Wednesday, August 19, 2020

String Diamonds

Currently in the works is a string diamonds quilt based on the "Diamonds Are Forever" pattern from the book String Quilt Revival by Virginia Baker and Barbara Sanders.

I've had the book for a few years, and the instructions call for using a stabilizer called Sheer Delite to sew the string blocks onto.  It doesn't get removed, just becomes part of the quilt.

Well, try to find that stuff now.  After spending (too much) time searching the internet, it seems to me they may not make it anymore.  Or maybe it's sold under a different name.

So I figured I'd just use my trusty, old faithful phone book pages as foundations.  I have to remove the papers, of course, but I'm no stranger to that process and don't mind doing it.  It's a good thing to do while listening to an audiobook.  I just finished The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho through my local library, using the RB Digital app.

In searching for information on the stabilizer for the quilt, I happened upon a YouTube video tutorial by Tea Quilts. She was also using paper foundations to piece her "Diamonds Are Forever" quilt.  Excellent tutorial, by the way, and she includes instructions to make the kite-shaped template in the description box below the video (click on "Show More" to expand the box).

I use a diagonal line of Elmer's washable glue stick to secure the kite shaped piece to the diagonal of the paper, then just line up my strings along the straight edge and sew away.  No pinning required.  I work on about four blocks at a time, chain piecing them through the machine.  It hasn't been a problem to remove the paper where the glue was.  Even after pressing the block, the glue releases cleanly and there's no problem with tackiness on the fabric.

At first I was going to use black for the background fabric, i.e. the fabric you cut the kite-shaped pieces out of.  But after I made a few sample blocks, I wasn't in love with that color scheme.  Nothing else in the quilting fabric stash really grabbed my attention, but luckily I spotted a big piece of teal colored linen-like fabric that I'd bought to make a dress.  Well, the dress never happened and wasn't going to happen, so I tried making a few string blocks with the teal fabric and loved it!

I think it's cotton (or mostly, anyway).  I remember buying it at JOANN years ago from among the garment fabric bolts.  The weave is somewhat coarser in texture, but it drapes and presses well.  It seems to be doing very nicely in this quilt.

Man, there are some weird, wild, and wonderful fabrics in this baby!  I'm just grabbing from the scraps and strings buckets and bins as I go, trying not to overthink anything.  It's pretty amazing how little of a dent I've made in the strings so far.  Hopefully by the time I get done, I'll notice a reduction.

I've also prewashed and pressed fabric for another quilt that I need to get started on soon.  A whole lot of batik fat quarters here.  This quilt will need to be ready to gift in several weeks' time, so I may have to interrupt the string diamonds quilt to work on that.

I'm probably not going to be able to reveal much more about the batik project while I'm working on it in case the giftee reads this blog.  But I'll be sure to take lots of pictures that I can show after it's all done and delivered!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Masks, Mugs, and Quarantine Quilt Block

I've been making masks since March, like a lot of us have.  Five months in, and I'm still making masks.  I bet many of you are, too.

At first it was for myself and a couple of friends and family members.  Pretty quickly, though, I got involved in a local effort to make masks for the hospital and other care providers, EMTs, nursing homes, etc.  A small group friends and I made over 300 for a correctional facility in the course of a few days back in April.  

Since then, most of the masks I've been making have been for my sister's massage therapy business and for my sister-in-law Donna and some of her friends and coworkers at a local distribution center.  With school starting soon, lately there have been more requests for kid-sized masks. 

So the mask sewing has been pretty steady.  I've used a lot of my own stash and some that was given to me.  My SIL has been supplying some really cute fabrics lately, and there have been more special requests.  Some like splashy, bright colors or themes, while others just want black or gray.  

I enjoy working with any kind of fabric and I'm happy to make something to help keep people safe.  And it keeps me occupied and feeling productive.  It's not all I'm doing in the sewing room (more on that later), but one of the things.

I even learned how to use the lettering feature on my Brother machine for the first time.  That was interesting—and also a bit of a pain in the tush, if I'm being honest.  But a happy young woman wore this one (and I only made one!) to collect her high school diploma in June.

Also back in late March, my brother asked me for any ideas for sewing-related merchandise for his new home-based engraving business.  We bounced some things around and then worked out this design.

Celebrating the community of home sewers who have stepped up to fill the need for masks during the pandemic!

He also printed a sample for me on a t-shirt.  It was a perfect fit on Dolly, the mannequin.

We also worked together on another idea I had, Bobbin Chicken!  My brother is not a sewer, so I had to explain to him that bobbin chicken is the game you play when sewing with a dangerously low bobbin.  You forge ahead with your seam in hopes of finishing it before the bobbin thread runs out!  Not sure he totally got it, but he humored me.  We put together the design with the help of my daughter who drew the elusive bobbin.  And that's how Bobbin Chicken came to life!

(Bobbin Chicken Mug by DMP Engraving)
You can check out these sewing-themed things, as well as the full store at DMP Engraving.  He's been making a lot of neat stuff and is happy to help you create that unique item of your own. 

I'd been thinking about submitting a quilt block to the Quarantine Quilt project at Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts.  With just a few days before the deadline, I decided to use the design on the sample t-shirt as the basis for a quilt block.

I sent it in just under the wire, and now it and hundreds of others have been made into a Quarantine Quilt.  Actually, it's not one quilt; they were able to make 27 quilts from the blocks submitted from across the country and abroad!  

(Quarantine Quilt at Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts)
All of the Quarantine Quilts are now on display at the Wisconsin Quilt Museum in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.  I haven't been there in person yet, but I plan on it.  

In the meantime, they did a Facebook Live launch event recently, and I spotted my block in one of the quilts on display.  Below is a blurry screenshot of the video feed, but you can see it in the top row center.  

For more information on the exhibit and to see some of the blocks submitted for the Quarantine Quilt exhibit, visit the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts website.

How about you?  Have you made your own quarantine quilt, or a block for someone else's?  What direction has your creativity taken these past few months?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Peaks and Valleys

Many years ago, before I had my own blog and when I was just getting into quilting, I followed a few other quilt blogs and made mental note of the quilts I'd like to make some day.  This was before Pinterest, so I likely had those sources of inspiration bookmarked in my browser, in some less-than-ideally-organized system of folders and subfolders.  Sort of like my old recipe files where ripped out magazine pages and scribbled cooking instructions were tossed willy-nilly.  

Who am I kidding, I still do that with recipes.  Only now I'm printing them from the internet instead of ripping them out of magazines.  

Anyway, I finally made one of those quilts I'd unofficially bucket listed all those years ago.  The memory of it drifted back into my awareness as I was making an effort to organize the pile of thrifted shirts on a table in the sewing room.  (Hm, sensing a theme?)

Here is the link to the quilt that inspired me way back when.  Lynn called hers "Dragon's Teeth," but the pattern the quilt is based on is called "Lounge Lizards" by Karla Alexander, found in her book Stack a New Deck.  Somehow, in the intervening years, I'd bought two books by Karla Alexander, but not that one.  So first I had to buy the book I needed. 

I'd been using some solid scraps on the interior sides of the masks I was making, so was in and out of the box of solids regularly.  With this new project in mind, I sorted through the solids and put aside the colors I liked that were also big enough pieces to use.  I decided the background shirt plaids would be mostly blue, to give a sense of cohesion to the background and let the colorful peaks take the spotlight.

Sometimes a quilt is limited in size to the fabric one has available.   That was especially true for this quilt, since it was being made during coronavirus lock down.  I wasn't going to be going to a fabric store (or thrift store) anytime soon.  Although, ideally, I would have made a throw size, this ended up to be baby quilt size, which was just fine.

Once I had the blocks made, it was time to play with the layout on the design wall.  I tried three different configurations.

(Option 1)
(Option 2)
(Option 3)
Ultimately, I chose to go with Option 3, alternating columns of upward peaks and downward valleys.  

As I was putting it together, I thought of possible quilt names.  Maybe "Hide and Seek with Gnomes"?  "Plaid Peaks"?  "Peaks and Valleys?"  

When I posted a picture on Facebook, my cousin Juli said she saw "Vests and Pants."  That made me laugh!  (Once you see it, it's hard to un-see!)

I used a piece of fabric for the backing that had been in the stash for a very long time.  I'd originally intended to make a bag with it, but the statute of limitations had run on that idea, so it was fair game for this project.

Overall, I'm very happy with how it turned out, and I could see making a larger one, throw size, in the future.

I had one leftover block, which, after some multicolored wavy vertical line quilting, became a little mug rug.

There were also a bunch of leftover plaid triangles (cutouts from where the solid triangles went).  I sewed these together and then cut randomly shaped triangles from the made fabric.  

I envision a mini-quilt where these little "trees" are appliqued on a background.  Maybe a winter theme of some kind.  Don't you just love inspiring leftovers?

Linking to:  Can I Get A Whoop-Whoop?

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Watching and Listening

I wanted to tell you about a series I just finished watching on Amazon Prime over the past few days called A Stitch in Time.  My daughter tipped me off to it recently.  She thought it'd be something I liked, and boy, she was right!

A short description from IMDB reads: "Fashion historian Amber Butchart fuses biography, art and the history of fashion as she explores the lives of historical figures by examining the clothes that they wore."

For me, it ticked all the boxes.  Historical methods of clothing construction?  Check!  Art history?  Check!  Social and cultural conditions from the period?  Check!

In each episode, a small team of historical costumiers recreate a garment depicted in a period painting, which the show's host then models at the end of the episode.  They use materials and sewing methods that would have been used during that period.  The presenter may visit museums where similar pieces of clothing are held and preserved.  The garment is discussed in terms of how the fabric was produced at that time, what societal issues were in play, etc.

My only wish is that each episode were longer...and that there were more than one season.  Okay, that's two wishes.

It was originally produced in 2016 and, I assume, aired on British TV at the time.  I'm not sure how long it's been available on Prime.  I think it's also available on AcornTV.

Anyway, I loved it!  Maybe you will, too.

I listen to a lot of podcasts while I'm sewing.  Some of my favorites are Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell, Hidden Brain, This American Life, Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, WTF with Marc Maron, and many more.

Usually that's more than enough to keep me occupied in any given week, but the other day I explored a couple of recommendations that popped up for sewing-related podcasts.

One that I liked is called Stitch Please.  I've listened to about three episodes so far but plan to go back and listen to more.  I especially enjoyed the episode called "Sewing Supplies Beyond the Fabric Store."  Check it out in the link or wherever you get your podcasts (I use the Stitcher app).

And I am late to the party for The Great British Baking Show, but I've also been working my way back through all the seasons of that on Netflix during the past couple months.  Love it!  That was another one my daughter suggested a year or more ago already.  Took me a while to get around to it, but I'm glad I did.

One of the reasons I hesitated was because I thought watching it would make me want to bake (hence eat) more sweets, and I already struggle with keeping my sweet tooth in check.  But it really hasn't had that effect, thankfully. 

I thought I knew how to bake pretty well, but it turns out there's a LOT I don't know (like, most things!).  Getting to know the contestants and seeing their creativity shine through in their bakes is a treat.  And who can resist the way Paul Hollywood says "spoonge" or those ice-blue eyes?

How about you?  Any recommendations for must-see series, movies, or podcasts?






Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sunday Sundry 8-2-20

Perfect is the Enemy of Good
Oh, the posts I write in my head that never make it to Blogger!  I'll see something interesting, think about exploring this or that idea, and on and on...but it's all subject to a not-so-magical disappearing act all the same.  What was I going to write about?  Poof, it's gone.  Does that happen to you?  I bet I'm in good company.

Well, this week I started jotting down some of those ideas.  I probably won't cover a lot of them, but for today I'm resurrecting my old Sunday Sundry theme and we'll see if we can tick a few off the list.  Random things, in no particular order.

For the Birds
I love watching birds, ever since I was a little girl.  Listening to their songs, seeing and touching their feathers (dad was a hunter, and we had parakeets), marveling as our neighbor painted them on canvas or crafted decoys.

Two birdie highlights this week:

1) We have a pair of hawks hanging around in the yard.  They appear to be juveniles, maybe hatched from the same nest.  At first I thought they were Cooper's hawks or maybe sharp-shinned hawks, but their call is what sets them apart.  They sound like a kitten mewing!

It's different sounding than the catbird that we regularly hear in the mulberry tree.  We've seen the hawks flying from tree to tree and followed their calls as they perched in the branches.  They're skittish and wary, so getting a good photo isn't easy.  I tried.

From what I can gather doing a little research, I think they're red-shouldered hawks.  You can hear how they sound HERE.  I don't know how long they'll hang around, but I think it's very cool that they're visiting!

2) We took a walk on a nature trail around a local marsh early one morning this  week.  While there wasn't much doing on the water, at a certain point along the trail my gaze was drawn upwards where a group of about 50 pelicans were circling in the sky directly overhead.  Happily gliding on thermals, glimmering white bodies in the morning sun, black-tipped wings outstretched, around and around like slow-motion figure eights.  Absolutely mesmerizing!  Of course, that's the day I didn't have a camera, but it made my heart happy!

Strange Materials
We visited the Museum of Wisconsin Art recently.  We have an annual membership and usually get there a couple times a year, but like most places they'd been closed during the early months of the pandemic.  It was a nice little getaway from home, and it wasn't at all crowded (and we wore masks, of course).  This exhibit looked like a neat pattern on the wall around a large painting, but on closer examination, it was something else!

All the pattern work is done with cicadas!  The bell jars have other insects posed in interesting vignettes.  Quite creepy-cool!

Here's the blurb that went with the exhibit, if you're wondering how or why.

In case you need a palate cleanser after that, there was some interesting fiber art and mixed media as well. 

I especially enjoyed Chrystal Denise Gillon's whimsical collage series on sardine cans called "Mama Says."  I could relate to a lot these!


From "Mama Said" series by Chrystal Dillon



Okay, I think that's going to be it for today.  Not perfect, but good enough.  I'll leave you with a little mini I made after sorting through the scrap drawers. 

I've started a string quilt, which I'll talk about another time soon, in between all the mask making that's still going on.  Found some tiny yellow squares among the strings, just itching to be something, so I made this little mug rug. 

The back is from mask leftovers.

How about you?  Tell me something from the past week or two that hasn't made it to a blog or social media post.

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