Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Afternoon at the machine

This is the story of how I got to sew almost all of yesterday afternoon instead of working without even one little shred of guilt. It's a hilarious tale, really.

I have given blood for years. Three times a year, show up and save a life while sitting on my butt. I have never had one single problem, except for the time I let a newbie practice on me and ended up with a huge bruise. So, it was time to donate again and I went to the Blood Center for my appointment.  I usually have a quick lunch, then go donate, then go back to the office and work the rest of the afternoon. I give double red cells, so it takes a little longer, but with an 11:45 or 12 o'clock appointment I can usually be back by 1:30. Except for this time!

I got to the Blood Center, did the whole routine, got the needle in my arm, read my book, and got all finished and ready for my cookie.  So I stood up, stretched, and boom! Passed clean out on the floor. Did I mention that I never had any problem EVER before?

Turns out that this happens every day at the Blood Center. Literally. Every day. They were all very nice. What happens is they break open some ammonia under your nose so you wake up (I was really only completely out of it for about 10 seconds, but they got the ammonia anyway), then they sit you up against the wall while pretty much forcing you to slam down a whole bottle of water. Then you get to sit in the cookie area and have a cookie and another whole bottle of water or juice while they call your emergency contact to drive you home. Because no one is letting you drive after that.

It was all very embarrassing.

So, my husband came and scooped me up and took me home and left me there with strict instructions not to do anything "strenuous." (He even brought home takeout later. Best husband ever. Plus I now get to define cooking as "too strenuous.")

So what's a girl to do with a free afternoon? Pop in a movie and sit at the sewing machine, that's what! I finished up the Afternoon on the Porch top, which took longer than expected. I realized while I was rearranging everything that it was going to finish at about 48 by 70. This is pretty narrow, so I decided to make 4 more blocks (one more row) to widen it to 56 inches. Only problem was that I had not a single thread left of the the original fabrics. So I picked out some coordinating ones and then had to strip them into random blocks so that the new fabrics didn't stand out from the old ones.

That meant lots of ripping and restitching, plus making new blocks from the pieces I ripped out of the original blocks, but it turned out okay. Not hard, just putzy.

I took the top outside in the brief respite between raindrops in hopes of getting a good picture, but everything was really too wet to put the top on. My neighbor came to the rescue, though, and held the top up for me.

It was very windy! And you can see that we have no leaves on the trees yet. But how great is that top? I think it turned out fantastic. It's going to be a nice cuddle quilt, probably for my older daughter, who gave me the fabric to begin with. And it certainly added a bright spot to a fairly dreary week.

This top will go to the longarmer. I know exactly which panto to use on it, and she does terrific work. This batik is the backing:

It's mostly blues, but with big areas of purple and a pinkish color. It's perfect for a backing where all those colors and variations can be seen.

One more thing to show today:

That is a stack of 16 birthday girl blocks (which I keep calling 'birthday cake' blocks in my head) for the Celtic Solstice quilt. Only 8 more to make! Progress, progress. After I finished with these I had a big headache, probably from my earlier adventure, so that was it for sewing time for the day. But I got a lot done! Not bad for a surprise free afternoon.

I hope my story above doesn't put off anyone who's thinking of donating blood! This is the only time in close to 20 years that anything has happened when I donated, so don't be afraid! Everyone is very, very nice, and you get to save someone's life AND get free cookies on top of it. Win, win, win.

Hope everyone has a great afternoon, and has some bonus free time very soon. Just don't pass out to get it, okay?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Brights for a rainy day

It is a raw day here in the Midwest. Raining like crazy and only 43 degrees.  I feel kind of lucky, though, because there is much more severe weather in other parts of the country, and some people are really suffering. We're just cold and running the furnace later in the year than we should.

Last Saturday we cleaned out the garden. Because of the weather, we're at least 3 weeks behind in terms of the growing season. Usually I put in flowers the first weekend in May, but there is no way that's happening this year.  I don't think I've even seen any advertisements for annuals yet, and none of the usual garden centers is open yet. It's been an odd year.

Since it's so gross outside today, I feel like sitting in front of the Ott light and working on something bright. This is a cute pattern called "Afternoon on the Porch" by Jocelyn Ueng of It's Sew Emma that I saved from Quilt magazine.

(After a short search, it appears that this is from the November/ December 2012 issue. About time I got to it, isn't it?)

The pattern shows it in blue, yellow, green, and white prints. (I don't want to reproduce it here in case it's for sale.) As it happens, my older daughter gave me a small jelly roll of very bright batik prints and there were just enough to make this pattern. I mean just enough. There was no waste, and no leftovers!  I put them with a pale blue Kona solid.

I am actually incapable of following a pattern exactly. I always have to change it.  This could be the source of many of my problems. The pattern calls for sorting fabrics into lights and darks and alternating blocks and rows of light and dark. I did not do that. I just cut the jelly roll strips and stitched them randomly. Also, the pattern calls for 3 inch strips, and my jelly roll was 2 1/2. I just went ahead and used the 2 1/2 inch strips and cut the Kona fabric accordingly.  It's going to be narrower than the pattern quilt, but it doesn't really matter. So, I ended up with these blocks:


Today I'm arranging the blocks and stitching them together into a top. I don't want the same colors next to each other so there is a lot of rearranging going on.  Here's where I am so far:

That is bright! Perfect for a day like today. I'll be sewing this together tonight while the wind blows and the rain falls.

The other thing I did this weekend was ponder deeply the vintage linen blocks from my last post.  I know what I'm going to do with them, and it involves these fabrics and a template to be shown later:

Turns out that I don't have much in the way of purple scraps, so I will have to cut into those fat quarters. But it is definitely going to be worth it. I hope to show some progress this Friday.

Hope you are all weathering the storm! If I remember, I'll link up tomorrow with Connie at Freemotion by the River, a really creative blog with fantastic pictures. Everyone stay dry and be safe in this weird weather.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Playing with linens

Wow, this has been some day! It feels like I packed two days into one today. On the upside, a lot of work got done.

Also, some sewing. Since we're closing in on the end of April (how did that happen?), I finally made the purple blocks for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  At least it gives me the illusion of keeping up with everyone else.  I used this triangle paper:

 I love triangle paper! No measuring, just pin and stitch (though I do try to pay attention to the grain lines).

That gave me these two quick blocks:

 And here they are with all their colorful brothers and sisters:

They look good!

So, I'm caught up with the triangle blocks. I still have to make a purple Odd Fellow's Chain block, but I didn't feel like fussing with it today. What I did fuss with was these pieces of vintage linen:

Somewhat hard to see in this picture, but they are hand embroidered pieces of linen found in a drawer in the attic at my mother-in-law's home. The stitching is lovely. Rather than throw them in a drawer, I thought I would sew them into a quilt. The round piece I appliqued to a square of lavender solid. Forgot the picture. Oh well.  The larger piece had to be cut up:

This was harder than you would think! I kept telling myself that it's just a piece of fabric that no one wanted any more, but I still had to take a deep breath before I cut it. Then I appliqued each of the sections to a 6 1/2 inch square of white fabric. I lost some of the stitching when I cut the linen pieces to fit, but only the filler stitches were cut off.  On both this and the round piece, I left the lace trim free. I think it's handmade.

Here's the pieces together:

As you can see, the lavender piece is over sized. I'll cut it down when I decide how to finish this. Any suggestions? I was kind of thinking about some Drunkard's Path blocks arranged to mimic flower petals, or maybe some flying geese. Not sure a star shape is what I want, though.  I think I'll have to ponder this one a bit.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! I know we are going to work out in the garden, so that usually means lunch or dinner out. I'm lobbying for dinner! And, if I remember, tomorrow I will link up with SoScrappy. If you've never been there, it's a fun blog, and the Saturday linkups are always good. Many creative ideas out there! Also linking up with Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, another fun blog.

Enjoy the rest of your Friday!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A little bit of Zen

One of the good things about having quilting as a hobby is that you can do it in bits and pieces.  It's not like you have to make a whole quilt at one sitting.  It's also possible to work on several quilts at once and not be bored because they all use different fabrics and different designs.  There are also those days when some of the more tedious tasks of quilt-making can be done without a lot of thinking and calm the mind. At least, there are days when pressing and trimming make everything just a little better.  And they are steps in making progress toward finishing another quilt, after all.

There were a number of these tasks that I did last night, and it really was quite helpful. First, I made a couple of string blocks for an upcoming quilt:

I forgot to take a picture before I cut them, but these are 6 1/2 inch blocks cut in half across the strings.

Then, I worked on the mystery quilt a little more:

All of the Birds in the Air blocks are now finished, and I still have about 20 of the chevrons and another 40 of the 4-patches to make.

After that, I trimmed and pressed some half-square triangles. I tried a technique I read about at the Little Miss Shabby blog (and then also at Quiltville and several other places which sent it around the web). You can read about it HERE.

 It worked great! As you can see, I only had to trim a tiny bit off each one, but it was much easier to do before pressing them open than after.

I got about 50 or 60 of these done, but as you can see, there are tons left.  I think I started with more than 300, but by the time I got through these my mind was a lot calmer and I was done sewing for the day. The rest of them can wait for another day when I need to just not think too much.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Finished QOV top

I hope everyone had a great weekend and a blessed Easter for those who celebrate.  Our weekend was fantastic. We had great weather and our daughter was home. It was very relaxing and we all had a lovely time together.

On Friday, I showed the blocks I was making for Kevin the Quilter's Quilts of Valor block drive. I managed to make 31 blocks from the fabric I had. This felt really good, because it takes 30 blocks to make a top. Since I had them, why not put the blocks together? Here's what it ended up looking like:

Hmmm. It looks a little wonky and odd in the picture, but I swear that it is square and lovely in person. I wanted to take a picture outside, but of course it's raining, so I pinned it to the wall near a window. Note to self: find a better place to take pictures. I will be packing this up and sending it off by the end of the week so it can be quilted up and given to a deserving veteran. Last time I looked he had gotten enough blocks and tops for 98 quilts, so I think this week he will definitely go over 100.

This was a super-easy pattern that made for a quick and easy top. Can't you see making it for other charity uses in other fabrics? Maybe some large florals with solid inserts for a women's shelter, or sized down to 6 inch blocks in bright prints for Project Linus? I think I have some ideas for later!

On another happy note, these appeared in the garden this weekend:

Spring is finally coming! Happy, happy!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Quilt of Valor blocks

It's Good Friday today, and that means there will be no sewing for fun for me today. Instead, I'm making blocks to donate to the Quilts of Valor block drive being hosted by Kevin the Quilter.  So far he's gotten enough blocks for 78 Pathway of Valor quilts! If you'd like to join the drive and make some blocks, all of the instructions and rules are right there on his blog.

The blocks for this block drive are so simple.  Start with a pile of red, white, blue, and gold fabrics.

These are Kona cotton solids from my stash.

Cut one 11 inch by 12 1/2 inch piece of one color, and a 2 1/2 by 12 1/2 strip of a different color.

Easy peasy.

Then make a straight cut randomly along the 11 inch edge of the larger piece of fabric.

You can make this cut anywhere along the fabric edge.  No need to measure.  It looks better when the blocks are put together if the stripes are staggered, so this is the one case where not measuring is better than measuring.

Then it's just a matter of sewing two quick straight seams to insert the stripe between the two first color pieces. I pressed the seams away from the stripe, but it doesn't matter which way they're pressed because there will be no matching when the quilts are assembled. Here's the final block:

And, literally half an hour later, here's a happy pile of multi-colored blocks:

They're going to look great together! Here's a little tip, though--don't make too many of the same color all in a row, or else you can mix up the side pieces and end up with weird sized blocks that have to be ripped out and resewn. Ask me how I know this.

I'm planning to make as many as I can from this pile of fabric as my donation to the cause. These take almost no time at all and turn out looking really dynamic in a quilt.

Everyone have a blessed day and a very happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

To finish or not to finish?

Finish or toss? That is the question. . .

Today we have to talk about something difficult, and it's in this box:

(For those who want to know, that's an ArtBin 12 by 12 box. I keep UFOs in these. Sad to say, I have about a dozen.)
Have you ever had a project that just wouldn't cooperate with you? This is a UFO from early in 2014. Every year from Thanksgiving to New Year's, Bonnie Hunter offers a mystery quilt on her blog. (If you've never seen her blog, you should definitely check it out. TONS of free patterns and other goodies.) I've done a couple of her mysteries and had a great time and made a terrific quilt that I really enjoy using. I've also made a lot of her other patterns, and I really admire her style and her generosity with her work. Sadly, this year's mystery quilt, Celtic Solstice, now consists of these parts and pieces: 

Sad, isn't it? What happened?

Um. . .er. . . well, okay, here's what happened. I don't really like it.

Awkward, no?

Actually, I like the pattern quite a bit, and I've seen some that others have made and they are beautiful. I think I just really don't like the colors I chose, especially the pink and the yellow. They just aren't working. This was my inspiration for the colors I chose:

These are peace roses, my favorite kind. (These are fabric, not real. Roses are way expensive in the winter.) I don't think the colors I used really work for what I wanted.  It certainly doesn't say "roses" to me.  Maybe I should have switched the dark green and the pink. Or chosen different colors altogether.

Another thing that put me off this project was all the pieces. There are tons of pieces and that means a whole lot of repetition. I mean a LOT of repetition. Make 98 of these, and 200 of those, and eleventy-billion 4-patches. It felt more like work than play, and Lord knows I have enough work to do already. I ran out of patience. So early in January I boxed it up and put it in the closet with the other UFOs.

And there it sat, mocking me every time I opened that door. Maybe I should have buried it in the back.

Anyway, now I think I'm going to finish it, just because I don't want to leave it sitting there.  Most of the UFOs in the closet are projects that I plan to do, not anything that I've actually cut out or started.  Some don't have all the fabric with them.  This is actually pretty far along, so I've just got to finish all those 4-patches and make the blocks.  Here's a paste-up of what the blocks and pattern should look like:

I see that I even pasted it up wrong.  There should be 4 stars and 5 other blocks.  Aaargh! It just doesn't like me!

I figure that there are three possibilities here: I could finish it and end up liking it, I could finish it and hate it and donate it to a worthy charity, or one of my daughters or sisters or cousins will see it and love it and say "can I have this?" Whatever happens, it won't be mocking me any more. I will conquer this quilt!

Well, it certainly felt good to get that off my chest.  Now I better start sewing. Here's hoping all of your projects are cooperating with you.

Monday, April 14, 2014

4-patch finish

So, it is snowing here at the Academic Quilter.  Not a huge surprise, since it is Wisconsin, but it's disheartening.  It was 60 degrees just 2 days ago! Bring back spring!

I finally finished the colorful 4-patch top I've been working on.  Here it is:

I promise that it's all properly squared up, even though it doesn't look that way in the picture.  The way this turned out is a complete surprise to me. Not exactly what I had in my head, but it works well enough.  The black fabric was very stretchy, even the straight pieces.  You expect the bias triangles to be stretchy, but not the pieces cut on the straight grain. Lots of Magic Sizing in this piece. It was somewhat frustrating, but now it's all over but the quilting.  And one more UFO down!

This is about 39 by 52, so I think I'll quilt it myself on my machine.  I usually send bigger things to a longarmer, but this looks manageable enough to handle.  I'm thinking a nice colorful flannel for the backing, but that could just be the weather talking.

Hope someone somewhere is enjoying some sunshine! It will stop snowing at some point, right?

Friday, April 11, 2014

A little scrappy progress

I hate it when what you Have to do gets in the way of what you want to do, don't you?  That was my last couple of days.  Too many errands, too many meetings, and for some reason my husband thinks we should have food in the house all the time.  I think he's getting a cooking class for his birthday.

In between everything I had to do, I did manage to sew up a few small things.  Both of these are for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge at So Scrappy. April's color is purple, but I was behind, so I've almost caught up now on the previous months' colors.  Here's my pink Odd Fellow's Chain:

The Odd Fellow's blocks are 12 inches, and so far there are 6 of these blocks. I think 24 blocks will make a very nice quilt.

I'm also making 9-patch half square triangles that I plan to set on point at the end of the year.  They just look cool that way.  Here's the aqua blocks I finished this week:

Okay, there's also some pink and blue ones, too. Don't they look happy together? These are 6 inch blocks, and I will finish with 36 of them.

Hope you all made some sewing progress too.  Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Argyle 4 patch

Hey there!

Yesterday I was working on this baby:

 (Yikes! I didn't notice that one block had fallen off.  Oh, well, it was on the floor.)

I made these blocks a long time ago.  I mean a LONG time ago. These are made from scraps from a quilt I made for my daughter to take to college.  She's been out of graduate school for a couple of years, so these are at least 6 years old.  Time to get them out of the closet!  First I had to grab my sewing buddies:

Can't sew without them!

Put the blocks up on the wall, cut some setting triangles, and two episodes of White Collar later (what would we do without Netflix?), I had a center. Can I just say that way back when I made these I never thought about matching all those little seams. The pink cross pieces are half an inch.  What was I thinking? I also had  a small problem after putting the center together: I could not make the corners lay flat. Maybe I cut them too small?  I pressed and pressed, but they curl up.  Not sure what to do about that, so I left them for now to tackle later.  So now I have this little pile of fabric left to finish it off with:

Not sure what to do for borders, but this is what I have left to make it work. I know I could add something else, but where is the challenge in that? I'll finish this off before the weekend. Which could be what I said 6 years ago before I put it in a bag in the closet, but we'll just ignore that for now.

On a completely unrelated note, I've been trying and trying to get a list of blogs that I follow added on the sidebar.  I just can't make it work, so I'll keep trying, but for now you should hop on over to Kevin the Quilter and check out his awesome new quilt, Radar. It's phenomenal!

Have a great day!

Monday, April 7, 2014


Hey there! Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to my blog.  I'm going to give this a try.  Why? Because I love fabric and color and most of my quilty friends live far away from me, and also because my family just isn't as interested in sewing as I am.  They love the finished products, but not the process.  I love the process, and I love talking about it!  So that's what I'll be doing here, and I hope you'll join in. 

To introduce myself, let's talk fabric stash.  This is mine:

Some of my friends have looked at this and said, "where's all your fabric? No, really, where's the rest of it?"  This all the fabric I have. Well, not really. I have a bunch more sorted by project in bins underneath the shelves. I'll be pulling some of those out and hoping to get some of them finished in the next few months. I feel guilty that all of this is just sitting here and waiting to be used, so I want to make some of it up into some pretty things so it can be loved too. A few months ago I folded all of the fabric onto comic book boards and found out that I have a LOT more fat quarters than I thought, so some of those will get used first.

So, that's my first post! Tell me about your stash in the comments, and come on back later this week and we'll talk projects.

Have a great day, and happy sewing!