Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Hi all, and welcome to the last day of March! We're already having some April showers, so flowers and green grass can't be too far behind. It was raining against the windows on Sunday and I couldn't identify the sound. I thought it might be an animal scratching at the window, but no--just unfrozen water falling from the sky. It's been a long time!

In the sewing room so far this week, I've been playing with the sawtooth stars that have crumb centers. I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to do with them now that I've made three of them. A plain sawtooth star quilt doesn't really appeal to me, so I came up with this:

This could work!

The frame around the sawtooth star block is adapted from the Moda Love pattern, available HERE in 3 sizes (pdf).  Using this pattern as a frame is not a completely original idea. There is a group at my local quilt shop doing something very similar, but I am using smaller pieces so it fits my block. (I also used this pattern before to make something completely different. See HERE.)

Here is the yellow block:

These blocks are 24 by 24 each. I don't know if I'll use any sashing or anything yet, but this is a great size to make up a nice-sized lap quilt. And I like that they're different and not the same old thing. I think it's going to look good!

I still have to make the frame for the blue block. I didn't have a blue that I liked with the block, so I'll have to go get something in medium blue. What a hardship, I know.

Short post, but I hope you have a great, creative sewing week. Since this is Holy Week for western Christians, we have a few days off later in the week. I think we may try to work outside for the first time this year. Just cleanup, but it's something!

Happy sewing!

Linking to Linky Tuesday, Let's Bee Social and WIP Wednesday, and also Angela at soscrappy.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Quilty experiment

Hi folks! How was your week? Hope you got tons of things done, with time left over for some stitching, and that you had lots of sunshine. We had a cold and gray week, but I did get many things done, including a really exciting thing for work. It feels great to have that done, though I'm probably going to keep on tweaking it for a little while longer. I also had some time to sew.

The big thing I accomplished this week was to quilt up the Birds in the Air quilt:

Back on the fence!

All quilted, but no binding yet.  This was quilted on the 1966 Pfaff 362, using the embroidery unit. I don't think the embroidery functions had ever really been used. Maybe tested, but not used for any length of time. Pretty sure that my mother-in-law only used it for hemming and mending, and not at all for a good 15 years. I followed the directions in the manual--and thank goodness I had that!--and oiled the heck out of it and it sewed like a dream. It took some work to get all the settings right, but I really love this machine, even if it is cast iron and a real workout to lift and move around. A cabinet would be useful, but even if I could find one I don't know where I'd put it.

Since this wasn't an heirloom quilt or anything like that, I kept playing with the settings and stitch length and such and got some really fun wavy lines:

They're all different, but I don't care. It was an experiment to play with those stitches. I think it came out fine. Lots of texture! It will get a scrappy binding, probably this weekend. That uses up all that fabric! There's a win for sure.

One side effect of working on this was that now I want to make a "real" Birds in the Air quilt. I have pictures of some floors in the Vatican that look like quilt blocks, and one of them looks like a Birds quiltin dark jewel tones. Time to break out the list again!

I only finished quilting up the one top, but I did baste three of them, including the elephant quilt and the baby quilt sampler, and started stitching the pink baby quilt. I forgot how much time the actual quilting takes! I love having a room where I can just leave it and come back to it later. The elephants also got eyes and other details:


Nobody wants blind elephants! I don't know how anyone else did it, but these are just satin stitches using the regular machine. I put two layers of tear-away stabilizer behind the eyes because the first attempt without it turned out really awful. I wonder if I've ever made a quilt where I didn't have to rip out something. Have you?

Finally, one of the best things to happen to me this week: 

Those are day lily shoots! (And a few really hardy weeds. What will ever get rid of those things?) They're only about an inch high, so I nearly stepped on these on my way to pin the quilt to the fence. I am so, so excited to see these, even if we will have temperatures in the teens again this weekend. There will be flowers at some point!

Hope everyone has a great weekend. I expect to have time to quilt up those other two small quilts because there will be basketball again. And more basketball. And I'm pretty sure more basketball after that. Ah, well! It's only a few weeks a year! (And, whew! Wisconsin won Thursday.) Sunday is Palm Sunday, which means Easter is right around the corner. Can the end of the tournament be far behind?

Linking to Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and  Link a Finish Friday. Happy sewing!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tournament stitching

Hi folks! Has everyone had enough basketball yet? In case you hadn't noticed, there is a really big basketball tournament going on and it has taken over my television set. I swear that's all that's on it right now. Sorry--I'm informed that there are two tournaments--one for men and one for women. With 64 teams each, it's no wonder there's always a game going on.

While my husband has been glued to the tournaments, I've been upstairs sewing and streaming Netflix. (Netflix is just one of the many reasons I love the 21st century. Whoever thought this up is seriously a genius.)  I'm still actively avoiding my major projects right now, but I did get a LOT of cutting done, and some stitching, too. First, I finished up the bag made with the Noah fabric from 1987:

As you can see, we've had a little bit of spring snow. Heavy, wet, and gross, but it makes a pretty backdrop. This bag turned out to be about the size of a brown paper grocery bag, which is a great size for shopping.

The only thing I would change is that I should have made the handles a little longer. These wrap all around the bag for stability, which is good, but they're a little short on top. I tested the bag size and it will hold three cereal boxes, so this will probably live in the car and get used for groceries. (It will also hold a ton of fabric, so maybe it won't be limited to groceries!)

I also made up the yellow Paper Dolls:

I love the little hair ornament! And I'm so happy to use up that strawberry scrap. It makes a great dress!

I think I'm getting better at the hairstyles. Once I have a nice stack of them, I'll applique stitch the hair down and put in some details. The doll on the left is supposed to look like braids, and I think stitching in some details will really add some depth to it. And some detail stitching could also help the grandma in the middle there look less like she has a cupcake on her head.

While I was at it, I cut a bunch of sets of skin tones for future dolls, and also cut up some backgrounds for later too. That's going to save a lot of time next month, since the cutting is the most time-consuming part of these dolls.

The last thing I did was make some progress on the sort-of Boston Common quilt, which is being made from three sets of charm squares:

All that's left are two rounds of blues, which may or may not get done this week. I made a big mistake with this quilt by not cutting the charms all down to 4-1/2 inches so that they were all the same size. There are some big variations in size in these charms and that's made some of the seam matching difficult. But it's just a little relaxing quilt that will be donated, so it doesn't matter much, and the fabric is quite busy and hides a lot of fudging in those seams.

Other than that, I basted a couple of quilts this weekend and they are ready to quilt up. There is a lot of basketball coming later this week, so I'm pretty sure there will be some time for that after dinner every night!

Hope you get some stitching time in this week too. Or basketball watching--whatever floats your boat. May both your seams and your tournament brackets be perfect!

Linking to Linky Tuesday, Let's Bee Social and WIP Wednesday, and also Angela at soscrappy.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Quiet week

Hi folks, and happy first day of spring! We officially made it through the winter. What a relief! We are pretty good here. The hubs is feeling better after about a dozen milkshakes and several boxes of cold medicines, plus all our snow seems to have disappeared. No green shoots in the garden yet, but the ground is thawing.  Can mud be far behind?

I had a very quiet sewing week. This was my big accomplishment:

That's the yellow crumb star for RSC15. I think I did better with this one. It's less linear, that's for sure. I got this book from the library to help get me over the problems I was having with crumbs:

This is by Victoria Findlay Wolfe and was kind of helpful. It focuses mainly on "made fabric," which is basically how to put crumbs together. She's really into it! She has some challenges in the book that look interesting and I think I want to work through. If nothing else, I got a cool yellow star out of it. "Wonky" still bugs me, though.

I also put together most of the Loyal Union Sampler blocks:

I can't decide if this is a table topper or a baby quilt. It's about 45 by 45, so it could be either. For the sashing, I used a pale blue-green solid that doesn't exactly match any of the other colors, but I think it turned out great. The other possibility was yellow, but I'm glad I went with this color instead.

I'm not feeling bad at all about abandoning this big project and using the blocks for this smaller piece. It's actually a relief not to have it hanging over me, plus there are now a lot more possibilities for all that pink and green fabric. Any suggestions for a pink and green quilt?

So that was it for me this week! Quiet, but not totally unproductive. We'll probably have a quiet weekend, too, although I have this strange urge to scrub things, like the cabinets and baseboards. What is it about spring that makes that happen? Must be something in the air.

Have a wonderful weekend! Hope it's spring-like!

Linking to Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric AddictLink a Finish Friday. and Angela at soscrappy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Slacking off

Hi all, and happy St Patrick's Day! This is always a happy day in our family. We are not even a tiny bit Irish, but one of my brothers was born on St. Patrick's Day  (no, his name is not Patrick) so there is always a good reason for celebration. We seem to have a thing for holidays--one of my sisters was born at Christmas, the other was born in early May so that her birthday sometimes falls on Mother's Day, and we have recurring Labor Day and Easter birthdays in the family too. I am nowhere near a holiday so I get a day all to myself!

So, I have been seriously slacking off! I don't know what my trouble is. The hubs has been sick, so that could have something to do with it. I know you all feel my pain.

One thing I did do is cut out the pieces for a bag out of the 1987 fabric:

I know--exciting.

I also pulled out some stripes fabric to make Lorna's ZebraZ quilt:

I was sure that I had black and white stripes, but I don't, so I will probably use these. I plan to make "semi-cheater" zebras using these stripes because I really don't want to piece the stripes. I'm going to have to make one up and see how I like it.

Finally, I also decided to abandon a project:

These are some of the Loyal Union Sampler blocks that I made over the last year. There are 121 blocks and I only made about 20. I just don't have any enthusiasm for this project any more, so I am going to stitch these up into a baby girl quilt--or maybe a table topper-- and use the rest of the fabric for something else. I'm actually okay abandoning it. I made a Sylvia's Bridal Sampler and it was a lot of fun, but this one just never excited me much.

Hope you are all having a much more productive week! I'm going to try to finish up the Boston Common quilt and maybe make up the bag this week. And maybe I'll cut into some zebras, too. It all depends on how Mr. AQ is feeling and how many times I'll have to run out for a milkshake because his throat "feels weird." I know that you know what I mean!

Linking to Let's Bee Social and WIP Wednesday.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cloudy with a spot of sunshine

Hi all! How has your week been? We have had a great one here--lots of sunshine and temperatures near 50. You would think that all the snow was gone, but it isn't, of course. Lots of melting, though, which means a lot of puddles. Plus, I'm almost recovered from the switch to daylight savings time. One more day and my sleep may be back to normal. John Oliver is right, how is this still a thing?

So, this week I put together the weird Birds in the Air quilt I found in pieces in the closet. Here's how it turned out:

It's amazing how fast you can sew when all the pieces are cut and blocks made already. I spent a total of about 2 minutes cutting for this quilt, and used up almost all the fabric that was with it with just a few scraps left, plus one HST and one Birds block.

Plus, can I get a pat on the back for just making do with the fabric that was there, even though there wasn't enough for a full border? The strips were already cut and what you see is literally all there was. I'm not even obsessing over it. Much. I am so proud of myself.

Still no idea what this was supposed to be originally, or where it came from. There was backing fabric in there too, so it's ready to quilt up. A good place to try out some more of those stitches on the Pfaff!

I also made a couple of sawtooth star blocks to use with my crumb blocks. I think they turned out okay.

 I still have mixed feelings about crumb blocks. These make nice star centers, though.

 I also made up some yellow string blocks for a spot of sunshine:

Man, yellow is a happy color! There are plenty more strings, so there will be some more of these blocks later. And here is one more spot of sunshine for everyone:

Melting happening in the background!

Daffodils! These are from the grocery store, not the garden, but they'll do for now!

Hope everyone has a great weekend.  Tomorrow (3/14) is Pi Day! Hug a scientist! Or a mathematician, your choice. And be sure to eat some pie to celebrate--3.14 pieces should do it.

Linking to Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric AddictLink a Finish Friday. and Angela at soscrappy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Goofing off

Hello everyone! I am beyond happy to report that spring is arriving here in southeastern Wisconsin! All of a sudden we have temperatures in the 40s and rain in the forecast. It's like someone flipped a switch. And now we've even changed the clocks and sprung ahead, so it won't be long before we can burn the long underwear and break out some shorts. Which around here is usually when it hits about 50, so fingers crossed for this week!

I have been playing with fabric and making up some things even though I know I should be working on some half-finished projects that are still laying around here. (Remember the "frozen" quilt? Still in pieces!) One thing I made was another crumb block:

These are really, really hard for a traditionalist like me. A few people told me to start with a shape, so this one started with that blue triangle, not that you can tell. I am having a terrible time being comfortable with this method and I'd swear I heard my grandmother telling me to "straighten up that seam." I think one of my problems is that I associate the odd seaming and general "wonkiness" with sloppy work. But I have decided to go ahead and make some more of these and maybe--maybe--use them as centers for the sawtooth stars that Angela has going at soscrappy. Maybe.

Anyway, after that, I made a little bitty blue heart block to go with the mini red block:

Could use better pressing! These are both 4-1/2 inches right now. What am I going to do with them? Who knows?

During the big clean out of the the fabric closet, I found a bunch of stuff that I hadn't seen in a long time, including a whole bunch of blue, yellow, and green charm packs from various related Moda fabric lines. I decided to mix them all together and just stitch them into a simple quilt center just as they are, without additional cutting or fussing about it:

I arranged it sort of like a really chunky Boston Common pattern. The last two rows will be blue all around. I see now that I should probably separate out the light/medium blues and the medium/dark blues, just so it looks a bit better. I plan to stitch this all up and use it to practice quilting, then it will become a donation quilt. Some small person will love it.

And here's another one that was also hidden in the closet and is just getting stitched randomly:

I honestly have no idea where this came from!  I'm pretty sure someone gave up on it and gave it to me. It was in a project box with the Birds in the Air blocks all finished and trimmed, along with a bunch of extra fabric:

There were 36 of the Birds blocks, plus a bunch of greenish HSTs, some strips, and some yardage. I know for sure I did not make these. The fabric is grayed and is nothing I would have chosen at any point. Even when I was using a lot of Thimbleberries patterns I substituted brighter, clearer fabrics. Also, all of the blocks measure 4-1/2 inches but there are inconsistencies that would have made me crazy, like someone didn't bother to align the ruler and just plopped it on the block and trimmed. But they are ready to stitch, so who cares at this point? As long as the HSTs aren't next to each other, I think any problems will be hard to spot.


These are the selvages, so it is past time for this to be made up and go to a good home. Again, some tiny human will like it a lot, I'll bet. Any ideas from anyone out there what this was supposed to be?  I checked the website and there is nothing remotely similar and no pattern that I can find.

So, I've been goofing off and not focusing on my projects! But I think it's still working out okay. Hope you are having some fun this week too. And I hope it's warm where you are!

Linking to Linky Tuesday,  Fabric Tuesday, and Let's Bee Social.  Come join the party!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mutant elephants

Hello everyone, and happy Friday! Good to have made it through the week, isn't it? After one day of mild temperatures, we have plunged right back down to 4 degrees. I understand that many of you who aren't used to the snow and ice have gotten a bunch of it. Be careful out there! Don't try driving--stay home and sew instead!

So, this week I finished up the Elephant Parade quilt top!

Whoo hoo! I think this turned out great, though it is much bigger than I thought it would be. I think I've mentioned before that I just can't ever visualize something by size. Who knows what my problem is, but I was surprised by the finished size of the top. I used a smaller sashing than called for in the pattern, but I think it turned out fine.

 I think I will keep this quilt for myself. Don't tell my kids, but I have a secret stash of kids quilt tops that I especially love that I'm keeping in case we ever have grandchildren.  (Shhh. The stash is our secret.)  I know my niece will need a donation for an auction later this year, and I think one of these would be perfect, so I may make it again. I see that Lorna is working on a zebra quilt, so that could be a nice donation instead. We'll see.

So, why is this post about this very cute quilt called Mutant Elephants? Well, I had taken pictures of the top, so it was downstairs, and Mr. Academic Quilter saw it. He very seldom says anything about quilts, except  "what is that one for?" (Does that question make you crazy too?) He noticed the polka dot elephants that I like so much and what did he have to say about them? "What's with those mutant elephants?" Aaahhh! Now I can't think of them any other way! Has something like this ever happened to you? 

Poor little mutant elephant!

This weekend I have to add the eyes and other details and I may start quilting this up. I should also go shopping for a backing. I like the way Lorna did hers and it seems fairly simple. My modern machine doesn't have a serpentine stitch or a very large zigzag, but look what I found on the "embroidery unit" of the 1966 Pfaff:

I think this little wheel is just wild, and I can't wait to try out this stitch, and maybe a couple of others too. There are also more stitches listed on the other side of this wheel. I'm pretty sure the embroidery stitches were never used,  so I don't know how well they'll work, but it's worth a try.

Speaking of worth a try--a friend recommended these needles and she was so right:

These are fantastic! They are so much better than the universal needles I've been using. They go right through even thick seams. (I get no kickbacks--just passing on a great idea.)

Hope everyone has a great weekend. I'm cleaning the oven. Whatever you do, I'll bet you have more fun than me!

Linking to Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict  and TGIFF and Link a Finish Friday.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Working Wednesday

Hi all! How is your week going? I have good news--it's 31 degrees outside! It feels like summer, or would if it was sunny. I am seriously ready to ditch the winter coat. The bad news is that it won't last because we're only supposed to have a high of 14 tomorrow.  Believe it or not, those roller coaster temperatures are a real sign of spring here in Wisconsin. I say bring it on!

So far this week, I've made the right-facing baby elephants for the Elephant Parade quilt. Take a look at this little guy:

I love him! I couldn't have just one oddball baby elephant, so I had to have another one facing the other direction.  I've also fixed the yellow flower and finished that row:

The yellow flower is a little short, but it looks good so I don't care. I just added a wider yellow strip at the top to fix the size problem. Still not sure what I did wrong there. Now all I need to make are the birds and this quilt can go together!

I also pulled out this fabric that was hidden in the dark recesses of a box in the sewing room:

So very cheerful, isn't it? It's an upholstery weight fabric that I used to have folded and framed in the girl's room when they were small. Take a look at the date on the selvage:

That's 1987, folks! I think it's time to either make it up into something or give it away. It kind of screams to become a bag, doesn't it? Either that or a pillow, I'm not sure.

The only other thing I've done is start pulling out fabric for my next quilt project now that the elephants are wrapping up. I earned my graduate degrees at Marquette University and have wanted a Marquette quilt for my office for a long time. They do have knitted afghans and fleece throws for sale in the spirit shop, but we all know that won't do, right? I have one yard of this fabric:

I'm not sure where I got this, but I haven't seen it since. I'm still kicking myself for only getting one yard. I do have a good idea on how to use it, though, so now all I need are some coordinating fabrics:

Not sure why the colors seem so different in those two pictures! The upper photo is closer to the real colors. The coordinates look pretty good, I think, but I might go shopping again. You know, just to make sure I have the right fabric.

Finally, I want to give a strong recommendation to this post by Joanna at Riddle and Whimsy about problems with blog comments and some email systems. I noticed last week that I'm not getting all of your comments emailed to me, and I suspect that it's because you have Yahoo addresses. If you made a comment and I missed it, I am truly sorry. I do appreciate every visitor and comment! I've also noticed that some long-time commenters have suddenly become "no-reply."  Not sure why that it is, but if you didn't change your settings maybe it's related. Anyway, Joanna had some great things to say and her post is really worth reading.

That's the dispatch from the sewing room for today! Hope everyone is having a good week!

Linking to Let's Bee Social and WIP Wednesday. Come on over and say hi!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Classic Stitches--Yellow

Hi all, and welcome back to the Classic Stitches quilt! This month's color is yellow. Warm, sunny, friendly yellow! I love this color and I love this month's block.

This month we are making Double Stars. What's a sampler quilt without stars? These go together very quickly. Quilt historian Barbara Brackman lists a pattern for Double Stars that is attributed to the Nancy Cabot newspaper column from the 1930s (#2586 in her Encyclopedia). The Double Stars pattern she shows is constructed a little differently from these stars but has the same overall effect.

To begin, you will need 3 fabrics: a background fabric, a yellow for the main star and a darker yellow or gold for the second star. Six inch stars are shown in the pictures here and cutting measurements for 9-inch and 12-inch stars are given at the end of this post.


From the background fabric, cut 1 3-1/4 inch square and 4 2-1/2 inch squares. From the yellow, cut 1 2-1/2 inch square and 2 2-7/8 inch squares. From the gold, cut 1 3-1/4 inch square.

Cut the 3-1/4 inch squares of both colors diagonally twice, making 4 triangles. Cut the 2-7/8 yellow squares in half diagonally once, making 2 pieces each, for a total of 4 yellow triangles.

Alternate cutting option:

If your scraps are smaller or you prefer using the Easy Angle and Companion Angle rulers, you can cut the gold and white triangles using the Companion Angle. Use 1-1/2 inch strips and cut 4 gold and 4 white pieces per block.

Similarly, cut the yellow pieces from 2-1/2 strips, cutting 4 per block using the Easy Angle. 


Whichever way you cut them, stitch the gold triangles and the white triangles together along one short edge, taking care to stitch so that the darker piece is to the left. Press towards the darker triangle.

Stitch the gold and white triangles that you have just constructed to the yellow triangles, stitching along the diagonal edge. Press toward the yellow triangles.

At this point, these units should measure 2-1/2 inches square. Adjust or trim if necessary.

Take the units you've just constructed and the remaining pieces that were cut and lay them out as shown to make the star block:

Check the orientation of the yellow and gold units, then stitch the units into rows and the rows together into the block:

Your finished block should measure 6-1/2 inches to finish at 6 inches in the quilt. Ten blocks make a 60 inch row and 6 blocks will make a 36 inch row.

Seriously, the cutting is the most difficult and time-consuming part of making these stars. In no time at all, you'll have a row of happy yellow blocks:


Instead of using a darker yellow or gold for the double part of the star, use another color altogether, like blue or green:

For 9 inch blocks, cut 1 4-1/4 square of gold, 2 3-7/8 inch squares and 1 3-1/2 inch square of yellow, and 1 4-1/4 inch square and 4 3-1/2 inch squares of background. Assemble as above.

For a 12 inch block, combine 4 6-inch blocks or make a giant Double Star block by cutting as follows: 1 5-1.4 inch square of gold, 2 4-7/8 inch squares and 1 4-1/2 inch square of yellow, and 1 5-1/4 inch square and 4 4-1/2 inch squares of background. Assemble as above. This would be a great place to show off a large-scale print.

For my quilt, I made a row of 6-inch stars (that were very hard to photograph):

I also made a 12-inch block using alternate colors instead of gold:

And that gives us a yellow row for the quilt!  Because the colors for RSC15 are not given in the same order that I have planned to arrange the colors in my quilt, I am not stitching the rows together until the end. You can either join your rows in a way that pleases you or save them until the end to arrange them when all the rows are finished.

Enjoy making some fun stars for your quilt, and come back on Tuesday, April 7, for next month's block!

Happy sewing!

Linking to Linky Tuesday,  and Scrap Happy Saturday at soscrappy.