managed to accomplish two of the three goals I set for myself this past week--finishing Step 2 and starting Step 3 for the mystery quilt, and quilting the Scrappy Bargello.

The next step in the Orange Crush mystery requires yardage of some specific colors, so I pulled these blues from my stash and will try to make them work. I did have to buy the orange and black this week and still have to find a couple yards of red for the quilt by the time Bonnie posts the next step. I also used about 5/8 yard for the binding on the Bargello.

Oh, and I donated 4 fat quarters to the chapter for door prizes for the quilt show. Tomorrow I'll put up a few pictures from our quilt show this weekend. It was a great success.

This coming week I'd like to finish binding the Scrappy Bargello, finish Step 3, and finish the 30s repros quilt, which has been on my list now for several weeks. Just can't seem to get there with this one. I'd also like to practice some more machine quilting and maybe get started quilting the next one.

So here's the Sunday Stash Report:

Fabric used this week: 1-5/8 yards
Fabric used year to date: 63-1/2 yards
Fabric added this week: 4-1/2 yards
Fabric added year to date: 117-5/8 yards
Net year to date: - 54-1/8 yards

I am perpetually going in the wrong direction!

Orange Crush Step 2

At last Step 2 of the Orange Crush mystery quilt is finished, all 142 units! I am really beginning to love how these are turning out. One of my goals this week was to finish Step 2 and get started on Step 3--mission accomplished. I started cutting more strips and triangles for Step 3 last night and sewed one together to see how it looked. With only 44 of these to make, I'll finish these this week.