Monday, April 21, 2014

H2H Check-In

Time for a progress report on the Hands2Help quilt.  Sarah has the linky running this week to check in.

It wasn't until this morning that I finally basted the Dancing Pinwheels quilt, but basted it is!

I had sidetracked myself making feathers/leaves for the Tea Towel Challenge quilt last week.  They were like potato chips—I could not stop at just one.

Now that my small design board is filled up with them, though, it seemed a good time to take a break and go back to the H2H quilt.

As I crawled around on the kitchen floor today pinning the quilt, I noticed how much better my shoulder felt. It has been taking its sweet time going through this bout of adhesive capsulitis, but I am seeing much more improvement lately.   I probably have 80% of normal range of motion now.  Strength is coming along as well, and I have been able to add some light weights to the routine.  And I recently got an exercise ball, which I'm not sure what all to do with, but this evening I lay back on it and watched part of The Voice upside down while  stretching out my pectoralis.  'Cause I'm all about the multitasking.  ;)

So I guess that's a progress report on three things.  Oh, and winter is finally gone (despite the snow last week), so there's that too.  Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Seeing What Sticks

I have started working on the Tea Towel Challenge quilt again.  I use the term "working on" loosely, as my idea is basically to make a bunch of stuff and see what sticks.

So far another border has been applied and now I'm piecing some shapes that resemble feathers (or leaves, flip a coin).  I'll show you how I'm making those in a minute.  I'm sure it's not unique, but it is fun and I like to share.

About the narrow border first.  You may recall that I sometimes like to use recycled fabric from clothing, etc., in quilts.  A few years ago, a fellow blogger was willing to part with a sleeve from a funky 1970s shirt she had thrifted, and I was happy to accept her offer.

When I pulled fabrics for the Tea Towel Challenge a few months ago, that shirt sleeve was among the possibilities, albeit a remote one.  It sat on the pile and eventually fell to the sewing room floor the other day, forcing me to take note of it again when I picked it up.

One thing led to another and before you know it, I had it sliced into strips and banged on as a border.  It seems to work, I think, and it makes me smile that I was able to use it after all.

Now the feathers (or leaves, whatever).  I'm excited about those!  They started as trimmings from the orphan blocks I recently made into quilt-as-you-go-blocks for a charity quilt.

The black strips are cut 1 inch wide and the white strips are 1-3/8 inches (only because I was cutting a 2-3/4 inch strip in half).  I cut all the strips about 4 inches long.  Each feather/leaf uses 8 white strips, 6 black strips, and one longer black strip, about 7 x 1 inches, for the center.

Then I laddered and sewed them together, 4 white and 3 black per side, alternating white and black strips.  Since they were to be trimmed at an angle in the next step, I offset the edges by about 3/8 inch as I sewed each strip on. 

To trim them, and give them the proper angle, I placed both sets along the 60-degree line on the cutting mat.  One set is placed wrong side up, because it will mirror the other set, as you'll see further below.

Trim along the line.  

See how that works?  Then you sew the longer black strip down the center.

For the shape, I made a paper template by folding a 7 inch square of paper into fourths and cutting an oblong, fat feather shape.  Then I traced this onto my pieced fabric and cut it out.

Pretty cool, huh?  They're ready to applique, whenever I figure out exactly how I'm going to incorporate them into the Tea Towel Challenge quilt.  

Right now, I'm just having fun!

Linking to:
Sew Darn Crafty
Linky Tuesday

Monday, April 14, 2014

Egg-cellent Idea

Did you know you can cook perfectly "hard-boiled" eggs in a vegetable steamer?  I'm talking one like my trusty Black and Decker here.  

Up until a couple days ago, it only ever saw the likes of brussels sprouts, asparagus, and that sort of thing.  But I thought I'd try cooking some eggs in it this weekend, and now I will probably never boil eggs on the stove again! 

The eggs don't actually boil, of course; they just hang out in the steamer basket and cook as if they had bumped around in a pan full of water.  But there's no pot watching involved and no worrying about them bonking into each other and cracking, or maybe that's just me.  Just set it and forget it (and pardon me for sounding all infomercial right there)!

When the the timer goes off, you take them out (use tongs because those suckers are hot) and put them in cold water to stop the cooking and cool them down.

Perfecto!  (Love the shell color too.  I forget what kind of chicken lays that lovely greenish-gray egg.  My egg lady gets a variety pack of chicks, and I love seeing the different eggs as they start laying.)

These went 25 minutes, but they probably don't need quite that long.  Next time I'll try 23 minutes and see how we do.

Deviled eggs, anyone?

Linking to:
Sew Darn Crafty

Linky Tuesday

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Catch-Up

I've finished the Hands2Help flimsy and have the backing and binding ready to go.  Now I just need to mop my kitchen floor and get to basting it, probably on Saturday morning.

I was W@lmarting the other day when I passed the fabric department and noticed a load of bolts in a bin in the main aisle marked down to three dollars a yard.  These included quite a few decent quality fabrics (i.e., Fabric Traditions, also sold at Jo-Ann, Hancock, etc.).  Since I needed backing and binding for two quilts, I dug and wrestled and rooted through the bin, finally unearthing a few things I liked.

Overall, things seem kind of slower at the moment in the sewing department, but I took time recently to look back at my informal to-do list from earlier in the year to see how I did in the first quarter.
All those red strike-throughs?  I'm pretty happy with that!  I'm down to one remaining flimsy (Fan-tastic) that needs quilting, in addition to the current charity quilt for H2H.  Then I need to get serious about finishing the Tea Towel Challenge quilt this month.  Inspiration, where are you?

After that, I hope to start one from the bucket list.  That'll be fun!  In case you can't read my scribbles at the top of that tattered scrap of paper, that includes a plaid recycled shirts string quilt (like this one), an Irish Chain quilt or some variation thereof, a clamshell quilt (like this one, maybe), a Scrap V quilt, some other kind of string quilt, and/or an "Illusion" quilt (one that creates an optical illusion, like this one).  Then there's the possibilities of a Winding Ways, Storm at Sea, and...oh, the bucket overflows!

Last weekend, we saw the movie Saving Mr. Banks and I really enjoyed it!  

It's funny, but I don't remember seeing the Disney movie Mary Poppins when I was young, although I'm sure I probably caught bits and pieces of it at one point or another on TV.  The music from the movie is very familiar, of course.  We sang it in school chorus, on the playground, etc.  After watching Saving Mr. Banks, I am intrigued to read the original Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers, and then see the Disney movie version.  

Further in the realm of entertainment, I started watching An Idiot Abroad on Netflix last night, and it totally cracked me up.  After I shut off my tablet, I literally laughed myself to sleep!

On a more serious note, this Heartbleed computer bug news has me sitting up straighter this morning, reading about it.  I found good information and some helpful links in this article at NPR to make it easier to stay on top of the situation.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Tip on a Tute and a Tasty Thing

This week fellow Hands2Help-ers are invited to share a "tip, tute, and/or tasty thing" at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.  I can do that!

Since I discovered Pinterest last year, I've been adding all sorts of interesting tutorials to my Quilt Tutorials board.  One that I pinned recently has become the basis for this year's Hands2Help charity quilt.

It's called Dancing Pinwheels, a free block pattern I found over at Little Miss Shabby.

Well, I'm a sucker for pinwheels, not to mention colorful quilts that are scrap and stash friendly.  This seemed to hit all the marks.

The block called for 5-3/8 inch squares, cut on the diagonal to make your HSTs.  However, I wanted to use a charm pack I had on hand, so I adapted the block pattern to use 5-inch charm squares.

That meant that the setting triangles surrounding the pinwheel had to be a slightly different dimension as well.  Honestly, I just guessed at what those new dimensions might be—and it worked!  I cut 9-inch long rectangles from strips measuring 4.5 wide.  Then I cut those rectangles on the diagonal to make the setting triangles.

Here's another tip which came about through trial and error when I made a sample block.  When you sew the setting triangles to the pinwheel, you're going to want to have the broader, right-angle end of the triangle (not the skinny, pointy end) hanging over the edge of your pinwheel square by 1/4 inch.  That's in the upper right corner in the photo below.  You don't have to worry so much about where it hangs off on the opposite end of the seam.  It only took me having to rip out four seams before I got it right.  Just trying to save someone else the hassle and potential discouragement.

See below, where I've pinned that end in place, ready to sew it.  See how it overlaps the edge by a quarter inch?  You definitely want to use pins on this seam, too, because this is the bias edge of the setting triangle that you're sewing down and you don't want it to stretch.

The Dancing Pinwheels quilt has two blocks, an A block and a B block, which is the reverse of A.  You need to make 10 A blocks and 10 B blocks. That only became apparent to me as I started to sew the blocks.  

I am a visual person, so I scribbled what a B block looked like on the bottom of the page and believe me, I have referred to the drawings frequently!  Apparently, I'm easily confused.

The blocks, as modified for charm squares, end up to be 11-3/4 inches square (unfinished).

Now how about a treat?  Any gluten-free quilters out there?  I bet there are a few more than there were four years ago when I started blogging.  There is more awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and I suspect there are a lot more people recognizing that they feel better not eating gluten.

I made these gluten-free double chocolate cookies the other day.  It makes a small batch, just one cookie sheet full or about 12-15 cookies.  They stir up with a spoon in one bowl, and bake in 11 minutes, which means you can whip up a quick batch and get back to quilting with minimal interruption.

Here's the recipe:

Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Cookies

1-1/2 cups almond meal flour
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1/3 cup maple syrup (I substituted 1/3 c. granulated white sugar, as my syrup supply was running low)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup melted coconut oil OR ghee
1 egg
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix everything together with a spoon in a small bowl until well combined.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass (I put a piece of waxed paper between the glass bottom and the cookie dough so it doesn't stick when I'm flattening them).  Bake for 11 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet 10 minutes.  Remove to rack to continue cooling.

Especially yummy while still slightly warm and gooey!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Few Things

Here are the last three quilt-as-you-go blocks finished this week for the Soy Amado charity quilts.
These and my other orphan blocks have now been mailed off to Leila in Iowa, who will get them to Alison to be sewn together into quilts for street children in Mexico City.
There are some wonderful, colorful quilts resulting from this block drive.  You can check them out at Little Island Quilting.

* * * * *
We did a little thrift store shopping last weekend.  I found these Sigvard Bernadotte-designed china cups at St. Vinny's.

They are smallish in size, a little bigger than a demitasse but smaller than a standard coffee cup.  I think they may have been part of a hot chocolate set.

Love the modern, no-nonsense design and functionality.  They fit perfectly into the curve of your palm, great if you like to warm your hands the way I do.  I'm guessing they were produced in the 1970s maybe (?), by Johann Haviland, Bavaria, Germany.

* * * * *
Lately, I've been serenaded at night by a newcomer to the neighborhood.

Great Horned Owl (Image Source: Wikipedia)
"Hootie" perches in a tree just outside the house in the wee hours and starts making his presence known.  It's fun to imagine he's trying to deliver a message, like Hedwig in Harry Potter, but he's probably just establishing his territory.

If you believe in spirit animals, "When an owl shows up in your life, pay attention to the winds of change. Perhaps you are about to leave some old habits, a situation that no longer serves you or bring something new in your life."

I'm too much of a realist to put stock in such things, but it is interesting to ponder. The winds of change I'd really like to feel about now are the ones that blow in warm spring weather.

As owl calls go, his is fairly soft and soothing.  (You can hear samples HERE).  Although its repetitive nature means that about the time I nod off, he hoots another chorus.

It could be worse.  Just over the hill, about two blocks away, there was a barn owl last fall with the most blood-curdling scream.  (Samples HERE)  I would hear it in the evening just after dark as I took a walk.  I don't know how anyone living in the vicinity managed with all the ruckus.

But if they keep the population of furry critters down in my flower garden this summer, I'm good.  

Nature...gotta love it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

More QAYG Blocks

Got a few more orphan blocks quilted this week for the Soy Amado charity block drive.
These blocks date back to the beginning of this blog in 2010.  I was thinking of making a bento box quilt at the time, but it fizzled.  It's still on the bucket list, though.
It feels good to finish these up quilt-as-you-go style and send them off to where they'll be made into colorful quilts for those in need.

Again, just doing what seems natural when I sit down to quilt these.  I have always wanted to try wishbone quilting, but my attempts on paper have been pretty wonky.  Well, it came out just as wonky in the actual quilting too, but hey, that's why it's called practice.

Looks better from the back, perhaps.

* * * * *
Last Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of hearing the fabulous Jeni Baker of In Color Order talk about her quilts and her career as a pattern and fabric designer!

She spoke to a group of us at Mill House Quilts in Waunakee, Wisconsin, within easy driving distance for me, and the weather cooperated, thank goodness.

It was fun and fascinating to hear about her quilt making experiences and what sounded like a true Cinderella story when it came to her entry into the world of fabric design.
I loved seeing her trunk show.  So much wonderful color and pattern!
I was especially enamored of this one (below), an early quilt of hers replicated from a quilt her grandmother had made:

We even chatted a little bit before her talk, about Pyrex, her bunny George, and the joys of thrifting. 

Her new fabric line, due out in April, is an ode to her love of vintage linens, called Dreamin' Vintage.  I meant to tell her that her Lazy Daisy Raspberry reminds me very much of a bedspread and sheet set I had on my bed back in the day.
I probably got a little carried away by asking for a photo with her, but she happily obliged.  I am a giant by comparison to her petite frame, so I squatted down a good bit for this shot.  Work those quads!

Jeni was such a delight to hear speak.  Her energy and bubbly enthusiasm was infectious, and I left with a big smile on my face.  
And a little bit of fabric too!