Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Machine Applique Monday

I have three sewing stations set up in my basement sewing room; and yes, it's nice to have the space to do this. I like being able to set up three different projects and not have to keep picking them up to work on something different. My primary station is where my Janome 6500 is--love that machine.

Another station has my Bernina 200E set up, and that is the machine I primarily use for machine embroidery and machine applique. In my humble opinion, Bernina has the perfect buttonhole stitch, and I use it exclusively for machine applique.

Last week I finished buttonhole stitching another project that will be a Christmas gift so can't speak of it. The newest one is a small Lori Smith quilt with 6 applique blocks. Although I can needle turn applique pretty well, I prefer the machine work because it's faster. Besides, if it's good enough for Pat Holly and Sue Nichols (and they're award winners), it's good enough for me.

Anyway, I've just got started on this, so I'll be a while on this one. I can't hunch over the machine for too many hours without discomfort in my back and shoulders, so I just work on it for a few hours on Mondays.

The last station in my sewing room is for my Singer 301. It was my mother's only sewing machine, and I learned to sew on it when I was 15. I was delighted to have it after she passed away. It hadn't been used for years, so I found a gentleman in Nobleboro who works on vintage machines. He took it apart, cleaned and oiled it, and rebuilt the motor for me for a very reasonable price; and now it runs like a top.

The Singer 301 is a slant shank machine, so I bought a generic 1/4" foot for it. Still can't get an accurate quarter inch seam allowance with it, so it has been relegated to paper piecing. This is the machine I used for the Honeycomb quilt. The top is now complete, just have to figure out what I want to do for the quilting. This little quilt finishes to 12" x 14".

Since I've been on a tear for months in the sewing room, not much knitting has got done; but I'm nearing the end of my Imagine When shawlette by Joji Locatelli. The construction is accomplished with short rows, using wrapped stitches. And you don't have to pick up the wraps, so it's really easy. The yarn is a wool-silk blend called Amitola from Lousia Harding--love the long colorway.

It sleeted most of the day yesterday, which is okay because sleet doesn't stick to the trees, meaning no down power lines. I'm sure the roads were slick, but they're really good about plowing and salting the roads up here. Then it warmed up and rained, probably a good part of the night and all morning today. Late in the afternoon, we're finally seeing a little sun peaking out.

365 Challenge Week 3

I should have gotten this post up Monday but was too busy sewing. Although last week's blocks were pretty easy, the pieces are getting smaller. Kathryn promises nothing smaller than 1/2" finished, and one of these blocks had squares that finish at 1/2".

I think Kathryn intends for the sampler to be something of a learning experience as well, as there are quite a few tutorials on her website. Half square triangles were introduced last week, and they were easy enough to do. I am not enthused about making half square triangle units that finish at 1/2", but I have a feeling they're coming, lol.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Honeycomb is another one of the little kits I picked up at quilt show last year, along with the True Blue quilt I had on the blog a couple of posts ago. It's another pattern with fabrics by Kim Diehl. Her method of construction for this quilt was to sew background squares together, then applique the hexagons onto the background, maybe so the background diamonds would appear unbroken.

I decided that method was not for me, so I drafted a paper piecing pattern and have been making them that way. Row 1 is a little off, so I am restitching it, and there's one more row to be added to the quilt, plus borders.

I worked on the quilt today and before this, on Friday evening. Coincidentally, on Saturday I happened to be cruising Wanda's Exuberant Color blog and saw a spiral baby quilt she just finished that she referred to in an earlier post as Fractured blocks. Her quilt was based on a quilt from Kathy Doughty's book, Making Quilts With Kathy Doughty.

I like Wanda's quilt very much, and while I was contemplating how I might draft the block for it, I realized the paper piecing pattern from Honeycomb would work just fine, minus a couple of extra seam lines. Love it when an idea comes together.

The Honeycomb blocks are 2" finished, so I kept that same size for the units in the Fractured blocks. This is one block, 6", and I want to make a 9- or 12-block quilt. I did order Kathy Doughty's book because there were other quilts in the book I liked, and I'll wait until the book arrives before I make any more Fractured blocks. Some of the units are mirror imaged, and I want to see exactly what Kathy's instructions are for making the block sets.

It was in the 40s over the weekend, and I was thankful that nearly all of the ice on the walkway and driveway melted. That would be just in time for a winter storm watch Monday night into Tuesday. Could be snow, sleet, or freezing rain. Great.

Friday, January 20, 2017

365 Challenge

The other project I've been very preoccupied with this month is the 365 Challenge quilt. It is billed by designer Kathryn Kerr as the ultimate sampler quilt. Make a block every day for a year, and you'll have this amazing 90" square quilt. Kathryn published one block a day for all of 2016, and she is repeating the Challenge again this year.

Like so many other things, I learned about the Challenge from someone else's blog and started to work on it last January. I decided to stick with Kathryn's original color plan, blue and brown; but after I finished two weeks worth of blocks, I decided I didn't like my fabrics and, you guessed it, threw it in the closet.

Kathryn has a new Gallery on her website with several finished quilts. They're fabulous, and I was inspired to give it another try. I switched out the background fabrics I used last year for a single dark dark background, and I also eliminated the greenish blues I used in some of the blocks. I am also introducing more browns, and I like them much better now. We'll see how far I get this time.

This is the first week's worth of blocks, Jan 1 - Jan 8. January 1 fell on a Sunday, and I usually consider Mondays to be the beginning of my week, so there are eight blocks from week 1.

The dark borders are mostly 3" blocks, with just a very few 6" blocks. By the second week, there are starting to be some smaller pieces. Kathryn promises there are no pieces that finish smaller than 1/2". It's definitely a challenge working with such small pieces, but the real challenge, I think, is making a block every day for a year...

Two tools have proved to be very useful with these small blocks. One is the Strip Stick. Available in several different lengths, the Strip Stick has a piece of wood or something hard inside which helps make for a very flat seam when you iron on it. I've been using the 9" Stick for my 3" blocks.

The Stick is also rounded on one side, which makes it very easy to sort of isolate a particular seam for pressing, particularly useful with a 3" block.

The other tool that has really been helpful is what I know to be referred to as a tailor's clapper. I've had mine for years and originally used it in garment sewing. I use it now to set on top of a unit or block I've just pressed. The wood draws the moisture out of the fabric and makes for a nice flat, crisp seam.

I got the idea to use the clapper from a local Studio 180 (Deb Tucker's Hunter Star company) instructor who was doing a presentation for a quilt group. She had one and was selling them, and I thought it was a brilliant way to use it. The clapper she had didn't look like mine. The top part with the points was missing, there was just the bottom part. Nancy's Notions has one for 20 bucks, but you might be able to find one for less somewhere else.

Monday I'll have another set of seven blocks done.

Farm Girl Friday

I first became aware of the Farm Girl Vintage quilt at our quilt show last October. One of our chapter members completed one and entered it in the show, and I liked it soon as I saw it. I bought the book and soon after found Lori's website and a FGV Quiltalong she did in 2015. Her quiltalong consisted of a weekly Friday post about two of the blocks in the quilt, an occasional construction tip, and sometimes one or more alternate projects, like smaller quilts, pillows, aprons, and so on.

For the last two months, I've been sharing the links with our chapter members and working on the blocks. So far I've finished 15/48 blocks and 39/106 flying geese for one of the borders. Some of the blocks are pretty easy, some are more challenging. I'm making the quilt with 30s repros and using as many of my scraps as I can. I've added the sashing to just the first block right now. Here are the other blocks I've made.

The Milk Cow block is not in the book, but there's a Milk Day block, so I decided I needed a cow to go with it. I purchased the pattern separately from Lori's website. Definitely a challenge but worth the effort. Very cute!

We had Baby Girl last weekend for three delightful days. She's seven months old now and such a good baby, always smiling.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2016--It's A Wrap

The last time I posted was two months ago. I guess that's par for the course. I'd like to try and do better this year. The last several months were busy ones, with our chapter quilt show, fall clean up, winterizing the house and cars, a death in hubby's family and a trip to Maryland for the funeral, hubby's knee surgery, weekends with Baby Girl, the holidays and all that entails, and as much quilting and knitting as I could fit in. I finished 18 quilts in 2016, which is a record for me, and in a variety of sizes, from queen to to miniature. 12 of those were UFOs, and it makes me exceedingly happy to see them finished. 8 were charitable donations for Quilts of Valor and NICU. This year I want to continue to focus on quilts for donation and the UFOs, and I'd like to make some quilts for family as well.

A little over half of the quilts I finished last year were linked in the sidebar. What follows never made it on the blog.

A couple years back, these Turning 20 quilts were going to be one twin-sized; but I changed my mind and threw it in the closet. Last summer I dug it back out and made two crib quilts out of the blocks. One was donated, the other went to my granddaughter. Her room is pink and gray, and the quilt adds a lovely touch of color.

Credit where credit is due: Turning 20 Book 9 by Tricia Cribbs

Charity Baby #3 is called Strip Mine, from a Quilt University class by Patti Anderson. I've seen the pattern all over the place, so it's not unique to her; but her method of construction might be. A good scrap buster and easy enough to sew.

True Blue is a 24" square quilt, from a kit I bought one summer at quilt show. Both the pattern and the fabrics are from Kim Diehl.

Charity Baby #5, Jumping for Joy, was from an article in Quiltmaker Nov/Dec 2016 by Paula Stoddard. That issue arrived at the right time for a quick and easy retreat quilt. I finished the top at our October retreat in Jackman and got it quilted a week or so after.

I was in the mood to make a Christmas quilt this year, so I dug this UFO out of the closet and finished it. I appliqued the snowflakes in the blue blocks with my embroidery machine, then machine quilted it with a snowflake design. I consider it a winter quilt, not really a Christmas quilt. We have lots of gray days in Maine, and I like this quilt because it's cheery.

Warm Wynter Wishes was designed by a friend of mine when she was designing and selling patterns, but this one was never published. After a couple of years of pestering, she finally let me make it. She is now working on a sequel that she plans to share.

The last quilt I finished for 2016 was QOV #3, Stars Over America. I think I used every star fabric I owned, then quilted the whole thing with stars. The stars were paper pieced.

My goal for 2016 was six quilts of valor, which obviously was too ambitious. This year I'm aiming for four.

Credit where credit is due: pattern called Steve's Star, by Steve Bennett (Judy's husband), from Judy Martin's Piece and Play book.
One last project--a selection of small bags for Daughter-in-Law for Christmas. The cloth bags are from Lazy Girl Designs--Sweetpea Pod, Becca, and Fobio. The black vinyl mesh bags are from the pattern Zip It, Screen Play II. My DIL carries a smallish purse, so the large Becca works well for her. Not me, lol, I carry everything under the sun in my purse, so I need a big leather bag.

I will be busy the rest of the week trying to catch up on others' 2016 year end posts. Happy New Year to all.