Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

I was all set to put this strippy on the frame this afternoon and discovered I had... no backing. Rummaging around in the stash earlier in the week, I realized I have a disproportionate number of pieces of fabric that are a half yard or less and tons of fat quarters. This is not particularly helpful for quilts like these strippies, borders, or backings.

It was this fact that brought me to Marden's where I bought, oops! not 18, but 22 yards of fabric, a little more than I realized. I did cut out 6 strippies that are all ready to assemble for a total used this week of 15 yards.

But back to the backing, I finally managed to locate two pieces of muslin I can seam for the backing, but it would really be stretching it to find enough for 5 more strippies. So I made the monumental decision to buy a bolt of muslin from Hancock's. I already got tired of worrying about where the next piece of batting was going to come from and piecing together batting scraps, so I bought a whole roll of Warm and Natural at a 50% off sale at JoAnn Fabrics about a month ago. A bolt of muslin should keep me in backings for a while. I don't know whether to count that as a stash addition or not, so I guess I'll worry about that later.

Here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 15 yards
Fabric used year to date: 97-3/8 yards
Fabric added this week: 22 yards
Fabric added year to date: 162-5/8 yards
Net year to date: - 65-1/4 yards

Still headed in the wrong direction, but that's nothing new, is it?

This afternoon I went to the Maine Machine Quilters chapter meeting, their last for the summer. There were about a dozen ladies in attendance, most longarm owners with five or less years of experience, and just a couple midarm owners, like me. It was primarily a business meeting, with not much discussion about machine quilting particularly.

At some earlier time the machine quilters worked on a small challenge project, each quilter working on her own; and the finished quilts were presented for the first time to the group today. Each participant used the identical pattern and fabrics for her quilt, so the only thing that was different from one quilt to the next was how each person quilted it. Upon close inspection, there were wobbles in the quilting, lines that weren't perfectly parallel, lines of quilting that crossed over where they weren't supposed to--and it was all just beautiful. I am a perfectionist by nature, but looking at those quilts today made me realize that this is *hand guided* machine quilting. The very nature of it means there will be imperfections, so I shouldn't be so hard on myself when I wobble off that pantograph line or when I zigged instead of zagged. That was probably the most valuable lesson I learned today. There can only be so many Linda Taylors or Diane Gaudynskis in the world, and I won't be one of them; but if I can make my work resemble these ladies' work today, I'll consider my venture into the world of machine quilting a success.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Strippy A Week

I spent nearly all of the last week trying to finish up a quilt for Koleen, a new pattern I'm testing for her. With 32 twelve-inch blocks and 3 borders, it's the largest quilt I've ever made. I used Civil War fabrics; and although my husband and I both like the fabrics very much, the quilt looks positively plain on the design wall next to my Orange Crush, which is very bright and also still under construction. At this writing I've sewn the first plain border on the quilt top for Koleen and am still in the process of finishing the piecing for the second border.

At the live auction for our quilt chapter a few weeks ago, I purchased about 6 yards of a colorful bug fabric with the idea of using it to make some strippies to practice machine quilting. Yesterday I went to Marden's and bought some companion prints to go with the bug fabric. After working with all those bright fabrics in the Orange Crush, I couldn't wait to buy more of them; and at $3 a yard it was easy to go crazy. I bought mostly 2-yard pieces of half a dozen different fabrics for the strippies.
Today after a trip to the dentist, I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting out pieces for the strippies, and I cut out enough for 6 complete strippies, plus some of the pieces for about 7 more. What I'd like to do is make one strippie each week, right down to the quilting and binding, and then donate it back to Marden's for their Project Linus drive. That seems like an achievable goal, and it will give me some much needed practice with my Lizzie. At the rate of one a week, it wasn't really necessary to cut out so many tops today, but I was having a really good time making different color combinations. I really like this lime green and turquoise combination.
The peonies in my yard have faded and been replaced by these small yellow blooms. I have no idea what they are. They appeared on their own and could be a weed for all I know, but I like them so I left them in the garden. They don't seem to spread like the violets, so I'm okay with that! By the way, we have managed to eradicate the violets almost entirely from the lawn now, and I am overjoyed about that.

I thought how nice it would be to have a garden this summer, but we weren't about to dig up any part of the yard after just tilling it up to replant grass. Still with food prices being what they are, I wanted to grow something somewhere and decided to try container gardening. I was given a grape tomato plant at work, so one afternoon we went to the nursery and bought a couple of pots, soil mix, another tomato plant and a few herbs, and some fertilizer, then potted it all up.
We had a garden years ago, but I've never grown herbs before, so we stuck with oregano, basil, and thyme, which all seem to be thriving so far. I took this photo of the pots on Monday, and the big tomato has already grown over the top of the cage.

The hole in the side of the pot is a place to pour water into the reservoir in the bottom of the pot. These are self-watering pots, which is something I never heard of; but I thought it was a good idea for me, since I am forgetful about watering. There is a wick in the bottom of the pot, and the two ends sit in the reservoir, which keeps the soil moist. It works like a charm.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pins, Pincushions, and Quilt Books

I haven't gotten a lick of work done in my sewing room this week, so I thought I'd blog a little about more of my favorite sewing things. Nicole at Sister's Choice Quilts initiated some interesting discussion about pins and pincushions. Apparently she sews over her pins and has bent or broken quite a few and wanted to know what pins others use. A barrage of comments ensued, some of which chastised Nicole, some punctuated by stories of breaking pins flying up into one's face, which would be scary.

I am also one of those people who likes to sew over pins. Usually I bend the pins and break the needles, but the worst thing I did when sewing over a pin was that I broke the needle, drove the tip of it into the bobbin case which damaged the case, then lost the broken needle tip in the bottom of the sewing machine, and had to pay to have it all fixed. Not good! As many of Nicole's readers admonished, I have since learned to slow down to a crawl going over the pins or to stop and remove them before I get to them.

My favorite pins are the $1.89 pack at JoAnn's with the glass heads so I can see them when I drop them in the carpet. I have a fear of driving a pin or needle into my foot, which I've already done once. Not good! My favorite pincushion, and it's not a pincushion at all, is the $1.89 blue metallic one which also seems to attract my scissors and seam ripper. Get it close to the pincushion and it practically pulls it out of my hand.

My next favorite pincushion is decorative only, because the top is really too shallow to put pins in. My son, who is now 18, made it when he was about 8 as a cub scout project for Mother's Day. The cubbies used baby food jars with a little batting and velvet glued to the lid, covered in trims, with a few plastic flowers for further beautification inside the jar. Of course I have to keep it and love it because he made it for me.

Next is a wool pincushion with a needlepunched design on it, made by my good friend AnnH, as a Christmas gift to those who held positions in our local quilt chapter (I was the Treasurer for three years and am retiring shortly). It is a very large pincushion, by pincushion standards; but it's sweet, simple, and colorful, and it reminds me of how much I like Ann.

Becky, the Quilting Booklady, is having a giveaway for her birthday on June 23. I wonder how old she'll be. To qualify for her drawing, she asked that you post a picture of a favorite quilting book; and if you also post a picture of a quilt you made from the book, you'll get a second entry in the drawing.

My favorite quilt book is this one by Jinny Beyer. One reason I like this book so much is that Jinny skips all the color theory and gets right down to the business of how to choose coordinating fabrics. Her approach is unique, easy, and produces great results. Choosing fabrics is challenging for a lot of quilters, including me; and Color Confidence for Quilters continues to inspire me.

This is not a very good picture, but this is a quilt I made from the book. Red, blue, and green is one of my favorite color schemes, and I enjoyed using so many different fabrics in the quilt. I love this concept--one block, different fabrics in each block, same color placement in each block for unification--and would like to try this with some other blocks sometime.

Credit where credit is due:
Midnight Star design by Jinny Beyer, Color Confidence for Quilters

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sewing Room Storage Containers

In celebration of her 300th post, Sweet P at Coffee Time Quilt Studio posted a contest of unique sewing room storage containers. Each day for six days she posted a different one she uses in her sewing room and invited others to do the same. Initially I didn't pay too much attention to it, but I got caught up in it this evening and couldn't resist sharing some of mine.

My husband built this white birch spool box for me several years ago for my birthday. It held my entire thread collection for a long time, but I've acquired some larger spools that won't fit into it anymore because the shelves are not deep enough. This is one of my favorite things my husband made for me. One of my other favorite things my husband built for me is this quilt rack that hangs on the wall in my son's room. It's also made of white birch, just like the hardwood floors and doors in my house, so it goes beautifully.

I bought chocolate covered blueberries in this metal tin, which makes a very portable container for all my sewing things if I want to sew at a retreat, a friend's home, or if I want to take some handpiecing with me. I have a small tote bag that the tin fits in, along with a 4" square ruler, a 6" square cutting mat, a small sandpaper board, a small Brooklyn revolver, my nylon bucket, and the project of the moment.

This is my nylon bucket. It's about 4" square and collapses flat, so it fits in my tote nicely. I have two of these--one sits next to my sewing machine and holds pencils and paper, scissors and a 1" x 6" ruler; the other holds trimmings and other trash generated from my sewing. I also have a tiny Longaberger basket next to my sewing machine with bobbins, a couple spools of thread, needle packs, a couple of sewing machine feet, and the key to remove the throat plate on my machine.

This storage container is not unique, but it is one of the most useful containers in my sewing room. I have about a dozen of these and wish I had more. I bought these very inexpensively at Walmart, I think. They are stackable, and they contain bits and pieces of projects and ufo's in various stages of completion. Because I often like to work on three or four projects simultaneously, these are pretty handy to keep everything together, and I can just grab one out of my cabinet and stick a different one back in there.

I am off the next two days and am hoping to make some real headway on the Orange Crush mystery quilt. I now have 13 of 20 blocks done for Step 5, all 4 corner blocks, and 1 half block for the edge. As so often happens with me, I like this quilt so much more than I thought I would when I first started it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

This week I sewed as much as I had time for and succeeded in making a few more blocks for Koleen's quilt and a few more for the Orange Crush. I didn't use any fabric for these blocks that hasn't already been accounted for, but I did add 15 yards of new fabric from the Live Auction Monday night. I counted over 6 yards of a single bug fabric with a white background, and that will keep me busy for a while making more strippie quilts to practice on. There's probably some yardage in all the scraps I won, but I'm not going to worry about trying to figure that out!

Here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 0
Fabric used year to date: 82-3/8 yards
Fabric added this week: 15 yards
Fabric added year to date: 140-5/8 yards
Net year to date: - 58-1/4 yards

No Reply!

I recently had a couple of ladies who requested information about something I posted on my blog, but alas! neither of them left me an email address. One of the ladies had a profile on Google but no email address. I finally had to go back to the original posts, one from February and one from some other earlier month, left my answers, and hoped each lady would see it. In case they didn't, the skillbuilders machine quilting panels can be found at Keepsake Quilting or at Ericas. Each store has a website. Unfortunately right now I can't remember what the second question is.

I'd bet most bloggers enjoy comments left on their blogs and are more than happy to answer questions, but readers need to supply an email address in order to do that. Mary kindly let me know that one day when I asked her a question on her blog, and I realized I needed to add an email address to my profile too. Help us out here, folks!

And this makes me think of something else. I set up my blog so any comments are automatically forwarded to my email address, so I don't have to keep going back on the blog itself to see if anyone left comments. Is that what everyone does? If it hadn't been for that, I'd have never known that those two ladies left posts on my blog because I don't go back and check the old posts anymore.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Liberated Quilting

Liberated Quiltmaking, a book by Gwen Marston, has been out of print now for a long time. I have hunted high and low for this book and have found it online at a couple of places but for a really ridiculous price. Lazy Gal Tonya has contacted the publisher to request a reprinting, and AQS has asked how many would commit to pre-ordering the book. AQS has apparently set a deadline of the last day in June.
I have two of Gwen's other books, and they're wonderful. Please pass the word by posting about it on your blog, and please visit Tonya's site and leave a comment.
Thank you.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Garden Party

The peonies are abloom in my yard this week, and they're gorgeous. These plants are hardy enough that they'll come back year after year with no attention from me--which is good, because I have neither the time nor the expertise to care for them. I only wish the blossoms lasted longer.

In the ongoing War of the Violets, I worked out in the yard for about four hours yesterday evening and dug out rhizomes until my fingers were too sore to function anymore. We've finally gotten the upper hand and managed to eradicate them from the majority of the yard now, but we still have a few problem areas left to work.

As we were walking around in the newly seeded section of the yard, we discovered oh! horrors! a few violets coming up here and there. We dug every last one of them out and will have to continue to watch over the summer to dig out any new ones that may appear. I was hoping that scraping off the topsoil would have solved that problem, but I suppose a few that were missed was inevitable.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Stressful Day

I've been greatly distressed all day today, but I am just fine now. I had a million and one things to do today, so I got up early this morning and headed down to the basement with my coffee to practice on my longarm for an hour or so. Last time I used my machine every thing was operating normally, so there was no reason to expect otherwise this morning. I guess I must have quilted halfway across my practice sandwich, then the thread jammed, and I had to cut all that out to start again. A couple minutes later it happened again, and it continued to get worse until, finally, as soon as I sewed two or three stitches, the thread would jam up with a big nest on the underside and little tiny stitches on the top. Yes, I remembered to put the presser foot down!

I tried all kinds of things to fix it, wasted all day fiddling with it, getting more upset by the hour, but things were no better by the end of the day. Initially I thought I must have messed up the timing, but after I had a closer look at some photos that showed where the hook was supposed to be in relation to the needle, it actually looked okay to me.

My husband, who knows nothing about sewing machines but who is very mechanically inclined, said he'd take a look at it when he got home. I left him the phone number for the factory out in California, who had been unable to help me earlier in the day, grabbed some supper, and headed out to my quilt meeting. We ran overtime on the meeting, and even though we were having a really good time, my mind kept wandering back to my machine.

I called my husband soon as the meeting let out, and he told me he had fixed my machine! Although he fiddled with the timing a little, turns out the timing was really fine. What was causing the problem was a little pigtail on the bobbin case. Somehow it must have gotten bent outward a little, and the thread would catch round that pigtail every time the thread looped around the case. Anyone with an embroidery machine might have a little pigtail like that on their bobbin case, as my Bernina does. My husband did spend some time on the phone with the rep in California, who mentioned that the pigtail was not necessary and could be removed. I gave my machine a test drive when I got home, and it works like a champ. My husband is my HERO.

The quilt meeting tonight is the last for the current membership year, until September. The second Monday in June is always a business meeting, Dessert Night, and for the years I've been in the chapter, Auction Night. Up until last year we've had silent auctions, but last year Barbara served as the auctioneer for a live auction. We had so much fun and it turned out to be such a good fundraiser for the chapter that we did it again this year.

My good friend Ann, quilter extraordinaire, brought three shopping bags full of scraps to the auction; and because I adore other peoples' scraps, I was determined to go home with them. After all, scraps cost the same amount as yardage, so to me it's a great value. A bunch of Barbara's scraps I won at auction last year went right into my Orange Crush, a nice change from my own collection of fabric. I also won two smaller ziploc bags full of scraps; a handful of patterns; and about 15 yards of novelty fabric (which will be duly reported on Sunday), mostly bug fabrics, which will make lovely little strippies for machine quilting practice and charitable giving. I can't wait to get started!

I'm working the next four days, but tomorrow I'll spend some time poring through and sorting Ann's scraps, which will be the most delightful pleasure.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

Where the heck did the week go? I spent plenty of time in my sewing room this week, but it doesn't seem like I got much done. I can tell you I didn't get anything done on my Orange Crush, but I did get a few more blocks made on Koleen's quilt and got all the subunits made up for the next set of 10 blocks. After I got the blocks made this week, my husband let me know that he didn't like them. I don't mind that he didn't like them, but I wish he'd told me before I made them, not after. Since I'm testing the pattern, I decided to make it up the way it's supposed to go, then go back before I actually sew all the blocks together into a top and switch out the offending blocks. I'll use the extra blocks for pillow shams or something.

The Orange Crush mystery has been revealed, and it went together the way I supposed it would. I really like it so much; but Bonnie had one last surprise in store--another 96 blocks to be made for the border. I don't know yet if I'll do that or if I'll just use plain borders.

I did get the backing and batting ready for the Quilt for an Hour quilting, only to find out that Ann has broken her wrist. We had a nice chat this evening, and I'll take my quilt to her tomorrow with the understanding that it may sit there 6 weeks til she gets the cast off. Poor Ann, it's only a hairline fracture, but I'd go crazy if I couldn't sew for 6 weeks. Ann thinks she might be able to drive her longarm anyway, since she's right handed; but I'd really hate for her to push it.

I also got the top for this little strippie done, using Mary Johnson's Quick Strippie pattern. I was thrilled how fast it went together; and once I can get it on the longarm it'll quilt up fast too. I'd love to be able to do one of these a week. Not only will they make wonderful little practice pieces, but they'll use up some stash too. I used 2-3/4 yards for this strippie, and it's a great way to show off a novelty print. I've got some children's prints that I bought for other projects that never got made, and they'll be perfect for these strippies.

Here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 2-3/4 yards
Fabric used year to date: 82-3/8 yards
Fabric added this week: 0 yards
Fabric added year to date: 125-5/8 yards
Net year to date: - 43-1/4 yards

The War of the Violets is going quite well. My husband and I cleared out over half of one big section in the front yard. I keep going back over the parts we've already done to make sure they're not popping back up, and so far so good. The second half is actually the worst of it, so we still have much work left to do. In the other half of the yard, the baby grass is sprouting. The temperature also shot up yesterday and today, so we may have to work a little harder keeping it watered. We were fortunate enough to have had several days of rain this week, and I am praying for rain later this week. In fact, I'll be praying for lots of rain the whole summer. I'd love to have some of what Lori got!

Credit where credit is due:
Instructions for Quick Strippie by Mary Johnson,

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Stash Manager's Report

I am a few days late with the Sunday Stash Report, and that's okay. Life has been busy lately! Saturday I finished my Quilt for an Hour project, and I like it so much. I've washed the backing pieces, and tomorrow I hope to sew the two lengths together and get it to my good friend Ann this week for quilting. I'm going to ask her to quilt a baptist fan pattern on it. Ann has quilted that pattern on a couple of other quilts for me, and it's a great pattern. Between the backing and binding I cut to finish up the QFAH, I used 4-1/8 yards.

On Sunday I put a practice quilt sandwich on the longarm and played for several hours with some free motion work and some pantograph work. That used another 4 yards. I'm pretty terrible at staying on the line right now, but hopefully I'll get better with practice. Since I'm going to be doing lots of practice pieces, I may as well work on something useable, so I cut out one of Mary's strippies last night and rummaged around in the stash for more fabric for strippies. I really like what Pat is doing, making these little strippies as donation quilts.

So here's the Sunday Stash Report (on Tuesday):

Fabric used this week: 8-1/8 yards
Fabric used year to date: 79-5/8 yards
Fabric added this week: 0 yards
Fabric added year to date: 125-5/8 yards
Net year to date: - 46 yards

I'm finally headed in the right direction!

I was so busy finishing up the QFAH that I have neglected my Orange Crush mystery quilt--still only have 7 blocks done from the most recent step. So I'll be working on that the rest of the week in the hopes of getting that step finished before Bonnie posts the next one. I'm excited now to see the mystery revealed!

While I was working on the Orange Crush blocks, I remembered another quilt that Bonnie did that seemed similar to me. Sure enough her Cathedral Stars pattern, which is also a two-block quilt, uses one of the same blocks, only the units are turned differently. The alternate block, would you believe, has the same stars in it like the block we just finished for the QFAH. I thought the Cathedral Stars was a gorgeous quilt when Bonnie was raffling it and wanted to make it.

I liked working on two or three different quilts all at the same time these past few weeks, so I 'd like to start working on a couple more shortly, Cathedral Stars and something else. But not until the Orange Crush is done!

I've spent loads of time out in the yard digging up weeds the last several days. I've declared war on the wild violets; and even though the herbicide appears to be doing some damage, I think it's probably still necessary to dig the rhizomes out of the ground, so I've been chipping away at it. It's exhausting, back breaking work. No grass yet under the straw on the other end of the yard.

I got an email from a friend of mine today, one of those that seems to circulates all over, but I'd never seen it before. How many times have you tried to tear off a piece of aluminum foil or saran wrap from the roll and had the whole roll pop out of the box? Did you know that on the end of some brands of foil and saran wrap, there's a little cardboard tab that you can push in to lock the roll in place? I've been buying Reynolds for years and NEVER noticed this! Who knew?

Credit where credit is due:
Shadowy Stars quilt design by Judy Laquidara