Sunday, February 17, 2019

Progress and Thrift Finds

Work on the string basket blocks has continued, amounting to a total of 17 so far.  Here they all are on the design wall.

I may make a few more.  I have enough string basket bases cut for at least three more blocks (and there are a lot more shirt strings where those came from), but I'm running low on many of the solid scraps.  For each block, I used three different variations on that color scheme (three oranges, three pinks, etc.).  For the last aqua/blue block, though, I had to sub in a periwinkle solid.  It seems to have worked out.

I'm going to let the project sit for a bit, and we'll see where it goes eventually.  Still not sure if I'll end up setting them like this, or with some kind of sashing between, or turned completely differently.  To be determined...

Meanwhile, I cleaned up the string mess (you know how that can just take over a sewing space, right?), and I got back around to finishing up another quilt top.  Also made with thrifted shirts.

This was tricky to photograph in the house on this dreary winter day.  It's one of those quilts that's cozier feeling in real life and less—what's the word—discombobulated? 

I do like how it's turned out and am working on making the backing for it now.  That will also be from thrifted fabric, as it happens.  Not shirts, though. 

Speaking of that, we got out of the house yesterday (it's been a wild, wild winter lately; cabin fever is real, y'all).  We took a short drive to a neighboring town and hit the St. Vinny's there.

While I perused the fabric and craft section of the store, Norm wandered off and picked up a beautiful cougar!

She was super cheap (three bucks!), so of course we brought her home.  :)

She needs a little bath (the glass and frame), but with a tiny bit of TLC, she'll be good to go.  Or stay, as it were. 

I've got quite a collection of vintage paint-by-numbers, but it's still a thrill to find one, especially if it's well done, when we're out thrifting.  We've noticed we don't see them nearly as often as we used to.  I just checked eBay to see what the online market is like for these lately, and it looks like they have an identical cougar paint-by-number currently for $79.99.  Note to anyone who may have to clean out someone's attic, basement or garage:  Don't throw these in the dumpster thinking they're junk.  At least drive them to the thrift store where they can be joyfully found by the next PBN collector or nostalgic lover of kitsch!

Meanwhile, back in the fabric and crafts section, I had found a half yard of fabric and a nice hardcover quilt book from the mid-1990s.

Just look at these sweet quilts!

This Birds in the Air pattern really has a vintage vibe to it, doesn't it?  Love it.

And Sunflowers, yellow and blue is such a classic combination.

It's always a great day when you can go shopping with a ten dollar bill and come home with such fun finds and $4 in change!

Saturday, February 2, 2019


It's been an extremely cold week here in the Upper Midwest.  But the mercury has risen a full 60 degrees higher than where it was just a few days ago.  It's a balmy 35 degrees Fahrenheit right now, and foggy and drizzly.  

A perfect day for baking. 
I just tried a new recipe for carrot banana muffins and it was AMAZING.  You can find the recipe (and much better pictures) HERE.  I've eaten two fresh from the oven, and think I'm going to need to have my husband hide the rest from me.  They're that good.

And the house smells wonderful, wafted with the scent of warm cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger baked goodness.

As I was grating the carrots for this recipe, I remembered a crafty project I had done back in the fall (when I was on a break from blogging).  It was a creative idea for repurposing a kitchen grater from Carlene at Organized Clutter (link to the how-to).

How many vintage graters have I walked past at the thrift stores over the years?  And now that I'd found a sweet little crafty use for them, do you think I could find one?  Of course not.  Thankfully, there was eBay, where the best deal happened to be on a two-fer.  If one is good, two is "grater", right?

Instead of chalk paint, as the tutorial mentions, I enlisted the help of my hubby who is pretty good with a can of spray paint.  He hung them from the clothesline on a nice day and gave them a good going over with some cream colored Rustoleum we had sitting on a basement shelf.

Then I gave them a little shabbying up with a bit of sandpaper and used some brown wax, otherwise known as shoe polish, to further distress them.  Then went over the whole thing with clear wax and buffed with a soft cloth.

I thought I'd probably find the label holders in the scrapbook section at JoAnn, but that was a bust.  I found them instead on Amazon.  

I had fun creating the magnets from old buttons, a metal bobbin, and a dab of hot glue.

That's me and my grandma, the one I had mentioned in the last post.  She had come from Louisiana to visit us back in the 1960s.  While she was here, we drove to Door County, Wisconsin to pick cherries.  From the look on my face, they must have been a little sour.

And that's my dad when he was a young teenager, having picked a bag of garden lettuce on the family truck farm.

I initially thought of these as Thanksgiving decor, but I still have them out on display.  Being grateful is always in season!

Monday, January 28, 2019

More String Baskets

I've been plugging along on the string basket blocks.  As of this past weekend, I had eight finished.  Here they are on the design wall (which is reverse flannel side of a vinyl gingham print tablecloth; if you notice the hint of a checked pattern behind the blocks, that's why).

I've got another four in the works right now, in various stages of being put together.  I'm running low on some of the solid colors.  I thought about maybe introducing purple and/or a different blue or green, but since I don't have enough (or any) of those in the solid scraps box, it's not really an option.  While I could make a trip to the fabric store, the whole idea was to utilize my scraps, so that's that.  When what I have is gone, I'm done with the blocks. 

They are quite large, about 13 inches square, unfinished.  So I'm sure, depending on how I decide to set them, there will be enough for a decent sized quilt.

While I was in the sewing room this week—which also happens to be a storage area for a lot of other stuff, including papers and keepsakes from my late mom and dad—I happened upon an old cassette tape.  I popped it in an old boombox and heard my grandmother's voice.  On the other side of the tape was my aunt's voice.  Both were recorded in March 1982.

My grandmother was losing her eyesight due to macular degeneration, and reading and writing letters had become difficult for her.  Instead, she exchanged cassette tapes with her daughters who lived out of state (we lived in Wisconsin), wherein they shared family news and other happenings.  These were the days before email and cell phones, of course.  When long distance telephone rates were high (a one-hour phone call could cost as much as a tank of gas), but postage to mail a cassette tape was cheap.

So there was Grandma, maybe sitting out on her porch (from the sound of traffic passing) on a spring day in the deep south, talking about a cousin's wedding she'd recently attended, her azaleas in bloom, and other things.  On Side B was my aunt in Texas, talking about similar things in her "letter" to Grandma, about her roses and what else she was planning to do in her flower beds, etc.

I wanted to transfer this tape digitally, both to preserve it before the tape broke or degraded further, as well as share it with my siblings and cousins.  So that was my other project this past week.

Thankfully, I'd pinned a tutorial on this subject that I'd run across a few months ago.  I followed the instructions, bought a patch cord for $7.99, and using free Audacity software, was able to transfer the tape to my computer and save it digitally.  
Source:  Bespoke Genealogy
Instead of burn the new audio file to a CD, I uploaded the MP3 file to my (free) account on SoundCloud and shared the link with my cousins, etc.  Got some nice feedback.  One cousin said it brought tears to her eyes to hear Grandma's voice again.  Both Grandma and my aunt passed away in the 1990s. 

As much as they communicated this way over several years, I don't think many of these tapes survived.  Wouldn't it be neat, though, if some day, someone finds one of my mother talking to Grandma with our family news at the time?

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Basket of Strings to String Basket

Isn't that a lovely, tidy phrase: Basket of Strings to String Basket?  One can almost picture the Quilt Fairy waving a magic wand, and when the harp sounds diminish and the sparkly fairy dust settles—POOF!—there it is!

It sounds so much better than: To deal with the piles of scraps that couldn't be crammed into overflowing drawers, I sewed them together with no real plan, and eventually decided to make a basket block.

Guess which one is the more accurate description of how it went down this week?  

Hint:  Some people have cute baskets of fabric in their sewing rooms.  I am not one of those people.

Hint #2:  There was no magic wand involved.  Unless you count this gadget.

Yes, friends, I have piles (not that kind, thankfully).  Piles of scraps, piles of strings.  One rather large pile, in particular, of shirt strings.  Leftovers I've dangled above the trash but just couldn't let go. 

So I started sewing them end to end into slabs this week.  After making a few slabs, I thought maybe they might end up as a stacked coins quilt.  Which, come to think of it, is another variation on piles.  (Not that that's a bad thing; I do like coin quilts.)

Then somehow I got to looking at basket quilts on Pinterest.  I have long admired them, especially string baskets.  Haven't made one yet, though.  I also thumbed through a few string quilt books (also in a pile on the sewing table).  I saw a cute basket quilt in the same book, Simply Strings, that inspired the happy little quilt in the previous post.

Could I cut the baskets in the right size from from the slabs of shirt strings I had been randomly piecing?  Yes.  Yes, I could.

And so I did.  I tried one block.  Unfortunately, the first one was off in size (my error), so I had to take it apart.  I tried another.  It worked!

Now I'm on a roll.  I don't know if I'll follow the layout for the quilt in the book or do something else.  But I'm aiming for at least 12 blocks and will go from there.

I'm using some solid scraps for the "flower" parts, the HSTs above the string basket.  My box of solid scraps is overflowing; the hope is that I'll at least be able to close the lid on it once I've used some of them for this project.

A couple tips I've gleaned from making other string quilts:  First, freezer paper.  I tear off a large sheet and lightly press it, shiny side down, onto my ironing board.  This protects the ironing board cover from the next step, which is spray starch.  Starching the string slab helps stabilize it and keeps the pieces from shifting or stretching as you work with them.

I also made a template for the triangular shape of the basket out of freezer paper (cut a square, then cut on the diagonal, which gives you two triangular templates).  I press those onto the string slab and then take it over to the cutting mat to cut out the triangles, using the freezer paper template as my guide.  After you peel off the paper, you can reuse it several times.

Are you making something with strings? 

Linking to:  Confessions of a Fabric Addict - Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Happy String Flimsy

This week I managed to get the first string quilt of the new year to its flimsy stage.  I really like the way it turned out!
I used the Crafted Applique technique for the leaves along the vine and the bird.  I have used this method of applique on a few other things in the past, with great success.

This time around, I had some issues with the adhesion of the appliques pieces to the background fabric, and I suspect it may have been due to one of two things, or maybe a combination:  (1) My new iron doesn't get as hot as my old one did, even on the "Max" setting;  (2) My jar of Mod Podge for Fabric is a couple years old and seemed a little thicker/drier than usual.  Maybe that affected its stickiness?

Nevertheless, the pieces did adhere long enough for me to keep them in place to edge-stitch down.  When I quilt the piece, everything will be further secured and it'll all be just fine.

For the outer border, I turned a black and white floral design fabric "wrong" side up, so that it would appear more muted and not detract from the central design.  I was a little hesitant at first, but I think it worked out well.

Norm hadn't seen this project at all until I had the flimsy on the design wall.  His first comment was something about The Partridge Family!  I had to laugh, as I had not thought of that at all.  But now that he mentioned it...

Maybe I was unconsciously channeling my '60s/'70s childhood?  And here I thought I was just making good use of the scraps in the solids bin.

Regardless, we may have hit upon an idea for a name for this little quilt!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Finishes and Starts

During the past couple of months, I finished the Carolina Chain quilt top.

It is patiently awaiting its trip to the longarm quilter at the moment, along with another one.  They have to age just right, you know!  :)

After that, I started a quilt to use some of my many (many, many) thrifted shirts. I had a bag of strips and shirttails left over from the Plaid Circles string quilt.  

The inspiration was a quilt by Nannette of New York. I thought it would be a good way to use up my extra strips in the centers of the blocks.

Here is a progress photo as of mid-November.  I have since finished piecing it and have begun webbing the top together.

That's been temporarily interrupted this week, however, with a little string quilt project I started, using the bin of black and white strings.

Some of these strings are eight or more years old, and they've been used in various other quilts. Like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one.

So they've been around the block several times, and are ready to be retired into this project, I think.  It should finish off a lot of them, and that makes me happy!

My inspiration is this quilt, "Hope for Tomorrow," found in the book Simply Strings by Rana Heredia.

I'm following the pattern more or less just roughly.  My available strings are dictating the size of the piece, which will hopefully end up being a nice sized wall hanging.  I'm a-okay with that.


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