Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Old dog, new tricks

Hi all!  Hope everyone managed to survive the storm okay.  Even by Midwestern standards, that was an impressive amount of snow. (We had about 21 inches.)  And it's still hanging around, too.  I understand it snows regularly here, so why aren't they better at clearing the roads?  It's a mystery.

While we were snowed in, I actually didn't sew much of anything!  I. . .cleaned.  I know, I can't explain it either!  The hubs and I also watched some movies and then went out on Sunday and dug out the cars.  That was exhausting.  Other than that, I have been learning some new things and I did do a little bit of practicing this new technique.  Take a look:

Free pieced houses!  Who knew I had it in me?  (I told you I was obsessed with houses.)

For those who don't know, free piecing is a technique that involves no patterns and no measuring.  You simply cut pieces (with scissors!) and sew them together, trimming and pressing as you go, then square up at the end.  Some people make things really wonky, but wonky makes me really nervous, so I tried to make things fairly straight.  These were my first two:

Really simple, right?  Even these were really hard for me, so I made them and then had to take a break and get my head around things.  When I settled down, I made two more:

Look, doors!  For some reason, I was a little happier with these, and a lot calmer, even though I made a few mistakes.  Trim everything off straight, really!

So the only thing left to do was make a house with windows too:

Ta-da!  I'm actually pretty happy with how this one came out.  It actually looks like a house!  By the time I made this one I was getting a lot more comfortable with the process and enjoying it.  "Free-pieced" does not mean sloppy or poorly constructed, and it took a few tries to convince myself of that.

If this technique made me so nervous, why did I try it?  Well, it's always good to try new things, especially if they're outside your comfort zone.  It's how we learn and grow.  Plus, I have really been impressed with some of the free-pieced quilts that I've seen, and I am really looking forward to getting Julie's new book on free-pieced barns and trying some of those out.  My real goal is to make some free-pieced letters, so that's the next thing for me to try.  Now THAT will be nerve-wracking!

I think I want to live in this happy house!

Hope you're having a wonderful week and that your streets are all clear.  Midwesterners, you have no idea how lucky you are.  Want to come out and give the East coast some snow-clearing lessons?  They need them!

Sharing at  Linky Tuesday,  Let's Bee Social and WIP Wednesday.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Scrappy snow day

Hi all!  Buried in snow yet?  Yep, we've got a bunch--about 10 inches-- so far.  Not sure when it will stop, but I have a bunch of things lined up to do, including making brownies.  Hey, I've got to keep my spirits up!

I just have one thing to show today for Scrappy Saturday:

These are about half of the blue hexies that I've basted from the many scraps that I've been cutting.  These are big, 2 inches on each side. And no, I did not cut hexagons!  I just had squares (and to be honest, I got a little lazy and some of these are just pieces of fabric in no shape at all) and folded them around the paper hexies.  Here's how they look on the back:

I'll trim the seam allowances as I stitch them together.  The seam allowances won't be perfect, but cutting hexie shapes takes way more time than trimming away the seam allowances.

So, I'm not really sure what to do with these.  Right now I think I might make a block of each color and then join them all together at the end.  I don't think I want another month-to month project, and I'm not sure that I want blocks of hexies.  Maybe I'll just mix them together and stitch them together randomly.  I can't decide.  Anyone have an opinion?

Okay, I just did the math and that's a lot of hexies.  Probably breaking it up into blocks is the best idea, because otherwise I'm likely to be left with 500 loose hexies and no quilt, and that would be very sad!

Hope everyone is warm and dry this weekend.  Stay in and sew!  The snow has a way of melting eventually if you just leave it alone. . .

Guess I'll stay in!

Sharing at soscrappy for RSC16 and Oh Scrap!

Friday, January 22, 2016


Hi everyone!  Are you all ready for the snow?  Apparently we're going to get buried over the weekend.  All I know is that we have had next to no snow all winter (which is weird) and now we're apparently going to get it all at once.  I tried to go to the grocery store today, but that was a serious mistake.  It was a zoo!  I didn't need bananas that badly, so I didn't stay long.

Before the snow flies, let's talk about this lovely little quilt top I just finished:


Not the greatest picture (it's cold and windy) but I love it! I have been obsessed with houses for a while now.  I am so tired of living in this condo that I could just scream sometimes.  I know I should feel grateful that I have a nice safe place to live that is tucked away near a park and everything, but I miss my house so much.  I keep thinking about all the improvements I would make to this place, but then I remember that I can't do anything about that ugly bathroom floor.  Sigh.  Spring is coming, and then we'll be looking. 

I guess for now I'll make do with these pretty house blocks! I did not make these.  Back in September, I got to "adopt" these blocks from Julie at Floribunda Quilts.  Cynthia at Quilting is more fun than Housework had a Quilty Adoption event (and is having another in March, so be ready) where people could offer their unfinished projects that they had lost enthusiasm for to others who would finish them.  I won Julie's beautiful blocks!

These were apparently made by several different people, and they are all great!  They have all sorts of bling, too:

How cute are those beads?  And check out the roof of this house:

What pretty decorative stitches!

I set these blocks in irregular rows with this beautiful blue-green Kona cotton.  (I need a Kona color card so I can keep these names straight.)  I didn't want any straight rows or anything like that.  I tried to work it out on graph paper, but in the end I just sat on the floor and arranged them the way I wanted, then measured the spaces between them to cut the sashing.  It was a process, but it worked!

So, I now have this little top that measures about 50 by 50 (or so).  I've named it Neighborhood, because what else could it be?  Because of the buttons and such, I'll have to quilt it up myself, which I am totally looking forward to.  Could take a little while, though, because I have to figure out what to do with that negative space.  Maybe I can quilt in some trees or something.  Here's where the graph paper will come in handy!

Thanks to Julie for such great blocks! Since she had wanted these to be used for a charitable purpose, this may get donated to my niece's high school auction for their student activities.  Not sure if I can have it done by then, but I'll try.

Here's hoping your house will be okay this weekend.  Stay off the roads and stay in and sew--it's safer!

Sharing at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Finish it up Friday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A badger for baby

Hi everyone! Wow, it's bracing out there, isn't it?  It's a beautiful day here--lots of sunshine, temps aren't too bad-- but the wind will knock you over!  I tried to get pictures of today's work, but they were blowing so much that I was afraid I'd end up chasing the blocks all over.  So, indoor pictures, but at least there was a lot of sunshine.

So, anybody out there have any grandchildren?  Our son and daughter in law are expecting their first baby--and our first grandson--in a few weeks.  You know what that means--a special baby quilt just for the new little one! I am making him a quilt from Lorna's Forest Friends pattern.  It's going to be a great quilt for a little boy whose parents love the outdoors.  Here's my first block:

A red fox!  How cute is this little guy?

Lorna has written such a great pattern.  The directions are very clear and there are a lot of illustrations.  The pattern has a lot of pieces, but it's very easy--all straight stitching!

I'm not sure how Lorna will feel about this, but I adapted the other fox block into a different kind of animal:

It's a North American Badger!  Hey, this little boy is a Wisconsinite, so he NEEDS  a badger!  Badgers have those characteristic black and white stripes on their faces, which makes them very striking.  I know this one has no eyes yet, but badgers have black eyes in the black stripes, so I figured that I will stitch in some eyes with dark gray thread when I quilt it up. (Yes, I'm quilting it myself--it's for my grandson!)

This was way more difficult to adapt than you would think.  I cut the pieces out of  paper and tried to find a way to make Lorna's pieces work, but I ended up drawing lines and then paper piecing the sections.  You can see that even that wasn't perfect, because the ears are weird, but I think it came out acceptable enough.  And I have much more respect for pattern developers now, and I thought they were great before.

Anyway, I'll be working on this for a little while, but he's coming in February, so a very little while.  I finally got the fabric ordered for the wedding quilt, too, so I'll be plenty busy.

Hope your fabric doesn't blow away!  I hear we're having a winter storm this week, so maybe I'll get extra sewing time.  We'll see!

Sharing at  Linky Tuesday,  Let's Bee Social and WIP Wednesday.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

It's a blue day

Hi everyone! How was your week?  I was busy, busy, busy, but things seem to have calmed down some for now.  Once those students come back, it's always a madhouse for the first few days.  It's kind of a blue day here today, because its raining and because I have these pretty blue blocks to show:

These blocks are going to be a second RSC16 project for this year.  Because I need another project, you know?  Actually, I just don't want any of these pretty hand dyes to go to waste.

Aaack! Water spots on my blocks!

I am calling these blocks Grandma's Blocks, though their "real" name is Broken Dishes variation or Chinese Block.  If you recall, I made this as a red row for my Classic Stitches BOM. (It's a touching story, and you can read it HERE.)  These are actually pretty easy once you get going, and I'm making 12-inch blocks, which makes it even easier.  Big pieces!

At first I thought I would make these like I've made so many other quilts, a white background with colorful designs, but I was inspired by Angela's blocks to do it the other way around, colorful backgrounds with white designs.  White blocks make a striking quilt, but I have a lot of those and this is a good opportunity to do something different. I think it will be pretty striking in its own way There's also this:

That little pile is what's left of my white scraps!  barely a handful! The Sewing Lessons quilt used up a ton of white scraps, and I even did the sashing from the white bin.  And now they're mostly used up!  Can't even tell you how happy this makes me.

That's my progress for now.  It's a good start, especially because the blues are in short supply around here.  Don't know why, but it's never been my favorite color.  Pink and green, however. . .there's a ton of that around.

Everybody have a great weekend! I'm going to wind about 30 bobbins and clean my machine.  Fun times! Happy sewing!

Sharing at soscrappy for RSC16.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tiny little finish

Hi everyone! How are you today?  We just got back from yet another trip, this time to a professional conference.  I don't know who decided that January was a good time for a get-together, but clearly they did not have enough work to do to get ready for a new semester. Or any consideration of the weather, because it can be a nightmare sometimes.

Today I have this little tiny finish to show off:

They're refrigerator magnets!  Aren't they cute?  I made these when we were in the car going to the conference. They're just little one-inch hexies sandwiched together with a magnet in the middle.  For some reason, when we moved all of the refrigerator magnets got lost.  Between you and me, I blame the hubster, but they weren't valuable or anything so we can forgive him.  Besides, these are way cuter.  But very hard to photograph!  I tried to get a picture on the refrigerator (where they live now) and this is the best I got:

Stupid shiny surfaces!

To give these a little body, I used up a scrap piece of Peltex interfacing that I found in one of my scrap bags.  No idea why I had it, since it's a very stiff interfacing that I think they usually use to make bags and such.  Anyway, I just traced the hexie shape onto the interfacing and cut them all out.

These could have been used as poker chips, they were so stiff.  Then I just wrapped some squares of fabric around the interfacing, basted the corners, pinned them together in pairs, and then whip stitched the edges together.

When I was on the last edge, I slipped in one of these little magnets, that I think I got for a dollar:

Stitch up that last edge and all of a sudden you have some very cute magnets for the fridge! Here's my advice, though--pay more than a dollar for your magnets!  When we got home and I went to put these on the refrigerator I discovered that the magnets weren't strong enough to hold them to the fridge through the stiff interfacing.  I had to open up the side and add bigger magnets.  Thankfully, they stick now.

That's my "big" finish for now.  Classes start on Thursday, so wish me luck with that! It's going to be a good semester, I just know it.  Hope you all have a good week too!

Sharing at Linky TuesdayConfessions of a Fabric Addict, Oh Scrap! and Finish it up Friday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Intricate Stitches--Blue

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first block of the Intricate Stitches BOM!  This is going to be very exciting, so grab your fabrics and let's get started.  Here's our first block:

Isn't she a beauty?  This block is called Arrant Red Birds and is a Nancy Cabot block that dates to 1936.  I went searching for a pattern for this block and could only find ones that used templates, and the latest pattern I could find was from 1988.  Not to worry, though--no templates here!  There are some odd measurements, but I've done the math and it all works.  Just take your time and pay attention when cutting and you'll be fine.

Helpful tips:

Just a few things to note before we start sewing.  I'm going to assume that you all have some experience sewing and that you know how to make basic units like half-square triangles and the like, so I'll leave out those specific instructions.  If you need a tutorial for some units, I'll do my best to link to one.

*It's really helpful to read the whole tutorial before cutting anything.  

*I haven't ever pressed seams open, but this block has a lot of seams, so you may find that you get the flattest block by pressing your seams open.  Otherwise, press toward the darker fabric or toward the least-pieced units.

*It helps a LOT to square up as you go and make sure that each of the units is the correct size before proceeding.

*It also helps to use a slightly smaller stitch length since the pieces here are so small.

*Accurate 1/4 inch seams make life easier!


For this block, you can use just one color of blue with a background, but it looks best when you have two colors with some contrast.  I used a deep blue and a green with bits of blue and yellow in the dye. This block would also look great with a deep blue and a lighter blue, or even a deep blue and orange or yellow. I used Kona white for my background.

Tip: separate the pieces and label them as you cut to avoid confusion about the sizes later (ask me how I know that this is a good idea).

From the darker blue, cut:

1 4-1/4 inch square
2 3-7/8 inch squares
6 2-3/8 inch squares (for hsts, so can oversize to cut down later, if that's something you do)
2 2-3/4 inch squares (do not oversize)

FYI: This used up almost all of my fat eighth of fabric 

From the contrast color, cut:

1 3-1/2 inch square
6 2-3/8 inch squares (for hsts, so can oversize)
2 2-3/4 inch squares (do not oversize)

From the white, cut:

12 2-3/8 inch squares (for hsts, so can oversize)
12 2-3/8 inch squares  (do not oversize)
1 4-1/4 inch square

Take the two 2 3-7/8 inch blue squares and cut each in half diagonally to make 4 large triangles.  Do the same with 8 white 2-3/8 inch squares (use the ones that the instructions say not to oversize).


Constructing this block starts with making some basic units. First, use 6 of the 2-3/8 inch contrast squares paired with white squares to make 12 2-inch contrast/white half square triangles that will finish at 1-1/2 inches in the block.  Set these aside.

Do the same with 6 of the blue and white 2-3/8 inch squares to make 12 2-inch blue/white hsts that will finish at 1-1/2 inches in the quilt.  Set these all aside for later.

Next, take the blue 4-1/4 square and 4 white 2-3/8 inch squares to make 4 no-waste flying geese. (See this tutorial if you need instructions on this method.)  Make sure your geese measure 2 by 3-1/2 inches to finish at 1-1/2 by 3 in the block.

Take the white 4-1/4 inch square and the 4 remaining 2-3/8 inch blue squares and make 4 more no-waste geese, which will be the opposite colors of the ones you just made. Set all the geese aside for later.

Center unit:

Now that that's out of the way, let's make the center square unit.  Take the 2 2-3/4 inch contrast squares and the 2 2-3/4 inch blue squares and cut them each in half twice diagonally to make 4 triangles each.  Take 4 of the contrast and 4 of the blue and lay them out this way:

Stitch the center seam and press.

Take the other 4 of each color and lay them out like this:

Stitch the center seam and press.

Now take 8 of the white triangles that were cut from the 2-3/8 inch squares in the cutting step.  Pair these with the triangles you just made like so:

Stitch and press to make 4 of each of these units. These squares should measure 2 inches to finish at 1-1/2 inches in the block.

Join the units in pairs like this and stitch to make 4 units:

Almost there!  Take the 3-1/2 inch contrast square and join one of the units you just made to each side as shown. Pay attention to which way the blue squares point. (You can see that I had to un-stitch mine because I wasn't paying attention!)

Take the other 2 units and 4 of the blue hsts and stitch them as shown to make 2 rows:

Add these rows to the top and bottom of the contrast square unit.

Press and the center unit is done!  This unit should measure 6-1/2 inches square to finish at 6 inches in the block.

Side pieces:

The units for the side pieces have all been made and only need to be stitched together.  Take 2 contrast hsts, 2 blue hsts, and 1 of each of the flying geese units and lay them out as shown:

Stitch into rows and then stitch the rows together.  Press.  Make 4 identical side pieces that measure 3-1/2 by 6-1/2 inches each.

Corner units:

The corner units are small Birds in the Air blocks.  Take one of the contrast hsts and 2 of the remaining white triangles. Join the triangles to the hst as shown:

Press. Take the large blue triangle from the cutting stage (which should be the last pieces left) and join it to the unit you just made to make a Birds in the Air block:

Press.  Make 4 of these units that measure 3-1/2 inches square.

Final assembly:

The parts of the block are all done!  Lay them out as shown:

Stitch the parts into rows and then join all of the rows into a final block.  Give it a good final press and stand back and admire your beautiful block!

Wow, a bunch of work, but totally worth it, I think!  Just take it a step at a time and it will turn out fine.  If you're making the quilt as I am, you may want to take the scraps left over from the fabrics for this block and save them for making the center block down the road.  Just stick them in a Ziploc and keep them with the block and they'll be all ready!

Good luck with your block, and be sure to come back for the next one on February 2. I'd love to see pictures!

Sharing at Linky Tuesday,  Let's Bee Social and soscrappy for RSC16.