Friday, February 20, 2015

Keeping busy with this and that

Long time without a post, and no excuses offered.  Family comes first.  Busy days and busy weeks. 
Last September, we helped my 91 and 92-year-old in-laws move to an assisted living facility near us.  It was easier to run errands for them, easier to visit them, easier to sleep well, knowing they were safely in a facility with help nearby if needed.

35 x 44" share lap quilt
 A lot has changed this month, and DH and I have been "running" nearly every day since then.   FIL fell and was hospitalized.  He was discharged to a nursing home.   Alone at assisted living, MIL's problems with confusion and dementia accelerated.

After a couple incidents and late night phone calls, it was recommended that MIL go to the nursing home.  She and my FIL were in separate rooms for a week, but today we helped her move from the "memory unit" to sharing a room with her husband of nearly 70 years (anniversary next month).  FIL asked that they be together.  We have more errands ahead, helping to personalize their new room.

I had the joy of quilting with friends last weekend, and I'll be sewing with a daughter tomorrow, maybe on Sun too.  Time with my sewing machine and quilting projects is the best way for me to de-stress, re-energize, and take a breath to get ready for the next week.

working on 80 Mt. Trail blocks (will finish at 9")
So, what have I been sewing lately?   This and that.
--a gold and rust lap/wheelchair quilt made from orphan blocks found at a garage sale

--working on 80 blocks for another Mountain Trail quilt, following instructions from Lori of Humble Quilts blog.  Lori's blocks were little; mine will be 9" finished.  GREAT way to use 2" strips I've been collecting.

--finished the top for February's "Small Quilt Club" selection.  (see link on right side).  I'm usually not a square quilt gal, so I added another row to the quilt made from 1800s repro fabric blocks.

24 x 32" Small Quilt for February
--I always seem to be making place mats for Meals on Wheels from leftovers and scraps.   I can't look at scraps without wondering what I can do with them to make a placemat.   Since the first of the year, I've finished these 16 placemats.  I'm not in a guild this year, so I'll hand them off to a guild member one of these days.  
Have a great weekend, and stay warm and safe, if you're in a cold part of the country.
Sick of Winter!!  Sick of Winter!!

placemats 1-7

placemats 8-11
placemats 12-16

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My first red and white

"Roses--Square by Square" -- 16" x 20"
As each new year starts, there are so many online groups we could join, so many weekly or monthly projects we could begin.  One commitment will be plenty for me this year.

I'll sew along with the "Small Quilt Club" from Huckleberry Stitches.   A link to her site on the right side shows the book we'll use, 101 Fabulous Small Quilts from Martingale.  This thick book includes many familiar quilts I've seen in my other Martingale books.   (It's not too late to sign up and join in.) 

mixing old and newer buttons
enlarged version sewn in 2010
The January quilt chosen was on page 54 -- "Box of Chocolates."   Wouldn't you know, that's one of the 3 or 4 little quilts in the book that I've already made.   So, a new colorway was in order.   With Valentine's Day ahead, and spotting a box with red and white fabric, this is my new small quilt.   I'm happy with the finished look using dark, medium, and light reds.  I'm a toile lover, and a rose print toile is the center of each block. I machine quilted it with curvy lines, as suggested by the designer.   I have a healthy button stash, so I easily found a variety of red and white buttons to add.  

A lesson was learned the first time I made this pattern (pink + brown version in  2010).
I sewed on the label and tacked down the hanging pocket before sewing on buttons.   Oops -- the hanging pocket and label both covered spots where buttons had to be sewn.  So unstitching -- then buttons -- then restitching pocket and label. 
Lesson learned.   This time, all buttons were sewn on first. 

I hope you find time for stitching this weekend.  We all need plenty of that in our lives. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

New home for 3 more

"Arabic Lattice" -- 61" x 71"
It was my honor recently to participate in a fellow quilter's donation plan.  I've followed Jean Carlton's blog,  Quilts Etc., for some time, enjoying her projects, knowledge of the history of quilts and quilting, work ethic, and spirit.

Jean's described her goal in this  Oct. 3, 2014, post.  To participate in the celebration of the 30th year of the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester, Minnesota, she decided to donate 30 quilts.  The House provides affordable housing for patients before or after  transplants of all sorts.  Her personal connection with the house was her husband requiring a kidney transplant in 2012.
"American Pie and Cake" -- 71" x 80"

She sent out the word to friends, local guilds, and wrote about it in her blog.  Quilt tops and finished quilts headed her way.  Her deadline for delivering the quilts was Dec. 1.  I read about her plan in early November and e-mailed -- could she still use some totally finished quilts?    Yes!  I happily sent three to her in Minnesota--our neighbor to the north. 

"Chocolate Country Concerto"--69 x 91
Here is a link to a Flickr slideshow of her "30 Quilts -- 30 Years" project, where you can see the 69 quilts that she and her husband delivered on Dec. 1.    The variety she received and complexity of many of the quilts is impressive.   The Carltons' generous act was the topic of an informative, well-done segment by Minneapolis TV station KARE-11 -- that link is here.   How fun to catch glimpses in the TV segment of the 3 quilts I sent to her.  The generosity of Jean and fellow quilters was also the topic of coverage by a Rochester, MN, newspaper.

I wrote about my Arabic Lattice quilt here and here.   (ideas for colors and pattern layout from Country Threads, which is now closed, BTW).

The "American Pie and Cake" quilt was a combo of the "American Pie" pattern from Miss Rosie's Quilt Co., with cake stand blocks in the center and corners.  I wrote about it here.

A LQS class years ago resulted in the black/gold/white/rust "Chocolate Country Concerto" quilt.  It was my first experience with stacking fabric squares /slashing through the pile /moving a bottom fabric to the top / stitching / slashing again -- etc.   Several fabrics have music designs, so my long-arm quilter at the time, Lucinda, used a music notes/symbols pantograph.

Hats off to Jean and her husband for organizing and successfully completing such a special, meaningful project.  The publicity of this event hopefully will remind the public of the importance of organ donation.

BRRR again.   Tonight is predicted to be coldest night of our winter (so far).  One source says we'll reach -14 degrees and another says -16 (that's pure temp, not the wind chill).  Then we get a warmup to the 30s by the weekend.  Hurrah!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sharing more 2014 finishes

"Sunny Lanes" finished at 71" x 87"
A variety of finishes hit my "DONE" pile in the last couple months of 2014.   This first is a properly aged UFO.  Author Pat Speth, who led the way in working with 5-inch squares of fabric, presented a trunk show and had classes at our LQS in 2006.  From a list of suggestions, I chose to make "Sunny Lanes" from Nickel Quilts.  It's finally done and was given to a local guild to be a share quilt. 

A group of local ladies hosted a mystery quilt late last year. We used the Crazy Angle ruler from Lazy Girl Designs  and followed several months of instructions.  I chose a non-typical Thimbleberries fabric to guide my fabric color selection and eventually used it as the border.

My favorite way to organize fabric cuts and blocks and parts of quilts is with paper plates.   Here they are holding the 2-piece mystery quilt blocks before following the layout instructions.  Notations I wrote on the plates helped me keep track of the left version or the right version, Block A or Block B.
"Streak of Lightning" -- 75" x 93"
"Streak of Lightning" is the name I gave this fun layout for my finished mystery quilt.  It was a great place to practice FMQ feathers.   I'd like to try the Crazy Angle ruler with other cuts and other layouts.  I've found a lot of interesting quilts online where it was used.

"Larger Than Life" -- 30" x 40"
I don't buy many quilt kits, but when the price is right, I won't turn down a bargain.  This over-sized Christmas bulb was a kit with a Sandy Gervais pattern, Larger Than Life (#323).  It was fun to sew and a different project than the kind I usually make. 

When my in-laws moved to assisted living in September, I decided I would provide them with  seasonal items of decoration throughout the year. 
1--a curtain that hides the space under the sink
2--a large wallhanging above their table
3--a small decoration on their apartment door. 
10" x 21" funky tree

Autumn leaves and pumpkins have been replaced with snow and snowmen and winter trees. This door hanging is my enlarged version of the "Holiday Tree," a Patch Abilities pattern by Julie Bohringer.    It was a fun way to use a few buttons that seem to be overflowing from jars and bags in our home.

We're "hunkering down" here.  A week of nasty cold weather is  predicted here in northern Iowa -- several upcoming nights with lows far below zero.  One website predicts -18 degrees F (-28 degrees C) Wednesday night.  Yikes!  Hopefully we won't get the 4-6 inches of snow that are predicted for tomorrow.  This is NOT a pretty week ahead, but it will end with a quilting weekend with my friends.  That will make the week bearable.  (Being retired and not required to leave home to go to work helps too.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Keeping busy, heading to 2015

"Scrappy Lady of the Lake" -- 69 x 89"
Since September, I've been working on attitude adjustment, dealing with day-to-day drama and joys (don't we all?), and having occasional periods of productive quilting.   Attitude and coping first;  sewing second. 

I'm focusing on the positives in life, I'm dealing with issues as they arise, and I'm learning to accept those things I can't change.   Relaxation techniques, reading books, listening to music -- all helpful when I feel overwhelmed or frustrated.   Taking time to quilt isn't too shabby either, as far as a being a relaxation technique.  

Since September I've finished some UFOs, made progress on WIPs, completed a few new projects, created one dynamic little dinosaur (AKA grandson in disguise), and found joy again in my quilting.  I'll share projects with you over the next few posts.

"Faithfully Humble" -- 69 x 88"
At the end of an August post, I wrote about a personal challenge.  I gave myself one year to meet 5 quilting goals, or my closest friends (the Mavens) will get to raid my stash.

Three of five goals are met, all pictured here.  (NOTE:  All photos will enlarge with a couple clicks.)
Two scrappy quilts are quilted, bound, and labeled.  "Lady of the Lake" is made from HST that have been my leaders and enders for years.  Large HST finish at 6";  the 1008 smaller HST finish at 2".

Baptist fans done "in the round"
You may remember my "Faithfully Humble" quilt, my version from the  quiltalong instructions from Lori at Humble Quilts.   The entire 12-block center is quilted with Baptist Fans --my first time using these on a big quilt.

Here you can read about where I found Bonnie Hunter's instructions for fans with no marking.  She quilts along one edge, turns the corner, continues to quilt fans on the next side, around the corner, along the next side, working her way to the center.   I didn't know if I could do that on a big quilt, but it worked!  I didn't have a big pucker of fabric or distortion in the center, as I feared I might find.  It lies flat and the quilting looks great in person, if I do say so myself.

"Brownstone" -- 73 x 91"
This completed quilt is #3 on my Mavens Stash Dash list -- one larger quilt made from Civil War era repro fabrics.   I've written about "Brownstone" by Cottage Creek Quilts now and then since the first post in August 2010.  (Click on "Brownstone" in the labels below for more entries.)   I photographed the quilt on its side, rotated the photo, and the left side looks rippled, but it's OK.   

my own random FMQ design
Lori Kennedy's "Square Flower"
I used a variety of quilting designs.  Zig-zag straight lines through the two borders of squares.  Feathers in the brown border.

I'm sharing close-ups of the  two different blocks.  So far, I do NOT mark quilts when free motion quilting with my Nellie (my HQ Sweet Sixteen).  In the pieced blocks, I started with a spiral in the center, and then went from section to section, stitching in a continuous line.

In brown squares, I stitched "the Square Flower," found in the Jan. 2015 issue of "American Quilter" (publication for AQS members) . Quilter Lori Kennedy shares clear instructions with photos.  You can also find her FMQ instructions here on The Inbox Jaunt, along with a plethora of other wonderful FMQ ideas.     If you quilt your own, check out Lori's site.  I'm blown away by her creativity.

My finished projects in 2014:
1--   9 larger quilts, 
2--  27 mid-sized or lap-sized quilts (most were share quilts for guild)
3--  8 wallhangings or other small projects
4--  16 projects that I helped others to finish; with some, I did some piecing, but my main contribution was FMQ and adding binding
5--  14 placemats and 2 table runners

DH and I will welcome in the New Year quietly.    I'll probably be quilting alone when the clock strikes 12.   I'm more the night owl than DH. 
Happy New Year, my friends.  Let's hope that 2015 is a positive, memorable year for all of us.

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. 


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