Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday at the Quilt Store

Well, yesterday was the 25% off Early Bird Sale at our local quilt store. Clutching my $25.00 gift certificate, I was there bright and early at 7:45 AM, the lone car in the parking lot. Where, I wondered, were all the shoppers?

I never go shopping the day after Thanksgiving because I don't want to face the frenzied madness, the crazed crowds in full berserker mode. Surely no consumer goods could be worth visiting the mall on that day. Besides, the malls don't hold anything I want to buy. My wants are few: books, fabric, and maybe a few sewing notions such as needles or thread. (Okay, if Santa wanted to bring me a long-arm quilting machine or a cabinet for my Bernina, I would not say him nay. Heck, he's even welcome to magically enlarge my sewing room. (Oooo! Wouldn't it be great to have a tardis sewing room, bigger on the inside than on the outside?) But alas! I think I'm too old to expect a visit from him.

However, I am sewing Bonnie Hunter's new mystery quilt, "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll," and my stash is a bit lacking in certain colors and shades. Money is tight, but perhaps by braving the Black Friday crowds, I could make it stretch a bit further.

Only one other person had joined me when the doors opened at 8:00. I made a bee line for the corner with the Civil War fabrics and started grabbing chocolate browns and double pinks. I was hoping for fat quarters in order to maximize the number of prints for my money. But there weren't that many, so I began to pull bolts while I considered whether I'd better buy quarter yards or half yards. Quarter yards would give me more prints for my buck, but as the Mystery progressed, I might find myself regretting the limitation of having only 9 inches on the straight grain. As I was mentally dithering over my tower of bolts at the counter, the clerk asked, "Do you want fat quarters from these?" My jaw dropped.

"But, but . . . you don't cut fat quarters from the bolt do you?"

"Sure we do. If it's not too busy." By this time some nice yellow-toned greens had joined my pinks and browns, and I'd planned to weed through the pile of of bolts before having anything cut. But I was now so exhilarated by their cutting policy that I recklessly cried, "A fat quarter of everything!"

While cutting my fabric, the clerk inquired about the quilt I was making, and I'd just begun to describe Bonnie's mystery quilts when a voice behind me exclaimed, "So this is where all the browns are! And the pinks -- I need some of those pinks!" Yep, she was working on Bonnie's quilt too. Together we told the clerks at the cutting counter about Bonnie Hunter, the free patterns on her website, and her wonderful mystery quilts.

My new-found quilt sister ended up buying the fat quarters left over from cutting mine which made the shop very happy. I spent a bit more than I'd intended to (a few neutrals from the fat quarter bin joined the stack because you can never have too many of those, right?), but with the discount and my gift certificate I saved quite a bit. And now I'll have an amazingly scrappy selection for my quilt.

So after a quick preshrinking session, I'm looking forward to cutting and sewing Clue #2.

My goodness, Black Friday wasn't so hard after all!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Quick and Dirty Quilt Repair

While I was cleaning up my sewing room last week I found some old quilt photos.

The handsome young man on the left is my eldest, Fillius Major, when he was about eleven or twelve. The figure on the right is my 20 years younger self. Together, we are holding up our first and only joint sewing project, a quilt which we made for Grandpa Jack. After suffering many strokes, he had just entered a nursing home.

Grandpa Jack was my husband's father, and our kids were very close to him. So this was a sad change for all of them, but particularly for Fillius Major who could remember when his grandfather had been active and vigorous. I thought that making a quilt for Grandpa would not only be a useful gift, but a tangible way for us to express our love for him.

Fillius Major chose the fabrics, and I sliced them into squares with my rotary cutter. He sewed together some of the patches; I did the rest and attached the borders. A beginning quilter, I couldn't decide whether to tie or quilt this project -- so I did both, running diagonal lines of machine quilting through half of the squares and putting yarn ties in the middle of the others. Fillius M. made a presentation block for the lower right hand corner which he decorated with permanent fabric markers.

The gift was a great success and saw much hard use -- first in the nursing home home, and later by Fillius Major's kids. (The quilt passed to F.M. after the death of both grandparents.) Through the years it would come back to me for minor repairs and I would cover small holes with applique. (Hearts are easy! And that circle on the blue square is a planet I cut out of a piece of astronomical fabric.)

But the poor Grandpa Quilt (as the grandchildren call it) is now on its last elbows. One of the squares had simply shredded away. Another was beginning to shred. There was a rip along the edge of another block. (I must say that it's been interesting to see which fabrics have held up and which haven't. Both of the prints that shredded were fabrics that I gotten from Grandma's stash, so they were older to start with. Maybe that's why they didn't hold up.)

This quilt was woefully under-quilted which I think accounts for the stress the fabric suffered as a result of so many washings. Some of the lines of quilting had broken over the years, and the yarn ties had shriveled up and pulled through the fabric.

And here's the reason we should always use double binding on our quilts:

As you can see, the outer layer of the binding wore out, but the inner layer is still intact. (Yeah, I did a pretty crummy job of attaching the binding by machine. But it was the first one I'd ever done.

I decided that given the quilt's poor condition, a quick and dirty repair would be appropriate technology. The first thing I did was to replace the disintegrated patch. I still had some of the same fabric in my stash. Though old, I was sure it would last at least as long as the rest of the quilt. I just slid the square under the edges of the other patches and machine stitched it down.

I did the same for the other shredded patch. The block with a rip at the seamline was mended with a line of zig-zag stitches. And then, hoping to stabilize the poor quilt, I ran lines of machine quilting through the blocks that had originally been tied. Yay, walking foot! (I didn't have one of those when I originally made the quilt.) The minimal quilting I'd done in the border was broken here and there. So I echoed the original line of stitching and then bundled the quilt into one of those nylon Priority Mail envelopes, sending it off to Ohio for the grandkids to love and play with again. This is probably its last repair.

Someday it will be laid to rest in pieces, but I won't feel sad. It's been interesting to see how well (or how poorly) different quiltmaking techniques have stood the test of time and hard use. I am happy that the quilt has been so well loved, and given the improvement of my skills since then, I feel confident that my current quilts will last longer and hold up better.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In Search of Pink

Bonnie Hunter just posted the first clue for her new mystery quilt: Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll. Since she's on the east coast and I'm on the west, I got to read it "early." (It was around 10:30 Pacific Time when it occurred to me to check her blog.)

I love sewing Bonnie's mystery quilts, but this time I had pretty much resigned myself to watching the fun from the sidelines because I didn't have any double pinks. I've got a good selection of chocolate browns, and a lot of great greens, oodles of neutrals, but very few pinks of any sort. (Yeah, I know we can substitute other another color scheme, but I didn't feel confident choosing one until I could actually see what the quilt was going to look like.) And running out to buy new fabric right now is not an option.

I briefly flirted with the idea of using my '30s fabrics because most of my pinks fall into that catagory. But I think they'd look odd with the chocolate browns I have. Then I remembered my Ohio Star stash.

Ages ago I decided that I wanted to make an old-fashioned looking Ohio Star quilt and set aside a bunch of fabrics for it. Well, I never got around to making that quilt, so I forced myself to raid that drawer and scored a few more pinks. (Also some more really cool greens and browns.) Then I pulled out all the pinks from the rest of my stash and tried to decide which of them would play nicely together. A couple of the '30s reproduction prints might work. And wouldn't it be cool to include this cotton boll fabric? The rest are mostly from the '80s and '90s and some of them read more burgandy than pink.

And then it struck me: I have a $25.00 gift certificate for the local quilt store! Last month seven stores held a Halloween Shop Hop. And every store you visited entered you into a drawing for a gift certificate. I'm a freeway wimp, so I was only able to visit two of the nearest shops. I didn't buy anything; I just looked about, soaking in the inspiration and fondling the bolts of fabric. So you can imagine how flabbergasted I was when I was notified that I'd won the drawing. Yes -- I'm buying me some more pinks! (If there's a patron saint of quilters, I definitely owe her a candle.)

Update: I just realized that I should also search through my two bins of fabrics that have not yet been preshrunk. Maybe I'll find some pinks in there. (It's not stored with the rest of my stash, so I forgot about it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Star of Wonder

I just got an email from Zazzle that they are having a one day sale on greeting cards: 50% off and free shipping! Fillius, my son, is selling his Christmas card there. He did the artwork on his computer and the verse inside is from G.K. Chesterton's The House of Christmas. I think they're rather nice, but I'm his mother so I may be just a teensy bit biased. Here's the link, and the discount code is ZAZZLECARD50. The sale ends at 11:59 PM (Pacific Time) tonight. (Of course, you can still buy them after the sale is over, but they won't be as cheap.)

Other news: I've decided to do Bonnie Hunter's latest mystery quilt, Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll, but I won't be starting it on November 19th when everyone else does because I can't figure out what colors to use. Usually I'm happy to imitate Bonnie's colors -- her taste is so like my own. But I don't really have many pinks right now and I can't afford to buy any new ones. So I'm going to wait until I know what the quilt will look like in hopes that the finished design will inspire my color muse.

In the meantime, I'm cleaning up my sewing room so as to have room to swing my cat once inspiration strikes. And I am finding the most amazing things! I'm looking forward to taking photos of a few of them this evening which I'll be posting here on the blog.