Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary Scary Day

I'll admit it, I am one big scaredy cat.  Not about the spooky things Hallowe'en... but about applique.  Anything applique just scares the scraps right out of me.  I've been meaning to sign up for an introductory beginner's applique class at my local quilt shop... for quite some time... years, if truth be told.  And you know what they say about good intentions, don't you?

Today's MM block is a really fun spooky one, and it's so perfect since I'm making my Modern Monday sampler in Hallowe'en colours, but it's applique (sez I, in a rather timid and whiny tone) and I am seriously applique challenged.  You have no idea how pathetic my applique skills truly are.  I printed out the applique pattern and stared at it for quite a long time.  Sigh.  Now I will definitely have to learn how to applique, if only to make that block.  I'm going to try going it on my own.  Yeah...well... we shall see how that works out for me.  In the mean time, inspired by Jenifer's block and the eeriness of the day, I've made two blocks of a Hallowe'en theme using up some of the fast growing pile of itty bitty scraps in my project box.

A crumb pieced pumpkin

A Hallowe'en Kiss
I feel like such a wimp... 

I have some borders to cut out and attach on my Shady Lanes quilt.  That seems like a good way to avoid the applique attempt for a while.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scrappy Sunday

I managed to get to the sewing machine before Lucas settled in for his afternoon snooze today and quickly sewed up another 6 string blocks.  I think I'll move on to making sashing strips and 9 patches in my next crumb/string session.

Even just making a few blocks a week and these stacked up quite quickly.  I have 30 string blocks (8.5" square) and 48 crumb blocks (6" square) since starting this process two months ago.

Pieced another 4 crumb blocks today.  Tonya's book is in the mail so I will get back to trying out more letters and words when it arrives.

My crumb bin is filling up fast from all the scrap trimming I've been doing.  Some of the quilters on the Liberated Quilters Yahoo Group mentioned that they sort and bag their small fabric bits by colour and keep them with the larger pieces and yardage in their stash.  That would certainly make it easier to make a more co-ordinated looking crumb quilt.  Mine is looking more like a dog's breakfast really and not a good representative of what can be done with crumb blocks.  There are some real beauties in the pics at the Crumb-Along Flickr Pool.  I have to say, though, that the very idea of sorting out the crumbs by colour isn't very appealing to me.  It might make a good take-along chore at Christmas time when I'll be away from my sewing machine and slowly going mad from the withdrawal.

And the final choice on the Shady Lanes borders?  I didn't like the black floral afterall.  I figured that out after walking past the display just a few times.  I thought it looked too dark and with none of the scrap fabrics in it, it made me wrinkle my nose every time.  I've decided to go really simple.  Some of the neutral, the dark red stripe, the half-square triangles and some more neutral to stabilize the sawtooth piecing.  The last time I had piecing that went to the edge of the quilt, I lost my points when the quilt was squared and trimmed.

Tomorrow I'll start adding borders.  Tonight, I'm going to spend some time exploring in my 2" strip bin, to see if I can come up with 100 different co-ordinated fabrics for the 100-patch block.  I don't get to start sewing anything new until I finish a couple of projects, but it's a good sitting in front of the television activity.  At least it keeps me from snacking.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Scrappy Saturday - more border fabric auditions

I was going to sew this afternoon, but I ran into a roadblock - a furry one.  So decided to do an early blog posting instead.

Guess who is fast asleep (and snoring) in the sunny puddle under my sewing chair?  He's been sickly for the last week, favouring his arthritic legs, and uncharacteristically morose.  And, feeling sorry for him, I decided to do something else until he wakes up and moves on his own.  That should be fairly soon.  If he doesn't wake on his own, I'll start cooking something and that will get him to move fairly quickly into the kitchen.

Remember the big pile of ironed scraps from my huge scrap bin on wheels?

This is what it looks like now.

I found some more scraps today that will work in my Modern Monday sampler.  Hooray.

I also found a wide strip of the little floral I'm using in my Traditional Tuesday Sampler.  I don't know whose scrap bin it came from originally, but they have great taste.

Here's a pic of the scraps I've piled up with just 15 minutes a day of scrap trimming so far.  When I come across a chunk the size of a fat quarter I just fold that into the yardage stash.  A couple of days ago, I came across a stack of strips 4" wide of all the same Thimbleberries golden neutral (at least a yard's worth) - those went into the stash bin with brown and tan yardage without being cut further.  So far, the biggest pile is 1.5" strips, followed by 2.5" x 4.5" bricks and 2.5" squares.  All in all, it's a very respectable showing for the trimming to date.  There's some bigger chunks of fabric at the top of my pile now, so I may be able to get some larger squares in the next few days.

I starched my foundation fabric for six more string blocks (if I can get to my machine).  This is all I have left in the smaller than 1.5" strings.

The bag of strings smaller than 1" that I separated out for my experiment with fabric knitting or crocheting... I tucked this bag away in the UFO bin for that future day when I'm bored with everything I have going and just feel like experimenting.  I have some serious doubts about the attempt.  Let me put it this way, I'm not saving this size string in my scrap trimming under the mistaken delusion that I'm going to take up crocheting fabric rag rugs.

Pulled out the 1.5" strip box for today's string piecing session...  Lucas is still asleep.  If it wasn't for the snoring, I'd have to check to see if he's breathing.

I discovered that the dark blue I used in my sashing and laid out as the final border of my Shady Lanes quilt is down to the last half yard - not enough to border a queen size quilt.  I used to have so much yardage of that fabric (I loved it so).  So I pulled out some other fabrics to audition.  Absolutely hated all the browns I tried.  Looked for more blues to audition.  This bright blue floral with the red and yellow wasn't bad in person but I don't like it in the pic below.  There's quite a bit of red and yellow in the scrap patches.  Yeah - I'm trying to hard to make it work.

Rejected the blue/green/silver paisley, yet again.  I've got enough yardage to back two quilts with this fabric.  It's really pretty but doesn't seem to play nicely with anything else.

This large floral on black wasn't bad.  The red still worked with it.  There is some black in the blue half square triangles.  Definitely worth considering...

But this vintage floral on cream was just waaaaay too light.

I'm thinking the floral on black and the dark red zinger may be the winner.

Lucas is still sleeping... think I'll make myself something to eat.

Or maybe I'll indulge in a nap myself.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Shady Lanes - now for the borders

All the blocks and rows are joined making a 72" x 72" top and the bulky seams pressed into submission with a heavy hot iron and a little elbow grease.  Now I'm auditioning fabrics for some simple borders.  It's too big for my design wall, so I laid it out on the kitchen table.

I tried a plain dark border next to the blocks and didn't like it.  Then I remembered the 288 bonus half square triangles and threw in a few for a sawtooth effect.  Liked that a little better but thought it needed lightening up a little so added in a strip of the neutral between the quilt blocks and the sawteeth.  Ahhh.  I liked that much better.  But it all felt a little blah and dark.

Then I remembered that Grace of City Mouse Quilter Blog suggested a red zinger.  So I pulled out some different red hues to see if I like the effect.

The brighter red I tried first didn't do a thing for me.

Neither did this one.

I auditioned a red/pink remnant.  I  have just enough for a narrow frame around the entire quilt and wouldn't mind using this up because it's been in my stash forever and has been used a lot of projects. There's a lot of pink and purples in the scrap squares so this one surprised me by playing really nicely - much more so than a pic of just this much quilt can properly display.

I also liked this darker red very much.

I've narrowed it down to the last two and will leave it all laid out on the kitchen table and walk past it a few dozen times while I mull it over.  Adding this many borders is going to make this one queen size in width, so I'll need to add in a row of something to increase the length - maybe a row of sawtooth stars that use up more 4 patches and bonus HSTs.  Sometimes the quilt top dictates how it wants to be finished and this one seems to want to be queen size.  Amazing how those little four patches I randomly pieced from 2" strips grew up to be something so big.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quilter's Tool for Bulky Seams

They're cheap and you can find them in numerous stores.  Every quilter needs one and it works like a charm on the bulkiest seams...  I recommend placing a piece of garbage fabric over top of what you are going to whack because it can actually leave black metal staining...

Okay, I didn't actually use my hammer today though, believe me,  I was sorely tempted.  And I have been known to pull it out when making pillow cases.  (I'm not kidding about using a piece of garbage fabric over what you are hitting.)

I started joining my Shady Lane blocks today.  I put a lot of thought into how to place my four patches to avoid bulky seams, and all that brain effort worked out beautifully.  But it didn't occur to me to think about the seams in the sashing strips.  I should have ironed towards the neutral on half the sashing strips.  There's six layers of fabric at the corners where the two brown angles meet.  I'm hoping that ironing the joins flat will help.  Now I know I have to make this pattern again, if only to put everything I've learned about this one into effect.

I finished joining the blocks to make six rows.  I even took the extra time to pin all the seam joinings before sewing.  Normally I just sew and tug as I go, but the extra time in pinning was definitely worth it.  It ensured that everything butted up nicely.  I decided to put off joining the rows until tomorrow.  I can feel my energy sagging right now and that suggests the potential for making mistakes is growing.  I want to make sure I don't sew two same fabrics together as I join the rows. And I want to take the time to pin all the seams as I go.

I've enjoyed the everything goes scrappy approach to making the 4-patches and 16-patches for this project.  There is something very liberating about not caring what colours or fabrics line up with each other.  The 2" strip bin is still full to overflowing though.  Deanna of Wedding Dress Blue Blog (a sister Stashbuster) has a tutorial for a 100-patch quilt block that I'm considering as a future everything goes scrappy project.

Speaking of scraps... I put in about 20 minutes of scrap trimming today.  The pile of ironed scraps doesn't look any smaller yet.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Catching Up

A very satisfying day.  I finished two of the weekly blocks for the Traditional Tuesday Sampler.

The only trouble I had was trying to follow Jenifer's suggestion about ironing the seams flat to reduce bulk.  After burning the ends of my fingers repeatedly, I gave up and ironed the seams to the side the way I usually do.  Then I pressed the heck out of the blocks (with steam) to flatten the bulky areas as flat as I could.  I can only assume that Jenifer has lovely slender fingers, not the pudgy square ended ones I have.

Proceeded to block # 2 for the Bloggers' Block of the Month .  Pulled out the 2.5" strip bin and got to work selecting fabrics.  I'm using my blue and neutral scraps for the 8.5" blocks.  I see from surfing blogs that many participants are making two of each block.  And I thought, Well duh! Why didn't I do that?!  I don't know why that didn't occur to me, since that's exactly what I'm doing for the blocks of the week samplers Modern Monday and Traditional Tuesday.  I may pull out the bin sometime between now and next month's block and make an extra for each of the first two published blocks.

I used my Easy Angle ruler to cut the components for the Half-square triangles.  It lets me cut the components from the 2.5" scraps and still end up with a 2.5" HST.  I just love this ruler.

My Bloggers' Block of the Month # 2.

I pulled out enough bright scrappy strips to make another dozen 9-patches for my Sister's Choice project, cutting two 10.5" lengths of contrasting colours and one 2.5" square of one of the fabrics for each block, and then cutting up the remainder of each half strip into 2.5" x 4.5" bricks or 2.5" squares.  I've built up quite a nice little stack of bricks and squares this way.  I don't know yet what I'm going to do with them...  When I first started quilting it was a major puzzle to me how the more experienced quilters were so prolific.  Now I know.  You do this long enough and you end up with far more components than you can use and it becomes necessary to find projects to use them up.  A dozen scrappy patches is about my limit time wise.

The resulting 9 patches are really bright and cheery.  The 9 patch count is now up to 31.  I will want 48 to make a big lap size, 56 to make a double-bed size quilt, or 80 to make a queen size.  Still haven't decided which size I want to make and I need to check what size bed the intended recipient has.  This is another one that is going to require strips with sew-n-flip corners.

It feels good to be up to date on the blocks of the week/month.  I hate falling behind on those.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Running out of roosts for my chickens

It was bound to happen... all my chickens coming home to roost at the same time and that day being one in which I have about 1.5 hours of sewing time.  (I'm actually supposed to be eating, changing my clothes and getting out the door again, but I can do a lot with a cheese sandwich in one hand, and they've all seen me without make-up on before anyway.)

I'm making twice the number of 6.5" sampler blocks for both of Jenifer Dick's samplers, Modern Monday and Traditional Tuesday .  I've gotten into the habit of sewing two blocks for both these sampler blocks on Tuesdays.  I rather enjoy comparing the two techniques to make the same block.  All I had time for today was the Modern Monday blocks.

Tuesday is also the day Jo posts her latest Crumb-Along instructions, which I started out sewing on Tuesdays and eventually moved to later in the week because I like to include sewing string blocks for my String Quilt project and found I couldn't do it all on the same day as the weekly sampler blocks.

Today is the 25th of the month, so the Bloggers' BOM block has been posted.  And I was planning on getting it done right away and making more bright scrappy nine patches for a Sister's Choice project I'm making with strips from the same bin. much for planning.

And today is also the start of 12 Days of Christmas Sampler Quilt-Along .  The first block has been posted.  It's really cute, but it's paper pieced and fussy-cut... which has me doing the ol' take one step back and melt into the crowd shimy.  I've decided, with regret, that I really do have too much on my plate so will probably not be doing this one afterall.

Got to run now.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fat Cat in the Stash

There's a new fat cat in the stash...  and every time I see him I have to laugh.

I have never worked with pieces so small.  The piece with fussy cut eyes was less than 3/4" square.  I had no choice on the size as there were other eyes all around them that needed to be kept out of the finished block.  I kind of messed up the head.  You'll notice it's a little square rather than heart shaped.  But those eyes are fantastic.  I have been struggling with getting back to my Crumb-Along piecing, and this little block got me all motivated again.

It wasn't lack of enthusiasm for crumb blocks....  I'm supposed to be making words, but I'm not very good at it, and I don't have the book.  (I'm guessing that having some instruction might make the process more enjoyable.)  Making letters is really a long process for me, fraught with a lot of grunting, teeth clenching, head scratching and seam ripping (and quite a few bad words being spoken aloud).  As a result, I seem to have come up with every excuse in the world for not making them (including housework so that should tell you how hard it is for me).  I've decided to skip them, finish making enough crumb blocks to make this quilt project the right size and not worry about word blocks for now.  I do want to make letters and words - even have an all-word project in mind.  And I will learn how to do it (sez I, with determination).  I just need to get a copy of Tonya's book if I want to maintain what little bit of sanity I have.

And crumb blocks are going to be part of my regular routine from now on.  There are so many fantastic liberated piecing designs I've recently discovered and want to try out in the next crumb quilt.  There's a fantastic long list of tutorials linked here on Michele Bilyeu's blog With Heart and Hands.  I left the crumbs out for some more piecing tonight (with the baseball game on in the background, of course).

In addition to the new cat block, I finished making the next six blocks for the Shady Lanes project today.

And substituted half-square triangle trimming for my usual daily scrap trimming.  Another day of trimming these bonus HSTs from the Shady Lane sashing strips and I will be getting back to the pile or ironed scraps from the big scrap bin.

In recognition of the inspiration he provided, Lucas received 3 cat treat goodies, and nearly took off the end of my finger in his enthusiasm.  He's still out of sorts about the diet I've got him on, but has stopped making pitiful yowling noises around the empty food dish between meals.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Love Affair with Quilt Magazines

I love quilt magazines.  Half the time, I don't even want to make the quilts in them... I just want to look at the pictures and admire the work, the colours used, the new fabric lines (again and again).  About the time I decided to go no-buy on fabric, I made myself stop buying magazines.  I think that was even harder than staying away from fabric.  There's this super fantastic store within walking distance of my apartment and it carries a huge selection of quilting magazines from all over the world.  I can pick up all my favourite Australian quilting magazines there, along with all the fantastic issues published in the United States.  (If there is a Canadian magazine devoted to quilting, I've never seen it, otherwise I would have bought that too.)

I think sometimes you just have to take a huge giant step backwards (like in the kid's game Mother-may-I).  Big giant step back and pause, take the time to re-evaluate the stash and what you buy (maybe even why you buy it) and make some choices because you can't keep acquiring.  For me, that pause and self-analysis took almost a whole year.  Part of reorganizing the stash back in August involved purging print-outs and photo-copies, and even magazines.  I hauled about three bankers' boxes out to the dumpster (my heart aching with every staggering step beneath the load) and assigned myself the task of slowly reviewing what remained of my magazines one at a time to see if I wanted to save something from it.  But I haven't actually kept up with that little assignment.  No big surprise.  I'm great at starting things, but not so disciplined about follow-through.  Yet.  I should have added yet to the end of that sentence.

My goal is to reduce my saved magazines to one half of one book shelf.  I need to make room because I recently subscribed to two quilt magazines.  I know. I know.  But my sweet-faced little nephew (and godson) was selling subscriptions as a school fundraiser... and I caved.  (Thank goodness he wasn't selling chocolate too.)  Besides, I really really wanted quilt magazines back in my life again and I saved about 40% off the retail price by subscribing.  At that price, it's almost as if they were paying me to read them.

So tonight I grabbed a stack of about 15 magazines and will be flipping through them, ripping out any patterns I'm convinced I will actually make... some day.  (I can always go through the ripped out patterns again at a later date, right?)  So far, I'm averaging less than one pattern per magazine.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scrappy Saturday

Six more string blocks today, bringing my block count up to 24.  Another six blocks and I will move on to making sashings and nine patches.  The pickings in my string box are getting really blah - down to mostly neutrals and greens.  I had to supplement with fabrics from my 1.5" strip box, further solidifying in my mind that 1.5" should be my minimum string size.  These blocks were far more pleasurable to piece than the ones in which I used all those really skinny strings. 

I sliced up enough sashing strips and squares for another six Shady Lanes blocks.  Also did my daily 15 minutes of scrap taming.  So far, the results are less than dramatic.  But I've learned from past experience, that when trimming for 15 minutes on a daily basis, it's a good idea not to analyze how much is getting done versus how much is left to do - especially not in the first few days.

There's some really fun fabrics in the scrap pile.  Here's a pic of a sweet little lady bug fabric.  Let's see, how many bugs do we consider cute enough to like them on fabric?  Lady bugs, butterflies, dragonflies... yup, that's about it.  So far, I've found all three of those on fabrics in the scrap bin.  Haven't come across any creepy spiders on Hallowe'en fabrics yet and knowing the ladies who gave me these scraps, I don't think I'm likely to find any.

The best find today was this strip of googly eyes on black.  Isn't it a hoot?  Wish I had known I had this when I was making my fat cat in the stash crumb block (pic below).

I am definitely going to have to make another cat block and use some of those eyes in it. Just thinking about it is making me giggle.

I pulled out a red and cream quilt that needs to be trimmed, labeled, and bound - the last of the quilts that far along in my unfinished pile.  I want to make a striped bias binding for it - I think that will be really effective on my two colour quilt.   To trim the quilt and make bias binding requires some room to work and that necessitated a clean-up of the cutting area, which is set up on my kitchen counter.  I just can't seem to maintain the habit of tidying up at the end of each sewing session.  My sewing table and my kitchen table are piled high again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Carolina Crossroads - finished

Finally put the binding on this oldie. I used Thimbleberries reds, greens and neutrals to make it, and while I used Christmas colours, I don't think it really reads as a specifically Christmas quilt. 

I pieced it as it was published Nov/07 - Jan/08 in a quilt-along mystery in installments by Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville.  Popular rumor has it that she is preparing another quilt-along mystery due to start this November.  I have no way of knowing if this is true or if it's just wishful thinking on the part of her many devoted fans (including me).

The  Carolina Crossroads pattern is no longer offered free on her website, but it is available in Bonnie's second book - Scraps and Shirttails (which can be purchased at her website and in many quilt shops).  There are three of Bonnie's five mystery projects still available in step-by-step installments online: Orange Crush, Old Tobacco Road, and Double Delight.

I always thought I'd like to make this quilt pattern again sometime - different colourway of course. It used up most of my 1.5" strips the last time and that strip box is seriously over-filled right now.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

So much for making a plan

Yeah....well.... sometimes we follows the plan....and sometimes we don't.

Didn't get to the Shady Lanes sashing fabric that I wanted to cut out.  Didn't make crumb blocks.  Didn't make string blocks.  I got distracted...  I started out to make crumb-along blocks, but about the time I pulled the 30th skinny strip out of the jumble that is the crumb pile, I lost patience with the whole mess and sat down to sort the entire bin.

I pulled out all the skinny little strips, and put them in a separate container.  These are the ones I'm joining and subcutting for my next crumb project as leaders n' enders.  I've already built up quite a pile of 1.5" wide subcuts.

I threw out a few handfuls of bits that are really too small to be bothered even trying to sew.  And this is what is left in the crumb bin.  I can actually see the sides of the bin, and the bottom.  Not to worry, as I trim those scraps from the big scrap bin, this thing is sure to fill up in no time.

And as I sorted, I found quite a pile of partially formed crumb blocks that I lost track of in earlier crumb piecing sessions.  They ended up at the bottom of the jumble - probably from fluffing the mass in search of colours and specific sizes.

And by the time I was done with all that, it occurred to me that if I wanted to watch the World Series game 2 tonight, that maybe I should attach the binding on my next UFO quilt so I could have some hand stitching to do.  I have two quilts still waiting for binding.  One is huge and I want to make bias striped binding for it, so I chose a smaller Christmas colours lap quilt.  It's been sitting in the waiting for binding pile for a couple of years.  I wasn't sure about this binding until I had it attached.  There's no black in my quilt top.  But now, I'm really liking how the gold lines curl around the quilt edge.  Just as well, since I have no intention of unsewing it now that it's attached.

No plan for tomorrow.  I think I'll just wing it - wait to see what I feel like doing.  No plan and nothing gets done... too many gotta-do lists in a row and it starts feeling like household chores.  There's got to be a happy medium in there somewhere.