Saturday, September 3, 2016

Less is More

Sometimes we quilters just want MORE (fabric! ideas! time!).  But sometimes things get to be a bit too much.  That's when we OCD types decide to get (re)organized.

I have this thread organizer that I like a lot, lots of spindles that hold lots of spools and bobbins.  But when we moved a year ago, I traded the closet door where it was installed for a sliding door that just didn't do it.  It's been kicking around, and the biggest problem is that the bobbins keep unspooling themselves and creating a rat's nest of thread.  Ugh!

(and these are the tidy ones!)

So I did what any intelligent person would do in the 21st century, I Googled for solutions.  Lots of things to BUY (but I'd rather buy fabric, thank you very much). I just wanted something simple.  And I found it!

All you need is some plastic tubing, My husband was headed to Home Depot, so I asked him to pick some up, inner diameter 1/2".   He came back with a 10-foot length.  I think that will last me for a while!

Next, I cut the tubing into little cylinders 1/4" long (cut yours the same length as whatever is the height of the center part of your bobbins).

I tried cutting the tubing with scissors, knives, and other implements without success.  But never fear, I did find a tool that would do the job. Poultry cutters!  Voila!  Bwaak!  If they can crack the breastbone of a chicken, they can do this!

They worked perfectly.  I marked 1/4" increments along a length of tubing and cut at the marks.  After I had about two dozen pieces, I clipped each of them on one side to create a slit.

Pull the end of the thread in close to the bobbin and snap a piece of tubing around it.  You don't have to leave an end sticking out (as is shown here).  It will come loose when you remove the little bobbin collar.

These are so nice.  Cheap and easy to make, and you can see the thread color easily.  No more bobbins tumbling to the floor and unwinding as they go when you pick up a spool of thread.

Thank you to Toni at Stitch & Pink (formerly Sugar Tart Crafts) for this excellent idea.  You can see her original post here.

Coming up...

Babies!  Both of my nieces and the daughter of my best friend are expecting in the next couple of months.  So guess what I'll be working on?  One quilt is already sandwiched and ready for quilting, the most prepared I've been in ages.  I'm looking forward to picking out patterns and fabrics for the other two (one boy, one girl).  I *plan* to seriously shop my stash for these.  But I'm at my summer cabin in Michigan, so I do need to go into town and visit Delphine's Quilt Shop, my favorite stash-building shop.  A girl's just gotta shop local, you know?  :-D

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Another finish! This one for Greta

  Crayon Scribbles

I'm so happy to have another quilt finished and off to its new owner.  This is a quilt that I started making for my granddaughter, Greta, even before she was born -- May 20, 2014.  What with the broken legs incident and the hassles of selling one house and buying another, that's pretty good, I think.  I have plenty of UFOs way older than that!

  Unfortunately, it seems that I neglected to take a photo of the completed quilt top.  And then so much time passed before I got it quilted that I forgot had hadn't taken pics!  Arrgh!

This was from when the blocks were on my "design wall" (the bedroom curtains).

You might remember that I used a disappearing wheel block from a Missouri Star Quilt Co. tutorial (

I changed up the colors and added sashing to make the blocks stand out more.

The blocks remind me of those fat, flat-sided crayons that they make for toddlers.  So I decided that the name of the quilt would have something to do with crayons.

Then the quilt top sat, and sat, and sat.  With Greta's second (!) birthday looming, it was time to get back to work!

After stitching in the ditch to secure the quilt sandwich, I quilted parallel lines around each "crayon."
One more row of stitching to anchor the interior white rectangles.

The sashing turned out to be too wide (in my opinion), and there is just SO MUCH WHITE.  (But, as my son said, "not for long!").  Well, what would a toddler do with an expanse of white and a box of crayons?  Yep, she'd scribble all over it.  So that's what I did on the sashing.

I just zigged and zagged down the sashing in variegated thread.  Curvy lines would have looked better, more scribble-y, but I hadn't done any free-motion quilting in a while, and I didn't think it would turn out very well.  This was OK, and it helped to break up all the white.

With all those pretty colors on the top, what would I use for binding?  I still had some 10" squares from the original layer cake package.  I cut them into strips and made a pieced binding.  I really like how it turned out!

I also know that this puppy can stand up to washing.  I hadn't prewashed the layer cake, and when the quilt was washed, of course ONE RED fabric bled.  And bled.  It took four washes with ten Color Catchers to get rid of the excess dye.

Of course, since I'd forgotten to photograph the front of the quilt, I didn't have pics of the back, either.  It's flannel with a whimsical farm theme.  Sheep, cows, a puppy, and some (upside-down) chickens at the bottom.

I'd make this quilt again, but I would make it smaller.  The idea was for Greta to have a playing and crawling surface that could be washed.  But she was out of the crawling phase before I could turn around!  Maybe it will make a nice cover for her first Big Girl bed.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Shhh....  It's a coverup!

So, I was staring at my pile of UFOs and feeling stuck in that place where you just don't know where to start.  So I did what any normal person would do -- I decided to make something else entirely.

I almost never cover my sewing machine (I know, I know...).  The plastic cover it came with just seems like too much.  It takes up precious floor space when not in use, so I put it in the closet and then forget about it.  I ran across a pattern for a sewing machine cover that used charm squares.  Perfect, a small, quick project that would actually be useful.

After rooting through my stash of 5" squares (some actual charm packs, some [pre]cut by me at the end of a project), I didn't find anything I wanted to use.  But at the bottom of the bin, I found a layer cake that would do.  The 10" squares were in two colorways, neutral and blue.  I could see using the blue in a quilt, but the neutral not so much.  So I cut it into 5" squares and the cover was on its way.

The trouble with pre-cuts is they so often wonky.  Most of the ones I used were off, some almost 1/4".  Can you see it?

Here's a closer view.

 Oh, well, it's just a sewing machine cover.  At least my machine is happier!  I don't know what kind of machine the blogger has who made up this pattern, but it must be a lot bigger than mine.  I had to take out half the squares!  Part of the reason was probably because I have my machine in a table, machine bed flush with the table top.  But it cover was also waaaay too long.  I guess she must have a machine with an oversize harp space.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Quilting for Exercise!

Happy National Quilting Month!

I am so bummed.  I will be away for the next two weeks, so will be unable to do any quilting during National Quilting Month.  Boo!  The upside (I guess) is that I will drop off my machine for a much-needed cleaning etc. while I'm gone.  (Well, there's also the upside that I'll be visiting people I love in Florida!).  I'll have a few posts, but still.

So here's my Tip for the Day:

I recently got a Fitbit.  I like it -- low-end, but it does remind me that I need to keep moving.  It's amazing how many steps you can get in by putting your ironing board in a different room than your sewing machine.  But today was an eye-opener.

Today I walked for a couple of miles, then settled in to do some machine quilting.  That part didn't go so well, so I ended up doing a lot of seam-ripping of some decorative stitching that didn't turn out the way I'd hoped.  I was just sitting there, whacking away at those stitches, when my FitBit buzzed that I'd met my step goal.  Cool!  Except that I was just ripping out seams.  Maybe I was bouncing up and down in frustration, too, but I don't think so.

So keep this in mind.  If you need a few extra steps to meet your fitness goal, go ahead and unstitch those sub-par seams!  Frog stitching works!  Rippit, rippit.

'Til next time.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Barrister's Blocks FINISHED!

Four Years Later...

The Barrister's Block Sow-Along started on February 2, 2012.  Sixty-six blocks later, yesterday I finished the last block.  Wahoo!

This project really has been a quilter's path.  I've learned how much more difficult it is to accurately sew tiny units and small blocks.  One little wiggle and everything is off.  I've learned from experience that value is sometimes more important than color.  I've learned flying geese and HSTs go much better with a big can of spray starch nearby!

Here are the final blocks, completed since my last post 2 weeks ago:

Cactus Pot
No particular memories associated with these scraps, but I loved the golden-brown fabric -- it just screams "basket"!

Basket (yep, that what it's called)
This one was a disaster.  None of the blocks had any directions, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to complete the piecing without a Y-seam.  I ultimately ended up hand-stitching the remaining seam, and not very well at that.  Argh!

I was dubious about my choice of fabrics here, but I think the paisley makes the block!  All the others came from the bed runner that I made last winter for Beth and Stephen.  :-D

Rail Fence Variation

On the other hand, these fabrics looked good at first -- the aqua and black-and-white are from Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street mystery.  But although the colors work, the fabrics just don't go together.  I might end up making another version.

Leaf Block
The neutral is the background fabric from my niece Molly's quilt

Basket (again)
There was a basket thing going on here toward the end.  The green flowers are actually cabbages!

Jack in the Pulpit
Here I used the same color scheme as Randy did, happy to get rid of some pinks that I have never liked.  Can't say it really does anything for me.  But the background fabric was from the little wall hanging for my dear friend, Annie.  And that's a happy memory!

Sawtooth Star Variation
There are tiny red flowers in the black print.  It really comes together in person.  Used up some civil war reproduction fabrics, too.  The enchantment has worn off.

Streak of Lightning
I love the colors here -- blues from Easy Street and Molly's quilt -- but the block is a bit (!!) wonky.  Another do-over?

Double X
Maybe my favorite in the group.  Although the effect was unplanned, the brown squares on the corners of the center give the appearance of an overlay.

Dove in the Window
Usually when I do a "controlled scrappy," I keep the background fabric pretty much the same throughout and mix up the colors (as in all the other blocks here).  This time I did the reverse, and I like it.  I love how the dark blues just pull you in.

When we moved last  summer, my design wall bit the big one.  Now I really need one so I can figure out what to do with all these blocks.  My husband had a great (I think) idea.  I put the "loops" side of a strip of Velcro along an edge of a piece of flannel, and will put the "hooks" side on the top edge of the trim on the closet door in my sewing room.  I can hang up the design "wall" whenever I need it, and just fold it up and tuck it away when it's not in use.  Yea!

The last eleven blocks and the first nine.
The very first block (4th one down on the left) used the same little red star print that's in the center 4-patch in one of the very last ones (3rd one down on the right)!  Black sashing, maybe?  Or dark brown??

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Blast from the Past (and some new)!


The Barrister's Block Revisited

Way back in 2012, when I'd just started quilting, I started working on a "Sow-a-Long" from The Barrister's Block.  It was lots of fun, although I was so new at quilting that I didn't fully realize the challenges (small blocks, no construction instructions).  Over the year I posted pics of my progress.  You can see them if you go back to my 2012 posts.

While sifting through my UFOs recently, I realized that I'd never finished the complete sew-a-long.  There were about a dozen blocks left to do.  I was tired of working on the Otsego quilts and needed a nice piecing break from quilting Greta's quilt (my current UFO-finishing project).  Perfect.

Today's mini-project was Squares and Diamonds.  All I had to do was reach into my bins of scraps in frequently-used sizes (thank you, Bonnie Hunter, for your Scrap Users System!) and stitch them up.

This is my finished block, with colors inverted.

 I'll do some more cutting in the next few days and then finish the rest of the blocks this month.


Fabric Time!

I had put myself on a fabric diet last year.  I was determined not to buy more fabric until I made some headway on projects that were already underway.  So I still have a bin full of unstarted projects -- but I guess those don't count as UFOs, right?!  Anyway, it's time to dive back in.  These came in the mail this week.

I bought these 1/4-yard cuts on sale from Keepsake Quilting with the idea of using them to learn transparency a la Christine Barnes.  They are tone-on-tone, not solids.  Now that I see them, I'm leaning more toward a stained-glass windows quilt.  Still, beautiful colors.

 I've also avoided pre-cuts, unless I had a specific project in mind (like Layla's quilt).  But these prints were to pretty to passs up.   I love blue and yellow.  Missouri Star Quilt Co. had a gorgeous charm pack that I couldn't resist. (Sorry the colors don't show well -- they really are bright and pretty).

  They also have tons of projects using charms, but you always need some yardage to go with them.  I looked for the same manufacturer (Benartex), hoping that the colors would work together.  I'm really happy with what I got.  Too bad Missouri Star  never has a Daily Deal on "extra hours in a day" to turn these dreams into finished projects.

 Apologies for the poor quality photos.  I used my elderly phone and was too lazy to find my camera.

Monday, January 25, 2016

UFO Marathon!

Last fall I met Barbara Arnold, a fun person and amazing quilter and teacher.  She put me on her mailing list, and recently announced that she was going to run a UFO Marathon.  Count me in!  I met some very fun and talented quilters, had the opportunity to see some gorgeous quilts-in-progress, and made serious headway on a project that's been in the works almost since I started quilting about 5 years ago.

I'll bet you don't remember my Otsego Lake quilts.  That's OK -- I kind of forgot about them myself.  I started them 4 years ago.  Over-ambitious and under-experienced, they have been a bit of an albatross.  Time to get these puppies going!

I'd been using the flying geese in these quilts as leaders/enders for a while.  With the UFO Marathon looming, I sat down and tried to complete all that I needed before the Big Day.  Success!  (except that I needed to order more fabric to get the number that I need).  My marathon supplies included some 500 completed geese as well as the various-sized squares needed to complete the blocks.

 In almost 12 hours of marathon sewing, many corner squares were sewn to flying geese.  Many geese were sewn to center squares.  And about a dozen blocks where actually completed!  Barbara was so encouraging.  You say these are quilts for a cabin where make-do is the rule?  Where "interior decorating" means unloading some old furniture from home?  Forget the wonky flying geese.  Just sew them and move on.  Thank you, Barbara!

Motivated, I pressed on (so to speak).  After a week, I had nearly 30 blocks done.  You can see them at the back of my sewing table.

By the end of the week, I just couldn't stand it anymore.  Pressed and (occasionally) trimmed, the subunits went back into the drawers of a nifty storage bin that I'd found last summer.

Then came the blizzard!  Last Saturday was a snow day for everyone along the mid-Atlantic coast.  Time to REALLY finish a UFO!

Back in April, as I was trying to re-boot this blog, I posted about a pillow top that I had named Michigan Star.  It sat for a while as I pondered that it was really too big for a pillow.  So on Saturday morning, as the snow came down (and sideways), I added batting and backing and quilted it with gold metallic thread.

The quilting lines radiate out from the center.  I added a star in the center square.

 A UFO completed and serious progress toward the two twin-sized quilts for the cabin.  Quite a week!