Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When I begged for help late Sunday night, I expected to get a handful of opinions and go with whichever of my mediocre setting plans seemed most popular. I'm absolutely overwhelmed by how many responses I got on Stashbusters and as blog comments and by email!

There were suggestions to go with the blue or the yellow (mostly the yellow), a better silhouette for the applique cat (which I'm definitely going to use on a future quilt!), ideas about adding a piano key border or to use the littler string blocks as squares in a disappearing nine patch....all of them ideas that I never in a million years would have thought of on my own.

Angie suggested using the blue and yellow to make hourglass blocks. That seemed like a good way to get myself out of this mess, even though I'd never tried an hourglass block before, so I tried it this afternoon.

Did everyone but me know the hourglass blocks would make a star?!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Remember the picture book Old Hat New Hat? A little bear goes into a hat shop and tries on everything they have to offer,then leaves at the end wearing the battered hat he came in with because the new hats were "too lumpy, too bumpy, too spotty, too stripey..." I loved that book as a kid.

My blue and yellow string quilt has me just as discombobulated as that poor bear was over his hat choices. The blocks have been sitting ever since I finished them. They started out as twenty smaller blocks, but they weren't big enough for a baby quilt and I didn't have enough blue and yellow strings to make more blocks. So I decided to set them with muslin blocks with some sort of applique. I found a cat in one of my quilting books, got the pattern enlarged to the right size for my blocks, then let the whole thing sit while I worked on other projects.

Tonight, I decided to make the first cat block. I'm not sure I like it.

So I laid the blocks out with blue fabric

and yellow fabric

and muslin

and then I went back to the cat block

Maybe I should just take the big blocks apart and put them back into the too-small version and add a wide border?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

she was just sitting there under a bush

She was just sitting there under a bush, getting rained on and looking pathetic. I had to bring her home.

Actually, I had walked past her twice and wouldn't have even seen her if Alex hadn't said something. Then my thought process was something like this --

...nope, not a featherweight....look at that filligreee....three dollars?!....

and the decision was made.

The ladies running the estate sale wanted to be sure I knew it didn't work, but for three bucks I didn't expect her to. I'm not sure if I'm going to try to figure out how to get her running, or just let her spend her retirement in my sewing room, or what. For now I'm just happy I brought her home.

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's "tackle those things you'd rather not do" day again at my house -- and today's task was reinstalling Windows on the laptop, which I've been putting off because I had no clue how to do it and seriously resented the fact that it had to be done at all.

I didn't get around to trimming Courthouse Steps and cutting the binding, but that can wait until I get to it. Which will be soon, because I'm very happy with the way this one came out and want to snuggle up under it.

Instead of gambling on that 100% polyester sheet I thought I had my heart set on, I used some yardage that appeared out of nowhere. Grandma bought a dresser full of old sewing supplies, sold the dresser at a profit, and I got the fabric and notions to see what I can use -- how cool is that?

I really like this floral print, and there's still enough of it left for another big quilt I've got planned.

Between computer battles, I pieced these scrappy little sawtooth stars because the squares for them have been living on the end of the kitchen counter since I made my own star quilt. It's a miracle the boys hadn't made off with them already.

Tomorrow, I'm going to work on something I want to do. Once I figure out what that is.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

You know those things you keep putting off because you're too tired, or don't have the energy, or don't have the time? You know how they usually don't take half as long as you expected them to?

This little basket was one of those things --

In a perfect world, I'd have looked at the actual measurements before I started the project and sized it up a bit, but I didn't do that. I've got enough fabric to make a bigger one if I get that inspired, but for now it's DONE and that's the important thing.

The pattern is that fabric basket tutorial at Pink Penguin that I've been wanting to try for months, minus the patchwork around the top. The whole thing took less than an hour -- why did I work so hard at putting this off?

And while I was basking in feelings of accomplishment and the kids were still not-napping, I sewed up the seam of that baby hat and sewed together the rows for the newest little quilt --

Now I'm almost done quilting Courthouse Steps.

Yes, this is a sweat shop...

Today at least. I've been letting myself put things off, like assembling the last baby top and quilting the courthouse steps. and figuring out what I wanted to do with the cat applique for those yellow and blue string blocks. And sewing the one seam on that last baby hat. Because I didn't have to get them done today. Or tomorrow.

This is playing with fabric, not a sweat shop.

Except today it is, because there's a baby shower in two days and if I'm going to finish that present I bought fabric for, I'd better start cutting and sewing and figuring out how I'm going to do it.

I am going to make this thing today. And post pictures.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Is it a bad sign that I can get so excited about glossy pictures of fabric scraps? After much hemming and hawing and waiting to see if I could find a copy at a quilt shop and actually look at the thing before I spent the money, I finally gave in and ordered Bonnie's new book as a birthday present to myself, hoping I'd love it as much as I loved her first one.

I do love it. There are two quilts I'm desperate to make, and some others I probably will make, and then there are the glossy closeups of the blocks. It makes me feel like all of....most of....some of...my scrap hoard will be just fine.

Tonight, I'm piecing scraps, switching back and forth between the nine patch I want to make for myself and the other idea I sort of think might work out as a baby quilt.

And the latest baby quilt top is done -- I really like these disappearing four patch blocks! If I could scrounge up enough plaid shirts in the right colors, I'd do a big one for my boys.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book sales were a major highlight of my childhood, serious business that involved bringing your own boxes and arriving early enough to get a good spot in line before they opened the doors, then splitting up and heading for the spots where whatever genre we were after had been in previous years. The YMCA used to have a back room where they'd hold your boxes while you were still looking for more, then we'd reclaim them and sort them into stacks to make sure that between the two of us, Mom and I didn't have three copies of the same title.

That was back in the days when book sale books still went for ten cents and you could trade them in to the used bookstore for more books without handing over large amounts of cash, so as a kid I'd get a hundred books at a sale and it would feed the never ending cycle of reading books and trading them for more books and waiting for the next book sale.

I stopped going to as many book sales when the prices started climbing, and gave them up altogether after the kids came along. It takes energy to defend your box of finds from rude people who claim not to have realized it was yours, even though you had a grip on the edge. I don't have the energy for that and holding a baby, much less the nerve to take a pack of toddlers into one of those crowded madhouses. It was like Black Friday with books.

There was the memorable sale where I found an almost complete set of the 1935 edition of the Book of Knowledge (I think that's the right title) on the free pile. I was there alone with my two year old and pregnant and I was going to get those books to my car several blocks away if I had to make a dozen trips carrying them two or three at a time. A nice old man with a hand truck came to my rescue.

And there was the one we went to when I was in labor with Heath. After two days at five centimeters, we got bored with timing the contractions and wanted to find something fun to do. Have I mentioned that I met my husband in a bookstore?

Last week, I saw a flyer for a book sale at the legion hall in town, all items twenty-five cents. That's when I realized how clueless my kids are about the book sale thing. Of course you've got to be there early! Yes, just like the good fabric sales at Joann's. We were actually an hour late, but there was hardly anyone else there, so I'm not sure we missed out on much.

I got the boys some old Time Life books on airplanes and volcanoes and a couple of books that were green (we might need to work on our selection process) and found myself a bunch of those old Alfred Hitchcock anthologies that I hope will ease my old time radio withdrawals. And I found a copy of The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald, a book I'd been hoping to track it down since Heath and I watched the movie a couple of weeks ago.

That's why my quilting project for today didn't get done. I've been happily curled up in the corner of my couch, reading about chicken farming in the Pacific Northwest.

The blocks I'm neglecting are disappearing 4 patch, which I learned from this tutorial. They're much quicker and easier than they look -- if I wasn't distracted by chickens, I'd have the little top done already!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I've challenged myself again, this time to cut 1000 2 1/2" squares for the little quilts. It shouldn't be too hard, since I've got a box of scraps I pulled together when I was rummaging through the sewing room last week, and a bag from Mom and her quilting buddy, and a few 1/3 yard cuts I just picked up at the 40% off sale at Joann's. (I know, that's cheating, but I wanted some bright stuff to throw in.)

Usually, I cut the squares a couple hundred at a time, just enough to keep a couple of quilts ahead of myself. My goal has been to have a box overflowing with little squares, but I never make time to actually cut them.

When we were running errands yesterday, the little voice in my head told me it would be a good idea to stop at the thrift store on the far end of town. I rarely drive out there, because Grandma goes every week and if there was something I needed, she's probably going to have found it already. Yesterday, though, I had to go for myself.

Turns out my thirteen-year-old hasn't found her little inner voice yet, so I had to explain the whole "following your hunches because they usually steer you in the right direction, and as long as you're not following them off a cliff or telling you to drink the poison kool aid, it's okay if they were wrong" thing to her. She didn't get it.

The voices were right. I found two of the linen tea towels I like to collect for fifty cents a piece and a really nice vintage sheet --

And another sheet that'll be perfect for backing that courthouse steps quilt if the 100% polyester behaves the way I hope it will. That fabric content might've scared me off, but it's such a perfect print I would've bought it as yardage.

The little baby hats and booties are piling up. I swear I've finished more than one pair of the little socks, because I remember turning more heels, but they're not in the box with the rest. The knitting is getting steadily easier. I've been doing the little lace hats without looking at the pattern, which makes me think I might be ready to tackle a bigger project again. (for the last two years, all of my bigger projects have ended in disaster, so I stopped starting them.

But Quinn needs a green sweater, if only to make him give up the awful one I made for Heath a couple of years ago. If the sweater wasn't bad enough, he also found the hat that I made with the leftover yarn and insists on wearing them together.

I suppose I could just hide them in the attic, but knitting him a new sweater would make him happier. As long as it's green. There was a green cotton sweater that's his size and also looked nice, but the washer ate it. Have I mentioned how much I hate that washer?

And this is tomorrow's challenge -- fifteen different pairs of 5" red blocks. The sixteenth pair is already made up into a test block, so I can't show that one yet.

Today's inspiration --

An absolutely awesome knitted camel, made more awesome by the fact that there's a free pattern for it online.

Lost at Sea, a fantastic piece of embroidery which has wet looking hair trailing down from it.

And this great explanation of English Paper Piecing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Last night and this morning, I caught up on the baby quilts. Except for the yellow strings blocks, and a couple that have been lost up in the sewing room for so long they don't count as part of this project, I've got all of the little ones quilted and bound.

The cat quilt started as an orphan block from one of Grandma's scrap bags. If you look very closely, you can tell that the borders and background aren't the same blue fabric, but even up close it's hard to tell.

This is also the first time I've tried quilting around the applique instead of meandering over the top -- it really does puff up!

This one was my leaders-and-enders project while I was piecing my birthday quilt. That gave me such a head start that I was able to finish the blocks and get them assembled in one afternoon.

And this one is just more 4 1/2" squares framed in bright scraps. I liked the contrast of the cat quilt so much I decided to play with the same colors a bit more.

Friday, April 09, 2010

I had to run an errand this morning, so when we were done with that we stopped at the thrift store that usually has decent prices on sheets. I've chatted with the couple who run the shop several times, and the wife actually checks for stains and rips and the few times I've bought sheets with "small stains," I've never been able to figure out what was wrong with them. It's win-win -- I get cheap sheets and don't even have to check them for cigarette burns and other ickiness!

No sheets today, but there was a taped up bundle labeled "odds and ends."

It's definitely vintage and I was thinking it must be curtains (the wife wasn't there to ask), and decided it had to be worth $1.49. Now that I've got it home and unwrapped, I'm still not sure exactly what it is.

My best guess is that I'm the new owner of a set of three oddly sized table cloths, with rick rack where the seams are. Not down the middle or along the edges, just wherever the seams happened to fall. I've got at least seven yards of this stuff and the first thing I have planned for it (after figuring out what some of those unidentified kitchen gadgets are) is an apron.

Tonight's project -- finish quilting that cat quilt and get started on the binding. Shouldn't take long, which is good because I'm running on about two hours of sleep. Not, sadly, because I was up late playing, but because the littlest one gave me his cough.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Yesterday was show and tell at Mom's house, our annual event when I haul up everything I've finished since she headed back south after Christmas. Every year, it feels like I'm packing for a safari, and every year I bring home more than I left the house with. Not that I'm complaining about a big bag of birthday presents or lots of new-to-me scraps!

I was going to write a long post about my birthday present to myself, but I've lost track of what I meant to say, so that'll have to wait until tomorrow or whenever I manage to recollect my thoughts.

As usual, I've found pretty things to be distracted by. Like doily covered rocks, and the post about stamped doilies that led me to the crochet covered rocks, and the embroidery patterns at Fasterkittykill.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I like this quilt so much better now that the top is together -- almost enough for me to dig out my copy of Cookies N Quilts and see how many little pieces I'd have to cut for that Shenandoah Log Cabin.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ever notice how sometimes quilting is fun and sometimes it isn't? Even when you're doign the exact same part of the exact same project?

Today, these courthouse steps blocks are exhausting. I'm SO close to the end, with only sixteen more 11 1/2" strips to sew into place, but I don't think there are enough light strips left in the box to cut them. The only way I work up any motivation to slog through it is the idea of assembling the top tomorrow morning and being done.

I've got other plans for the 1 1/2" strips, lots of them, but they're going to wait until this afternoon's piecing marathon is a distant memory.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

All I want to do is enlarge a pattern so I can applique some cats onto that yellow strip quilt. That's not a lot to ask, is it?

After spending an hour on the phone with HP tech support -- not an hour on hold, an hour of pushing buttons and taking out ink cartridges and putting them back in and unplugging cords and holding down two different buttons while putting the cord back in...I've finally got my pattern enlarged and my fingers tightly crossed that this stupid printer is actually going to keep working.

And while it's working, I printed out the pattern for a Groovy Bird Embroidered Pillow because it's just too cute not to make. I don't think I'm going to do a pillow, but I'm absolutely loving that bird. And this idea for decorating old wooden spools with itty bitty fabric scraps. Because I've got some itty bitty scraps of wonderful vintage prints, and some wooden spools...if I can just remember where I put them...

I'm finding such cute stuff tonight, after I wasted most of my computer time dealing with the printer. It's sad.

Before my printer started throwing hissy fits and I got distracted by embroidery and wooden spools, I planned to write about what I did this afternoon -- Madder Snowballs is finally quilted!

This thing has been pin-basted since January and I've been moving it from place to place to get it out of my way while I worked on other things. I even had the binding cut and pressed and the bobbins wound. I just didn't have the enthusiasm to quilt this particular quilt -- those dozen or so little quilts I quilted instead were apparently something totally different!

But some of the Stashbusters were doing a quilting challenge, and I'm always jumping onto bandwagons, so my quilt is done except for handstitching the binding. Same as my birthday quilt.

That's a lot of binding to sew.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

I'm knitting again!

Actually, the scarf was finished in January, I just didn't work up the enthusiasm to weave in the ends and take a picture until this afternoon.

What I've been knitting today are a hat and baby booties. Nothing fantastic, unless you count the fact that I finally managed to find the same pattern I was using for booties last year. The kids made off with my printout and it didn't have a memorable name, so I wasn't able to find it again until yesterday. Ravelry, for probably the first time ever, was no help, but I found a link from Bev's Country Cottage. It's a great site for basic baby patterns.


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