Sunday, February 24, 2008

Quirky Bits & More!

This just went together like a dream!
You may remember seeing it's origin in the post about CC's house...yes, it is those "perky old men" blocks back again, and no, the box of them has still not been emptied!

I used a setting that CC had sketched out and titled "Quirky Bits". That's the name it is keeping, as I knew better than to try and combine it in any way with "Perky Old Men"!

To finish it off, I will just add a wide binding. It doesn't need a border, but I think the wide binding might be nice for one good shot of color around the whole thing.
I have used this technique before: cut the binding wide enough to finish between 1/2" and 3/4" so the fabric can be seen. I hate to have a cool binding fabric and then lose it with a 1/4" finish.
A quilt show judge once gave a friend of mine a minus for a binding wider than 1/4", which only makes me like an occasional wide binding even better!
Now, I have never heard of requiring the binding to be a particular size. I don't like binding with the back brought around to the front, but it's no sin, either!
It really does not matter what you do, if you do it well.

I like "Quirky Bits" so much I have decided to turn it into a new class!
It's a bit simple for a class, but GM asked me a question about making totally scrappy 9-patches and later a bell just went off in my head about a way to make this work as a really fun class. I hope to have it ready to teach soon.

Tomorrow I am on the road to Ohio (family visit) and then for a week at the John C. Campbell Folk School, one of my favorite places in the world!
I had the joy of teaching there for a week last March, and am totally honored to be back on the schedule for November 2009!
This time I'll be taking a class about The Stitches of Creative Embroidery with Nancy Claiborne. I thought it was time to do some hand work.

I'll be attempting to blog while on the road (another first!) so please check in and see if I'm successful.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

How do you post a picture of love?
I have promised the people I know that their pictures will not appear in my blog without their permission (but if I made them into quilts? Hmm.....)
Pictures of the things I love would make up quite a long slide show!
So instead, I'll share this with you for today, as a special tribute to LOVE.

This little quilt is called "Midnight in the Garden of Pie". It's a tribute to my small quilting group the BGPC (that's for another post!). We like quilts that have something to do with pie. We like almost anything that has to do with pie!
It was made for the 2006 challenge at the local quilt show, so the fabrics are maybe not my first choices...but the giant swirls were very inspirational for making the weeping willow tree effect ( that what those are?!)
(bet you didn't know I can hear what you're thinking as you read this, did you?)

Back in High School I had a teacher who put a quote on the board every day. One that really sticks in my mind...though unfortunately the author's name did not: "You like somebody love somebody although."
That's an excellent guideline to have learned at an early age.
There are a lot of people I like.
And I'm lucky that there are quite a few who I love. That quote has helped me over a few rough spots.

The older I get, the more I cherish long term relationships. It's wonderful to have good-time memories together, in fact, it is essential. But it's the times of struggle together, or even the simple misunderstandings that need to be talked out, that make the relationship solid.
Well, solid after you've had to get over the quicksand of that problem!
Really sad when the friendship sinks and is lost.

But today is for celebrating love & friendships that have lasted.
Those two things go hand-in-hand.
I am very lucky to have a loving husband who is always a good friend to me.
I am very lucky to have my other friends, who will listen to all the stuff I want to talk about and do the things my husband doesn't care for! (he would if I asked him, though.)

I hope today you are thinking about the love you do have, no matter what kind it may be. It's a small word that means so many different things. Allow it to mean as many possible in your life!
And tell someone you love them, because everyone needs to hear that.
On any day.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Machine Quilting Upside Down

I thought this fabric would make a wonderful backing for a quilt because 1) it was on sale! and 2) the big motifs would be fun to quilt around.
If you suspect those sound like Famous Last Words, you may be right!
At any rate, this became another Great Experiment, or , as I like to say, Yet Another Learning Experience!
I used dark purple for the top and in the bobbin, thinking that it would look great on the front, which is light blue and white squares.
What do you think?

Before I started I had the thought to put a light color/white thread in the bobbin so the design would be less obvious.
Had I remembered how impatient I am with machine quilting, I would have taken my own advice!

Those ferns look really big...some of them are 8" tall...but they all have lots and lots (and even more) little fronds that make you go in & out, in& out, in & out..... my eyes would get blurry and that purple thread just jumped right off the background and onto those green ferns!

I must say it's nice to have these little digital pictures that tend to hide the wobbliness and other lumps of the quilting!
Here's the quilt hanging on the design wall. It needs to have the edges trimmed and binding put on.

What I learned from this quilt:
1. Quilting upside down (using the back as a motif to follow) is not a bad idea, but the front will NOT look exactly like the back! The shapes will not end up as sharp and neat.
2. The side with the bobbin thread will be the front when you are done! Spend some time getting that bobbin tension right!!!
3. Don't quilt when you're impatient (I "learn" that on every quilt I do!). Maybe a glass of wine would help that problem?
(associated tip: do not bang your hand on the table so hard it hurts)

Even if you get thoroughly fed up with it, every project does provide experience and makes the next quilt better. So although I did not (once again) manage to create The Perfect Quilt, I did get a lot of practice with starting and stopping as I went around the ferns. Here is a Really Good Quilting Tip: use the needle down setting if you have it. When you start the line of stitching again, make the needle go up and back down into the same hole it left. That will help keep you from making that little jag as you start up and ruining your smooth line.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Tote Bags: Hidden in Plain Site?

When you need to wrap a birthday gift, why use paper? And if you're going to use fabric, why not make a tote bag? And if you're making it from cherry fabric, why not make two so your other cherry-loving friend can have one, too?
That's how things tend to get out of control, but this morning it all went well.

Here are the cherry fabrics, dark for the outside and light for the inside. See the pockets on the lining? Those were stashed in with the cherry fabric collection, left over from a Mary Engelbreit jacket. And there were 4 of them! How lucky can I get?
Now note that the pockets are going two directions. That's because the bags I made today are just one long piece of fabric that includes the sides and bottom (see formula below!). I folded the lining in half, pinned one pocket one, then turned it over and pinned the other in place. It's all visual...when the lining is opened flat and they look wrong, you just have to trust yourself!

I wanted the tote to be big enough to hold a calendar that's part of the gift. You can make a bag any size you want. Just start with an idea of what might be going inside!

Size of Item: W (wide) and T (tall) and B (bottom....can be wide for large items or narrow if you want to restrict how much the bag can carry)
W + B + 1" for seams: cut this for the width if the bag
(T x 2) + B + 3" for top turn in: cut this for the length of the bag, which includes the bottom.
cut one piece for the outside and another for the lining

Sew the pockets on now, outside and/or inside. Avoid sewing them within 1.5" of the short ends (top of the bag) or anywhere at the center that will end up in the bottom.

Put the two fabrics right sides together and sew the long edges.
Turn the bag right side out and press flat.
Fold the fabric in half with the lining out and then sew along the sides. Now you have French seams that will show nicely on the inside of the bag.

Press the bag flat so the bottom has a well creased fold.
Open one side seam and match it to the bottom fold. Using a ruler, find the place where it is as wide as the B ( bottom) measurement. Draw a line and sew on it to form the bag's bottom.
Here I have made the bottom 2" wide:

Repeat for the other corner!
This a good way to put a bottom in any bag, even if it didn't have one originally...but it will make the bag shorter. That's why we added in the bottom width to the cutting measurement.

Make your own handles or use purchased webbing (I had some from another project). If it's ravels, like nylon webbing, zig-zag the ends.

Zig -zag around the bag's top edge to hold the layers together. Then turn the edge about .5" to the inside, press, and stitch it down.
Fold the top edge in again about 1" and press. These turns are the extra 3" added to the length (T) when cutting (1.5 for each side).
Tuck the ends of one handle up to the fold and pin in place. I just lined mine up with the sides of the pocket. Turn the bag over and pin a handle on that side.
The handles should hang down like this:

Sew all around the bag at the lower (nearer the pocket) fold.
Then turn the handles up so they go out the top of the bag and sew all around the fold at the very top. This is a really sturdy handle now!

Here are the two bags, one inside out. The inside is maybe prettier than the outside!
Whenever I finish a bag, I start to think of all the things I wish I had done.

Well, now here are two tote bags hiding in plain site.....this blog site!
Burning Questions:
Will the recipients find them here? Or will I give the bags to CC and DeLuna before they read all about it????
And what is all that tape doing on my sewing machine?

Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bizzaro Quilt!

Can these pieces be saved???

It all started with an activity for the state guild's symposium. We had a patchwork competition, with three teams of three members cutting and sewing to see who could make the most of several specified units within the alloted time. It was pretty wild!
All the pieces sewn were then to go into a charity quilt, and the winning team could select the charity it was for.

Needless to say, none of this stuff really matched up. The background fabric had been donated by a shop so all teams would have the same thing, but the rest of the fabric was just general donations.
Realizing I had what is scientifically known as "a bunch o' stuff", I decided to just keep putting units together until they were large enough to trim down to 12.5".

Eventually there were twelve blocks (and I use that term loosely) and here they are on my design wall:

Please do not injure your eyes by looking at this too long!

Having studied this mess at CC's house, and determining that it would need sashing, we raided her stash and found a dark teal solid. Since it was something CC was trying to get rid of, we maintained the quilt's "integrity" of having all fabrics that had been spurned by someone.

I was able to finish the top without becoming ill, and here it is:

The Bizzaro Quilt!!!

When this is quilted and complete, it will be going to Quilts Without Borders, a group that collects quilts for an orphanage in Ethiopia, Africa. Yes, they do need is high in the mountains and gets quite cold! Many of the children are infected with HIV/AIDS.
I may have been joking about how strange this quilt top is, but it does have bright cheery colors, and will be just the thing to comfort a child in need.

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Quilters' Day IN

Spray basting the CC way!

Using Groundhog Day as a great motivator, Cherry-Cherry and I had a Quilters' Day IN at her house so we could help each other with some projects.
Here you see a small quilt top my mother had made, and I finished it off with some of her fabric. Then it just sat around in my UFO pile for a year or so.
CC showed me how she spray bastes, and now I have a sandwich ready to go! What's on the back??? A great Jane Sassaman print with ferns! Yes, it's the one I got on sale, and I am going to use it as the quilting design. So this one will be quilted soon as I get the purple thread. Watch for this latest experiment to show up soon!

Oh, no! It's the Return of the Perky Old Men!

The ever-growing collection of New Quilting Terminology has a another addition: Stew Pot Quilt. That's a collection of blocks/pieces you have saved in a box, bag, etc. with the intent of using them up.
No matter what you do with these things, they just grow and grow (not unlike a scrap basket!). These little 9-Patches live in a plastic shoe box. I have already had a full size quilt top with them and then gave the box to CC to fill out her own collection for another quilt (they came from a group exchange).
When she returned the box, it was FULL again! Now it has my leftovers, plus her leftovers...I can see there is no end to this.
So here is an idea for another attempt at using up the blocks. It's an audition of using polka-dot fabric with them. I like the layout (thanks to CC!). I like the idea of polka-dots...but not these! That's why auditioning is good. You can hone in on what you really want, as opposed to forging ahead with a good idea that actually needs some fine tuning!
Oh, ask me how I know about this!

Yet another potential Stew Pot!!!

Here are the remains of an activity at the last SSQA Symposium. It was a team sewing competition, and all the units made were to go into a charity quilt. The winning team got to choose the charity. But I ended up with the units!
There were some blocks ready to be trimmed to 12.5" and enough pieces that I could make a few more. CC contributed a solid for sashing. See tomorrow's post for the resulting top: Bizzarro Quilt!
There are so many units and pieces and donated fabric left over....if I am lucky, I will turn it over to some other poor soul. Well, someone who who will be happy to have it all, and then later will feel like a poor soul (and perhaps then pass off whatever is left to yet another person!).

And, yes...we also worked on a few of CC's projects, went out to lunch (hey! no cooking of any kind on this day!), had a visit to the Local Quilt Shop, and then actually went back to the house and sewed some more!

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Lessons From the Groundhog

(for great photos, videos & even audio of groundhogs visit )

Happy Groundhog Day!

This is a special day for me and my siblings, as I had a pet groundhog when I was in high school. His was named Charlie, and given to me by one of my mother's co-workers when he decided to go to graduate school (the guy, not the woodchuck!).

Charlie was a great character around our house. He would sit up so straight and tall while eating a peanut butter sandwich, or enjoying his favorite Oreo cookie. He would carefully take the two sides apart, eat the icing first, then the rest....just as all children do.
He could accomplish tasks like that because his front paws were like hands...little cold, black hands that he'd stand up and wrap around your leg while you were trying to wash dishes!

Charlie was like a cat living in the house. He often curled up in my lap for a nap. His fur was quite soft and he enjoyed being petted.
One day he disappeared. We figured he had run away.

Months later, at work, my father received a terrified call from my grandmother, who was visiting us. There was something running around inside the house! It was huge and scary!
No, it was just Charlie, who had awakened from his hibernation in the unfinshed part of the basement...just in time for Spring.
He stayed with us for several more weeks, enjoying the sandwiches and cookies. Then, having reached what must have been his full adulthood, he took off for the wilds, looking for more appropriate company.

My younger brothers saw him once, easily identified by a scar on his nose, living down by the railroad tracks.
For awhile, I entertained the fantasy of him coming home along with some offspring, like the movie "Born Free."
I think he lived a good life for a groundhog in Ohio!

This is what I learned from Charlie:
Ask for what you want....people will be glad to help you if you just let them know you need something.
Take some time off... it's OK to take some time for yourself and then make a big comeback!
Be free to be yourself... you can change your lifestyle as you reach different parts of your life.

May your Winter be short and your Springtime be long; may the shadows that fall in your life soon be gone.
May the sun shine upon you, may your joys never end...and remember the Groundhog is always your friend!