Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sweet 16 QAL Progress

I am making headway on the 16-patches for the Sweet 16 Quilt-Along at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.
I started cutting the hand-dyed scraps into 2.5-inch strips.

Then I started making strata of four strips, each about 10.5 inches long, and then cut those into four pieces 2.5 inches wide.

Once I had a bunch of them, I started arranging the pieces into groups of four.

These are the 16-patches I have ready to sew together.

I'd like to make this quilt about 60 x 60 inches, and I'm hoping I can squeak it out of the scraps I have.  After the 16-patches are made, I'll still need a couple hundred 2.5 x 2.5 squares in the hand-dyed fabrics for the corners of the X blocks and the border. 

Here's the first X block. 

So we'll see how it goes!

I'm piecing this quilt on Brother Everett.  Things were humming right along until the time I forgot to change the default stitch setting after I first turned the machine on.  It defaults to 00, which is a straight stitch with the needle in the left position (WTH, Brother?), which would be okay—if I didn't have the 1/4-inch foot on.  Unfortunately, I did.

When the needle came down and hit the metal foot, Everett let out a very grumpy sound.

The machine stopped itself and the display read "ERROR."  No kidding, Everett.  No need to rub it in.

On any other of my machines, this would have meant a broken needle for sure.  But once I got the right setting entered, we were good to go.  The needle may have bent very slightly, though, because the next time I tried to use the automatic needle threader, it didn't work.  Hopefully, it'll be okay again once I change the needle, and Everett doesn't hold a grudge.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Many Things Monday

Brother Everett and I have been kicking the can further on up the road, metaphorically speaking, moving incrementally forward on a few different things.  Namely, a couple of backings for two quilt flimsies which have been on the design wall for a long enough time.

Here is a peek at the backing for the Tea Towel Challenge 2014 quilt.

The next step on the Tea Towel Challenge quilt is to machine applique around the fused feather/leaf shapes.  Now that I've gotten a little more comfortable with the new machine, I'm ready to get started on that job.

The backing for the improv quilt (above) is from a vintage fabric found at the thrift store sometime in the last six months.  Since it was only 30-some inches wide, I needed to sew two lengths of it together to make it wide enough.  

The next step on that quilt will be to machine quilt in the ditch, and then I may add some hand quilting in perle (pearl?) cotton.  I've never done that before, so it'll be a new experience for me.

Sarah is having a 16-patch quilt-along (see link on sidebar).  I've been unsure what kind of quilt I wanted to make with 16 patches, so I've dragged my feet a bit on getting started.  I did find some 2-1/2 inch olive and brown squares in the scrap bin, however, and just for kicks and giggles, I sewed what was left of those onto a variety of brown scraps, ending up with two 16-patches like so.

I love bright colors, but I'm also very compelled by earthy tones like this.  These are orphan blocks for now, but you never know when inspiration will come along and carry them away into another project. 

As I got to looking around the sewing room, I spied the lovely stack of hand-dyed fabric I'd won recently in the Crossing the Drunkard's Path quilt-along from Vicki Welsh.  Aren't they gorgeous?

I started grouping some of the pieces into light/dark (-ish) pairs and, in the process, hit upon an idea for the 16-patch blocks, to be arranged in a 16-patch and X's quilt (a/k/a Good Night Irene).  I just need to decide on the background fabric, but I'm leaning toward a light gray low-volume print in the stash, assuming I've got enough of it or can find more, if necessary.

I decided it was time to change up the office space Pyrex display.  So it went from this fall-like aggregation:

To this:

This seemed especially appropriate as Valentine's Day approaches, but really it's true all year round.  I *heart* Pyrex!

Here is something else I *heart* lately.  This will definitely make your taste buds tingle.

And your lips burn.  That's a good thing, right?

Friday, January 23, 2015

It Takes an Outage

Last night the cable went out for about four hours in the evening, which meant the phone, internet, and TV were all unavailable.  When it first went out, we were like, "You know, we should probably do something like this regularly, maybe pick one day a week where we don't turn on the computer or TV or anything electronic, except maybe the radio or stereo."  (All of a sudden I feel old for using the word people even have stereos anymore?)

See, normally at that time of night, Norm is watching something enlightening on television (*cough* TMZ ) and I am pretending to work at the computer while actually perusing blogs and pinning the internet.  Surely, we agreed, these are habits we can take a break from, from time to time.  

Stuff like that always sounds good, in theory.  Like giving up junk food.  Or fasting, voluntarily.  Something I have never done except in advance of a medical procedure.  Heck, I can't even starve a fever.

So, in our time of "darkness," we put some music on the stereo (there it is again) as I did the dishes.  We discussed an article in a local magazine about Native Americans in our area two centuries ago.  That was interesting.  Thirty minutes down.

Then I went to walk on the treadmill, but with no TV or Netflix to distract me, I became bored with the endeavor after a half hour, so I wandered into the laundry room and decided to wash a stack of fabric that's been on the shelf over the washer for, oh, three months or so.

A couple hours passed—still no cable—and though neither of us would admit it, we were both beginning to get a little twitchy.  Finally, I went to the sewing room, turned on public radio, and looked at Everett.  

Poor, neglected Everett, the Brother sewing machine I bought on a lightning deal on Amazon after Thanksgiving but hadn't so much as plugged in yet.  So I did.  

I turned him on. 

(Did you ever think you'd read that sentence on a sewing blog?)

A few minutes later, his bobbin was wound and he was threaded and ready (oh, brother...).

Soon I was experimenting with stitches and settings and such, manual close at hand for frequent reference.  Things seemed to go okay.  I made a little four-patch block from scraps to see how true the 1/4-inch seam guide was, and it came out right on.  I tried the blanket stitches and made a few adjustments to what I thought was the tension, although it could have been the presser foot pressure I fiddled with.  I didn't read the manual on that one, just turned a dial.

First impressions:  The machine is lightweight, and I can see carrying it to a class or on vacation very easily.  Another facet of that is it definitely feels more "plasticky," kind of like a toy versus the boat anchors that are my other heavy metal machines.  

More pros:  It's quiet.  It threads easily.  The bobbin drops in from the top with easy access. There are a crap-ton of decorative stitches.

I do notice I seem to be hunching over it while threading it or squinting to see the fabric being sewn.  Seems like I want to set it up higher on something to give me a better line of sight.  But that could be because it's new and I'm really focusing, intent on learning its bells, whistles, and idiosyncrasies.  

And you know how it is when you start driving a car with the shifter on the floor versus on the column?  That's how I am with grabbing behind the needle with my left hand to raise the presser foot when the lever is actually located on the right side within the harp space.  I'm sure I'll do the air grab many more times until I finally get it.  Speaking of harp space, there isn't a whole lot of it (for quilting), but that's what the Juki is for.

So we've broken the ice, me and Everett, and are off to a decent start.  I guess I can thank the cable company for that!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Being Green

Finished another kennel quilt for the pets at the animal surgery clinic.  

This one came about as I was cleaning up the cutting table of scraps.  I had taken the pants pockets off the scrubs to be repurposed for these kennel quilts.  Since they were roughly already rectangular or squarish, I assembled them nine-patch style.

As you can see, I didn't pay much attention to measuring or matching seams.  Just sewed them together and then squared up the center block.  Maybe rectangled it up would be more appropriate.

The wide green border is from the legs of a pair of scrub pants.  "It's not easy being green," Kermit would say (and your eyeballs may agree), but hopefully the pooches will find their recovery a little easier on this quilt.

I did an overall meander in a gray Aurifil that was already threaded on the Juki.  Plaid backing fabric via Goodwill.

This one measures about 33 x 33 inches.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Plaid Peaks Finished

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  Sometimes that's not a bad thing.

The doodle I'd drawn to be free-motion quilted on this wall hanging just did not work.  
 Neither did Plans B and C.  They seemed doable on paper and on the practice pad (below), but on the piece itself, not so much. 

After picking out the stitching for about an hour last evening, I finally just slapped on some blue painters tape as a straight-line quilting guide and called it a day.  Thus was quilted Plaid Peaks.  Sometimes it's best to K.I.S.S. (keep it simple).

The free-motion quilting was good practice, anyway.  I'll keep the ideas in mind to try again sometime.

Overall, I'm happy with how the wall hanging turned out.  The plaids were thrifted shirt scraps left over from a recent project.  

I'd been thinking about using some of the shirt buttons in some way, and how I ended up sewing them on was an impulse decision.  I'm okay with them for now, but if I wake up tomorrow and come to my senses am of a different opinion, they can be snipped off.

I do love plaids.  Must be those Celtic roots.  I've got a weakness for men in kilts too, but that's another story.

I've got my amp for sale on Craigslist.  A guy came over to check it out the other night, so I had to get out my guitar and make sure everything was working and sounding okay.  He played harmonica (and didn't buy the amp, said he'd think about it).  Meanwhile, I kind of enjoyed playing my guitar a little bit again after having ignored it for a couple years.  The next day, everything was still sitting out, and as I was listening to some music on YouTube, I picked up the guitar and figured out how to play this song.  Fortunately, the chords were pretty easy for a rusty gal with no callouses on her fingertips.  But holy harmony, these folks can sing a pretty, melancholy song.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Puttering is Progress

I had a slow work day on Monday, so I spent some extra time in the sewing room on odds and ends.  I mentioned to Lara that I was puttering, but that "puttering is progress."  She came back with the suggestion that "Puttering is Progress" be done in needlepoint and hung on our sewing room walls.  Great idea!  You heard it here first.

I got Plaid Peaks bordered and basted.  I also doodled a simple idea for quilting it.  We'll see how that works out in the next few days.

I also finished up a little table mat for the 1950s table I painted this past summer, which sits next to the washing machine in the basement.  This was an orphan 16-patch block that I didn't use for a quilt, but it needed to be made a bit bigger to fit the table.  I added a few more squares and a one-inch border.  

Instead of using batting and binding, I just lined it with part of an old muslin sheet and finished it like you would a pillow cover—sew three sides, turn right side out and slip-stitch the opening closed.  Then I stitched around the squares to hold the layers together.  I got that idea from a lady who sells quilted table runners at flea markets here in the summer.  She doesn't use batting, just muslin for the inner layer and no binding.

So now it's ready for the thankless job of catching laundry detergent drips, and I can just toss it in the washer when it gets dirty.

More puttering led to finishing this scrappy corduroy and flannel HST quilt.  It's doll quilt size.  

I didn't have a doll handy to pose with it—one that wasn't naked with all her hair loved off, anyway—so little puppy here was pressed into service.  He looked pretty eager to assist.

My daughter and I made this little guy in a mother-daughter sewing class at Nancy's Notions back about 15 years ago.  She got to use one of their new sewing machines in class, after which she told me we needed to buy a Pfaff.  See how marketing works? 

It was a very nice machine, but unfortunately for her, I didn't take the bait, happy as I was with my already vintage Singer.  But we made a cute puppy!

Puppy would like you to notice the fun flannel backing, and that it is simply quilted in the ditch—on that same vintage Singer, I might add, which is now 15 years vintage-er.  That's me talking there, not puppy.  

Puppy doesn't know anything about sewing machines, but he wanted to get close up to the quilting to see if it had a good smell.

Hard to tell what he discovered.  He's got quite the poker face.

It feels good to get a couple small items finished.  I'd like to finish the other couple UFOs and then decide what's next.  I see a lot of interesting quilt-alongs, finish-alongs, and challenges happening already in this new year.  Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Plaid Peaks

Now that the holidays are over, my sewing mojo seems to be tiptoeing back. vewy, vewy quiet.

I started playing with leftovers from the plaid circles quilt.  Good old's like "gateway" piecing, which is exactly what I needed.

Inspired by a flying geese quilt I'd seen on Pinterest, which linked to a tutorial for "Geese on a String" on Quiltville, I cut triangles from my already string-pieced scraps.

A little while later, I had a few geese made and started playing with layouts on the cutting table.  They look brighter than this in real life, and the background is less ashtray-esque.

(Center Squares)
(All Squares)
I've chosen one of the above layouts and sewn it together this evening.  I'll probably add a small border, and it will become a wall hanging.  I'm toying with the idea of jazzing it up with some shirt buttons from the thrifted plaid shirts...or not.  We'll see.

* * * * *
Thank you for your comments on What to do about Old Poly.  After thinking about it, I decided to leave the quilt top as is.  I began to see that this quilt was a testament to my grandmother's perseverance, that she found a way to continue doing what she loved to do despite failing eyesight and other challenges.  

I also love that her quilts were wonky before wonky was cool!  

The textured yellow double-knit is my favorite fabric of the entire quilt.

I washed it on the gentle cycle and tumble dried it.  One thing about polyester, it launders like a dream.  All the surface stains came out and the colors were once again bright as the day they came off the bolt forty-some years ago.  I repaired one seam that had separated, and just that little bit of hand sewing renewed my respect for anyone who hand pieces an entire quilt.  Now I'll tuck it back away until the next time I need a little inspiration from Grandma.

That reminds me, did you see Bill Volckening's post about his polyester quilts coming to QuiltCon?  He's got a good sampling of double-knit eye candy over at Wonkyworld.

* * * * *
In case you missed it, my Thoroughly Modern Lily quilt pattern is currently available free.  Click back one (or click here) for details!