Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I got the kids to bed. I got the blocks for the quilt laid out, following the picture. WHY can't they add a diagram when it's so hard to tell where one blocks ends and the next begins? I found out once again that my biggest patch of empty floor space is not big enough for the quilts I'm making lately.

I need six more blocks. I should've recounted them while I was waiting, not that it would've made a difference since I don't have enough lights left over to make those six blocks. I'm sure there's something buried in my stash that I don't know about. Or Mom will have something. But that didn't help me last night.

I was not a happy quilter, so I put on an old movie, curled up in my recliner, and finished hand stitching the binding of my Thrifty Quilt. It's hard to pout when you've got a brand new quilt spread across your lap that you absolutely adore. I even love this quilt enough to sew buttons onto it. I got half of those done last night, too.

Today I finished piecing the project that was supposed to be my leaders and enders while I was assembling the red quilt --

I think I'm going to add a solid blue border before it's done. And I'm going to make a big one for myself (without the zillion obnoxious cartoon characters) and another little one (because I've still got too many cartoon characters already cut into bricks.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

My ugly sampler block for March is pretty ugly and it's not the right size, either. But at least it's done!

The only reason it got done today is that I wanted to play with something while I wait for bedtime to come so I can spread out the red quilt. We live in a fairly small house and I've got one chunk of floor big enough, and it's smack dab in the middle of our front room. I'm not quite heartless enough to banish the kids to their rooms -- and I don't think they'd stay there long enough if I did.

So I'm waiting.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

All of the blocks for my red quilt are sewn and pressed and waiting for me to have the free floor space to lay them out and get them pinned into rows. Which should happen late tomorrow night.

I'll need something to use as leaders and enders while I'm assembling the quilt top, so I've been cutting 2 x 3 1/2" pieces to make a baby Fun With Bricks. The fabric I'm using is so bright and cheerful it makes me shudder.

I had to sew a few test blocks just to convince myself that this fabric would work out at all. The solid blue was in my stash and I used the second version of the alternate block, figuring that the more solid I got in there, the better.

I think it works.

I'm planning on either nine blocks or twelve blocks. If I do nine blocks, I've definitely got enough solid blue for a border and the backing. If I do twelve blocks, I'll have to get a little more creative.

The scary cheerful fabric? It's from one of grandma's thrift store bags, the one I've been avoiding because I didn't know what I was ever going to do with Nemo and Rugrats and Care Bears and so many other characters. Someone either had a lot of grand kids or was making a lot of charity quilts.

I'm glad I finally figured it out! There are dozens and dozens of four inch squares (maybe it was for an I spy?) and they cut down into bricks with only a bit of waste. I don't have to use up everything, but it's a neat feeling when I find a way to make treasure out of trash.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun playing around on Ravelry! I've found twenty-three new patterns to add to my queue this morning, and can't believe how many cute (and free!) cowl patterns have been added since the last time I looked. And the shawls. And the owl cables -- there are knee socks now! I've got to find some yarn in my stash to knit a pair of those.

There are also some gorgeous things in new Knitty that I can't imagine myself not knitting, so I did a birthday shopping this morning. I'm getting one of Knitpicks' new ball winders and some blocking wires. And some yarn.

While I wait for that to get here, I'll play with my other present. DH bought me boards for blocking my quilts with. And a little screwdriver to replace the one that came with my sewing machine and escaped during my bad day last week.

So I cleaned the machine, which wasn't all that dirty because I've been cleaning it regularly, and machine stitched the binding onto One Thrifty Quilt. Between this one and the turquoise one, and the three little quilts, I've got miles of handsewing to do.

Lately, I've heard a lot of quilters refer to tops as "flimsys." It's such a wonderfully descriptive term. My tops, evne the ones that don't have problems, always seem so fragile, like they're going to fall to pieces. Once they're quilted, it's a fanstic transformation -- suddenly they're so solid and stable!

None of my quilting shows up in the pictures, but it wasn't meant to be seen across the room, let alone across the internet. For the Thrifty Quilt, I stitched between the binding and borders, then between every second or third of the piano key strips and diagonally through the nine patches. I'm going to put a button in the center of each snowball block before I'm done.

For Mountain Majesties, I outlined all of the jagged edges. It was a hassle turning the whole quilt every inch or two, but the result was worth it. I'm working up the enthusiasm to do it again on my own quilt.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I've been playing with my new favorite toy today -- the turquoise and brown quilt was almost completely quilted before lunch time! I outlined all of the jagged mountain sections and like the way it looks so well that I'm doing to do the same thing with my own Mountain Majesties. And I want to do the borders of my Thrifty Quilt... and I'm sure there's something I can do with the Bargello.... and outlining those layered squares should work well...

I went to Walmart this afternoon for more safety pins. They only had two boxes that hadn't been torn opened and stapled back together, so I bought those and some extra-fine crochet thread, which I'm hoping will work instead of tatting thread.

I've got plans!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A while back, I made a list of the tops I've got assembled and ready to quilt. Last week I actually counted them. There were fourteen, and then I finished another one. Only a handful are little wall quilts -- the rest are throws and larger.

There are excuses. Mom's only around six months out of the year (and is fifty miles away when she is home), so my access to her long arm is limited. If I had the extra money to pay someone else to quilt my tops for me without giving up other things, I still wouldn't want to. If anyone is going to mess up my quilts, it's going to be me.

There's only one reasonable solution. I'm going to have to learn to quilt on my Janome. I've done it before. Grandma's quilt came out okay, even if I did rip out more stitches than I left in and was reduced to tears a couple of times. That purse I stippled and then never finished came out really well.

And then there was that disaster yesterday, which almost put me off free motion quilting forever. I like the quilt a little better now that I've picked out all of the stitching and tied it with embroidery floss. I laid awake last night trying to decide which of my tops I could get away with tying.

Working on the theory that I've done it before and can probably do it again, I put the darning foot back on this afternoon and quilted this little wall quilt that's been gathering dust in my sewing room since 2006.

I can't say that I'm satisfied with the results, but I'm going to bind it and finally get it hung in my kitchen. Done is better than perfect.

What I really want to get finished is One Thrifty Quilt, and I'm attached to that one. I really want it to come out okay. Not to quilt show standards, but a whole lot better than the teapots.

So I worked up my nerve and dug out the walking foot that came with my machine and tried to teach myself how to stitch in the ditch. The walking foot has intimidated me just because it looks ominous, so I've never used the thing.

This little quilt had been gathering dust for slightly longer than the tea pots.

I can do this! I like the looks of free motion meandering better, but I can DO this! And I've got a couple of quilts that actually SHOULD be quilted this way.

Now I'm wishing I had a couple of boards and some tatting thread. Go watch Sharon Schamber's You Tube video on handbasting a quilt to see why.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

This little quilt has me so frustrated I could scream.

I started it a couple of months ago because I wanted to play with the disappearing nine-patch technique and had a bunch of pre-cut squares from one of the thrift store bags. I got enough blocks done to decide I wanted to make a baby blanket.

Although this has to be one of the easiest techniques out there, I kept putting my blocks together wrong and then having to figure out what I'd done before I could rip out whichever seam needed ripping and twist things around to the right direction.

And I realized a bit late that whoever had cut those squares hadn't been accurate -- not even by my rather flexible standards. Since I was just playing, I decided it was fine if my whirlygigs were a bit wonky. It was that or measure and re cut all of the squares, and I wasn't about to do that.

I moved on to other, more exciting projects, and what I had finished sat. And got buried. And got found and moved to someplace else. This morning, I decided that I'd avoided it long enough and decided to finish the top. It turned out that I only needed five more blocks, and now I know to watch which direction pieces are lined up before I sew them together.

Today's trouble started when I decided to quilt it. I've lost my presser foot, the little screwdriver thing to change the presser foot, two seam rippers, most of my sanity...

I wound up tying the quilt and trying to sew the binding down by machine (bad idea!) So it's together. Now I just need to pick out my failed attempts at machine stitching and handstitch that binding.

And decide what to do with the quilt itself, which was supposed to be for the thrift store in town to sell to raise money for one of their pet charities. It's not ready for the scrap bin, but when I do give them a quilt, it's going to be better than this one.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I spent the day Sunday helping a friend pickle brussel sprouts, so I'm sure it's okay that my retreat spilled over into this morning. And my entire list of things to do is DONE!

I pin basted the quilt I'm making for my friend.

All of the borders are on the thrifty quilt.

The Double Irish Chain is assembled. I'm not sure how that part took as long as it did, but it's done and I love the finished quilt top. Now I've just got to figure out how I want to quilt it.

I'm really loving this controlled-scrappy thing. There are about twenty different shades of brown here, but I think it still has the feel of a two color quilt.

I'm wondering which of the other two color patterns I can play with this way -- maybe Robbing Peter to Pay Paul?

I finished a bunch more blocks for the red quilt, and now that I can see more of it laid out, I'm no longer afraid that it's a waste of fabric.

And I got my spring postcards done. I've been really hung up about these, since all of the ideas I had were for applique and I wasn't sure I had the time or talent to pull them off. I'm sure I can do it, just not that I want to do it with a deadline.

Then I remembered how intrigued I've been by Chinese Coins lately and figured out how I could fit two panels of them onto a postcard. There are five strips in each row, measuring 1/2" each. It's by far the tiniest piecing I've ever done.

And the cards wound up measuring 4 x 5 7/8" -- I should have known to make them bigger than 4x6 and then trim them. I thought they were going to be bigger, but they weren't. It took me a while to figure out how to make them bigger without ripping out all four borders, but I did it!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Racing the clock again today, this time in an attempt to have the borders on my thrifty quilt before I got online tonight. It's probably a good thing, because I ran into a couple of snags and if I hadn't been so determined to have it done this afternoon, I don't think I'd have kept going.

And it was definitely worth fighting my way through the pieced border. I love this quilt!

I did the math. I counted the strips for the border and figured out how much fabric I needed, and measured what was left of my shirts. I was sure I had more than enough, but by the time I was done, I'd scrounged every last bit of those dark shirts and was starting to piece itty-bitty bits together because I HAD to have that last border piece.

There's not a scrap left for the backing, so instead of trying to find another five or six shirts that match, I'm going to go to Joann's and try to find some shirt material in a similar color and texture.

Tonight's goal is to get that Double Irish Chain top assembled and maybe baste the turquoise and brown quilt.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I won today's race with the clock -- the center of my thrifty quilt top is together! Did I mention how thrilled I am with the way this pattern is developing?

There's no way I have enough 2 1/2" strips left to do the piano key border, so I'm going to cut up the shirt backs that were supposed to back the quilt and then find more shirts to make the pieced backing. Having the quilt turn out nicely is more important to me than the total number of shirts I wind up using.

I stopped at the thrift store this afternoon and sale tags were 90% off, so I got ten cotton shirts for $3.60. And two more at the thrift store next door for $1 each. I only think one of them will actually go with the colors of this quilt, but they're all nice enough and it was a fun shopping trip for five bucks.

It looks like the Stashbusters are retreating again this weekend, which works well for me. Here's my plan:

-- work on Thrifty Quilt borders
-- assemble Double Irish Chain
-- cards for Spring postcard swap
-- piece more blocks for the red quilt
-- baste the quilt for my friend

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I've been racing the clock today.

It started when I got out of bed far earlier than I intended (even earlier than my littlest one) to make a pot of coffee for my husband. Since I was up anyway, I decided to work on some blocks for the Irish Chain.

I got eight done, then counted the blocks I already had to see how many more I needed and if I had enough little pieces to make them. Turns out I didn't, so I cut some more and then decided that, even if I didn't feel like it, I should probably finish the blocks while I still remembered what I was doing (and before my oldest decided to clear off the ironing board again.)

So before lunch, I had another twenty blocks done. Assembling the quilt will be a late night project, when I can lay the blocks out without little feet trampling them.

While I was eating lunch and reading email, I gave in to temptation and looked at the latest clues for One Thrifty Quilt. I'd lost enthusiasm when it was time to do the snowball blocks and was trying to motivate myself by not looking at any more clues until I caught up.

Wrong strategy -- one look at step five and I was wishing I had those blocks done so I could see how my shirts were going to look in that pattern. step six is even more motivating. So I started cutting squares and figuring out which corners they'd go in and wondering if I could have all twenty-four blocks done before my husband was due home.

Then I started to wonder why I was racing the clock. I can't possibly get the big blocks assembled tonight, so what did it really matter if I finished the smaller sections tonight or tomorrow morning? But they are done with a half hour to spare, and dinner's in the oven, right on time!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Over at Stashbuster, they do stay-at-home retreats. It's a great idea, but my free time doesn't always match up with the rest of the group. The one time I did retreat on the same day as everyone else, I didn't realize it until later.

Since I do have time this weekend, I've been retreating almost all by myself. The "almost" is because Alex decided to try out her new sewing machine last night and is thrilled by how quiet it is and how it doesn't make the table bounce and has been working on her fish quilt all afternoon. I like this quilt. Except for occasional requests to cut a bunch more 2 1/2" squares, it doesn't involve me much.

Last night, I rented a couple of scary movies and then tried to figure out what I could get done while actually watching them. Over the course of the first movie, I assembled the top for that quilt I'm making my friend.

During the second one, I stitched around four more birds. I can't believe how much easier the Q-Snaps are making this. I'm still not loving it, but with only four birds left, the end is in sight. I should get it done while I watch the movie I rented tonight.

My big goal for today was to finish cutting the pieces for my scrappy Double Irish Chain so I could move the brown fabric back up to the sewing room. I got that done and pieced nine of the plainer blocks, then started working on checkerboard blocks. I suddenly have NO desire to work on this quilt! Maybe it should be my leaders/enders project while I work on the red quilt?

I got nine blocks for that one pieced, and sewed together the cloth portion of Tricornu. I never did make sense of the directions in the pattern, but I googled and found a bunch of tutorials for cross stitch versions that had enough pictures for me to figure out what I think I was supposed to do. I'm anxious to get it stuffed, but I want to use some chicken grit to give it weight (there was a whole discussion about chicken grit and different types of sands on one of the quilting lists about a week ago -- I didn't come up with this idea on my own!) and I'll have to wait for Bill to bring some in from the barn for me.

Friday, March 06, 2009

This is either the start of a cute little quilt or a total waste of red fabric. I haven't got enough blocks pieced to tell, but I've got all of the pieces cut, so it's too late to change my mind now.

When I was cutting pieces for Scrappy Squares, I kept putting aside the reds because the few I used in my scrappy nine patch felt so overwhelming. That pile of red scraps was pretty big and I decided I should make a red quilt. But I didn't like any of the patterns I saw done up in red. And I wasn't inspired enough to come up with my own. Actually, that possibility didn't even occur to me until I sat down and started typing this!

Then I saw this pattern. Something was going on (Christmas?) that kept me from starting right away, and then I lost the pattern and had my usual problems getting the pattern, fabric, and free time all to come together. And started two or three other quilts first. And bought a few more reds to add variety...

Cutting the pieces for this one didn't even dent my red pile, but I'll find something else to do with it all. I'm thinking about piecing the back if I've got enough big chunks to make it work.

This was going to be a leaders/enders project, but I'm not sure I have the patience to wait and see how it comes out.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Grandma called and asked if we'd be around the house this afternoon because she wanted to bring something down. She brought cookies for the kids, a sewing machine she's no longer using for Alex, and this for me --

All I know is that she's a featherweight, she's mine, and her name is Margie Mae. And I'm a little bit afraid to try using her because she's a FEATHERWEIGHT and she's MINE!


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