Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So Sad!

Bonnie Hunter is posting a new mystery quilt, Double Delight. What's sad is that I cannot play along; I had to call in sick today because the area around my elbow hurt so much. Luckily, I got a same day appointment at my doctor's office. Unluckily, I found out that I have tennis elbow -- which means no rotary cutting for me and no sewing either. Grumble, grumble, grumble! And I have such a good collection of shirting prints that would be perfect for this quilt! Well, you won't have to listen to me grumble for long because I'm not supposed to type much either. Sigh!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well

I was able to finish and mail the dresses on Wednesday, December 17th. Then I sat back and waited for them to arrive at their destination. And waited . . . and waited . . . and waited. But the package didn't arrive. Other packages which we'd mailed later showed up, but not the one with the dresses. I was afraid it was lost or had been delivered to the wrong house. I felt so sad because I had worked so hard to get them done in time.

I even I prayed to St. Anthony (the patron of lost items) though without much hope, because by that time my faith was feeling much smaller than the proverbial grain of mustard. (On the other hand, I did have enough faith to pray even though I felt hopeless about the whole thing. Does that count?)

Finally, on Christmas Eve, my son phoned with the welcome news: the dresses had arrived! They took a picture for me so that I could see how they fit.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


This morning while waiting for Fillius to finish getting ready for church, I took some photos of the dresses. It's a big production number because my antique digital camera won't hold a battery charge, so I've got to fool around with cords and outlets. Then I need to unplug the scanner and unhook the printer in order to connect the camera to the computer. Then I have to download the photos which is kind of a clunky process because the camera is so old. And then I discovered that iPhoto can't read the dress photos. "Unrecognizable File Format"?

Maybe I've got too many photos on the camera again. Hmmm. Yes. Sixteen photos of Fillius's Halloween Jack-o-Lantern. (It had four different faces.) Time to delete some stuff -- but no time now. So you don't get to see any photos yet. But I can report that we are now ready to start the button holes. After that it's a simple matter of attaching sleeves to bodice, and bodice to skirt.

Friday, December 12, 2008

First Disaster!

In every project one invariably makes at least one bone-headed, disastrous mistake.

I just had my first for the Christmas Dress Marathon. I pinned and sewed the right side of the cuffs to the wrong side of the sleeves on the size 7 dress. And this just after I'd done the size 6 ones correctly! I must have been getting sleepy.

I'm working on these dresses assembly-line fashion which makes the process both easier and more risky because if you're not careful a mistake can be repeated three times before you're aware of it. Another hazard is the possibility of accidentally trying to sewing a size 6 collar onto a size 3 dress. To avoid that sort of thing I've been very careful to label each cut piece with its size, either marked with chalk in a seam allowance or with a pinned-on paper tag.

What I've done so far:

Bodices are complete and have collars attached.
Skirts are finished but not yet attached to bodices.
Sleeves are sewn together and are currently having the cuffs attached.

Yet to do:

Five button holes per dress! My Bernina 1530 will automatically make matching button holes once you've programmed the first one. But I still dread them. And you need to do all the button holes at once because when you turn off the machine, it forgets your customized button hole.

Attach the sleeves to the dresses -- not hard since the sleeve cap is pleated rather than eased.

Attach the skirts to the bodices, which will be quick and easy. And there's no hemming since the bottom of the skirt is finished with a contrast band

Sew on the buttons -- a breeze since I can do it by machine.

I really expected to be finished with these already, but just didn't have much time for sewing this week due to family obligations. (Mostly medical appointments, etc. for elderly relations.)

I have to work half day tomorrow at the library. Let's see what I can accomplish afterwards. (Like maybe taking and posting a photo!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Woman's Perogative

Okay, so I changed my mind.

After deciding that just I didn't have time to sew three Christmas dresses for my granddaughters, I felt so despondent that I became convinced I'd made the wrong decision. So I've been sewing madly since Friday. I've cut out all the pieces, interfaced all the parts that needed it, sewn the collars, and attached the contrast bands to the skirt. The main dress fabric is a holly print, and the contrast is a deep red. I can't find a picture of this pattern online (it must be out of print), so I'll have to scan the envelope to show you what it looks like. But not right now. I'm sewing like a madwoman!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

DNA Quilts

I haven't gotten much sewing done lately. Life! Sometimes there's just so . . . so . . . much of it!

All the projects I talked about in a previous post have come to naught. It's November 26th and I'm having to face the bleak fact that I probably don't have enough time to make Christmas dresses for the Wild Girls (a.k.a. my granddaughters). But if I save the fabric for next year, will I have enough of it to make dresses in the larger sizes they'll be wearing by then? Perhaps if I make them with short sleeves instead of long? (Would this style look good with short sleeves?) If I don't make dresses with this fabric, what on earth am I going to do with it?

To take my mind off the whole affair, I decided to clean out my email box which was cluttered with a gazillion letters. In one of them from 2007, was a link to Genome Quilts by Beverly St. Clair who has originated a way of encoding genetic information into her quilt designs. Though at first glance they may look like traditional scrap quilts, to those in the know they portray such things as the human red cone pigment gene which is involved in color vision. And I was charmed with the quilt which portrayed the Hepatitus C gene. (Her nephew worked on sequencing a piece of this gene, so she made him this quilt as a graduation present.) Be sure to click on the little button below this quilt so that you can see the double helix on the back.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Souls Day

I just thought I'd upload a picture of a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) fabric that I have in my stash. It was put out by Alexander Henry a few years ago. I found it at a quilt show in one yard chunks and bought a couple. (I've also got it with a black background, but that doesn't show up so well on the computer screen.)

When I bought it I had no idea what I was going to use it for, and I still don't. It's one of those fabrics that quilters love to buy but hate to cut into. The skeletons are rather large, so cutting it into small pieces would destroy its charm.

Maybe I could make an apron out of it?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Summer Dresses in October

Done, done, finally done! The sleeveless summer dresses which I'd hoped to send to the granddaughters a month or two ago are now finished and in the mail. Of course, it's no longer summer. . . Well, I suppose they can wear them with sweaters.

Actually, it's still quite summer-like here in Southern California. Perhaps it's also warm in Texas. The pattern was Simplicity 0540 which I had previously made in a long sleeved version with a contrast band at the bottom of the skirt. This sleeveless variation just has a simple machine stitched hem. Sewing three of them ought to have been quick and easy since I cut out all three at once and sewed them assembly-line fashion. But, as it so often does, real life got in the way. I just hope the girls haven't yet outgrown them. Below is a picture of one of the finished dresses.

Now I really must get back to my quilting! I continue to work on California Crossroads. I'm planning to make a small Streak of Sunshine from Christmas fabrics. And I'd really like to make a lap quilt as a surprise Christmas gift for a particular relative who really needs a quilt. And I should also get back to those string pieced, eight-pointed stars. And, and . . .

Quilters are never bored, are they?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oh, Dear!

I was planning to make the Streak of Sunshine quilt from Bonnie Hunter's website as a donation for a church fundraiser to be held in November. It's really quick to put together, and I thought I could use up my small collection of Christmas fabrics.

Alas! Almost all of my Christmas fabric is fat quarters, and you need to be able to cut strips that are WOF (width of fabric) for this speedy technique.

Any other suggestions for a quick and easy (but nice looking) quilt?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

World Alzheimer's Day, September 21

The phone rang while I was cooking dinner tonight.

"How do I get Helen's phone number?" The abrupt inquiry was not prefaced by any greeting or introduction, but I recognized my aunt's voice.

"You want to call your sister?" I asked, stalling for time.

"How do I get her number?" Her voice is insistent, but not yet angry.

Well, I don't have it, Aunty. But my Mom does. I can get it for you." Then I casually add, "Why do you want to call her?" Meanwhile my mind is racing. Aunt Helen is a long distance call. Can we afford the expense? Would talking with her sister cheer my aunt, or is Aunt Dora likely to spout angry abuse today, leaving poor Aunt Helen in tears?

"I want her to bring back my car! I'm leaving tomorrow and I need my car."

My aunt has Alzheimer's Disease. The hours between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. are her personal witching hour. She's been living in a guest home for the past four years, and has been unable to drive for even longer. But every afternoon she gets restless and decides to go home. Sometimes she packs her belongings and strips the linen from her bed. She demands her car -- which she no longer owns. When it isn't forthcoming, she assumes that the attendants at the guest home have stolen it.

"Oh, Aunt Helen doesn't have your car, Aunty."

"Then who does?"

"You asked your cousin Peter to take care of it because you can't drive right now."

"Well, I hope he's being careful with it!"

"Oh, I'm sure he is."

Actually, Peter owns the car. He took over the payments for us when my Aunt had to enter the home. But my aunt has forgotten about that, and it comforts her to think that her beloved car is being carefully maintained for her until she's well enough to drive again.

Because she really doesn't know where she is or why she's there. Sometimes she thinks she's in a hotel. Other times she believes she's in a hospital recovering from an illness, and that soon she'll be able to do without the walker or wheel chair.

"I'm going to be leaving tomorrow," she reminds me.

"Oh, really?" I say respectfully. "I was planning to visit you tomorrow. I hope you'll still be there when I come." (Actually, I visit her most days, usually during her restless period. It calms her and distracts her from her plans to escape. But I wasn't able to make it today.)

"Well, that's nice."

"I'll see you tomorrow then."

"All right," she says graciously. She hangs up, and I wonder how long she'll remain mollified. I hope that she hasn't given the caregivers too hard a time today. I regret not having squeezed in a visit.

In a recent blog post, Ami Simms wrote,
This Sunday, September 21, 2008, is World Alzheimer’s Day. It is a day to remember the 26.6 million people worldwide who have this vile disease that will eventually rob them of the ability to remember and to reason. It will take from them every skill they ever learned and every relationship they ever held dear.
Having a relative with Alzheimer's is like watching a beloved quilt deteriorate. It's as if the connecting threads which hold the quilt together have begun to unravel. The seams begin to come apart. A lifetime's worth of elaborate quilting begins to disappear as the threads snap and small bits begin to work loose from the body of the quilt.

We've all seen antique quilts where certain bits of fabric have simply rotted away, usually as a result of corrosive dyes. For an Alzheimer's patient, patches of one's mental landscape are also disintegrating as a result of this corrosive disease.

Ami Simms, who also founded the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative, designed a Virtual Quilt Patch in honor of her mother who has been battling Alzheimer's for seven years. She's invited all of us quilting bloggers to make a similar patch in honor of our afflicted friends and relatives, and has asked us to share how this disease has touched our lives. She's also asked that we link to her Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative which raises money for Alzheimer's research. (Since January 2006 they have raised more than $157,000, one quilt at a time.)

I never know what to expect when I go to visit my Aunt Dora. Most of the time she knows who I am, though sometimes she thinks I'm one of her sisters. During one unsettling visit to the hospital, she lost all sense of time and place. She thought I was one of the nurses, that her father was still alive, and that the hospital was located in her old childhood neighborhood.

We chat together during our afternoon visits. I try to calm her anger or sooth her paranoia, depending on what mood is uppermost that day. I bring her little treats or take her out for coffee in an effort to cheer or distract her. As the threads of her mind continue to unravel, I know that someday even these efforts will be unavailing. I try not to look too far into the future because if Altzheimer's has taught me anything, it's to live in the present -- just one day at a time.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Circle Applique For Those Who Don't Like Applique

Sally Bramald at Feather on Wire demonstrates two nifty ways to machine applique circles.

Method 1

Method 2

Ooooo! I really want to try this. I think it would be perfect for using some of those luscious fabrics that seem too beautiful to cut into.

As always, so many potential projects -- and so little time to try them all! At the age of 56, and with my eyes not as good as they used to be, I see mortality staring at me from around the corner.

Must sew faster!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The String Quilt

I'm thinking that the same person who made yesterday's quilt top might also have made this one. It's machine pieced and very carefully and competently made. That curved piecing is smooth and flat. And the borders are mitered. I know I've seen this pattern before. It think it's a Snowball block.

Unlike the previous top which was made of fabric specifically purchased for it, this one is scrappy. But the quilter is using a very controlled palette even though she does have to make some substitutions in order to follow her design. She also had to piece smaller bits together in order to cut out some of those pink triangles. And in some blocks she had to substitute a slightly different pink or even a tiny pink check.

I'd love to quilt this one. So much of the quilter's personality shines through that I'd feel like I was helping a friend if I finished it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Mystery Pattern

This is the second quilt top I bought during my wild day at the quilt store. I have never, ever seen this pattern before. If anyone knows its name, please let me know.

This top is very nicely put together. The blocks were sewn together by machine, but the raw edges of the green bits were appliqued down with a blanket stitch using embroidery floss. (I wonder how that would have held up to washing if the quilt had been completed. ) The background is the color of unbleached muslin, but possibly a bit coarser in texture. I'm thinking of perhaps trying to quilt and bind this top, but I should probably get some advice about that. I'm not sure what kind of quilting design would be appropriate.

This top is so nicely preserved; I wonder how it ended up at the thrift store. There were such a lot of quilts and tops at the store that day that I wonder if some elderly quilter, recently dead, didn't have her collection donated by her ignorant and uncaring offspring. Ah, well! Their loss is my gain.

It's funny how some of the material things we treasure are simply junk to others. When my husband and I were helping my elderly mother-in-law clean out her house, she tried to give me her huge collection of polyester double-knit because she knew that I liked to sew. I've always hated that kind of fabric; it makes my skin crawl, But she thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. She'd amassed a huge collection of the stuff even though she was no longer sewing much at the time those knits were popular. (She was a bit of a hoarder who could never pass up a bargain.)

Anyway, I declined her offer as diplomatically as I could, and asked, since I was primarily a quilter, if she had any cotton fabric in her stash. Since she'd married in 1930, I was hoping she might have some vintage fabric squirreled away in one of her closets. In fact, I'd discovered an old quilt protector among her things. It was made of unbleached muslin and trimmed with a lavender print from the '30s. I showed that print to her when I asked if she had any cottons. She replied that she used to, but that she'd gotten rid of that junk back when the knits came in. Ah, well. None of my children are quilters, so I intend to use as much of my stash as I can before I die.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Curved Piecing Madness

I chose yesterday's Dresden Plate because of its excellent workmanship. I chose this quilt top because of the variety of its prints. Most of these fabrics look to be from the '50s, but I see some that may be from the '40s and even a few that look like feedsacks. This top was inexpertly pieced by hand. The stitches are large and in some spots even crooked. There's such a variation in stitch quality that I almost wonder if more than one person worked on it. At any rate, the maker didn't really know how to piece this pattern so that all of the points would meet smoothly. A lot of the intersections are lumpy and even though I haven't tried to iron it yet, I can see that it bulges here and there like a hilly landscape. The edges of the top are scalloped. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do with this top. The idea of taking it apart and piecing it properly is a bit daunting.

But I love the fabrics in it, so maybe I'll just keep it to look at. I love the safety pin print in the first photo. The second photo has a print with little grey wolves which is quite charming.

Update: The name of this pattern is Tea Leaf.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Exquisite Dresden Plate

Here's the quilt whose discovery I described in yesterday's post. If you click on it, you'll get a closer view of the quilting. Such tiny stitches, and so evenly spaced!

I'm no expert, but I think the fabrics are mostly from the 1940s. The applique is very nicely done. The quilt lies smooth and flat and has no stains or tears. In fact, it shows almost no signs of use. Perhaps it was a favorite quilt, stored away except on special occasions. I tend to think it was washed at least once because of its slightly crinkled look. But perhaps not -- you can still see penciled outlines under some of the quilting.

Here's a close-up of one of the plates so you can see the sorts of prints the quilter used. And another close-up of the back showing the lovely hand quilting. (As before, click on the photo for a closer look.) This quilt is just large enough to use on my twin bed. But if I put it there, I'm going to have to keep my bedroom door closed. Otherwise Priscilla-the-cat is going to hop up and start kneading little tiny pin pricks into it. Not to mention shedding cat fur shadows on it.
Tomorrow: Curved Piecing Madness!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It Finally Happened!

My mom and her sister love to prowl thrift stores. So do I. When the three of us hit a thrift store together, we split up and keep our eyes open for things on each other's want list. For instance, last Thursday I found some of the Correlle mugs my aunt has been looking for, and my mom has has sometimes spotted pieces of my aunt's cut glass pattern and has snatched them up for her. (You have to act fast in our favorite thrift store. Some of the women who shop there are like sharks. They circle the workers who are bringing out new merchandise from the back, darting forward to snatch hot items from the carts before the employees can even put them on the shelves. Others use more devious techniques, chumming up to the workers in hopes that they'd covertly slip new items to them.)

Most recently, my aunt discovered a handmade quilt and passed it to my mother with instructions to show it to me in case I might be interested. I was in another part of the store working my way through old sheets, curtains, and lengths of fabric. I always hope that someday I'll get lucky and discover some vintage fabric or maybe even an old quilt top. Suddenly, it was my lucky day. I found first one, then another quilt top made from fabrics that were pretty clearly from the the '30s and '40s. They were very homey pieces of work, and I was admiring them both when it occurred to me that I'd better work my way through the rest of the section as quickly as possible because There Might Be More!!!!

And there were! I sped through the racks pulling top after top into my cart. I didn't dare stop to examine them closely lest our thrift store nemesis, a woman whom we suspect of owning an antique store, nip ahead of me to snatch up a yet unseen treasure. At last, when I'd been through the whole section, I paused to catch my breath and examine my loot. My mother finally found me as I was weighing the merits of each top.

"Look what Aunt Gloria found," she said. "Do you think it's handmade?" I gasped and began to hyperventilate.

"Yes, Mom," I said, "This is definitely hand quilted. This is exquisitely hand quilted. Look at the technique! Look at these incredible prints! Where did you find this?"

"With the bedspreads. There were more, but this was the best one. Of course, this is too expensive to buy, but I thought you'd like to see it."

I put the quilt firmly into my cart and said, "Show me the rest!"

It seemed to take forever as I followed her to the other side of the store. Yes, there were more quilts. Yes, this was the best one. But I wish I could have taken them all home. Most of them were damaged in some way -- split seams or particular fabric patches that had disintegrated over the years --and were overpriced for their condition. But what wonderful fabric prints they had! Alas, for the beautiful Double Wedding Ring that had been used (and loved) to death! With judicious folding, it and its companions might still have had a second career as decorative objects in a quilt lover's home. But the thrift store doesn't accept credit cards. (In fact, I strongly suspect that they require even God to pay cash.) I hadn't brought much money with me, but my mom loaned me the contents of her wallet (selflessly returning her intended purchases to the shelves) and I withdrew the maximum allowed from the in-store ATM. I thought it would be enough.

But at the register we discovered that I'd forgotten to include sales tax in my mental estimate of the total. My aunt loaned me a fiver while my mom and I dug frantically through our purses for loose change. But I was still short. Finally, my mom volunteered to withdraw an additional $20.00 from the ATM.


Still shaking with adrenaline, I bore my new treasures to the car. Then I took my mom and aunt out to lunch at the local Thai restaurant -- using my credit card.

(Tomorrow I'll post pictures!)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

1130 -- Wow!

In a previous post, I wrote about my beloved Bernina 1090 which accidentally crashed to the floor when my leg became entangled in the sewing machine's cord as I jumped up to answer the telephone. Alas! The repair estimate, and the dealer's dark hints about likelihood of the machine's being irreparable, caused me to put my poor 1090 back into the closet.

Recently, my sister, who has been cleaning out her closets and garage, came across her old Bernina 1130. At first she planned to sell it on eBay. But one day -- without warning -- she brought it over to my house and just gave it to me! She said she knew I'd like to have it and that I'd actually get some use out of it. (She used the 1130 quite a bit the first year she had it, but has hardly touched it since.) Well, I was positively flabbergasted! But after thanking her profusely, I rushed the poor neglected baby to the dealership to be serviced. I can hardly wait for the call to come and pick it up.

In the meantime, I've been cleaning the snap-on gadget box and the collection of basic feet that came with it. I think they're all there except for the zipper foot. Unfortunately, my sister has misplaced the manual. She thinks it was accidentally put "in storage." So I should probably try to find a copy on my own since there's no telling when hers will turn up. And the manual for the 1130 does not seem to be one of those which Bernina has posted online.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Another Lover of Books & Quilts

Here's another person on the Mystery Quilter's webring who loves both books and quilts. She's also a librarian. How cool is that? I'll be keeping an eye on The Quilting Booklady.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Interlude: String Pieced Stars

After the concentrated effort of making my daughter a dress for the Regency Ball, I felt like relaxing with Something Completely Different. I've had a hankering for string-pieced stars ever since seeing Bonnie Hunter's Out On a String! , so today I pulled out my drawer of strips, strings, and crumbs, and had a go at it.

It had occurred to me that having a diamond shaped template might speed up the process of preparing the foundation papers, so the last time I was at the quilt store I bought Set E of Marti Mitchell's Perfect Patchwork templates. I traced the large diamond onto the scraps of pattern tracing paper left over from making the dress. Using the flip and sew method, I string-pieced the diamonds and then trimmed them down, using the template and a rotary cutter.

I like the fact that her templates have tiny holes to mark where the stitching lines end, but I found that cutting around the diamond template with the rotary cutter was more difficult than I expected. . I had trouble holding it motionless, and I think that if I had done more than the eight diamonds needed for a single block, my fingers would have become cramped and sore. I think it's actually easier on my hands to cut an accurate diamond using my ordinary Omnigrid ruler. But then I wouldn't have those nice little corner holes which will probably make the actual piecing much easier.

I can't imagine how people use the rotary cutter for some of her smaller template pieces such as the tiny diamond for the 6 inch 8-Pointed Star block.

I'll finish this block tomorrow, and then get back to work on the summer dresses for my granddaughters and my Carolina Crossroads quilt. By the way, here are the bits left over after trimming the diamonds. Finally -- scraps small enough to throw away! (Or are there one or two worth saving?)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's Done!

It's done! It's Done! It's done!

The Empire Dress I was sewing for my daughter to wear to the Regency Ball at WorldCon is at last complete despite such unexpected (but always inevitable) disasters as having to take apart and resew a completed French seam. Not to mention the last minute run to Jo Ann's for more elastic.

I wish I could post a picture of it, but as soon as I finished the second hem -- there's an overskirt -- I folded the dress, sealed it in a box, and rushed it to the Post Office. At left is a picture I snapped as I was sewing the casing under the bust.

I was very pleased with my choice of fabrics. The outer layer of the dress is a translucent polyester with tiny white dots and a very subtle crinkly texture. The inner layer is a light peach cotton polyester. (Jo Ann's calls it Symphony Broadcloth.) I was worried it might be too crisp, but it softened up nicely after washing. The combination of fabrics really looks much nicer than it sounds.

Now to clear up the sewing shrapnel from this project. (Am I the only one whose work table looks like an explosion hit it?) Then I'll be able to see my way to clear to working on other projects.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Still Working on the Muslin

Grumble, grumble.

The instructions for this dress (Folkwear 215) are not as clear as they initially seemed.

On the skirt back there are two cutting lines -- one for gauze weight fabrics and one for heavier fabrics. I'm not sure how to define "gauze" or "heavier."

Also, the instructions about gathering the back of the skirt are a little confusing. How is one to gather between the stars marked on the pattern when one set of stars is not actually on the pattern?

Update: Okay, I finally figured out what must have been meant by the cryptic reference to gathering between stars when there's only one star on the pattern piece. But couldn't they at least have told me what size elastic to buy? (As you may have gathered, I don't like experimentation.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Even more craziness!

Okay, so I've added another project to the ample servings already on my plate.

My daughter, who is going to WorldCon, asked if I could sew her a gown to wear to the Regency Ball. She knew I had a copy of Folkwear's "Empire Dress" (#215) and thought it would be an easy thing to whip up since the simple version has elastic in the neckline, waist and sleeves. I felt a bit intimidated because there would be so little time to put it together and because my daughter lives two states away so fittings would be out of the question. Were I a prudent seamstress, I would have said, "No way, girl!" But instead, I said yes.

I decided to whip up a muslin and then mail it to her so that she can make sure that the bodice fits before I cut into the fashion fabric. And she can also let me know where to hem it. Well, this muslin hasn't gone together as speedily as I'd hoped, but at least I'm working out the pattern's problems now which should make the final version go together much more quickly.

I wonder if I shouldn't have gone with Simplicity 4055 instead? It's the commercial version of Sense & Sensibility's "Regency Gown" which you can see here.

Carolina Crossroads will have to go on the back burner again since the little girl's dresses must also get done before summer is over!

And now, I really must get back to the sewing machine.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Still Working

Bet you thought I'd fallen off the face of the earth! Well, I haven't done much sewing lately, so I haven't had much to write about.

The past few days have been particularly busy. On Thursday I drove my mother to a funeral. On Friday I drove both parents to a wedding. Nothing was scheduled for Saturday, but my mom and I ended up taking my aunt to the Urgent Care because she was experiencing pain every time she took a deep breath. So today I was more than ready for some R&R. I decided to turn on the air conditioning, put on some music, and settle down for some serious work on my Carolina Crossroads quilt.

I've cut and pinned the pieces for thirty more Step 3 Nine-patches! Then I had to stop to cut some more blue strips. Seeking more variety, I was digging through my drawer of blues when it occurred to me that some of my smaller scraps could be used for the 2 5/8 inch squares in Step 4. So I had to stop and cut some of those and then sub-cut them into teensy quarter-square triangles. Whew! Those guys are tiny! And then, of course, I had to put one of the Little Pieced Triangles together just to make sure that my cutting and measuring was accurate.

I guess that's one of the advantages of finishing this quilt after the mystery is complete -- if I get tired of working on one step, I can refresh myself with a brief digression to another. I expect to finish the 30 Nine-patches tonight, having told Fillius Minor to fix his own dinner tonight.

The fabric underneath the CC parts is the gingham I bought to make summer dresses for my three little granddaughters, a.k.a "The Wild Girls." They may be rowdy, but they love to wear dresses. (The white eyelet is for the collars.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Still More Projects!

Today I visited JoAnn's and bought checked gingham in pale blue, lavender, and mint green to make summer dresses for my little granddaughters. With my mom's help I was able to use coupons for each of the colors. Just what I need, another project!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Blue and White

My quilting buddy's vacation has stretched from it's original two weeks to the point where I've lost track of how long long it's been. We used to meet every Wednesday and put in four or five hours on our quilts. Without that dedicated time in my schedule, I just haven't been able to get much done on my quilt. It's odd, but as much as I love quilting, I sometimes find it hard to stay on task. Last week I decided that I just had to start working again. So I sat down and made ten of these 3 1/2 inch, blue and white Nine-Patches for my Carolina Crossroads quilt.

Last night I did some more piecing, this time combining it with another family activity: reading-aloud. Anyone who's read my other blog knows that everyone in our family is a great reader. And we've always made it a practice to read aloud to one another. Before we had kids, my husband and I read to each other. After the munchkins came along, we read to them too. And we kept on reading to them even after they'd outgrown the age for bedtime stories. Eventually they began to read to us.

Now that the family has dwindled to just myself and Fillius Minor, the custom had fallen into abeyance, but lately we've been trying to revive it in an effort to enliven our quiet evenings. While I pieced Fillius Minor read from Engineers' Dreams by Willy Ley. Published in the '50s, it describes various engineering schemes that never came to fruition, such as constructing a tunnel between England and France or producing energy from the difference in temperatures between the bottom of the ocean and its surface. Listening to the description of these and other projects somehow makes it seem all the more likely that someday my quilt will be done.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What I've Been Doing Instead of Quilting

I sewed the fringe onto this lovely banner which my sister painted for her church's Corpus Christi procession. Her sewing machine hadn't been used in several years, so when she hauled it out it decided to sulk and made bird's nest stitching on the underside of her project. I was glad that my Bernina and I were able to come to the rescue. (I wish I could paint the way she does!)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No Shirts For Me

I went to a thrift store today with my mom and my aunt. Remembering Bonnie Hunter's use of men's shirts in Carolina Crossroads, I dutifully looked through the racks. After all, I really do need some more neutrals in order to finish my quilt. Eeeek! They wanted $4.95 to $5.95 per shirt! I need to visit a different thrift store.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Step 2 Is Done!!!

Yay! I finally finished Step 2. Why did it take me so long?

Well, as St. Paul said, what I don't want to do, I end up doing. What I really want to do, I don't do.

A couple nights ago I was feeling so blah that I sat around all evening. Not . . . doing . . . anything. Bleah! The thing is, I know that if I sit down and start sewing I'll probably soon feel better. But when I feel that blah, I can't seem to get up enough energy to start anything.

Then kuki68 posted in the comments box asking if I'd finished. And that inspired me to sit down and complete them.

Next come the blue and white Nine-patches. Since I have left-over blue and white strips from Step 2, part of the work is done already. But tomorrow I have to work on my dress. (It has a zillion little tucks.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Only twenty more accent in the corner Nine-Patches and I'll finally be done with Step 2 of Carolina Crossroads! And those twenty are in progress.

I spent Tuesday and Thursday in the sewing lab and was able to finish my pants with the contour waistband. This is the second pair of pants I've sewn; the first had a straight waistband with elastic in the back.

This time I documented every step of their construction in my notebook. (I don't have any pattern instructions.) Unfortunately, they don't fit as well as they ought. I'll be taking my muslins, the different versions of my pattern, and both pairs of pants to the lab next week to see if we can figure out why. In the meantime, I have to go to the regular class meeting tomorrow and work on my corset. (I'm finally getting kind of interested in it. I love learning new techniques.)

But when am I going to find time to finish my dress before the end of class?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Week of Sewing

It's been a busy week at the sewing machine. On Tuesday morning I had my weekly quilting session with my new friend. Afterwards, I threw my sewing bag into the car and buzzed down to the college for the remaining open hours at the sewing lab. Another girl and I are working our way through an extra credit pair of pants with a contour waistband. The lab assistant said she'd do demos of various construction techniques for us, so I needed to get my fabric cut out ASAP which is easier to do on those long classroom tables than at home.

On Thursday I spent almost 7 hours at the lab working on those pants. The lab assistant had predicted that we'd be able to finish our pants in that amount of time, but I knew better. I am not only a slow, meticulous worker, but I was trying to write down the instructions for these pants as we went along. (The lab assistant had previously helped me alter a commercial pants pattern so that it would actually fit me. It's now so different from the original that printed instructions no longer apply.)

This morning I'm off for the regular class session where I will continue making a corset. I'm not very enthusiastic about this project because it's an item I will never, ever wear. In fact, it's not even designed to fit me -- just the dress form. But I'm making it for the sake of learning some new techniques. Maybe I can sell it on eBay!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Needles and Tongues

What is it about sewing together that makes women so chatty?

There's something about plying a needle, even when it's attached to a sewing machine, that seems to loosen tongues and inhibitions. Certainly my quilting friend and I wander through a wide range of topics during our weekly sewing days. And that's a good thing since it keeps me on task during some of the more tedious steps of my Carolina Crossroads quilt. (I love quilting, but you have to admit that pinning 100 Nine-Patches together can get just a teensy bit dull.)

I also take a garment sewing class at the local community college where I've noticed the same tendency to confidential chat. When the teacher is neither lecturing nor demonstrating, the tongues begin to wag. There's one lone male in our class, a tall African man -- judging from his accent, he's not African-American -- who sits by himself at the perimeter of the classroom. I wonder what he makes of it all.

One group of women is busily discussing underwear. One girl wonders why no one makes lingerie out of velvet. Being the practical, older woman of the class, I point out that velvet would be rather warm to wear. A younger student points out that successful lingerie is not actually worn for very long. Another group of students is rooting through a donated box of lace and trims. Periodically one of them will squeal in delight at the discovery of some particular piece of lace, "I'll make this into underwear!"

Of course no group of women can sew for long without the conversation becoming gynecological. Across the room another group is discussing a recent news report of a pregnant "man." From there the discussion wanders into hermaphroditism. And I suppose the only reason it didn't morph into the inevitable swapping of labor and childbirth stories is that most of the class are still young and childless.

Then the topic veers off towards car dealers, and the trials and travails of dealing with them. One woman likes haggling; the rest hate it. Another woman's husband used to work for Volvo and she describes their shady dealings which caused her husband, who is also a minister, to leave that job. Now the older class members are discussing their teen-aged offspring. A couple of ladies who attend the same church are discussing relatives who "came forward" at the last altar call.

Ah, a piece of silk noile is found in one of the donation boxes. The teacher says you can identify it by its distinctive odor. Several students who dislike the scent compare it to various disagreeable substances. (I nab the fabric to make a blouse. With my sinuses I can't detect any scent at all. Besides, I'll be washing it before I cut and sew.)

Many other topics pass our lips, and our busy machines hum a pleasant background music as we guide our fabrics under the needle.

All too soon the class session is over.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Well, my quilting friend and I spent 5 hours on Wednesday working on our quilt projects! Yay!

The next day I spent at my class's sewing lab working on one of my assigned projects -- cutting out a dress pattern and learning how to match checked fabric. I'm not sure how good a job I did. We'll see how well things go together on Saturday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Quilting Day

Bonnie has announced the newest Mystery Quilt, but I can't take part. I still haven't finished Carolina Crossroads! But I have a new strategy. I recently made a new friend who also finds it difficult to find time to quilt. So we are meeting once a week to work on our quilting projects. The first week we sewed for about five hours, including a lunch break. We skipped Holy Week, but we are meeting tomorrow. Must finish! Must finish!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Patti at Quilting is My Passion has done something rash, something many of us would find unthinkable.
. . . what is this terrible thing I've done? I've thrown out my crumbs. Totally thrown them out. They are in the garbage can by the curb waiting for tomorrow's pick-up.
Read about it here.

For those of you who aren't scrap fanatics, "crumbs" are little tiny bits of fabric which any sane quilter would consider too small to use. But some of us aren't quite sane. While going through some of my UFOs (or Works in Progress, as I prefer to call them), I came across these foundation pieced log cabin blocks which are only 2 inches square. They are foundation pieced on muslin using a rubber stamp which I bought from Sharon Doyle's company, Thoroughly Modern Minis, back in the early '90s. (I "met" her through an online quilter's guild hosted on Genie way back in the Pleistocene.) For blocks like these almost no fabric scrap is too small.

Interestingly, the remarks in Patti's comment box unanimously support trashing crumbs. Perhaps we crumb hoarders are too embarrassed to speak up. Or perhaps we've all been sequestered in padded sewing rooms without Internet access. (Perhaps I should go piece some of these mini-blocks before someone comes to lock me up.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

About 20 years ago I began making a redwork baby quilt. The embroidery pattern was from Better Homes & Gardens. My project has twelve cats embroidered on a large piece of unbleached muslin. The pattern originally called for a faux sashing to be made by sewing pieces of green bias tape as a lattice between the cats. I embroidered the cats using a chain stitch in red perle cotton. I did an outline (or stem) stitch in black floss for their eyes and whiskers. The faces were kind of tedious, so the project has been in my drawer for a very long time. But recently I pulled it out and finished those ancient cats. I was thinking it might be a nice gift for one of my granddaughters -- and appropriate since I originally started the project for her father!

I've decided to abandon the green bias tape in favor of cutting the cats into separate blocks and sashing them with red '30s repro prints.

But look at what I inadvertently did: When I embroidered the whiskers I absentmindedly put them behind the cats' smiles rather than in from of them! Perhaps they are relatives of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Selvage Quilts?

I'm a big fan of string quilting because I hate to throw away even the smallest scraps. One of my ongoing projects is Bonnie Hunter's Basket-Weave Strings quilt. But I never imagined that you could do much of anything with the woven selvage edges that we cut off fabric before we start cutting out our quilt pieces. Though they are technically strings, usually they're too narrow to use because a quarter inch seam on each side eats them up entirely.

Well, Karen Giska has figured out a technique that makes selvages usuable. Check it out here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Visiting an Old Quilt

I've been out of town for about a week visiting my eldest son and his family. The week before I left, I was busy making purses for their two oldest girls to match the dresses I made them for Christmas. I wish I'd been able to take a camera with me so that I could show you pictures of both the purses and the dresses. I would also liked to have taken a picture of the quilt I slept under while I was there. It was the quilt I made for my son when he went away to college.

It's a restless pattern of triangles in dark lavender, white, and a print in shades of blue and purple that has always reminded me of outer space.

It's gotten a lot of use over the years and has now achieved an antique sort of look. Because it has a cotton batting, it's crinkled from the slight shrinkage that takes place with washing. The colors have softened. The edges of the binding have begun to show some wear. It looks well loved, and I am so pleased.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bad Quilter! No Biscuit!

"Custody of the senses" is a phrase you sometimes see in older Catholic books. It refers to the practice of controlling the senses (most commonly the eyes) in order to keep oneself from straying into temptation. I suppose I should have been practicing it yesterday.

It was Ash Wednesday, so my son and I went to 8:00 Mass just to kick off the season, so to speak. I was kneeling devoutly when suddenly I became aware of a beautiful red plaid shirt being worn by a young boy a few pews ahead of me. And suddenly, my mind was no longer focused where it ought to be. Instead, it had zeroed in on that plaid fabric and how it might be used in a quilt.

Among those of us who have been working on the Carolina Crossroads Mystery Quilt, salvaging fabric from men's shirts is all the rage. My own quilt is being made from stash, but Bonnie Hunter (our Fearless Leader) made hers from shirts she bought at thrift stores. So plaids are a major design element in her quilt. (See a close up of it here.) And she had plenty more shirt fabric left for her Super Bowl Bargello quilt which you can see here.

I love thrift stores -- though these days I limit myself to looking because there is absolutely nothing I need anymore. But can a quilter ever have too much fabric? Actually, I've been on a No-Buy fabric diet for a couple of years in an effort to use up the fabric I have already. But the urge to go thrifting for men's shirts is like a siren's song. It must be the hunter-gatherer instincts of our foremothers coming to the surface.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Election Day

And I have some really cool batik fabric that I bought for half price at the local quilt store with which I'm planning to make aprons. (I figure the batik will disguise the spills which are bound to happen when I cook. (I'm thinking a double layer of fabric because I'm afraid stains will go right though otherwise.)

The picture is from Kitchen Madonna who is promoting National Wear Your Apron Day. As she says on her website:
After your funeral, do you think your granddaughter will bury her face in your professional looking briefcase or in your treasured apron? When a woman puts on an apron, it makes no less of a statement than a fine leather briefcase. It announces she is on duty to be receptive to whatever happens in her home and everyone that encompasses. And that is a wider sphere of influence than many would allow.
Go read the rest of it. I need to sew my apron, and then I need to get back to sewing my quilt. (But I'll go vote too.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Ironing Board Fantasies.

The other day I decided I needed a greater variety of blues for my Carolina Crossroads quilt. I was using so many dark blues that I was afraid they were beginning to run together. So I rummaged through my stash and came up with some that were bright but not light. They've been sitting on my ironing board waiting for me to press and cut them.

I was in Costco recently and saw a fancy new ironing board. The brand name was Polder. It had a holder at the end for your iron, and it was very wide -- an advantage for a quilter!

My own ironing board is practically an antique. I bought it soon after I got married, taking the bus to a shopping center in the next town. I bought it at JC Pennys and had them hold it until my husband could pick it up on his way home from work. After all these years it's got a slight dip in the center and it's getting a little wobbly. That's why I've never considered the Big Board as an addition to it -- I'm afraid it would topple over. While at the quilt show last month I saw a really nice ironing set up, a Big Board set on a couple of drawer units which gives you storage and ironing in the same footprint. Except I don't really have the room here for that kind of thing.

And I don't have money for either of these options, so I guess my fantasies will remain just that.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Work in Progress

Still slogging away at those Nine Patches with the accent color in the corner. (BTW, that block is perfectly square, it's just not lying flat right now.)

Work on Carolina Crossroads has slowed down a bit because the new semester has started, and I am taking Advanced Clothing Construction at the local community college. (I don't feel terribly advanced since this class was preceded by only one semester of Beginning Clothing.) Our first assignment is to make a corset. I come from a generation that equates "corset" with "girdle." But the item the teacher has in mind is actually worn as a garment rather than underwear. I have no intention of ever wearing this thing, so I'll just be making it as an exercise in learning new techniques.

I'm also going to be spending some time sewing some little purses to match the dresses I made my granddaughters for Christmas. I'm planning to take them with me when I go to visit them next month.

I've been taking stock of my stash and my UFOs (UnFinished Objects) and realize that even if I never succeed in my quest to find a part time job, I need never be bored as long as I have a working sewing machine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Using Omnigrid Instead

As a bit of a rest from the step two nine patchers, I decided to do some hour glass blocks. I don't have the ruler Bonnie recommended, but the Omnigrid 98 ruler is a perfect substitute. Put the "3" line against the cut edge of your fabric strip. The pointed tip of your ruler will
stick above the edge of your 2 inch strip, but that is okay. If you want your strip to be the exact size to match the ruler, make your strip 2 1/8 inches wide.

I layer a red and white fabric strip with the white on top. (In fact, I layer the red and white fabrics together when I'm cutting the strips, then I know that they are exactly the same width.)

I find that putting the the fabric strip vertically works best for me. In the first picture I have just cut off the squared edge of the strip, a left to right cut. Without moving the ruler, I will next make a right to left cut. Both of these cuts are moving away from my body.

I'm using a 17 x 11 cutting mat, and I find that I can make more accurate cuts by turning the mat instead of moving the fabric strip. In the second picture you can see that I don't place the edge of the ruler against the cut edge. I find it's more accurate to cut a new edge on the top. Then I'll cut the edge below, lift the ruler and remove the cut triangles. Then I turn my cutting mat and do the whole thing over again.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

RTC, Day 3

Darn! I missed out on using my 50% off coupons at JoAnn's. They expired on Saturday. (I'd thought they were good through Sunday.)

I was actually planning to pop over to JoAnn's on Saturday, but then I decided to visit the quilt show first and ended up staying until 6:00 p.m. By that time it was dark, and I decided I'd better go straight home. I spent most of my time at the show browsing through the vendors' booths again and even bought a couple of things. In one booth I saw a very interesting demo on how to sew a circle of fabric into a round cut-out using only four pins. The demonstrator used a pair of tweezers to move the edge of the upper fabric into place as she sewed. One of those things that is hard to explain but once you see it you wonder why you never thought of it before.

And I spent more time drooling over the Tin Lizzie 18 (a long arm machine) and the Juki TL-98Q. Sigh!

As I left the show and headed across the street to the parking lot, I realized that it was very dark and that the parking lot was going to be pretty deserted. Suddenly, I remembered that when I entered the lot I'd had the window on the passenger side rolled down. Had I remembered to roll it back up when I parked? If not, would my car still be there? Would my still unrepaired Bernina, which I'd picked up from the shop that morning, still be in the back seat? Would someone be crouched inside my car? I endeavored to walk confidently.

Well, the window was down, but the car was still there. So was the Bernina. And no one was crouched inside my car. My husband used to say that God looks out for dogs and fools -- to which list I think I'd also add absent-minded, middle-aged women.

When I got home I felt fired up to work some more on Carolina Crossroads, but I needed to cut more strips and my feet were just too tired for it. Today was taken up with family stuff, but tomorrow will be a quilting day!

Quilt Show Damage:

1 set Wheel of Mystery acrylic templates
1 pocket curve template (for garment sewing)
applique stilleto
1 pair Machingers (gloves for machine quilting)
1 spool thread
1 pk. Ultimate Applique Template Paper
1 DVD "Applique Techniques With Pearl P. Peretra"
1 stencil brush
1 pair tiny scissors
1 Identi-pen
1 pk. applique needles
1 pk. needle threaders
1 chalk marking pencil
1 bottle Arlene's OK To Wash glue
1 Aunt Becky's Finger Protector

That should do me for the year. I feel very inspired by all the gorgeous quilts, and I'm looking forward to busting a lot of stash in the months to come.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

RTC, Day 2

I'm rushing off to an 8:30 a.m. class this morning, but I just wanted to mention that I met two Carolina Crossroads quilters at Road to California yesterday. The first was named Robin (I believe she said that her online name was Turbotyper). She noticed my Nine Patch badge as I was trying out the Juki TL-98Q at the Sew Unbelievable booth (right next to Superior Threads).

I think the other was named Cheryl. (I have a brain like a sieve, so I wrote it down as soon as possible, but I don't guarantee that I remembered it correctly.) She was selling tickets for the Whittier guild's opportunity quilt when she noticed my block and excitedly brought forth her print-out of Bonnie's directions. She is just about to start the quilt.

By the way, I am so impressed with the Juki TL-98Q that I am sorely tempted to buy one.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I am so tired!

I went to Road to Californian yesterday, arriving around 10:00. First mistake! The parking lots were full. But the convention center personnel directed us down the street, through a u-turn, and eventually into a gravelly strip of land near the freeway. It was quite a trek back to the convention center, but on the other hand, there was no charge for the parking.

It was huge! I'd been to this show last year, but this year's seemed even larger. I worked my way through the enormous exhibit hall only to discover the doorway which led to a second hall of quilts and vendors. And I was really only looking at the vendors. Today I'll go back to see the quilts. The quilts I saw in passing were stunning, and I look forward to examining them more closely today.

I made a little badge out of one of my little Nine-Patch blocks and wore it, but in such a crowd I didn't expect to encounter any of the other Mystery Quilters. However, when I ate my sack lunch, I sat next to two ladies from Sacramento, one of whom was a regular visitor to Bonnie's website. It's really funny. I'm normally a very shy person, but I don't feel any self consciousness about talking to unknown quilters at a show. Perhaps it's because we are all members of a great sisterhood with a common passion.

I test drove a couple of long arm quilting machines and now have a better appreciation of what Bonnie does. The one I liked best was the Tin Lizzie 18. It was "only"$6,000. Should I buy one? In my dreams!

I thought of the online Stashbusters group at one booth where someone was demonstrating how to make Aunt Philly's Toothbrush rugs from strips of fabric. Personally, I felt that quilt fabric is too expensive to waste on such a project. But some of the Stashbuster ladies have impossibly hugh stashes of fabrics they no longer like. A project like this would really use it up.

I also got to see the Flynn Multi-Frame System in action. There aren't that many guy quilters, but they certainly come up with some interesting gizmos.

The Juki TL-98 Q looked like a good machine for home quilting, 15,00 stitches per minute and I like the fact that the machine sits low on the table. I would think that help prevent the quilt from dragging as you machine quilt.

And, and . . . I gotta get going! Wish me luck in finding a parking space!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

California or Bust!

Well, the problem with the Nine Patch blocks being too large was not as bad as I'd feared. I was a little worried when I measured them against the ruler, but the next morning I measured them against the other 3.5 inch blocks and they were only off by 1/16th of an inch on each side. I can live with that. Now, having used up the precut pieces and adjusted to the change in sewing machine, my Nine Patches are coming out right on the money.

Tomorrow I'll be visiting Road to California in Ontario, California. It's a huge quilt show with an enormous number of vendors. I've only been twice in my life, but one advantage of my recent move is that I'm relatively close to it now. In fact, I bought an unlimited pass so that I can visit it more than once and have a nice leisurely look at everything.

I'm planning to pin one of the 3.5 inch blocks from my Carolina Crossroads mystery quilt on my shirt when I attend the show. I thought that one of the Nine Patches with the accent color in the corner would be distinctive. So if any of you other Quiltville Mystery Quilters you see me there, be sure to say hello! (I'll be there on Saturday too.)

Besides the quilts and the vendors, I'm also looking forward to the special exhibit of vintage aprons displayed by Ellyn Anne Geisel, owner of Apron Memories and author of The Apron Book. I now have a heightened awareness of aprons thanks to Kitchen Madonna who not only sews and sells aprons here, but blogs about everything from recipes to John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Plus she's now got a neat-o job working in a museum where she gets to do such fun stuff as spinning wool and learning to weave. (How do people manage to get jobs like that? I wish I knew.)

I've always been an apron wearer in the kitchen because I am such an energetic cook. But my aprons tend to be strictly utilitarian ones. Thanks to Kitchen Madona, I'm beginning to appreciate pretty, though still functional, aprons. In fact, I even bought some batik fabric which the local quilt store marked down 50%, which I plan to make into an old fashioned apron with a bib.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Starting Step 2 -- Problem!

I hate having to switch sewing machines in the middle of a project. But with the 1090 in the shop, I have no choice. I sewed and cut a few strip sets for Step 2. Then I sewed up one of the Nine Patches. Darn! My scant 1/4 inch seam must be a mite too scant. That block is just a wee bit too large. Was it because I switched machines? Or was my #37 foot slightly damaged when the 1090 fell?

What a pain! I guess I can compensate on any new strip sets I sew. I wonder if I should try to adjust the ones I've already cut. Not unsew them, but just do another line of stitching. I guess I'll think about that tomorrow. Time now for bed.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My So Called Quilt Studio

One of the reasons I feel so enthusiastic about this project is that I am firmly resolved to use up more stash this year. Over the past two years I've been in "no buy" mode, but my stash is still as large as ever -- which is not surprising since I haven't done much sewing.

Not that I didn't want to! But these past few years have been a tumultous time in our family as I nursed my husband through his final illness; dealt with the paperwork that widows are heir to; and then moved to a much smaller house in order to be near my elderly parents. I've been in the new house for nine months now, and my sewing room is only now being unpacked and set in order.

Actually, to say that I have a sewing room is a bit of an overstatement. I'd hoped that the second downstairs bedroom would be my sewing room, but it's become the library annex. it also houses my quilting stash, my quilting books, and a flock of rolling, plastic chest of drawers which are filled with scraps and quilting supplies. I can barely sidle around the cutting table, so my quilting studio has had to overflow into the living room.

That's okay. I own neither a couch nor a TV, so there's plenty of room for my 6 foot banquet table where the two Berninas and the serger live. Well, only one Bernina, now that the 1090 is in the shop. (In case you've never been to my other blog, I'll just briefly mention that the main portion of my library resides in what was originally suposed to be a master bedroom. You can see a picture of it here.)

My stash is stored in stacking baskets sorted according to color or special collection (such as '30s repro prints, plaids, or Christmas fabrics). Scraps (i.e. anything smaller than a 10 inch square) are sorted by color and stored in some of plastic chest of drawers.

Anyway, the really great thing about making one of Bonnie's scrap quilts is that you never have to worry about running out of fabric. When you run out of one blue, all you have to do is grab another one from your stash. If there are enough blues in a quilt, they'll all go together nicely.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Lucky Find

I'm so far behind the rest of you that I haven't even pulled any neutrals yet. But today I remembered something that will save me a bit of cutting time.

Way back when I first started quilting, I decided to make a scrappy log cabin. Not having much stash at the time, I ordered a packet of lights from Keepsake Quilting and cut them into 1.5 inch strips according to the instructions in Trudie Hughe's Templateplate Free Quilting. Then I cut enough scrappy dark strips to make one block and decided, "I don't really like making log cabin blocks!"

So the light strips have languished, neatly arranged in one of my sewing drawers, for over ten years. But nothing goes to waste when you're a quilter. Last night it occurred to me that I could use these to jumpstart Steps 2 & 3 in Bonnie's mystery quilt. Yay!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Disaster Strikes!

See my lovely sewing machine pictured in the sidebar? It's a Bernina 1090S. It is among that class of machines that quilters are fond of calling "a real workhorse." Last night I was sewing merrily along, just finishing up the last few blocks of Step 1, when the telephone rang. I leapt to my feet and started across the room to the kitchen. But before I got very far, I felt a jerrk, heard a thud behind me, and turned to find my cherished Bernina sprawled on the floor! Somehow or other the cord must have gotten caught around my leg. Berninas are heavy machines. It made several dents in my hardwood floor. Thank goodness it didn't fall on my foot!

I was so stunned that I felt no emotion at all. I lifted the 1090 back onto the table. I turned off the power switch and removed the knee lift which was now badly bent. The knob which lowers the feed dogs was loose. When I tried to turn the handwheel, the needle got stuck and would not come back up. So something inside may be off kilter.

The next morning I took my beloved Bernina to the local dealer. (I've just recently moved to this city so I can't even take my poor baby to her regular tech guy!) They estimate that repairs will cost at least $400, possibly more. If it can be repaired at all -- the extent of the damage is still uncertain.

I'll still be able to finish the Bonnie's mystery quilt; I do have other sewing machines. But the 1o90 and I had bonded. She is my first love, and I just didn't have the heart to set up the other machine today.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Taste of Summer

It's been cold and rainy here in Southern California. But yesterday I looked out the back window and noticed some bright red spots in the drippy landscape. My cherry tomato plant, which seems determined to survive the winter, has produced some fruit. I went out and harvested the little fellows and brought them into the warm kitchen to redden up a bit more. I thought I'd post a picture for those of you who are mired in snow. I wish I could send you a taste.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not!

When I get to the end of a strip set and it's not long enough for another rail fence block, I cut the remainder into 1.5 inch strips. Later on I plan to sew them to light/blue/light strips and make tiny Nine Patches with red centers. Waste not, want not!

Of course I'm saving any odd shaped bits at the end of a strip set for crumb blocks. Anything narrower than half an inch I allow myself to throw away.

One advantage of trailing behind the rest of you is that I have a better idea of which scraps to save for which step, now that I know that I'll be needing wider pieces for the quarter square triangles and the 3.5 inch filler squares.

It's raining heavily now. Perfect weather in which to stay indoors and sew. Let's see if I can make it to Step 2 by Monday.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Step 1: What I've learned

I know that most of you are experienced quilters who don't need any tips, but I thought I'd post mine for the benefit of those of us who are still beginners.

Don't cut your 1 1/2 inch strips the width of the fabric.

  • It's too hard to sew an even seam on a 1 1/2 inch strip that is 42 inches long. Also, using shorter strips, say 12 inches or so, allows you to mix fabrics in more combinations. prevents your making 20 identical blocks at a time. (Yay, scrappy!)
  • Also, if you cut the width of the fabric, you are automatically sewing a strip that is cut on the crosswise grain which is slightly stretchy. And if you don't "ease" the stretchy strip it will stretch and your pieced strips will be curved. (Ask me how I know!)
  • If you did happen to cut a crosswise strip, match it with a strip that was cut on the straight grain, and put the crosswise one on the bottom when you sew. The feed dogs will help it to ease in.
How to find the straight grain of your fabric.
  • On a large piece look for the selvage. (That's the woven edge of the fabric that doesn't ravel.) The straight grain will be parallel to the selvage.
  • If you're cutting strips from odd shaped scraps, here's how to test for straight grain. If you look closely at your fabric you'll see that the threads are woven in a grid. The direction that is diagonal to this grid is called the bias. If you pull on the fabric along the bias you'll see that it's really stretchy. You never want to cut strips on the bias! The two grid directions are called the crosswise and the straight grain. Pull on one of them. If it's just slightly stretchy it's the crosswise grain. If there's little or no stretch it's the straight grain, and that's the direction the strips should be cut in.
Mix it up!
  • Don't do all your cutting at one time. Or all your sewing, all your pressing, etc. Mix it up. Cut some strips, sew them, press them, subcut them. Then repeat. It's tempting to barrel ahead in a factory-line attempt to speed piece this fun quilt. But avoiding long stretches of one particular, repetitive motion helps to prevent muscle strain and injury.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Step 1: Getting Started

Yes, I know. Many of you have already finished Step 4. In fact, since Bonnie posted it yesterday, some of you eager beavers have probably already finished Step 5! In my defense, I did start later than everyone else. I was busy sewing Christmas dresses for my grandaughters until right before the holiday.

Anyway, I am still going to post about my experiences. Perhaps they will help those few of you who have also started late.

As you can see, I decided to follow Bonnie's color scheme of red, blue, and neutral. Because I just don't want to have to agonize over color choices right now. Also, the problem I've always had with mystery quilts is that I don't know where I'm going. So how can I decide which fabric to use where? But if I mirror Bonnie's choices the quilt will probably look good. Unfortunately, when I started I hadn't yet realized that the blues were to be dark and medium. As you can see, a few of mine are a bit lightish. In one of her posts Bonnie said that value would be important in this quilt. I hope my medium lights will add a bit of sparkle rather than disrupting the design.

So far, I have fifty of these cute little rail fence blocks.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Setting Things Up

Hello, I'm Catholic Bibliophagist which is also the name of my primary blog which you can find here. A bibliophagist is a devourer of books, so that's mostly what I talk about at my other blog: books, libraries, reading, genre of various kinds -- all that good stuff.

But I'm also a quilter, and I've recently joined about a thousand other women in making Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt, Carolina Crossroads. Many of the ladies are reporting their progress on their blogs. I wasn't sure if that would be appropriate at Catholic Bibliophagist since the book people might not be interested in the quilting reports and the quilting people might not care for all of the highly focused book talk. Thus the second blog. This is where I'll be posting my adventures in mystery quilting, stash busting and other quilty stuff. Because quilting is what I mostly do when I'm not reading.