Monday, March 29, 2010

The best laid schemes o' mice and men....

No picture, not much progress, just an update. During the night after my last post, both of my ears got plugged up, and I developed ear infections in both ears :-( I also ended up with a sinus infection to top it off! The first antibiotic didn't work, so I'm on round two with no improvement so far. I have spent most of my time sleeping, and I'm just not up to sewing. I have gotten some prep work done for some of the rally projects. I have all of the appliques cut out for the quilt and the luggage tags. I got all of appliques ironed on to the fabric for the luggage tags, and all of the fusible interfacing for the luggage tags ironed on as well. About the only other thing I can do without sewing is cut out the quilt, and I prewashed all of the fabrics for that today, so I'm hoping to get that done tomorrow.

Tomorrow is our 26th anniversary! I have a wonderful husband, and I hope we get at least that many more years together. I don't think I'll be up to much celebrating, which is fine because I think we both have a few things to do tomorrow. We move celebrations around all of the time, and I'd rather wait to celebrate when I can hear normally. If he whispers sweet nothings in my ear right now, I wouldn't hear a thing, and I would hate to miss out!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rally Bags

Now that I am back from my nephew's wedding, the rush to get things done for DH's scooter rally starts. I would love to say I have a good start on it all, but that would be a lie. I did get all of the rally bags cut out before I left for our trip, so that was good. I also brought the applique stuff with me on our trip so I could get a head start on it, but I never got around to doing it :-( To top it off, DD#3, who came with us on our trip, caught the flu, and guess what? Yes, you got it, she's always been good at sharing so I caught the flu too.

It was funny, on the plane ride home, I kind of knew I was getting sick, but I kept making lame excuses. Boy, is my throat sore: I guess it's because the air on the plane is too dry. My muscles are really aching: these airline seats are uncomfortable. I am freezing: airplane needs to up the heat. All my excuses were for naught, I was really sick.

I missed DS the Younger's soccer game on Tuesday, because I knew I couldn't sit through it. It started raining as the game started, so that was probably a good call on my part. I was determined to make it to DD#2's graduation from CNA/Caregiver school on Wednesday night, so I went to bed early on Tuesday night, slept late Wednesday morning, took a shower, went back to bed, and I did manage to make it through graduation, but I went to bed early again last night. (I am proud of her for doing that school. Her goal is to be a registered nurse like her dad, but DH knows she will make a better nurse if she works her way up.)

Today I've done better. I finished sewing the drawstrings for the rally bags. I am making 73 bags. DH wanted 75, but the 20 yards of fabric (from stash, yeah!) I put aside for bags made 73, so I figured it was close enough. For the drawstrings I could have gone and bought cording, which would definitely be faster, but I'm trying to use what I have, and I have a bunch of single fold bias tape I never use. Double fold bias tape I use all of the time, but single fold, rarely. I've been looking for ways to use up the single fold bias tape, and making drawstrings was a good way. I folded it in half lengthwise, and sewed the edges together. It makes for a good drawstring, and I used all of the red and yellow single fold bias tape I have. Just think of that, about 30" bias tape per bag, and I made 73 drawstrings, I had a LOT of single fold bias tape, and that was just two colors! I use a lot of the single fold bias tape when I make luggage tags too, so I'll be using a bunch for that too, since my goal is to make a luggage tag to go in each rally bag.

DD#2 came over today, and we did a quick shopping trip. I bought a walker/saucer thing for the baby I watch, and sippy cups to mail to my GS. We also went to Joanns. It's amazing how fast a trip to Joanns is on no-buy. I needed more Wonder Under for applique, and some heavy fusible interfacing for the luggage tags. I stood in line, got my stuff cut, eyed a purple cotton remnant and some flannel remnants, but resisted, stood in the cashier lane, used a 50% and a 40% coupon, and left. I didn't bother looking around because I only NEEDED the Wonder Under and the interfacing, and that is all I bought! I might need to buy some clear vinyl for the luggage tags, but I haven't figured out if I have enough yet, so I'll just buy it later if I need some. I didn't look around at fabric, but the remnant rack is right where you wait to get your stuff cut. I couldn't help but see it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it ;-)

DD#2 and I watched a Cary Grant movie, and I traced my scooter shapes onto the fabrics I had already prepared, you know, the ones I took on my trip and didn't touch? I have to iron some of my new Wonder Under on a few more fabrics, and then I can trace the rest. Cutting those out will be good movie or visiting projects.

The photo at the top shows my rally bag progress so far. The drawstrings are loosely knotted in groups of ten. The fabrics (Bugs Bunny and Taz) are pinned in groups of ten bags, and to the far right are the three bags I've finished so far. If you notice all the other junk on my cutting table, just realize this is after it was cleaned off. It used to be much worse! If I can get all of the rally bags finished before April 1st, I'll be happy. I haven't cut out the scooter quilt yet, but it can be easily cut in a day, besides the applique. I have cut the fabric for the luggage tags, but not the interfacing or appliques. It will definitely be a time crunch, the rally starts April 30th.

Tomorrow is a baby-watching day, so it will be amazing if I get any sewing done, but maybe during nap time.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

DD#2's quilt is done!

It took me much longer than I bargained for, and a lot more thread than I thought (over a mile, almost two), but I did finally finish quilting DD#2's quilt. It was my first free motion quilting project, and I think I discovered the secret of doing it a bit faster. Get so sick of doing it, you just want it finished and after a bit, you stop thinking about being scared to mess it up and just sew with the pedal floored! Actually, all kidding aside, I was having more problems getting my stitches even when sewing slowly than when I just went for it. I did have to conquer the fear factor though. There is something about free-motion that is scary for a lot of us.

For those of you wondering how the quilting from the back went, here is what I can tell you. I wouldn't try it with polyester batting. Polyester batting and I have some incompatibilities going way back, and I have a lot more puckers with poly than cotton when quilting from the front; from the back it would be worse. As it was, I used Warm and Natural cotton batting, and I had two tiny puckers right on the edge of the quilt. No one but me is likely to ever notice, and I don't know if I could even find them again. I only noticed as I was pinning on the binding. They were tiny puckers.

For my first attempt, I needed something to trace, and quilting from the back was good for that. I want to try some stencils next. I would really love to learn to free motion quilt with no marking at all, but I know myself well enough to know that it won't be soon. I keep trying to draw stippling on paper, and I keep getting myself stuck in corners. Until I can do it on paper or my white board, I'm not going to commit to it on a quilt. I cannot draw, I have no talent for it whatsoever. Tracing I can do, and feel confident about it. With the right backing fabric, I wouldn't hesitate to quilt from the back again. I don't know if I'll like using stencils or not, but it is I want to try next. For anyone interested in trying the technique of quilting from the back, I used the book Quilting Back to Front: Fun & Easy No-Mark Techniques by Larraine Scouler.

Another thing I learned from this experience is that for me, the Juki is better off in the cabinet. Taking it off the frame and putting it in a cabinet was the best thing I could have done. On the frame, the 9" throat of the Juki always seemed too small to do what I wanted to do. If I ever return to frame quilting, I will go for a much larger machine. On the other hand, having the Juki in a cabinet, that 9" throat seems huge, and I have no problems moving the quilt around.

Here was the view from our house this morning, cactus, snow covered mountains, and a hot air balloon. We usually see a lot of hot air balloons in the winter months, but not this year. I think most people just don't have the money to spend on the rides.

What's next? I'm leaving town on Wednesday, so I have to get the house cleaned up and pack my suitcase. I'd like to get my sewing room cleaned up a bit, and possibly do some cutting for my next projects. My husband is hosting a scooter rally the first weekend in May, and I have volunteered to do quite a bit of sewing for it. I am making a scooter themed quilt to raffle off, making the rally bags, and maybe a couple of goodies to go in them. We'll see what I can get done in the five and a half weeks I'll have before the rally. I picked the fabrics for the scooter quilt today, and I should have time to cut them tomorrow, but I am waiting for the background fabric.

I didn't have a good quality solid white to use as background, and background fabric is an allowable purchase on no-buy. I had purchased the border fabric a couple of months ago (also an allowable purchase), and the rest is from stash. All of the rally bags and goodies will be from stash, so the 4 yards I bought of allowable purchases will be nothing compared to all the stash I will use. I haven't chosen a backing fabric for this quilt, but I have plenty of stash that would work just fine.

There will be a bit of applique on the quilt and on some of the goodies, so I'd like to take the fabric for the applique, along with a mechanical pencil, the templates I made, and a pair of scissors, and see if I can get everything cut out at the hotel on our trip. I'd love to do some if it on the plane, but I won't chance them taking my scissors. I will need nice pointy scissors, and I don't think they'd let me have them, so I'll put them in my check-in bag.

Anything sewing related will have to be done tomorrow, because Monday I babysit, then Tuesday I pack and clean. I'll also have to go to the store on Tuesday to make sure the kids are set for the few days we'll be gone. I'll leave them a little money, and the great thing about having grown kids is, they can drive to the store themselves should they run out of anything! In fact, if I forget to leave money, they can even pay ;-)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fraternal Twins

I was sick of quilting on DD#2's quilt, so I finally got a border on this blue scrappy quilt. I was originally going to put a narrow white border before a blue one, but I think it ruined the white diamonds on the quilt. The border is a blue and white tiny plaid. The selvage says Marcus Brothers in tiny letters and no date, and I get the feeling this is some really old fabric. I have had people give me fabric, and I buy some at thrift stores when I find decent quality fabric, so I have no idea how old this fabric is. I know I didn't buy it new.

I also finished assembling the kitchen sink scrappy I was making. This kind of everything goes scrappy is my personal favorite. I like all of the colors mixed up, but I'm trying to do some more subdued quilts for people who don't appreciate the mishmash of colors. I auditioned several fabrics for the border, but when in doubt, I choose red. It has white microdots on it, so it's not a solid even though it looks that way in the photo. I love this pattern, and I started another one in purples, and I have the greens ready to go when the purple one is done. This is just a great leader/ender project!

Now I have 3 quilt tops ready to be quilted, these two and the ugly quilt. None of them will be quilted until I get my daughter's quilt done. I have a quilt to be raffled off in May that needs to be started. When I'm taking breaks from quilting tomorrow, I might start cutting it out, or I might start assembling another quilt I have the blocks done for. I've got people coming over tomorrow, so I may not get much of anything done as far as my sewing goes.

One Fourth of .......Forever

I just finished quilting one fourth of DD#2's quilt. It feels like it's taking forever! I realized I was never going to finish going just an hour or two per day, so today I put in 4-5 hours on it. I really need to get this finished, and I'm really a bit more than one fourth done. I was hoping to finish this before I leave town next week, and the next couple of days will determine whether or not it is even remotely possible. I am not confident that I will get this quilted by next Wednesday, so I may end up making this my secondary project, and working on some more pressing projects when I get back from my trip. I would hate to have that happen, since my daughter has already been waiting so long for this quilt. I suppose I can only do what I can do, right?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Celtic Mystery finished!

Here is a pic of the Celtic Mystery quilt back from the LAQ. I think she did a beautiful job. She even bound it for me. I just sent her the striped fabric I had planned on using for the binding, and I got it back finished. This is only the second time I paid to have a quilt quilted, and the first time I paid to have it bound, but it is pretty nice to do once in a while. I've been drowning in projects so this worked well for me right now.

You can see the feather quilting design a bit better from the back.

I ordered from Thread Art late at night on the 2nd. Today is the fifth and I got my order! I didn't even order expedited shipping, just standard. They are based in Texas, and I'm in Arizona, so it's not too far by US standards, but still, that's FAST! Now I can keep quilting on DD#2's quilt, and not worry about running out of the variegated thread I'm using. They had great prices on some cones, so I ordered a couple of cones of colors I don't have in large quantities.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My First Free Motion Quilting

Remember the big star quilt in my last post. That quilt is for DD#2. She wanted some fancier quilting on it, which is really beyond my skill level, but hey, you've got to start somewhere, right? This floral is what she picked for the backing fabric, and I like the simple shape of the flowers. I'm quilting from the back of the quilt, following the lines (as best I can as a beginner) of the large flowers, and doing loop de loops where the small flowers are.

Here is how it's coming out. I'm using a variegated thread from Thread Art called Ocean Teals. I know I don't have enough thread left to do this whole quilt, so I ordered more last night. Yes, I could have used a different thread, and I have threads that would have looked OK, of which I had enough. The thing is, this thread looked the best, so I really wanted to use it. The thread is performing very well, and any funkiness in the quilting is my fault. Since this is my first attempt ever at free motion quilting on a quilt, I am just learning how to control the size of my stitches and such. Some places look OK, some places my stitches are way too close together. Very rarely they are too long. Sometimes I am way off on following the flower outline, but the beauty of quilting from the back, is that from the front you can't tell much unless the flower is very misshapen. This is a good quilt to try this technique on, since it doesn't have a lot of a seams to worry about. I am using Warm and Natural batting, and I don't have any puckers on the front or back so far.

In case anyone is interested, the Thread Art site is just, and I have lots of their thread. They are pretty reasonable, and when they put their thread sets on sale their prices are VERY good. The variegated cotton thread feels the same weight as Aurifil 50 wt, but their other cotton threads are heavier. I have some of their polyester threads too, and I like them as well. I like trying out the different thread brands, and seeing what works best for me. This place doesn't seem to be very well known, so I thought I'd mention it. I have no affiliation at all.

I can't quilt for too long at a time, or my neck and shoulders really let me know. I'm trying to relax, but I have some medical issues going on that makes that difficult. I have been taking lots of breaks, and working on some of my other projects as well. Here is the top to the ugly quilt. I just finished assembling it. This one will be borderless, so the next step for this one is to piece the back. I went a little crazy with the top, and now I don't have enough ugly fabric to back this quilt, so I have to piece something together. I will use all of the ugly fabric I wanted to get rid of originally. Yeah! If the quilting on the star quilt goes OK, I think I'll try a stencil and see if I can follow the chalk marks on this quilt. Eventually I want to be able to free-hand designs, with no marking, but for right now, marking feels a little safer. When my stitches are more even, I'll try some meandering/stippling, after I watch the Pajama Quilter and my Patsy Thompson DVDs a few more times.

I got the Celtic Mystery back from the LAQ, and she did a great job on it! It is stunning! I was particular on the thread color for that quilt, but not the quilting design. I picked one but told her to feel free to change it if she thought something else would be better. She did choose something different and quilted feathers all over it. It is beautiful, and I'm glad I told her she could change it. I think LAQ's see so many quilts, they often have a feel for what would look best on each quilt. She listed all of the designs she offers, but I simply did not have time to go through them all. I'll try to get DH to help me take a picture of the finished quilt tomorrow.