Friday, May 20, 2022

Spring is Popping and a Curb Pick

After a long cool spring, it finally got warm—very warm, and very quickly—and everything turned green, popped, and took off!  I mean, it seemed like in just a couple days' time.  I remarked on a friend's Facebook post that my daffodils were barely up a couple inches, then bam, they were blooming, and now, a few days later, they've already called it quits. 

One day I came around the north side of the house to see the bleeding heart bush coming back nicely but no blooms yet, and it seemed like the next, there were pink hearts all over it!  Now it's the lilacs.  Here today, gone in a short few.  Such is the season.

So I did what we do here when it seems we've finally rounded that corner to warm weather.  I bought flowers and mulch and dirt, and set to work cleaning up last year's garden debris, turning soil, and planting pots.  There's not much to show for it yet except aching knees and whatever the heck I did to hurt my left foot, but hopefully that'll all get better as fast as things in the garden are growing.

A couple weeks ago, we were out for a neighborhood walk during a time when the city sanctions its semiannual "bulk pickup."  That's when residents can put out larger pieces of furniture and other stuff that doesn't fit in the regular weekly trash container.  Just about every street has the usual lineup of defunct Hoovers, decaying sofas, and banged-up headboards.  I am not above a good trash-picking, though, so I keep a casual eye out for treasure on our walks.  

The hubs is wary of my penchant for adopting others' castoffs, but he should trust me by now.  He's still using a bedside table I gleaned from the curb years ago and repainted with a faux marble finish.  And there was that lovely-but-rained-on vintage typewriter that turned into a nice bit of green cash.  And remember the Red Wing crock that's now holding a plant in our living room?  Just a few of my trash-picked treasures.

(2018 - Can you believe someone put this beauty at the curb?!)

So when I pointed out a bench on our recent walk, I got the usual resistance.  "We don't need that!  Where are you going to put it?  It's nasty, and I'm not carrying it," and so on.  But by the time we reached our house a couple blocks later, he agreed to hop in the car and retrieve the bench.

Isn't she pretty?  Okay, maybe not cosmetically, but she was sturdy.  Good bones, as they say.  

I sanded her down as best I could—and there were more layers than a Swiss Colony Dobosh Torte—or as best as need be, since she was just going to go back outside to serve a supporting role for summering houseplants.

A couple coats of exterior paint and voila!  I'm sure it won't be long until the weathered patina returns, but at least she had the full spa treatment in the interim.

Not much sewing has happened for a couple weeks while I did other things in the fine weather.  But yesterday I started on my Table Scraps Challenge for May, so I won't be totally empty handed by the end of the month link-up.

So tell me, do you have a favorite trash-picked success story?


Sunday, May 8, 2022

What I Did When I Wasn't Blogging - Part 2

It's Mother's Day as I'm writing this, and I wish you all a happy one!  I had the good fortune of spending the day yesterday with my daughter and her boyfriend, and we had a wonderful time on a sunny and warm spring day!

Okay, so catching up on a few other things I did while I took a break from blogging in March and April.  I made a couple of kennel quilts for the veterinary surgery clinic where my daughter works.  This was again sparked by the sewing room declutter challenge earlier in the year, where I found I needed to thin out the pile of old scrubs and miscellaneous animal-themed fabric scraps I'd set aside for these quilts.  

I have a general idea of the size they like to use at the clinic.  With that in mind, I cut my squares so as to get the most bang for the buck out of the odd sizes of scraps available.

The scrubs I used were all darker solid colors.  The scrub pants had extra seams down the front, so instead of a wider pants front to work with, I had narrower strips.  I decided to use these for one of the quilt backings.  It was fun to puzzle it out on the living room floor.  

The other backing was made with miscellaneous chunks from the tops and pants.  

I like the way both backs turned out.  The scrubs fabric is a blend that feels so soft, too.

These crazy pirate cats made me smile.  I found that fabric, along with the fire station dogs, while thrifting last year.  

In that same thrift haul, I bought a bag of polyester batting scraps for $2, which is what I used in these two kennel quilts.

* * * * *

We had a wedding to go to in early April, our first big (unmasked) event since the pandemic started.  I was really looking forward to it, but—that age-old dilemma—I had nothing to wear.  For most women, you just go shopping and find something cute, right?  Well, when you're 6'2" with very long arms and legs, that's not so easy.  And what looks good on a 20-something model doesn't necessarily jive with the aesthetics of a middle-aged woman who is usually cold (no bare arms for me, plus it was still between seasons here and could just as likely be 50 degrees or snow).

I ordered a tall size dress online with moderately high hopes.  Suffice it to say, it didn't work out and I had to send it back.  At that point, I resolved to wear pants and a nice top instead.  In shopping for tops, sometimes I have luck with stores like Lane Bryant or Torrid because the cut is more generous, hence the sleeves and body a bit longer.  So my daughter and I set a date to go shopping, and with her help I found a nice top and a long-sleeved cardigan to go with it.  Yay!

Now for the real dilemma: Pants.  All of my pre-pandemic dress pants were too tight.  I'd gone through my closet last year and gave my sister a stack of the ones that no longer fit.  At my request, she brought them back and I tried them on again.  I had lost a few pounds in the interim, but most were still unwearable.  There was one gray pair, however, that I thought might do in a pinch if I could let out any of the seams.  If not, maybe I could use them to draft a pattern and make a new pair that fit well.  Which is, long story short, what I attempted to do, but (-spoiler alert-) did not entirely succeed.  

It turned out to be less straightforward than it would seem.  I had some navy trouser fabric on hand that I decided to use to make a (hopefully wearable) muslin.  The idea was that after I'd drafted the pattern and done any necessary tweaking, I'd make myself a pair of pants that fit like a dream.  Right?  Not exactly.

Over the course of the next week, I sewed, adjusted, and ripped every seam in that trial pair at least three times (except the fly front; I made a stellar fly front in one go!).  I watched YouTube after YouTube on proper pants fitting.  I enlisted my husband in taking countless photos of my rear view to help me determine what was going on back there.

Ultimately, I got the pants to fit everywhere but the in the back legs below the butt, where there was just all this extra fabric.  Below you can see where the hubs has pinched it with a couple of clips.  Unfortunately, I couldn't just cut and sew a seam where it is clipped.  I'd have to make an adjustment on the pattern and recut the back.  Basically, start over.

With the event date fast approaching, I did the best I could but eventually had to give up on making a pair of pants.  I went back to my old, too-tight, charcoal gray pants to see what, if anything, could be done to salvage them.  I was able to remove the back waistband and let out the two back darts and eke out a scant 1/4 inch from the center back seam.  Then I cut a new back waistband from some other fabric in my stash.  It worked well enough, and that's the pair of pants I wore to the wedding.

What I learned from all of that is that I need to take a pants fitting class and figure out, once and for all, how to make myself a pair of pants that truly fit well.  My online shopping options, for dress pants especially, are severely limited.  Long Tall Sally sells out of my size in a heartbeat. JCPenney no longer has women's pants in ultra-tall, which had been my mainstay for years back when I had to have work wear.

If you're wondering, I did finish the pants muslin with a waistband and hem.  Though the back leg does not look great, it's better than the first picture above and they'd probably be okay to wear in a pinch.  Preferably at night or to a dark theater.

* * * * *

Finally, to put a positive cap on this post, I finished this scrappy rail fence quilt.  

This is the top I worked on last summer after I had finger surgery.  Having cut all the pieces beforehand, it was something easy enough to sew together while my left hand was in a splint and rehabbing.  

It was made with many of the scraps left over from making masks, so it's kind of a memory quilt in a way.  Not that I want to remember wearing and making masks, specifically, but rather the creative and supportive efforts to make ourselves and others safer during that time.

Finishing this quilt was a good way to bounce back from the pants making fiasco.  It was a nice feeling of accomplishment.


Thursday, May 5, 2022

What I Did When I Wasn't Blogging - Part 1

I made progress on a few things during my March and April blogging hiatus.  I finished a couple of quilt tops I'd been working on.  Here is my Scrappy Trip Around the World.

I usually got a better sense of this quilt from a side view as I was putting it together.  Not sure why that is, maybe just the greater distance as I stood in the laundry room door versus straight in front of it.

And here's the Hole in the Barn Door quilt top.  I love the colorful scrappiness of both of these.

I wasn't sure how to border this quilt at first, but it seemed to be asking for more color beyond the blocks themselves, so I sandwiched a strip of scraps between an inner and outer gray border.

I've sent these to local longarm quilter Sandy and I'll probably see them back in a few months for binding.  There's no rush as I will probably be keeping these, at least for the time being.

* * * * *

A few weeks ago, I sent some quilts to Rachael and Becky of Quilted Twins.  Becky has been  heading up a massive relief effort for Ukranian refugees in Poland.  She and her husband and team of helpers have been doing great work providing supplies and other essentials to Ukranians displaced and otherwise affected by the war.  Her sister Rachael in Florida was gathering quilt donations to be shipped to Becky through the end of April.

* * * * *

The hubs and I enjoyed some nice nature walks, even though winter seemed to be taking her sweet time leaving.  We caught some early spring migration as we walked the marsh trail one cold but sunny March day.  It was fun to see and hear gorgeous trumpeter swans, as well as other swan species, geese, and red wing blackbirds.

A pair of trumpeters flew so low over our heads we could hear the "zizz-zizz" of their wing feathers vibrating.  Who knew their beating wings made such a neat sound!  Their trumpeting sounded like the honking of an antique car horn to me, but that was really cool too!  (Click the link to listen to a sample.)

* * * * *

I read and/or listened to some interesting biographies and memoirs, including the audiobook versions of Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty by Anderson Cooper, The Boys by Ron Howard and Clint Howard, and Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci.  Two thumbs up on all of them!  

The audiobook versions were narrated by the authors, which I enjoyed.  I will say that on Vanderbilt, though, I also got the hard copy of the book from the library to read some of the chapters myself.  While Anderson Cooper does a fine job overall, he read a little too fast for my liking on some of the more descriptive chapters about Gilded Age parties and opulent decor and who wore what, etc.  I needed to imagine those scenes at a more leisurely pace.  (I also found it a bit odd, to be honest, that he pronounced "satin" like "sadden"—and there was a whole lot of satin in one chapter in particular, which, incidentally, did not sadden me one bit!)

* * * * *

My sister came over to sew with me, and we made some throw pillows together.  Probably 10 or more years ago, she gave me some Debbie Mumm Christmas fabric of six different Santa panels.  She'd bought it for herself in the 1990s but didn't make anything with it.  I didn't do anything with it either after she gave it to me, just put it away in a drawer.  When I was decluttering the sewing room in the beginning of the year, I showed it to her again and we decided to make a day of it and sew the panels up as pillows for her.  This fabric was truly "old enough to vote," as my dad used to say.  (I say: Can we procrastinate or what!)

As it happened, I had some nice coordinating fabrics in my stash for an assortment of different borders and pillow backs, so we sewed up all six pillows over the course of what ended up being couple afternoons together.  It was fun to have a sewing partner and to finally get them done—months before next Christmas, I might add!  ;)

I'm going to break this catch-up post into two parts.  Stay tuned!


Sunday, May 1, 2022

Table Scraps Challenge - April 2022

I missed the March Table Scraps Challenge.  Among other things, I was trying to get over a GI flare (which is probably TMI already) and needed to make a concentrated effort to get a handle on my diet.  I think I finally figured out that tomatoes and peppers are an issue for me, so I stopped eating them.  Things improved, and I'm grateful for that, but I won't lie what a bummer it is to give up ketchup and chili and pasta sauce and tacos and enchiladas, and the list goes on.  I decided to cut out sugar too, because I know too much of it does my digestive system no good, and I'd gotten into a habit of baking treats a little too regularly.  So all of that took up some mental and physical bandwidth, and blogging fell by the wayside.

But I've adjusted now to the new normal, and hey, it's spring!  Or so they say, because it's been a long, cool one here in the Upper Midwest.  I can't wait for warmer weather and flowers (any day now, Mother Nature?).  So in addition to the Table Scraps Challenge brief of "pink" and "words" for the month of April, I added my own challenge to create something with flowers.

I was thinking I'd make some kind of tulip block into a little table mat, but nothing really inspired me yesterday when I sat down to the task in the sewing room.  I switched to sorting through my pink scraps instead when, lo and behold, a tiny square of fabric sifted through my fingertips.  Hello inspiration!

I decided to applique an improvisational string-pieced flower on a string-pieced background of pink.  For the flower, I pulled all the wordy fabrics I could find, which was not many, but I sewed up a big enough slab to cut out not one but two flowers.

A little bit of jumbo rickrack and some kind of stabilizer strip from the box of trim became other parts of the flowers.  Finally, they seemed to need some kind of foliage, so I pulled out a black and white polka dot scrap and freehand cut a couple of leaves.  Everything got fused down and edge-stitched.

I went with a wavy stitch pattern on my machine for the quilting.  I didn't consciously plan for it to mirror the curves of the rickrack, but it kind of turned out that way.  Serendipity!

I found a black 2-inch strip of fabric with what I think is Japanese lettering on it (but I could be wrong), which sufficed for the binding.  

And there you have it!  It's about 12 inches square and will probably go on my nightstand.

Linking to the April 2022 Table Scraps Challenge at The Joyful Quilter.


Sunday, February 27, 2022

Table Scraps Challenge - February 2022

This month's Table Scraps Challenge prompt was IMPROV.  So I used a pattern.

Ha ha!

No, really.  My table topper for February had a Valentine's theme, because, well, it was that time of year and I wanted a cute heart-shaped topper.  Enter the free "Be Still My Heart" pattern by Quilt Jane.  Mission accomplished.

I did not expect the roses, but the hubs came through, and they were beautiful together.

But I did make some scrappy roses at the end of January (see this post), so maybe I was on top of it after all.

They haven't turned into anything finished yet, but I see the prompt for March is FLOWERS.  So maybe I'll get it together, with both improv and flowers, by the end of next month.

Linking to The Joyful Quilter's Table Scraps Challenge.


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Declutter Challenge 2022 - Days 17 through 21

Days 17 through 21 of the Declutter Challenge have been the strangest for me.  Having had a good run in the weeks before, I was floundering a bit when I got to this stage.

The final five days had to do with addressing your scraps and fabric, and that seemed like it might be a REALLY BIG THING, especially as it was described in the challenge as "tackling Mount Scrapmore." I mean, that sounds like a monumental uphill climb, doesn't it?

So I took a day (or three) off before I started this part of the journey.  In other words, I procrastinated.  

But also played with my scraps.

(Making scrappy roses with red and green scraps)

Day 17 - Scrap Management: "Gather all of your scraps together.  How large is your Mount Scrapmore?"  Wait, what?

It reminded me of those late-night curfew announcements on TV back in the day: "It's 11:00 o'clock.  Parents, do you know where your children are?"

Well, I know where my scrap children are.  They may not be all properly tucked into their beds, but they're present and accounted for.

No way was I going to do any gathering. My scraps are in Sterlite boxes and drawers by colors...and, okay, maybe a bunch of unsorted ones jumbled up in a big clear bag (the kind comforters come packaged in).  Then there's the wad on the end of my cutting table that I cut down into strips (last fall) but have not yet put away.  

Of course, this was my resistance talking, with some denial chiming in as well.

So I rewatched the Day 17 video at Just Get It Done Quilts to better understand the purpose behind tackling Mount Scrapmore.  It was to set boundaries for your scraps.  How much space do you want to devote to your scraps?  How many quilts do you realistically intend to make with them this year?  And do you want or need all of them?  All good things to consider.

In the end, I probably half-assed Day 17.  It's going to take regular effort to keep the scraps under control, and, more importantly, used.  But it did get me thinking about and playing with my scraps, so that counts as a form of scrap management, right?

(Scraps and strings in drawers by colors)

Day 18 - Batting.  Gather your batting scraps and sew/splice them together to make "Frankenbatting."  That was the task for Day 18.  I already do this as a matter of course, as needed, like for the table runner featured in the previous post.  I did find some smaller batting scraps cut off a recently longarmed quilt, so I made a small piece of Frankenbatting that I'll probably use for a Table Scraps Challenge project in the next few months.  So that particular decluttering skill is already part of my toolkit.

I also use batting scraps for de-linting my cutting table and mat, and recently I've been putting a batting scrap on the end of my ironing board for those stray threads you notice when pressing.  The batting scrap serves as a place to deposit those threads, where they stay on the batting, not stuck to your fingers or falling to the floor. 

Day 19 - Fabric Scraps.  Think about what you want to do with your fabric scraps, how much you want to hang on to, and how it fits into your space.  

(Scrap totes under cutting table, by color; the lights bin is overflowing)

This seemed like Day 17 again, but turned up to eleven.  Suggestions were made for processing your scraps, like cutting them down into 2-1/2-inch strips and 5-inch strips, etc.  I watched some other suggested videos on scrap systems, quilts made from certain size scraps, etc.  All very interesting and informative.  

(Giant Whirlygig block from scraps)

In the end, though, I'm not going to cut down ALL of my scraps into prescribed sizes.  It feels limiting to me.  I like having hunks and chunks of fabric (smaller than a FQ, larger than a 5-inch strip), in case I need, say, a 7-1/4 inch square, like I did the other day. 

I did cut some scraps into 2-1/2 inch strips for the Scrappy Trip quilt I'm currently working on.  I also appreciated learning what systems work for other quilters and how easy it might be to "grab and go" when you want to make a quilt.  I can see the benefit of having a system of precut sizes at the ready as building blocks.

(A little more progress on Scrappy Trip)

Day 20 - Fabric.  We're talking fat quarters and yardage now, not scraps.  Karen alluded to a video coming in February on organizing your fabric (which sounded like a perfectly good reason for me to procrastinate a couple weeks).  Basically, though, sort out what you have, what you don't want or need anymore.  Start a tally list on how much you have.

Nope, not gonna tally my fabric.  I appreciate people who like to do that kind of thing, but that is not me.  For me, that is the kind of left-brained exercise I would rather check at the door to the sewing room.  How much do I have?  Plenty, but not too much.  If anything, I probably need more fabric, in certain colors anyway, but I'll shop when I need to.  I had an influx of donated fabric this past year, and I'd like to use that first.

As far as organizing my fabric stash, it's on shelves, more or less arranged by size. FQs on an upper shelf, and then yardage roughly by color on the shelves below.  Thrifted shirts are deboned, folded, and stacked in a rolling 3-drawer cart under the sewing table.  Batiks are in a separate medium-sized tote.  Bottom line, I'm okay with my organization method for now.  It could be improved, I'm sure, but it works for me currently.  If I have a light bulb moment when the organizing video comes out, I may think about making some adjustments.

(Thrifted shirt fabrics)

Day 21 - Containers and Bags.  Time to deal with donations, sales, or give-aways of the fabric you've decluttered during the challenge.  Cull the boxes, containers, excess bags, tubs, and totes.  Eliminate by type and sizes less useful.

I drove a good-sized box full of stuff to Goodwill last week. I already did a bag decluttering a few months ago, so all's good there.  Totes?  Yes, I've got a few to organize and move out of the sewing room.  They're mostly non-sewing related though, as in family history archives, memorabilia, excess kitchenware, etc.  I'll be working more on that in the weeks to come.

(More playing with red scraps)

And that brings me to the end of the Declutter Challenge!  I actually enjoyed it.  It got me into the sewing room every day with a purpose and gave me a boost of creativity besides.  I don't know if I'll do it again next January, but who knows, maybe a second round would be even more productive.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Table Scraps Challenge - January 2022

"In the meadow we can build a snowman..."  

The prompt for this month's table scraps challenge was snowman.  As you'll see, I went at it from a less literal angle and more from the potential for a snowman. 

I had in mind to use the leftovers from my Plaid Peaks baby quilt from 2020.  Right after I finished that quilt, I took the plaid shirt scraps and sewed them together and then cut them into random triangle shapes.

My thought at the time, per the parting words of that 2020 post, was:  "I envision a mini-quilt where these little 'trees' are appliqued on a background.  Maybe a winter theme of some kind."

Enter January's Table Scraps Challenge, which provided the perfect excuse to do just that.

But incorporating the snowman prompt gave me pause.  A slight shift in perspective, to that of a place where you could build a snowman, did the trick for me.  I was reminded of the line from one of my favorite holiday tunes, "Winter Wonderland."

"In the meadow we can build a snowman..."  

Kind of like the line in Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come."  Okay, maybe that's a stretch.  We're not talking zombie snowmen here.

Anyway, I'll set the scene, I thought.  Snowy field, starry sky, a patch of pines.  You get the picture.

And then...I saw a red plaid scrap in the drawer.  A lost scarf, perhaps?  Why yes, the perfect accessory for a potential snowman.

Which my husband thought was a worm when I showed him the finished runner.  A worm!?

Suddenly, one questions one's design choices.

Ah well, I thought it was whimsical.  Maybe it'll stay, or maybe it'll blow away?

Details:  Fused and machine appliqued on a snow/sky curve-pieced background; wavy line quilted in Sulky "Holoshimmer" thread; trees and binding from thrifted plaid shirts; measures about 14-1/2 x 30 inches.

Linking to:  The Joyful Quilter - January 2022 Table Scraps Challenge



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