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!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Little Fun Things

Happy New Year!

Winding up the year with a few little projects that I managed to start and finish (!) in 2015.

Layla's quilt

My lovely niece, Molly, had a baby this year.  You might remember the quilts I made for her for her wedding plus a bonus quilt.  Of course, Layla had to have a quilt of her own!  I had ordered a fun charm pack and I found a pattern on the web that I liked a lot, and this was the happy result.  It's modern, not to girly but girly enough, I think.

 The quilting is a simple cross-hatch.  For the back, I used up some charm squares that I ordered by accident (didn't think they'd be baby-themed), framed with a pink princess print.  The squares are different neutral shades, but they didn't exactly "fade" along.  Oh, well.

One of the "baby" prints...

The princess print that I used to size out the back is so cute!

The Toilet Runner

Yes, that's what it is!  My new local quilt shop had a table-runner class, and I thought it would be fun just to get to know the store people and whoever else might show up.  Well, it turned out that I was the only "student" in the class!

I didn't need a table runner (yet), but I had an alternative plan.  My daughter lives in an old house with some "interesting" features, including a cracked-all-over top on the toilet tank.

 She's been using old placemats or whatever to cover it up.  Time for a facelift!  I picked out fabrics that coordinated with the tiles in the bath/shower area -- a deep marine blue with goldfish here and here.

The runner was easy -- two pieces of fabric, one narrower than the other.  Sew 'em up, sew across the ends, voila!  The background fabric was a watery blue, almost the exact same as the bath tiles.  The center fabric was orange with pennants. 

But... if the runner was turned around, the pennants suddenly became colorful Christmas trees on mountains!  Fun!

Here's the finished runner.

I stitched down the overlap area with a decorative stitch on my machine...

Ta-da!  The toilet is now actually a nice centerpiece for the bathroom!

Greta's Birth Announcement

One reason that the quilting didn't progress so much this year was that I had other needlework projects going on.  I finally finished the birth announcement cross-stitch for my beautiful granddaughter, Greta, just in time for her first birthday.

And finally...

As the year drew to a close, I found myself behind this car.  Seems like a sign!

Can you see it?  I want to meet this person!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Picking Up...

...where I left off.

Last spring I resumed blogging after a year's absence.  A month later, life stepped in again.  No apologies; that's how things go sometimes.  So now to catch you up on what I've been doing.

Downton Abbey Bed Runner

Two days after Christmas, we attended the wedding of two very dear friends, Stephen and Beth.  Their happiness was contagious -- everyone had a wonderful time!  I wanted to make them something quilty as a gift, and they chose a bed runner (whew!).  Beth wanted black and white, to coordinate with her existing color scheme.  Stephen was looking for a bit of color.  But two days after the wedding, I broke both my legs, and sewing was off the table (so to speak) for a few weeks.

Once I was back on my feet (with casts and a walker), Beth and I headed to my LQS to pick out fabric.  She found a lovely black Downton Abbey fabric, plus two grays and a white-on-white.

 I decided to do large star blocks, making the runner one block wide by 5 blocks long.  It would be quick to make, and I was on a roll after the star pillow top I'd made earlier.  The star was no particular pattern, I just made it up in Quilt-Pro.

The black fabric was a challenge to mark and cut with the tools at hand.  I put the squares on a piece of white paper to mark, but neither white nor black marking pencils really showed up well. 

 Because of the casts, I had to sew using the buttons on the machine and slow very slowly.  I was really happy with the result!  Best flying geese ever!  (Note to self:  sew slowly!)

 A finished block...
(underexposed, but it does let you see the floral in the white-on-white fabric)

I did a cross-hatch quilting pattern on the flying geese and four-patches, but I wanted to feature the quilting in the pale gray squares.  I used a simple continuous-line flower pattern that I've had success with in the past.  Rather than marking the squares, I marked on Golden Threads quilting paper and stitched with the walking foot.  All quilting except the border was done using a metallic silver thread.

By now I'd gotten rid of the casts (yay!!) so I decided to try my hand (and feet) again at free-motion quilting in the border.  I used a pattern called "Cat Tails" from 501 Quilting Motifs (Martingale), again marking paper and stitching through it.  I figured the busy pattern of the fabric would disguise my mistakes (the backing is the same fabric).  This part was quilted with white thread.

 To avoid cutting off part of the border pattern, I connected the sides in the corners with a heart.

 At last, for Stephen, bright red binding!

The finished quilt after washing.  If you look carefully, you can see the cat tails in the border and flowers in the gray squares.  I'm actually a bit sorry that I disguised the border quilting so well; it actually looked pretty good.

Stella tested the runner to be sure that Beth's dogs would approve!