Sunday, October 20, 2019

New-To-Me Updates

I loved my Sewline ceramic marking pencil... until it broke and I was dead in the water on my quilting.  The nose through which the "lead" comes out unscrewed and lost itself. I was at a place where I had to mark some curved lines to guide my quilting, and I can't do anything else until those lines are done.  I made a special trip to town (1 hour) to get a new one.  BTW it was not a wasted trip as I got a lot of other things done while I was down there.  Anyhow, it got me thinking about marking so I revisited a blog I did back in 2014 about all the marking methods with which I have had experience.  The title is, "Marking The Quilt," and it is still apropos after five years.  Has it really been that long?

However, I have a new addition to tell you about.  Crayola Ultra-Clean Markers.  They are being used successfully and come in 10 colors.   The only thing I discovered in reading was to be careful with the yellow.  It may not come out as advertised.  I did a brief test on white fabric that had been pre-washed and all marks washed completely out except yellow and orange, which faded instead of completely disappearing.  Here is a website that has results from more serious, more scientific experimentation.  I think this is a great addition to our supply list. 

The caveat, as always, is: 
Some say it heat sets, others say not, so be careful with that iron and 

I am almost to the place where I will stitch piano keys on the last part of my border.  I am so excited.  I have always done them by marking straight lines about 1 inch apart as guides.  I have gotten pretty good at straight lines by doing this, but they are still far from perfect.  I purchased a Westalee ruler foot, which works on my machine.  It came with a little ruler that will be great to learn with and will also be just right for my 2 inch long piano keys.  I am psyched to try it out and will keep you posted on the depth and success of my learning curve.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you success trying out a new product.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

I'm Back!!

Too busy to sew, too busy to write.  I have had a wild several months, but have finally returned to my needle and threads.  It has been strange not to sew, but I have not been idle.

Our summer panned out as follows:
10 days in June traveling to and from Southern CA for the wedding of our granddaughter.

Photo by Summer Rae
....and hiking a slot canyon along the way.  So cool!

Little Wild Horse Canyon, UT
10 days to get things done at home, mostly fertilize the iris and clean house.

2 weeks in MN to help a daughter pack up her home for a big move.

1 week (left the dog in MN) for a family reunion in TN and lovely drives through the Great Smokey NP.  Then back to MN for a day to pick up the dog.
Dixie (photo by S. Mattson)
Home.  Two days after our arrival the first wave of guests arrived for 2 weeks.  The day after they left the next round of guests arrived for 1 week.  Same day they left the third round of guests arrived for 2 weeks.  All family and wonderful to have them here, but busy for everyone.  Our son-in-law built new steps outside our kitchen door and what a joy they are.

Steps by SIL.  Stonework by yours truly.
That took care of the summer.  I did not take my machine to MN knowing it would be in the way of packing boxes.  However, I did take a chair to replace the cane seat just to have something to do during downtime.  Over the summer I managed to cane four dining room chairs and one big desk chair.
Desk chair with new cane seat and back.
Now that we have already had our first snow,  I am sewing again.  Back at work on the endless quilting of the same quilt I have been working on for almost 3 years now.  Talk about quilting a quilt to death!  When I sat down to quilt again I started on a scrap just to make sure that I hadn't forgotten everything I had previously perfected.  It is like riding a bike.  After you have done a lot of FMG the technique comes back quickly.  I will be glad to get this quilt done though.  I am ready to move on to new things, but still have quite a bit of work ahead of me before it is dead.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I hope you all had a wonderful summer.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Summertime Saga

It is summer.  It has been snowing on the high peaks and lower in some places.  High mountain roads are closed.  Colorado dream!  It is cold - I wore my winter jacket to walk the dog this morning.  My blogging will be erratic all summer so I will explain.

We just returned from a fabulous trip to CA for our granddaughter's wedding.  It was a wonderful time with family and friends.  We travelled with my sister and her husband and explored Black Dragon wash in Utah along the way.  It is a short hike from the freeway and has pictographs 2,000 years old.

2000 year old pictographs (paintings)
We walked the Pacific beach on a beautiful day.

Fiber art on the beach.

On the way home we hiked into Little Wild Horse Canyon in Utah.  It is a slot canyon and was a marvelous adventure.

Slot Canyon

More slot canyon
It is good to be home for a minute, but we will be off again in a few days for more family visits and a reunion.

Before I left I mentioned a problem with my sewing machine.  It is the intermittent failure of the needle-up/needle-down button.  This was not resolved as it will be easier and cheaper to tackle it at its annual servicing.  The machine still sits under the table in its Tutto bag.  No time to sew anyway and I need the bedroom to be available for guests this summer.

Rather than get all the sewing stuff out I decided to start caning the first of 8 antique chairs on which the cane seats got brittle and broke down.  DH helped by removing the damaged cane and cleaning the surface so I am ready to start weaving.  Unfortunately, I started the job with cane that was at least 25 years old and found that it too was old and brittle.  Now I am starting over with brand new cane.  By the time I do 8 chairs I ought to get pretty good at it!

Round 4 of caning the chair.
The end of July and all of August will be busy with houseguests (daughters and families) so once again the quilting will have to be put aside until fall.  I will miss it, but doing the chairs will be a different sort of interlude...and one that is very necessary.  We don't have any chairs to pull up to the table, except a motley bunch of unrelated, odd ones.

Sew some happy seams this week, or do something else.  It is summertime!

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.