Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm all out of cats to sew!

After a year of avoiding these things, I can't tell you how good it feels to have them all done! No more cats -- at least no more cats from this pattern. Unless the missing six turn up and I'm not going to worry about that because I doubt it'll ever happen.

I do still need to add some sashing (narrow because this quilt is going to be huge) and get the top assembled, but that can wait for another day.

Now I'm starting to pull fabrics and cut half square triangles for Leftovers again and North Pacific. Between the two quilts I'm going to need thousands of them, but I can do it if I only think about a hundred or so at a time. Seventeen yards of fabric to cut up, not counting the extra strips I'm cutting for the 1 1/2" bin.

What makes it hardest is that I'm cutting into my "best" fabrics, the ones I really love and have been saving for special projects. These are the projects, but I've still got mixed feelings about using up the fabric.

Someone please remind me that seventeen yards is barely going to dent an overflowing 45 quart plastic bin!

Monday, January 25, 2010

My best friend invited me to her house to quilt yesterday. I don't have a good portable project right now, so because there was nothing else, I grabbed the plastic box with the cat blocks.

I still don't enjoy piecing those blocks, but I left her house with seven new ones done and the idea that if I made myself do one block each time I sat down to sew, I could have the top done and ready for the long arm when Mom gets home in April.

Then I realized that if I did four cats a day, I could have it done by the end of the week, so I sat intending down to slog my way through four cats. And sewed eight.

It's not that I want to sew cats today. It just seems easier than pulling and cutting triangles for Leftovers Again. But I'm almost out of cats -- only four more to go!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Our new table is big enough to lay out and pin baste a baby quilt. Which means that the old table, evil twin to the new table, was also big enough to lay out and baste baby quilts. I just never cleared away all of the schoolbooks for long enough to realize it.

Now that I know about it, I plan to take full advantage. I'm feeling all motivated to make baby quilts after stumbling across the Give a Kid a Quilt blog earlier this week. After struggling to make my last two quilts meet the requirements of Quilts for Kids (100% cotton and nothing re purposed were my biggest stumbling blocks there -- almost none of my quilts, not even the best ones I've made for myself meet their criteria!), I feel like I can do all sorts of things if I don't have to stress so much about the fabric content.

But not until those other two quilts and their four friend are in the mail. I got the 30s coins quilted this afternoon and the binding sewn on. My goal is to get the hand stitching done, then get them washed and in the mail when we go into town next week.

The new baby quilt (which I'm sure has some bits of polyester) is together and I've got backing upstairs.

I love that I can just throw the extra blue squares into my 2 1/2" bin. But I can't figure out where I put the thing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I bought the book. The library didn't have a copy, so it was either buy my own or wait for Mom to get home in April so I could borrow hers. Or just work it out from the pictures.

Now that I've read the pattern, I don't plan on following it because I don't like to strip piece scrap quilts. Oh well. There are a bunch of cute patterns that I do plan on following later. So it'll work out.

I'm more excited about the bobbins I bought yesterday. Six from the Janome dealer and eight more from Walmart because I wanted to see if the cheap ones would work. I wound one this morning and pieced a few blocks to test out the tension and then kept piecing because I've almost got enough blocks for the blue nine patch and I'm going to have Leftovers Again to use as leaders and enders for everything else once I get the fabric cut.

I've now got enough bobbins wound to finish both of the quilts I've got pin-basted. This is nice.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The little boys have been helping me assemble nine patch blocks for the blue quilt this morning. If anyone has trouble sewing things together randomly, I strongly recommend having a four and five year old pick out the pieces. Once your convince them that the pieces can't match exactly and that they can't grab green fabric intended for another project, it works very well.

We got lots of good practice counting and taking turns and playing I spy with all of the different prints. And now I'm totally exhausted.

I did start out tired because I was up late putting together the madder snowballs. For some reason, I had washed the fabric for the backing but not the fabric for the border. And I didn't realize it until I'd already spent two hours piecing snowballs together and was ready to cut the strips.

No way was I going to bed before I knew for sure that the pieced border was going to fit!

I can't wait to see how this one looks once it's quilted and bound, but if I'm ever going to get those last two quilts from my list of loose ends done, I've got to force myself to quilt and bind them first. It won't take all that long, but I've been avoiding it like the plague.

What is it with these snowballs? I thought I was through with them after making eighty-some for Simple Pleasures. Then I made a hundred more for this quilt. And now I've seen Red Hots.

But those aren't snowballs -- they're nine patches with half square triangles at the corners. Which isn't the same thing at all. I've got lots of red left over from the red scrap quilt, but not a lot of whites....but I *do* have plenty of lights and darks to play with... I could do something more like the one on this page. And I've got a bunch of light and dark 2 1/2" squares left from Simple Pleasures, which would give me a head start on the cutting.

I like this plan!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Did I mention that I got a new laptop for Christmas? Now that I've worked up the nerve to plug it in and get the virus software set up, I'm seriously loving the fact that I can set up where the action is and look at quilty blogs while I can watch the kids. No more waiting for a chance to slip off into another room! It's what I could do at the old house, with my computer desk in one corner of the room that was called but couldn't possibly be used as a dining room.

It's bleak outside today, but I love the way the branches look against the grey sky. And it's not raining or freezing.

I'm really anxious to see how the madder snowball blocks look once they're assembled. I loved the colors in Root of the Madder from Connecting Threads and bought a bunch of fat quarters when I had a coupon to combine with a sale and went on a bit of a binge. But then I didn't know what to do with them.

My first idea was a bento box, but I didn't have the right combination of lights and darks, so the fabric sat and waited for me to come up with a better idea. And I made my Bento Box with that Moda scrap bag that didn't have any selvedges.

I saw a snowball quilt at a show that I loved, but it had alternating light and dark blocks -- still not enough light fabric. Then I found a snowball quilt pattern in a magazine that was all dark blocks with light corners. If I threw in some reproduction shirtings that I was holding back for something special, I had enough fabric to make it work....as long as I resized everything because the pattern was written for half yard cuts.

I can do the math to redraft a block, but the part that throws me is figuring out how to get the largest number of the biggest squares I can make from a cut of fabric. My fear of messing it up paralyzes me. That's why I've never started my special sweatshirt quilt even though I've got all of the stuff for it.

It's a sign of how much I want this quilt that I pieced almost a hundred snowball blocks without whining about how boring they are! Now I'm planning to send the kids to bed as early as I can get away with so I can try to get it assembled tonight. I've even got matching backing and thread.

Can you tell I'm just a bit excited about this quilt?

And finishing it will mean that I've used up almost all of those Connecting Threads collections I binged on last year. Country Breezes is a finished quilt, Mama's Kitchen is a finished top, I used the indigos I bought for Leif's Snails, and now there's this one. That just leaves a handful of the blue and burgundy indigos.

See, I do use what I buy. Sometimes.

I got this neat little gizmo at Joann's yesterday. Imagine, all of my bobbins stuck in one place without coming unwound and getting all tangled up! It does confirm my suspicion that I don't have nearly enough bobbins, though.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Now I remember why I let this project sit for so long! Two afternoons of cutting and sewing and trimming 1 1/2" strips is enough for me, but I've got twelve new blocks which means I'm halfway there!

And that I've got enough done to lay it out and get a better idea what the completed quilt is going to look like.

And would you believe that I've pieced ninety-six snowball blocks without whining once? I really want this quilt!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My sewing machine seems to have developed a magnetic pull. Instead of starting January in a creative funk like I did last year and the year before that, I'm getting all sorts of things done.

I finished quilting my log cabin and got it bound--

The backing, which used because I wanted to save my original choice for a different quilt, looks a lot better than I expected it to. I'm not as madly in love with this quilt as I was when I first started it, but I'm glad it's done and happy with the results.

My Fun With Bricks, the one I made to replace the rail fence I gave to my best friend, is quilted and bound --

I had planned to use as many fabrics from the rail fence quilt as I could dig out of my stash, but I guess I kept substituting the fabrics I would have put in the rail fence if I'd owned them a couple of years ago. So the two quilts have almost nothing in common.

But what I loved most about the rail fence was the dense quilting, and this one has that same texture with fewer mistakes. I'm happy.

It's amazing how much better a top looks once you start quilting it. The fish are transforming into an actual quilt --

I wanted to try something different than my usual meander, and I'm loving these ripples, but they're taking absolutely forever. I spent an hour on it this morning and then switched the machine back to straight stitching so I could have some fun.

The last of the madder snowballs should be done tomorrow so I can start putting that one together, and I did five more blocks for my courthouse steps, which is a sequel to the log cabin, and I think I can get a little more piecing done before dinner.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Either having a clean work area made me more productive, or having spent the entire day making it clean made me feel like I was entitled to some guilt-free playtime. Either way, I got a lot done last night and this morning.

I cut my Root of the Madder fat quarters into squares for a quilt I've been wanting to start. There isn't quite enough fabric to do the pattern as written, so I had to tinker with the numbers a bit to make the biggest quilt I can with the fabric I've got. And then I put off the cutting because I was afraid that it either wouldn't work, or I'd make a mistake, or I'd hate the way it looks once it's pieced together.

All of the pieces are cut and I've pieced enough of them together to lay out a swatch and convince myself I really am going to like this quilt.

Then I took the narrow leftover strings from the 30s disaster and squared them up and sewed them together into a long panel. The plan was to make a fabric basket or tote bag, but the more strips I sewed the more I realized that I would probably never use a bag or basket made from these particular fabrics.

So I'm going to cut my big panel into thirds and make it into Chinese coins sashed with some of my good white muslin. If it works out, it'll go to Quilts for Kids along with the kit quilts.

I've been stressing over those. I knew what the requirements were when I committed myself to this project, but I didn't realize how many of my quilts contain fabric that is either not 100% cotton or has been reclaimed from something else. Somewhere in my stash were some novelty prints I bought to make pants for the boys, but they weren't going to be quilts so I didn't have coordinating colors. It's been very easy to convince myself that I was going to have to buy new fabric.

When I was cleaning up yesterday, I found a big hunk of fish fabric. And coordinating colors. It's last owner fussy cut fish out of the middle, so I couldn't cut wof strips, but I think I made it work.

I'm not sure if there's enough green left for the back or not. I'm happy enough that I got the front out of stash.

Monday, January 11, 2010

We're getting a new-to-us table and chairs, so I spent the entire afternoon in my sewing corner at the end of the dining room, trying to haul as much stuff as possible out into the "real" sewing room. The one without any lights or heat and with only one electrical socket, which makes actually sewing out there a remote possibility.

Once I got going, it was actually kind of nice to excavate the layers of fabric and patterns. I wound up with the room clear enough to swap furniture into and several new projects lined up.

I'm a bit less excited about the new table and chairs. I've been wanting a new set for quite a while now. The ones we've got were a gift from Grandma when we first got married nineteen years ago. They're not awful, but I don't think I've ever really loved them. Or maybe after nearly two decades I'm ready for a change.

Something happened during the last move and for the past years the once sturdy table has been getting more and more precarious. We've been shopping around for the perfect replacement, but other, more urgent, things kept needing to be replaced first and we still hadn't found our dream table.

Grandma knew we were looking, but also that she absolutely couldn't buy anything without Bill's approval. Then one of her dealers, who also knew we were looking, had a nice table and chairs left over after an estate sale and offered it to us for free. It sat at the antique shop for a while until we could drive up and take a look at it. She described it over the phone, the unusual way the pedestal splits when it opens up for the leaves, and the bit of carved decoration along the edge and it sounded like a normal table to me.

Now that I've seen it, I know why. It's the twin of the set I've been so anxious to replace. Except the stain is a bit darker and the new one isn't threatening to topple over at any moment.

What are the odds of that happening? On the bright side, the chairs from the old table are the same exact style. And this set is only supposed to be temporary, until we find our dream table.

It'll be another twenty years.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Life has me frazzled.

If I didn't make the time to start a new quilt today, I was going to wind up locked away in a nice quiet room somewhere. It's not the frazzled part that's the problem, it's been the lack of fabric-y playtime to balance it out.

For the past few days, I've been drafting quilts in my head, trying to figure out how many two inch strips it will take to make the log cabin blocks the same size as the applique chicken blocks, and which way to twist them to make things line up the way I want them to, and what that might look like with different fabric combinations.... but I can't do that in my head, so all I succeed in doing is making myself long for time with actual fabric.

One of the blocks I've been playing with in my imagination is this one:

The magazine pattern is called Grandma's Donuts and those wedges are itty-bitty. Just the right size to cut from the strings in my bin that seemed to wide and clunky for string quilts. I was reasonably sure that I could piece the wedges, but not how (or if) I was going to be able to applique them to the background squares. The pattern itself doesn't offer any suggestions, just "applique."

I got my quarter circle close enough to the right shape, pressed the raw edges under, machine zig zagged it to the background, and am reasonably happy with the results. Now I get to trace around the template a zillion more times to cut a zillion more wedges.

I'm actually looking forward to it.

The "loose ends" list is getting shorter -- I managed to cross off three projects the first week and make progress on most of the rest.

This quilt now has a binding and I'm even more in love with it than I was before.

Isn't it amazing what you can do with a bunch of 2 1/2" squares, a pattern from an old library book, and the desire to see if you can actually make that quilt?

I also finished the Marilyn apron. Four bucks for the fabric, which I love, and nine bucks for the pattern, which didn't live up to my hopes and expectations, even though I read through it before deciding to splurge on the thing.

I'm kinda wishing I hadn't cut up the fabric. Or, better yet, had bought a lot more of both colors.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

My first quilt for 2010 is done.

Now that it's quilted and bound and the label is in place, I still don't like it much. But it's not for me or mine, so I suppose it doesn't matter that I'm not into orange cars.

This isn't for me or mine either (it's for a friend with a baby due in two months) but it's the kind of baby quilt I want to make.

I found the pattern in one of my stacks of old magazines, then ignored it completely and worked from the picture. The one in the directions had checkerboard hearts in two colors, and the setting triangles around the edges were plain. I don't even know what size the blocks were supposed to be, since I had a box of 2 1/2" squares that I was determined to use, I just figured out how big the other pieces needed to be and never measured the templates to check.

That's two projects to scratch off of my "loose ends" list. I was trying to finish free motioning the log cabin tonight, but Alex is planning to take over my machine to start her own quilt. The girl has two sewing machines. Why does she need to use mine? Probably because both of hers are cranky and I don't know enough about either of them to help her out. If I'd been more adventurous month ago and knew how to make my Featherweight do its thing, she could use it and I could free motion -- but that's probably not a good idea with all of the starting and stopping I'll have to do while I'm helping her.

Guess I'll get Fun With Bricks pinned and cross my fingers that she finishes her quilt top while I've still got energy left to work on the log cabin.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

cheering myself up

I finally made time to sit down at my sewing machine today. It was supposed to happen yesterday, but an incident involving one of my kids (not sure which) and my few pieces of good jewelry, the ones I love but never wear because I'm afraid something will happen to them, left me in a funk. Everything has turned up except for one of the diamond earrings my husband gave me before we were married.

No one will admit to the crime, but I'm suspecting a combination of an older kid who decided to snoop through my things and then left them exposed to a little one who's intrigued by itty bitty shiny stuff. Which could have been any of them.

There are countless itty bitty shiny things lurking in this house -- sequins that have fallen off of clothing, bits of a Christmas garland that fell apart, beads, bits of shimmery confetti from a project of Alex's... I hate itty bitty glittery things that aren't my earring.

I knew that knitting or quilting would help my mood, so I got up before anyone else and did two repeats of the short row scarf I started before Christmas.

After I made breakfast and dug under the couch cushions for the second time, I started a kit from Quilts for Kids. Alex and I were supposed to work on these with Mom before she headed back South for the rest of the winter, but there wasn't time.

The whole top went together fast. I don't do baby quilts like this. I wouldn't have chosen these fabrics. But it was fun and calming and exactly what I needed this morning. I can't wait to get it pin basted and quilted tomorrow.

And I finished cutting the pieces for a new leaders and enders project. None of the WIPs I have left will work and not having anything to use while I was pieced the car quilt together was extremely annoying.

Now my problem is that I want to see how this quilt comes together and will probably sit down and piece the whole thing instead of using it as leaders and enders.

Which wouldn't be a horrible thing.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

plans and more plans for 2010

Back in June, I listed all of the WIPs that came to mind while I was sitting in the van waiting for my husband to finish grocery shopping. Of those twenty-five projects, all but two are now finished. I've decided that lists can be useful, so here's a brand new one to start the new year with --

projects to finish soon
Marilyn Apron (half done)
Short Row Ribbed Scarf
Mindy's Quilt (just needs binding)
My Log Cabin (half quilted)
My Fun With Bricks (ready to pin baste and quilt)
4 baby quilts
applique flower quilt (needs binding)

other wips
scrappy cats
lover's knots
courthouse steps
2" scrappy squares

tops to quilt
Irish chain
bento box
sparkling gems
30s buzz cake
blue fun with bricks baby quilt
Chinese coins baby quilt
stained glass window

bow ties
Shenandoah log cabin
Shakespeare in the park
devil's claw
pointy butterflies
yellow quilt
burgoyne surrounded
north pacific
double hourglasses
scrappy pineapple
grandma's donuts


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