Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sewing and Sowing

After sewing a lot of curved, gridded triangles and then ripping most of them out I was getting pretty tired of re-doing that motif.  Scroll down to my last post to see the notorious motif.  I spent a couple of hours yesterday in the yard preparing the soil and sowing wildflowers.  There is no point in creating a fancy garden because the deer and the elk just eat their way through it so I feed them with wildflowers and enjoy watching them up close and personal.

Big bull elk chewing his cud and growing his antlers.
The only downside was my body the next day.  It protested mightily and let me know that it was time for a "soft" day.  Thinking about the quilting I want to get done, I decided to do a marathon sew-in.  I started after breakfast carefully stitching the blue motif with tiny-stitch filler.  Once I made up my mind to do this I was able to divert my brain from the tedium.  I was also listening to an intense, suspenseful audiobook.  I stopped for lunch and went right back to it.  Before I knew it I was done.  Relief.  Joy. A little dance.  It feels so good to be able to move on.  There is still more quilting to do, but it is easier and will go much faster.  I WILL finish this quilt!!

I will do what I can in the next few days before I fly off to Seattle.  Then my daughter and I will drive to Oregon for a day before heading north to British Columbia for my granddaughter's bridal shower.  Then we drive back to Seattle.  My 3-month old great-grandson is waiting for me to come cuddle him before I fly home.  I will be gone for about 10 days during which time my sewing machine will go to the hospital.  The "On-Off" button is not working reliably....again.  It makes sense to get it taken care of while I am gone, and it is under warranty.

My pretty mother's day bouquet.
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you the time and persistence to finish something special.

Back at you in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Path to Perfection

This quilt will be the death of me.  I continued quilting in spite of the fact that I didn't like the way the triangle motif was turning out.  See below and note how the half-diamonds at the bottom are all different sizes.  Not perfect at all.
Uneven geometry.
I kept on going as I couldn't figure out how to get them to look more uniform, but I wasn't sleeping well as my brain worried the problem.  I started with a rounded triangle, the outline of the said motif.  To mark the grid lines I made myself a little "ruler" from clear template plastic and marked curved lines 1/4 inch apart that follow the shape of the triangle sides.

Homemade "ruler."
Then I marked and sewed along the marked lines.  It bothered me and I don't know why I kept going.  Well, yes I do:  I want to finish this quilt!  I puzzled and puzzled over the problem though.  It is seriously ugly.

As I worked I accidentally figured it, out and will share with you how to do it right so you won't join me at the ripping table.  The trick, my friends, is to make the gridlines meet on a dot at the bottom of the outlined motif.  Now all the bottom triangles are of uniform shape and size.  So simple.

Red circles show how lines need to come together.
So much ripping to do!  I will line up a bunch of movies on Amazon Prime to watch as I rip, but in the end the motifs will be uniform and look so much better, although still not perfect.

TIP:  Remember we are all human and it is impossible to achieve perfect perfection.  Don't be too hard on yourself.

Too much perfectionism?  Maybe, but my inner bulldog will carry me through.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you all the perfection you want.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Stitch By Tiny Stitch

All quilters know the tedium that is part of piecing and quilting.  Why do we do it?  We all have different reasons.  I was struck with the sewing bug as a very young child.  I have happy memories of sitting on my bed creating fantastical doll clothes that made me insanely proud.  I graduated to sewing my own clothes, then toddler clothes then wedding dresses, and finally quilts.  I never tire of the sewing process in general.  Nevertheless there are tasks in the process that require endless repetition.  Again, why do it?  I do it because:

*It takes my mind off the dreary tasks of life.

*I enjoy audiobooks or music while I sew.

*I look forward to my creative break every day for 3 hours after lunch.

*Creating beauty is supremely up-lifting.

*There is dancing joy at finishing a long, tedious task.

*I am a disciplined person.  I am driven to finish what I start.

*I LOVE to sew!

Thus, the quilt progresses.  Tedious, dainty stitches.  Slow going.  It takes about 9 hours to complete 1/8 of just the outer part of the border.  Satisfaction is sky high and I look forward to getting back to it each day.  Soon it will be done.

One corner complete
The photo shows the border as bright and colorful, but when looking at the total quilt the border design fades into the background - almost.  The final step of border quilting will be piano keys to flatten the outer edges with dark red thread.  Then prairie points.

Hopefully I can get the border stitching done before heading west for two weeks for a wedding shower.  It will be such fun to spend time with my far-away family.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you relief from the tedious tasks as you move on to a beautiful finish.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Forward Motion

....progress on the quilt at last.  No more pillows or puppies to interrupt the process.

I have a 4 inch wide border on my quilt that I am filling with a continuous feather that curves around itself.  After the feathers were done I went back and embellished them with gold, metallic thread.  I was going to fill the stem with pebbles, but when I got finished with the gold thread I noticed that the stem really stood out and looked pretty cool.  No pebbles - great idea!  I am calling this quilt "Desert Mosaic" because it is made up of the colors that represent our Southwest:  red, orange, yellow, turquoise.  It is a pattern of geometric interaction.  What do feathers have to do with geometric design?  They are a foil to the harshness of contrast and hard lines.  As it turns out the embellishment makes me think of cactus with their spines, centipedes, spiders, tarantulas and snakes indigenous to  the desert.   That may be kind of weird, but that is where my brain took it.  What do you think?

Feathered border.
The feathers in each section are exactly the same or the reverse.  I am a symmetrical person.  My quilt is a symmetrical design.  They are not perfect.  I am only human and sometimes the needle takes over and I have to say, "OK" or rip it out.  How do I mark these long feathers and related designs on black fabric?

1.  I draw the designs out on tracing paper.

2.  For the feathers I transfer the basic shape of the stem onto an old manilla file folder and cut out the shape.  I use the old childhood magic of heavy pencil lines, turn the paper over and rub the back until the pencil line transfers, then cut it out.  You can also cut up the tracing paper and trace around it, but I prefer not cutting up my basic design if I don't have to.

Transferring design elements (see below for the individual small patterns)
TIP:  We have tons of useless folders from DH's working years but cereal box cardboard works too.  You can tape pieces together for a long form, and it is a lot cheaper than template plastic especially if you will never use these patterns again.

Large manilla patterns.  The big one is for the basic feather stems.
3.  I pin the cardboard pattern to the quilt (down into the cork board under my ironing board cover), and trace around the shape with my white ceramic pencil.

4.  From there I draw the additional elements by hand with a white ceramic pencil.

5.  For smaller elements that need to be very precise I make little patterns out of the manilla folder.

Small patterns for the final border.
I have another two inch border yet to do, but then I can move on to my first attempt at prairie points, with some experimentation for a different sort of point.  I'll share with you how it turns out, but that is down the road a bit.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you fun making cheap patterns from a Captain Crunch box.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Back Burner Again.....

That title refers to my everlasting quilt.  Why?  Read on:

My husband is hard on chairs.  He inherited my father's big, heavy, antique rocking chair and loved it, but after using it for awhile the upholstery and springs gave out.  I could have re-upholstered it, but I would have to learn how to tie the springs.  I can't be that hard.  Instead we pulled another upholstered, antique chair from storage with a fairly new upholstery job.  Well, he has now destroyed the fabric and the springs on that one too.  So, we pulled out a big, beautiful caned rocker that was made in Nicaragua and that we have not previously had the space to use.  He loves it, but it needs a cushion for complete comfort.

A trip to Joann's netted some fabric, some 5" foam, a zipper and cording.  That is why the quilt is back on "hold" while I make him a nice comfortable cushion.  DH sat on the foam without a cover for a week now and decided that it is comfy.  Making a quilt is delicate work compared to stitching the heavy, upholstery fabric.  I made my own cording from the fabric so the final seams incorporated at least four layers of fabric.  Actually I am pretty pleased as it went together well and looks nice on the chair.  I hope it will wear well!

DH's new cushion (his clutter is blacked out!)
Now back to the quilt....again!

Two corners of quilting done.

Well maybe those two ancient pillows would look better with new fabric on them.  Hmmmm.  I have enough of the upholstery fabric to make a couple of pillows for the sofa, and so I did.

New pillow in front of Puzzle Quilt (Paula Nadelstern)
Photo didn't do well with the colors.  They really look nice in real life.
 Now I need a green pillow.  So I did.  I still need some red buttons and a new pillow form.  I made it with a large log cabin.  Not too pleased.  I shopped in my stash and did the best I could, but it didn't turn out the way my brain said it should.  I am fascinated by the work of Caryl Fallert-Gentry and have been eager to give her method a try.  So I did!  (BTW if you scroll down far enough on her tutorial she shares her method - easy and precise).  I put a swath of yet another green and a piece of red on top the the log cabin.  Now it is really a mish-mash of green with one lonesome bit of red.  It needs more red so I am going to sew red buttons on.  Those in the photo have not been sewn on yet.  I am heading for the thrift store to see if I can find a few more interesting buttons.

My green pillow cover with trial buttons not sewn yet.
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to sew something new.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Cleaning up and Clearing Out

Cleaning up and clearing out!  We all need to do that now and then.  My sewing room turned into a disaster as I flung fabric bits all over during the construction of a pillow.  Not even a quilt...just a pillow!  It was pieced and quilted... as if that might be an excuse.  I will fly with with the pillow cover to where my granddaughter's shower is, buy the pillow form there and hand stitch the last seam.  No room in my suitcase for an 18 inch pillow.   I also made a stuffed puppy for my new great-grandson, which was left resting as I waited for Amazon to deliver the stuffing.  Now all is done.

"Puppy Dog Pete" designed by Pauline McArthur
(kit purchased from AQS)
I spent two hours sorting material ready to put some away.  The rest is tidied up ready for anticipated use in the near future.  There were also numerous spools and cones of thread to return to their respective boxes.

Now what?  Next I hemmed my dress for the wedding.  It is the weirdest material.  There is no is just cut off.  That makes it easy.  I will have to hem the lining however, but I can do that by machine.  The best part of the dress is that is doesn't wrinkle.  I bought it in CA and packed it into my suitcase very squished.  Not a wrinkle when I got home.

Originally I wrote this during great sewing weather.  We were hit by a major snow storm with over a foot of snow.  It was gorgeous.  Some places near us were pummeled with 90 mph wind, but for some reason we escaped that part of the storm.  I couldn't walk the dog when there was so much ice on the roads, but we had fun romping through the deep snow in the yard.

Our magnificent icicles.
I have finally returned to quilting my quilt.  Endless, but fun all at the same time.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to enjoy the outdoors as well as time to sew.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Walking Foot Quilting

I began quilting my star pillow cover with light colored thread and a fancy design.  Three hours of quilting and it looked awful.  Three more hours to pick it all out listening to a good audiobook.  OK.  Now what?  Clearly fancy, special quilting was not doing anything for the pillow cover.  Neither was the light colored thread.

TIP:  Sometimes fancy quilting is not the best way to quilt.

Fancy quilting is so beautiful on negative space.  It is stunning on a whole cloth quilt.  It doesn't work so well on fabrics with a busy design.

I threw my hands up and decided I didn't want to spend inordinate amounts of time on this project so I dug out my dual feed foot.  If you don't have one of those, a walking foot will do the same thing.  I have read that people do 1/4 inch lines with these feet, but on my foot the front tips curl up and I didn't think I would be able to gauge it right with my eyes since the tips are not flat on the fabric.  However, a red line runs down the foot 1/4 inch from the needle so I decided to give it a try.  Awesome!  It works.  My eyes adjusted to the spatial variation with no problem.  I didn't have to mark anything.

See how the tips curl up.  See the red guidelines.
I did yards and yards of straight-line, perfect quarter inch stitching, and do you know what?  It looks great.  It didn't even take very long. There is texture around the star, but it accentuates the star instead of fighting with it.   You don't want to fight with the stars!  (Scroll down to last week's post to see the whole block.)

Finished quilting
(pardon the fuzz - I was stuffing a puppy toy at photo time)

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a trial with your special feet.  They can be fun.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Prepping and Planning

Back to sewing.  Life is still happening and getting in the way a bit, but I was able to spend time on the wedding shower pillow and I think it is going to fully cover the foam form.  For the back of the pillow I used mostly the same fabrics as the front to create a star, which I paper pieced.  It is always gratifying when all those pieces are nice and crisp and the seams go together well.  The seams can be problematic as they cannot be pressed in opposite directions to nest at the meeting place.

TIP:  [As you read this you must realize that I have cork board under my canvas ironing cover.]  I have two triangles that have been paper pieced.  I need to sew them together matching several seams.  Lay the triangles right side together and put a pin through all paper and fabric at the exact junction of the seam and the seam allowance line.  Carefully lift the top seam allowance and make sure that the seams align perfectly.  Then put a short line of glue in the seam allowance to hold the fabric in place.  Press. Sew.  Usually the seams line up without a problem.  If they don't I redo and sew the seam from the other direction.

Paper pattern with fabric sewn on to the reverse
(the other triangle is underneath so right sides are together)
I discovered in the process of making the triangles that the star didn't show up if I used the busy parts of the fabric next to it, and the yellow bands at the corners disappeared.

TIP:  Put a mirror next to the edges to get an idea of what it will look like when sewn to the next piece.
First edition.
There wasn't enough fabric to fussy cut so I cut the pieces so that the black areas mostly bordered the star and the yellow bands.  I also used a lighter color fabric for the outer layer of the star.  This made a nice contrast so those features now stand out.  The floral fabric retreated to the background.

Below is the completed star block with all seams stitched-in-the-ditch.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you success in matching seams and happiness with the end product.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Life Happens

Lots of unexpected things in my life lately, but not much sewing.

1.  I fell and broke my toe.  All healed now.

2.  I came down with shingles, but due to a vaccination several years ago it was mild.  The worst of it was the dragging lethargy and general malaise after the rash healed.  Too wussy to sew.

3.  My first great-grandchild was born four weeks early during the big Seattle snowstorm.  He was 6 lb 8 oz so all is good.  Can't wait to snuggle him.

His dad is responsible for the embedded caption!
4.  Though not unexpected, I went to CA for a week to shop with my daughter and grand-daughter for her (gr-dau's) wedding...and a little beach time.


The above was scheduled to be automatically posted two weeks ago and never went out.  I probably forgot to click the "publish" button.  I am now home from California where I had a wonderful five days.  I got a beautiful dress, walked the beach, visited the venue where the wedding will take place, and had a great time with family.

5.  My computer went to the shop for more memory.  Withdrawal!  Wish my brain could get some more memory.

Having no computer to suck up my time I spent a lot of time sewing.  I made a stuffed dog for the baby (still have to purchase some stuffing).  I was also reminded of the reason that I usually don't make stuffed animals!  Some of the seams are incredibly challenging.

I made a block for my daughter's mother-in-law's birthday quilt.

I am also stitching a special pillow for granddaughter's wedding shower.  I know...same pattern.  I saw it on Pinterest with no attribution and created different sized versions.  It is a simple pattern, but the Flying Geese mean three points from each goose had to be watched to prevent them from being "chopped," so it required some careful planning.

TIP:  On the unpieced fabric that borders the geese I folded under a 1/4 inch seam allowance and starched it with a paint brush. Press.  This left a very sharp crease.  I put Elmer's Clear glue on the seam allowance of the Flying Geese and laid the folded edge of the unpieced fabric onto the seam allowance of the geese being careful to come to the exact point of each triangle.  Press.  Some of the glue catches the non-seam-allowance fabric of the unpieced fabric and you have to separate that so you can fold it back to see the crease line where you will stitch.

The second block is the pillow cover, which is much larger (18"x18") than the first block (fall motif), and I am quilting it.  The stitching really brings it alive.  The flowers puff and the birds look ready to fly.  The black background is completely flattened.  I haven't done the geese yet.

Of course my quilt is back in "hold" mode, folded up on the bed waiting for me to quilt the borders.  Sometimes life happens and takes control.  I hope 2019 will settle down now and let me drive for awhile.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you only good things this week, unexpected or otherwise.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Puzzling Pleats

I got a pleat in my backing.  I haven't done that in years.  The stitching in the ditch must take the blame, and it is just dumb luck that I discovered it before it was too late.

How does it happen?  It begins with the laying out of the backing when preparing the sandwich.  The backing is laid down first and must be secured snuggly.  Not too loose.  Not too tight.  Just right.  If you work on a carpet you can pin the edges down.  I work on my uncovered ironing board, on plywood.  I tape the edges with blue painter's tape.  It works like a charm...mostly.

I don't know how I blew it this time, but fortunately it was a very tiny pleat about 1 mm deep.  It was the result of a little too much backing fabric in that area.  When I stitched in the ditch it got doubled over and pulled some other bias-wise wrinkles in as well although they didn't pleat.  I was lucky it happened along the straight line of a border strip.  I hadn't done any fancy quilting there yet.

My fix required un-stitching about 3-4 inches along two seams, tying off the threads and straightening the fabric.  Then I carefully pinned the fabric in place, attached the duel feed foot, changed the thread and replaced the ditch stitching.

Specifically, I held the sandwich together, easing out the backing fabric with my fingers.  Then I pinned the sandwich together from the back with 1/2 inch of pin showing on the front across the seam. They were about 3/4 inch apart.

Pins in the back smoothed the backing

Pins as seen on the front of the quilt
I managed sewing this by doing something you must NEVER do. I sewed across the pins.   I stitched in the ditch very, very SLOWLY, and when I came to a pin I moved the needle by turning the hand control across the pin making sure that needle and pin did not tangle with each other.

WARNING:  Never sew over pins.  You can throw your machine out of timing and cause a great deal of expensive damage as well.  I could have basted with needle and thread, but I didn't.  Instead I used extreme care and was using the dual feed foot.  I did not attempt this with FMQ.  That would have spelled disaster and would have looked a mess (at least for me).

Success!  The pleat is gone although there was a fair amount of puffiness in the area that looked more like easing than anything else.  The affected border was quilted with piano keys and the stitching took up a lot of fabric.  It looks perfect after all is done, and I don't anticipate any more problems, but I will be watching.

The piano keys ate up all excess fabric with no pleating
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a life without wrinkles.