Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Almost Twilight - Almost Finished!

In my efforts to get some things actually DONE this year, I pulled out the UFO box a couple of weeks ago.  Forgotten, in the bottom, was the top I made at the retreat in Reedsburg.  I can't even remember what year it was, 2013?  2012?  But it was the first time I'd sewn with any amount of batik fabric.

I decided I LOVE batik fabrics!  You can't beat the bright colors.  Most of the time it's so hard to tell right side from wrong side you'd be silly to spend time worrying about it.  It's nice and crisp and most of the time doesn't pull out of shape even when cut on the bias.  What's not to love?

So when my friend Suzi said she wanted to use her new system for pinning quilts, I was quick to jump on that bandwagon.  I agreed to help her demonstrate it to our church group.  She said she'd LOVE to quilt my Almost Twilight top!  Win-win-win!!

She took a photo of the process but I don't have it.  You take four 2X4s, nicely sanded, and place them in a box shape over the backs of four chairs.  Clamp the corners.  Tack the backing of your quilt over the boards and move the chairs to the appropriate size to stretch the backing.  Add the batting and the top and reposition the tacks.

Then you start pinning at the sides, removing tacks and rolling up the boards as you pin what you can reach. This eliminates back breaking bending over tables and the horrific kneeling on the floor of other methods. 

Last night Suzi called me to ask if she could come over and show me something.

Here's the something!

I just can't stop saying WOW!  You can just barely see the quilting in a couple of the white areas, probably because these are cell phone pictures.  We chose a variegated gray thread for the top and charcoal for the back, which is a black batik with spots of purple, teal and some pink.

There are circles - kind of bulls eyes -- in the centers of the stars, meanderings in the backgrounds, straight line echoes in the piano keys and leaves in the black borders.  Not only did she do an awesome job but she did it fast, too!  I think it took us longer to decide on a thread color than it did for the quilting. 

Now I have my marching orders.  She told me I can't take another four years to finish the binding!

Quilt on...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Donation Quilt Kits Nearly Done!

Over the past weekend I finished two tops and got them pinned.  My friend Suzi helps me do this.  We both go to early church service, so after we have some coffee at the social hour (half hour between services) we adjourn to the back room and pin.

The first was a kit from my local guild.  All of the pieces were supposed to be 5" squares, like charm squares.  Some were, some weren't.  I don't know about you, but in my humble opinion, your tops are only as good as your cutting. 

The quilt was supposed to be 9 blocks by 12 blocks, and there were many more in the bag than was required, so I could be choosey.  The squares were all in the blue/purple family with a few tans tossed in for fun, random numbers of pieces I suppose based on whatever there was of the fabric.  Some pieces were one of two, in some cases there were more.

After trimming up the bigger ones and tossing the ones that had shredded to less than 5 inches, and adding a few pieces from my stash, here's what I came up with... random placement but there wasn't enough of some things to make a pattern.

The back is a crazy green and blue zigzag print.  Pretty but I'm not sure it goes...  We'll see.

The other one I pinned myself... this one's for church, it's the random 2.5 inch strips bin again:

I don't know what the back will be of this one yet.  I have some larger pieces in the tub, I'm thinking maybe that shade of teal that's three strips from the bottom.

I'm going to try my hand at some straight line quilting with the walking foot.  I think I should be able to do two small quilts by the next meetings.  The blue one must be done by August 11 and the pastel by August 21. 

Good luck to me!!

Sew on...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Princess and The Little Quilt

 Once upon a time there was a new baby in the family.  The grandmother made the baby a small quilt.  It was quite lovely, all primary colors and pretty prints interspersed with white blocks.

From the time she was very small, the baby loved the little quilt.  She carried it with her everywhere.  It went with her to preschool and kindergarten.  It went with her to Sunday School.  It went on all the overnight trips and camping and vacations. 
It was WELL loved.  It got dirty and was washed many times.  The little girl loved the fresh smell it had after washing.  It became very soft.  The softness was much loved by the little girl, and as she grew she touched it and touched it, making it even softer.
The grandmother, seeing that the little quilt was starting to get tired and worn, made another, very much like the first one, even using some of the same fabrics.  She gave it to the little girl.
"It's nice, but it's not soft!" said the little girl.
The grandmother said, "If you use it, it will GET softer."
"Oh but this one is ALREADY soft, and I love it" said the little girl.
<Sigh> said the mother and grandmother.
The quilt developed a few holes and a few torn spots.  "It's OK, my grandmother can fix you" said the little girl.  The grandmother sewed on some patches, and put on a new binding and a new backing.  "Make it soft!" said the little girl.
The quilt and the little girl grew older.  The quilt went with the little girl to first and second grade.  The quilt went with her to the doctor's office and to the hospital.  "I love this little quilt" said the girl
"I know" said the grandmother, "but she's getting old and I won't always be able to fix her".
"Yes, you can," said the little girl.  "I will help you pick out some patches."
<Sigh> said the mother and grandmother.
Oh dear, how can I fix this big tear, thought the grandmother.  This girl loves this quilt and will not accept a replacement.  She knows it won't last forever, even though she wants it to...

The grandmother found pieces of fleece and covered the big holes.  The patches had worn off on the front, and it was becoming harder and harder to find places to sew more patches.  In some places the poor little quilt consisted only of the backing, and the seams where quilting had been done. 

But still, the girl LOVED the little quilt.  You could see it on her face when she supervised the repairs!  "My grandmother can fix ANYTHING" she would say.
"And look, I like this hole.  I can use it to help me carry my little quilt when my hands are full!" she proudly told her grandmother.

The grandmother thought, thank goodness for little girls who love little quilts.  It makes what I do have meaning.  It's why I sew, for love.

And they all lived happily ever after, since the patches are holding for now.

Sew on...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Weekend Projects

This was a good sewing weekend... the weather here was nasty on and off, with thunderstorms and rain.  It was a good day to stay in the basement.

I had some grands over on Saturday.  When it was nice we did this:

Mermaids and men in the pool.  It was so hot, I had to find a spot in the shade to watch them from, and I was a bit jealous.  But there is no way I'm putting on a bathing suit... just no way!

But the weather took a bad turn in the afternoon, so we came in.  DH is a fanatic about watching the Weather Channel during storm warnings.  Of course this made little people worried!  I said "would you be more comfortable in the basement?"  They said "Yeah, Gramma, your basement is COOL!" - as in awesome.  I keep things downstairs to entertain small people while I'm working on projects.

They pulled out the markers, paper, puzzles, books and scissors and went to town.  They also 'sorted' my button jar for me.  All. Over. The. Place. 

I pulled out my 2 1/2 inch strips bin and did some sorting of my own.  I'd seen a pattern I wanted to try to follow for my church quilt group, but of course could not locate it when I wanted it.  But then Sewing with Nancy was on earlier, and she was showing Quick Column Quilts and had done something similar.  So I pulled up my recorded show and off I went.

I had a pile of white strips and a pile of light to medium colored strips, cut mostly width of fabric.  I cut the WOF strips in half so I had approximately 20 inches by 2 1/2 inches.  (The background can be anything but should be consistent... I used white because I had enough of one white-on-white pattern to do what I wanted.)

The next steps were easy.  Sew the short ends of one colored and one white strip together at the cut end.

Press to the colored piece, or the 'dark side'. This seam could be pressed open too if you want.  I just pressed to the centers because it was quicker.

Then meet the other two short ends together, most likely they are both selvedge ends.  Sew them together at whatever point is 1/4 inch from the beginning of the selvedge.  You can see on the top that I am a bit farther in from the top fabric because the bottom white fabric had a wider selvedge.  Sew that seam.  (Note, it doesn't matter whether your two strips are the same length or not.  Things will get evened up at the end of the process.)

Then trim off the selvedge leaving a 1/4" seam allowance.  More or less... It's not a vital measurement on this quilt.  Just don't cut it too small or leave the selvedges on.  They can shrink and make your top pucker.

Now you have a fabric 'tube'.  Fold the tube more or less in half, being careful not to align the two seams.  You want them offset.  Either by a little or by more.  The goal will be apparent in a few minutes.

At the fold in the WHITE end, cut the strip apart.  Be careful to cut relatively straight.  DO NOT cut the colored end.  Ask me how I know this...

Press the other seam to the dark side.  You end up with a strip that has color in the center and white on both ends.  Sew more of these same strips, varying the amount you offset the seams when you fold.  When you have 24 or 25, start sewing them into sets of two, then sew the twos into fours, etc.

I started all my sets at one end, so at least one side will be fairly even.  The other side will be off by as much as an inch or two and will have to be squared off.  Considering that I was using scraps some of mine were more.  You CAN use smaller sections and even piece your strips, which is what happened in my bunny strip.  That piecing happened because I cut the colored strip apart at almost the same second I realized I should NOT be doing that!

If you're using 2 1/2" strips, 24 of them will result in a baby sized quilt of about 48 inches in finished length if you use the strips horizontally.  When you trim the one uneven edge, that measurement will be anywhere from 36 to 40 inches.  If you want it bigger, you can use longer strips or more strips, depending on which measurement you want bigger.

If you want to see some very cool fancier variations, go to and watch the Quick Column Quilts episode 1.  The quilt she did in black and white was stunning!  She has a booklet to accompany the show (of course!) which I am ordering this week.  (I do not work for Nancy's Notions but I have to say it's my dream job... maybe in retirement I can move there and get a job picking up her scraps or something...)

I still have to sew on one more section but here's my work in process.  I decided the background could be any coordinating color, and since the church guild stash is so eclectic, it won't necessarily be solid either.

I brought home a bag of stuff to cut.  My friend Suzi has her own pile to cut.  We both took some bundles home from church to cut kits too.  Yesterday after a short bout of retail therapy with Miss E, I retreated once again and pressed and cut and pressed and cut and this is the result -- this first layer is stuff where the quantity was enough to use for background, since you need at least 12 cuts to make 24 strips: 
Those two bunches that are tied are from what was cut off pieced backings. They're so nice and long, in some cases 80 inches or more, I decided they could be bindings.

We had some bright stuff, some solids, some crazy ugly pieces.  Some of it was so well aged it was only 36 inches from selvedge to selvedge!  Talk about vintage!  I don't know that this ALL will go into the quilt above, but at least those bits and hunks are now in usable form.

All in all, a good weekend's worth of scrap management... don't you think!

Sew  Cut on...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reading in the Summer

My gal Rita Farro, over at Rita's Sew Fun blog (link to the lower right corner in my blog roll) blogged today about summer reading.  Go, Rita!  Turns out she and I love some of the same writers.

I heartily agree with her opinion of public libraries.  She loves them; I love them.  I was just visiting my local public library last night.  We have our local quilt guild meeting there once a month, and it's the perfect time to stop in, pick up reserved books, and drop off the ones that are done.

I'm currently listening to some books on tape in my car by M.C. Beaton, they're mysteries set in the highlands of Scotland with a hero named Hamish McBeth.

I also like to buy books at the Goodwill.  Nothing beats the joy of owning a good book at a bargain price.  However, sometimes the girls and I do buy books at regular bookstores.  My daughter and I did the BN thing when she was younger.  We would go to the bookstore, browse around and get a pile, then go to the coffee bar and make our buy or not buy decisions while enjoying an overpriced beverage.  I do the same thing now only it's with three girls instead of one.

Miss A recently got herself a library card.  She was so excited, she said she's going to go to the library EVERY DAY THIS SUMMER!  When I told her that would not be possible, she said "No problem, Gramma, Grampa will just drive me over there!"

Love the enthusiasm...  and just think, they have gazillions of books, and they want you to read them ALL!

As to authors, here are some of my favorites... I have a bookshelf in my bedroom of books I purchased to read, or books that were gifts, or books that were passed over to me by my reading friends with whom I share.

I also love James Patterson, James Lee Burke, John Sanford, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, Anne Perry, Anita Shreve, Sue Grafton, David McCullough, Doris Kerns Goodwin, oh my goodness I could go on and on.

Here's what I have read this past six months:

And what I want to read this year that I own:

My daughter gifted me with Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard.  She knows I love history and the civil war period, and am a great admirer of Mr. Lincoln.  I think she was trying also to prove to me that Mr. O'Reilly is not as big a buffoon as he appears to be on TV, but that jury is still out.

And of course I have a full library of books related to my hobbies...  Can't resist the brightly colored photos.  Good for dreaming over when you're considering a new project, or twelve.

 I even keep my eyes open for used books, especially the classics:

 Read on...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What a Weekend!

I need several more days just to rest up...

My family, which I've blogged about before, has many, many branches on our tree.  This is specifically about my mother's side of the family.  She had seven brothers and three sisters who survived to adulthood, and two more sisters who died in infancy. 

Most of these siblings had multiple children themselves.  Only one aunt had an only child, and one had no children.  The rest of us are from families of four, five, or even eleven!

So when I tell you that I have a lot of first cousins, I mean it...  One cousin lives in the country next door to his brother.  They each have a ten acre yard.  Good thing because they have families who like horses, goats and dogs, and they themselves like cars, trucks, farm equipment and other fun stuff.

Once a year they generously host the family picnic.  You could call it a reunion, but if we get together frequently were we apart long enough to be reunited??  LOL!

This year both my children came and brought their kids. 

Miss E saying "Gramma, you're NOT taking my picture!"

After she ate, she texted Grampa to come and take her home.  (Oh no, Mr. Cranky Pants doesn't DO picnics...)
See the big slide in the background?  Entertainment for children all day long?  See the fingers in front?  That's my brother checking the weather report.  Thunderstorms were predicted and the sky was getting cloudy.

Miss K coming down lickety split!

Miss A and Miss K resting up from the slide.

More resting after much eating... son and grandson, a matched set, doing more weather checking.

My SIL looking very adorable.  She was a fashion plate.  Even her glasses frames are blue!

My brother.  Everyone joked that this is his best side. 

Once again, a good time was had by all.  There was volleyball and horseshoes, lots of food and beverages, a few sprinkles of rain but nothing disastrous until later in the evening.
Miss E got water in her ears and with the tubes it was problematic.  We left a bit earlier than I normally would but the kids were going to another party.  I had the grands overnight.  We got dried off at home, put things away, ate noodles and played in the yard, had ice cream cones and dropped exhausted into bed at 9:30 p.m.
I'm tired again just writing about it!
And a little bit jealous of my friend Marlene who retired last week, and didn't have to get up to go to work on Monday.  Or today.  Or ever again...  good for you, Marlene.
Party on...

Friday, July 10, 2015


At four o'clock it will be perfect!!

Party on...