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.