Sunday, May 17, 2020

Filling in the Time

We are all getting a bit tired of COVID19 running our lives, but I feel lucky.  As a retired couple we don't go out much in normal times.  As a recent meme on Facebook said, "You realize how anti-social you are when a pandemic hits and things don't change that much for you."  I guess we are a bit introverted with our own activities that we enjoy.  We did break out for a trip to Costco, which netted us about 1/3 of what we had on our list.  They are having trouble filling their shelves because of supply problems.  Who would ever dream?  Meanwhile I clean, garden, sew, play on the computer, and enjoy the local wildlife.  I can walk in the early morning without a mask because I rarely meet anyone else.  I passed 18 curious, but non-threatening, deer on my walk the other morning.  Below is a huge elk that decided to sunbathe and chew his cud in our yard.  He is losing his winter coat so looks pretty scruffy at the moment.

Bull elk.
Several months ago I was all excited to finally buy a ruler foot that comes with a small ruler.  I tried it out on a sample square and was delighted.  Couldn't wait to use it on my quilt.  I have a wide border already quilted on my quilt and wanted to finish it off with a quiet border of piano keys.  I found that using the ruler and its accompanying foot wasn't working well with a heavy quilt to drag around.  Disappointing.

Solution:  Rip-it.  I decided to do the lines with my regular FMQ foot and was able to maintain the 1/4 inch distance between lines with the edge of the foot as a guide.  I also drew a straight line every so often with my Sewline marker to keep from wandering off at an angle.  Great way to learn to FMQ straight lines!   The lines are not as perfect as they would be with a ruler, but that is OK.  Do the best you can.

TIP:  Instead of using black thread on black fabric try a very dark, colored thread or dark charcoal.  It is much easier on the eyes than black on black and unnoticeable.  I thought my lines were quite perfect until I took this photo.  Clearly I was looking at them with "rose-colored glasses."

Piano Keys
I have also been working on the Mayan mask that will will be the show stopper at the top of the quilt.  I am stitching all the fused edges down with blanket stitch of various sizes.  I find this so satisfying.  It demands close attention as I go around corners and curves so it never gets boring.  In some spots I have stitched with clear, mono-poly thread and in others I have chosen appropriate colors or gold, metallic thread.  There is a narrow band under the eyes where I wanted to simulate the glow of animal eyes.  Gold thread was too much.  Yellow and orange were too much.  Tan didn't show up at all.

Silk thread under the eye.
Solution:  I finally settled on silk thread that is almost the same color as the fabric, which is actually a tan print (not orange as in the photo).  It is perfect.  It creates the glow with its sheen and adds the perfect bit of interest, but also blends.

Gold metallic on red.
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you straight lines, but no worry if they wiggle a bit.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

A Finish and a Solution or Two

I finished the second Wedding Star (Judy Niemeyer pattern) table topper quilt.   I have truly enjoyed making two of these now as bridal gifts.  One is purple and the other is green based on the favorite decorating colors of the individual brides.  One wedding has now been postponed until the world is safe again.  The other is still on schedule for October.  I am glad I started these quilts early as they are time consuming, but they are done and ready to gift wrap.

Wedding Star Table Topper (color is more vibrant than the photo shows)
Note the two-color background within the rings.  I love what that did to the design.  It creates a secondary design in the guise of a square, and it makes you wonder for a second what is going on.  It is one of those eye-grabbers that makes you turn around and look again.

Closeup of the quilting on the table topper.
Now I am back on the obstinate "forever quilt."  I WILL finish this thing.  I ran into problems with the edge of the quilt on one side not lining up.  At that point I folded it up in frustration and worked on a dog quilt and the table toppers.  During my free motion thinking time I gradually came up with a map for solving the problem:

1.  Make a Mayan mask, attach an addition to the top of the quilt and use the mask to cover the problem.  The quilt will now be a rectangle instead of a square.  Not necessarily the best way to do things, but a start to get the ideas flowing.

2.  It would need more design elements so I ran through a number of ideas and tested them on Illustrator.  I have now made two Mayan-style birds with outstretched wings to frame the mask.  Cool!  The fusible appliquéd mask and birds incorporate the colors of this very colorful quilt.  Ultimately this is really not the ideal way to fix a cockeyed quilt, but I love the mask and birds and so does DH.

Mayan Bird
3.  Finally, I decided to block the quilt.  Normally this is done when the quilt is finished, trimmed and ready to bind, but I had to see if I could straighten out the anomaly.

4.  Soak the quilt in the bathtub.  I always prewash my fabric, but can you imagine my horror at discovering that the backing fabric was bleeding red in the water in spite of having been pre-washed?  I quickly added Color Catchers, but that was not going to do it.  Fortunately, the washing machine is up and running again in this nice weather so I rinsed it by machine with the rest of my Color Catchers.  Whew!  All is good and the bright colors on the quilt were not least not that I can see.

5.  Successful blocking.  I was able to square it all up so I don't need the mask and birds.  But I love the mask and birds!  I will continue with the plan and add more fabric (top, batting and backing) to the top of the quilt and apply them.  In Illustrator the design looks great and the execution appears to be viable.  It will be unique if nothing else.

Just another day in my quilting journey!

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you good luck on creatively solving problems.  I hope all are safe and healthy as we carefully watch the slow decline of this pandemic.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Pandemic Sew-In

Are you bored being "stuck" at home?  I want to say, "Get over it!," but that is not fair.  There are many who go to work everyday to provide for their families and don't have time to learn how to keep busy at home.  I remember that all I wanted to do when I got home from work was to put up my feet and have a good book handy.  Well, we are all learning a somewhat different way of life.

I am retired and have lived a life of busy-ness having raised a large family with lots of different hobbies.  I love sewing and always have, so I am keeping busy with sewing-related activities and some genealogy when I want to sit down at the computer.  The bed in my sewing room is a fertile place for the growth of fabric stacks, but I foiled that problem and put each piece of fabric to bed in it's assigned box out in my "Sewing Shed."  No room in the house to store fabric.

My second table topper is coming along nicely.  I am extremely pleased with the quilting.  I stitched every seam in the ditch and that makes the FMQ go so much easier.  No accidental pleating, but how did I miss that one seam, 1 1/2 inches long?  How did that thread in the topstitiching get cut?  That meant taking out about six inches to tie knots and restitch.  How did I forget to topstitch all those points?  Well, that is the way of it I guess.  Another day or two and I will be ready to bind it.

We had some gorgeous weather, which was great for laundry.  I don't have a dryer and my washing machine is in the garage (now a "guest cottage") with no water in the winter.  On the warm days DH turned on the water and I washed everything that ever thought of getting washed and hung it out on the line to soak up the sunshine.  Easter Sunday it snowed all day and plans to continue off and on throughout this week.  In view of the pandemic I do not want to go to the Laundromat so we are being judicious about the clothes we wear so we can make it to the next bout of sunshine.

We live in a community with lots of retired people.  Senior morning at the grocery store was a bust.  Way too many Seniors there and it was a mob.  The good side is that the virus curve is flattening here and we have had no virus so far in our little town high in the mountains.  I hope you are all doing well.  Thank goodness for quilting.  At least we know how to keep busy and have fun while we are sequestered to avoid this nasty virus.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to catch up, to enjoy your family, and to accomplish some quilting.  Stay safe and wash your hands.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Round Two

I finished my Wedding Star quilt.  This is a little table topper 30" in both dimensions.  It is a Judy Niemeyer pattern and I do so admire her designs, but I found the directions to be very confusing in some parts.  However, I was able to tough it out without too much waste.  It is paper pieced and I have done lots of that so experience paid off.

In all my years of sewing and quilting this is the first bias binding I have done.  I went straight to Sharon Schamber's wonderful video on how to do it.  She has so many suggestions on how to avoid problems and a really cool method for cutting the bias.    She has some fussy steps in her process, but in using her methods you can avoid errors that might end in a sloppy result.  She also has an excellent video on how to do a straight grain binding.  I HIGHLY recommend that you watch one or both of her tutorials.

"Wedding Star" (pattern by Judy Niemeyer)
Now I am starting another quilt with the same pattern because I have two family weddings coming up and this is my way of celebrating.  I made some mistakes on the first one and I think I can avoid those on this one.  I have plenty of fabric except for one color that I just barely had enough to cut.  If I goof on that one I will have to replace that element with a different fabric.  All the fabrics are from my stash except for 1 yard for background.  That is helpful as the only way I can get fabric at the moment is online.

Design wall with the start of the second "Wedding Star." (testing!)
I hope you are all doing well during this time of isolation.  The virus hasn't changed my life much because we are pretty much a stay-at-home couple at any given time.  I always have plenty to keep me busy at home and soon I will be able to garden.  I feel badly for our 4 graduates this year as they may not be able to celebrate with the usual ceremony, but at least they are able to finish their course work online.  Our two weddings are in August and October, and I really hope that they each will be able to have the wedding of their dreams.  At any rate they will each have a small quilt from Grandma.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you no flu and lots of time to sew.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Viral Quilting

We are all worrying about a tiny virus that packs a wallop.  Many of us are self-isolating ourselves as much as possible.  Some of you will be extra busy with the kids at home.  Others will be at home with time on your hands.  Well, I no longer have kids at home, but I am always busy within the confines of my house and yard.  However, I miss being able to go to the library, I will go to the store only for dire necessities (like food), restaurants are closed, etc.  So, even if I should feel housebound and want to get out, I won't, except for my daily dog walk.  Quilting can be a blessing at times like this to keep our minds on something other than the troubles.  We are so lucky to have chosen a business or hobby that can keep us immersed in something productive, creative and beautiful.  Of course I assume you have a stash to work from.  I could probably supply the neighborhood.

I have been busy getting my little quilt quilted.  Sometimes I plow straight into a project without planning each step.  I got so excited to get the top all together that I busied myself with building the sandwich so I could settle down to quilting.  About halfway through stitching-in-the-ditch I realized that I hadn't finalized my ideas for the quilting.  So now how am I going to mark it?  That should have been done before the sandwich, but now it was too late.  Never fear, where there is a will there is a way.

I like to completely mark my quilting design because I find it hard to see around the needle apparatus to figure out where I should go next with my freeform designs.  If the lines are drawn it is easier for me.  Some of this I can do free hand with the blue or purple marker, but I need a pattern of some sort with which to mark the bones of the design.  If I had thought ahead I would have used a light box to trace the design.  Now it is too late.  You can create patterns with plastic templates, freezer paper, kitchen dishes, and many other items.  I use old manilla folders.  I cut the pieces and trace around them with a blue marker onto the quilt top.  That sets the main directions of the pattern.  The bird is clipart from the Internet.

Manilla folder pattern for main lines of the design.
Then I draw in the feathers freehand.

Incomplete drawing with the blue marker.
I decided to quilt with pale, purple thread.  The background is white on white, but it looked very stark and blah when I was done piecing.  The purple thread will somewhat disappear after I soak it when I am done, but enough will show to outline the quilting and add interest and a little color to the dull, white background (lower right corner).

Now to the sewing machine.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you novelty in finding/designing quilting patterns.  Stay well and wash your hands.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Wonder Stuff Called Glue

I have been working on a double wedding ring table table topper.  It is full of curved seams, and I have done them many times.  Picture a dozen pins holding it all in place.  Force it under the presser foot.  Try to keep the puckers out.  Try to remember to pull the pins out before they interact with the needle.  Saliva is useful to remove blood from the fabric.

Two pieces to sew together in a curved seam
My pattern is from Judy Niemeyer and she simplifies much of the process...with glue.  I have used glue on tricky seams many times, but I hadn't thought about it for this pattern.  Wow!  It takes all the work out of sewing the curved seams.  I used 3 pins:  one on each end and one in the middle during the gluing process.

Pin Placement.  Glued together.
Press to set the glue (it will wash out later).  Then I pulled out the middle pin leaving only the ones on the ends...just in case. The sewing went so fast I couldn't believe it.  I did have to address a couple of tiny puckers but they eased out without trouble, and I did a LOT of curved seams.



I use Elmer's clear glue.  You can also buy a glue stick, but I have a needle nose, screw-on top on my bottle of glue.  I got that top at a local Woodcraft store, but I am sure they are on the Internet somewhere.  You don't even need to keep track of a cover for the pointy top.  This glue does not like plastic and does not stick to it.  If there is a little glue left on the tip it may get rubbery, but is pulled out easily with a pin and you are ready to go.  No muss.  No fuss.  No lid to lose!

All those tricky seams are done now and I am ready to free-motion quilt.  Well, first I will stitch in the ditch of every seam.  On this quilt I can do that with my dual feed foot, which makes that process easier because this is a very small quilt.  I don't think it would work as well on a large quilt so you would have to FMQ.  As you see, I am all for easy where possible.


Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you success with glue and curved seams.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Time to Get Things Working Right

You probably noticed that I changed my blog theme...again.  The "new" one was so pretty, but drove me crazy - I didn't like working with it.    This one is not as dramatic, but it suits me much better.  I'll keep it for awhile until I get restless again.

My new project was moving right along until the directions got ultra complex and I got so confused.  I see now why Judy Niemeyer hires people and trains them to teach her classes.  There were two booklets of directions for this pattern.  The first was a dozen pages of general directions, which I skimped on (bad move).  There was an extra pattern piece with no explanation of what it was for so I sat down and read through everything - carefully this time.  Apparently it was a way to cut one part of the pattern to sew without foundation piecing.  If it is something else, I will eventually figure it out!

In another place I was told to cut through the middle of a foundation piece when initially cutting it.  Later, it was insane trying to foundation piece it.  One piece ended up having no seam allowance marked.  I have now scanned the whole pattern and can print more pieces if I need them.  I'll do that piece my way!  You can't beat experience.  I am thankful for all the many hours of foundation piecing I have done over the years.  Whether the directions are clear or not, I can eventually figure them out.

I made an annoying miscalculation in a color gradation.  That was my own fault!  What to do?  Below is an extra piece I began to put together before figuring out that I didn't need as many as I thought.  However it is a perfect demonstration of a piece gone wrong in the gradation.  It looked fine in a stack of large pieces of fabric, but it created a sharp demarcation between light and medium dark that looked terribly wrong to me in the strip of small pieces.  It sat behind my machine and just glared at me.

The offending piece is the paisley 3rd from right.

 I had 24 of these graded strips all sewn together so I pondered.

I looked again.

I strongly disliked it.

I pondered some more.

I tried to use paint to darken the piece.


I finally used an Inktense pencil to color lightly on the left side of the of the offending piece.  Then I used water to blend the color across the piece like painting in watercolor.  Heat set and hope it holds.  It blends perfectly now!  I also washed the test piece with soap and water and it maintained its new look.

Can you see how well the paisley blends now? Compare with the previous image.
Thank goodness I didn't have to do these strips all over again.  This is a project from my stash although I did have to purchase the background fabric.  I have lots of whites, but not enough of any of them so I got a pretty white-on-white.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you gentleness as you blend your life.

Filling in the Time

We are all getting a bit tired of COVID19 running our lives, but I feel lucky.  As a retired couple we don't go out much in normal tim...