Saturday, February 22, 2014

Swoon worthy

I try to limit my Pinterest scouring to once a week, and I'm usually successful. I kind of think of it like a power nap -- I'm not actually sleeping while I'm looking, but I feel like I have napped when I finish -- weird; I  know.

But today I found an image that hit me in the gut and knocked me to my knees:
I followed the Pin and found it at the blog of Quilt 1812: War & Piecing. I'm guessing this is another Barbara Brackman blog but the last post was in October 2012. But this quilt! Oh, I'm almost having to fan myself because I'm getting so excited about it!

I think I have to make it. I don't know when I'll start drafting it--maybe next year?--but I'll keep you posted.

Oh, yeah--and someone hacked my Pinterest account. And I wonder if it has anything to do with adding the Pinterest widget to my sidebar (which I have removed). It's all good now, but I do not Work From Home in Paris. Stupid hacker.

Enjoy your weekend, and go quilt!

Friday, February 21, 2014

I'm calling it euphoria

I have had such a lovely time quilting this year that it finally hit me on the head today--I've been in a euphoric state for a few days. Oh, my gosh. I couldn't put my finger on it and now that I have, I'm just kind of ... stupid? Nuts? In a lavender haze? I don't know...but it surely feels good!

I've mentioned before that I recently regained my quilting mojo and I'm so glad it's back! I was wandering lost in the desert for so long, weighted down by so many other obligations and finally said, "Enough!" And with last year's idea of finishing 12 UFOs and not starting anything new (OK, I did start, and FINISH, 3 projects, all gifts, in addition to the other finished projects), it just made for a fairly dull and boring time.

But...hindsight is 20/20. The beauty of plodding along on those projects last year helped get me to a state where I could start thinking about new projects again. Ideas started popping and zinging and I was smiling, no--grinning! I haven't done much of that in a very long time.
Possibly the next Blooming Nine Patch
Going into the studio every day is key. I've learned I'm better off getting in there for 20-30 minutes a day than waiting until the weekend. I just spend more time in there during the weekend! The last two mornings all I've done is clean off the cutting tables in the longarm room and pick up stuff. That was good enough for me.
Inspiration Wall (needs tidying, too)
Machine Wall

Having handwork helps. I take my Trick or Treat blocks with me everywhere I go, including work. I stitch for about 15 or 20 minutes during lunch. Yesterday afternoon I took Will to an appointment and continued stitching for an hour. Wonderful.

Having quilting friends is also key. No matter what, they support me, and I hope I do the same for them.

So, if you've lost that loving feeling for quilting, or the hobby of your choice, here's a tip: Just Do It. Find something, anything, to work on, even if it's only for 10-15 minutes. Even if it's something you are no longer enamored of, especially some UFO that you lost interest in after the 75th seam, going through the process on a daily basis and seeing bits of progress will help bring you back. Try it. And please, let me know how it works for you.

As far as the above photos go, you can see that I always have a mess to clean up. But this is on the Inspiration Wall, and I smile every time I find it:

It's true! And, it also adds to the euphoria.

And quilting is my crack.

Go quilt!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Playing in the scrap heap and cutting up

Instead of finishing up Swiss Mocha on the longarm Saturday so I can get the retirement quilt on there, I started pulling fabric for a new project. I found out that morning that our niece is having a little boy in July and I want to make him a quilt. 

This makes the 6th of the babies our nieces and nephews are popping out, but the first for which I'm making a quilt. All the others were born when I had lost my quilting mojo, so I'll make a quilt for each of the others one day in the not too distant future.

So back to the new project--I wanted to keep it simple and decided on a bullseye quilt. I'll be making 20 blocks, and decided I wanted to use blues for all of the backgrounds. After pulling those, I started to pull yardage out of my fabric cave for the circles, but then I looked down:

Corner view of cave with wicker baskets and notion wall
See the plastic bins on the bottom of the fabric shelves? Those are bins that hold most of my scraps; each bin represents a color. The wicker baskets have more scraps that haven't been sorted. 

I started digging in the scrap bins and had enough scraps to generate all the circles I needed without digging into yardage. Here are all the lovely circles:

And here are the blue backgrounds:

I know Accuquilt has introduced the new nesting circle and hexagon dies which make it easier to make bullseye style quilts, but I already have several of their circle dies, and have a way to make the blocks in a faster way (in my mind). I'll share that later.

Why the muddy colors? This particular niece grew up in FFA and raised goats and cows--and I just envision that this little tyke will be a bit of a cowboy. I want this to last him a few years and I didn't want it to be juvenile.

And my cave? It's just off of my studio and at various times in this home's history has housed a bar, a gun and ammo workshop, and maybe a kitchen. When the hubster renovated the studio for me a few years ago the space was being used for general storage. He completely gutted and ripped everything down to the studs, built the shelves and installed LED lighting. A sliding door (that also serves as part of the design wall) closes it off from everything else and the fabric is protected from light (except when I'm in there looking for it). I love it.
Other corner view of cave

Project bins next to neutrals
On Sunday, both Katrina and LeiLani popped over for a while. We haven't visited in ages. It's time for a Girlfriend quilting day.

I'm so glad my mojo is back.

Go quilt!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Leaders and Enders and missing bloggers

I have read about Bonnie Hunter's Leaders and Enders and have decided to try it, but instead of working on her project for 2014 I have selected something different: Holly's Garden designed by Suzanne Unbehaun (free pattern download available at Lecien's website). 

I love the colors in this version seen in Quilt Mania magazine.

I'll be cutting my pieces on my die cutter and placing them in a box next to my sewing machine and maybe getting this quilt done by the end of the year while I'm making all the others. All 111 blocks. We'll see.

I post in spurts and may be absent for a while. I post when the spirit moves me to, sort of like when I quilt. The spirit has been moving me to quilt, quilt and quilt some more! Life intervenes and I try to roll with the flow, but I hope to post my progress report at the end of the month.

Go quilt!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Snow day in the studio and One Block Wonder ideas

It's Saturday, but I don't care! We had a snow day on Tuesday but I had to telework, so I'm taking what I can get. This morning we got up early because Will was supposed to take his ACT test. After we found out that it had been canceled due to the snow, I hunkered down in my recliner with a cup of coffee and Pinterest. 

This may explain why I'm wanting to start a bunch of new projects--so much inspiration. I'm a little obsessed with the One Block Wonder quilt--I had the idea to make one in the colors we're using for Christmas decorating and I bought not one, but two different pieces of fabric. After doing the magic mirror test, I'm not sure that either one of these fabrics will work; one is really busy and the other has wide open spaces. Both had the right color families, and I really don't want to purchase any more fabric right now. Then I started digging in my stash and found one OBW already started (2009, one strip cut), and at least 4 other fabrics that would make great OBWs--one was purchased when I thought it would make a great Stack 'n Whack quilt (before OBW was published). 
Fabrics 1 and 2 for One Block Wonder quilts
I purchased both of these fabrics online. Had I been in a quilt shop eyeing them I may have shied away. Here's some samples with the magic mirrors - Fabric 1:

Fabric 2:

(Sorry about the shadows, it's getting dark in the studio.)

Fabric 1 is incredibly busy and has a small repeat, small enough to where I would double it to make sure I got a good variety of blocks, but it may be too busy. Fabric 2 has lots of background space which would give the blocks a very open and minimalist quality, and I love it.

So...I'll keep stewing on those because the retirement quilt is the priority (but I surely am itching to get going on something new!).

After lunch today I headed downstairs to the Bottoms Up! Studio and continued piecing the retirement quilt. All the blocks are done and I have moved on to the stripes. Oh, and I found out that the pattern is Three Tours designed by Tony Jacobson of Fons & Porter and has 10" blocks instead of my 8" blocks.

I made the first set of stripes and decided to throw the row up on the design wall. Remember that issue I discovered regarding the size of the flying geese unit from the Accuquilt dies? My four-patch star blocks are 1/8" too large...more trimming...darn.

Some Mexican hot cocoa would be good right now...or a glass of wine...or a Bloody Mary...

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Some thoughts on tools for quilting and a tip

I am a big believer in using any tool that will help me do a better job in my quilting, but I am not obsessed with perfection. There is too much perfection expected in my work life and this is probably a big part of the reason that I am drawn to the prim style in quilting--the beauty is in the imperfection. It allows me to relax and enjoy the process instead of focusing on making sure everything is perfect. Don't get me wrong--I fully appreciate the beautiful masterpieces created by quilters that clearly take pride in their preciseness--but I am not one of them, and I'm perfectly happy in that.

All of that said, I'm a lover of quilting tools. I have an Accuquilt Studio cutter, and this is my favorite toy (besides my sewing machine and longarm). I have long had issues with cutting due to carpal tunnel syndrome, and the cutter makes my life so much easier when cutting out many pieces. I love quilts with LOTS of pieces in them; I had been avoiding them because of how much pain I would be in after an afternoon of cutting. 

I love how beautifully it cuts and how the pieces line up together with no dog ears! But...I experienced my first let-down with my cutter's results this week.

When I decided on the quilt I wanted to make for my retiring coworker, I based the block size on dies I already owned. Knowing that there were going to be many flying geese units, I determined that I needed a quarter-square triangle unit in two sizes, 2" and 4" finished. I had the corresponding half-square triangle dies needed for the "wings". I ordered the two dies and when they came in, I cut away.

Fast forward to this past weekend. After sewing all of the larger flying geese units (finished 2" x 4"), I noticed when I lined them up with the inner small star of the block, the flying geese unit was larger than the other unit - by 1/8". That doesn't sound like much to some, and sure, I could fudge, but I shouldn't have to! 

I measured the 4" finished die and sure enough--the hypotenuse measures 4-5/8" instead of 4-1/2" where the dog ears have been eliminated. I'm keeping the die, but I'm going to call Accuquilt and talk to them about this issue.

In the meantime, I have a quilt to finish. Trimming 1/8" off of each of these units means whacking off 1/16" from each side of the unit. I know about the Bloc-Loc tool but I don't have one, so I looked in my ruler stash to see what would be helpful. Lo and behold, there was my Dear Jane square ruler that I haven't used since I started my DJ quilt back in 2003 (I've made 2 blocks!). The ruler is actually 5" square, but it's not a traditional ruler; it's used for lining up those tiny blocks and trimming down. Here's what I did with it:

UPDATE: I called Accuquilt yesterday. I explained the situation to the lovely person that answered the phone (I'm sorry I don't remember her name). We discussed the matter for about 10 minutes; I shared with her my experience and the measurements of the die. The customer service rep said she would turn in the issue and let me know what shakes out. It will be interesting to see if I get a response. She mentioned that they were packaging the particular die in question with their Go value die as a 2" x 4" flying geese die package. For reference, the die I'm having an issue with is 55316 for the Go. The reason why I bought this particular die instead of the one for the Studio is that the die for the Studio only has one triangle shape--the Go die had 3 triangles. I love cutting in quantity. 

I tested the die again last night by cutting 4 QSTs and joining them together in an hourglass block. The block measured 4-9/16"--1/16" larger than it should be! I even took a bigger bite in the seam allowance--it's 5/16".

I hope I hear from Accuquilt. I'll let you know if I do.


Happy quilting,

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mom's quilt

Remember the pecking order I mentioned last year and that Mom had been at the top of it? This is my second quilt (I'll show the first one in a post down the road) -- and I actually got it done in time for Mom's 65th birthday. 
Mom's quilt hanging in my office
Getting it done in time for her birthday was very important to me because I can't tell you how many times I've started a project that was intended as a gift for Mom only to never finish it--and boy, would she lord it over me and tell me about that road to Hell and how it was paved. I did finish several projects that were gifts for her, but there were also plenty that never made it out of the garbage storage bag where they ended up. It's still one of my favorite quilts. I got it back after she passed away and it was displayed in my office at work for a long time. I brought it home when the offices were repainted and had it folded on the bed in the spare bedroom, but then this happened:
Dog damage to Mom's quilt
My sister has two dogs and was babysitting a friend's dog. She had to leave town on business and didn't want to board the dogs, so she brought them to me for a couple of days. Everything was fine until I got home from work the first day and found the telltale signs on the friend's dog's MOUTH. This happened 2 years ago and I haven't done anything to repair the damage and don't know that I will. I had considered removing the border and adding a new one...I don't know; any thoughts?

Mom also did not understand my love of quilting and other crafts. She could do any of them--but she didn't enjoy them. She sewed clothes for my sister and me and herself, as well as her sister--but only because she had to. She could knit (kind of), crochet, macrame, embroider, etc., but none of it ever really satisfied her--she only learned how to do them because it was expected of her. Mom's idea of a good time was either sitting in a casino or sitting in her recliner watching ice skaters on TV. Once she said to me after showing her photos from the show in Paducah, "I don't understand the fascination with cutting up pieces of fabric and sewing them back together." I replied, "I don't understand the fascination with sitting in front of a one-armed bandit and staring at it waiting for a bunch of bars to line up, but I respect your desire to do so." She said, "Touché." After I gave her the quilt, she never spoke ill of my hobby again.

I wanted to make Mom another quilt, but she passed away before I could finish the one I started for her. No, I didn't finish that quilt; I gave the blocks to Katrina's sister and she stitched them up into a quilt that was raffled for a relief organization she and members of her community formed, so some good came out of it.

While I didn't get my love of crafting from Mom, what I did receive from her was the gift of caring for others. Growing up, we always had people staying with us while recovering from a phase or event of life. Aunt Bettye called all the people that Mom would bring into our home or to family gatherings "her strays." I took up the same cause as a young adult and while it cost me dearly with my first marriage, I am still doing it because I believe that God calls us to do whatever we can when we can. 

Today would have been Mom's 80th birthday. I can't even fathom her at 80; she's been gone for almost 13 years, but I love her and miss her very much.

Happy quilting,

Saturday, February 1, 2014

January 2014 Progress Report

Not a lot to tell, but I'm happy I was able to quilt at least a bit! 

Trick or Treat - Finally revisited this project when I needed something in my hands, and I was able to stitch 9 blocks, bringing my grand total to 20 (I need 225). Time to prep some more blocks:

The newest project started this month was the previously mentioned retirement quilt for my co-worker. I got all of the pieces cut a couple of weeks ago. I like to make one of each block for a new project, then piece together the rest of the blocks in assembly-line fashion. I don't know if it's any faster than piecing one entire block at a time, but it seems faster to me, and that's how I roll. Eight blocks down out of 22, and everything is cut for the quilt except for the borders:
4-Patch Star and Rising Star blocks
I have completed all of the 4-patch star blocks and have moved on to the Rising Star blocks. And it's a good thing I decided to get started on it and be ready when my co-worker got around to retiring--he made his announcement this week. He's retiring on March 31 so I am on it. I had plans to go to my sister's in Memphis next weekend to go to a sale at a quilt shop, but I'm skipping it to get this quilt completed.

Organization - NOTHING. My plans to organize were thwarted by my bigger need to sew. And because I've had company every weekend since Thanksgiving. I can't organize when other people are here; it throws off my game.

In case you haven't guessed, I'm not too concerned about goals right now. I'm swimming in the process and loving it.

The winter doldrums hit hard this week and getting myself back into the studio in the mornings before work was just the shot in the arm I needed.

I came to the realization this week that I focused so much last year on completing UFO quilts that I didn't actually have any real fun with it - !!! Yes, the reward was having 8 projects completed, and that is good. This week I decided it will be all about the fun of quilting. I still plan to complete projects, but I won't be as focused on it as I was last year. The retirement quilt is a good start, but I have ideas bouncing around in my head that I hope to start soon, and that's why I love the idea of NewFOs and I'm linking up with Barbara at Cat Patches to join in on the fun!

So, that's it! I hope your January was full of good things.

Happy quilting,