Friday, June 4, 2021

Getting Back into the Blogosphere

The weather has finally warmed in Maine with temps in the 70s. We have four or five days of hot weather coming up, then back into the 70s. Black flies are out and about as well. I try to load up with bug repellent, and I pay dearly with huge itchy welts if I don't. 

We have been waiting for the landscapers to start on a new back walkway, and they've finally got to it. I'm guessing the walkway is 30+ feet; and they've just started laying the pavers, so they'll be a while. 

Warmer weather also means the violets are in bloom. I discovered that my neighbor's side yard is almost all weeds in the spring, including spectacular amounts of dandelions and violets. I picked blossoms to my heart's content and made some lovely lavender and violet face cream with fresh blossoms infused in water. Also some wild violet cold process soap with dried blossoms infused in oil. 

The left over blossoms were dried and bagged for use this winter. Violet leaves were not so plentiful this year, but Mountain Rose Herbs carries dried violet leaf, and I can make soap with them too.  

Tis also the season for summer cactus. My summer cactus is a very finicky bloomer, so I was excited this morning to discover it is sprouting buds. There are not a bunch yet, but I'm hoping. 

My Christmas cactus, on the other hand, is perpetually confused. It has bloomed nearly continuously since last October. Here it is June, and it's still blooming.
In April I finished Mountain View Lodge, which was a free pattern from Benartex. I've made a couple of these as gifts for men; and this was for a friend of hubby's, who stitched a canvas cover for our pontoon boat last summer. 

I still have quite a lot of fabric left over from this collection, so I used up all of this striped piece on the back. Still didn't have quite enough, so I pieced one stripe with some tan fabric from the collection on either side. 

I am increasingly trying to find ways to use up more fabric from the stash on the back side of my quilts. I recently found a site called Just Get It Done Quilts by Karen Brown, Her YouTube channel is a gold mine of videos on scrap management and other subjects. She also has one called The Afterquilt. That video illustrates the process she uses to incorporate scraps left over from the front of a quilt into a pieced back. Very useful information.

The only other quilt I've finished this year is a quickie strippy. After having been off the quilt frame for so long, I figured a little practice was in order. Plus, these strippys are mindless and fast to put together, which sometimes provides a necessary respite from more complicated piecing. I'd like to have a stack of these tops available for practicing machine quilting.

Besides not having as much time to quilt as I'd like, the other reason I've been slow to get things done this year is because I've been working pretty consistently on two UFOs in particular that have been exceedingly time consuming. 

I finally finished the pineapple top and got it loaded on the longarm right away, intending to complete it before quilt show registration closed in May. I stitched out two rows in a thread color that didn't work, in a pattern that didn't work. It's been sitting on the frame for weeks now because picking out two rows of stitching takes a really long time and really kills my back. I'm still chipping away at it in increments of 15 or 20 minutes, and I don't have too much more to go. But that also means that I can't get anything else quilted because I am NOT taking this thing off the frame.  

I also resurrected my Y2K millennium charm quilt--again. I blogged about this quilt at the end of October in 2014, and that's probably the last time I worked on it. I am finishing up the last three rows of triangles, then it's time to sew all the rows together and add a border. This top is NOT going back in the closet again.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

New Year, New Projects

The weather has been bone chilling this month, especially at night; but we don't have much snow on the ground. When we first moved to Maine nearly 20 years ago, the snow might be up to my waist some winters, but not anymore. Snowmobilers and skiers aren't happy about it, but I'm fine with it. Pandemic or not, I've stayed in because it's just too darn cold to go out. 

The holidays passed uneventfully. My sister-in-law was here for two weeks, and it was nice to have the company. We worked on a puzzle together, something I hadn't done in years; and I enjoyed it so much that I hauled out a few more and built those too. The last one was 2000 pieces, and I have one left I haven't built yet that is 3000 pieces. That might be big enough, lol. Ravensburger, whom I heard from my SIL is a premiere puzzle maker, has one that is over 40,000 pieces. Can't imagine. 

Hardly any sewing got done in December because of the festivities and company, but I did manage to get the Holiday Extravaganza top put together. These fabrics were a collection from Alison Glass, and I just love them. Not a clue how I'm going to quilt this yet. 

Nothing much got done in January either, but the Christmas Cards I was working on as a leaders and enders project is now a finished top as well. The letters are machine embroidered, and the tiny Christmas bulbs make them look like strings of lights. No clue how I am going to quilt this one either. 

I'm not in the mood for One Monthly Goal anymore, preferring to start new projects and skip around between the new ones and the old ones. I updated it and left it in the sidebar simply as a space holder so I could remember how to do the html if I go back to it at some point. There seem to be a bunch of sew alongs that started in January, and I decided to follow along with a couple of them. 

Michelle Renee Hiatt's Best of the 60s mystery quilt actually started in mid December. This block of the week focuses on the use of Studio 180's Star 60 ruler; and as you can see, all of the blocks so far have been 60-degree pieced triangles. Clues up through clue 11 have been posted, but I've only worked up through clue 8 because I am having a bit of trouble with fabric choices. That should be resolved by clue 13, and then I can get back to work. 

There are three of each block so far, and I'm wondering if the entire quilt will be pieced blocks or if there will be any plain filler blocks.

I've had a couple sizes of Strip Sticks for quite a while, and they're working especially well to press open all the seams in these blocks. Batiks press up well anyway, but the strip stick helps my blocks stay nice and flat. 

For those who might not know, strip sticks are wood sticks covered with a thin layer of padding and some muslin. They are flat on one side and rounded on the other, making them especially handy for ironing strip sets. In blocks like these triangular blocks where there are a lot of seams close together, the strip stick is superb at isolating one seam so you don't accidentally mess up any surrounding seams with the iron. 

In February, Moda started a monthly sew along called My Favorite Color is Moda.Sampler style quilts are suddenly appealing to me again, so I bought a kit of fabrics in a colorway I liked plus the pattern book and got started.

I have never like working with solids, and this kit is all solids. Some of the fabrics in my Holiday Solstice were solids, hand dyed fabrics with a little texture actually, which I liked. So I decided I would give this a try. So far I'm bored, lol, but I think it will get better. 

The blocks in the sampler are variously sized, and block 1 is the largest at 36" square, big enough for a one-block baby quilt. I didn't imagine this block was so big in the picture above, but it's a pretty big quilt. 

The projects above are on hold for the time being, so I've switched gears to pineapple blocks. The colored blocks were swap blocks from years ago, and I dug them out two summers ago to work on at camp. The colored blocks are finished now and sewn together in rows of two; and I'm working on a border of blue pineapple blocks at the moment.

I've always been a slow sewist, slow at everything really; and these blocks take a long time for me to make. I'm about halfway there, and if I can make  two a day or every other day, I can finish the rest by the end of the month. Then there is another pieced border and some plain borders, so there's still a lot of work left to do. My goal is to have the quilt completely finished by mid May in time to register it for Maine Quilts 2021. It's virtual again this year, so the quilt has to be finished to take the photo.

Working with scraps always seems to beget more scraps, and the pineapple blocks are no exception. I continue to accumulate strings from strips that are no longer wide enough to use in a round. Coincidentally, I came across this block on Pinterest the other day, and a light bulb went on. This block is absolutely perfect to use up the blue strings, along with smaller chunks. I decided that my only rule for these blocks was that the fabrics had to be predominantly blue. Other than that, I don't care if the fabrics are prints, plaids, batiks, calicos, whatever. As long as they read blue, they're going in. No worries either about contrast or value, just sew them together. How refreshing! Mindless sewing at its best.

The pattern for this block linked from Pinterest to If you search on Eastern Sunrise, you'll find it. It's 7-1/2" finished, and it's paper pieced, but that's not a hard and fast rule for me. If my strings are too narrow, I'll add more until the paper is filled. Plus they're pretty fast for me to make, a lot faster than pineapples anyway. A size 90 needle and a 1.5 stitch length makes quick work of removing the paper. Put together in rows, these blocks kind of remind me of barbed wire. I love this!

I plan to go through the stash and cull all my blue fabrics that are ugly, unappealing, old as the hills, or problematic in some way, and cut them up for this quilt. I could probably use the ones that are fat-quarter size or larger and piece them together for the back. Probably won't put a dent in it, lol. I also have a stack of muslin I've been trying to figure out what to do with, and these blocks will be perfect for that too.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

One Monthly Goal for December

My favorite thing to do is quilting, and my favorite quilting thing to do is piecing--units and blocks. Which is why I have 3 almost finished tops at the moment. I decided to join the One Monthly Goal bandwagon once again because it is a good motivator, so my goal for the month of December is to finish the aforementioned 3 tops. 

To see what others are working on this month, visit Elm Street Quilts here.

In last month's post, I uploaded a photo of the holiday medallion I've been working on, Holiday Solstice. The only difference between that photo and this month's photo is that the quilt is now sitting on the table instead of on the design wall. The rest of the borders have still not been added. There is one more pieced border to add plus 2 plain borders for a total of 3 more borders. I want to get this top done!

This was last year's holiday medallion mystery quilt from Michelle Renee Hiatt called Holiday Extravaganza. I am in the process of adding pieced borders....

... and I still have to finish the round I'm on, plus one more pieced border, plus 2 plain borders. I want to get this top done!

Then there's this--blocks and parts of blocks, and none of it has been put together yet. So the third top I would like to try and finish this month is Ticker Tape Parade, another Michelle Renee Hiatt mystery quilt from last year. I want to get this top done!

If I really put some serious effort into it, I could probably get the first two tops put together in a week; but there are just too many other things to do. Well, anyway, 3 finished tops is the goal this month. 

My little Leaders and Enders envelope blocks are also coming along. I think I probably have a pile of about 25 by now. Also, I lied in my last post--these will finish to 2-1/2", not 3". 

These little blocks are composed of 4 half square triangle units. I could have used a flying geese unit for part of the envelope, but it didn't occur to me to do that immediately. Going forward, I'll try that if the remaining scraps I have for this project are large enough. 

It is stunning how rapidly Covid is spreading everywhere, including in Maine. Today we had the largest single day total of new cases since the pandemic started. I wonder if people are throwing caution to the wind because they are so fatigued with all of it. Two of the people in our family circle decided to visit the Maine Mall on Black Friday, and the mall was packed that day; so we cancelled our plans to have our granddaughter up for the weekend, which was disappointing. Just didn't want to take the risk. At Christmas time, we may just have to do a drive by and throw the kids' gifts out the window.

Stay safe, everyone!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving


We are having one guest for dinner today, my younger son. We don't get to see him so often, so we're happy about that. Sharing a good meal with family and a few minutes of sewing on the side is a satisfying day. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Poking Along

It's been a while since I've blogged, and it's been a long, looong year. My family has stayed well throughout the pandemic, as I hope all of you have; but I am suffering from covid fatigue, election fatigue, civil unrest fatigue, and husband fatigue, and I know I am not alone. And by the looks of it, there is no end in sight to any of it. So! Perhaps reading and connecting with my favorite bloggers again will help!

We were up to camp more often this summer because hubby is now retired (husband fatigue). We have no internet up there, and cell phone service is sketchy; so I missed the first couple One Monthly Goal signups after the end of June. I was also discouraged with it because I won a prize in April and still haven't seen it. The host has responded to my queries, but still nothing. I haven't decided if I'll restart the OMG or not, even though I've left the widget in my sidebar.

Maine Quilts 2021, which is normally held at the end of July, has already been canceled; and we are gearing up for a virtual show instead. My quilt chapter, like so many others, has not met since February; and locally, quilt chapters most likely won't meet again for many months. Covid is rising sharply in Maine, as it is everywhere. In the meantime, I updated my UFO Challenge in the side bar from a group challenge with my chapter to a personal one. Lofty goals, and I may not finish a thing, but there it is. 

I have just been playing in my sewing room since July, making a few blocks here and there for new projects, experimenting, and learning new tools. I've probably said it before, but I am a big fan of the Studio 180 rulers. It is exactly the same concept as oversizing half square triangle units and then squaring them up; and the rulers work perfectly for a variety of units. 

Michelle Renee Hiatt is one of the certified instructors who branched out on her own, and I like her designs a lot. Even took a couple of classes with her at Maine Quilts one year. Last year, I discovered she was doing a holiday mystery medallion quilt, but I was too late to get in on it, so I had to buy the pattern. Michelle leaves each clue up for one week only. After that, if you miss a clue, you have to buy it. Still working on that one. 

This year her holiday mystery medallion was Holiday Solstice. It was a whole lot of sewing, and it looks complicated; but these blocks go together easily with the Studio 180 rulers. I still have to finish adding the last pieced border, then a couple of plain borders, then it will be Ready To Quilt. 

Her next mystery, Best of the 60s, starts this Friday. This one is not a freebie, but she offered a great price for the clues if you signed up right away. There is an awful lot of work for her in the instructions sheets, so I think it's fine for her to charge for the patterns. I bought one of the batik fabric packs she suggested, so I'm all set. Can't wait to get started. 

I've had one finish since July--this little Thimbles quilt. It measures about 9" x 12". I had a small bag of scraps that all coordinated, so I cut out the thimbles and pieced them as a Leaders and Enders project. Bonnie's Leaders and Enders challenges are fun to do, and I love the concept; but I don't seem to have the patience to work on a big project like that for a year. It finally occurred to me that making mini quilts as L&E projects holds my interest much better and greatly shortens the time to finish.

My next L&E mini is going to be an envelope quilt, made with a  baggie of Christmas 30s repros someone gave me. These little blocks will finish to 3" square.



Thursday, July 2, 2020

June Finish

June was not the best month--one thing after another went wrong, mostly trivial things, but still. The worst of it was when we broadsided a deer on the interstate in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. My husband, who was driving, saw the deer emerge from the woods, headed for the highway at a full gallop. He managed to slow down from 70 to 55 mph, but we hit the deer so hard that the poor thing just exploded. My son, who was coming along behind us about a mile back, said there was only half a carcass left on the highway. Thankfully we had the pickup truck that day, wouldn't have wanted to think what would have happened in the car. Just got the truck back yesterday from the auto body shop--$2600 in damages.

The Department of Transportation is cutting back the growth further and further away from the highway; but at 70 mph, there's not a lot of time to react. The auto body shop and the insurance company both reported that there have been a lot of deer strikes this year because we had such a mild winter. Two winters ago, the deer stripped my evergreens at the front of the house. Night after night, I'd watch through the window around midnight, and three or four of them would come and munch on my plants. By the end of the winter, they consumed nearly all of the greenery. My neighbors' evergreens suffered the same fate. I didn't see the deer this past winter, so they must have found things to eat in the woods.

I did not finish the Mountain View Lodge quilt, which was my One Monthly Goal project for June; but I did finally finish the Star Crazy quilt. Yay! Only took me 10 years, lol.

I quilted it with an all over feather, Plumage, I think, from Willow Leaf. I got off on one of my rows and had to restitch a few places after I got it off the frame, but it didn't take long.

SO glad to get this done!

Credit where credit is due: Star Crazy design by Sue Garman, for Alex Anderson's The Quilt Show, 2009.

Company is coming tomorrow for several days--my sister-in-law who visits once during the summer and right after Christmas every year--and there are other activities planned for the month. Of course I'll be at the sewing machine this month, but I hesitate to commit to a One Monthly Goal. I have a few more days to think about it.

Another thing that took some of my time in June was hand dyeing. There's a Bonnie Hunter string quilt I want to make that uses 4 yards of solid yellow. I used to hand dye cotton years ago, and it occurred to me that it would be a lot less expensive to dye my own yellow than to purchase it. I kept all my supplies over the years, thinking I might get back to it; and I still have a bunch of prepared-for-dyeing (PFD) cotton.

I had to buy new dye, of course; and ProChem has evidently changed some of their formulations. The Golden Yellow I bought 20 years ago was more yellow than what I just dyed some fabric with. I now have some cheddar colored fabric that would probably look great with some Civil War repros. Clearly it will be a process to find the right yellow. In the end, it might be cheaper to just buy it, lol. Still having fun with it though, so I'll keep going.

More soap and lotions got made in June too--a new herbal shampoo bar that smells so lovely, another batch of hair conditioner, another batch of bug repellent, a spray to ease sunburn, some lavender violet face and body cream, and some honeysuckle rose salve. I picked the honeysuckle blossoms and infused them in a lightweight oil, along with some dried rose petals, to make the salve.

The timing of that turned out to be pretty good. My husband was pulling some vining weeds out of the junipers yesterday, and evidently the oils in the plant were toxic as he now has a bumpy red rash all over his arms and belly. We don't think it is poison ivy or poison oak--don't know what it is, truthfully. Haven't been able to identify it online.

Last night before he went to bed, he applied Cortisone on one arm and witch hazel on the other to see which worked better. The itching woke him up during the night, so he tried the honeysuckle rose salve and said that worked the best.

There are courses in herbology that you can take, and they are not inexpensive. I've always been a little dubious that herbs really can alleviate all the ailments they say they can; but I have to say, I'm beginning to be a believer. I bruised my tailbone two summers ago taking my granddaughter down a metal slide at the park, and after a year it wasn't better. I started applying a pain stick I made that contains arnica and cayenne red pepper, and it has helped so much that it mostly doesn't bother me anymore. I've used it for other aches and pains, and it does seem to really work well. Even if it's all in my head, if the pain goes away, I'm all in, lol.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

OMG for June

One of the guys my husband used to work with made a beautiful canvas boat cover for us over the winter. It is for a pontoon boat, so it's not small. He has steadfastly refused payment for his time and materials, so I thought perhaps he might like a quilt for his recliner. I made a quilt like this years ago for my brother-in-law, same pattern, same fabric line, different colors. That one was well received, and I hope this one will be too.

My goal for the month of June is to complete the entire quilt.

You can see what others are planning to get accomplish by clicking here.

The Star Crazy quilt is still sitting on the frame. I have to finish that one to be able to finish this one, so maybe I'll get a twofer this month, lol.