Monday, July 27, 2009

strings are fun!

It's a good thing I like string quilts, because I've had literally bags and bags of pretty little fabric strips fall into my lap over the past couple of months. That's in addition to the strings I cut myself when I first got excited about string quilts.



The front and back sections of Alex's cat bed have been pieced for a while, but I decided that quilting them to some heavy batting would make the whole thing more durable. I'm still having fun stippling, so that plan worked out just fine. (Note to self -- remember to put the presser foot down after you lift it to shift the fabric!)

And at some point during the process, I decided that it would be a good idea to add a zipper to make it easier to take out the stuffing and wash the cover if disaster struck. Would've been a perfectly reasonable idea if I'd put in a zipper during the last twenty years, or even remembered how to put in a zipper.

My google search for zipper tutorials only turned up results for installing invisible zippers into the sides of skirts. Skirts are the deep dark root of my secret zipper hatred. I found a tutorial for adding a zipper to a bag, but it told me to follow the directions on the package, which my thrift store zipper didn't come with.

So I borrowed the zipper foot from my twelve year old daughter's machine and winged it. The zipper is attached. She's been warned not to ever ever unzip it unless there is a laundry emergency, because I'd rather trash the entire project than try that again.

The cat, of course, wants nothing to do with her new bed and spent last night sleeping in the bathroom on a wet towel.



I also got the string blocks for that baby quilt assembled. Now I need to figure out what I can back it with. I really want to find some more cheap thrift store sheets!

Today's quilting was derailed by a migraine and a hundred mile drive to replace a water bed mattress with a split seam -- just what I felt like dragging four kids along to do when it was 102 degrees out there! On the bright side, my migraine meds did work and we caught the leak before it flooded our bedroom too badly.

I've got higher hopes for tomorrow!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The lengths I'll go to to preserve my quilting time...

It's going to be hot today, hotter tomorrow, and hotter than that the next day, going on for at least a week. We don't have air conditioning, but the house is shaded by trees and if I'm careful to keep doors closed and drapes shut it stays a decent temperature inside.

As long as I don't use the stove or oven or anything else that'll heat things up -- like my iron. The whole thing is a ridiculously delicate balancing act, and last year or the year before I would've put up the quilting and knit a sock. This year, though, I refuse to let go of my current quilting binge.

If that means I've got to get up really really early and use my iron while it's still cool outside and I can have the windows open...well, that's what was doing at dawn this morning.

My first plan was to finish piecing the buzz saw blocks, but I don't need the iron for those so I set them aside for later and finished piecing a bunch of string blocks for a baby quilt. Those went together quickly enough that I was also able to press the Layered Squares top and would be pin basting it this afternoon if I hadn't decided that it needs a border so the binding doesn't hit up against the edges of the squares.

This afternoon while I'm ironless, I'll finish the buzz saw blocks, or start quilting the cat bed, or trim the strippy blocks and see about putting them together into a top.

My list of twenty-six WIPs has shrunk to twenty-one. And I'm making a list of new projects to start soon. This morning, I found two more at Mel's Own Place. I'm absolutely definitely going to do Bread and Butter and All Abuzz. I'm printing a stack of patterns as I type this.

Including an absolutely fantastic rooster quilt. The pattern (which for some reason doesn't have a picture) is here. I need that quilt on my kitchen wall!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

After three days of what felt like endless meandering, my rail fence (which has been waiting its turn since November) is quilted and the binding is machine stitched into place and it really shouldn't take all that long to get it hand stitched down into place.



This is the most densely quilted of my quilts. The purple thrift store sheet I used for my backing isn't terribly photogenic, but can you see all of that wonderful texture? It's making me a bit giddy.



In an unusual example of using what I've got, I used thread that came in a gift pack with my sewing machine. It's a funky shade of purple that actually blended nicely with the color of the sheet. Until I ran out and had to switch over to charcoal, but the quilt is so busy that I dare anyone to find it without serious searching. And it's a utility quilt -- if I can do a scrappy binding, why not use my thread the same way?

I probably would've had enough purple if I hadn't made the quilting so dense.

What really surprised me was the amount of lint left by the obscenely overpriced thread that came from the Janome dealer. It actually gummed up the machine's needle threader.

Makes me feel much more confident about the thread I usually use -- Essential from Connecting Threads. I've always been happy with it, but I keep hearing stories about how linty it is. There's lint when I clean my machine after a lot of sewing, but nowhere near as much as the "good" thread left.

I thought I was tired of meandering and reading to switch back to piecing for awhile, but now I'm not so sure -- this has been fun!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I got the top done this morning and it wasn't nearly as tedious as I expected it to be. Simple Pleasures isn't an example of precision piecing, but it's a completed quilt top.

And the thing is HUGE.



I could have easily have made it a little or a lot smaller, but I didn't realize how big it was getting until I'd already picked out oodles of different prints and I wanted to use them all, and to use lots of pieces of each one...and the pattern told me to make it 70x86... Reading a set of measurements and then picturing what size quilt they'll be is not one of my talents.

I suppose we really do need a few bed sized quilts along with all of the throws.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

and diet Coke is on sale at WalMart!



Our phone rang very early this morning -- early enough that when it woke me up, I thought it was still night and someone in the family must be dead or maimed. Maybe some people might want to consider that making last minute car pooling plans at 4:44am isn't the best phone etiquette? I had planned on getting up early, but not quite THAT early.

I did get myself motivated enough to finally assemble the Bento Box top. And I finished piecing the blocks for Simple Pleasures, so if my luck or motivation or whatever holds out, I hope to get that one assembled tomorrow morning before the kids are out of bed.

Bill is back at work after two weeks of vacation and when it's just the kids and me at home, I can chase them out of the front room to lay out blocks and pin rows and do all of that other less-than-fun stuff that you have to slog through if you're ever going to finish a quilt.

This stretch of vacation was very low key -- we rattled around the house and made a few day trips. Yesterday's was to take the kids to the fish hatchery near Sisters. I could never get quite the camera angles I wanted, but it was so cute watching Leif toss in a couple of little pellets of fish food at a time and then jump and clap his hands every time the fish went after them.



The diet Coke? I really needed the caffeine today and it was on sale cheaper than I've seen it in ages. Now there's enough in my kitchen to last quite a while. I'm happy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This might work



I took another look at the fabrics I'd decided not to use in the buzz saw quilt and picked out the two that might possibly work. The others are either too light or too pretty to use. Why sacrifice the gorgeous dandelions if they would be in little strips that butchered the print?

My current plan is to finish the center blocks with what I've got and decide from there if I need the extra fat quarters or not. They're halfway done already and if I lose my momentum, I'm afraid this'll be another red quilt.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I am furious with myself!

Last week, I cut the pieces for the cheery buzz saw quilt I've been planning (I can do that -- it's on my list!) The fabric was a bundle of fat-eights that I got on sale from Connecting Threads -- not expensive, but I really love that fabric so it was too special to mess up. I'd pulled out twenty-two of the fat eights and got all of the pieces I needed with some tiny scraps left over.

Today, I started piecing and discovered that three of my 6 1/2" squares were 6 1/4" along one side. And of course I couldn't remember where I'd put the fabric I wasn't using in the quilt, so I had to totally ransack my sewing room. But I found it!

I thought that saved the situation, but it turns out that I don't want to use those fabrics in this quilt. That's why they were put away back in the sewing room and not part of the quilt in the first place.

I can't piece scraps to make the squares I need. I could order three more fat quarters, but I'd wind up spending half as much as I spent on the sampler I started out with and buying far more fabric than I needed. Did I mention I got it on a really good sale? I could splurge and buy enough of the yellow tossed dandelions for the backing, but again, that would cost a ton.

What makes me the whole thing so darn aggravating is that I brought it on myself with one little mis-measurement.

What if I bought one yard of gorgeous yellow dandelions for the back and surrounded it with a wide border of the muslin that's left over from the front? And bought three fat quarters to make up the missing squares and used what was left from those for the binding? That'd only cost around eleven bucks...

I need to piece some blocks and see how much I really like this quilt.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

More than half of the Simple Pleasures blocks are done and I've had a chance to lay them out. My concerns about this quilt are rapidly disappearing. The only one left now is how I'm going to quilt it!



As great as that is, it's left me without a leaders/enders project, which is slightly annoying. I've got a thousand or so two inch squares that need to be randomly sewn together for a quilt I fell in love with and then abandoned a couple of years ago, and the best part of using leaders and enders is that they help you slog through endless piecing like that, but I keep losing the bits I've sewn.

I'm looking for a container with a lid that'll sit next to my sewing machine and keep them together. I actually bought one at Walmart last week, but when I made it to Target without kids yesterday, I checked out their plastic storage stuff.

They had the perfect little storage thingie, with three compartments that snapped one on top of the other so I could've kept the squares in one and the pieced units in the others. It was only three-fifty.

I don't have one sitting by my sewing machine.

Because I stepped to one side to see if it came in different colors and got distracted by the flat plastic bins that are just a hair smaller than the twelve-inch square containers I use for current projects and less than half the price.



I bought half a dozen of the big plastic containers when they were on sale at Thanksgiving and thought at the time I had more than I needed. Once I realized how wrong I was, I couldn't find any more good sales on them.

These little boxes have enough room for a magazine or book and whatever else I need to keep together as long as the blocks aren't huge. I really need to go back to Target and pick up a few more -- and the neat little thing with the snap compartments -- before they get rid of the college stuff.

I've also decided that those Zip Loc Big Bags are perfect when I have to lug quilts around to use the long arm or play show and tell. Why it took me so long to figure that out, since I've been using them for yarn for ages, I don't know.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

binding and binding and binding



At five-thirty this morning, the printer started running. I thought the cat had stepped on the copy button or something, but it seems to have spat out an ad for HP products all by itself.

I couldn't go back to sleep, so I slipped out of bed and headed for the dining room to cut the binding for Birds in the Air before the house got too warm to use the iron. Got that cut and pressed and some more 2 1/2" squares for Simple Pleasures cut, and no one else in the house had surfaced yet, so I decided to take the risk that the noise of my sewing machine would wake someone up.

I got the borders machine sewn onto the bird quilt, AND the teapot quilt, AND Dot to Dot before Quinn finally bounded out into the kitchen a few minutes after nine, followed by the rest of them. That was my quilting goal for the entire day!

Dot to Dot and the teapot quilt have been sitting quilted but unbound for months because I couldn't figure out which fabric to use. Then, a couple of days ago, I went up to the sewing room to get backing for my rail fence and absolutely perfect fabric choices, fabrics that won't work in anything else I'm doing or plan on doing, were staring right at me.





I've got so much binding to hand stitch! And it just hit me yesterday that every quilt on that looooong list of WIPs is going to go into this same pile. Judy sent me a great link to a tutorial for doing it by machine, but my last attempt at that was such a disaster I'm not trying again until I have a quilt I'm willing to take chances with. In the meantime, I'm telling myself that a stack of quilts ready for the hand stitching is better than a stack of quilts waiting for me to cut and machine stitch the bindings so I can get to the hand stitching.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Dad has always been tremendously supportive of Mom's hobbies and mine. He's the one who bought my Janome as a Christmas present when I already had a working machine packed away someplace.

Yesterday, he went above and beyond by offering to take all four kids -- including the four year old who has been an absolute screaming terror for the past couple of weeks -- to the park so that I could quilt Birds in the Air. It's the first time he's taken all of them anywhere, so I had my fingers crossed that they wouldn't drive him nuts before I could get the quilt done.

On a good day, they'd all play happily and my daughter would keep the little ones corralled and they'd just need an adult there because kids can't play at the park alone. It hadn't started out as a good day, so I wasn't optimistic.

But Grandpa did it! I hear there was one tantrum, but he survived it.



It is SO much easier to get good results without a preschooler wrapped around each ankle. I always had a hunch that it would be, but this was my first chance to actually try it.

Birds in the Air is one of the tops that I've been hesitant to quilt because I was afraid to ruin it. I've been waiting until I got more practice, but while I wait the pile of "too good to learn on" quilts grows...

I'm so glad I took the plunge with this one. The quilting is exactly what I wanted it to be, better than the triangles or the applique!

I know exactly which quilt I want to throw on the long arm next, but it's going to be at least a couple of weeks before Mom's schedule and mine mesh again. While I wait, I've got the rail fence (another "too good" top) pin basted and ready for another attempt at meandering on the Janome. I'm getting a little better at that.
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