Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Mind Is on Something Else...

Here is my progress on DD#1's quilt. I have the top half of the quilt sewn into rows. It's a good thing this is an easy pattern, because it's not the project I'm mulling over in my mind.

I am assembling a couple of charity quilts while I assemble DD#1's quilt. These are the rows I have together...

...and here is the rest of it laid out on the design wall. I made enough squares to make two purple versions of this. I'm not sure if I'll be working on the second one by the time DD#1's quilt is assembled or not. I just love this pattern as a leaders/enders project. It is easy to sew and goes together quickly, and simple enough that I don't have think much about what to grab as I'm doing another project as my main thing. The purples will be the third and fourth quilts I've done with this pattern, so that's not taking much brain power either.

Ah, so what project has my gears turning and my brain cells overheating? The sea-themed quilt I'm going to make! I looked at lots of sea quilts, and none of the ones I found have the variety of sea life I'm looking for in the way I want to do it. I did find an applique quilt with a good variety, but I want to do a mixture of applique and piecing. I've looked through my quilt books and found several pieced fish blocks, and unlike my normal method, I decided I am going to make some sample blocks. I've always wondered why people make sample blocks, and the idea never appealed to me before, but I am really going to be winging this quilt, and sample blocks are starting to make sense to me.

The more ideas I look at, the more I tweak the idea in my head. I went with DS the Elder to a used bookstore yesterday. (We have the BEST chain of used bookstores in AZ called Bookman's. They are huge and set up like Barnes and Noble but everything is used. Great places!) I looked in the quilting section, as usual, and I came across a couple of books to buy and take home. One of them I chose specifically because it has a pieced pattern for a humpback whale! The other book I bought was on machine quilting, and I really thought I would find nothing of use for this sea quilt in it, I just wanted the book for techniques. As I was looking through the book, I found a photo of a quilt, and I knew just how I was going to do the top of the sea on the quilt! It had a pieced quilt that was made up of trapezoids made into strips. In various sea colors that would make an excellent sea surface.

OK, now I have a pieced humpback whale pattern, multiple fish patterns of all sizes, a plan for the surface, and some ideas for applique. None of my fish blocks are the same size, some are on point, some are square, some rectangular. This quilt is going to be an adventure! I have thought about plotting it all out on graph paper to see what will work, but I think I just need to play with real blocks. I can't make everything to scale, with a whale on the quilt, the fish would have to be so small you couldn't see them at all, never mind me piece them. I think I'd like to make each of the blocks I'm considering in the sizes the patterns call for. Some of the blocks would be fairly easy to re-size, some, like the whale, incredibly difficult. Once I have some sample blocks, and I know how hard each of them are to piece, I can consider re-sizing some. Any blocks I don't use can be used in a different quilt someday.

I haven't started pulling fabrics for this quilt, though I do have the backing fabric, and a border fabric. I thought I had a fabric to use for the background water, but I don't think there is enough. The more I thought about it, I decided even if it was enough, I didn't like it for the water. It is just blue, and I decided I needed a green/blue. I found a green/blue blender online and ordered it for the background. I considered batik, but decided against it. It would be pretty, but not right for this quilt. When my background fabric gets here, I'll start making blocks, and playing with layouts. Until then, I'll try to get as much done as possible on my other projects.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

As Much as Will Fit on the Design Wall

I managed to get the rest of the blocks for DD#1's new quilt done today. When I tried to put the blocks on the design wall, I could fit 8 blocks across, and 7 blocks high, when in reality the quilt will be 10 blocks across and 12 blocks high. I'm not very happy with the pictures I took, the colors look more washed out than in real life, but perhaps you can see the concentric blue and green diamonds? The brown squares should also make diamond-like shapes, and the white squares go out from the center. This picture is proof I am nowhere near as good a photographer as DD#1 is!

I purchased a fabric for the border at the same time I purchased all of these other fabrics last year. I had been debating between using that border fabric or doing some type of pieced border. Looking at the photo I'm leaning towards using the border fabric, along with a solid narrow spacer border. I think maybe this needs a strong frame around it. I can change my mind multiple times between now and when I'm working on the borders, so who knows what I'll actually do? I'll lay out a few options after the center is assembled, and post them on here so DD#1 can see and let her choose. Ah, so when will the center be assembled? I have no clue! I'm babysitting full days the next couple of days, then DH has a couple of days off and there are errands to be run. I'm hoping I get to work on assembly some time next week.

I ordered several quilt stencils this morning. I've been debating on ordering them for weeks, putting some in my virtual cart then hitting empty cart when I decided against it. I gave in this morning, and I can't wait for them to arrive! I have several quilts waiting for quilting, and I want to practice with some guidelines a while longer before I try completely free-handing it. Some of the designs I chose stencils for I don't think I'd ever be able to freehand anything like them, no matter how much practice I have!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Getting Things Together

We're hoping to get to South Africa in August, to visit DD#1, DSIL, and our grandson. DH, DS the elder, and I are hoping to make the trip. I am the only one of the three of us who has seen the baby, and of course he's grown a lot since I saw him as a newborn. It is hard being so far away from our daughter and her family, and we try to stay in touch as much as possible. We are accumulating stuff to take with us, and it looks like Zak will get at least one suitcase full of things. Sort of spoiling when we have the chance.

The seasons are opposite since they are in the Southern Hemisphere and we are in the Northern Hemisphere. Looking for a couple of outfits to bring was most easily achieved by checking the clearance rack which is handy. August will be winter there, but towards the end of it. I found a couple of outfits with short sleeves but that had hooded jackets too. DD#1 told me Zak needed pants and I found 3 pairs that can be long or cuffed and buttoned into shorter pants.

I am an avid reader, and tried to pass that onto my kids. I seem to have succeeded in four of the five kids. It's time to pass that love of reading onto a new generation, so I need to bring a few books too.

We can't just bring the baby things, so I've been working on a few other projects. I got all of the green centered blocks done for DD#1 and DSIL's new quilt, and I'm hoping to get at least a few of the blue centered blocks done tomorrow. The center of their quilt will look like this, but this is not enough to give you a feel of the layout. Once I get a few of the other blocks done I can layout a bit more so you can get a feel for the overall design the blocks will make.

I've also got some other things started for Zak, like some blocks and some play food. If we don't get to SA, I'll be shipping several packages. I'd rather see them in person, but mailing them would be better than nothing. I'm hoping it all works out.

On the sewing front, I didn't anything sewn today, but I did give DD#3 a sewing lesson, and she made a top hat for a costume she's wearing at a comicon (comic/anime convention) this weekend. I wanted to take a picture of her hat for my blog, and she said no, that I had to use a photo of her in the whole costume. I guess maybe I'll be able to post a photo of her hat next week!

Our Great Escape, and yes, Something Quilt-related!

DH and I took a spur of the moment escape, and spent two nights in Oak Creek Canyon just north of Sedona, AZ. We had a great time checking out antique shops, a couple of quilt shops, and just spending some uninterrupted time together. The only place I actually purchased anything, was at the Goodwill Weigh and Pay in Flagstaff. It is a Goodwill outlet store, and you pay for things by the pound. I bought 22 pounds of things for $1.19 per pound. We got two sets of Italian cotton sheets that are in like new condition. I even got an extra pillowcase in the deal. I also bought men's shirts for quilting, I admit it.

Check out this old quilt I found in an antique store. I found a lot of quilts, and knew most of the pattern names, but this one intrigued me. When I first glanced at it, I thought it was a square in a square with alternating nine patches, then I realized the square in a square part was just four HST's. Then I realized they weren't nine patches, it's some funky sashing. The more I looked at it, the more intrigued I was. If you look closely (you can click on it to make it bigger) you can see several of the squares are pieced together, the maker must have been using tiny scraps. You can also see a mistake in one of the square in a squares. One HST is turned wrong. I had so much fun looking at it, DH took a picture for me.

Check out this old handcrank. It's sitting on a shelf outside in the yard of this antique store. If it had the bobbin case I would have bought it for the $35 they were asking. I wasn't sure I could get one, or that the machine would ever work again, but I was tempted anyway.

Sedona is such a beautiful place and no photos ever do it justice. This one was taken when it was overcast, so it really doesn't showcase the colors well, but you can see the strata in the rock.

The reds are a bit better in this picture, but not near as brilliant as in real life.

Green trees, red rocks, blue skies, I think I know what colors the bargello quilt I want to make will be in. I am thinking of adding some butter yellow for the lighter strata in the rocks. When I get a few projects finished, I'll have to look through my stash to see if I have anything that would do Sedona colors justice. I'm not sure that quilt won't have to wait a while, and I'm thinking batiks might be my best bet, but I don't have any. Ah, it's a WHIMM at any rate :-)
We stayed at an amazing hotel right next to Oak Creek. It was surrounded by big pines, and if we had been so inclined we could have fished in the creek. The man who works evenings even said he'd clean the fish for us, and they have several grills on the property. They have hammocks and chairs next to the creek, and it was just lovely. Our room was small, but it had a fireplace right at the foot of the bed, and a two person jacuzzi in the corner. It was a perfect spot for a romantic getaway!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On Shopping American and Green....

This is what DH bought me for Mother's Day. He got me some fat quarter packs from Connecting Threads. I've been wanting to try their fabric, mostly because they are using all USA grown cotton in their fabrics now. Their regular price on fabric is just under $6 a yard, and their price on fat quarter packs ends up being $5 per yard. I haven't washed any of this yet, but I can tell you the fabric is amazingly soft and nice to the touch.

It's funny how you change your ways of thinking about things as you get older. We've raised five kids on one income, and we've had to cut a lot of corners to do that. Now that we only have one kid left at home, we can think of things a bit differently, but come to find out, it seems we've been doing some things right all along!

DH is thinking greener thoughts these days. He's wanting us to change the way we do a few things to make less of an impact on the environment. Because of his feelings on that, I've been reading quite a few articles on living greener. The funny thing is, some of the things they suggest, we've done all along out of necessity! They suggest you buy things secondhand, which we have always done. My kids always thought buying clothes at a thrift store was getting new clothes. Unlike hand-me-downs, they at least got to pick them out! Most of the furniture in our house is secondhand, and the holes in some of it don't bother me. Not that we never buy new furniture, or new clothes, but the majority of it is secondhand.

The green articles also mention re-purposing and reusing a lot. I have re-purposed things the whole time we've been married. When DH or I had clothes with an unrepairable hole in them, I would cut them up and make kids clothes. Holes in the knees- make shorts. Bottom sheet completely see through, toss it if need be, but make pillowcases out the top sheet, or back a quilt with the top sheet. I've made dresses out of curtains just like Scarlet O'Hara, and even a poodle skirt out of a tablecloth! I've repurposed furniture over and over again, I think I've had old microwave carts in almost every room in the house. My coffee table is an old two-child school desk we bought at a yard sale and the kids used it for years as a desk before they outgrew it. The height is adjustable and on its lowest setting its a fine coffee table.

I got a lot of my fabric stash from second hand stores, or just had it given to me by older relatives who are no longer sewing. It's no wonder I like quilting so much, it's just using up all of scraps from other sewing and not wasting anything.

A while back we stopped shopping at Walmart. We are not supportive of their business practices, so we simply stopped shopping there. I was really afraid we would end up spending a lot more money shopping at other places, but you know, I don't miss it at all. We also don't spend more money, if anything we spend less, because since we are shopping more at specialty (hardware, grocery, book, etc...)stores, we go in with a list and stick to it, where department stores encourage and count on those impulse purchases.

I've recently started thinking about where products come from, and it started innocently enough. We were looking for toys for our grandson, and DH wanted to avoid toys made in China, because they have repeatedly gotten in trouble for using toxic things (like lead paint) in their toys. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find toys not made in China? I started looking for things made in the USA, and I was disheartened. No wonder our economy tanked! We are importing almost everything! How can any country sustain that?

I still buy things made in other countries, including China, because the simple truth is, I have to. There are just too many things that aren't made in the USA at all anymore. Try to buy a US made sewing machine, you can't do it unless you buy vintage. Even a lot of the long arm quilting machines assembled in the US use imported parts. I did a google search on US made fabric. I found one company that makes home dec fabric here in the US. Connecting Threads is the only company I found making quilting fabric with US grown cotton. Their fabric is woven elsewhere, most likely Mexico, but all they'll say is North America.

I grew up in Massachusetts, home of the fabric mills and lots of other industry, paper factories, Milton Bradley games, Buxton wallets, just all kinds of factories. Almost all of the factories are gone now. The fabric mills are now shopping malls, all selling us imported stuff instead of making US goods. It's sad, and the more I look for country of origin, the sadder I get.

My shopping habits are changing again. I rarely go to the dollar store now. It really just sells junky stuff I can live without. I buy less of almost everything, and I don't miss the stuff I don't buy. I'm more willing to pay more to buy something made in the USA than ever before. If we don't support the few manufacturers we have, will they close down too? They say the economy is getting better, but is it? If part of the problem is we are importing more than we are exporting, how can the problem be getting better? If the problem is there are too many Americans living above their means, how can the economy be better without a change in lifestyle?

I was reading a health article in an office yesterday, and it was talking about crafting keeping you healthy and helping ward off depression. It was mainly talking about productive hobbies, not just crafting. The research they had done showed higher happiness levels and lower depression levels in people who produces something, or in their words, had productive works. They compared depression stats today with those of 50 and 100 years ago, and people were happier when the did more work and had less stuff. Hmmmm...... I'd come to that conclusion myself recently too, with no research to back up my opinion.

I know this is a very political post, and pretty unlike me, I try to stick to quilting stuff. I promise my next post will be quilt related, but this is what's on my mind, and that is part of why I write a blog, to say what's on my mind. I am NOT telling you to boycott anyone or anyplace. I am not suggesting I have the answers to the economic crisis. I can only modify my behavior based on what I believe, and I don't even pretend to think most people will agree with me. I read a few vegans blogs, even though I eat meat, and I've gotten some great recipes from them. I am a Christian, but I've gotten info I've used from non-Christians. This was more of a food for thought statement than anything else, so please understand that, and try to be patient if you disagree.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Power Sewing!

Look at my sewing cabinet! Only a few piles left to sew up. This cabinet was completely covered with stacks of four patches and HST's yesterday. I've been doing some major power sewing to get them sewn up. I have been chain sewing until the pile on the floor covers my feet then I clip them apart and iron. I just finished ironing over 200 HST's and my sewing room is HOT! I decided to take a break and let it cool off before I try to get the rest of these sewn up tonight. I'm done ironing for the night, if I finish these HST's they can wait until tomorrow to be ironed.

Here is a sneak peek at what the blocks will look like for DD#1's new quilt. They are Buckeye Beauty blocks, so 2 four patches and 2 HST's. Half of the blocks will look like this with the green half of the HST's towards the center.

The other half will have the blue sides towards the center.

Take a look at what I've sewn in the past couple of days. I have a couple hundred purple four patches for two charity quilts, the 240 four patches I need for DD#1's quilt, and more than half of the 240 HST's I need for her quilt. They are all safety pinned together in groups of ten so I can keep them straight.

For some reason time got away from me on DD#1's quilt. We are still planning on going to South Africa in August, and I'll need to bring her quilt with me if I go. I will most likely send her quilt out for quilting, and all of a sudden it struck me that I needed to hurry up and get the top done. I'd like to send this quilt and Carolina Christmas out for quilting at the same time, and I need to allow time for the LAQ to get them quilted and then there is binding... I have a stack of tops I am planning on quilting myself too, and a couple of other tops in various stages of completion.

In case anyone is wondering about my other projects I recently posted about, I decided Carolina Christmas is done as is, and gets no border. I think I'll bind it with the sashing fabric, but a darker blue may win out. The Swing Your Partner blocks are getting the rust sashing, with dark green cornerstones. I was going for navy, but decided the first border would be navy instead.

I have several other starts coming up. I will be making a sea themed quilt for a five year old, and I just found out I have another nephew getting married (Yeah, Joe and Christi!) so there will be another wedding quilt to make. I do want to use up the scraps from DD#1's quilt in a timely manner, and I have a quilt to make for a dear family friend too. At this rate I'll be busy for quite a while to come.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is the top done? I'm not sure...

I just finished assembling the Carolina Christmas mystery quilt. I knew all along I wasn't going to use Bonnie's border for this quilt, and my original plan was to do a piano key border with all the scrappy blues from the center. Now that I used blue sashing, I don't think that will look right, even if I use a spacer border of white or pink. I don't want a big pink border, so I'm stuck! I really like the bright blue sashing, but now I'm unsure what to do.

I also am not used to square quilts. The quilt is already close to the width I wanted, but I'm not big on uneven borders just to make it taller. The quilt is sitting on a king sized blanket in my driveway. I'm thinking it may just be done. I have never made a quilt that stopped with the sashing. I have made borderless quilts, and quilts with multiple borders, but I've never just stopped after the sashing. This may be my first time doing that, because unless I have a brainstorm, I will not add to this quilt just to make it larger. Especially because I'm not sure if I really want it any larger.

I guess I've been pretty indecisive lately. I am still making progress on my projects, so if I have to mull things over a few days, but work on something else in the meantime, I guess that's OK. I think I am going to go with the rust sashing on my Swing Your Partner quilt, and use navy cornerstones. Now that I'm temporarily stumped on Carolina Christmas, I'll be working on DD#1's Buckeye Beauty quilt (I already have a stack of four patches), and also try to get my autumn string quilt assembled. I have so many quilts I want and/or need to start, I'm trying to get a few WIPS to at least the completed top stage.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I've Been Stripping!

I didn't get much done in my sewing room last week. It has just been crazy and I've been so tired. This week my main focus is getting some cutting done, so my next couple of projects are ready to start. I'm also trying to get some blocks sewn into quilt tops. The photo above shows the strips for DD#1's new quilt. She wants a Buckeye Beauty quilt, and I got it all figured out Quilt Wizard. She wants it to be brown, blue, and green. The four patches will be brown and white, with the HST's being blue and green. I will strip sew the brown and white strips together for the four patches, then subcut. For the HST's I still need to cut the triangles with my Easy Angle ruler, but now that the strips are cut, I don't mind doing the subcutting a bit at a time as I need them.

I realized as I was cutting all of the fabrics I bought for her quilt, that the shades of blues and greens don't really play well with the rest of my stash. I decided to cut up all the blues and greens I bought for this quilt, and try to use up all of the fabrics in a couple of quilts. I cut 10 1/2 inch squares so I can piece the backs, and I cut the rest of it into 2 inch and 2 1/2 inch strips. There are two quilt designs that caught my eye recently, and one uses all two inch strips, and the other uses all 2 1/2 inch strips. Look at all of those strips! I'll probably end up with some left over, even after making the two bonus quilts, but that's ok, I'll just toss them in my strip drawers.

I got the sashing cut for my Carolina Christmas quilt. I am going with the blue polka dot and I bought just a fat quarter of the white with blue polka dots for the cornerstones. Yes, I'm on no-buy, but sashing is an allowable purchase and with only a fat quarter I didn't buy more than I needed.

I also got the sashing and cornerstones cut for the autumn string blocks I made a while back. I haven't decided what I'm going to do about borders on either of these quilts, so if I just get the tops assembled and ready for borders, I'll be happy.

Another quilt that needs sashing cut is my Swing Your Partner blocks. I haven't decided which color sashing to use, but I definitely want a solid. The blocks are all made from men's shirts, and the border will be too. I really want a solid sashing. I will probably use cornerstones on this quilt too, but I can't decide the color for those until I choose sashing. I am debating between
this rust...

...and this bright red...

...and this burgundy...

If you have an opinion leave a comment. I'm working on so many projects at once I'm having a hard time with some of the decisions. My sewing room was becoming over run with piles of blocks that needed to be made into tops. I'm trying to clear a few of these out, while I work on some new projects too.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Scooter Rally

The scooter rally DH hosted was this past weekend, and I think everyone involved had a good time. The driving force behind the rally was DH's desire to ride in a gymkhana. If I understand correctly, gymkhana's were originally equestrian events, where horse and riders had tasks to complete while on a course. Motorcyclists and scooterists took that idea and made their own courses, with every course being a bit different. The video above shows DH riding in the gymkhana. The scoring was lowest score wins. You got a point if you put your foot down, missed a cone, ran over a cone, left the course, or just skipped something. (Most people skipped the teeter totter) DH was the winner of the gymkhana with one point. When he was at the table part, he was supposed to take a straw out of the first bottle and put it in the bottle at the other end. He got a straw out of the first, but couldn't get it in the second bottle. He managed to not put his foot down at all.

The beginning of the gymkhana was a slalom, with a u turn and another slalom. Then there was the keyhole, you had to go in the circle, do a full turn and come out the same place. You went from there to a figure 8, then to the table with the bottles and straws. The teeter totter was next, and that was where I was so nervous just watching! I thought that teeter totter would never tip down! The next task was the spiral, you ride straight to middle and spiral out following the path. The last thing was the quick stop. You needed to speed up after the spiral and stop with your front tire in the box drawn on the pavement.

DH did get the lowest score, but since it was his rally, the prize went to second place. We actually had a three way tie for second with three people scoring 3 points. Only one of those people had done the teeter totter so he got the prize.

It was a fun time, and I was happy with the diversity of our participants. We had a pretty equal mix between men and women, and the age range of riders went from teens to 70's.

Here was our scooter quilt winner, modeling his win. He came all the way from Kansas City for the rally!

Now that the rally is over for this year, I'm hoping to get some sewing done ;-)