Friday, September 7, 2012

In Which I Return to Blogging and Display Some Works in Process...

Hello, I'm back again.

A couple of eons (in cyber time) have passed since my last post. I've still been quilting, sewing, and taking pictures, but somehow I never got around to writing. What can I say? Sometimes there's just too much Real Life going on.

One of the pleasanter things I did while off-line was to clean and reorganize my sewing room. (Why do I hate to clean my kitchen but love to clean my sewing room? They're both centers of creative endeavor.) I've been collecting men's shirts a la Bonnie Hunter in order to add stripes and plaids to my stash. Some of the shirts were given to me by male relatives, but most of them have come from thrift stores. (I wait until they've been marked down to one or two dollars.) There's a lot of fabric in a man's XXLarge shirt, so that's really a good buy -- especially since fat quarters at the local quilt shop are now $3.00 each.

Until I started cleaning, I hadn't realized I'd accumulated so many. But now they are neatly folded and stacked in a bag under my cutting table where I can easily reach them when I'm in the mood to dissect one and add it to my drawer of shirting prints. Slow but steady progress.

In this video, Bonnie demonstrates how quickly and easily she can reduce a man's shirt to yardage. It's sort of like watching a master chef wielding a fillet knife in the kitchen. Or a sweet little piranha skeletonizing a cow. (I wish I were as quick as she is, but I have weak hands.)

I also unearthed a bunch of UFOs. I found a stack of Christmasy two-patches left over from a doll quilt I made decades ago. I'm easily distracted when I'm cleaning, so I spent much of the afternoon sewing them into four-patches. 

But then I couldn't decided whether to assemble them into a mini-quilt or to make them into yardage from which to cut a Christmas stocking. So I bundled them away again. But progress is progress -- even if the various steps are years apart. 

Here's a more recent project -- no more than five or six years old! This collection of strips was my "winnings" at my guild's Strip Poker & Ice Cream Social. It was group activity which I hadn't expected to enjoy very much (except for the ice cream) but it turned out to be kind of fun. When we entered the room we were given a stack of fabric strips which most people wore draped around their necks in order to leave their hands free. We had to go from table to table where we wagered our strips, winning and losing them based on the roll of the dice. (I never did understand the rules of the game, so I just did whatever the others told me to.) At the end of the evening, another guild member gave me her strips which, added to my own, made a nice little stash. I thought it would be fun to make them into a special project. I decided that Sister's Choice would be an appropriate block since the fabric had been acquired during an evening of sisterly camaraderie. 

I allowed myself to use my own stash for the green points and the neutral background fabrics. But I restricted the Nine Patches to the guild strips. Some of the fabrics were ones I would never have chosen. Co-ordinating them into blocks is the sort of  challenge that fascinates me.

So now I have ten blocks finished. I'll think I need twelve to make a wall hanging. Unfortunately, many of the strips were not very accurately cut and have turned out to be unusable for this project. So I don't know if I can eke out two more blocks. Unless I can think of a very creative setting that will use only ten. Hmm.... That's what I love about quilting. There's so much scope for the imagination -- especially when you run into roadblocks.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Yard Sale Saturday, Again

Bonnie Hunter is hosting another Yardsale Saturday today. Click here to see the used books and vintage quilt tops that she's offering this time.

I've been slowly adding weeding stuff out of my sewing room, mostly duplicates or gifts that I never wanted in the first place.

The first is this little Measuring Gage from Nifty Notions. "A handy tool to quickly check small measurements: 14 measurements from 1/8" to 2" on this double-sided aluminum gauge." This was a doorprize and I never even took it out of the package. It's just $1.50 and includes FREE POSTAGE to anywhere in the United States.

Next is this pattern for "Ciopinno," a 50 3/4" x 68" quilt from the Quilt Soup pattern company. It's rated for the confident beginner. I think I won this at a shop hop or something. It's never been used, and I'm offering it for $2.00 plus 65 cents postage (in the USA). SOLD

Here's some crazy Halloween fabric which I bought from Jo-Ann's many, many years ago. I was going to make it into a Halloween tie for my husband, but he didn't like the print. (So I didn't make the tie!) It is 33" long which is more than 3/4 yard, but not quite one full yard. This fabric was kind of hard to photograph because of the metallic speckles. It's a medium orange with gold metallic speckles and goofy little black bats. You can have it for $2.50. Postage will depend of whether you want First Class or Priority Mail. (It weighs 5 oz.)

If you want to buy any of these please email me. All payment through Paypal. Click on my name in the "About Me" section on the sidebar to your right." 

For more great quilt-related goodies don't forget to visit Bonnie Hunter's Yard Sale Saturday where you'll find links to lots of other quilters' blogs.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Remembrances of Thimbles Past

"Oh, Aunt Beatrice," exclaimed Beezus, as she opened her first package. It was a real grown-up sewing box. It had two sizes of scissors, a fat red pincushion that looked like a tomato, an emery bag that looked like a ripe strawberry, and a tape measure that pulled out of a shiny box. When Beezus pushed the button on the box, the tape measure snapped back inside. The box also had needles, pins, and a thimble. Beezus never wore a thimble, but she thought it would be nice to have one in case she ever wanted to use one."  -- From Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, 1955.

I started sewing as a child about the same time as Beezus did. And like Beezus,  I never wore a thimble. Neither did my mother who sewed everything from curtains to maternity clothes to dresses for her daughters. She felt thimbles were too cumbersome.

I can't remember when I first learned to use a needle, but one of my favorite childhood memories involves a sewing bee. I was in second grade, and we lived at the end of a cul de sac in Anaheim, California. There were little girls living in the house on the other side of the street, and I remember one special summer when we would meet on the curved green lawn between the two houses and sit there all morning sewing clothes for our dolls. (Mine was an official Gerber baby!) No thimble was needed as we pushed and pulled our needles in and out of our fabric, our little tongues wagging as womens' always do when they are gathered together over needlework.

When I was in third grade (in Norfolk, Virginia), I learned to embroider. My mother taught me how to do cross stitches, an outline stitch, and French knots. I can't remember my first project, though I'm certain that Aunt Martha's iron-on transfer patterns were involved. But I do recall that I was so thrilled with my finished work that I started a new, more ambitious project -- a depiction of The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden, which I traced onto fabric from a coloring page I'd gotten at catechism class. I still didn't use a thimble. My fingers were probably still too small. When I began to read Beverly Cleary's books, I sympathized with Beezus who was embroidering a potholder for her favorite aunt, especially as she struggled to follow her grandmother's dictum, "Conceal a knot as you would a secret." (I still think of that line whenever I embroider.)

By this time I was also beginning to use a sewing machine. My first garment was a Mother's Day gift, an apron for my mom. I thought it was gorgeous -- I'd even trimmed it with lace that was shot through with gold thread. I was very proud that my mother kept it in her cedar chest because it was "too nice" to use for everyday cooking. (It wasn't until I was much, much older that I realized my apron was much too frail to actually use.)

I finally got my first thimble when I took home-ec in junior high school. It was a mandatory component of our official sewing box. I still didn't use it though. It never fit right, it made me feel clumsy, and when I tried to push the needle with it, the needle slid right off. But I could manage to whip stitch my hems without a thimble.

But many years later, when I first began to quilt, I finally had to come to terms with thimbles.
Because unless you're quilting with a stab stitch, you need a thimble for that rocking motion that allows you to load several stitches onto the tip of your needle before you pull it through.

At first I attempted to use an ordinary metal thimble. But I had the same problems with it that I'd had in junior high. Then I tried using a long, white, leather thimble that seemed to cover about half of my finger. It too was very awkward, and the eye of the needle was soon poking through the leather and into my skin.

Fits like a glove!

I finally had some success with a smaller, black, leather thimble called the "Nimble." It has a little metal disk inside that protects you fingertip, and it's supposed to stretch and conform itself to your finger. And it did feel like a second skin to me. An opening at the tip left room for my fingernail and provided ventilation. But instead of putting it on my middle finger, I wore it on my thumb. I'm not sure why; maybe I'd accidentally bought a size too large. But it worked pretty well. I quilted away from myself, turning the hoop as needed. My thumb was stronger than my middle finger, and using it didn't require a cramped hand position which could irritate my old elbow injury.

Had to put this on my left had so I could click the camera with my right.
Eventually, as my fingers grew stronger and my hands more relaxed, I also learned to use one of those cheapo, pink, plastic thimbles. It's adjustable and, like my Nimble, has an opening for your finger nail which also lets your finger breathe. It has lots of little indentations on both the sides and the top which are deep enough to give the needle purchase when you're trying to push it through your quilt. It calls for a different hand movement than I use with the Nimble, but that's actually a good thing. "A change is as good as a rest," as they say. And being able to change hand position while quilting helps me to avoid strain.

Nowadays, using a thimble seems natural. I couldn't possibly blind stitch a binding without one! And sometimes, when my quilting is interrupted, I'll go off to deal with things forgetting that I'm even wearing a thimble. I guess we've finally bonded.

N.B. Bonnie Hunter is hosting a Thimbles Up! Linky Party today. Go see what she (and many other quilters) have to say about thimbles.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

An Unexpected Compliment

I've been taking my little niece to story hour at the local public library. Last week, as we hurried up the stairs to the children's department, several young teen-aged girls were clattering down. One of them paused, just for a nano-second, and blurted, "That's a cute skirt!"

I was surprised because I never would have expected someone her age to notice, much less compliment, something worn by a woman in her late fifties. I turned (because she was already past me) and said, "I made it." This time she really did stop and her jaw dropped. "The pattern is on the Sewaholic website," I told her. Then I turned and hurried after my niece who was eager to get to the library's Valentine program.

The skirt I was wearing was my second version of the Crescent Skirt which I'd made in a light weight denim. This pattern was designed for younger women so I had to lengthen it a bit. But I didn't have to make any other alterations, and it perfectly suits my pear-shaped figure while it disguises my middle-aged tummy.

I think I my lengthening technique may have been a bit inept because there was a point at the bottom edge of the center front:

I agonized for a while about whether or not to trim the edge to a more subtle curve. And I finally did so because I was planning to make a top stitched hem, and I didn't think I'd be able to turn it up smoothly if I didn't. And below is a close-up showing the nice topstitching on the waistband and hem. (One disadvantage of the denim was that I wasn't able to get a nice sharp point on the waistband.) This is a pattern I expect to use again and again because it is so easy to put together and so comfortable to wear. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Yard Sale Saturday

Bonnie Hunter is having a yard sale today and has invited all of her readers to join in. I have a few items, and given that I call myself a bibliophagist, it's not surprising that my offerings are books.

First up is a brand new copy of Charmed, I'm Sure by Lesley Chaisson. It's about making quilts from your collection of 5" squares. If you've been buying charm squares but can't figure out what to do with them, this is a book you'll want to have. The retail price is $24.99, but I'm selling this unused copy for $12.00 plus postage. SOLD!

Next up is a used copy of Applique 12 Easy Ways by Elly Sienkiewicz. There are some faint scuff marks on the front cover, but the rest of the book is like new. $6.00 plus postage. (The white lines you see on the left side of the cover are light reflections, not scuff marks.)

Finally, five copies of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine from 1989. I have a huge collection of QNM going back to the '70s, and they are so much fun to browse through. Lots of great patterns plus articles about technique, quilts, and quilters. And they're a nice look back at our recent history.

  1. February (#209) Very good except for small black mark on cover.
  2. March (#210) Very good except for small black mark on cover.
  3. July-August (214) Okay.
  4. September - Special 20th Anniversary Issue (#215) Like new! (N.B. I accidentally took a picture of a copy that has a price label on the lower left corner. I am actually selling a nicer copy without any price sticker.)
  5. November/December (#217) Good. Remains of an address label on front cover.
I'm asking $5.00 plus postage.

All payment through Paypal. If you want to buy any of these please email me. Click on my name in the "About Me" section on the sidebar to your right." Be sure to let me know if you prefer Priority Mail or Media Mail and include your zip code so I can figure postage. (Priority is faster, but Media is cheaper.)

For more great quilt-related goodies don't forget to visit Bonnie Hunter's Yard Sale Saturday where you'll find links to lots of other quilters' blogs.

Friday, January 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes - Nifty Tips Edition

Usually, when I do "7 Quick Takes," I'm posting on my book blog, Catholic Bibliophagist. But this time I'm sharing seven sewing tips here at Quilting Bibliophagist. 

1.  I've just discovered a nifty tool to remove the little wire fasteners that hold new buttons onto their cards -- an ordinary staple remover.

2.  When fusing interfacing to pattern pieces, trim off 1/8 - 1/4 inch off all of the edges. That way you'll never get fusible gunk on your ironing board. You don't have to be precise about this because the seam allowances are probably going to be graded (trimmed) anyway.
3.  I like to serge the cut edges of my fabric before I preshrink  it so that I don't end up with tangled shredded clumps in the washing machine. I usually serge right along the edge because I'm trying not to cut off any of my precious fabric. One day I was doing this while strong sunlight was pouring through the window and noticed that a very fine fabric dust was rising from the serger blade. And I realized that I was breathing in this stuff. So now I practice "safe serging" and wear one of these inexpensive painter's dust masks whenever I prepare a lot of fabric for the washer.

4.  I used to hate ripping out seams -- "hate" as in I'd rather have my tonsils taken out with a rusty spoon. But now I know the magic method. Using a seam ripper, cut every fourth stitch. Then flip the seam over and pull the long end of the thread. It will pull out in one long piece.  Then I flip the seam over again and use blue painter's tape to pull out all of the little cut bits of thread remaining on that side.

5.  When I reorganized my sewing room I came across a stray pattern piece that had been floating around for years. It was a facing from Simplicity 7184 -- but I had no idea which pattern that might be. I've got so many patterns that it would be very tedious to search through them all -- especially since they're not filed by number. Suddenly it occurred to me to run a Google search on the pattern brand and number.  In almost no time I was able to find a photo of the pattern envelope which I recognized as one in my collection. (N.B. The major pattern companies reuse their pattern numbers at widely spaced intervals, but by including "Girls" as a search term, I was able to narrow things down a bit.  (Yes, you're probably rolling your eyes and saying, "Duh!" But I'm still not a fully fledged citizen of the Internet Age.)

6.  Okay, this is only a tip if you're as dumb as I am. I've had trouble with my polyester bobbins getting mixed up with my cotton bobbins. (I like to use cotton on my quilts and polyester for garment sewing.) I've been sewing for decades, but it only just now ocurred to me that I can burn test thread just as I do for fabric. Cotton leaves a soft ash; polyester kind of melts into a hard bead.

7.  If you have to alter the length or width of a stitch, for heaven's sake write down the new setting if your machine is a computerized one which reverts to the default option whenever you turn it off. Because you will surely get interrupted and have to go away for a bit, and you will probably have forgotten your altered setting by the time you return. (Now that I'm middle-aged, I definitely consider Post-it notes to be a sewing notion.)

For more Quick Takes please visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary.