Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I did the math

As closely as I can figure, here's what my birthday quilt cost me to make --

nothing for the pattern, since I was inspired by a hundred year old quilt and drafted it myself
$13 for the 3 1/2 yards of blue scraps
$1 for the white cotton sheet I used instead of muslin
$8 for the package of warm and natural batting
$3.50 for the thrift store sheet backing
$2 for the new yardage I bought for binding
$1.59 for thread

Which adds up to a little under thirty dollars for the entire quilt.

That number is a little high, because I based it on the $4 a yard I paid for most of the blue fabric. Some of it was much much cheaper. And I should be able to do another small lap quilt with the leftover batting.

Except for the backing (I've been buying yardage, which usually runs me around twelve bucks a quilt.) that's probably about what I spend making most of my big quilts.

Not that I think anyone but me cares about any of this -- I've just been wondering what I do spend, especially after hearing other people talk about what it costs to make a quilt. I've got this ornery streak that wants to figure out just how cheaply I can get results I'm happy with!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

At five-thirty this morning, I dragged myself out of bed so I could get the birthday quilt assembled and pin basted before the kids woke up and I lost my floor space. Early morning basting is always a gamble and I had to chase them back into their rooms until I was done, but I got it layered without any major pleats (at least none that I've noticed so far) and now I'm about halfway through the quilting.

I'm doing the free motion spirals again, which seems like more physical effort than meandering, especially since this is a bigger quilt (70" x 70") than I'm used to tackling on the Janome. I thought about waiting for the longarm, but I'm not that patient and I get better results from the Janome.

Pacing myself and spreading the quilting over more than one day would be the sane thing to do, but I'm not that reasonable, so I quilt until my bobbin runs out, do something around the house, quilt another bobbins worth, look at pretty quilty blogs, quilt another bobbins worth, cuddle with the kids for a bit...

I'm finding all sorts of things to be inspired by --

Don't know what I'd do with a French Dresses Paper Garland, but it would be so much fun to make I'm not sure I need a purpose for it.

This post about plastic bag transfers has me wanting to call everyone I know to ask if they've got neat bags they can save me, because I didn't know I was supposed to save them. But I'd have to explain what I was going to do with them and my friends don't all understand this sort of thing.

I want a little quilt with a ruffle and jumbo ric rack. Mostly I want the ruffle. Or prairie points. Or a crocheted border. I still don't know how to crochet, but those pictures sure make me want to learn! And there's a tutorial that explains how to do it... or I could knit an edging. I know how to do it, and I've got books full of edging patterns.

And between all of the breaks to follow rabbit trails, and play with the kids, and work on the house -- it's quilted!

I'm in rather desperate need of a nap, but I think I can keep myself moving for a couple more hours. Tomorrow, I'll get it trimmed and buy some fabric for binding.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I need to buy more pins

It took just about every pin I own (the ones that aren't already holding other things together) to get this thing pinned into rows. Since the tin that usually holds my pins and presser feet, not to mention all sorts of other junk that doesn't belong there, was so close to empty, I cleaned out the rest of the threads and lint and it's ready to fill back up as I sew the rows together. No more pins without plastic ends or plastic ends without pins.

I finished the last of the blocks after lunch and if I was a little giddy before, now that it's ready to assemble into a top, I'm absolutely ecstatic. I love this birthday present to myself and I'm thinking that I should do this every year -- pick out a pattern that I want to do that feels a little beyond my comfort zone.

Not that I could tell you what made this one a challenge -- one I got the blocks drafted it went together easily.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I am absolutely loving this quilt -- that's all there is to it!

Most of the pieces are cut and I have the fabric laid out for the rest of them, just as soon as I figure out how many I actually need. I had myself all talked into buying yardage for a backing, then I realized that one of the sheets I've been hoarding for the perfect quilt might be absolutely perfect.

And, best of all, it looks like I'll have time over the next few days to actually make it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm celebrating!

It's my birthday and my husband was scheduled to work a long overtime shift, so I'm enjoying myself by spending the day on a quilt that's just for me.

That Double Irish Chain with the sawtooth stars makes my heart go pitty-pat. I want one! Without the borders, which don't do a thing for me.

The original quilt, according to the library book, was made by Harriet Sophia Fyler Spicer in 1854. As soon as I saw it, I decided that I wanted one in blue and white. There's no pattern, so it took me a couple of days to figure out how to make the stars fit inside the chain, but I think I've finally got the math right and I've pulled enough dark blue fabrics from my stash.

I've done a Double Irish Chain before, and I've got most of my stars pieced, so I should be able to pull this off.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Now what?

Earlier this afternoon, I dragged some bags of strings and crumbs down from the sewing room to see if I could pull together enough bits and pieces to start a controlled-scrappy string quilt. Once I got the fabric together, my plan was to make twenty 6" blocks, then sew those together into five big four-patch blocks and alternate them with some applique or something.

Now that I've got my twenty little locks done, I've decided that I really don't feel like doing some applique or something. What I think I need is another row of blocks, but I'm not sure I have enough yellow and blue strings to make them.

And I might have thought of another, possibly better idea while I was typing this out. Gotta go see if it'll work -- if it does I'll show you tomorrow!

Friday, March 19, 2010

On our way to the DMV (which was closed, so after spending the whole morning rounding up all of the paperwork I needed to renew my drivers' license I didn't actually accomplish a darn thing), the kids and I saw a sign for an estate sale. The sign itself was pointing towards an auto wrecking place, so I had low expectations and decided to stop on the way home instead of finding a place to turn around and going right away.

That might not have been the best decision -- they had neat old stuff and I'm sure that there was more when we first drove by than there was when we came back.

I resisted the neat old kitchenware which was just like the neat old kitchenware I was drooling over on someone's blog last night. I resisted the embroidered linens and and crocheted doilies. And the absolutely fantastic little vintage game table with the ABCs and animals on it.

What I did bring home was a pair of vintage pillow cases for fifty cents, an old white sheet for two bucks, and two old flour sack towels for a quarter each. I've been picking those up at estate sales with the idea that I'll applique something on them, or add a pretty fabric edging like the ones I've been drooling over at Craft Warehouse.

I was putting my haul in the washer when I unfolded one of the towels and saw a blotchy yellowish stain across the middle. Yuck. I thought I'd checked them well before buying them, but I guess they're still okay for trying dishes once I was them and make sure it's a clean stain...

I'm SO glad I didn't notice in that dimly lit back bedroom, because what looks like a stain is actually the logo of whatever company made what I didn't realize was a "real" flour sack towel -- hooray for happy little accidents! Both towels have logos from different companies, which are faded to such a ghostly stain that I can't even make out what the letters once said. Easily thrilled, aren't I?

And a white sheet! I'm determined to pick up as many nice ones as possible this yard sale season because, with the quilts I want to make, I'm going to go through them fast. I'm getting a little crazed about the white sheet hoarding, to the point where I took down the one I had hung in the sewing room for design wall (which I never used anyway) and lay away late one night wondering if that sheet I'd used to line the cedar chest to protect its contents was white or not. It is white, and went through the washer this afternoon with my estate sale finds.

Sure, I could save up the money for a bolt of Kona muslin, but it wouldn't be this much fun.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This is more what I had in mind!

There was just enough fabric in that striped shirt to make the blocks, and just enough of the close-enough-to-muslin fabric I grabbed for the sashing and borders. After doing the math to see how wide I could make the pieces, I don't think I had more than an inch of it left!

I decided not to do my usual meandering for this one, and I'm not nearly as happy with the feel of the finished quilt. It's too puffy for my taste, but it wasn't for me anyway.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Because I wasn't feeling motivated to do anything more challenging last night, I pulled out that yard of striped fabric and my daughter's copy of One Yard Wonders and decided to see what I could come up with.

The first bump in the road -- my striped fabric isn't nearly as cool as the stripes in the quilt that got me started on this.

The second bump in the road -- the directions in the book were really hard for me to follow. I tried to read and follow them, but wound up with my usual "why does she want me to do it this way when I could..."

Once I figured out how to line things up and gave up on the directions, it was easy to get the blocks cut and pieced. Then I hit the real roadblock, which I admit that I should have seen coming.

My fabric is definitely not cotton and, while I'm perfectly happy with polyester in small scrappy does, this may be too much polyester for me, even with cotton sashing and backing. There's really no way to really tell unless I put it together and quilt it.

I wasn't going to do anything else with this yard of fabric and now I know that I like this technique, so I can look out for a piece of actual cotton, one that has better stripes, and there's nothing to stop me from shoving these pieced squares into a plastic baggie until I decide what I want to do with them.

And typing this out jarred my memory so that I was able to dig out a striped cotton shirt that might have enough fabric for me to turn into a snuggly little quilt while I'm deciding what to do with the polyester.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This weekend, I went over to my best friend's house to quilt. While she was answering the phone, I headed out to the van for my sewing machine and found her neighbor about to knock on the back door.

The woman, who I barely know, was bringing me a quilt top! Not just any quilt top, a stunning old top with hand pieced baskets and prairie points around the edges.

I'm not real clear about how the quilt came into my hands -- someone her husband knows is in failing health and getting rid of things and she thought I might want it. I did ask her if she thought she should offer it to my friend (her neighbor)first, but she told me "She only likes her own quilts."

My friend did not agree. But she was too nice to take my new treasure away from me, even after I offered to flip her for it.

It looks like the border was added later -- that yellow and green fabric is much sturdier than the fabric in the blocks, and it's machine pieced while the blocks look mostly hand pieced. There's also a length of yellow backing that was with the top and has been seamed for the backing, but it doesn't match either of the other yellows.

All of the flowers have the exact same layout, and I've got a hunch those prints are feed sack, but I don't know enough about it to be sure.

Anyone know the name of this block?
With my machine all tuned up, I've been catching up on the little scrap quilts. Breaking machine needles like crazy -- three snapped yesterday morning for absolutely no reason I could see... so I'm hoping we don't have to take the machine back to the dealer. Not after just spending several months worth of quilting budget getting it cleaned and oiled.

I've named this one, which is the same pattern as the one did for the sewing party, Red Sparks. It's quilted with swirls.

This one doesn't have a name -- it's just "the blue one I pieced earlier this year." Even thought I had several backing choices, I avoided quilting it, because I thought I didn't like it.

Now that it's backed with a flannel sheet covered with cute little sheep, I wish it was big enough for me to snuggle up under!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

eighty-nine cent quilt backs

Backing my quilts is something I struggle with. Unless I'm excited about the quilt, I get cranky about spending more for the backing fabric than I did on the top, batting, and thread combined. But I guess that's what happens when you make most of your quilts from bits and pieces out of thrift store scrap bags.

I piece backings when I can, but if I've got enough big hunks of pretty fabric to do that, I'm more likely to use it in another quilt top.

So I've been watching the thrift stores for sheets, even though I think they're way overpriced. For the perfect print or color, I'll grit my teeth and pay too much for someone's old bedding, because I'd wind up spend more than that with a 40% off coupon at Joann's.

The logic of old sheet value is totally beyond me. They're either stupidly pricey at estate sales and thrift stores, or seen as something to toss in the trash after the antique dealers use them to wrap a piece of furniture in the back of the truck. Grandma has found me some great sheets that way!

But Wednesday, I hit the mother lode. It was Alex's idea to go paw through the Goodwill bins because she wanted to look for t-shirts. I didn't find anything last time, but we had seven hours to kill before her karate class, so we met grandma there. On the way in, I passed a lady wheeling out a cart full of sheets and old quilts. My expectations lowered.

I left the place with fifteen new quilt backs. The one sheet I weighed was about a pound, so that's an eighty-nine cent quilt back. Quite a few of them are prints I'd have bought as yardage. The rest are all good enough for the right quilt. And they're all in great condition.

And, four days later, I'm still a bit giddy about the whole thing. Did I mention that I also drug home an old quilt?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Whatever part of my brain controls free motion quilting seems to be stuck in a spiral this week. Fine with me, since my spirals seem to be getting a little better with each quilt. And I'm guessing that with enough practice I'll be able to transition more easily between meanders and spirals and whatever comes next.

This one came about because that snowball quilt seemed to have so many dark blue squares in it I started to wonder what a checkerboard of dark blue and muslin would look like. I didn't figure out until after I was done piecing that instead of the alternating nine-patch blocks I used, four-patches would've worked just as well and required less counting. Next time I'll do it that way!

I planned to try a mix of meanders and stars on this one, but the call of the spirals was too strong. That's fine -- I'll just make another one like it to try the stars on.

And this last one is finally quilted and bound after being buried on my ironing board for a few weeks.

I'm almost caught up on quilting the baby quilts, but things have slowed down a bit since the Janome started making an odd little whisper (that might not even be new, maybe the kids are just being quiet enough for me to notice!) and has been getting quirkier since I scheduled her for a tuneup. That's tomorrow and I'm supposed have her back by the end of the day.

In the meantime, I'm sorting fabric and cutting wedges for Grandma's Donuts and more baby quilts. I've got 296 so far, and need 640 total. That's an awful lot of little wedges -- this quilt had better be worth it!

Monday, March 08, 2010

A couple of days ago, I was reading Love Laugh Quilt and saw one of those quilts that just makes me sigh "i want i want i want..." But I couldn't immediately figure out how it was done, so I gave up the idea and clicked onto something else. There's nothing like two or three days of messed up DSL to make you feel like following pretty rabbit trails.

Today, there's a tutorial that shows exactly how to make those spiral log cabin blocks. I've got just the right fabric to play around with when I try my own version.

This quilt at Nap Time News also caught my imagination. I found a couple of big hunks of striped fabric when I was sorting through a box of scraps last night and had no clue what to do with them. My stripes aren't nearly as neat looking as hers, but I think I'll see how they look in this pattern. And to make things even easier, it turns out that the pattern is in One Yard Wonders, which I bought Alex for Christmas.

And then I saw a link to Simply Strippy at Quiltville. I don't know if I somehow missed that pattern all of the other times I was drooling over that site, or if I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to appreciate it, but those pictures of antique quilts have got my mind whirling.

I've been meaning to take decent pictures of the finished baby quilts, but after stumbling across all of this neat stuff, I think I'd rather go quilt.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

When I started this baby quilt thing, I was afraid I'd run quickly through my mental list of projects and then quit out of boredom. So far, though, I'm thinking up quilts faster than I can make them.

Today's quilt started with an applique block I found up in the sewing room. I'd swear I never saw it before, but it was in a box from Costco and I know the fabric didn't enter this house in that box.

Maybe I saw it and it didn't register because I didn't know what to do with one applique cat. (That doesn't explain the three neat lantern blocks I found along with it -- those would've caught my attention no matter what I was currently working on.)

When I found the cat yesterday, it was obvious what to do with her -- piece a border of 2 1/2" squares. And there happened to be a big hunk of folded fabric in the kitchen that was an almost perfect match for the background of the applique block, so I got to choose between a narrow border surrounded by more scraps, or a wide border and a scrappy binding.

Then it was time to decide what to back it with. I've got enough of the solid blue, but I didn't want to use it all up on this quilt, not when I've got another one in mind that needs it. Then I thought about using the mile or so of bright yellow calico that's been taunting me. But that would take up all of the yellow, and I want a little left for other it's going to be a four-patch backing, half blue and half yellow calico. Which will back the quilt and leave me enough to play with later.

Shortly after I got that all worked out, Alex came through and tried to claim that the solid blue was hers. It didn't work.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bobbing winding has become an important part of our preschool curriculum around here. I personally can't see what's so exciting about it, but I can't wind a bobbin, or do anything that sounds like winding a bobbin, without eager little helpers materializing beside me.

There's lots of discussion about how many bobbins we've wound and how many we're going to wind and stopping and starting and taking turns. And only good little boys get to wind bobbins. Isn't that just the weirdest thing you can imagine bribing little boys with?

One of the projects on Stashbusters this year is keeping track of how many spools of thread we use. I like the idea, because it'll help me figure out what's a realistic amount of thread to order from Connecting Threads.

So far this year, I've used five of their 1200 yard spools and a 500 yard spool that came with my sewing machine. And I'm running out of the neutral color I use for piecing and most of my quilting. Didn't I just order thread?

Whenever it actually was, I put all of the thread in a big Zip Loc in the drawers next to my sewing machine. At the time, it was bulging and barely zipped shut. Now it's less than half full. Which makes me think I might need to order thread soon.

I'm good at convincing myself that I need to order thread (yarn, fabric, etc.) whether I really need it or not, so I've decided to wait until I'm down to my last spool of off-white. Now the question is whether or not I should use up the colors that I can use for scrappy piecing before I get to that last spool of white...

Typing this got me thinking and I ran out to the sewing room to see how much thread was actually there. Most of it has to live in the sewing room because the thread holder is so tippy I constantly knock it over. Not something I'm going to put in a house with the rabid preschoolers. Or the nine-year-old. Or the girl.

And while I was up there, I decided to try something --

The drawer came from Grandma's antique mall. She had a whole stack of them, from two different treadle cases, and asked if I wanted a couple for my sewing room. Like she had to ask!

Then I got to wondering if the thread would fit as nicely into the drawers of the treadle that lives next to my sewing machine. Yup, they're exactly the same size. So now I've got to figure out where to put the things that live in those drawers and I can have most of my thread right where I sew.

I have more thread than I thought I did. Yay!

Friday, March 05, 2010

One of the things I meant to do with all of these baby quilts was practice different types of free motion quilting. But, at least until yesterday, I stuck with what I already knew how to do.

I wanted something different for that flowered jelly roll quilt, the one that's never been anywhere near an actual jelly roll. It's cute, but kind of blah. It needed something fancier, some flowers or swirls or hearts or something.

So I made swirls! They show up better on the back.

Now that I've stretched my wings at bit more, I'm looking for ideas for the next ones. I've got a free motion book around here somewhere, and found some sites with free patterns --

  • Patsy Thompson Designs
  • 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs
  • Melody Johnson's Handbook of Really Free Motion Machine Quilting Designs, which can be found here
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