Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blowin' in the wind

Hello, and happy last day of September! Am I wrong, or has the weather been crazy the last few weeks? We had a beautiful summer weekend, except that it's September, and we just had a 15 degree temperature drop in the space of an hour. When I got home, it was 78 degrees and blowing like crazy outside. An hour later it was 63 degrees and still blowing. Gave me a big headache. I'm sure there's rain not too far behind it, too.

Lots going on here. Still working on those same two quilts. Yeah. . .I don't know why I decided to make two of them with so many pieces each at the same time. But there is progress, and that's keeping me going. Let's see if I can get one done by Friday. Could be a challenge, but I'll try.

In addition to those quilts, there is this:

Yes, that is the fields and furrows quilt being basted in my kitchen. I refuse to crawl around on the floor, so I basted it in sections on the table. The backing is taped under the table and clamped to the table as well with these babies:

Very handy! I also basted the Dancing Nines quilt and both of these are now ready to go! Not sure exactly when I'll get to them because my sewing table looks like a thread bomb went off, but I'll have them done sometime in the next couple weeks. (For those who are interested, Wanda Hanson has a nice thread basting post on her beautiful blog HERE. I do pretty much the same thing she does.)

After the success of the polar bear paper piecing, I pulled out two more projects that I've had for a while that also use large pieces. First there is this one:

I figure this would be good for the rest of those orange and/or yellow scraps I have. There is also this one, which is slightly larger:

Both of these are from Quiltmaker magazine. I was all set to start cutting pieces of fabric and making kind of a "kit" of fabrics and traced patterns so I would be ready to go. Then I discovered that I had not a single thread of gray fabric anywhere in my stash, either solid or prints. Not a thread! How can I make a squirrel and a raccoon without gray? So I guess I have to go shopping. Oh, the hardship! But at least I have most of the patterns for these projects traced and ready to go as soon as I procure some gray fabric. (Yes, I know the squirrel in the picture is brown, but the squirrels that live in our backyard are gray, so I want gray.)

The last thing I got done this weekend also involved getting ready for another project. This one is a hand applique project that I think will take a long time. I've been wanting to try back basting applique, so I spent some time this weekend prepping the pieces. Look how big they are: 

They're huge! That can only be good for me, though. Easier than the tiny ones. I'm using these fabrics:

I bought these at a rummage sale for $10 this past spring. Never used them before, but I figure I can't really go wrong. I also got some greens from Vicki Welsh's shop to use for leaves and stems. With all the dark cold nights that are coming, I think this will be a good project for the evenings this winter.

Anyway, that's what's up here! Really going to try to finish up one of those quilts this week. They are both thisclose, so keep your fingers crossed!

Happy sewing all! I'll be back Friday, which will be in October. Can you believe it? I can't!

Linking to Linky Tuesday, Fabric Tuesday, WIP Wednesday, and Let's Bee Social. Stop by and say hi!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Small diversions

Hi folks! How has your sewing week been?  I had a great birthday, complete with chocolate cake. How much more can a person ask for? Plus, the weather has been more like June than September, which is great for now but I'm sure there will be a big crash later.

I am still working on the same two quilts. Ocean Waves is about half finished and a little bit stalled because of the 9 inch squares of white I need for the remaining triangles. I guess I'm going to have to suck it up and cut some yardage for those. Burgoyne is zipping right along. The new ironing station really helps. Just have to finish the 4-patches (nasty little things) before I can finish all the blocks. Both of these make boring blog pictures (and some boring sewing, let me tell you), so how about some small diversionary sewing?

First up is the second orange Odd Fellow block:

If you look carefully, you can see the leaves changing!

He's a cutie, even if it was hard to find a "sober" piece of orange. I was worried about the lines in this fabric, but it turned out to be no problem at all. And now we're done with orange! Wonder what the next color will be?

Then there is this little guy:

This is called "You Got Cookies?" and was in the November/December 2012 issue of Quiltmaker. Very fast paper piecing. The best part is that I did find a small piece of white flannel for the hat band and a little bit of green bias tape for a tiny flange at the edge of the hat. I did have one problem with this pattern. Sections 5 and 6 both had to be extended by about half an inch in order to fit correctly. I've never experienced that with a paper pieced pattern before, but I could have made a mistake, so if you make it, measure all the parts first. I think he's darling, even if he was a little trouble.

Last is this little baby:

It's a jungle out there!

This was a very popular item made from this tutorial by Erin at Dog Under My Desk. She calls it an earbud pouch, but I plan to use it for my pedometer because for some reason manufacturers don't think women need pockets in their exercise clothes. They are wrong, and I don't want to make more pockets. This should work well.

That's what I did this week! Hope you got a bunch of sewing done, and that none of it was as boring as making 4-patches.

Linking up to Confessions of a Fabric Addict, crazy mom quilts, and SoScrappy. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pressing matters

Hello everyone, and happy first day of fall! I'm feeling a lot better, although we've now reached the point in the year when I'm hoping the first freeze comes soon. Fall allergies are the worst allergies for me, so the sooner that all those nasty plants die and stop spreading their spores around, the happier I will be. Sometimes I get really bloodthirsty towards them and wish I had a flamethrower or something. Then I remember that a large part of California is in flames and I stop thinking that way. But I still want them all to die.

I've got a lot of things going on here, sewing-wise. I'm still making sections of the Ocean Waves quilt. There are a LOT of pieces.

Even though I had all the small parts made already, it's a little tedious putting them together, what with how they have to be oriented all "correctly" and everything. I might have to actually cut into some white yardage to get big enough pieces for the triangles because I'm running out of scrap pieces that are big enough. We'll see.

I'm also still making parts for the Burgoyne quilt.

This quilt may pass Ocean Waves as the next to be finished. It's just so darned happy and fun to work on.

One thing that is not fun is the constant stand-up, sit-down exercise involved in pressing all of those units. The 9-patches (and the 4-patches) are made of individual squares, so no strip piecing. I had a lot of these already cut, because 1 1/2 inch squares are the smallest pieces I save, so I already had a bunch. They're getting used up here, so a LOT of pressing.  I needed a satellite pressing station that I could keep by my sewing machine. My legs could use the exercise, of course, but it keeps breaking my sewing rhythm. So I made a pressing station.

I started with a wooden TV tray that came from my mother-in-law's house, so it's been around for a while and is quite solid. On top of the table I layered a piece of 1/4 inch foam, which I had left over from padding a bench, then a layer of Insul-Brite, an insulating fabric that I use in potholders and such.

Then I added another layer of thin polyester batting on top of the Insul-Brite.

I thought polyester would be better, but I see that my actual  ironing board has cotton. Huh. Well, at least I didn't waste batting that could go into a quilt on this.

What to put on the top? I didn't want to use any quilting fabric on the cover here, so I rummaged around and found this generous half yard of upholstery-weight cotton.

Not sure why I had this fabric, but it made a great cover! After a struggle with stretching and fastening everything, here is the finished ironing station!

The silly thing is perfect! It fits right next to me and doesn't take up room on the sewing table. Very helpful!

I mentioned struggling with stretching and fastening the layers. I saw a tutorial online that showed how to sew a cover for a tray table, but I wasn't going to do that. I'd rather sew quilts! I decided just to use my handy electric stapler and staple everything to the underside. Well. . .

Yeah, the stapler and the table didn't really get along. Not sure why. I ended up pulling out those staples and then using upholstery tacks and a hammer to fasten everything down. It took longer, but the hammering part was fun. Be sure to put an old towel or something on the table or bench (or the floor) under the piece to help hold it still.

For the rest of the week, my plan is to make good use of this pressing station and get closer to finishing one of those quilts. I'm close to ready to be done with fiddly little pieces, no matter how great they look. I also basted some things and am ready to quilt them up. Plus, today is my birthday and I see chocolate cake and a dinner out in the very near future. Wins all around!

Linking to Linky Tuesday, Fabric Tuesday, WIP Wednesday, and Let's Bee Social.  Happy sewing everyone!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Small projects

Hi all! I am feeling somewhat better today, although there was a lot of downtime this week. I even stayed home all day Wednesday and accomplished almost nothing all day. My pedometer says I had only 1855 steps for that day, when I usually have close to 10,000. I guess that's what happens when you take medicine and curl up on the couch reading quilting blogs instead of actually doing something.

I did manage to sew up two small projects this week, mainly so I could feel like I hadn't wasted all that time. The first involves the tote bag I showed you last time:

The hubs has a bad back and the seats they put in cars aren't really comfortable for him any more, even though they're advertised as having lumbar support. So we have driving pillows specifically sized and stuffed to fit behind him in the car so we can drive long distances in comfort. One of these met a tragic end a little while ago, involving the seat belt, the latches on the car door, and a person in a big hurry. So this fairly useless but cheerful tote bag has become our new car pillow.

This was a very simple project. I just turned the bag inside out and folded the bottom up to trace the curve at the top. Then I cut off the top and stitched just around the curves to hold the corners, leaving an opening for stuffing. Then I took a nap because that wore me out.

When I woke up, I stuffed it firmly, using almost the whole bag of fiberfill:

Stitched the opening closed and ta da! Finished back pillow.

Total time commitment, including hand stitching the opening closed: less than 45 minutes. (Sadly, not all in one sitting.)

I'm counting this as my orange project for the week, along with this similarly cheerful bright orange block (which  actually finished last week and forgot):

Gosh, orange is such a happy color. I should use it more.

The other thing I did this week was this little row quilt, which I plan to hang as a banner in a small space:

Hard to get a good picture of a long skinny quilt. It measures about 12 by 41. This was a row quilt pattern from a shop in Pennsylvania from 2013. I had made the components a little bit ago and finally put them together this week, then added the small borders to finish it off. Took about two Netflix episodes of Scandal to put it together. It's an unusual block, and I think it turned out well. I may quilt it up this weekend if I have some time.

That's it from here! Hope you all were feeling well and got a whole lot done this week. Enjoy your weekend!

Linking up to Confessions of a Fabric Addict, TGIFF, and SoScrappy. Stop by for some quilty inspiration!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Under the weather

Hi folks! Hope you are all feeling well, because I feel really crummy. My head is about the size of a basketball and I can feel my sinuses in my throat. Not sick enough to stay in bed, but too sick to do complex things--like cook, for example. I'm totally blaming the weather, because it is cold and raining. Of course, students always make sure they sneeze on their papers before they hand them in, so it could be that, too.

Since I'm feeling so crummy, there's not a lot going on right now. I really don't feel like working on either of the quilts I should be working on. I did make these three new blocks for the Loyal Union Sampler:

I guess I was in a green mood. That star block in the center is paper pieced and it still nearly killed me. Tiny squares do not go with a headache.What was I thinking? Thank goodness there is only one to make for this quilt. I'm not sure I like the other two blocks, but I committed to making all of the blocks for this one, so maybe they'll get lost in the forest of the remaining blocks.

I also spent some time paging through quilt books and I picked out a pattern for these strips:

I chose this pattern, called Jitterbug:

From this book, which was another library find:

(On a side note, I think there must be a quilter who works in acquisitions at our library, because there are quite a few really recent books on the shelves. Wish I knew who it was, because I have a couple requests!) I may do some cutting for this one if I start feeling better. I'm not sure I trust myself with sharp objects right now.

One thing I have hope of finishing in the next few days involves this orange tote bag:

I'm hoping to turn it into something else this week, if my eyes ever focus properly again.

Anyway, it's time for some tea and soup, and maybe several cold pills too. Thank goodness I have several quilts to cuddle under because it is darned chilly around here.Fall is definitely here. My neighbor's tree has even started changing already.

Everyone stay healthy this week! If you feel too crummy to sew, you have my deepest sympathies. Make someone wait on you!

Linking to Linky Tuesday, WIP Wednesday, and Let's Bee Social. Come on over and check out what everyone else is up to! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mary's Linens

Hi all! Hope you are warm because we are quite chilly. It was 42 degrees this morning. Winter is coming!

Congratulations to Sue, who won the Moda Grunge giveaway.  (I promise to learn how to paste the random number generator into these posts very soon.) Thanks to all of you for your kind comments and for visiting!

A special finish to tell you about here at the quilt room this week. Some of you may remember this post, which showed a finished top that incorporated some vintage linens embroidered by a woman from my husband's family. He and I have since decided that they must have been worked by his Aunt Mary, as they were in with her things. Now it's finally all quilted, and I finished stitching the binding this week, and now I am so happy to show it to you:

You may have noticed that it took several months for this little quilt to be quilted. It hung up in my sewing room for a long time while I thought very hard about how it should be quilted. I printed a picture of it and drew several quilting patterns in different places on the quilt, using different sheets of tracing paper to try out designs. They say that the quilt will tell you what it wants, but this one took a while to start talking.

I almost never give the quilting as much thought as I gave this. Usually I use pantos, meandering, or simple free motion quilting. That would not do for this baby. It needed something special.

I think it got it, don't you?

I am so happy with this piece. I was going to use it on the table, but the thought of food or something getting spilled on it is horrifying. I added a sleeve to the back and it now hangs in the entryway to the house. (Out of the sun!)  Most of the quilts I make I'm fairly pleased with, and they do keep people warm, but this is one of the few of which I am truly proud. I think this represents some of my best work.

On a completely different note, I also made an Orange Odd Fellow's block:

This is definitely NOT an heirloom, but quite cheerful anyway!

That's it from here friends! Our daughter is coming in for a friend's wedding, so we get to see her this weekend, which is seriously happy since she lives on the East coast. Lots to be happy about around here! Hope you all have a happy weekend too.

Linking up to Confessions of a Fabric Addict, crazy mom quilts, and SoScrappy. Stop by and wave hello!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Triangle finish

Hi all! Hope you are having a great day. Fall has arrived with a bang here. Temperatures are plunging, and we're expecting some heavy rain. The local weather guy has even said the F-word: frost. In September! Perhaps that will kill all the ragweed, though, and we can venture outdoors again without fear.

Before I forget, you should hop on over and see Julie's Around the World Blog Hop post right HERE. She has some great projects in progress. Another favorite blogger, Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, also has a similar post, so go check her post out too. (When you're done with this one, of course!)

Sewing-wise, things are moving right along. I got another section finished for the Ocean Waves quilt, but it looks pretty much exactly the same as the other sections, so no new pictures. Same for the Burgoyne Surrounded quilt--some progress, but nothing that photographs well.  There are 81 9-patches to make for that one. Talk about a boring picture. So let's talk about another quilt instead, one that's also already in progress.

Remember this quilt center?

If you recall, I had some serious problems figuring out where to go with this one after I got the center finished. I tried one thing and it was awful, so I took that border off and reassessed. I figured out what would look good and make a good quilt. I even bought fabric to make more triangles. But I just could not make myself do it. And I really tried.

I started this to use up leftover HSTs, and I did that. But what I didn't want to do was invest more time making a bajillion more HSTs to make a bigger quilt just to make a bigger quilt. So here's what I came up with instead:

Yes, I made another baby quilt, which will be donated along with the others. The biggest question was whether I could live with giving it away, and I decided that a child would get far more enjoyment out of it as is than I would making something else. This is about 46 inches square, which will make a nice blankie for a child.

So that's that! Out of the pile, ready for quilting, and off my list! Wins all around!

Last Friday, I noted that I had just passed my 50th post. I'm grateful for everyone who has joined me this far, so I decided to have a small giveaway to celebrate. If you're up for it, I am too, so here are the details:

I have this fat eighth pack of Moda Grunge fabrics to give away:

There are 8 fat eighths here, making about a yard of fabric. I'll even throw in a fat quarter of Kona white to go along with it. For some reason, I have a LOT of Kona white laying around.  I really need to find a project to use it in. I'll work on that.  Meanwhile. . .

Off and on I've been daydreaming a little about making a row quilt from traditional blocks. I've even done a tiny bit of drafting:

So, to win the Moda Grunge fat eighths, just leave me a comment letting me know which blocks I should definitely have in my row quilt. I'm having a tough time deciding! I'll use the random number generator to choose on Thursday night after dinner, so about 7 pm Central time. Open to everybody!

Thanks so much to everyone for helping me make it this far. I appreciate it! Have a good week!

Linking to Linky Tuesday, WIP Wednesday, and Let's Bee Social, as always!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Short week

Hello everyone! How was your week? I love and hate short weeks. I love them because, hello, an extra day off. I hate them because all the work has to be compressed into fewer days. And there's never less work!

This week had a couple of finishes. No finished quilts, but I finished two sections (8 blocks) of the Ocean Waves quilt.

 I almost always construct quilts in sections rather than trying to put it together row by row, which is boring and unwieldy. It's going really fast. I did have all the units already made, so that helped a lot. Here's a tip if you're making this quilt yourself--don't cut down the pieced 9 patches before you cut them in half to make the triangles unless you're a perfect piecer. I'm finding that I wish I had a little extra wiggle room when putting the final blocks together. Plus, they have to be trimmed at the end anyway, so why trim twice?

I also finished two more blocks for RSC14:

Man, orange and white is a really happy combination! They would make a really great quilt all on their own, because I don't have enough projects already. But I'm putting it on the spreadsheet!

The last thing I finished was one test block for the Burgoyne Surrounded quilt:

Wind was bowing this out! Not actually curved!

In theory, all solid scraps work together, but I needed to try it in fabric to be sure. I think it worked! I did pull out all of the darkest purples, the navy, and the red scraps. I thought they were distracting. I'm using this book, that I got from the library, for basic directions:

I don't know why I thought for so long that this was a very complicated quilt. It's just squares and rectangles. These are 15 inch blocks, and 16 of them will make an 85 by 85 quilt, with sashings and a small border. So only 14 more to go!

While I was out taking pictures for this post, I ran into a friend:

I can't believe he sat there and let me take his picture!

Finally, my post on Monday was my 50th post! I promised myself I would assess how it was going after 50 posts. I think it's going okay, don't you? I think I'll keep going for a while. Thanks to all who have stopped by so far! I think we may have to have a small giveaway on Tuesday to celebrate. Hmmm. . .

That's it for me this week! I think it was successful, even though my floor is covered with all kinds of colorful confetti. Those solids are very thready. Everyone have a great weekend!

Linking up to Confessions of a Fabric Addict, crazy mom quilts, and SoScrappy. Stop on over and say hi!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hop Around the World

Hello all, and welcome to September! Hard to believe, isn't it? Angela at soscrappy has tagged me to participate in the Around the World blog hop, and today is my day to post. (Thanks Angela!) Also up today are Shasta and Katie. For those of you who are new here, I'm Mari (rhymes with sorry, in case you're wondering) and I'm a college professor whose main distraction is quilting. I am lucky enough to live in the beautiful state of Wisconsin with the hubster, who does not sew but understands my need to do so. Our three grown children have flown the coop, so now I have a sewing room to keep all my thready mess. Come on in and let's chat!

What am I working on?

Well, I've just finished two big projects, so now it's time to move on and finish up this quilt:

This is a scrappy Ocean Waves variation from this book by Joan Ford:

This is a pretty nice book if you're looking for a new project. Her version of the quilt is made with reds, but mine is made in blues since I had so many. I've been making it a little at a time, leader and ender style, for several months. I've finally gotten to the point where all the little units are made and now need to be put together.

Yes, all of those units come together to make one block. The directions call for using one white on white, but mine are also scrappy, mainly because I didn't want to buy anything new for this project. I could probably put the blocks together as leaders and enders too, but I have to pay too much attention to the orientation of the pieces to do that.

And here's the first completed block! Only 47 more to go.

I'm also working on a long-term project to make the Loyal Union Sampler, following along with the crew at Patched Works. Calling it a "long-term project" makes me feel better about being hopelessly behind. Here's the one block I made in the last couple of days:

Someday this will be a very pretty finished quilt. Someday a long time from now. . .

Of course, I also have two Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilts in progress, one using half-square triangles

and the other with Odd Fellow's Chain blocks

These will be finished early next year, after the close of this year's challenge. I'm actually hoping to do a lot of work on them over Christmas break.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hmmm, this is a hard one, mostly because I don't want to label myself. I'm not modern or traditional, but some of both, and I like all kinds of different patterns and fabrics, mainly depending on my mood. I love traditional blocks and I use mainly traditional methods. To me, that means that I always go back to the way my grandmother and earliest teachers taught me to do things when I was a child. Hand basting, pinning intersections whenever necessary, measuring and squaring pieces before they're put together, and figuring out how to conserve as much fabric as possible. That's right, we rock it really old school around here. Sometimes it also means drafting blocks by hand, on graph paper, and drawing layouts the same way. But I also love many modern fabrics and most frequently opt for traditional blocks in "happy" fabrics.

Gratuitous quilt picture from 2013.

Why do I create what I do?

I love art. That sounds pretentious, I know, but painting makes me cry and sculpture takes my breath away. I also love fabric and all kinds of textiles. I can't draw, paint, or sculpt, but I can sew, so I use that to put together color and pattern into something pleasing, not to mention useful. Nothing I do approaches Monet or Van Gogh, but could they wrap themselves in their artwork on cold nights? Well, maybe. Those guys were pretty odd. But canvas can't be all that cozy.

Also, I spend so much of my time with books and papers and such that I often need to do something with my hands. It calms my brain and relaxes me. When I'm working on an especially tricky idea in another part of my life, it helps a lot to use another part of my brain to piece and quilt. And let's just admit that fabric feels nice. It's cozy and colorful, and who doesn't find that comforting?

How does my creative process work?

I wish I could say I had some grand quilting trajectory that I always follow, but usually it either starts with a pattern I want to make or a piece of fabric that keeps saying "pick me, pick me!" I have a list (on a spreadsheet. . .I know) of patterns that I want to make and things that I have in progress. For example, Burgoyne Surrounded has been on my list for a very long time, so now I'm finally going to make it. I purchased a long length of white on white yardage this week (7 yards!) and plan to use that with my solid scraps to make up a lovely scrappy Burgoyne Surrounded quilt. See what I mean about modern AND traditional?

Won't that be striking? There are a lot of pieces, but I have a lot of scraps. I started cutting this past weekend and will start sewing this week.

As I said, sometimes the fabric talks to me. Right now, this one is yelling the loudest:

This is a strip set from my local quilt shop. I don't trust the precuts from the manufacturers any more, but the ones from the shop are all the right size. I don't know what this will be yet, but I'll start looking for a pattern to use with it. I get bored easily, so I need to have about three projects going at once. I want to start whatever this will become as soon as I'm done with the blue and white Ocean Waves. But you know I'll probably decide on a pattern tomorrow and start it right away without finishing the blue and white quilt first, right?

So, that's usually the process. Of course, after I choose the pattern and the fabric, I obsess over every aspect of the project until long after it's finished. And sometimes I find things I really want to make, either online or in a catalog, or sometimes through quilt shop projects, and somehow they worm their way into my projects list. It happens. I mostly just go with it. This is supposed to be fun, and what fun are deadlines, rules, and schedules?

So that's it! As a part of the blog hop, I'm tagging Bernie at Needle & Foot and Julie at Me and My Quilts for next week. I can tag another person too, so if you'd like to be included, either leave me a comment or drop me an email. And everyone have a really good week all around!

Linking to Linky Tuesday, WIP Wednesday and Let's Bee Social. Pop on over!