Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Here we are again on the eve of another year, and I'm doing the same thing probably lots of folks are doing--reflecting on 2009 and thinking about the future in 2010. What is most important to me this New Year's Eve is that my husband is back from a six-month deployment in the Middle East, and my family is all in one piece again. As a military family we've been through so many deployments and separations, but this is our last one. After 30 years in the military, we are retiring.

The last three months have been a wash for me as far as any quilting is concerned. Except for a few raffle blocks I made, I haven't done a thing in my sewing room since sometime in October. Burnout, I guess. I didn't really intend to take a sabbatical from blogging either, but the two of those things go hand in hand for me. Last week I picked up a quilt again, a UFO that I've put off working on for nearly two years because it required some ripping, and I hate ripping. It feels good to get back to quilting.

In 2009, I wish I'd busted more stash, finished more quilts, practiced machine quilting more often, and learned more new things. In 2010, I'd like to make some of the quilts that have been on my "to do" list for years, make more scrap quilts, and teach myself some new tricks.

To all of you who have visited me throughout the year, I thank you for your support and your friendships, and I wish you every success and only good things in 2010. Happy New Year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Mittens

I have conquered thrummed mittens. I started this mitten three different times. On the second try I probably had half of it done, then realized it was going to be a couple sizes too large, so I ripped it all out and started again. I could probably still go down one more size, but they'll be fine as they are.

The pattern I was given was for a double knitted mitten to be worked on on two needles. Knitting the hand wasn't much trouble, but it got more complicated when I got to the thumb. I had no directions on how to knit it flat and join it to the body, so I knit it on double pointed needles and sort of made it up as I went along. It was a feat of sheer perserverance and patience to knit the thumb with the thrums inside.

Here is a pile of thrums waiting to be knit into the mittens. I tear off a wisp of wool from my roving, fold the ends to the middle, and then twirl it between my fingers to sort of felt the middle. That did make them easier to work with.

This is what the mitten looks like on the inside. All these little wool bits will eventually mat together and form a nice, soft liner.

The other mitten is now well underway, and felted mittens are next on my list. My good friend Sherry is also going to show me how to make a pair of mittens from an old sweater and some fleece, a two-layer mitten that sounds incredibly warm.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Knitting Nights

Yesterday it flurried off and on for most of the day here in Maine. By late afternoon it was snowing more heavily, and this was the landscape this morning when I woke up--about three inches of snow on the ground. The leaves haven't even finished falling off the trees yet. In the seven years we've lived up here, I can't remember that it ever snowed this early in the season, and I sure hope this isn't a precursor of what winter is going to be like this year.

I haven't worked on my September Sun any more this week, but I have been doing some knitting. November marks the beginning of a new challenge in my Knitting Nights class--mittens. We are making two styles, mittens with thrums and felted mittens. For those who may not know, thrums are tufts of unspun wool that are knit into the mitten. On the outside they look like little colored V's in the pattern. On the inside, all the fluffy bits of wool are exposed, and eventually they'll all mat together and make a nice thick cozy mitten. This is the beginning of what will be a thrummed mitten. ......Actually I suppose this looks like the beginning of a sock too.

October was more a month of knitting rather than quilting finishes. I finished up this little yellow sweater from the September class, size 1T. We've done baby sweaters before, but this was knit from the top down, all in one piece, all on a circular needle. The idea behind the top down sweater is that when you're done knitting, you're done. No seams to sew up. I LOVED this method.

I also finished the fishtail lace scarf I started in class several months ago, made a nice thick scarf for one of my sons, and made a beanie for the other one. Now I'm working on a beanie for my husband along with the mittens.

The burgundy scarf was a trip to make. My son wanted it really long so he could wrap it around his neck, so I used a super bulky yarn and size 13 (big) needles in a K1, P1 pattern. The fishtail lace scarf took weeks for me to finish. I knitted 6 feet of the burgundy scarf in 4 days. I had so much fun with it I may have to make one for myself.

Who'd have thought I'd be needing hats, scarves, and mittens in the beginning of November?

Did you know you can wind a whole ball of yarn on your thumb? As a beginning knitter, I recognized that I couldn't knit from a hank because it would get tangled, but I had no idea how to wind a ball of yarn. The automatic winders are silly expensive to me, so I googled it and discovered several methods for accomplishing the task. My favorite was this one. The idea here is to wind it in such a way that you can pull from the center of the ball when you're knitting, which I think is just so cool.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The September Sun Project

Life has been awfully busy the last several weeks; and when life gets busy, something has to give. For me, blogging is the least critical activity, so that's what usually goes first. I've had no time to either read blogs or write my own, so I have lots of catching up to do, and I look forward to it.

What am I so busy with?
*Social obligations, most of which involve either quilting or knitting, so that, at least, is a good thing.
*Things around the house and fall clean up. I am home alone most of the time, so everything pretty much falls to me. I'm still behind with the fall clean up. I don't think I've ever seen so many leaves in the yard, and they're mounting by the day, but we've had enough rain to keep me in the house.
*Work! I went back to work at the beginning of October as a seasonal hire. Even though I only worked a grand total of seven days this month, it's enough to disrupt the schedule I've developed over the last six months. I've had to develop a new schedule to make work the priority.

I continue to fit in as many sewing days as possible, and today our small group who is working on the September Sun project is meeting at Sherry's house for a day of sewing. I came down with an awful cold on Monday and decided it would be best to stay home today so as to not expose the others. But I'm still working on the project and communicating with the girls by phone, and I thought I'd share my progress today as I go along.

Here is what I've got done so far--all but the center four blocks. The last time we met, two of the girls worked on the center blocks and expressed their difficulties in a pretty colorful way, so I suppose I haven't been looking forward to it.

I made some templates for myself to assist in the process, and my strips are cut, so I'm ready to go.

I've sewn all the strip sets together for the center star block. After a couple of well-chosen expletives and some hair pulling, I also got two of the required eight diamonds sewn together into a quarter of the block. There's a darn good reason why I never made a Lone Star quilt. My motto today is, CLOSE is GOOD ENOUGH.

I called Sherry's to see how everyone was doing. In the background, I could hear things were heating up over there too. Barbara is working on the same set of star blocks I am, and she was using a different set of equally effective expletives.

Sherry is teaching her sister Sandy how to make mittens from old sweaters today, and she's going to teach me too. Up here in Maine, you can't have enough pairs of warm mittens.

Anyone still with me? My head hurts. I have spent far more time ripping than I have sewing on this block, and my patience is at its end for tonight. This half of the block looks pretty good until you look at the square in the upper right corner. I've lost nearly all the seam allowance for the blue square, and it took me ages to figure out that the seam allowance on the strip set wasn't quite large enough, which threw off that whole corner. I'll be ripping some more again tomorrow, but at least I know what NOT to do for the second half. It'll come together--just not tonight.
Right now I'm going to do something mindless. I'm knitting a scarf.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hourglass Log Cabin

Last night I finished sewing all the blocks together for the little log cabin quilt. I think I will be happy enough with a 3/8" binding to frame the quilt, so no border on this.

Several people wanted to know how big these blocks were, and I'm sorry I didn't think to include that information. Each of these little blocks finishes to 4" square, so each little log finishes to 1/2" wide. Because the pieces were small, I cut strips or rectangles from my scraps that measured at least 1-1/8" wide. Then I paper pieced the blocks, trimming any excess fabric off as I went.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Playing With Scraps

I haven't spent much time sewing in the last couple weeks, but that is not to say I haven't been busy in my sewing room. I finally finished the last of the mini log cabin blocks, 36 in all. I enjoyed making these so much that I'm going to start on an offset log cabin block next or maybe a pineapple blossom.

I played around with all the traditional arrangements for these blocks and finally settled on this hourglass arrangement. I haven't decided yet whether or not I'll add borders to it. As it is, it will finish to 24" x 24", which is just right for its appointed space in my hallway.

Next I started rooting through several bags and a couple of boxes of scraps I've acquired over the last year and a half. Quite a few of them were channeled into ziploc bags for several scrap projects I have lined up. The rest were consolidated into two medium-sized shopping bags and stored under the longarm. Only a very few of the scraps were actually cut up, but I sure feel good about getting this all cleared out.

Since I was on a roll and felt like cleaning out more stash, I spent several more days going through my cabinets pulling fabrics I thought might be suitable for pillowcases. Some of these fabrics I bought when the kids were younger, intending to make some project for them that never got made. Others constituted a what-was-I-thinking-when-I-bought-this moment and went into the pile too. Everything got washed, and I kitted up enough for 29 pillowcases. I really like some of these fabric combinations, so I'll save several of them for the grandchildren I may never have, and the rest will be donated to the Conkerr Cancer project.

I also cut up about a yard and a half for a small tablerunner. All total, I busted 32 yards of fabric that week and didn't buy a thing. Too bad I'm not still doing stash reports!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More September Sun Blocks

Over the past two days I finished 16 more blocks for my September Sun quilt. I unwittingly switched the two inner strip colors thereby losing the gradated effect; but since I don't have any more of one of those fabrics, it's staying like it is.

Now there are just four blocks left for the center star. Yesterday our little challenge group got together for an all-day work session, and two of the girls worked on the center block. It's basically a lone star type block, and both girls had trouble with it, so I'll have to take extra care to cut and piece precisely.

I will say that this has not been an easy quilt to piece, but I think it's a good thing to challenge ourselves as quilters from time to time. The results will be worth it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Felted Bowls

These are before and after photos of one of the projects in my knitting class this summer, felted bowls. We were given instructions for a set of five, and I recently finished knitting the last one and got them all felted. I used fisherman's wool, and they felted up beautifully, very thick and sturdy. I can imagine how nice and warm a pair of felted mittens might be, and I'd like to make a pair for this winter. The coolest thing is that all five bowls nest together.

People keep asking me what I'm going to do with them, and I keep telling them I don't know yet. I do know one thing. I'd like to make two or three more of these, only larger than the largest bowl in this set and half the height--large, shallow bowls. Then I'll use them to toss leaders and enders into as I get them made, one for four patches and maybe one or two for half square triangle units. I think I'd enjoy seeing them sitting on my sewing table.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Few Hexagon Blocks

When Robyn started The Great Hexagon Quilt-Along blog, I thought it sounded like fun and I joined. The inspiration for the blog is a quilt constructed entirely of diamond-shaped hexagon blocks. I tried English paper-piecing years ago and enjoyed it, even though I thought it a very slow method. By the time Robyn started her blog, Linda Franz had already published several of the Inklingo collections, so I decided the time was right to give it another try. I made one block, then the project fell by the wayside.

This week I decided it was time to get it back on track, so I collected a few more fabrics for it and started washing, pressing and cutting. I'm using primarily civil war fabrics for the quilt, plus scraps of whatever else appeals to me; and I plan to stick to the colors used in the original quilt--red, pink, blue, brown, tan, and cream--but probably in different proportions.

I'm using the Inklingo software to print hexagons right to the fabric, so there's not much preparation. I'm sure the ability to pretty much get right to the sewing will hold my interest longer. I'm trying not to think about the fact that I'll need 82 diamond blocks to complete the quilt as it was originally shown, and I'll just keep plugging away at it.

Since I've just gotten started with this project again, I've made one additional hexagon and nearly finished a second. Handpiecing 25 hexagons together into a block takes me a long time, but I'm really enjoying it. I love looking at the backs of these blocks--all those little hexagons formed by pressing the seams just look so cool.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Orange Crush Revisited

At long last, my Orange Crush quilt is completely finished--quilted, bound, and yes, it's labeled. The top has been done since last October, almost a year now. I guess I was putting off quilting it until I got more proficient at quilting from a pantograph, but I decided it was past time to get it done, good or bad. I quilted the bubbles I wanted on it, and I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. I'd forgotten how big this quilt was, nearly queen sized. I love this quilt!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's A Wrap!

That's the name of this quilt, and today it also signifies that the quilt is finished--quilted, bound, and labeled! I quilted Christmas trees on it using the Tannenbaum pantograph from Willow Leaf Studio.

That's another one completed from my Power of Ten list, so I cleaned up the list, removed the projects that have been completed, and added the Orange Crush quilt. I finished quilting that one a couple of days ago. Now I just have to bind--and label--it. That makes eight projects on my list, but five of them were added in June, so they're old, and I'll wait until I make some progress with those before I add anything else.

I've completed several Christmas projects this year in different mediums, and I guess this will be the last one for a while. Stephanie D has got me all fired up about Halloween, and now I feel a Halloween quilt coming on!

Credit where credit is due: "It's a Wrap quilt" design by Mary Ann Meador, Quiltmaker Nov/Dec 08

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Do You Label?

Not everyone does, but most quilt experts and historians agree that we should label our quilts--for future generations, for documentation, and for security. Signed quilts are also more valuable than unsigned quilts. Most importantly, labels can reflect the thought, care, and emotion that go into the making of a quilt.

I inherited this beautiful hexagon baby quilt when my mother passed away a few years ago. It is hand pieced and hand quilted, and in beautiful condition. And I have no idea who made it or how it came to be in my mother's possession, which is a real shame.

I am as guilty as anyone else of not labeling my quilts. I used to do it religiously, but a few years ago I began testing patterns and often didn't take the time to make the label. I have some catching up to do, but I'm also going to make a dedicated effort not to get further behind.

I am almost finished binding my Christmas quilt, and here is the label I made for it, a triangular label that is sewn to two edges of the quilt and only one edge to turn under. I love it! I first saw this idea on Pat's blog, Bell Creek Quilts, and thought it was brilliant. Last week or the week before I discovered Coleen's blog, Colleen's Quilting Journey, and she took the idea one step further and embroidered the text. You can see a couple of her labels here and here. I embroidered my label too and added a small Christmas motif as well.

Next time I make one of these, I'll make that trim at the top of the label about the same width as the binding. I think that might look better. Or I might finish that top edge and not stitch it down so I can use it as a pocket for a photo or something.

I have the same assortment of quilts with muslin labels and pigma pen writing that everyone else has, but sometimes I like to have a little more fun with my labels. My favorite method is to piece a smaller version of one or more blocks in the quilt and sew a row of them together with a plain block for the text. Sometimes the edges are too hard to turn under, so I'll add a little binding to the edge of the label before I sew it down.

The idea for this label came from Jinny Beyer's Soft Edge Piecing book. The background fabric was a piece of hand dyed fabric I'd made years ago, then I fussy cut eight pieces of fabric from a Jinny Beyer border print, stitched the pieces together, and appliqued the curved edges to the background fabric. It's one of my favorites.

For this label, I took a photograph of the front of the quilt, then printed the image on fabric and sewed it to the quilt back.

These two labels haven't made it onto the back of a quilt yet. The yellow one with the sun rays was a gift from a fellow quilter, and I never found the right quilt for it. The one on the right was a block gone wrong, so I cut it on the diagonal twice and used the pieces for the corners of this piece of muslin. I'll probably add some binding to the edges to stabilize the bias.

There are as many ways to make quilt labels as there are people on the planet. Consider adding a label to your quilts.

End to the Sunday Stash Report

It is a sunny, cool, breezy day here in Maine--perfect weather for working in the garden or sitting on the porch with a little handpiecing. Some of the leaves on my trees have already turned brown and fallen to the ground. It won't be long before Autumn is here.

I've decided to end my Sunday Stash Manager's Reports. After purchasing a bolt of 42 yards of muslin recently, I thought there probably wasn't much point in continuing to report it since the idea was to encourage us to reduce the stash. I am really pleased with the amount of stash I've busted the last year and a half, but I've been way more successful enhancing it. I also have to admit that my interest in reading others' stash reports is waning.

Funny thing about that, a couple of days after I came to my decision, I happened to see that the author of the website that originally hosted the Sunday Stash Reports posed the same question to its readers, whether or not to continue the Stash Reports. I have no idea what the outcome was, but I guess sometimes these things run their course, and then we move on.

For my own gratification, I plan to continue recording all Stash Events. I've really enjoyed keeping track, and I think anyone who stuck with it would agree it's an eye opener. I imagine there will be some discussion about stash busting in future posts, and I may even do an end-of-the-year Stash Report, provided the results are somewhat respectable!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Stash Report

I was busy all week working on my mini log cabin blocks, but I'm not reporting that stash until they're all finished, and I have six left to make for my little 36-block quilt. I also finished quilting my Christmas quilt, It's a Wrap, this evening, which makes me very happy!

I'll be loading another quilt on the frame this week, binding the Christmas quilt, making the rest of the log cabin blocks, and spending some time working on the projects on my Power of Ten list.

For the Stash Manager's Report, nothing in, nothing out!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Giveaway for Machine Embroiderers

Serena Smith at Embroidery Treasures is hosting a giveaway for machine embroidery enthusiasts. The offer is for these four magazines. Plus she has an interesting site! You have until August 31 to enter the giveaway.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Carolee's Tea

This morning I worked some more on the binding for the snowman quilt and finished it this evening. This is the third flannel quilt I've made, and I really like the flannel, but it's a bit more challenging to do the quilting and binding because of the thickness of the layers. This pattern, called "Under the Stars", is by The Rabbit Factory.

This afternoon was our tea at Carolee's house. Tables were set up in the garage with this lovely collection of china tea cups and treats for the tea.

We had some time before the presentation to see Carolee's extensive gardens. A tour through her gardens is a lot like a trip to a Botanical Garden--there are just so many varieties of plants. Her sun garden extends clear across the front of her house and around to the side. In the back are two shade gardens, and two more shade gardens on the other side of her driveway. Of course Carolee devotes quite a bit of time every day working in her gardens, so it's a wonder she still finds time to quilt.

The presentation by Sandra L. Hatch, editor of Quilter's World magazine, was an insightful look into her career as an editor and quilter that has spanned 28 years so far. She has an impressive list of magazines and books to her credit, as well as a large body of work as a quilter. Behind her, there were stacks of quilts on the tables, many of which were quilts she's made over the years for magazines and books she's edited. She had a large number of Christmas quilts and charming gift bags. She mentioned that she has 29 people in her family, and each family member has their own gift bag, which she fills every year at Christmas. I believe Sandra said she has recently resigned as editor of Quilter's World due to creative differences, but she will retain her position as technical editor.