Sunday, July 29, 2012

Buck-a-block July pattern

Got a sneak-peek at this month's buck-a-block before the actual date, so I had time to get a little pre-thinking going.  We are coming ever closer to the end of a year of making blocks, and I need two more blue blocks and only one more red/black/pink block to make the six needed for a baby quilt in each colorway.

I saw the shop sample, and immediately honed in on the "tulip" shape (the navy in the corners).

Made me think of another block we made earlier this year with that same shape in it, so naturally I want to go back to the blue colorway, to make this block coordinate with the other block.
January's buck-a-block
The name of this month's pattern is "Silver Lane" from The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt.  The version pictured in the book is shown on-point, and it is especially lovely (try turning your computer screen--or tilting your head 45 degrees).  I already have most of my fabrics chosen--navy blues and turquoises--just need to decide on the placement of the fabric that will be the frame around the central pinwheel.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oakie ready to set sail

The gals at stitch-n-bitch have been following my progress in giving Oakie a wardrobe for his travel adventures.  (It all started with him needing a raincoat--his spring break in London this year was mighty damp.)

We got to talking about Oakie's upcoming Alaska cruise, which prompted those who had been on Alaska cruises to share their stories.  (I'm getting so excited!)  And it came up that one of the first things you do on a cruise ship is to have a lifeboat drill...  Omigosh, that means Oakie needs a life vest!

Thank goodness for Sweetie.  She volunteered to make Oakie a life vest--out of some blaze orange canvas I just happen to have lying about.  She used the pattern for the sailor collar that I had already fitted to Oakie's measurements, and put in a front tie, intending to find some sort of waist belt once the vest was stuffed with fiberfill.

No waist belt needed, as it turns out.  Isn't he stunning?  So damn cute.  And ready for our shipboard adventure.  What a trooper.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Visible progress on stack-n-whack

Adding sawtooth borders in little bits
I started a stack-n-whack quilt for my own bed a couple years ago.  Have been working on it in fits and starts, as is perfectly normal for me.  It was one of the projects I was intending to work on at January's quilting retreat, but I got excited about the 1930's reproduction quilt instead.

Well, with one big quilt finished, I got excited about working on the stack-n-whack again.  So I've been working away, little pieces at a time. But the bigger it gets, the longer each "little piece" takes.  I set aside an afternoon last week to sew and make some visible progress.

Everything always takes me longer than I expect.  There are five vertical strips that are now sewn together into approximately 80" wide by 83" tall.  Each vertical seam took me about 30 minutes to sew.  Is that unreasonably long?  If you figure that, with all the triangles in this quilt, I was matching points about every 3" along the 83" seam, it doesn't seem so terribly unreasonable.
Detail of seam - with all those points to match

So here it is: ready for a couple more borders.  We'll just have to see how complicated I make those borders.  I feel like flying geese might make an appearance...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Classroom declutter update

I've been working steadily in my classroom, a few hours a day. It seems a little embarrassing--both that I have so much paperwork buildup, and that it is taking me so long to clear it out.  But I am choosing to celebrate the fact that I'm doing something about it

The focus of the decluttering for the past week has been my statistics materials.  I taught AP statistics for 5 years, then switched over to teaching a dual-credit (high school and community college) version of the class for the past 3 years.  I have full sets of handouts, tests, notes, and homework for each course.  There is some overlap, but I never really integrated the old into the new.

Before.  All this is stats-related.  The goal was to get everything down to one bin and two binders.  I can hardly believe I have so much stats material.

After.  Two bins (one of the binders is tucked into the back of the right-hand bin).  I'm saving quite a bit of the older AP materials, but maybe I should re-think this after one more year.  A more-organized year, to be sure.

And, of course, all the excess materials have to go somewhere.  Newly emptied-out file folders on the left, recycle bin on the right.

Oh my, does this feel good!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Garage sale wrap-up

Last Friday and Saturday was the garage sale, piggy-backing on the advertising our neighbors did to get folks to drive down our street.  Here's why I think it was a rousing success:
Before: head-on view of the (2-car) garage
We spent 2 days sitting outside in the shade, ate out both nights, and made $450 selling our stuff.
After: still a 2-car garage, but better!
There was a steady stream of people coming by, and we sold all the larger furniture items.  In fact, we even sold most (easily more than half) of all the other stuff, too.  Our guiding philosophy for pricing was, "What can I charge and still ensure that this item goes away?"

The post-garage-sale what-to-do-with-the-leftovers question was not as easy as last year.  Ended up with 5 locations for items:
  • pile for passing along to my children (very few items, carefully screened)
  • Goodwill (which we dropped off as soon as the sale was over)
  • Community Sharing (local organization that hosts the food bank and supplies families experiencing hardship with household goods)
  • Bring Recycling (reuse warehouse for building materials)
  • Quilter's Yard Sale pile

Notice that there's not a category for it-didn't-sell-and-I-couldn't-part-with-it-so-I'm-keeping-it items.  No sir.

Here's what did not happen - a view of my neighbor's yard, with bins of unsold garage sale items piled up and ready to go back into the storage shed.

So glad we took some time Sunday to sweep up and organize things in the newly-vacated garage.  It looks amazing!!  Not perfect, but organized so even I (who used to be afraid of the garage) can find stuff.

We already started talking about having another garage sale.  Maybe not as soon as next year (a divorce and two moves have a way of flushing out the excess items), but I can imagine another wave of decluttering resulting in enough stuff for another sell-it-all extravaganza within a couple years.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Done. 1930s reproduction

With my general timeline of 3 years for finishing a quilt, I don't get to post about DONE very often.  So, I am elated to share pictures of the very-completed-as-in-done-done 1930s reproduction quilt.
Once upon a time (January 2011), I entered 3 blocks in a block challenge (requirement: 12" finished block using 1930s reproduction fabrics) at the Something to Crow About quilt camp/retreat.  I won 21 blocks (including my 3).  The expectation is that the block challenge winner will bring her completed quilt to the following year's retreat.  (Hey, it could happen.  For some quilters.)

the blocks are so varied, just can't show them all
I made three additional blocks, and reworked some of the blocks that just didn't play well with the others--but I didn't end up leaving anyone's block totally out of the quilt.  This project ended up being the sole focus of my time at this year's (January) retreat.  I left retreat with the 24 blocks sashed into a 4-by-6 grid, featuring 8 blocks in the center with white backgrounds and lots of negative space.  The quilt needed to be wider, so I made piano-key scrappy borders for each side.

When a quilter had put her name on the back of her block, I wrote it on the front.  I just felt so honored to have such lovely and talented ladies sharing their handiwork with me.
blocks by Adrienne (left) and Dianne (right)

I don't do my own quilting, so I sent the quilt away to Quiltmasters for June to work magic with her longarm machine.  We chose a pattern called "flutterby", because people who saw the quilt in its many stages always commented on the 2 butterfly blocks, which I made sure to place close together.

 My favorite block is the label, which was my very first attempt at paper piecing.  I reworked a block that had just the lavender shapes on a cream background, keeping the original shapes fully intact.  I think it was masterful, and adore both the star effect and the blue alphabet border on the block.

This quilt will be one of my County Fair entries this year.  I'm surprised it is actually done in time.

And now, I'm itching to get back to the stack-n-whack quilt I started making for my own bed--started making it before I won these 1930s blocks.  Gotta get back to it: there's excitement flowing through my veins that I want to take advantage of.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How's my classroom lookin?

Well, it's July.  Firmly in the grip of summer.  Not supposed to think about my classroom, or teaching, or students.  Nope, not in the month of July.

I went into my classroom today, to work on decluttering.  I thought, with the garage sale coming up, there might be items there I could part with.  I think I'm much more of a hoarder at school.  (I think most teachers are, but maybe that is just me trying to feel better about my own tendencies.)

So I opened the "toy cupboard", a place where students can look for quiet games and books when they are done with a quiz early.
before: maybe a bit cluttered
I was determined to look at everything with a critical eye.  On first pass, I organized the books into categories, but didn't really part with things.  And it was obvious that I needed to pare down the quantity of books--or a student couldn't find a book quietly.  (Isn't declutter the step that must precede organize?)

I decided to open up and really assess.  Many of these books I have had for years.  Titles that were appealing-- "Math Wizardry for Kids" or "Overcoming Math Anxiety"-- but that didn't get used.  My goal was to cut the number of reference-style books in half.
after: there's even room for a decorative mug of bookmarks!
I won't say it was easy.  But I stuck to my goal, and that made it more clear-cut on some books: in order to keep "The Number Devil", some other title had to go away.
the discard pile
Most of the removed books are already in the garage sale pile and a couple are going to a middle school teacher.  Funny thing, I can imagine doing this same exercise again in a year.  I will keep an eye on what actually gets used from that cupboard, and think about what else I can let go of.  (Gosh, I sound like a Born Organized person there!  Where did that come from?)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Calendar update: 4 days until garage sale

Talking with our neighbor, we discovered that there is to be a 3-family garage sale next door to us this weekend!  We had been discussing a potential date for a garage sale "later this summer", but this seemed too good to pass up.  So we got busy...

We had been putting things in "garage sale" boxes in the garage pretty much continuously since we moved back in October.  So it's not like this news (4 days until garage sale!) caused major panic in the how-do-we-decide-what-to-get-rid-of department.  It was just a matter of pricing things, cleaning things, and doing some preliminary organizing, so that when we go to put out the tables it will go more smoothly.

boxes piled in the living room: sorted & priced

As with other organizing in my life, most of the credit goes to Sweetie.  She pushes (gently), she gives me a "you're-really-going-to-keep-that" look, and she is right there doing the bulk of the work while I go into a standing coma at the mental energy it takes me to part with things.

boxes piled in the garage: sorted & priced
Wow, 2 days of sorting and we are ready.  I look forward to seeing what the garage will look like without all that stuff (especially the large furniture items, which have become their own island nation in the center of the garage).

I know my favorite organizing guru FlyLady doesn't believe in garage sales.  And I know, because of how the work of deciding to part with things, and then setting a fair/somewhat-objective price for them exhausts me, that I would be right there in FlyLady's camp.  But I also know that offering some of my stuff for sale has allowed me to part with things that are not enriching my life right now, even though I paid good money for them once upon a time.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Oakie stylin' in a hoodie

I'm patting myself on the back here: Oakie the travel penguin looks so *fly* in his new hoodie!

As I did when sewing his visor, I was using a Cabbage Patch pattern as my base.  But this time I had alterations to make: the hood overwhelmed his head and made him look like a Jawa, (the monk-looking junk dealers on Tatooine in Star Wars).  The neckline was fine, but the sleeves and body were too long, and the whole thing was too big around.  Much fiddling and fumbling happened along the way.

My biggest question was: what to put on the front?  Should it have a college-style logo-- an "O" (for Oakie, or for Oregon); or something generic like "State" or "Team"; or a patriotic "USA" for his world travels?  I thought it should be something distinctive, but not in any way offensive.  Oakie is an ambassador, of sorts.

Sweetie came up with the perfect logo, but we put it on the back of the hoodie
Yep, the dive flag, international symbol for "diver down", and a way for Oakie to publicly proclaim his love of scuba diving.  It makes sense, as nearly half of Oakie's travels are for dive trips.  I used scraps of old t-shirts to construct the flag, securing them with Wonder Under, and sewing a decorative stretch stitch along the edges.  In fact, I am most proud of that portion of my sewing.

I struggled quite a bit with the tendency for my sewing machine to ripple every seam, even when using stretch stitches.  My old machine had an adjustment for the presser foot, which I used to decrease how firmly it pressed down when sewing knits.  I think I have a roller foot somewhere (is that for knits?  I can't remember what I bought it for), and I might have tried my walking foot.  But it was all a good learning experience.  (I have a knit nightgown I want to sew before the fall.  Will try to incorporate some of what I learned on this project.)
Constant reminder: you are sewing an outfit for a stuffed penguin.  It's not rocket science, and you're not entering any contests with this sewing project.  Let go of the idea that perfection is the goal.
Considered, but not attempted (see above reminder): a kangaroo pocket, and ribbing around the bottom.  Too much detail (and possibly too much headache).  Keep it simple!

Next up in Oakie's wardrobe: the raincoat that started this whole adventure.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

4th of July-inspired block

Saw this metal wall art over at Something to Crow About last week and got a bit inspired.  Not that I have time for such things, mind you, but I love to be taken over by the Spirit of Creativity.

Kennette's profile picture: also inspring

Kennette said she found it at this year's quilt market.  Comes in smaller (10-inch?) and larger (16-inch?) sizes.  And, since July 4th was within view, plus I have all this "Americana" fabric I'm not using from buck-a-block, I thought I'd see if I could design something for the 4th

Here's my design, with cutting directions.  I decided on a 12" finished block, as all the measurements came out nicely that way.

EMBARRASSED NOTE:  I just realized that the coloring of the flag's stripes in my design does not match the stripes in the original wall art. It would be a relatively simple exchange of the short and long strips (1 1/2 x 3 1/2 vs. 1 1/2 x 6 1/2) in the cutting directions below to make the switch.  Sorry for any confusion--a photo of my finished block appears at the end of the post.

Cutting for the main background fabric (I had 2 backgrounds, the main background, which also formed the stripes of the flag, and a different background for the flag's star).

Cutting for the red that will form the stripes of the flag, as well as the outer star.  The 3 1/2" squares will be used as folded-triangles in the border star.

CORRECTION:  the cutting directions say a 2 1/2" square of blue, but you really need just a 2" square.

Cutting for the blue that will form the flag's star field.  I am a big fan of triangle paper, especially for making very small half-square triangles.  So although there are only 8 half-square triangles needed, I based my cutting directions on this product.  ***Ooh, I just found out that you could make 3/4" (finished size) half-square triangles!  I didn't know the product came in that size, so I used what I had on hand and cut mine down in an interesting manner (see below).  If you use the 3/4" size triangle paper, your end result will look more like the original artwork.

CORRECTION:  The 1 1/2" squares should really be 1 1/4"

Cutting directions for the background of the flag's star-field.  Again, if you use 3/4" finished size triangle paper, you won't have to cut them down to size (like I did).

1.  Use the 3 1/2" squares of red fabric as folded corners with the background fabric to make 4 flying geese rectangles.
2.  Make 8 half-square triangles with the blue and star-field background fabrics.  Sew squares together in pairs to form 4 flying geese rectangles.
steps 1 and 2 complete
3.  [If you made 3/4" half-square triangles, you can skip this step.]  The blue-star flying geese rectangles need to be trimmed so they are 1 1/4" tall by 2" wide.  I cut them low, so the point of the flying-geese was at the edge.  This made the final blue star have shorter points that didn't extend fully within the star background.  Quilter's choice, as is the option of trimming the block width-wise so the point is no longer centered.  This will result in wonky stars (which I understand are rather popular now).
Untrimmed (at top) and trimmed (at bottom)
4.  Continue to sew the block together until you reach an end result somewhat like this:

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rainbow bug jar idea

I heard a quilt called "bottled rainbows" recently, and thought immediately of bug jar quilts, like this one by Joan Pladek of Pennsylvania.
And, since this is a place for ideas I might want to use later, here is a link to a bug jar quilt tutorial.

This is the original "bottled rainbows" quilt from Angela Pingel's blog Cut to Pieces
Here's what I love about it: the progression of vibrant rainbow colors from one corner across the quilt; the bright white setting off each section of color; the controlled scrappiness.  Mmm, it's so yummy!

And then more thinking about bugs and rainbows ensued...

What about a different paper-pieced bug in each jar?
Like this dragonfly and bee from Megan at megsmonkeybeans

Or a ladybug (with pattern and tutorial!) from Teri Emerson at handiwerx

But then, how would the bugs "stand out" against the various scrappy background fabrics in each jar?  Or would each bug be made in one of the rainbow colors, with a dark or neutral for the jar, and each jar's frame (background?) be a continuation of that block's assigned rainbow color?

And what about using a rainbow stripe fabric (one such fabric last seen on Oakie's visor)?  Does that have any place in a "rainbow bug jar" quilt?

Wild ideas, for sure.

Wild Ideas

There’s a scene in the movie WorkingGirl (a top 80’s favorite of mine) where business prodigy Tess McGill, played by Melanie Griffith, has to tell powerful Mr. Trask how she came up with the heretofore untried idea of expanding his business holdings into radio.  She shows him newspaper and magazine clippings that inspired her idea, and explains how she connected the pieces into her novel approach.

Well, that’s what I want to do with “Wild Ideas”: collect my clippings and explain my inspirations.  I have come across several things lately that exploded into leaps of creativity.  I may want to design or sew something based on these ideas one day, but I need a place to hold onto the pieces that inspired me.  I am wary of opening the pinterest door (I think it would be a Pandora’s box for my little ADD-brain), so this will be my place to hold onto things.  I can come back at any time and connect the dots.

Off I go…

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oakie visor & project report for June

With buck-a-block out of the way, I got down to business on my self-imposed Oakie wardrobe sewing.  Finished(!) one item: a visor.
Oakie with his pals
The women at stitch-n-bitch became enamored with Oakie the travel penguin and my plans for his new wardrobe.  I finished the visor first because the pattern (a Cabbage Patch clothing pattern) needed no alterations--unlike all the fitting work I am going through on the raincoat and hoodie.  [And, with an upcoming trip to Alaska, his delicate eyes need shading from the sun off the glaciers.]

Even so, I had to remind myself multiple times to accept the imperfections in the topstitching.  It's a visor for a stuffed penguin, for goodness sake.  Not like I'm entering it in the County Fair.  I'd rather have it *done* than perfect.  (Yay, progress over the perfectionist whisperings.)

Project report
So, mixed results in projects this month.  I am making great progress on full-size quilts, and I did finish one item.  I also got rid of 4 UFOs (jeans purse, yellow skirt, rust tank top, and decorated scarf).  But, in starting the Oakie wardrobe, I added 4 new projects at the same time.  So, a bit of a wash.
Monthly project count...
Completed projects this Month:  1
Completed projects Year to Date:  7
New projects this Month:  4
New projects Year to Date: 10
Discarded/donated projects (farewell!): 6
Net Project Count for 2012: -3

Hey, the net project count continues to go down!  Great job on the "have less stuff" overall goal.