Monday, July 31, 2006

Stitching is so relaxing

I've got one of those nasty summer colds. For a couple days, I felt so rotten, I just sat with my sewing in my lap, never taking a stitch. It's just comforting to have it near me. I remember several years ago, I was hospitalized with a bad reaction to a medication. My husband told me on the phone that the new Quilters' Newsletter had arrived. I asked him to bring it to me, and he asked, "Why? You can't read it!" I just pleaded with him, and he was right, but I just held the magazine and looked at the cover. It was certainly encouraging when I felt well enough to start turning the pages.

I feel this cold letting up somewhat and with that my interest is recharging. I was asked to post the pictures of my project in progress. This is a Blackbird Farms design, as interpreted by Labors of Love. I'm just thrilled with how it is coming along.

We're to the real countdown for Guild Retreat now. I have a number of hand-outs written, and a few more to prepare. We'll all be shifting into high gear, soon. I'm going to go through my "quilt top collection" for examples of scrap quilts to display. Our "lessons" will cover rotary cutting various components. Primarily, we are looking at the snowball block because our theme is "Snowbound", but will hit on half-square and quarter-square cutting techniques, trying to encourage just cutting them, and not mess with the so-called short cuts which make one prisoner to a singular pattern. I find those so frustrating. In trying to draft a pattern for my sister-in-law, I can't find a resource which gives the math formula to even introduce them into use! And, though I don't think I would suffer in the event of a cotton shortage, most of those techniques waste so much fabric . . . up to 42 percent according to Judy Martin in one of her past newsletters. She has a great website, and her books are the best!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Back from vacation!

I managed to whittle my projects for the road down to a reasonable quantity . . . I could carry them myself in one trip! While traveling, I worked on tea cups, a Lori Smith applique in progress, and I finished the applique of some berries on the center of a Blackbird Designs Christmas quilt. I thought it was finished previously, but reconsidered, thinking it needed many more berries on the holly. This was a quilt that I wouldn't have looked at twice in the original pattern because it was done in tans and reds to replicate a vintage look. Then, about three years ago, my friends and I were on our annual December "Oh-hi-ho-ho-ho Tour" to Waynesville, and Fairborn, Ohio. In the Daisy Barrel, we saw a display of the quilt in brighter colors that was more inspiring to me, but I still didn't buy the patterns. Laura mentioned that Labors of Love had executed it on dark fabrics, and had a kit available. When I saw the picture, I thought I would faint! I ordered it on the spot. Of course, I have so many other things going, that I have yet to complete it. Periodically, I pull a kit out, and assemble all those components, and then move on to another UFO. One of these days!

We had a great vacation . . . the grandkids are growing like proverbial weeds. My grand-daughter, Lisey, has mastered knitting, and goes like a house afire! She wants to make a quilt, and I was trying to think of something to be used as a template for her, and it struck me . . . her brother's blocks! So, we picked out one that was about 3" square, and I showed her how to trace around it to mark a sewing line. She has a little fabric stash already, so she began marking squares, and hand sewing them together. Now, her brother, Addison, wants to learn, too.

I managed to visit five quilt shops on the trip! I always go to Cottonwood on Barracks Road in Charlottesville, Virginia. As we started for home, I got to Rachel's Quilt Patch in Staunton, Virginia, two shops in Chillicothe, Ohio, and polished off the trip at The Fabric Shack in Waynesville, Ohio. I found two fabrics suitable for settings and borders for my perfume bottles, a black with some gold on it, and a very heavily gold fabric that is sort of a window pane plaid with black. Also, picked up several white with red prints for a Kansas Troubles; then, once home, I pulled out the drawer of red strips and scraps from other projects to launch a sample for Camp.

Yesterday, my husband said he was suffering from auction withdrawal, so off we went to an auction. There was a box with one piece of white with red print in it, and the box sold for much more than I wanted to pay for one piece of fabric. So, I approached the winning bidder, and offered her $1 for the piece I wanted, and she accepted, so we were both happy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Applique' is calling me.

I don't really think there is any aspect of quilt making that I don't enjoy. I love the geometry of piecing and working with fabrics and colors. My absolute favorite is applique'. It's so "painterly". Another quilt top in my "quilt top collection" is blocks from a Brandywine Design book. I enlarged the blocks to 125%, and executed the patterns on black with brights. I had a great time with these blocks, making an effort to use as many fabrics as possible. The only block that I wasn't delighted with is the sunflowers with a bluebird; I think the bird doesn't have enough contrast to the rest of the block.

We're going to see my son and his family in Virginia for a few days, and I'm trying to get my "toys" ready for the trip. I'm not real worried about clothes; I can pack those in about ten minutes, and you can always buy more clothes if you need them. But getting the right mix of hand work to last for the duration of the trip is sometimes a challenge. I have to have a little bit of knitting for the highway, while DH drives. Usually, some cotton dishcloths are included, just because they don't require any thought, and they are so appreciated. The forecast is for lots of heat, so that will probably constitute all the knitting this trip. In cooler weather, I always take a good project, such as a sweater. Of course, I am vying for "Nana of the Year", so some small amounts of fancy yarns to make sweaters for American Girl dolls would be an option.

A few years ago, our granddaughter was talking to her cousins who were going to Boston to visit their paternal grandparents. Lisey thought about that for a little while, and then announced, "I have grandparents, too. They live in Indiana . . . my Grandpa can ride a bike." I congratulated DH on being entered in the "My Grandpa is better than your Grandpa sweepstakes"! He had apparently planted that thought in her mind in all those moments when he teased her about letting him ride her tricycle. He said he hadn't been on a bike in years, and I told him he'd better practice, because her reputation was at stake.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Not the result I was looking for!

I just can't stay away from my little two-inch squares for the Kissing Cousins quilt top. Sunday, I set up a Featherweight in the living room to sew while watching an old Columbo movie. I think I buzzed through about 3/4ths of the stacks into pairs, through a Matlock movie, time out for dinner, and through a Mystery Woman. Then, there were back to back Diagnosis Murder . . . loved Dick Van Dyke, but that series just stinks. (I think he did that series just so his son could work as an actor. It makes Murder She Wrote look like Academy Award material.) Unfortunately, it seemed to be the best thing on, so I just kept chugging away at my squares. By the time my Guild Retreat comes up, I might be ready to assemble the whole top.

In the meantime, I've been looking through other scrap quilt books in my library for more inspiration. Nancy Martin had one that came out last year, "A Treasury of Scrap Quilts". On the cover is a red and white Kansas Troubles. There are 18 projects in the book, and I'm only enthralled by 10 of them. I know, of course, that making lots of scrap quilts doesn't necessarily diminish one's scraps. I learned this from my first scrap quilt class. I went to the class confident that I would use up my three boxes of scraps. By the time the class was over a month later, I had about half a dozen quilt tops, and five boxes of scraps!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thanks, Henry!

Henry Ford is credited with the development of a production line. I personally suspect that he witnessed his wife or his mother using such a technique for quilt making, canning or laundry, or something similar.

My rotary cutter has kept my "production line" going the last few days. Counting the color 2-inch squares for Kissing Cousins revealed I'm close to the 1020 requirement, greatly assisted by approximately 400 Benartex Quilter's Candies. Last night, I cut most of the strips comprising the background, and I assembled my nine-block sample. I just love it! I hope to finish cutting the background into squares today, completing the "kit", ready to take to Camp in September, but in the interim, I may just assemble a few more blocks on those days when I don't want to think so much, but enjoy the rhythm of piecing at the machine, while I watch a movie.

I need to make some other samples for our Retreat. Next in my plan are some blocks which utilize nine-patches in some fashion. Sister's Choice and Weathervane are the first examples which come to mind. Also, merely pairing a 9-patch with a snowball block creates an interesting diagonal interest.

Our little group is launching a project of exchange to be completed in December at our Christmas party. Marguerite told us about seeing "trading cards" in Chicago, as well as a magazine story. They are to be approximately 2" by 4", with no embellishments deeper than a dime. My first thought was little tea pots, but, this morning, I was thinking about how I'm always accused of being a "digit head", and the idea of a credit card sized calculator made me sit back down on the bed and start laughing. I'll have to let the idea stew for a bit to see if I can actually implement it. It certainly would be funny!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Am I blue?

The Goose in the Pond quilt I saw at auction on Saturday is haunting me. I've been telling myself I don't need another blue and white quilt top in my "quilt top collection." (There doesn't have to be any guilt because its not quilted, if it is part of a quilt top collection.) I am particularly fond of two color quilts, especially when they have lots of variety within the two colors. In sorting through my scraps, its heavy in reds and blues, accounted for by the Cake Stand and Ocean Wave quilt tops. Greens are overflowing their drawer, but inspiration for a Tree of Life has not yet struck. There is a tidy little box of Christmas greens intended for an Ocean Wave variation with red pinwheels at the intersections . . . Peppermint Pinwheel. That's another "leaders and enders" possibility.

I failed to mention in my post including the picture of the Star quilt that several of the blocks were found at Marcia Hohn's Quilter's Cache website ( They were perfect to illustrate how changing one element can change the look of the same block. Her website is always inspiring.

Last night, I laid out all my little Christmas basket blocks, in anticipation of setting them together. They are just so cute, it's hard not to go to the machine and start making more.

For a couple years, I have been planning to make Linda Franz's Quilted Diamonds. I even selected the fabrics in Paducah two years ago. Part of the delay was promising myself I wouldn't start until my Dear Jane top was completely assembled. I used the Dear Jane software to generate freezer paper patterns, and hand-pieced all the outside triangle blocks. I enjoyed it so much, that I thought I could do the same with Quilted Diamonds, since I have the software for those as well. Saturday, while at the auction, I finished some other handwork, and had the pieces for the first block in my kit. So, naturally, I couldn't just sit there when I wasn't bidding . . . so I started to assemble it. I've just got six more pieces to put together, and it looks lovely. With a little trip to Virginia to see my son in the planning, I think I'd better assemble a few more kits for the road trip!

My job interferes with my chosen lifestyle, which would be to sew all day, evening, and into the night!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Who needs a Vega-matic?

I've been faithfully cutting 2-inch squares from my sorted scraps. In my studio, I have drawers labeled in colors, and in each of those drawers are strips, squares, and a zip-loc of small scraps. When working on an applique project, I generally grab the scraps and pull from those first. My present project of the Kitty Corner blocks from Fons & Porter's magazine, seemed made to order to whittle those bags down a bit. I emptied each bag, and sorted out anything large enough to yield a 2-inch square. Then, sitting in front of the television at my little wooden sewing table, I rotary cut them, while simultaneously packing ice on my bursitis plagued hip. (This is a new treatment, along with some strengthening exercises, and it seems to be helping.) I'm not very good at just sitting and staring at the idiot box, so this seemed perfect to me. I was tempted to try to count my resulting bounty, but have so far refrained. I'm down to greens, the last color, so maybe I'll start counting when I finish those, knowing that I need 1020 for the 510 four-patch units of the block. I'll bet I'm pretty close to being there. The sample block I made looks exactly as I imagined it would . . . which always makes me giggle.

Several years ago, I decided I was going to make a Stacked Bricks quilt top from my scraps. Each day on my lunch hour, I happily cut 2 1/2 X 6 1/2" strips, and stowed them in a box. Finally, having accumulated a healthy looking stack, I decided I should count them. I reviewed the pattern, from Judy Martin's 1985 classic, "Scrap Quilts", and learned that I needed 232 strips. I counted the results of my labor, and found I had closer to 600! Undaunted, I made two quilt tops, and donated one to the Quilt America "Yes M'am" auction. Needless to say, even after making two complete quilt tops, there was still a healthy supply of strips, so I decided to improvise a border. I tried to get a surveyor friend to do the math for me, and he said he would look at it, but he didn't know what he could do that I couldn't. It made me mad, and so I attacked it myself, and found out he was right. I finished the top two days later!

DH and I went to an auction yesterday at a local retirement home. This is a very nice retirement home, and the pieces being auctioned were donated by residents, or left to the Foundation which operates the home. Among the treasures of beautiful furniture and glassware, were three quilts, a sewing box, a Singer Featherweight, and a couple thimbles. I was a bit surprised that there was minimal bidding on the Featherweight, and even more surprised when DH bought it! It's in great condition, but I oiled it all up last night, and test drove it on some of my squares. Makes a wonderful stitch, as they all do. Now, to find a home for this little honey . . . since I have one, and my sister-in-law keeps one at my house for some of our Retreat adventures . . . and there are two more in the basement . . . you can see why I was surprised that DH bid!

The quilts went for nice prices. Two were kit quilts; one an applique kit from the 30's for certain, with large sunflower type blocks. The other was a stamped applique kit of dogwood blossoms on a peach background from about the 1950's, as revealed by the blue markings still showing in places on the quilt. The third was a 1930's blue and white "Goose in the Pond" block. I managed to refrain from coming home and dragging out blues and whites to make one, but it's still echoing in my brain!

DH asked the ringman to sell one of the thimbles. It is a size 9, slightly out of round, and quite tarnished, but no holes in it. I was the successful bidder, and I happily put it in my sewing kit. Later, the other thimble, a small tailor's thimble, was sold and I got that one, too, for only $2. When we got home, I got out my silver polish, and started working on them. The tailor's thimble is clearly silver, but without much detail, so it only took a couple minutes to polish it. The other thimble is probably an 1880's or so, with several panels, some flat, and the others with designs engraved. But most surprising is that removing the grime revealed that the bottom half of that thimble is gold! I have certainly been lucky in finding lovely thimbles lately. DH thinks that I should cease looking, but I'll do that when he quits buying old canning jars, his passion, which require much more storage space.