Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ironing Mat and Caddy

Monday evening at quilt group, we made this ironing mat and caddy. The idea is that you can use this mat as a pressing surface when you're away from home for a retreat or a workshop. At the end of the day when you're done, you can draw up the cords around the mat with the iron inside to carry it home and not have to worry about transporting a hot iron. I thought it was brilliant.

The pressing surface is a teflon coated, quilted fabric, and you add a cotton fabric on the other side. The tabs around the outside of the mat are sandwiched in between the layers and sewn together. Then a cotton cord is inserted through the tabs. We added cord locks to the ends of the tabs. The mat measures about 20" x 28".

Isn't this fabric cute, with the little quilts all over it? I started making a thread case a while back with the same fabric. That project is now officially a UFO; but I dug it back out after I finished the ironing mat, and now I'd like to get that finished.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

The Scrappy Trips quilt is finally nearing completion. As you can see I have the top and bottom borders to complete. I decided to arrange the blocks in uphill-downhill fashion instead of the Trip Around the World, because I would have needed a sixth row to complete the last set of the pattern, and I didn't wanna make another row. So now it looks more like a Scrappy Bargello, which is just fine.

I didn't expect to like this quilt as much as I do. It is filled with ugly fabrics that I've had for a long, long time. I remember how I acquired some of them; but others I have no idea where they came from. They could have come to me by way of a trade or other quilters' scraps that were given to me, I just don't know. I wasn't very discriminating when I started building a stash, was I? Well, I refuse to throw away perfectly good quilting fabric; and I wouldn't give them away because I'm pretty sure no one else would want them either. Bonnie was right about one thing though--in a scrappy quilt like this, they turn out looking pretty good.

I still didn't use up all the scraps of these fabrics though. Keryn commented on her blog last week that some of her fabrics she'd had "forEver" and was so tired of seeing them in all her quilts. I suppose it is like that with a lot of us, and I now believe that I am destined to live with some of these scraps for the rest of my natural life. Even scrap quilts seem to beget more scraps.

At any rate, I used 7/8 yard for the brown border and the binding, which has been cut and set aside, plus another yard for the piano key border.

I also got the binding for my Blooming Nine Patch machine sewn to the front of the quilt, which used another 3/4 yard. I'll be working on hand stitching that down this week.

The long arm quilters and machine quilters out there will likely be bored silly with the next part; so skip it, if you like. Our quilt chapter is having a machine quilting skill builders workshop next weekend. We will be using a preprinted panel of quilting designs that is currently available in quilt stores. There are different designs on the panel, from simple loops and meandering to more complex feather type designs. I wish you could see the details better in the photo, but it was hard to get a good picture.

Our plan is to quilt all the designs once and then repeat the exercises using different color threads for more practice. I thought it was a great idea, so I bought a couple panels to start practicing. I didn't do very well, did I? It's pretty wobbly; but I had fun, and it will get better from here! Practice, practice, practice! Later this week, I am going to be very brave and machine quilt my Scrappy Bargello with a simple meander and one of these loopy designs in the border. I used a yard from the stash to back the sandwich for the quilt panel.

The fabric that arrived in my mail earlier this week totalled 8 yards. Additionally I receive a scrapbag every month from Keepsake Quilting. That also arrived last week, adding another 3 yards to the stash. I rarely buy fabric anymore except for a specific purpose, and these scrapbags are a small treat that adds something new and fresh to my collection. I've been getting this scrapbag for years, and I finally realized that most of it doesn't get used because it is odd patterns; so I called and switched to the Basics club of the month, which also cut the incoming yardage by half.

So here are the totals for the Sunday stash report:

Fabric used this week: 3-5/8 yards
Fabric used year-to-date: 14-1/8 yards
Fabric purchased this week: 11 yards
Fabric purchased year-to-date: 11 yards
Net fabric used: 3-1/8 yards

It could be better, but it could also be worse!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another Hobby

The fabric I ordered last week arrived in my mail yesterday, so I picked out the one I wanted to use for the binding on my next quilt and washed it and cut the strips. I haven't sewn the strips together yet, but I'll do that soon so I can get going on it in the mornings.

The other thing I do over morning coffee if I don't have a quilt to bind is counted canvaswork. I had never heard of it before last summer, but I wandered into a tiny crosstitch store one morning when I couldn't find the local quilt shop. I used to crosstitch years ago but lost the desire to do it after I started quilting.

I don't recall exactly why I went into the crosstitch store; but once in there, I noticed a small quilt on a table. Upon closer inspection I saw it was all stitched on canvas, the way a crosstitch piece would be; and it was done with beautiful lustrous threads--perle cottons and some different variegated threads.

I was infatuated, so I bought a kit and brought it home. I thought I might just start it that evening, just to get a feel for it and see what it looked like. At 3 a.m. I was still stitching away and actually had to force myself to put it down and go to bed.

The patterns for counted canvaswork that I have found so far are worked on an 18-count mono canvas, which is fairly stiff. Even so, the recommendation is to put the piece in a stretcher frame; and I have a beautiful oak frame with stretcher bars in several widths that I bought years ago. The stitches, which can include a great variety in counted canvaswork, are worked over multiple threads; so the designs work up pretty quickly. This particular pattern came with a handmade clay button, which will be sewn onto the brown center block after the stitching is complete. The design area for this pattern will be 9 inches square when completed.

This pattern is by From Nancy's Needle, and you can see all the lovely little patterns for stitched quilts on her website. I sought out other companies that offered patterns for counted canvaswork quilts on the internet, and the only other company I found that had what I wanted was Laura J. Perin Designs. Laura has more than four dozen designs for quilts done in counted canvaswork.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Another Finish

This quilt came home from Koleen's at the same time as Crows in the Pumpkin Patch, and I finished sewing the binding on it this afternoon. This one is called Caroling Cardinals, also from The Quilted Cardinal. One of the things I especially liked about this pattern is that you can't tell easily where a block begins and ends. It was a simple pattern to sew, even the star in the center. I just had to pay close attention not to turn any of the blocks the wrong way.

The cardinal fabric gives it that Christmas-y feel, but I think it would work equally well with any medium to large scale fabric that you could fussy cut for the star centers. The red motif in the photo reminds me of a tulip, and I think a floral fabric with a spring theme would be nice too.

Credit where credit is due:
Caroling Cardinals quilt design by Koleen Painchaud, The Quilted Cardinal

Sunday Stash Report

Being sick all week long was certainly not helpful in achieving my goals, but I did get the backing pieced for the QFAH project and got it over to Koleen's for quilting. Originally I thought I would piece larger cuts of different fabrics together, similar to a backing that I saw on Mary's blog; but the panels I had leftover from my Lover's Knot from a long time ago were plenty long enough. So I sewed six of them together to make the backing.

This week I also bought 2 one-yard pieces of a tobacco colored fabric, one of which will be used on the next quilt in line for binding. I had the binding for this quilt stashed away somewhere, and I've torn my sewing room apart looking for it and haven't found it yet. You watch, soon as I get the new piece cut, I'll come across it! Anyway, I didn't know which color would be a better match for my quilt, so I bought both.

I also bought 6 yards of red fabric to be used for the binding of my QFAH and for a second QFAH, same quilt, different fabrics (except for the red). I thought I had already bought enough of that red to include the binding for the first quilt, but if that's anywhere in my sewing room, I can't find that either! I ordered these three fabrics by mail; and I haven't received them yet, so I'm not counting them yet!

Stash busted this week: 5-1/8 yards
Total stash busted since Feb 3: 10-1/2 yards

Home Sweet Home

This is what the bird houses are used for in my yard...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another Finish

I finished this top last year, but it was at the machine quilter's for a while; and I finally finished hand sewing the binding yesterday morning. This is a pattern called Crows in the Pumpkin Patch by The Quilted Cardinal. Koleen, the owner, has a series of patterns with crazy pieced borders and crazy piecing in some element in the quilt. They are a fabulous way to use up lots of scraps.

Orange is my least favorite color in the color wheel, and I only had a very few of these rusty oranges, orangey yellows, and warm browns used in the quilt. So my good friends Koleen and Sherry helped me out with a couple bags of scraps, the pumpkin fabric in the bottom half of the pumpkins, and I bought some fat eighths to supplement.

I fused the crows in each block and blanket stitched them by machine. I've enjoyed my Elnas and Janome sewing machines over the years, but none of them made a blanket stitch that I really liked. My Bernina makes a beautiful blanket stitch, and I want to put it on everything. I'd like to make an appliqued quilt, all done with this blanket stitch.

Koleen also machine quilts for me, and I love the quilting on this quilt. She introduced me to variegated threads, and I have become quite enamored of them. They add another dimension to the surface design that really appeals to me.

I've done several of Koleen's crazy pieced patterns, most of which are a seasonal theme, so I'll add them when those holidays roll around.

Credit where credit is due:
Crows in the Pumpkin Patch quilt design by Koleen Painchaud, The Quilted Cardinal

More Bad Weather

I have been doing battle with a cold all week long, so I had two good reasons not to go to work yesterday and today--a bad cold and bad weather. The snow rolled in early yesterday morning and dumped seven inches of wet, heavy snow before switching over to rain. It rained until nearly midnight, and the rain froze on contact, coating everything with ice. With all the snow and slush already on the ground, the water had no where to go, so roadways flooded. Then tree branches came down under the weight of the ice. We were fortunate not to have lost power, but many others throughout central Maine weren't so lucky. The people behind us still didn't have power this morning.

My husband and I walked around the house late last night to try to see how many tree limbs were down, and you could hear the trees cracking, and occasionally a limb crashing to the ground. This morning we could see it was mostly pine tree branches that came down.

My poor birches bent over to the ground under the weight of the ice, and one snapped in two. The temperature only rose to 32 degrees today, so not much melted. It did melt off the power lines and the tree tops, but not much else. I didn't venture out at all today, stayed home to nurse my cold; so I don't know what the roads were like.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

I'm sorry to say that I didn't get nearly as much done in my sewing room as I would have liked this week, and no stash busted. I did finish this top though. Tonight I will start piecing the backing and get it ready to go to the machine quilter's on Friday.

I love this pattern! It went together pretty quickly. When I finished the top, I drafted it into my Electric Quilt program, played with some different color options, and tried a few other blocks in place of the nine patches. My son is getting this quilt, but I'm going to make another one of these at some point to keep for myself, using the same red, a tan background intead of cream, and warmer blues. I also love my EQ6!

I have a very busy week at work coming up, so I don't expect to accomplish much this week. My only goals this week are to get the Scrappy Trips top done, and to finish the binding on my other quilt. I only work on bindings for an hour or so in the mornings, so it might take me a week to finish a binding.

It is always a wonderment to me how some quilters are able to get the bindings sewn onto 3 or 4 quilts, machine quilt two others, and cut out the pieces for 3 tops, all in one day. Time management has always been an issue for me, and I know I am very distractable as well. It is next to impossible for me to sit still for even one hour and sew continuously without getting up and walking around and fiddling with something else, and I noticed that about myself again this week. I sit with a timer sometimes when I'm sewing, and that helps me stay focused. Keeping a list of what I've accomplished and where I'm going has also been a great help. At least I can see that I do get things done!

Credit where credit is due:
Quilt design by Judy Laquidara

Friday, February 8, 2008

New To Me Binding Trick

I always dread sewing the binding on the front of my quilts, because joining the ends of the binding strips when you get back to the beginning has always been such a chore for me. My quilt books all tell me to fold and cut those ends at 45 degree angle and then stitch them together. I can never quite figure out how to measure them correctly, and it's always awkward trying to fit that mitered seam under the presser foot without some stretching and shifting. The worst part is that I can never remember exactly how I did the last time, so it's a new challenge every time I put on another binding.

A few months ago at a chapter meeting, my good friend Ann demonstrated a method of sewing the ends together that alleviates all those problems for me. I thought I must surely be the last one to learn this method, but I don't think any of us in the group had seen it before. I sewed the binding on another UFO yesterday morning using this method, and it worked perfectly, again. I am so excited about this, and I thought I'd share it with you.

When I begin stitching the binding on, I leave a tail at least 5 inches long, and 6" would probably be a little easier. When you've sewn all the way around back to the beginning, leave a gap 10" or 12" wide, and leave the second tail, maybe 10" long.

Cut both ends straight, as in the photo.

Pin down the beginning tail along the edge of the quilt, as if you were going to sew it.

Pin the ending tail in place along the edge of the quilt, butting it up to the beginning tail and folding it back on itself. Pin in place. At this point we are determining exactly where to cut that second tail.

For this step you must know the width of your binding strips. Initially I cut my binding strips 2-1/2" wide and then folded them in half to make the binding. Yours may be 1-3/4" or 2-3/4" or whatever. You'll measure that amount from the fold and cut off the excess of your binding strip at that point.

In the photo, the seam ripper show where my fold is, and you can see I've measured 2-1/2" over from the fold and marked it with a pin, and that's where I'll make my cut. Remember it's folded back on itself, so make sure you don't cut the binding underneath, just the excess tail!

Open out the beginning tail, wrong side up, and mark a 45 degree line as shown in the photo.

Place the ending tail, right sides together, perpendicular to the first one, with the remainder of the binding strip coming off the top, as in the photo. Pin it in place, and sew along your drawn line.

After you've sewn, you can trim to a 1/4" seam allowance. I recommend that you open out the binding strips to see how it looks and how it fits *before* you make that cut. Ask me how I know that!

Press the seam allowance open, then fold the binding in half again and press.

Sew the binding onto the quilt, closing that 10" or 12" gap.

And voila! you're done! Isn't that fabulous?! You can now see the finished edge in the photo, and I used a pin just to mark where we made that miter.

I hope someone will find this useful, and please let me know if something isn't clear.

A Snowy Week

We've had snow every day this week except Monday, shortly before daybreak, which has made for a difficult commute to work for lots of folks, including me. I like it when it snows, and normally I don't mind driving in it; but we've also had some icing this week too, and it's been treacherous driving at times.

I got up this morning, and sure enough, it was snowing again. It snowed all day with no let up, even so we didn't have much additional accumulation.

While I was watching the snow fall this afternoon, I happened to catch this fellow in the burning bush outside my bedroom window, a flash of color in an otherwise gray landscape. He was all puffed up, trying to stay warm, I guess. A female cardinal was roosting a few branches away, but I couldn't get a picture of them together before they flew off.

There's another storm rolling in tomorrow night with more significant snowfall, but no totals predicted yet.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Every Quilt Has A Story

Nothing inspirational, but here's the story that goes with this one. A long time ago, I wanted to make a quilt that would be masculine, and I had a set of plaid squares that I wanted to use up and thought they would do nicely in the quilt. I was still pretty new to quilting, and the fabrics were not what I would choose today. (Meaning, yes, I know, it's not a pretty quilt!)

At that time, I didn't have access to a long arm quilter, didn't even know there was such a thing; so I decided I'd have to quilt it myself with a straight line pattern and a walking foot. That meant that every time I changed sewing direction, I'd have to wrestle it under the presser foot to get it turned in the right direction to do the next line of quilting. And it has a polyester batt, which made it puffy. Tedious? You betcha, and the project stalled... for about 10 years.

Last month I came across it again in my sewing room for the umpteenth time and decided I just had to get it done. So I finished up the quilting (yes, using the exact same method!), got the binding on, and finished hand sewing the binding to the back this morning.

So this is my second finish for 2008 and another UFO off the list. You can't imagine how happy I am to get this done! My nephew will get this one.

Credit where credit is due:
The Jacob's Ladder block can be found in Electric Quilt's Blockbase program.
Jacob's Ladder quilt design is my own design. You are welcome to use it if you wish.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sunday Stash Report

I learned a new acronym at our state guild meeting in January--SABLE--Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy. I'm a member, so I'm interested in participating in the Sunday Stash Report.

I worked some more on my Quilt For An Hour project this week. I'm counting 1-1/4 yards for the nine patches and 1-7/8 yards for the cream background. Since this is my first week counting, and since I bought the red last year just for this project, I won't bother myself about it.

I also started Bonnie's Scrappy Trips Around the World this afternoon. I'm making my blocks 5 squares x 5 squares, instead of 6 x 6, since I already had a couple blocks made from a while back when I was experimenting with it. I'd like to make 20 blocks, in a 4 x 5 layout, and I've got the strips all cut. That's another 2-1/4 yards, for a total this week of 5-3/8 yards.

Gosh, that's more than I would have thought. I can't remember that I've bought any fabric yet this year; so if I keep this up, I might actually make some headway.

This week I'd like to get the borders on the Quilt for an Hour, cut the backing, and get it over to my machine quilter's. I'd also like to finish the Scrappy Trips blocks. I'm very slow at sewing, so if I get these two tops done this week, I'll be doing very well!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Super Bowl Bargello Sunday

I was late getting home from work yesterday and was too tired to sew, so I spent some time sorting through my UFOs. Periodically I find one here and there that, deep down, I know I'm never going to finish. This small sampler is from a hand piecing class I took 8 or 9 years ago, so it is hand pieced, hand appliqued, and partially hand quilted. I think I applique and quilt fairly well, but it is unbearably slow work for me, and I have yet to finish a quilt completely by hand. After all, I'd like to be able to actually use it in my lifetime.

I offered it up to a friend, who seemed only too happy to have it, sight unseen. That's one way to get a UFO off the list!

The only hand work I ever do now on a quilt is the binding. I sew it to the front by machine, then hand sew it to the back. I like to sit at the kitchen table in the morning with a cup of coffee and work on a binding for an hour or so. I actually enjoy that little bit of hand sewing.

Chocolate is at the ready for tomorrow's Super Bowl Bargello Sunday at Bonnie's website. I was fairly intimidated with choosing 128 fabrics for the required strips, or even half that many; so I've decided to work on Bonnie's Scrappy Trips Around The World instead. That way I only have to think about 6 fabrics at a time. Either way, I'm thinking I'll need a heap more strips than this, so I'd better get cracking!

Credit where credit is due:
These blocks are all in the public domain.
Sampler quilt is my own design. You are welcome to borrow it, copy it, steal it, or sell it. Flattery will get you everywhere.