Saturday, August 2, 2014

The UFO Solution: Baby Quilts

Way back in January, Bonnie Hunter wrote about choosing a one-word mantra and making it your focus for the year. Her word was "Finish." I decided to adopt it as my word too. But although I've managed to make progress on many projects, none of them has actually reached completion except for a few tiny things like doll clothes.

The obvious solution is to work on focus -- concentrating on one project until it's finished. Bonnie talked about the importance of focus on a Quilt Cam episode on Dec. 28, 2013, and I found it very inspiring. But this past week I realized that another solution is re-thinking the project.

While rummaging through a drawer I found 10 of these crazy "slash & shuffle" blocks. I made them at least 15 years ago using some instructions I found online. I never made more than one batch because I just didn't enjoy the method. So I just shoved them in a drawer with the vague intention of making them into place mats someday. Only . . . I never use place mats.

Last week it occurred to me that I could set them three by three with sashing and have a baby quilt. And then I'd have another quilt top on which I could practice my free-motion quilting.

They'd already had the seams pressed open, so I just repressed with steam to get everything as flat as possible. (I almost never use steam when pressing blocks for fear of distortion. But these blocks weren't anywhere near square would need major trimming to make them all the same size.)

Ten inch squares, nice and neat! The fabrics are all '30s repro prints, so I chose white sashing and pink cornerstones.

I used a sash-as-you-go method in order to stabilize the slightly bias edges. 

And I chain-pieced the blocks and sashings on my Singer 301.

It seemed like the top was done in no time! And I realized that many UnFinished Objects might well be converted to baby quilts -- especially if the blocks are unloved or I've lost my enthusiasm for the project. 

I waited a day or two to see if I wanted to add a border. I think not. I've got a killer fabric for the binding, so I think this top is done. Time to make a backing and get it on the frame.

Today  I'm linking to "Let's Make Baby Quilts" at  Michelle's Romantic Tangle.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

7 Posts in 7 Days - Final Edition

The depressing thing about doing Stash Reports is that I'm such a slow quilter that I hardly ever get to record any fabric used. A lot of things are in progress, but the only one I've finished is a sun dress for my niece's doll which used up a mere quarter of a yard.

Quite a lot of fabric came in this week, but they were all thrifty purchases.

I bought the Ultimate Fat quarter Collection from Nancy's Notions: 42 fat quarters for $41.99. Although I love buying fabric grab bags, and it was a good price, I really hesitated when I placed the order. A customer had left a bad review of this item because she felt that most of the fabrics she received were dark gloomy colors. However, as a scrappy quilter, I thought it likely that most of the fabric would be useful. And I was not disappointed.

At the thrift store I found 2 yards of this print for only $1.90.

Then my brother gave me 6 large men's shirts. I'm not sure how you figure the yardage on these.
I'm going to say 1/2 a yard per shirt since they have short sleeves.

Weekly Stash Report March 2, 2014

Added this week: 13.5
Added year to date: 73.5
Used this week: .25
Used year to date: .50
Net year to date: 73

Today I'm linking to the Stash Reports at Patchwork Times.

This is the last installment of 7 Posts in 7 Days. This week I joined Jennifer Fulweiler in writing seven posts in seven days. To check out other bloggers who were doing the same, see the list here.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Crazy Quilt and a Crazy Acquisition

Many, many years ago, when I first started quilting, I made some crazy quilt blocks. I didn't know what I was doing, so I tore up an old sheet to make 13 inch squares to use as foundations. For my crazy blocks I used scraps of all kinds -- including polyester blends. I used the sew and flip method and decorated some of the seams with the fancy stitches on my sewing machine. And then the blocks sat on a shelf for decades.

Recently, I pulled them out again, squared and trimmed them to 12.5 inches, and actually put them together to make a quilt top. It's not a very pretty quilt top, but at least it's done.

I find myself looking at the different fabrics. Sometimes I recognize them. Here's a bit of my daughter's dress. And there's a bit of the printed panel from which I made a dinosaur toy for my son. When I look at some of the other fabrics I can't help wondering why in the world I ever bought them. I would never make this quilt now. At least, not in this way.

It's an odd size, but I intend to quilt it. Previously, I would have felt intimidated at the thought. The quilt top is rather thick, especially at the seams. But now I have no fear because during my blogging hiatus, I acquired this:

It's an Innova long arm quilting machine, and it fills my entire living room. (I don't really need a couch, right?) It took three years of shopping, researching, and testing various brands before I settled on this one. I love it!

It's got an 18 inch throat and a 10 foot frame. I could do up to a queen sized quilt on it. (But so far I haven't done anything that large.) It's very well engineered, and it glides so smoothly that I can guide it with one hand if I want to. I don't have much upper body strength, and I also have osteoporosis in my spine, so I wanted something that I could move without struggling or strain. It's very versatile in that it can use almost any thread. And the manufacturer offers 24/7 technical support. It's also modestly priced compared to most long arms.

I bought my machine from Let's Quilt in Utah. They were vendors at Road to California. (However, they are now cutting back on that sort of thing for heath reasons.) There's a lot of useful info on their website as well as some great videos about ruler work. And this is the link for Innova itself. I'm not connected to either the dealer or the manufacturer in any way; I'm just a really happy customer.

The thing that everyone asks when they find out about my machine is, "Are you going to be doing this as a business?" And my answer is, "No. At least, not yet. And maybe never." But if I'm not planning to make money with it, how did I come to buy such an expensive machine?

A couple years ago I decided to become serious about learning to machine quilt. I took some classes, read some books, and tried out various tools. I have problems with my right hand and elbow (which I injured in my youth). And I found that the motions used in quilting with my domestic sewing machine really stressed my body and made me more reluctant to quilt.

Using a long arm machine just works better for me ergonomically. And of all the machines I've tried, the Innova is the easiest to use and does not stress my body.

Having it has made me eager to finish up some of my long standing UFOs. And that's a good thing. Why, you ask?

Well, some quilters like to say that she who dies with the most fabric wins. But I think that she who uses the most fabric is the real winner. When I die, I don't want to leave behind a hoard of unused fabric that my children will cart to the curb for the trash pickup. I want to leave behind a legacy of finished quilts, most of which will have already been delivered to their recipients. And if my kids get rid of any of the quilts still remaining in the house, I'll come back and haunt them!

(Just kidding. I'm sure they wouldn't do that.)

This week I'm joining Jennifer Fulweiler in writing seven posts in seven days. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

Friday, February 28, 2014

More Fun With Dolls

Here's a cute little apron and pot holder sized for an 18" doll.

The Sweetheart Apron pattern was designed by Laura Johnson. It's fully lined, has a real pocket, and is very easy to sew. You can download a free copy of the pattern here.

The tutorial for the potholder is at

The set is being modeled by Katie, a Madame Alexander doll which I found deeply discounted at Tuesday Morning. I bought her because I thought she would be nice for modeling strappy dresses, sleeveless dresses, or dresses with a low neckline. (Madame Alexander dolls have vinyl chests and shoulders, unlike American Girl dolls whose torsos are cloth from the neck down.) I'm a bit disappointed in her hair though. It's very fine and fragile, and looks as though it would not stand up to ordinary play.

In fact, my hunch was recently confirmed; my little niece has this same doll, but her hair was in a dreadful state. She asked if I could fix her doll's hair and make her a dress (since she also was stark naked.) So first I bought some braid spray as recommended by American Girl Wiki, and wrapping her in a towel, I spritzed braid spray and water on her hair a section at a time. Then, using a doll brush with metal bristles, I slowly brushed her hair from the bottom up to take the tangles out. When it was finally smooth, I braided her hair  into two pigtails in hopes of keeping it nice for a while.

"Welcome to the doll spa!"
"I'm having a very bad hair day."
"Are we done yet?"
I was pleased with the way the braid spray helped me untangle the dolls hair. After it was dry, it felt the slightest bit sticky. I wonder if I should have washed the doll's hair first. Perhaps it was dirtier than I thought. I wiped the surface dirt from her limbs with a damp micro fiber cleaning cloth and then dressed her in a quickie sundress I made from a free pattern downloaded from Pixie Faire. I think it would have looked cuter if I had used self-fabric for the ties instead of bias tape.

Her hair was cut or broken at several different lengths, so I couldn't make the braids as long as I would have liked. I had to trim her bangs because they had lost their original curl and were now too long.

"Thanks for the make-over."
This was fun. I hope that someday I'll find a used American Girl at a thrift store or yard sale. I'm really interested in learning how to refurbish dolls.

UpdateI was so sleepy when I wrote this last night, that I forgot to mention that the person who originally had the idea of using braid spray on dolls is the author of the blog American Girl Outsider. Please see her post here.

This week I'm joining Jennifer Fulweiler in writing seven posts in seven days. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

DAGMT Update and Invasion of the Dolls

February is nearly over, so it seems a good time to take stock of Drop And Give Me Twenty 2014. The first half of the month was fantastic! Making a priority of quilting for at least 20 minutes per day made me feel great. And since I often ended up quilting for more than 20 minutes, my baby quilt was progressing nicely. And then THINGS began to happen. LIFE began to intervene, a tax appointment needed to be prepared for, and all of my spare time began to revolve around an insidious new interest.

Yes, dolls (specifically American Girl and other 18 inch dolls) were taking up more and more of my online time. I was reading doll reviews, doll blogs, and doll forums as I researched various brands of dolls, browsing eBay and the websites of various doll dealers. And well is it said that no man can serve two masters because there are only so many minutes in a day, and more and more of them were being sucked up by the Invasion of the Dolls.

In a previous post I wrote about how much I've enjoyed sewing clothes for my granddaughters' American Girl dolls. But I originally fell for American Girl a long, long time ago -- when they first came out in the mid '80s. My little daughter and I used to devour their catalogs, but we couldn't  afford to buy one. So she saved her minuscule allowance and requested money for her doll fund in lieu of birthday and Christmas presents from her parents and grandparents. Finally she was able to buy Felicity who was also one of my favorites. I also loved Samantha and Molly because of their time periods. (Addy and Josefina were not yet available.)

But I couldn't justify ever buying a doll for myself, especially since my husband always worked more than one job so that I could be at home with the kids. Even now, as a widow financially on my own whose children are all adults,  I couldn't justify buying myself an expensive doll because I'm an adult, and I wouldn't actually play with it. Would I? But I do love sewing for them. And it would be so much fun to make or find tiny little artifacts to complete their world. (Have I mentioned that I've always loved miniature things?)

I was able to justify buying Alejandra, who was on sale at Target for only $15.00, to use as a dressmaker's dummy. And then, somehow, modestly priced 18 inch dolls began to cross my path, and I had to bring them home. Without meaning to, I now have ten 18 inch dolls. No wonder my mother says I'm entering my second childhood! I've also amassed a nice little stash of patterns, and I look forward to sewing clothes, both current and historical, for my family of dolls. And I'll enjoy introducing them to you once I've gotten them clothed. I've even become interested in restoring scruffy American Girl dolls. (I'd love to find a cheap one in a yard sale!)

DAGMT has been a valuable exercise even though I "failed" the second half of the month. It's taught me that I'm happier when I regularly make time to be creative. And "7 Posts in 7 Days" is confirming the same thing, though in a different area. The one thing I think I have to be careful about is excessive Internet reading about my creative passions. As a quilter, I already know what a time sink the Internet can be. It's inspiring to be able to see amazing quilts online and to talk with other quilters. But too much of that results in too much dreaming and precious little sewing getting done. Ditto with articles about writing or blogs and forums about dolls. Well, Lent is coming up, and what better time is there to work on discipline and moderation. Who knows, perhaps I'll actually get the hang of Thursdays.

This week I'm joining Jennifer Fulweiler in writing seven posts in seven days. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dolly Quilts and a New Book to Read

It's another late night blog post, so I'm typing as fast as I can. I just took my nightly dose of muscle relaxant, so here's hoping I can get done before side-effect of drowsiness kicks in. (I hurt the ligaments near my left knee a few days ago though I'm not sure how I did it. I didn't do anything.

(Oh, no! The yawning has already started!)

Well, let me show you this cute little doll quilt. I made it out of some "twosies" left over from another project. Alejandra, an Our Generation Doll from Target, looks nice and cozy.  The finished size of the squares is 2 inches which is about as large as you can make them without their looking horribly out of scale. I used a very thin batting for this quilt, but it still too stiff to drape nicely over the side of the bed. I think next time I'll use flannel for the middle layer.

I'm currently working a on doll-sized quilt with 2 inch Log Cabin blocks. And the logs are 1/4 inch wide. That means I'm saving even tinier scraps that I used to. Here a picture of a completed block next to my rotary cutter -- just to give you a feeling for scale. As you can see, these blocks are made using a stitch and flip method. The sewing lines are printed onto thin muslin with a rubber stamp.

Well, the yawns are starting to overcome me, so I'll just leave you with a very brief book recommendation: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge.

It's a YA fantasy with a gorgeous cover. But what's inside is even better. It's being marketed as a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast, " but I also see a strong influence from  the myth of Cupid and Psyche.

Here is the blurb from the publisher:

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom—all because of a reckless bargain her father struck. And since birth, she has been training to kill him.
Betrayed by her family yet bound to obey, Nyx rails against her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, she abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, disarm him, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her. As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. But even if she can bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him?
Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the BeastCruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

I'm not a big fan of Young Adult books. But this one was different. For one thing, it has more depth because of the moral compass within which the characters operate. I like the world building. And what's really cool is that the author uses many elements of YA fantasy which normally leave me cold. But in this novel they work. And I found myself loving them.

I'm about to fall over with dizzy fatigue, so for a really competent appraisal of Cruel Beauty, please read Happy Catholic's review here.

And here's where you can read the first 70 pages of Cruel Beauty for free.

Disclaimer: I am personally acquainted with the author, but I bought my own copy. My opinion of the book is honest and frank -- though possibly incoherent due to sleepiness.

This week I'm joining Jennifer Fulweiler in writing seven posts in seven days. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

First Steps to Second Childhood

A while back my granddaughters were given some used American Girl dolls. And when I say used, I mean very used, Somebody's brother must have gotten hold of these because one of them suffered from burned toes, another had been partially scalped, and a third had a very loose arm. Nevertheless, the girls loved them tenderly and their daddy hinted that these mostly naked dolls might appreciate some doll clothes if Grandma felt so inclined.

Which of course she did. Because 18 inch dolls, such as American Girl, are the perfect size to sew for. Her clothes are more interesting than a baby doll's. And they aren't impossibly tiny like Barbie's. And there are so many lovely patterns out for them. Not only can you dress them in clothes from many different time periods, but you can make Star Trek uniforms or Star Wars costumes or Steam Punk outfits or almost anything you can imagine.

Of course, I really needed a doll of my own to use as a dressmaker's dummy. Not an American Girl -- they are far too expensive. Though I had wanted one since the mid-1980s, I could never justify buying such an expensive toy for myself. So I bought Alejandra, an Our Generation doll from Target who is the same size as the American Girls. She had a cheerful, appealing face, the long dark braids I'd always wished for as a child, and she was Hispanic. (Something you never saw during my childhood.)

Soon "Allie" was helping me fit all kinds of outfits for her "cousins" in Ohio. And even for my niece's doll in California.

We started with the basics: underwear from Kwik Sew 2830.

Of course, everyone needed a nightgown.

This one, made from McCall's 6137, was kind of meh.

This is better. I used the same pattern, but changed the sleeves, lengthened the gown, and added a ruffle.

My favorite nightgown is also from Kwik Sew 2380. It's the easiest to sew and the best looking.

Here's a drop waist dress from a pattern I found online. (I couldn't seem to get the collar to lie flat.)

A classic little girl's dress from Kwik Sew 2921 which demonstrates that it is much easier to sew a fully lined bodice than to make facings for it.

And here's a lovely pintuck blouse designed by All Dolled Up Doll Clothes. (It's easier than it looks if you have a pintuck foot for your sewing machine. And the pattern includes instructions for those who don't have a special foot.)

And finally, here's a hospital gown in case dolly gets sick. Here's the front view.

And here's the back -- authentically chilly!

This week I'm joining Jennifer Fulweiler in writing seven posts in seven days. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.