Thursday, December 27, 2012

Buck-a-block Baby Quilt #2

The second top from the 2011/12 buck-a-block BOTM is complete: a baby quilt in blue.

I constructed six of the twelve months from last year in a turquoise/navy colorway, using a Moda cloud print on cream for a unifying background fabric in every block.  The sashing/finishing was suggested by the shop, and created another star design in the cornerstone positions.  These stars extended out into the final border (another cloud print that had been in my stash for many years, and is happily used up at last!)

 However, I was annoyed at all the work it took to piece those cornerstone stars, and didn't want to have to chop up the border clouds further, so I set about to make them a 3-D free-floating element of the quilt.

I cut squares of the correct size, then sewed them along one side and turned right-side out to create a finished half-square triangle.  Topstitched them--for looks and durability--and basted them onto the edge of the first border.

Then sewed the final border, with the triangle flaps sandwiched into the seam allowance.  Pay attention to which way the seams are pressed!  Want those flaps to lay mostly flat against the outermost border.

 And there you have it: a cute detail for a baby quilt, and a way to save myself from having to stitch tiny pieces into the cloud-print border (I was truly worried about having enough fabric there).  Although, I didn't really save myself time or steps, as the topstitching of each HST flap (and there are 28 of them) turned into its own sort of side-adventure.

I have told my students that a person will often go out of their way and end up complicating some process horribly, just to avoid one part of things.  I'd say that was the case here...
Top complete! 

Now I've got my eye on another piece of fabric to use for the back.  Naturally, it comes from my stash, where it has been resting comfortably for many years.  And, not surprisingly, there is not quite enough of it.  So I will be employing more creativity to cobble together a backing that is cute, functional, and doesn't require me to purchase more fabric.

Stay tuned in January for how that all works out.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Barnyard quilt-along Month 2 (of 15)

Here comes the sun!
After making ten rays for the sun, and getting detoured into an edgestitching critique, I only ended up using nine of them to complete the sun.  This is the second month of stitching small details for my Barnyard Quilt, and was due to be completed by January 19th.  (I am ahead of schedule.  Oh boy!)

I was slightly vexed by the rippling in the rays, until I realized that I made no accommodation for the fact that the seam was stitched along a curve.  I had to keep reminding myself that this is a play item for a child.  No need to rip it out and start over.  Is it sturdy?  Is it cute?  Does it adequately resemble a sun?  (Down, perfectionist demons!)

Sun looks nice with the clouds from last month.  They will eventually have buttonholes added that will allow the pieces to be placed in various locations in the sky area of the play mat.

Third month's assignment: a wishing well
Due date: February 16 (same day as buck-a-block) 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas napkins

I am proud that I resisted the strong desire to start new and ambitious projects in the month of December--especially if they were destined to be gifts for others.  I spent the few days before Christmas wrapping gifts, tidying the house, watching TV off the dvr, and idly sewing from time to time.

No panic, no rush.  No last-minute.  One of the best holiday/sewing experiences in recent memory.

I did manage to finish the napkins that were started for Sweetie's mom's visit--not in time for her to see them, but definitely on the table for Christmas eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch.
This project used up a hunk of fabric that had been in my stash for many years (twenty?  who's counting anyway?).  And it also managed to match the blue of the other holiday decor, while still playing well with the red tablecloth that is currently on display.

Well done by me.  Bon appetit to all, and to all a good night...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hallway inspiration

The elves were busy decorating the hallways of the high school for the holidays.  But still found time to put up some inspirational quotes.
This speaks to my "magical thinking" tendency: always waiting for the perfect moment, the large block of uninterrupted time, the big vacation, etc...

I can create my own magic, every day.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Art, op-art, inspiration

Just love the art display in the high school.  Students were making art using various linear patterns.

And my favorite...

Isn't it darling?  OK, maybe I am swayed by the rainbow theme.  But it's pretty cool the way those wavy lines so clearly convey the shape of the hands.

So this art inspired me to think of fabric (of course).  Went looking on the internet for an op-art quilt I had seen some time ago...

Found the original post I had seen by Allison at Sew and Tell Quilts.  She referenced her inspiration as "Log Cabin with a Lens" from Lerusisik in Russia.  Both are beautiful op-art designs very much like the black-and-white art piece above.

So, further digging: how could I make one of these designs?  There's a book!

(c) 2012, Marilyn Doheny Designs
"Op-Art Quilts" by Marilyn Doheny features the design seen above, as well as many others.  I'm keeping it in mind--along with all the other ideas out there that inspire me!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Topstitch/Edgestitch Revisited

cute embroidery scissors!
As promised, I spent some quality football-watching time (it's college bowl season!) removing the non-tear-away stabilizer from tiny topstitched triangles of fabric.  I used embroidery scissors, and tried to be very careful, but it was not an easy feat.

In fact, due to the eight different times I sliced through my stitching, I felt the need to re-sew several of the pieces.  And I chose to go back to using paper towel for this stabilizing.  And it didn't work out so bad... Maybe I was too hasty in my previous post, embracing a stabilizer you had to cut away instead of tear.
Paper towel as stabilizer: not so bad...

So here's my new recommendation: paper towel works good enough as a stabilizer.  And actually tears away from the stitching when you're done, leaving a clean edge stitch.
Edge-stitched triangles in position for the next step

Can I finish the baby quilt borders now?  Soon.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Topstitch/Edgestitch Exploration

I have had the need to topstitch (edgestitch) several sewing pieces lately, and this led me on a mini-exploration: do I have any product already on hand that I can use as a stabilizer?

The fault probably lies with my sewing machine.  I tried sewing around the edge of these cloud shapes with my needle in the right (rather than centered) position, meaning I couldn't use the single-hole needle plate.  I did this because my feed dogs have a hard time gripping edges of projects.  But the result was that the fabric got pulled down into the feed plate area--ugh.  So, I ended up trying the walking foot attachment.  I don't recommend this method: the ability to stitch corners and curves is reduced, and the visibility of the actual edge of the item is almost nonexistent.  (Still, this item is stitched as part of a child's toy, so any non-major stitching flaws can be mostly ignored.)

After this unsuccessful foray into edgestitching, I went to the Internet to look at solutions.  Aha!  Stabilizer is the recommended fix for this problem.  Never having used it myself, I was curious.  (Also, living out in the hinterlands, and being a generally frugal person, I was not running out to a store for a commercial stabilizer.)
Inspiration: 28 tiny triangles to topstitch

Internet search for "thrifty stabilizer" led me to several ideas.  Being the nerdy perfectionist that I am, I tried a bunch of them out.  Here are my thoughts/reviews...

1.  Dryer Sheets (used): this was from a posting about the many re-uses of dryer sheets.  Not recommended because the webbing actually got stuck in my feed dogs, making stitching more difficult.  I didn't even take a picture, the mess was so bad.

2.  Paper Towel: again, I didn't like the way this stitched.  Although, if you don't have a big, bumpy corner to stitch around, you might not have the difficulty that I did.  (The clouds, for example, only had gentle curves.)

3.  Tissue Paper:  cheap and plentiful, but alas did not stitch well on my machine.

4.  Parchment Paper: recommended by a friend, who was concerned that all my other trial materials were not really "tear away" stabilizers, parchment paper definitely tears well.  I felt like it didn't stitch as well as I would have hoped, and the fabric had a tendency to slip against the paper, especially on the bias edge.

5.  (not sure what to call this) Memory Foam Packing Material: my favorite, from a stitching perspective.  This non-directional fiber was "grippy" in all the right ways.  The fabric stayed put on top of it, even the pesky bias edge.  I could tug on it a little when going around the bumpy sharp corner.  Definitely my favorite stitching.  But--as with most of my trial stabilizers--this will not tear away.  So I will be stuck snipping my stabilizer free from 28 tiny triangles.  (Fortunately, there's football on this weekend: good background for snipping activity.)

What is this stuff, you ask?  And how is it thrifty?
I did a blog post about it last winter, after we had purchased two queen-size memory foam mattress pads.  I have vast quantities of this fiber product.  As with my other trial items, it was something I already had on hand.  Unlike all the other products, however, this one has no other use or purpose at this time.  It's just sitting in a decorative trunk, waiting for me to figure out what I can do with it.

My first product review: alternatives to commercial stabilizer.  I'll write later how the non-tear-away portion of the stabilizing goes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Buck-a-block November complete

So much less drama this year in the buck-a-block BOTM project.  Using the actual fabrics that are provided each month means I have no angst-y decisions to make about which fabrics from my scrap bins will work best.  It's just a smooth, relatively quick process to cut everything out and sew together a single block.

Whew.  So this is what it feels like to be uncomplicated.  I hardly know what to do with myself.

Maple Star, 2 versions
Start to finish on the block sewing was completed during Late Night at The Crow.  An uncomplicated 9" block to sew together.  My sewing friend Ann Lindsey showed off her finished block, with a black/rust colorway for the border.  It sure helps the block have a sense of purpose.

I recently looked more closely at my fat quarter collection, and realized I am overflowing with choices for a scrappy border to each block.  Still no inspiration though, so I'll keep waiting with my little block centers.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

December = new projects?

What is it about the month of December?  I feel compelled to start new projects--presumably to be given as gifts this month--along with all the other really busy things already happening this time of year.

Am I really going to do any of this?  Who can talk some sense into me?

Here's the list of craziness:
Scottie print: so cute!
 1)  New napkins for the dinner table, in a color more in line with our holiday placemats and decorations.  (Not-so-crazy, you say?  Ah, dear reader, you overestimate my speed.)  The clincher on this ill-fated idea is to get said napkins done before Sweetie's mom comes to visit later this week.  Not like I have anything else to do between now and then... right?

Ok, we can cross this one off - too much left to do

2)  A small knit something-cute (don't want to spoil the potential surprise here) for my nieces in New Mexico.  I thought I was almost done with two of them.  But it doesn't appear that way, so maybe this will be easier to abandon as an idea.  The first one is almost done with the knitting portion, but the pattern has lots of tedious hand-finishing and add-on detail work (and I'm no fan of the hand-sewing required to replace a button, or pretty much anything else).  But I have two nieces...

Hourglass blocks (c) Cluck Cluck Sew

3)  A stocking!!!  I have already talked myself out of re-making stockings for our home mantel (no way that project would be done in time), but I saw this cute tutorial for making a lined stocking with a cuff on Cluck Cluck Sew and I got to thinking about the White Elephant gift exchange at Book Club every year, and how I just wanted to give a gift card, but wouldn't this be a fabulous "wrapping" for said gift card, especially if the hourglass blocks were done in classy colors, like white and gold (or silver)?  Whew.  Clearly, my mind is running away with me here.  If--and I really mean IF--a stocking is an idea for Book Club, it won't be a carefully pieced work of art, it will be a clever wrapping.  Make it with a "work of art" piece of fabric, and lessen the sewing burden!

4)  Santa doll(s)... More on this later, I've got some napkins to cut out.  Maybe.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Barnyard quilt-along Month 1 (of 15)

I see clouds!

Finished the first month's (self-assigned) small project to go on my Barnyard PlayQuilt.
 This one was a no-brainer, as I had already chosen the fabrics for front and back, traced the pattern onto the white seersucker, and scrounged out tiny pieces of batting--all before this project had been stuffed into that grocery bag for years of neglect.
The only tricky thing was the hand-stitching required to close the small opening (yes, that's how much I hate hand sewing) and how to do the decorative stitching quilting.  I used my machine's walking foot, since my free-motion quilting skills are still in development.  Although the stitching is far from the level of perfection I usually insist upon, I am reminding myself that this is a children's play quilt.  No child will examine the stitching.  Is it sturdy?  Then it's good enough.

Second month's assignment: the sun.
Due date: January 19 (same day as buck-a-block) 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Nancy Drew - says who?


Does this count as a new project?  I signed up for a blog hop that will happen in January.  The challenge is to design and make something featuring Moda's new "Get a clue Nancy Drew" fabric line.  I don't have any fabric yet, or a real pattern (but I do have ideas!)  New project-- yes or no?
My mind is a bit like a terrier: when I get ahold of an idea, I sometimes just can't let go.  So... on the verge of finishing several different long-term projects, and drooling at the thought of starting the rainbow t-shirt quilt, I am still idly casting about for the next project that will occupy my wandering mind, give the background processes of my brain something to do in between teaching algebra to the undermotivated. 

Is this an ADD trait?  I don't know; I just know that ideas tend to fixate me.

So, all week I have been thrashing around the possibilities of what I might do with this new Nancy Drew fabric.  Mind you, all I have to go on are the pictures of it online.  I really want to touch it in real life before I make a commitment to a project: how big are the silhouette images? how bright are those colors?

And, now that I have signed up for the blog hop, I am committed to having something finished to show off in January.  I also think I can't share too much of my process in my blog, lest I ruin the surprise of the big reveal on my designated day.

Well, darn.  Isn't talking about (and obsessing about) the process one of my purposes in blogging?  I am an endless processor.  The analytical portion of my brain is seriously over-developed (one of my biggest flaws, I'm sure).

Aack!  What to share?  What to withhold?
And... what exactly am I going to make to fulfill this challenge?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Design Wall Monday - wordplay

I got ahead of myself on the Wordplay wallhanging I have been working on for more than a year.  But I have something to show for all those baby steps.

Started sketching and imagining various bindings--thinking of doing a bit of scallop along one or more edges--but as I continued sewing the tiny bits together, I discovered I am running out of background fabric.  Heavens! 

The words are joined together (yay).  Don't know exactly how much border I can scrounge out of the leftover scraps at this point.  Or how this might impact my big dreams of scallops and fancy techniques.

For now, I'm so tickled with the words hanging up in my sewing room.  I am linking up with Design Wall Monday at Judy Laquidara's Patchwork Times

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Of Mountains and Molehills

How not to get things done...

I am a black-and-white person.  I tend to see things in either/or binary choices.  This manifests itself in perfectionist paralysis: "I can't do this to perfection, so I won't do it at all."

But this mindset is also responsible for massive forays into procrastination land: "I don't have time to do this whole task right now, so I'll just put it off until (random future date/time), and play a game of solitaire instead."

This is the opposite of the Eat the elephant one bite at a time philosophy, and explains my current predicament.

Here is what a week's worth of turned-in math homework looks like.  Most of my classes this year turn in their homework in a packet (one packet per week, per student).

I don't generally have time to grade every paper in a single session, so I am stuck with doing things piecemeal.  Taking this large grading task and breaking it down into smaller bits. Which is a recommended and useful approach.  But is not what has actually happened over the past bit of time.

Darn it! I have procrastinated. Again.

Voila: a month's worth of turned-in math homework for 3rd and 4th period.  Now how am I going to find the time to get that all graded?

Partial success story: I have graded one week's papers each day for the past four days (of Thanksgiving break, mind you).  Why, oh why, couldn't I have done it this way all along?

Digging myself out of a self-created hole, one shovelful at a time...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

While the cat's away...

While the cat's away ...the mice will be at a complete loss for what to do. 

Sweetie has been gone for two long weeks.  Before she left, we had several conversations about how I could keep on task, how I could continue to function in an optimal manner, without her calming and centering influence.  Seriously, I know I'm an adult, but my ADD-tendencies keep me from being an effective human much of the time.  Sweetie performs a helpful role in gently guiding me when I get off track. 

(And without diminishing my free will to ignore or modify any incoming information and behave as I wish.  That way, if I go afield, I am fully aware of the fact that I am working without a net on purpose.)

So, on Day 1, I started making lists of all the things I would need to do, all the projects and activities I don't tend to do when my partner is around (like square dancing! or the "secret" hand-quilting project that overtakes the bed), all the possible flight-of-fancy things that I consider when I have unscheduled time, all the this... all the that...

This list got to be 3 pages long!  It was overwhelming.  I kept looking at it, I kept obsessing over it, I kept adding to it(!) and I kept being paralyzed with the thought
What should I be doing right now?!
I could not choose.  I could not function.  Thank goodness I had the requirement to go to work each day and plan lessons for my students, because I might have dissolved into a complete puddle.

On Day 3, I threw out my list, and simplified everything down to a four-item memory jog.

That I wrote on the bathroom mirror, where I would see it many times a day.

  • cleaning
  • routines
  • backlog (anti-procrastination, a la FlyLady)
  • love yourself!

 Sweetie gets back today.  (Which just shows how much procrastination I succumbed to--meant to put this post up about 10 days ago.)  I was not perfect.  Never gonna be perfect.  But I'm still a loving, wonderful, creative human being who enjoys life more often than not.

The dogs got fed.  The carpets got vacuumed.  And no one is the worse for the wear.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Quilt along idea

I visited several blogs with quilt along postings recently.  And, while the idea is intriguing--everyone working on the same (or similar) projects, posting their progress and encouraging each other in an online community--I struggle with completing the many projects I already have going.

So I lurk in blog-land and watch other people get things done.  Often the timeframe is daunting: a block a week!?  I sometimes find the block-a-month nature of buck-a-block to be a challenge.

Had an A-ha! moment that transformed quilt along into a way to finish a long-dormant project.

The project: a children's play quilt with a barnyard theme.  Pattern is from the book, Play Quilts: Creative Activity Quilts for Kids by Kristin Kolstad Addison.

How old is this project? Well, if you consider that my youngest child is almost 20... and the play quilt was supposed to be for my children... and the pattern book was published in 2001... I'd say I haven't worked on it in 10 years.

UFO (a decade old)

Where did I stop?  I finished the border with the "random" shape that was recommended by the pattern, and hated it.  (I also strongly disliked the fabric that is the backing, but one can overlook a backing, especially on a quilt that will be played with on the floor and may thus get pretty dirty.)  The next step was to put some quilting details on the surface, before adding embellishments and making the moveable toy parts.  I didn't know how to machine quilt, and didn't think that hand-quilting was where I wanted to go with this project.

Ok, back to quilt along... How does this project fit in with that idea?  Well, there are about 15 small parts that go with the basic quilt.  If I work on one part per month, that's still over a year to finish this quilt.  But, it's better than not working on it at all, especially if I want it to be ready for the eventual grandchildren.  I'm actually excited about working on the little bits of this project, a little bit at a time.

The goal: one "toy" part of the quilt per month--just like a BOTM. 
First month's assignment: the clouds.
Due date: December 15 (same day as buck-a-block; no coincidence) 

And we're off!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Show & Tell

One of my favorite things about blogging, and getting together with other quilters, is showing off my work, and seeing other peoples' projects.  I love the variety of how the same pattern can look so different with alternate fabric choices.

So it was my pleasure to show off the "almost finished" baby quilt top from half of last year's buck-a-block blocks.
I am so pleased with the green(er) turquoise my friend Dwynn helped me pick out for the sashing.  And Sweetie helped with choosing the appropriate yellow for the stars.  Not your typical or simple sashing, but now I have a dilemma:

What to do about the fact that the stars extend out into the next border? 

The pattern sheet shows a narrow border that is segmented off to finish all the stars, and then a second wider border.

Well, the darn thing is already as big as I want to make it (I have a piece of batting I want to be able to use here).  Plus, I don't relish making a border that will have to make room for 28 more half-square triangles, as the amount of time I spent on the sashing already seems like too much.  What more do you want from me, little quilt?

Ok, enough whining.  I am putting my brainpower to work on this.  Two goals:
  1. Narrow border
  2. Somehow get those star points to happen without endless piecing
Off I go, into fits of creative problem solving!  Almost finished.  Almost.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Buck-a-block, month 2

Finished month 1 pattern, picked up month 2.

My version: basic 9" block (what will I do with it?)
Cat's Cradle
And here's what the shop sample looks like.  The 3" border all around will really define the overall quilt.  Which is why I'm waiting until inspiration strikes me before I go and commit myself to a color scheme.  I'll just stick to the plain, don't-mind-me-I'll-just-fade-into-the-background block centers for a few months.

 So, on to the October pattern:

The pattern is called "Maple Star", and it is again taken from Judy Hopkins' book 501 Rotary-Cut Quilt Blocks (That Patchwork Place).  I think it is rather lovely, even if the cream color scheme is a bit mousy.

Understated, maybe?

The shop sample features a churn-dash-like border treatment.  I like it a lot!

If I were thinking "modern" with my border color choices, what would that look like?

How about "batik"?  Ooh, that might be nice. 

Still puzzling about why I signed up for another year of this...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Project report for September & October

Sadly, nothing significant to report.  At least, not from the done done category of fabric or crafty projects.

Two whole months.  Where does the time go?

More words got completed on the "Word Play" -inspired wallhanging project.  (Thank you, Tonya Ricucci, for your kind blog comment.  I will be sure and send you a picture of the completed wallhanging.  It thrilled me to have a celebrity comment on my little ol' blog.)

Started a new 12-month BOTM (buck-a-block), without having finished last year's buck-a-block baby quilts (need more practice on the machine quilting).

I have restrained myself in the new project arena, however.  I'm patiently waiting to cut into the fabric for the much-dreamed-about rainbow t-shirt quilt until I have one more project out of the way.  And I have ignored the fabulous ideas I keep seeing on "Sewing with Nancy".  And there's this oh-so-cute crochet tote to be made from t-shirts that I feel tugging on my sleeve whenever I look in a particular drawer.  And...

So here's the updated count:
Completed projects this Month:  0
Completed projects Year to Date:  12
New projects this Month:  1
New projects Year to Date: 12
Discarded/donated projects (farewell!): 8
Net Project Count for 2012: -8
Thank goodness the "donated" column has kept me out of hot water this year.

Reminder: the New Year's resolution was to have less stuffThat's all.  No saving the world in the process.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Finish it up Friday

Favorite blocks in my newest "finish"
Found a new blog, Crazy Mom Quilts, that seems to do a regular linky party of a place to show off that week's "finish".  The title alone got me inspired to get in my sewing room and make some progress!

Kaufman quilter's linen
Finished a back for my queen-size stack-n-whack, the top of which has been sitting at the quilter's since mid-September.  I didn't like the fabric I originally bought for the back (bought online--the color didn't play well with the front), so my mom helped me pick out a medium turquoise "quilter's linen" from Robert Kaufman.  Only problem was, I didn't buy enough.  (Apparently, the same amount of fabric will not go from twin-size back to queen-size back.  Go figure.  I mean, I'm a math teacher, shouldn't I have been able to make that connection?)

No big deal, thought I, I'll just piece some sort of medallion for the back, so I won't need to go get more fabric.  I have loved the way this companion medallion idea plays out in many of the modern quilts over at Elizabeth Hartman's blog, Oh Fransson!

Inspiration: hexagons (as the quilt top has stack-n-whack hexie medallions), as seen in this issue of McCall's Quilting (October, 2008).  I can complicate anything, so this quick-piecing project took far longer than it might have in anyone else's hands.

 But it's done!  Finished.  Off to the quilter, where it will join with the top in beautiful harmony.
This might end up being a reversible quilt, I like the back so much.