Sunday, April 29, 2012

When Good Blocks Go Bad

Thank Goodness There Are Do-Overs in Quilting!

I got behind on the Farmer's Wife blocks while I spent time on other projects.  When I got back to it,  I had six blocks to cut and sew.  No worry, plenty of time, just whip those puppies out.  Um, you can see where this is going to go, can't you?  The good news is that I'm building quite the collection of orphan blocks!

Three Blocks Were Keepers

Although Birds in the Air is one of the few blocks in the quilt-along that is also in the Farmer's Wife book, I chose a modern background fabric.  It has a marble look with rust and blue.  The blue fabric is actually a bit darker that it appears in the photo. 

Birds in the Air

I love the colors in this Sawtooth Star block.  The green is one I picked up at the quilt show a few weeks ago.

This block is called Hooker's Hat Patch (from Carol Hopkins' "Civil War Legacies).  The background fabric is muslin, which gives it a nice traditional look -- although it could use another pressing.  Later.  Sometimes I think I spend more time at the ironing board than at the sewing machine.  In fact, I know it!

Measure Twice, Then Measure Again

This Dutchman's Puzzle looked like a snap.  But I apparently measured something wrong.  There was little or no seam allowance on the sides of the flying geese.  I decided to sew them together anyway.  Maybe I'll put a pink border around it and call it a doll quilt.
Dutchman's Puzzle (sort of)
I started from scratch with a much better outcome.  See all those cute little seam allowances on the outside edges? 

Dutchman's Puzzle, Take Two

Trust me, this is squarer (?) than it looks in the picture.  This is the block before it was squared up, underneath the 6-1/2" ruler.  Not bad.

(Now that I look at these photos, they all seem to narrow on the right side.  Maybe I need a tripod!)

This one was one of the Bonus Blocks, unnamed (I'll look it up when I get a chance).   It was easy to sew, really came out nicely.  As well it should have -- this was the 4th one that I made!  I think I'll make a bunch more -- I've gotten pretty good at it!

The first time I made the block, it was absolutely PERFECT.  Well, except for the fact that it was about 1-1/2" too small!  I figured I'd measured wrong (again), but I didn't want to re-do this one.  So I put a little border around it.  But it was STILL too small!  Ack!  Time for a do-over.

Mini-me with border

 The second time, the units were looking good, but still too small.  I decided to try one more time and didn't bother to finish the stitching on this one.

 The third time, I figured that there had to be an easier way than cutting all the individual little triangles.  Why not sew them as half-square triangles, cut them, and resew?  Well, because then you don't get identical units, idiot!  This was was too small AND didn't fit together correctly.

After all this, I went back to the Barrister's Block, read the comments (posted after I'd copied the instructions) and discovered that there was an error in the original measurements.  No kidding! 

The Milky Way block is straightforward to sew, although the little squares don't leave much room for wobbly seams.  This was -- yes, you guessed it! -- not the first version.
Milky Way, from "Sylvia's Bridal Sampler"
The first one (below) was spoiled by a poor choice of fabric.  I tried using the fabric from an old, high-thread-count pillowcase, but it had no body to it; it slipped and was generally uncooperative.  It just didn't feed through the machine the same way as the quilting cotton.  It finally started to scorch, so I reckoned it was toast.


The next post in the Sow-Along is coming in just three days.  Meanwhile, I'll swap out the 1/4" quilting foot for the darning foot, lower the feed dogs and get back the free-motion quilting.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mystery Sampler Quilt

And now for something completely different...

Pieceful Quilting, my local quilt shop, has started a new class that I was lucky enough to find a place in.  Each month (for only $5!) we get a small bag of fabric for a new block -- plus the class, of course.  We had a choice of two colorways, Thimbleberry (browns, rose, other muted colors), which is my usual choice, or blue and white with a touch of yellow.  I picked the latter, to get out of my comfort zone. 

As is usual for a BOM, we get a new block each month.  However, the blocks will be different sizes, ranging from 6" to 15", hence the mystery:  we have to hang out to the end to find out how to put them together!

Fabric for the first month's block, Apple Cider.

Every block will have the same floral, but the blues and whites will change each month.  I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed -- I was expecting (hoping) for fabrics like the one that we used in an earlier class.  But who knows, I may be happily surprised!

This is what I was expecting (hoping for).
The first block is Apple Cider, made up of flying geese and rectangles.  I decided to use my No-Math Flying Geese ruler and the Tiger Tape that I'd gotten on sale to make my triangles more consistent.  This turned out to be a no-so-good idea.  In retrospect, better to have tried out these tools before applying them to a project that I'll have to share next month!

The completed block is OK, but nothing to write home about.  I hope that the next one will have more of the floral and less of the white.

Apple Cider quilt block in blue/white/yellow

Friday, April 27, 2012

Good Food Night!

Well, sometimes things don't go as you expect (or hope).  As I mentioned in an earlier post, when the quilting gets tough, quilters need to eat!  It's been a frustrating week, so tonight was a Good Food night.

A new fish store has opened in my home town.  Stopped by today and they had fresh rainbow trout from Idaho, just in this morning.  Each was just under a pound, so I got two.  

I put some fresh dill and rosemary into the cavity of each fish, added a couple of slices of lemon and some salt and pepper.  Wrapped each fish in bacon (don't know what happened to the photos, but I'm sure you know the bacon-wrap drill!) and slipped them under the broiler for about 6 minutes on each side.

While the fish broiled, I blanched asparagus from a nearby farm (just get some from the refrigerator in the barn and leave the money in a plastic container).  When the fish was almost done, I heated up some butter and olive oil in a pan and tossed in the blanched asparagus to warm up.  Then added a squirt of fresh lemon just before serving

For the carbs, I boiled some red-skinned potatoes (not new ones yet, but soon).  To serve, added some snipped chives from the garden, some fresh dill, and a bit of butter.

Since we didn't have dessert, I put the bacon back under the broiler while everything else finished up.  Crumbled on top of the trout -- yum!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Farmer' Wife, Part 5

Today the next installment in the Farmer's Wife quilt-along was posted on the Barrister's Block -- three blocks plus a bonus block.  So I needed to post the photos from the previous installment before I could start the new one.  This post was delayed because one of the blocks came out so bad that I had to make it over.  Plus, I was busy working on my free-motion quilting (made a lot of progress, too!).

Friendship Star

The Friendship Star block was quick and easy (this installment's version of beginner's luck).  Of course, I see every imperfection, but it still turned out pretty well, I think.

I do need to get some more neutrals, though.  This block is booorring.  I'll be at the fabric store on Friday for a class -- guess I'll just have to pick up some more fabric (heh, heh!)

Steps to the Altar
The next block, Steps to the Altar, is one that I hadn't [knowingly] seen before.  The corner units look weird to me -- the squares aren't square -- but I know that it's because the outside edges still have their seam allowances there.

 I'm not thrilled with the plaid fabric, but I don't have much in my stash that would work here.  I do have some 4" pre-cut squares that are nice, but all in packages with no duplication of fabrics.  Maybe I should go for a more srappy look.  That way I could cut down the squares for the 3" half-square triangles that have appeared in nearly every block.
Cups and Saucers

Dishes seem to be a jinx for me!  When we had the Cut Glass Dish a couple of weeks ago, it turned out terrible (I plan to make a replacement at some point).

This time it was the Cups and Saucers block.  It started out great, but by the end the triangles looked more like trapezoids.  I ripped and re-stitched to no avail.  So yesterday I cut fresh pieces and started all over again.  I still had to do some ripping, and I ended up cannibalizing the first block that I'd sewn.  But it was worth it.  This time there is only one really serious problem, but it's on an outside edge, so I have months before I have to worry about it!

This was the first version.  O.M.G.  The second version is better because I had just watched a tutorial for making a quilt with lots of triangles.  I realized that lining up the cross-seams of the triangles is more important than maintaining a perfect 1/4" seam (as if).  Much improved (but you don't want to see the back of the block!).

Well, I've completed 20 blocks so far (22 if you count re-sewing two of them), I still haven't made last week's bonus block, and now I have the 4 new ones.  Better get crackin'!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Toys for Monday

More Toys Tools

Fabric isn't the only thing that sings a siren song.  Gadgets are so much fun, and my husband actually understands the lure.  (Note:  most quilting gadgets are waay cheaper than a miter box or band saw!)

In the Pink

I always pre-wash yardage and fat quarters, which means bird's nests of raveled threads and a fair amount of lost fabric.  I've tried using my [40+ years-old] pinking shears on the edges before washing, and I thought my thumbs would fall off.

Enter the pinking blade for the rotary cutter. I may never use pinking shears again!

This 2-yard length of fabric was pinked in about one minute with the rotary.  It went through the wash with a regular load and came out smiling.  This is just how it came out of the dryer.  Sweet!

 And just how much fun it is this?!  Instead of those little dots of color in the selvage, they used little acorns!  You don't have to be a quilter to love little things like this.


Strip Show!

It seems no matter what I do, I have to re-align the cut edge of my fabric after cutting several strips.  That's OK if you're just cutting a bit for a Block-of-the-Month project, but if you have a lot of yardage to plow through, not much fun.  Last week I read a blog about some of the less-common but very cool quilters' tools.  That's where I found this June Tailor® Shape Cut™ ruler, including a video on how to use it to cut strips, squares, triangles, diamonds...

This ruler has slits every 1/2" (there's a larger size that has slits every 1/4").  Once you have it positioned and secure, you just slide your rotary cutter along the correct slits to get your strips.  You don't have to move the ruler at all, at least until you've reached the limit of the ruler's width.

Here is a close-up of one corner.  The teardrop opening lets you easily insert your cutter, but the slits are so narrow that the cut will be accurate.

I'm not sure when I'll get to put this puppy through its paces, since my current active projects are machine-quilting one quilt, making blocks for the Farmer's Wife quilt and a new sampler class.  This tool would have been a godsend when I was cutting the Otsego quilts!

Frog Sewing

I've had to do a lot of "frog sewing" lately as I am back at a challenging project.  "Frog sewing" is what Jenny Doan at the Missouri Star Quilt Co. calls it:  Rip-it, rip-it, rip-it!  This unpleasant job is a bit easier with this nifty ripper/tweezers that I first heard about on the Quiltville blog.  None of my area stores carried it, but there are lots of websites.  The price is around $9.  The tweezers really help to yank all those little threads that are left after you've ripped.
Slide to the left, it's a standard seam ripper.

Slide to the right, it's a broad-ended (~ 1/16") tweezers.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fun With Fabric!

Time for a little breather!  The most recent set of blocks for the Farmer's Wife quilt is done (I'll post photos later this week); the Charming Baby Quilt is on its way to its new home in California, and I'm biting the bullet and returning to machine quilting the long-postponed Q-911 quilt.

The Charming Baby Quilt

I've since learned that the cutting/piecing technique in this quilt is fairly common and is known as a Hidden Nine-Patch.  Whatever, I really liked making the quilt.  I'm happy to report that I have a new grand-nephew.   I'll bet he's a charmer, too.

I puzzled over how to fill the space at the bottom of the triangular label.  Too small to applique and my free-motion skills are not up to the task.  I finally just hand-embroidered a flower that kind of mimics the larger flowers in the quilted motif.  Happy birthday, Wilder!

Fabric!  More Fabric!
Like any quilter, I love fabric!  I'm totally a sucker for the daily deals that await me each morning in my email and I can't walk into any store that sells fabric without some up.

Now really, how could I pass this one up?  One of today's daily deals is 40 10-inch squares of the same fabrics.  What should I do?!?

There's so much variety in this roll, all subtle prints. 

Here are the strips laid out.  I figured that this collection would go with any of my little stash to go into the Farmer's Wife blocks.  But I'm really tempted to just sews the strips together and cut them up to make a little quilt all by themselves.

My favorite color is the really deep indigo, 4th from the bottom.

As I posted on my Facebook page last week, I dropped in to Pieceful Quilting to look for some small prints.  I picked up a few fat quarters.  I like the teal/brown color combination and the dotted-Swiss look of the slate blue.  The two florals will be wonderful in the Farmer's Wife quilt.  I got the purple just because I only have one other purple.  If I don't find an interesting use for it, I'll cut it into strips, add some pastels and make an Easter table runner for next year.

And, PQ had some special Easter eggs for their VIP's (Very Important Piecers).  Each VIP got to pick an egg from a basket.  Each egg had a piece of candy and a piece of paper describing what you "won".  I got half off any book in the store!  Guess I'll have to go back to pick something out...  :-)

 And Now For Something Completely Different

Great fabric can be found in lots of places for little or no money.  The other day Bonnie at Quiltville posted a wonderful video showing how to "de-bone" a shirt in minutes.  Really impressive -- made me want to run right out to Goodwill (or leave my husband with nothing but t-shirts).  I recommend it.

However, the laundry basket called.  There I found a pillowcase that had bit the big one -- one side was nearly shredded.  Instead of throwing it out, I "de-boned" it!  Lots of really soft cotton fabric (800 thread count!) in a pale peach.  And as Bonnie showed in her video, if you rip the thing apart, the edges are on the grain.  It didn't work quite so well on the pillowcase, because of the high thread count, but I still got lots of fabric.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Star Light, Star Bright...

Why doesn't this star right look right?

Randi at The Barrister's Block posted the next three blocks for her quilt-along this week, plus bonus blocks, just for fun.  I was happy to have more triangles to practice, but the triangles turned out not to be my biggest problem.

One bonus block was a scrappy star.  I haven't done anything scrappy before -- like any new cook, I'm still following the recipes pretty much exactly.  I arranged all the units as carefully as I could so that units with the same fabric weren't adjacent to each other.  I stitched it up, pressed everything out and went to my cutting mat to square up the block.  The resulting triangles and matched seams were OK (some obviously better than others, but I didn't feel like ripping and re-sewing the poor ones).  But the whole block looked wrong!

See all the places where the same fabric is in adjacent blocks or, even worse, right next to itself?  Ugh!

But wait!  That's not a star!  The two center strips got reversed!  Dumb, dumb, dumb!

I almost decided to start over from scratch.  On second thought, ripping and re-sewing would at least be a good test of my sewing accuracy.  Fortunately, I hadn't actually trimmed the block yet.

Rip, rip, rip, sew, sew sew.  Ta da!

Scrappy Star
That's more like it!  The triangles even came out a little better, though one corner of the block is a teeny bit shy of the 6-1/2" mark.  I'd still like to figure out how to press the seams smoothly where triangles are involved.  I did do something different here, I pressed the seams open instead of to one side.  That helped.

The second bonus block is called Pap's Birds.  I love this one.  It went together smoothly and the triangles came out nice and pointy.  Plus, I got to use two of the fabrics that I bought at the Long Island Quilt Show.

Papa's Birds bonus block


Monday, April 2, 2012

Through A Quilter's Eyes

Was in a shop in Ghiradelli Square the other day and spotted this display.

Peppercorns in the exact same colors as my Farmer's Wife quilt!

And assorted sea salts in coordinating colors!

Amazing what you see when you look through a quilter's eyes.