Monday, November 26, 2012

Looking Up

When the day starts by having to call your credit card company due to fraudulent charges, things can only get better from there, right?  Well, so it seems. 

Actually, they had called me Saturday night, but since I was on the treadmill I let it go to voice mail and didn't listen to the message until Sunday morning.  I logged in to my credit card account online, and there it was, six different iTunes charges in two days, which I did not make, totaling just under $100.  So the company canceled my card and opened a new account with a different number.  They were very pleasant about the matter, which made me feel a little less annoyed about the entire situation.

Norm and I assembled my new cutting table last night without incident (unlike the bookshelf a couple weeks ago).  Thanks to Karen for the tip on this table, which adjusts up to 38 inches high.  I've got it set at about 36 inches, and my back is ever so grateful!  It's 59 inches in length fully extended, but the two side sections fold down and the legs move in, for a smaller footprint when you need it.  And I like the shelves on the bottom for storage.  I found this one online at

I don't have one of those large cutting mats yet, and a 24 x 18 inch mat wanted to slide around on the smooth table surface.  A strip of dollar store rubberized shelf liner underneath the mat solved that problem.

Here's some of the fabric I was cutting for a new project today.  Vintage Modern by Bonnie & Camille for Moda.  I love it!

I've got a mess in the sewing room again.  We seem to be playing musical chairs with the furniture.  The new cutting table meant I had to move the old sewing machine again, which meant moving this, that, and the other thing as well.  

Hopefully, it'll all come together eventually.

A Murder of Crows

I shot this video about a half hour ago, as a murder of crows harassed a hawk trying to enjoy its lunch on the tree branch in our backyard.  The hawk is sitting just off center, to the right of the squirrel's nest.  It was eating some kind of bird, as I could see a wing hanging below the branch.

The ruckus went on for 15 minutes after the hawk swooped away.  The crows were riled up!

Then I had to go listen to this song.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Busy Wheel

My sister admired the Carpenter's Wheel wall hanging I made around the holidays last year, so I put one together for her last weekend.  She likes jewel tones, and I had a couple of older Christmas fabrics left over from Mom's stash that I thought would be nice to use.
Instead of a plain lighter background, I used a text print with seasonal greetings that a friend gave me.  I'm not sure if it works or just makes the whole thing too busy.  It's a horse apiece, in my opinion.
But if Sis doesn't like it, I'll make her another one, and this will either become a gift or I'll hang it in the hallway.
The backing is a thrift store fabric find from earlier in the year.  I love that shade of vintage-y green.  All the Christmas fabrics have a metallic bit to them.
Although I haven't (and can't yet) show pictures of everything I've been working on, I am happy to have knocked out six wall hangings/minis/table runners, a half dozen pillowcases, and a few pairs of jammy pants over the past several weeks, and all that while the sewing room has been in a state of flux.  I feel pretty good about that!

One more thing to leave the sewing space last weekend was the 20-year-old TV.  It took both of us to haul the old behemoth up the stairs and finagle it into the back seat of the car because it wouldn't fit in the trunk.  We drove it immediately to Goodwill, where a stocky 20-something young man at the drop-off door came out to greet us.  After watching Norm labor to get it out of the car, he took it from him and then in one fluid maneuver rolled the whole set up onto one shoulder and walked into the building with it, saying, "Oh, it's not that heavy."  Norm and I walked in behind him, eyeballing each other and thinking the same thing: Show-off.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Overcoming Resistance

I was talking with friends on Saturday, commiserating about finishing unpleasant or boring tasks.  We weren't talking about cleaning bathrooms, but stuff like finishing the hand quilting on a big, heavy quilt or the outlining stitches on a cross stitch project.  We agreed that setting a finite amount of time each day to work on it was one effective method.  I mentioned the "I can do anything for 15 minutes" tactic that I have used.  It has gotten me over the hump of straight-up resistance and into the realm of action.  Once I'm doing the dreaded task, I can either choose keep going beyond the 15 minutes or quit when the timer beeps (yes, a timer is essential), knowing that at least I got started and have achieved at least some small sense of accomplishment.

Enter the timer today, for the long-procrastinated-on task of listing ugly Christmas sweaters on eBay.  That's the title of each listing, too, "Ugly Christmas Sweater..."  Apparently, there are holiday parties where this is the dress code.  Have you been to one of these?  I haven't but it sounds like a heck of a lot of fun!

So, over the past year, I picked up a few candidates for ugliest Christmas sweater on my thrifting adventures.  Norm says he will believe it when he sees any one of them sell, and with something like 30,000 plus current listings, there is certainly some stiff competition.  But I feel it's a good sign that I already have three people watching this one, which I don't even think is the best (or worst) one. 

Hang On Cats
My personal favorite is this one.  Holy snow globes, Batman!

Snow Globe City
And if this vest doesn't sell, I am seriously thinking of wearing it to our family Christmas party.  It is just awfully awesome!  And as an added bonus, it gives me a festive boxy shape!  :P

Let's Get Vest-ive!
Anyway, the timer...I set it for 30 minutes.  Then another 30, and another, and another.  Two hours it took me, gah!  But it's done now, so yay!

(We won't talk about all those leopard print and ruffly blouses I have yet to list.  One thing at a time.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Serendipity Table Runner Tutorial

Did you ever do an internet search for quilt ideas and be led back to your own blog?  Well, I can check that one off my list now.

I was looking to do something with a beautiful Moda Swiss Holiday charm pack I'd won in a giveaway earlier this year.  I Googled charm pack quilted table runner ideas, and after following this link and that, I ended up on somebody's Pinterest page where I saw that this nice person had pinned my own Scrap Challenge Block.

This block is pinned in real life to my design board just to the right of my sewing table, but you know how it is when you look at something so often you don't even really see it anymore?  Or how you can miss the forest for the trees, or, in my case, the trees for the forest?  Yeah, I'm kinda good at that.  I have had people I know wave at me from five feet away, but I didn't see them because I was looking over their heads to a vantage point 20 feet beyond.  I did that on election day to my neighbor.  I've done it to my niece at an adjoining restaurant table.  And try explaining that you aren't purposely snubbing someone, just being your usual preoccupied/absentminded self.  So embarrassing.

At any rate, it was nice to be reminded of that block in however roundabout a way.  Let's call it serendipity.  No really, let's call this table runner Serendipity.  (My first idea was to call it Triple X, but on thinking of the kind of traffic that might generate, it seemed appropriate to reconsider.)

I started by taking the charm pack apart and separating the squares by pattern and then by light and dark, large scale print and small scale, etc.  I determined that I could make a runner three blocks across using the Scrap Challenge Block as the basis.

Here is how it went together (click on photos to enlarge).

Each block will have a grouping of 2 light fabric squares and 2 darker squares.  I picked the large scale prints for my darker ones.  I'm calling these the background squares.

In addition, each block will use 4 other squares for the corners.  I used 2 almost "solid" squares and 2 small scale prints for these corner pieces.

You will make 3 X-shaped blocks for the table runner.  In the below photo, you can see the groupings I used for each block, arranged in 3 columns from left to right.  (Note that there are 2 identical charm squares stacked one on top of the other, which you can't really tell from the picture.  Just remember to use 2 of every fabric shown.)

Next, cut your background squares in half on the diagonal:

Then take your corner squares and cut a 1.5 inch strip off the side of each.  From the section that's left, cut a 3.5-inch square.  Further trim the 1.5-inch strips you initially cut down to 1.25 inches and set these aside.  These 1.25-inch strips can be used when you assemble the strip sets later on.

Take the 3.5-inch squares you just cut, and cut them in half on the diagonal.

This is what you should have so far:

You will also have a bunch of uncut charm squares left over.  Select about a dozen of these.

You will then cut your selected charm squares into four 1.25-inch strips.

Combine all your 1.25-inch strips, in a pile.  Well, really there's no law that says you have to make a pile, but I am a piler so that part makes me happy.

Now you can start reassembling them into strip sets of 4 strips each.  Mix it up, vary your strips, and have fun with it.

You are then going to sew your 4-strip sets back together to make 12 strippy sections for your blocks.  (You will have some strips left over, which you can use for something else, like a mini or get creative with your backing perhaps—or toss 'em; you won't hurt my feelings.)

At this point, I laid out all the pieces into 3 blocks, just to make sure I had it fixed in my mind how to sew these together.  I fiddled with the layout a little bit, swapping strip sets here and there until I was happy with the overall look of each block.

Block 1
Block 2
Block 3

Now it's time to sew the units together.  By unit, I mean one strip set, two background triangles, and two corner triangles:

First, take a strip set and sew the larger background triangle pieces along the long sides of the strip set.  Your strip set and triangle pieces won't match.  In fact, your background triangles will seem way too big.  They are.

Here's a tip:  The ends will overlap the strip set by one inch on the top and bottom edges.  I lay it on my cutting mat so I can equalize the overlap (centering the triangle placement) and pin at top and bottom.  Sew along the long edges, being careful not to stretch the bias of the triangle piece.  Just let it flow under the presser foot, nice and easy.

Press these triangles out and then trim the overhang even with the strip set.  I have rotated the block in this photo for trimming, but don't let that throw you.

Now take your corner triangles and sew them onto the remaining edges.  This time, your triangle pieces will fit better.  No need to stretch or pull to make anything match, just center the point of the triangle using the center of the strip set as a guide.  Easy peasy.

Press the corner triangles out.  And what's this?  It looks wonky, oh dear!  Never fear, we're going to whack it down to 5-7/8 inches square.  It will be okay.

Yeah, that's a weird and seemingly fiddly number, but your corner points will match really nicely this way, assuming you use a scant 1/4-inch seam allowance.  Just pay attention, especially with the first edge you trim off, that you have left a 1/4-inch seam allowance at the corner pieces.  See the asterisks on the photo below (which I magically cropped in my photo editor because I forgot to take a picture of the actual trimmed block.  I think you get the idea.)

Once all your units are sewn together and trimmed, you can then sew each of your three blocks together, then join the blocks into your table runner.

Ain't she purdy?

Quilted and bound, it measures about 32 x 11.25 inches.

If you have any questions or if something isn't clear, let me know.  And if you make one, I would love to see it!


November Finishes

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Assembly (Disassembly and Reassembly) Required

Scene:  The basement on a Saturday morning in November.  The husband, clad only in his tidy-whities, sits in a black leather office chair, watching his wife, clad in fleece PJs, pound nails—lots of nails—into the backing panel of a bookcase the two just spent far too much time assembling.  

Assembling incorrectly, that is.  The realization dawns on the wife as she notes the pre-drilled holes for the shelf supports on the outside of the bookcase, the one she just pounded lots of nails into.  She is a peace lover, this wife, but give her nails to pound and it becomes apparent that she enjoys the task perhaps a bit too much. 

Words are uttered, first by the wife and then echoed by the husband.  Some words have four letters.  None rhyme with "good" or even "okay" because they mean, in fact, the opposite.

Disassembly ensues.  This involves tools not on the instructions included with the bookcase.  Tools which include a pry bar, an exacto-knife (not pictured), a fork, and an ancient putty knife from the last millenium, which breaks under the stress.  Some of these tools would probably not have been necessary had the wife not been so zealous with her nail pounding.  But what's done is done, and now must be undone.

Wife methodically works the exacto-knife around each nail head, trying not to imagine other things she would rather be cutting out at this time.  She proceeds cautiously with this fussy cutting, as she does not wish the events of the day to include an emergency room visit, thus adding insult to injury (or vice versa).

Reassembly ultimately occurs as the errant board is righted.  Husband wears wife's garden gloves because his palms are sore from turning the screwdriver.  He is wearing garden gloves and tidy-whities.  It is a sight to behold.  Or not. Wife is sweating, and not in a good way.

No more bad words, the couple is joking and laughing.  The wife says she will have to blog this.  Husband offers his two cents for the post.  Wife does not listen.  She is happily pounding nails again—lots of nails.

* * * * * * *
And, um...voila?

I started folding fabric earlier in the week.  I have much more to fold, but this is a start.

The tchochkes are placeholders for now.

One bookcase down, one to go.

In addition to shelf construction/deconstruction/reconstruction, there has also been some sewing happening in the sewing room this past week.  For example, I made his and hers pillowcases for the holidays.

Alexander Henry's "Hurry Down the Chimney" for me, and "The Great Outdoors" for Norm.

I also started a table runner from a Moda "Swiss Holiday" charm pack I won earlier this year, using my Scrap Block Challenge idea.

I may do a tutorial for the table runner, if there is interest.

Linking up with Sarah today, ready to share the whoop-whoop-ing with others!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


It feels so good to have the futon out of the sewing room, thanks to the wonderful friend who took it off my hands.  It seems lighter and more spacious in there now.  After some cleaning and a bit of rearranging this weekend, the futon area has gone from this:

to this:

Things are still in a state of flux, though, as there will be some shelves going up for folded fabric on this wall.  I bought two of these units and they're awaiting assembly.  By the way, thank you for your links and suggestions on sewing space organization.  They were very helpful and inspiring.  I feel like I am moving in the right direction.

I also took six yards of fleece out of the room over the weekend by sewing it all into pajama pants, some for my daughter and some for myself.  Doesn't make for a very exciting photograph, but I am pretty excited to have new jammy pants that the seat hasn't worn through.  I pretty much live in these things when I'm at home (and, truth be told, I've been known to occasionally wear them to work in the evening too, when it's just me and the cleaning lady). 

The pattern is an oldie but a goodie.  Only one pattern piece for the pants!  Can't get any easier than that.  So why did it take me so long to get them sewn?  (Don't answer that.)

Many months ago, I won a gift certificate to Fat Quarter Shop from Tabatha at Bending Pins.  I finally used it last week to buy some Vintage Modern by Bonnie & Camille for Moda.  It's so pretty!

I ordered more goodies from (which hasn't arrived yet), as well as Hancock's, some of which came today.  This is from the Spintastic fabric collection by Laura Berringer for Marcus Brothers.

Some of the new fabric will end up in a very cool project I'll be working on soon with Sandi at Piecemeal Quilts, which I'm very excited about!  More details on that later as it unfolds.

Meanwhile, I have more Christmas stuff to get done, so I'd better get cracking! 

Greta Von Riding Crop
It was snowing this morning as I went to vote.  The holidays will be here in a blink!

PS - For Downton Abbey fans, while we wait for the new season to begin in January, have any of you been watching Upstairs Downstairs on PBS's Masterpiece?  I got hooked in the middle of this second season, and this past week watched the first season on DVD from the library and got caught up.  It's very good!  Claire Foy plays Lady Persie, an entirely different kind of woman than her sweet Little Dorrit character.

PPS - Happy 25th Birthday, dear daughter!  Love you lots!