Sunday, September 14, 2014

Taking a break

Life is closing in on me right now.   Some quilting, but nothing worth writing about.   I'm in a funk, a rut, a void.  The joy of creating went somewhere.  Worry and stress re: elderly parents, the coming winter, children's challenges and disappointments, ugliness and tragedy in the world -- it's taking its toll, and quilting is not working as a diversion. 

My level of frustration with no dedicated room for quilting, an out-of-control stash, and a long bucket list is getting the better of me.   I don't see solutions on the horizon, and I'm overwhelmed. 

I must stay away from the computer.  I sit in front of the monitor too many hours each week, taking time that would be better spent sewing on  quilt blocks and enjoying my beloved historical quilt books.    Answering comments and leaving comments has slowed to a crawl.

I may resume posting if and when things settle down, if the joy comes back.  No promises.  Thank you for the kind comments and observations and encouragement you've shared with me through +500 posts.  It has surprised me that as a self-taught quilter with no dramatic, unique skills or claim to fame, I've developed online friendships with quilters here and there around the world.   It's all appreciated.

I'm sorry.  I really need to leave blogger for a while.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This and that

My pairs of 9-patch blocks for an online swap went to the post office this afternoon.   I'm sure others in  Barb's Civil War repro blocks swap will use brighter or happier fabrics.   I chose mainly black, with a few rust and a few navy blocks added to the group.    Deadline to get them to Barb is October 1.   FYI:  cost to send 100 3-inch blocks from Mason City, IA to Madison, CT is $3.40.
--Blogger is NOT playing nicely today--I'm not getting photos and words to stay where I want them.                                                                 

daughter's "new" home - built in 1914
Not much sewing going on here lately.   DD2 and her rescued greyhound (a retired racer) have been living with us for a while.   She closed on her own home last Friday, and she's in the middle of moving from here to there. So with helping her pack and move and then unpack, there hasn't been much sewing machine time.   Her rented storage unit is now empty, and a lot of her things scattered around our house have made the trip across town.   It's convenient that she'll be in the same city, and she can kind of take her time totally moving out.  

I'll be sewing with friends this weekend and hope to make some progress on a couple WIP. 

congratulatory cake from daughter's realtor
Then we have another major moving event in a few more days.    Next Monday we'll be moving my in-laws to assisted living.   They'll move from their out-in-the-country home near the next town to an assisted living facility here in this city.   A lot of decisions to finalize before the move -- details about phone service,  TV options,  getting a PO box,  which furniture to take, what to sell, what to store, etc .

FIL's acceptance of the move varies from day to day.  MIL's awareness of what's ahead is non existent.  The dear lady suffers from progressive dementia or Alzheimer's.    How long this new living situation is appropriate for her is a question we'll soon find out. 

I really want need to get back to my quilting -- maybe a bit of FMQ tonight and tomorrow.  I need to focus on some quilting for a change.   Two prepared quilt tops I wrote about recently are done, and a third top is one I want to stitch Baptist fans on.    The TV is turned off,  and fans are next on the agenda. 

Sad news lately about two stores closing.   One is Country Threads, the well-known quilt shop about 30 miles from my home here in Iowa.  The owners have decided it's time to retire.    Then I read that another shop, Buggy Barn Quilts, is also closing.   Both will be missed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Blissfully ignorant is no excuse

Nice tension on yellow front; back, not so good
Several days ago I had three quilt tops ready for my FMQ .   The simplest--the share quilt--is done, bound, and labeled.

I'm nearly done with the Kaffe Flowers quilt shown here (before the final border was added).  I'm changing thread colors on different sections of the quilt, and the last is a variegated yellow/orange thread in the outside border.

"The Bottom Line" by Superior Threads is my thread of choice in my bobbin when I'm FMQ.  That had been working just fine here.  After starting to quilt the border, my bobbin ran out.  Rather than filling another bobbin with Bottom Line, I chose a pre-filled bobbin that came with my mid-arm quilting machine.  This is my first experience with a pre-filled bobbin.   I popped it into the bobbin case and resumed quilting, assuming nothing needed to be checked or adjusted.

The stitching on the border looked great.  Relatively even stitches (I don't have a stitch regulator on my HQ Sweet 16),  tension looked fine, and I continued along with my loops and double loops.  After quilting 70-80 inches down the length of the 4" wide border, I turned it over.   (photos enlarge)

YIKES!!!   Tension is non-existent.    So -- thread on a cardboard bobbin doesn't work the same as thread on a metal bobbin?   How silly of me to assume they'd need the same pull from above.   My trusty seam ripper will be my friend for a while.  One nice thing about such terrible tension.   It's easy to simply pull out sizeable lengths of thread, cuz they're just sitting there. 

The hot pink fabric I'm using for backing may look familiar.   I wrote about it here.   I ordered 5 yards of a "mulberry-colored" fabric for a project, and this hot pink arrived instead.    This color looks nice with the bright Kaffe flowers on the front, and it was just the right amount.  There won't be much left when the extra is trimmed off.     

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Teaching an old dog...

back of a 14 x 14" doll quilt
New tricks can be --well, tricky--for an old dog or for an old quilter.  I'm trying to teach myself a new skill -- quilting Baptist fans with no marking, no templates, no tools.  
My first attempt isn't perfect, and it might not get a passing grade from a teacher, but  I'm satisfied, and I'm not discouraged.   So this old dog will keep practicing. 

fans are noticeably sloppy on the front
I'd like to quilt Baptist fans on my "Faithfully Humble" quilt.  I wanted a traditional design that's a good filler, and I wanted one that I wouldn't have to mark.   I happened on a few posts about ladies quilting these fans, on both traditional quilts and on modern style quilts.  It was an easy topic to research online.

 I found videos and tutorials for quilting Baptist fans (AKA Methodist fans or elbow fans).   But most involve marking or using purchased tools.   Then I found Bonnie Hunter's tutorial for hand quilting Baptist fans without marking -- under her Tips and Techniques tab.  Could I use her instructions to guide my machine quilting?  As soon as I saw her pencil drawings halfway through her tutorial, I knew that I'd try it her way.  

I first drew lines on paper (as Bonnie did), then I stitched a few groups on scrap fabric.  Then I went right to this ugly little doll quilt made from random scraps.  The quilting actually looks better neater on the back than on the front. 

When I begin quilting the large quilt, I'll go row by row, right to left, from bottom to top.  Bonnie goes around corners, filling in all four edges, then moving toward the center till all is filled in,   I did that with the doll quilt, but I'll go row by row on the big one.  

So -- I'm not afraid, and I'm ready to try it for real.  Thanks for the simplicity of your method and instructions, Bonnie.    

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"For inspiration only"

joining hexagon flowers with solid mulberry Kona
Two 3-word phrases show up in quilting magazines and books and instructions that either challenge me or upset me, depending upon my mood.

One is "Quilt as desired."  Since I quilt my own quilts with my HQ Sweet 16 (AKA "Nellie"), that doesn't scare me.  I usually don't fuss or worry about doing the right thing or the perfect design.   I just have fun and get the quilting done.

my "for inspiration only" photo
The other phrase is "For inspiration only." This can be such a frustrating phrase if we want a pattern or specific measurements or detailed fabric info.  Sometimes we can figure out enough on our own to fill in the blanks, or maybe we can be satisfied with "close enough."  

Four years ago I started making hexagon flowers (using 1" hexagons) with a general plan to join them with a green hexagon path.
Fast forward to early this summer.  In an old Quilters' Newsletter magazine (Nov. 1993 issue), I read an article about a lady's collection of antique quilts.  The photo on page 42 stopped me cold.   There was my inspiration!

Her quilt is lying outdoors for the photo shoot, in sunshine and shadows, and I challenged myself to figure out the layout.   I think I have it--or at least enough to give me a layout plan.
Each hexagon flower is getting six 1" black diamonds, and they'll be joined by 3" mulberry triangles.   I'd love to see this antique quilt in its entirety, but so far no luck finding another photo. 

share quilt with 2 borders added (pictoral backing)

Kaffe's Flowers -- yellow border and hot pink backing
"Faithfully Humble" -- backing with simple strawberries contrasts with busy front
As for the instructions to "quilt as desired,"  I'll be doing that this holiday  weekend.    Three quilt tops are sandwiched and RTQ (ready to quilt).  Each one is at least 90" long, so these will not be quick-and-easy projects to quilt.  But I'll persevere.

Simple share quilt, with 2 borders added.
Appliqued Kaffe flowers -- with wide yellow border added since last post.
My Faithful, HST-saturated quilt from Lori's quiltalong.  Thanks for so many suggestions for names. Combining a couple of ideas, I'm naming it "Faithfully Humble."

prepping my quilting thread--in case it's dry
Do you do this (see photo) with your cotton quilting threads that may be old, dry and brittle?  Yesterday I chose my Valdani threads that I'll be using for quilting, took them out of their plastic baggies, and put them into the fridge freezer to absorb moisture till being used.  I read this advice years ago.  Can't hurt :)

Two weeks went by quickly since my last post.  Becky (a quilting friend) suggested it was time for a new one.   Here you are Becky.
Have a great weekend, my friends.   Mine will be busy, filled with lots of FMQ. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A finished top -- Faithfully done

top finished at 70" x 90"
My "Faithful" quilt top is finished, all 2812 pieces of it.    Lori named hers "Under the Big Top," but I didn't use a bold stripe as she did, and mine doesn't have a predominance of red in the blocks and border as in hers.  I need a different name.

Maybe I'll name mine "Faithfully," as the original single block was called "Faithful," and I've been faithfully working on all these HST for quite a while.   Any suggestions for a different name?   I'd appreciate help. 

The slim dark coral border is 1-1/4" wide, and the green border is 4" wide.  I'll probably use the same green for binding.   My options for backing are wide open with all the colors and fabric on the front.    I highly recommend this fun project as a great way to use a lot of HST. 

On my last post, three comments never came through to my e-mail.  This does not typically happen--until now.    Jean let me know that she got a "delivery status notification--failure" -- one of those Daemon failure message thingies we don't like to get.    This was the message she got:

Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the server for the recipient domain by   

My e-mail server rejected her message and the other two messages totally.   Jean and I have been commenting back and forth for years, so this was a surprise.   Jean and the other two commenters all use yahoo for their e-mail addresses.

Any suggestions?   Is there something I should check or uncheck in my settings.   Any assistance would be appreciated.   

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On to the sashing

My 12 "Faithful" blocks are finished, with small HST leftovers packed away for future projects.   The last three blocks are #5 (lt blue outer strips), #7 (B/W outer strips), and #12 (purple outer strips).
--Photos enlarge with two clicks--

One of my 12 blocks has a "cheater" center -- not pieced but cut from fabric with a printed design.  That's my homage to quilters of the past--using or making do with what we have and no apology for it.   

This may be the final arrangement.  Cheddar and pink jump out as the most noticeable colors to spread out.  Or I might swap #10 and #11.   After larger HST are added as sashing, the color of the outer strips won't matter as much as they do for this photo. 

I have a box full of HST ready for the sashing.   They're trimmed to 2-1/2".   Lori's instructions are for ones that finish at 2-1/2", but I've been sewing, trimming, and storing this size more than any other for the past couple years, so this is the size I'll use.  I'm hopeful that I can make them fit with all the pieces and seams in each section of sashing.  A larger size would be more distinctive, but this is what I have.

 working on HST's
This is "HST Central" -- a little old cutting mat and my rotary cutter, my 2-1/2" Bloc-Loc ruler, a clear box filled with trimmed HST, and stacks of HST yet to be trimmed.    

The last decision will be which direction to turn the sashing HST.  The blue version  (from a Fons and Porter magazine) has all sashing HST turned the same direction, pointing SE.   The antique quilt (inspiration for all these blocks via Lori's instructions) has groups of sashing HST turned this way and that.  Lori did the same with her 9-block quilt.  I think that's my preference as well.

modern version (blue);  antique (red)
I want this finished so I can put away the HST for a while.    I'm nearly there.  Have I mentioned that most are from scraps?   Many are from others' discards.   It's nice to do these gradually.  Opening a box and having HST's ready to go is wonderful

Finishing this quilt is related to a "contract" I made with my hand-stitching/quilting friends, the Mavens.  On June 6, for the fun of it, I signed and dated a document stating that by 06/06/15, barring any catastrophic situation, I will --
#1 -- Finish my Dear Jane top, complete with border of triangles
#2 -- Make a quilt using men's ties I've been gathering (at least 60" x 80")
#3 -- Make a quilt with Civil War repro fabrics (at least 60 x 80")
#4 and #5 -- Make two scrappy quilts (each at least 60 x 80")
Dear Jane is the only one that doesn't have to be quilted, bound, and labeled.  The others do.  
At our recent quilting weekend, I mentioned that there are no consequences if I don't meet my goals.  There should be consequences, so I suggested one, which seemed to meet with approval.   Barring a catastrophic situation, if I don't meet these goals as stated above, the other 8 Mavens will each have a 2-minute run in my stash.   (Think "Supermarket Sweep" in a quilter's personal fabric shop.)   We didn't set up specifics on that cuz I'm not going to let it happen.
I'm focused!   I'm driven!   I'm quilting!!  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

More Faithful blocks, and I'm a winner

each "Faithful" block will finish 17-1/4"
I'll probably see HST in my dreams tonight.   I've made so many, trimmed so many, and used so many in the past few days that sometimes when I'm sitting and daydreaming, I think I'm seeing HST screen savers floating around in my mind.

Four of these Faithful blocks (instructions from Lori of "Humble Quilts" blog) were finished last month, and I made five more this week.  Three more blocks to go.  The center of each block and the framing strips are CW repro fabrics.   HST are a mixture of "anything goes."

The framing strips added after each round of HST may look like random color choices, but I have a plan.   I made a list of 13 different colors for the final outside strips (checking them off as they're used).    If the first two frames are pale or dull, I'm using bolder, brighter strips for the outside round. 

Pattern and book I won (plus an oldie)
The sashing between and around the 12 blocks will be more HST (trimmed to 2-1/2" before using).  The strip colors aren't a big deal, but I want the overall look to be a balanced variety.   Outside frame colors for the final 3 blocks will be black, lighter blue, and either dark green or bright purple. 

I was one of 2 winners of a giveaway last week from Geoff's Mom Pattern Co. (Joyce Weeks).  I already own "Mattie's Quilt" (an older pattern no longer on her website), and "Aunt Sarah Jane" was the pattern I chose for
"Are You Kidding Me?" by Geoff's Mom
the giveaway (it uses a LOT of little 4-patches), along with her book that she co-authored with Norma Whaley.

Another pattern I'd like to make from Geoff's Mom happens to be in the book -- a quilt named "Are You Kidding Me?"  It's made with 281 little 9-patch blocks.   I'm participating in Barb's 9-patch swap, and there are plenty of ideas for using 9-patches among the quilts by Geoff's Mom, many of which I'd describe as traditional with a twist.     But for now, I'm going back to HST for those last Faithful blocks. 

The other winner of a pattern and book from Geoff's Mom was Nancie Anne Quilts.   The link is to her blog post with a cozy, homespun, plaid neighborhood of house blocks.  I love them!  Drat -- another quilt for my bucket list.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ready for borders

Brownstone, 61 x 80" before borders
Quilting time with my daughters this weekend.  These three quilt tops were put together by us during a weekend retreat with my friends.   Each top still needs a border or two.    My CW repro blocks in "Brownstone" alternate with the warm brown squares (a Marie Osmond fabric with the date "2007" on the selvage). 

closeup of "Brownstone"
I'm sewing assorted 1-3/4" squares together, preparing them to be borders.   First a border of squares, then a wide brown border, then another border of squares.  The pattern calls for 432 squares, but I lengthened the quilt by two rows, so 500 will be about right.  

A garage sale find from June is now ready for a border.   I bought a set of ready-to-applique blocks at a friend's garage sale.  Using Kaffe Fassett fabrics, the friend pinned leaves, stems, and 4-layer flowers onto the background.    (Double click on photos for a closer look.)  

67 x 87 before border
With a grin on her face, DD2 volunteered to "take them off (my) hands."   Close zigzag stitching (not satin stitching) was her stitch of choice.  She changed thread colors often, and she now has a favorite quilting tool -- the Sewline glue pen.   She went through 1-1/2 tubes of glue to hold down all those petals and leaf points. 

Two-inch wide strips frame each flower, cut from more Kaffe fabrics.  Some came with the blocks, but many came from my stash.  Each framed flower block is 12" x 16".   Purple sashing is 1-inch wide, and I'll add a 3" or 4" wide floral border.   This quilt will probably end up in the home of DD1.  She's as excited to own it as DD2 was to sew it  (and Mom gets to quilt it). 

one of the 12" x 16" flower blocks
potential share quilt, 66 x 77 before border
DD1 worked on the most boring of our three projects, kindly agreeing to put together a "share quilt" for the guild.  I was given a 5-yard quilt kit, loaded with dots and stripes.   I cut fabrics into 6-1/2" wide strips, and she sewed strip sets, cut strips into squares, and organized all the parts according to the pattern with the kit.  The resulting top is blah and basic.   I'll add a thin brown border, and then a wider border with more stripes and dots.

I haven't used my HQ Sweet 16 to quilt anything since mid May.   It's long overdue.  I miss that part of my quilting life.    Maybe I can get back to it soon, after I get all these borders added. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New (to me) toys

Singer 301 that I test drove today
My quilting friend BB is downsizing her fleet  of sewing machines.   Another lady was more interested in her Featherweight than I was, so I passed on that one.

When BB mentioned she had a Singer 301,  I knew only enough about that model to say I was interested.   Some online reading has expanded my mind about its features and history.   I "test drove" it this afternoon, and tomorrow I'll offer to buy it.  

An online chart of serial numbers shows that this 301 was manufactured in 1952.  It runs smoothly and quietly, stitches are stable and even, no visible rust, no clunky sounds.   Love the swing-up extension.  Many bobbins, a box of accessories, a "buttonhole maker,"  and the instruction book are included.
"How does a straight stitch machine make a buttonhole?"  I asked.  The attachment moves the fabric back and forth.   Cool!  I'm looking forward to seeing that.

 added to make a "two fer" (2 for the price of 1)
Thank goodness the instruction book is included.  Two surprises  -- (1)  the bobbin inserts into the bobbin case so it spins counter-clockwise, and (2) the thread inserts through the needle from right to left.   Every other machine I've owned has the bobbin spinning clockwise, and they thread from left to right, or front to back. 

If I buy the Singer 301, BB will include this Standard Sewhandy sewing machine in the deal. 

More online research.  These machines were manufactured from the 1920s into the early 1930s.  Some people maintain that this machine was the inspiration for the Singer 221 Featherweight.   Others disagree.  The Ossan Company acquired the Standard Co. around 1929, and the company was believed to have later been bought out by Singer in the 1930s. 

This machine is a little cutie.  The carved metal plate above the needle is shiny and ornate.  The case is intact with a top tray, the unique foot control, power cord, and lots of accessories.   It's lighter than the 301, and it's heavier than a Featherweight. 

I"ll try sewing with it one of these days, but I'm not planning to keep it forever.   For now, it's a novelty and a conversation piece for my family. 

I'm heading to a weekend retreat with friends tomorrow, and I'll take my Bernina, but I predict the 301 will go with me to a retreat some day soon. 


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