Sunday, February 28, 2010

still without a jelly roll

I didn't have enough canned beans to make white chicken chili for dinner, so we drove up to Walmart this morning. Turns out they have just as many pretty jelly rolls as the store in Bend, they're just hidden away from the rest of the fabric so I'd never noticed them before.

I found two in colors I loved, and carried one around through half the grocery department before I thought to flip back one of the edges and see if the fabric was nice enough to justify the fifteen bucks. Maybe it would've washed up okay, but I decided not to gamble.

On the way home, I started doing the math. Craft Warehouse has Moda jelly rolls, and they had a 40% off coupon not long ago -- why couldn't I have developed this silly little obsession then? With the coupon, a real jelly roll wouldn't have cost much more than Walmart wanted for theirs on clearance. Of course, if I did have a real jelly roll, I'd probably want to do something more spectacular with it, so I'd still be in the same boat I am now.

The whole thing got me so annoyed I did some math, pulled out the florals I was using for some of the baby quilts and made this --

To make a 30x30 baby blanket, it took 450 inches of 2 1/2" strips. I didn't have big enough chunks of fabric to cut them all WOF, so my strips ranged from about 18" to 40"

The first two folds were nerve-wracking, exactly like joining a knit cast on in the round without twisting, but once I got those done, the rest was easy.

Would I try it again with a real jelly roll and 800 inches of fabric? I'm not sure. It depends on what Joanns has when we stop there next week.
It's long past time to switch off the sewing machine and unplug my iron, but I really don't want to. But the four reasons I am going to bed as soon as I'm done typing this wil be up in a few hours, so I'd better get some sleep while I still can.

I finished assembling the newest little quilt top. Isn't it cute?

After that was done, I finished binding the little floral chain. My newly discovered binding skills are getting better and better -- if I could just stop jamming the needle into my finger things would be fine. I think I actually drew blood twice today!

Never did get to the courthouse steps blocks, since I was having too much fun sorting fabric and cutting it up for the next few little quilts. Right now I'm cutting florals for a bow tie quilt, and six inch squares for an I Spy, and of course more and more 2 1/2" squares because I've been having so much fun with those.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I whipstitch my bindings, because that's been the best way I could manage it. Mom and my best friend and what seems like all of the other quilters out there do these perfectly invisible stitches that make me feel a little ill when I think about having to manage it myself. So I whip stitch.

But something clicked last night while I was hand stitching down the binding for Sparkling Gems. I think I've finally figured out how to make those absolutely invisible stitches that the other quilters can manage! Not that mine are invisible, but I've sort of figured out what I'm supposed to be doing with the needle and thread.

I'm going to finish the binding the way I started it because I think it'll look odd if I change techniques mid-stream, but I'm excited to try out my new technique on a different quilt.

What I think finally did make it click was trying a machine binding technique I found in a new magazine. I've tried sewing down the bindings by machine a couple of times, with mediocre results. This way, it actually looks pretty decent.

Now I need to figure out what I'm going to work on for today's sewing party. I'm off to a late start, but I did make the whole family pancakes and as soon as I get another load into the washing machine, I'll be ready to start picking a project.

Friday, February 26, 2010

still playing with the baby quilts

I got these two tops assembled and quilted this afternoon. The one with the white background is my absolute favorite so far, but it probably used up the least stash.

Helen recognized the block in one of the vintage quilts I posted about yesterday and left a comment. Thanks to her, now I know that it's called Grecian Designs, Grecian Square, Grecian or Greek Square. Now that I know what is, I found a pattern called Greek Cross at Quilter's Cache. The colors are laid out a bit differently, but it's got the same pieces. I also found a couple of quilts using the block. This one is probably closest to the quilt I saw and fell in love with.

Now I need to decide if I want to make a little wall quilt, or try something bigger. Maybe that can be my project for tomorrow.

Spring Sewing Party

This looks like fun. And since I'd planned to spend the weekend at my sewing machine, it's a perfect fit for my schedule. Yippee!

12:20 update -- So far, I've finished machine stitching the border onto the little green quilt and the boys have helped me wind a bunch of bobbins.

5:30 update -- I tried to think of a spectacular new project to start this afternoon, but I got sucked in by the box of 2 1/2" squares and wound up piecing the blocks for a new little quilt instead. I'll get the blocks assembled a bit later, when the kiddos are in bed and I can concentrate on the layout.

I also got the binding cut and machine stitched onto the little floral chain quilt I finished yesterday, and one side hand stitched down. I'm hoping to get the rest of that done tonight, too. And maybe a set of five courthouse steps blocks... I'm all set for a late night quilting binge!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

We're back from a spur of the moment little vacation. Couldn't go to Reno because we were worried about snow in the passes stranding us like it did last time. Couldn't go to the coast because the timeshare didn't have any units available at the last minute. So, by process of elimination, we wound up in Central Oregon.

It's too early in the year to dig thunder eggs, because the beds are still under water, but we got to watch the peacocks and emus and chickens wandering around outside the gift shop and look at the polished rocks inside and we'll go back and play in the dirt later in the year.

So we wandered through the shops in Sisters, and Bill bought me a pie bird, which I've been wanting since we saw them on some Food Network show. Not that I bake a lot of pies.

At an antique mall in (I think) Redmond, I fell in lust with two old quilts and had to sneak my camera out of my purse so I'd be able to research the blocks later. I just got glimpses because I don't think I'd unfold a quilt I had no intention of buying and even if I wanted to, I couldn't while simultaneously wrangling a four year old.

I definitely want to make this one and I know I can make it once I pull the right fabrics. Anyone know what the block is called? It looks like it's related to a churn dash.

Can't make this one with the skills I currently have, but that doesn't stop me from drooling and collecting block patterns.

And, no big surprise, the thing I'm really really lusting after was at Walmart. It started to snow while we were eating dinner, so we stopped at Walmart and while Bill was looking up chains for the van, the kids and I drifted into the fabric department because even when you're not intending to buy a single thing, fabric and yarn is more fun to look at than car parts. We didn't drift far, because I wanted Bill to be able to find us when he was done, so I didn't see the big assortment of Jelly Rolls until we were walking away. They had so many choices and they were so pretty...

Now I want a pretty bundle of 2 1/2" strips. I was telling Mom about them later, and she told me about a quilt one of her buddies had just made where you sew the strips end to end and then sew the whole long thing together and cut it in half, then repeat until you've got a quilt top. She couldn't remember what it was called, but I googled with "sew jelly roll strips end to end cut in half" and actually wound up with a pattern.

Which makes me want a Jelly roll even more! (So does this one.)

I have fabric. I can cut my own 2 1/2" strips. I can make both quilts without going out and buying anything. I've got a whole bunch of ideas for things I can make without buying anything. If I make a bunch of those projects, I can buy a Jelly Roll without feeling guilty about it...

Living so far from Walmart and Joann's does make it easier to be good.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I actually found some binding in my stash for Sparkling Gems! Because of that pieced border, I thought I was going to have to go shopping instead of my usual tactic of using leftover backing or whatever random scraps I could find in the right size.

I wanted dark blue, but all of my dark blue is set aside for another quilt and after hunting sales and my stash to get that stuff together I didn't want to sacrifice any of it. There's some dark blue Kona Cotton in the sewing room, but it's not enough and I don't know where it is anyway. And it was going to be at least a week before I got near a fabric store.

Then I dug into my bag of scrap binding to find something for a baby quilt and saw the green binding. One of Mom's quilting friends somehow made twice as much as she needed for her quilt and threw the rest into the trash, then Mom fished it out and passed it along to me. I'd remembered it was there, but was sure there couldn't be enough for Sparkling Gems. Turns out there was, with a yard or two left over!

It's a little narrower than I cut my own bindings, but it fell into my lap and goes well with my border, so I'm a happy quilter.

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's quilted!

It also seems to have shrunk overnight. When I took the real tape measure to it this afternoon, it came out at 70" x 82" -- not quite the biggest quilt I've made. But it's still the hugest thing I've dared tackle with the Janome -- and it came out just fine!

The meandering isn't quite as nice as I've been managing on my smaller quilts, but it's a LOT better than I usually do on the long arm. So I have my top quilted now AND got better results than I would've had if I'd waited. And now there's nothing in line in front of the cats.

I really do need to go measure the cat blocks because if it isn't going to be bigger, or much bigger, than Sparkling Gems... I might be getting giddy all over again.

Don't you love those quilting (knitting, cooking, whatever else) moments when you suddenly realize that you not only can accomplish something, but now that you've got that new skill or bit of knowledge, you're going to be able to accomplish a lot more somethings?

My other big revelation for this week has been about the muslin. It doesn't have to match! Bonnie at Quiltville says so, and if Bonnie says it's okay to use all of those different bits of muslin in one quilt, I'm gonna get my stack of mis-matched whitish pieces and start cutting two inch squares.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Today, I am pushing myself. And apparently I'm making it as hard on myself as possible. Most quilters, I'm guessing, know the dimensions of their quilts. I've usually got some vague idea myself -- if I make twenty-five six inch blocks, I'll probably have a quilt that's around thirty inches square. Or I can look at the pattern and subtract the width of the borders I left off.

But it's been a very long time since I messed with the Sparkling Gems top and I have no clue where the pattern itself is. I've never made a quilt that needed more than a flat sheet to back it, so I wasn't even thinking that the full sheet I bought last week would be too small. But it was, by two or three inches. The other sheets in my stash weren't big enough, either. At least not the ones that I thought would work with this quilt. I didn't check the others. And I was going to be extremely mad at myself if I couldn't use the sheet I wanted after I spent five bucks on it. So I took the two pillow cases that came with it and pieced my sheet to make it big enough.

My batting wasn't big enough either, which is extra maddening because I'd had the right size in my hands in the store and walked from the checkout line to the back of the store to get a smaller one because I didn't need a queen size. I don't make quilts that big. Except for this one. I did have a the right size up in the sewing room, which I'd bought to cut into fourths for quilts in sizes I do actually make.

(There's still not a big enough space to lay out a queen size quilt on my floor, not even if I move furniture, but I've probably whined about that enough times already.)

The plan was to try a technique I read about on Quiltville chat and cut the batting in half, then baste and quilt half of the quilt, then add the rest of the batting and quilt that half. I don't remember making the decision to pin baste the entire thing. The quilts are making their own decisions or I'm channeling whatever housewife lived here when the house was first built in 1920, or I don't know what else, but I did not decide to try quilting a queen size quilt on my Janome.

Guess that means that I don't get the credit now that it seems to be actually working! I started in the middle and made my way out to one corner, and if I could get one quarter of it done, the other three quarters should also be possible. I've already accepted that it's probably going to have pleats and tucks, but all of my quilts seem to have a few of those, so that's not big deal.

Doess this mean I don't have to wait for longarm time to get my quilts finished -- unless I want to?

Friday, February 12, 2010

How many bugs can one family have at the same time? And how long is this going to last? If Bill and I get what the kids had, and the kids and Bill get what I have... I'm not even going to think about it too hard because I'll scare myself.

After a full day of no symptoms from anyone, I was sure we were safe to head into town and run errands. I was wrong, but at least everything got done and I don't have to leave the house again anytime soon.

The tires are rotated, the wheels are aligned, the cat food is bought, and the bills are onto the important errands.

I needed a sheet to back Sparkling Gems because someone over on Quiltville Chat gave me an idea how I can quilt it on my own machine without waiting for the longarm. I don't know how it can be so hard to buy a sheet.

Kmart only sells them in sets. And doesn't believe in actually opening any of their checkout lines, so I didn't even get the sets I wanted for the boys. Kohls, the other store within walking distance of Costco, might have had a couple of sets, but I was too distracted by the boys to pay attention. Target had some nice flat sheets, but they were all solid colors and that's not what I want for this quilt.

The first thrift store didn't have any good sheets, but it did have an old apron and very cheap children's books, which were only four for a dollar if you bought them in multiples of four, otherwise they were a dollar each and why I couldn't just buy the odd two for a dollar instead of adding two more to the stack is beyond me, but maybe that's just because I'm tired and cranky.

I did finally find a sheet at the second thrift store for five bucks. How can used sheets be so expensive? The only way I can make myself pay that much for a sheet is to figure out that, with a 50% off coupon, I would've spent fifteen dollars on yardage at Joann's. There was another vintage set that I really wanted to have, but I was a good girl and decided to see if it's still there next week when a different color will be half off.

Now I've got my backing, my batting, and my thread. But no energy left to do anything with it. But when I do feel better, I'll be ready to go.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Today, I've been experimenting with some fabric I found out in the sewing room. It's a pretty jersey knit and I wondered if I could use it to back some of these baby quilts I've been playing with. I Googled and found a site that said I could. I know, I know, I could probably find a site that would tell me I could contact aliens with tin foil and coat hangars, and that not everything you read on the Internet is a good idea, but this time the advice worked.

And just in case it didn't, I started with my least favorite of the baby tops.

I like it SO much better now that it's quilted! Now to find some scrap binding or something I won't mind cutting up.

My other experiment for today was dragging out the bolt of polyester batting that's been hibernating in the bedroom closet. Turns out it's not the high loft stuff I thought it was, instead it's somewhere between the Mountain Mist that I really love and the thick stuff I hate. And I can separate the layers to make it thin.

I don't know how many yards there are here (and I'm not quite silly enough to try unrolling it and measuring) but it's enough to do a lot of baby quilts. I can probably skip that great sale that Joann's has on batting this weekend.

Tonight's project, if I can work up the energy, is sorting scraps. I need more little squares to play with.

The latest little top has 4 1/2" center squares. I think it's my favorite so far.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

be careful what you wish for

I wasn't looking forward to our weekly trip into town today. Staying home where the fabric and sewing machine are sounded so much more pleasant, but it's actually not.

Not after getting up three times in the dead of the night to change bedding and clean up sick preschoolers. And now the oldest has whatever it is. (The one kid who isn't sick now was already sick Friday night.) Chasing around to the bank and the post office and karate would have been much more fun. There's caffeine out in the world. And the fried chicken I planned to pick up for dinner on our way home.

Judy at Patchwork Times has an interesting question on her blog -- do you love your stash?

I'm glad to have my stash, but most of the fabric came from thrift store scrap bags. If I could somehow magically replace it yard for yard with absolutely anything I wanted, I'd happily take some Moda shirtings and Kansas Troubles and a bunch of 30s and Civil War repros... I guess it's a totally different question for people who originally bought all of their stash at quilt shop prices!

Since the fabric fairy probably isn't going to show up tonight, I guess I get to keep the stash I've got.

The organized chunk of my stash, the fabric I actually bought brand-new, on purpose (just not at quilt shop prices!), is fabric that I'm happy with and probably wouldn't choose to replace with something else.

The remains of the scrap bags are another story. But it was bound to happen. If you take a big bag of fabric, pull out everything you love, then go back later and pull out everything that's floral, then pull out all of the juvenille prints, then pull out everything that would make good 2 1/2" squares....eventually what's left is going to seem pretty pathetic.

But I've made quilts from those bags that I love and absolutely wouldn't replace with quilt shop patterns and fabric. And if Grandma can buy a scrap bag for six or seven bucks and get a quilt top out of it, I think we got our money's worth.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I'm in quilt lust again -- this time it's a quilt over at Exuberant Color. I love the big black corner squares, and the wild combination of narrow strips and the whole half-log cabin thing.

Maybe it's because as I've been sorting through my scraps to cut squares for the baby quilts I keep finding strings to add to that bin.

Maybe it's because this looks more possible than the log cabin quilt I saw a picture of at the quilt shop last weekend, the one with 7/8" strips. Not that I don't still want to tackle one of those...

The plan for today was to get up before the kids so I could cut scraps and listen to the commentary for the zombie movie Bill and I watched last night, but my body convinced me that I needed sleep more than I needed zombie enlightenment. And the phone rang during nap time, so I couldn't watch it then, either.

I never did get to the fabric today. But I feel a lot more functional, I've rounded up most of the library books that are due back this week, and dinner is simmering on the stove. Tonight's experiment is Depression Era Corn Chowder, except I left out the onions and added chicken. Don't know how it'll taste, but it smells nice.

Last week, we tried slow cooker tarragon chicken, in a dutch oven on the range because someone stole the knob to my crock pot and pliers didn't look like they'd work. It was the yummiest thing to come out of my kitchen in a long time -- not counting Bill's cooking, which is always better.

There was also a cranberry pot roast the next night, but the best thing I can say about that is that it didn't poison anyone.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

These little quilt tops are fun! Yesterday, I finished two more.

Here's #2

This is the same block I used for my first "real" quilt back in 2008, this time with smaller squares and different layout.

And here's #3

This is how I originally visualized the blue quilt from yesterday. Now that I've seen it both ways, I like the blue one with the six inch center blocks better.

Today, I've been cutting up fabric and making kits for a few more baby quilts. The 2 1/2" squares are all in two containers -- one has the floral prints for a batch of controlled scrap quilts I've got planned, and the other is filling up with everything else. I also managed to cut background fabric for the three floral quilts.

Some days I probably shouldn't have bags of fabric piled waist high at my end of the dining room -- or so people tell me. I'm not convinced. But it'll be nice to have some projects kitted up and ready to go so that I can sew without making a huge mess. Or going up to the sewing room to track down fabric by flashlight. And it'll be a good supply of leaders/enders for my own projects.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Playing with scraps again, this time cutting 2 1/2" squares. Now that I've found a group to quilt for who will let me use my own judgement, I'm excited to see how many baby quilts I can assemble from my existing stash before my energy fades.

Here's #1

This was a completely different quilt in my head, with only nine eight inch center blocks, but the hunk of blue fabric wasn't the right size to cut them, so I adjusted my numbers.

#2 is a sorta split nine patch that I'm hoping to finish tonight after the kids are done playing Mario Kart and I can put on some better background noise.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

That seventeen yard dent I was worried about? I compensated for it by buying 14 1/2 yards of fabrics that will go perfectly with the rest of my favorite lights and darks. It was $2.95 a yard and exactly the stuff I haven't been able to find at the Joann's sales.

I've started North Pacific, the quilt that I've been lusting after for a year now. It has lots and lots of pieces, most of them triangles. There's a center section made up of sixteen Ocean Waves blocks, and that's surrounded by twenty-some pieced ships and whales.

So far, I've gone from completely overwhelmed to feeling like I might be able to pull it off but wanting to get those center blocks done as soon as possible so I'd know for sure, to not feeling like quilting at all.

The goal here was to slow myself down a bit. I made eighteen quilts start to finish last year, and pieced another eight tops. Seven went off to other loving homes, but if I keep ten of my own quilts a year and Alex makes her own quilts and Mom makes quilts for the kids....

I know, you can never have too many quilts, but it could add up very very fast. Not like sock knitting. A knitter could totally justify two hundred pairs of socks, or at least keep them neatly tucked away in one drawer.

Since I don't feel like switching from quilts to socks at the moment, I decided it makes sense to tackle some of the more intricate quilts I've been drooling after, especially if I already have most of the fabric I need in my stash. (Not that finding a great deal on twenty-some other prints that will fit in nicely is a bad thing at all!)

I've been stressing about our Quilts for Kids package for a couple of weeks now. The three quilts from the kits they sent were done and ready to go, along with two quilts from our own stuff. It was the fish quilt that I couldn't seem to get finished. I'd plan to do it, then stuff would happen, then I'd find myself awake at night worrying about it because the deadline was getting closer and closer... It didn't occur to me until Tuesday that I could just mail the five quilts we had finished and send the fishes along when they're ready to be done. They are now on their way and I'm breathing much easier.

Another quilt made it to Give a Kid a Quilt. And now that it looks like I've found a local group to make some baby quilts for, I'm not going to have to deal with postage and packaging anymore.


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