Saturday, September 27, 2008

Star BOM Block 4

The rain we're getting up here in Maine tonight is heavy enough to interfere with satellite tv reception, so I thought I'd blog a little. We're already under a flood watch, and as Hurricane Kyle moves up into Maine tomorrow afternoon, the rain will be even heavier. Some news channels are referring to Kyle as a tropical storm, and it's supposed to stay to the east of us, so I'm not terribly concerned about it. It might be on the rough side downeast though.

I've gotten plenty of sewing done this week, but nothing I'm able to post a photo for. Remember the 560 half square triangle units I made for Koleen's quilt? Three of the four borders using those triangles have now been completed, and tomorrow I'll be working on that last border. I've had enough of half square triangles for a while!

I finished block 4 of JudyL's Star BOM last night. What should have been a very easy block caused me more grief than the first three put together. I cut the green and yellow triangles slightly oversized, and I was a little off when I squared up that whole unit in the middle. Then I had to fudge some of the other seams to make it fit right without chopping off all my points. I'll bet I restitched one of those seams about five times. Once I completed the entire block, I noticed there was a cut in the edge of one of the background triangles, so I had to rip that out and sew in a new one. Sheesh, I should have just watched tv last night!

Credit where credit is due:
The "Country Farm" block can be found in the EQ6 Block Library and is copyright-free.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

I still haven't finished my placemats that we made at Kay's a couple of Sundays ago, but I did finish my other pillowcase, and it looks great. Thanks so much to everyone for all the nice compliments on the pillowcases. You know, I wasn't sure about this blogging thing when I started in January. Truthfully, I didn't think I would stick with it; but now I'm as addicted to posting as I am to reading them. I just love seeing what everyone else is doing--it's like Show and Tell every day, and I learn a lot. I hope someone might find something useful on my blog now and then too.

Friday was our regular bimonthly meeting at Kay's, and we had a double theme for the meeting--apples and tote bags. Everyone was asked to bring an apple dish, and we had quite a variety. Kay always makes a lovely supper for us, and we had a nice roast with potatoes, carrots, and apples. As accompaniments we also had three different salads with apples in them, some jello with apples, and a couple of desserts with apples. It's always a lot of fun when we do this, and next month we'll have a Pumpkinfest. Last year I made the most horrible pumpkin and black bean soup. Basically it consisted of a can of pumpkin, a can of black beans, some broth, and a few spices, and you heated it up for about 10 minutes, and it was done. I got the recipe from a well-known tv cooking show host, who shall remain nameless. Oh, it was so awful! This year I'll stick with pumpkin bread or something I know how to cook!

Janice had this tote bag with her a couple of meetings ago, and we liked it so much we decided we'd get together and learn how to make them. The tote uses one of those charm packs that are so popular now, and I happened to have one that I won from Becky the Quilting Booklady's birthday giveaway a while back. The tote used 35 of the 50 squares I had in the pack plus another yard of fabric for the handles and lining, which I found in my stash. Besides the pocket on the front, there are a couple more pockets inside the tote. I really liked this pattern because you could come up with a number of variations to make each one a little different. There's supposed to be a button on that front pocket; but I hate sewing on buttons, so I might let it just flap around for a while.

I got most of it finished on Friday, and tonight after I got home from work I finished the topstitching. While I was sitting there admiring my handiwork, I thought about putting up a hook or something somewhere in my sewing room to hang up my totes. I'm beginning to accumulate more of them, and I've been folding them up inside a cabinet. Then I remembered this coat rack that was upstairs on our closed-in back porch. I think it must have belonged to my grandmother. Over my husband's strenuous objections, I commandeered it and brought it down to my sewing room, and it will work perfectly! After a while my husband even offered to clean it up for me. What a good man!

Well, anyway, here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 1-3/4 yards
Fabric used year to date: 133-3/4 yards
Fabric added this week: 0 yards
Fabric added year to date: 246-1/8 yards
Net year to date: - 112-3/8 yards

I've really been behaving myself pretty well lately, haven't I?

Credit where credit is due:
Charm Party Tote design by Penny Sturges, Quilts Illustrated

Monday, September 15, 2008


I had hoped to have both of these pillowcases done by the end of today, but I still have a little bit more to finish on the second one. I love the way this looks! For the next set, I'm going to insert a band of pieced blocks near the hem. Between pillowcases and tote bags, which is our project for Friday, I think I may be on a couple of new kicks!

Credit where credit is due:
No pattern was used to make these pillowcases.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

No pictures today, but I hope to have one tomorrow. Last Sunday I went over to my good friend Kay's house, and we worked on the placemats. I haven't finished those yet, but I will. I missed the Stash Report last Sunday because I got home from Kay's late and worked the next day. Each one of those placemats takes about half a yard, so there's a couple yards. I also gifted one yard away.

Today three of us went to Kay's, and we made pillowcases and had a great time doing it. Each pillowcase requires a yard or a yard and a quarter, so it's a good little stashbuster too. I finished one flannel pillowcase for my son to go with his flannel quilt I made him last Christmas. I also cut out two more to go with my Road to Many Friendships quilt that's on my bed now. Each of those pillowcases has another fabric added at the hem plus some piping, and I like the look of it so much. I'm also planning to make an0ther set of pillowcases for the quilt that's over to Koleen's being quilted now.

This Friday about half our group will get together at Kay's and make totes. The other half of our group is going to New Hampshire for the quilt show in Manchester. I had the option to go, but if I go, I'll buy, and I don't need to. How's that for self-control?

Here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 6-1/4 yards
Fabric used year to date: 132 yards
Fabric added this week: 1-1/2 yards (Keepsake medley)
Fabric added year to date: 246-1/8 yards
Net year to date: - 114-1/8 yards

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Bolt

Am I the only one who's noticed that a bolt of fabric that used to measure 42"-44" wide no longer measures that? Or I am simply the last one to know about it? I was adding borders to a quilt today and needed to cut a few more strips. I looked at that piece of fabric laying there on the table and thought, gee, that looks short. Well, dang, it was short! After I cut off the selvages, I've got a little more than 38" of fabric to work with!

Was it shrinkage? Could be, but 3 or more inches across the width of the bolt? Things always seem to shrink in the length, not the width. So I took out a couple more pieces of fabric I'd bought very recently and measured those. Less selvages, they both measured 41" wide. Okay, that's better but still a little skimpy.

When I was a kid, my mother used to buy canned food--vegetables and whatnot-- in a 16-ounce can. Now you buy those same products in cans that are 14-1/2 or 15 ounces. I did find one can in my cupboard that was 16 ounces, a can of refried beans. Actually, I think the can is the same size, and the manufacturers are putting less food in the can and charging the same price. I'd guess the same thing happens nowadays with cereal and lots of other things.

All my recipes still call for a 16-ounce can of whatever, but I haven't bought a new cookbook in a while. Most of my older patterns base yardage estimates on fabric that is 42"-44" wide; but I looked in a new McCall's quilting magazine, and they based the estimates on fabric 40" wide. Okay, so maybe I haven't been paying attention. What's the moral of the story? I don't know, pay attention, I guess!

Never Forget

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Science Project

This is a little icky, and I hesitated whether or not to post it; but everyone else around here seems to have the same problem, so maybe someone will find some use in it. Every year about this time--late summer, early autumn--fruit flies suddenly appear in the house. I usually find a few of them buzzing around the bananas, and they hang around for a few weeks or so, then they're gone for another year. They seem to be pretty harmless, but this year they've become a real irritation.

This year there seems to be so many more of them, and I've seen them in a couple other rooms in the house too. We have tried some different things to discourage them, like moving the fruit to a different counter in the kitchen, keeping the kitchen trash bag closed, and scrupulously cleaning the counter tops, but nothing has worked.

Last night while we were eating dinner, a few of them kept flying around in front of my face, and I finally got so aggravated that I googled 'fruit flies' to see how I might get rid of them. What I found was an incredibly simple, highly effective, environmentally friendly solution that worked like a charm!

In a tall glass, I poured enough cider vinegar to just cover the bottom of the glass; and it must be cider vinegar--regular white vinegar won't work. Heck, they're tiny, you don't need a lot. Next I added a couple drops of dishwashing liquid and swirled it around in the glass. This breaks the surface tension of the vinegar, so they'll fall in and drown. Then I took a half size sheet of printer paper (or whatever paper you want), shaped it into a cone and taped it together. I left a small opening at the bottom of the cone, about the size of a pencil. The idea here is that the bugs will crawl down into the glass through the opening in the paper; and, because bugs are stupid, they can't seem to find their way back out. Eventually they either land or fall into the vinegar and drown.

I placed the glass near an area where I saw a few fruit flies, and within seconds a few landed on the white paper. Within minutes there must have been a dozen or more flies trapped inside the glass. I'll bet I sat there 20 minutes and watched, with morbid fascination, as they buzzed around and crawled down towards the opening in the paper. The little buggers just couldn't seem to resist the intoxicating aroma of that vinegar. Within a few hours there wasn't a fly to be seen anywhere. They were all trapped inside the glass. In the morning I simply emptied the glass and its contents down the drain and rinsed it all away. Gee, I wish I could get rid of all my problems so easily!

Repeat as often as necessary until fruit fly season is over!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Backroad Quilters

Last night was the first meeting of the new membership year for our local quilt group Backroad Quilters. My good friend Ann, who is also one of our co-presidents, brought my Shadowy Stars quilt with her to the meeting. You may remember that Ann broke her wrist just a couple days before I took my quilt over to her, and Ann spent most of the summer healing. I asked her to quilt the baptist fan pattern on it for me, and she did a beautiful job. I just love this quilt!

I have been the Treasurer for Backroads for the last three years. I really enjoyed that job, and it afforded me the opportunity to make a lot of new friends I might not have gotten to know otherwise. At the end of our membership year this past June, however, I decided it was time to step down and let another member assume that responsibility.

The members of Backroads gave me this very special and thoughtful gift last night as a thank you for the three years I served as Treasurer. This lovely tote bag was made and embroidered by my good friend Barbara, and the members collected some of their scraps and filled the tote plus another shopping bag with them and gave them to me. There's really nothing that could have pleased me more. You may recall that at our last meeting in June I bid on and won three big bags of scraps. I do love other peoples' scraps! Some of the scraps that went into my Orange Crush I won at last year's auction.

Barbara and Ann consulted on the materials used in the tote, and they did a perfect job of it. Barbara has made these totes before, and they are always tailored to the people who receive them, and they're always beautifully made. She lined the tote with a lovely fabric with pine needles and pine cones, which is so representative of our state. Since coming to Maine, I have been quite enamored of lots of things representing Maine, so the motifs and lining were perfect. The black capped chickadee is the state bird, and these sweet little birds appear often at the bird feeder in my backyard. The eastern white pine is the state tree, and the eastern white pine tassel and cone is the state flower.

Placemat Project

I sewed like crazy the last four days because it was the last few days of my vacation. I really tried very hard to feel like I was glad to be back at work today, but I really wasn't! I'm taking another week off in October, so I have that to look forward to, and that will be my last vacation period this year.

Mostly I worked on the pieced border for Koleen's quilt; but after working with all those half square triangle units for nearly a week, I was ready to take a break and work on something else.

On Friday at our bimonthly sewing get-together at Kay's, our friend Helen was working on some placemats. We all liked them, and so after some discussion Kay and Janice and I decided to get together Sunday afternoon and make some placemats of our own. I never left Kay's until nearly 11:00 that night, so I missed my Sunday Stash Report and everything. I'll catch up with that next week.

The placemats were quick and easy to cut out; and they sewed up pretty quickly too, once we figured out what we were doing. The pattern called for muslin inside instead of batting; but we used flannel, which gave the mat a little extra body, but not enough to cause a glass to rock on it. I haven't added the backing and binding yet, but I got three mats made and one more cut out. We thought these would make great gifts, and there's an endless number of novelty fabrics or other prints you could use for these. They were a nice little stashbuster too--about 1/2 yard for each mat. I wish I had enough lobster fabric left to make a tablerunner; but I don't, so I might have to try to find some other little lobster related item to give with the placemats as a giftie.

Janice made hers from Christmas fabrics, which was very attractive. Kay made one for each of her grandchildren, using the same fabrics she'd used in bloomers she made for them last week, and they were just adorable. I wish I'd thought to bring my camera to get a few photos. For one of Kay's mats, she used two different accent fabrics instead of one. It occurred to me that you could also make a set of four mats, two mats in one color combination, and the other two reversing the two colors. Or you could change the shape and make the mat more square. Or longer, for a tablerunner. Or.... gee, lots of possibilities for these!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Orange Crush Again...

... or maybe I should say still. Lately I have managed to get a few more border blocks finished in between blocks for other projects, and today I finished the rest of them and started sewing the blocks into rows. When I mentioned in my last post about how I wish quilters would share more about the ways in which they work on a quilt, Lori took me at my word and posted about how both she and her friend Henrietta approach the making of a quilt. I enjoyed reading every word about the nuts and bolts of their process. Lori likes to cut all her pieces right away, which is something I rarely do. It blew my mind to think about cutting 1,469 pieces for her quilt all at once, but I think it's a good idea to reevaluate the way I do things once in a while, and maybe this method has some advantages. Sometimes mindless piecing is really what I want to do! I thought the ziploc baggies were a great idea. See, that's just what I'm talking about!

Today was a Special Day, and I spent the entire day engaged in my two favorite activities, sewing and eating. I puttered around this morning finishing up the border blocks, one by one. I was focused, but some of these split half 4 patches, or whatever they were called, didn't come out to exactly the right size, so I was working with a paper foundation putting them together so they'd turn out the right size. Who would do it that way? Probably only me. It was a one by one kind of activity, and I poked along, thought about lots of other things, and just enjoyed myself.

Long about 2:00, I decided to make a blueberry pie with some fresh Maine blueberries I'd gotten at the grocery store the other day. The crust of my pie is a mixture of ground up oatmeal, ground up pecans, brown sugar, and butter, and it's delicious. The recipe calls for a cream topping, but I love the pie so much that I never made the topping before. Today I thought was a good time to try it. The topping is made with melted marshmallows mixed with half and half , whipped cream, and vanilla. Never did get around to finishing the topping. I melted the marshmallows and mixed in the half and half, stuck it in the frig, and there it sits.

Because it was a Special Day, my husband and I went to dinner at The Sedgley Place in Greene, and what a wonderful dinner it was. Like so many businesses in Maine, the building looks like it might once have been a private home in a quiet rural setting. The interior is decorated in such a way that you feel like you're eating in someone's home--wallpaper, lace curtains, fireplace, just a lovely quiet setting. No kids either. No menus. No annoying background music. No crowds. Just fine dining.

We had a 5-course meal with reasonable portions at reasonable prices--another thing that sets the restaurant apart. And absolutely everything was made from scratch in their kitchen, right down to the blue cheese dressing on my salad. For dinner I had creamy vegetable soup and mushroom caps stuffed with scallops for the appetizer; fresh homemade bread; all organic Maine grown vegetables in the salad and the meal; a 7-oz filet mignon grilled to perfection and Bearnaise sauce; and peach melba for dessert. Sound good? You bet! Surely this must be one of Central Maine's best kept secrets.

And now, I'm back in the sewing room!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Star BOM Block 3

Here is Block 3 in JudyL's Star Block of the Month. This one was pretty easy to do. I've learned to cut those flying geese units slightly oversized and then square them up. I'm also enjoying seeing everyone else's blocks. Keep up the good work, everyone!

Credit where credit is due:
The "Martha Washington Star" block can be found in the EQ6 Block Library and is copyright-free.

Galaxy of Stars Block 3

Block 3 for my Galaxy of Stars quilt is done. There are two of these in the quilt.

Star BOM Block 2

I knew Judy was supposed to post Block 3 today, and sure enough she did. Last night I figured I'd better get it in gear and get Block 2 done. I thought I might have a little trouble with the mitered corners of the green fabric strips, so I sewed mine a little differently. I sewed the green strips to the yellow triangles first, pressed the seams open, trimmed up the resulting triangles, and then sewed the four triangle units together like an hourglass block. Worked like a charm, and the seams match perfectly!

Credit where credit is due:
This block is a variation of the "Card Basket" block , which can be found in the EQ6 Block Library and is copyright-free.

Half Square Triangle Units

I'm sure I've learned a half dozen ways of making half square triangle units, but my favorite method is taking a square of background fabric and a square of fashion fabric, drawing a diagonal line on one square, sewing 1/4" away on either side of the line, and then cutting the two units apart on the drawn line. If the squares are oversized to begin with, you can square each unit up and have a perfect half-square triangle unit.

Last week I needed 560 half square triangle units, and I used a different method to make them, which is much faster and more efficient for multiple units in the same two fabrics. Maybe someone else will find it useful. I learned this method from a Quilt University class I took a long time ago. I think this is the only time I've used it since that class, but it's one more skill you can add to your toolbox when the occasion arises. Before you start, you need to know what the unfinished dimension of your half square triangle unit is. Mine was 2-1/2" unfinished.

I cut two panels of fabric, one in the background fabric and one in the fashion fabric, 13" x the width of the fabric (40" or 42"). The height of the panel is determined by how many rows you want to cut out of that dimension. Since my units were 2-1/2", 5 rows of triangle units equal 12-1/2", and I allowed a little extra to square up the edges, so each of my panels was 13" high. You can certainly cut the panel taller if you want to, but a larger panel might be a little unwieldy to handle. In fact, you can manipulate the dimensions of these panels any way you want to, depending on how many units you need and what size you want them to be.

Next I layered the fabrics, right sides of both fabrics facing up, matching the lower edges of the fabrics. Then I squared up the left edge of the fabrics.

Using the 45 degree line on my ruler, I cut bias strips all the way down the length of the panels. At this point you'll need to determine how wide to cut the strips.

Here's the formula:

finished size of unit x .71, rounded up to nearest 1/8", plus 1"

The finished size of my units will be 2", so 2 x .71 = 1.42
Round up to nearest 1/8" = 1-1/2"
Plus 1" = 2-1/2"
So I should cut my bias strips 2-1/2" wide.

The width of the strips determines how much waste you'll have between the half square triangle units. At 2-1/2" wide I had more waste than was desirable for me, so I reduced the width of my strips to 2-3/8", and that worked fine.

Next, I sewed the panels back together, alternating a background strip with a fashion fabric strip. You'll have two panels like this after you've done all the sewing. Adding the seam allowances shrinks the panel across the width of the panel (the 40" dimension). It also shrinks the height (13") of the panel, but only in the corners where you didn't cut a strip across the full heighth of the panel.

Placing the 45 degree mark on my ruler along one of the seam lines, I squared up one long edge of my panel.

Next I cut rows, 2-1/2" wide, across the heighth of the panel, which is the dimension of the unfinished half square triangle unit I wanted. From my panel, I cut five rows, with a small amount of waste at the top of the panel.

From each row, I cut half square triangle units. Because there is a small amount of waste between triangles, you'll need to flip each unit around and square it up.
There will be some waste at the beginning and end of each row; and if I have enough fabric, I'll pair up these waste pieces and make a few additional half square triangle units.

From one set of panels, 13" x 40", I made 114 half square triangle units.

Sunday Stash Report

I spent much of the week making hundreds of half square triangle units for Koleen's quilt--560 of them, in fact. It surprised me how much fabric was used in the process. I also cut the strips for the binding and put them in the pile with all the other binding strips waiting for their respective quilts to be finished.

I used to not think about the binding until it was actually time to sew it onto the quilt. Invariably I would discover that I didn't have enough of the fabric left that I wanted to use. Then I'd either wind up using some other fabric that I hadn't even used in the quilt, or I'd have to make another trip to the quilt shop and hope they had some of my fabric left. Testing patterns for my good friend Koleen has changed the way I approach my quiltmaking, and this is certainly a case in point. Her patterns include the information for the binding right in the cutting directions, so now I cut the binding strips right along with all the other bits and pieces for the quilt top and set them aside. Now I just have to remember to buy the extra fabric for the binding.

I wish more people would share the nuts and bolts of how they make their quilts on their blogs. Everyone does things a different way, and I'm always surprised when I learn something new from another quiltmaker. Usually it's something that never occurred to me or something I simply never knew. That's how it was when my good friend Ann demonstrated how she makes binding. I'd struggled with binding for years trying to make it the way the books said, and Ann's method was a light bulb moment for me. Walking through the process of making a quilt with both Bonnie Hunter and Judy Laquidara has also added some new skills to my tool box.

But I digress. I also cut the pieces for two more blocks in the Galaxy of Stars quilt. There are two of Block 3 in the quilt--I have one finished and the second is still in progress, so they'll be in a separate post when the second one is complete.

Here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 5-3/8 yards
Fabric used year to date: 125-3/4 yards
Fabric added this week: 0 yards!!!
Fabric added year to date: 244-5/8 yards
Net year to date: - 118-7/8 yards