Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Change of Plans

If all had gone according to plan, I'd be in Massachusetts with my parents, but we were flying standby, and the weather was bad, so...... I'm back at home instead. We're going to buy tickets to go visit this fall, we're debating September or October, but I think it will be October, after another wedding in our backyard!

Since we ended up coming home instead of traveling, I had a chance to start quilt DS the Elder's quilt, and it's over halfway quilted. We ended up with DD#2 and DSIL coming down to visit this weekend, and we had a good time with them. DSIL replaced the broken ceiling fan in our bedroom with the one I bought that has a remote control. I am really liking that! Too hot or cold in the middle of the night? Use the remote to change the fan speed; very, very convenient!

I had done a couple of last minute projects I hadn't shown on here, and since we won't be going to New England for months now, I'll go ahead and show them now, lest I forget to ever show them.

I went through my orphan block box and grabbed some 6" or smaller blocks, and made some mug rugs out of them. It helped clean out my orphan box a bit, and now I've got some quick gifts made up.
One day I was really stressed out, mostly because of my massive to-do list. It may not make much sense, but my way of dealing with the stress, was to blow off doing anything that needed to be done, and have a play day. I had a bunch of two color HST's that were cutoff's from another quilt. I trimmed them all to 1.75" a long time ago, and they've just been sitting in a Ziploc bag. I didn't know how many there were, nor did I really care. I started playing with them and making some 16 patches. I started out making two of each block, then I started doing color opposite blocks, then I decided to make the rest of the blocks all different. No plan, no counting, just playing. Well, I ended up with 20 blocks, and no HST's left over, so I must have had 320 of them originally. I decided it wouldn't really take that long to make the blocks into a lap quilt, so I got the top done the same day I was working on the blocks, and I quilted it a couple days later.
Here is my play day quilt, made with no planning at all. I think it's pretty cute, and it was really stress relieving to just play with some fabric. It's my second finish of 2014, but a bunch of finishes will be coming shortly. I hope to finish DS the Elder's quilt this weekend. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Good Place to Start

Anyone who reads my blog with any regularity knows I am big on leaving things at a good place to start. I am getting ready to take a trip next week to see my parents, whom I haven't seen in six years. I have SOOOO many projects going, that leaving them at a good place to start when I get back is essential.

With a good starting place in mind, here's what I've been busy with this week.

DS the Elders quilt- top finished, backing pieced, pin-basted.
Mr. Z's quilt- top finished, backing pieced, pin-basted
Mr. J's quilt- top finished, backing pieced
Mr. L's quilt- top finished, backing pieced
grandniece quilt- top finished, backing pieced, matched with batting
another baby quilt- top finished, backing ready, matched with batting
secret project- top started, top completed, pin-basted

^Here is the quilt top I made today. It's for DD#1's baby-on-the-way. She wanted yellow/gray elephant themed. I'm opting for no border, and I'll use gray binding. The backing is a yellow flannel with elephants.

The cabinet I hang quilt tops in is getting pretty crowded! Several of these I'll quilt up in the next two months. A few of these have been in here since last year, they still need borders, and I have no imminent plans to finish them. That's OK too, they can wait until I have more free time.

I finished making up as many of these blocks from Granny's blocks as I could. I ended up with 65 blocks, so Granny had made more blocks since she wrote her note of 205 finished. with four of her blocks in one of mine, 65 x 4 = 260. See the block in the upper left corner, that was the only block I had that had a mauve background. All the other blocks has the same muslin background. I did find several blocks where all the colored pieces in the block were the same color family, all blues, all purples, etc...
As I was sewing up Granny's blocks as leaders/enders, I recognized her favorite colors. She had a cobalt blue glass collection, and blue fabrics were there in force. She loved jewel tones, and that accounts for much of her scraps. There were a couple colors noticeably absent. There were a few  very light tans, more ecru, but NO browns. There were also NO yellows. There were peaches and corals, but no true oranges. I can't remember her wearing brown, yellow, or orange, so perhaps these colors were not to her liking. I can't say with any certainty though. I know in my stash, I have the most blue by far, even though I hate blue. I mostly give my quilts away though, and a lot of my family loves blue, so I've made a lot of blue quilts.
I pretty much have my main projects where I want them to be before I leave. This weekend I will be working on misc. sewing projects, and see if I can mark a few non-quilty things off my sewing list. I've had more sewing time available than usual, and I've been trying to make the most of it. I think I've gotten a lot done, so I'm pretty happy!
Oh, that batting I pieced last weekend? Five of the eight battings I pieced are already spoken for, being used in the projects mentioned above. I'm glad I took the time to piece the batting, and my sewing room is looking much better as I finish a few projects up :-)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Piecing Batting

I admit it, piecing batting is not my favorite quilty thing to do. None the less, I do it anyway, because to throw out usable pieces of batting goes against my grain. I find I get more batting scraps when I am buying packaged batting as opposed to using batting off the roll. If I'm cutting off a roll, I can position the quilt to use the least amount of batting, and I only cut a couple inches bigger than I need. If a leftover batting strip is less than 2.5" wide, I toss it, I'm not THAT frugal.

I spent about half of Friday, all day Saturday, and about half of today piecing batting. I normally don't let the batting scraps build up this much, but I had batting scraps jammed into 1 laundry hamper, a couple trash bags, and various piles around the sewing room. Too many batting scraps and too much mess! I thought about it, and I think it got so out of hand for a couple of reasons. 1) I don't have as much time to sew anymore, and when I'm in a hurry, I don't want to piece a batting. 2) Most of the quilts I've finished lately have been queen/king sized, and I normally prefer to piece battings for crib or throw sized quilts.

When piecing batting, the first thing I do is divide the batting scraps by type of batting. This time I had scraps of Microsafe poly, Dream Wool, Hobb's 80/20, Warm and Natural, and Warm and White. I had very little Warm and White left, I had used most of those scraps for potholders, so I tossed it in with the Warm and Natural.

I try to keep burp rags on hand to give as baby gifts, and I am completely out. My favorite burp rags to make are these. I usually make two or three dozen at a time, and when I'm out, I make another batch. I think we kept about two dozen when the twins were babies, and they are great! Between the flannel and the Warm and Natural they are really absorbent, and the shape really stays of your shoulder well. We still use them if the twins are sick. They work great for wiping runny noses, and don't chafe their faces.

The first thing I did with the Warm and Natural scraps was cut out as many burp rags as I could from any piece large enough. I had enough for 37 burp rags! I'm about halfway finished cutting the flannel for those, but dealing with the batting was my priority.

Since most of my batting scraps are strips cut off the edge after quilting, the next thing I did was divide the strips by length, always keeping the types of batting separate. Once I had that done, I brought the strips to the cutting table, and made all the edges even. I want parallel strips, not wonky ones. Using my widest zig zag, I butt the edges up together and sew the batting pieces together. For Poly batting, I find it easiest to overlap the batting a little bit.

On this pieced batting, you can see I added a piece horizontally across the top, and although it's hard to see, I also added I couple pieces horizontally on part of the bottom, to make the shorter strips be long enough to join to the longer strips. It's a bit like a jigsaw puzzle.

After my long weekend of piecing batting, here's what I ended up with, along with the price I would have paid to buy that size batting at the store, had I tossed my batting scraps instead of saving them.

1) craft sized Dream Wool batting $10
2) crib sized Hobbs 80/20 $7
3) crib sized poly batting $6
4) crib sized poly batting $6
5) crib sized poly batting $6
6) full sized poly batting $15
7) queen sized Warm and Natural $45
8) throw sized Warm and Natural $20

There you go, 8 battings pieced from scraps, which had I purchased them, would have been $115! Add in the batting I had salvaged for those burp rags, and I'm sure it's closer to $150. Piecing batting may not be my favorite thing to do, but saving over $100 is right up my alley.

Here is my pop up hamper now, MUCH better! These batting scraps were all mine, no hand me downs in there. I do have a kitchen trash bag almost half full with Granny's batting scraps in it, but that's going to have to wait. Her batting was all the same, a super-thin dense poly batting, possibly Dream Poly? I haven't even taken it out of the bag to look at it. I don't want to use it on any of my current quilts, so I'm going to ignore it a bit longer. All the battings I pieced this weekend should get used within the next couple of months. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Sewing with Granny

Granny was DH's maternal grandmother, and she passed on a couple years ago. She was a sweet, sweet lady, so mild-mannered and brought a sense of calm everywhere she went. She was a quilter, although most of her projects were small ones. I know she did do some bed-sized quilts, but her passion was placemats. I think everyone in the family has at least one set of her placemats, some have several sets. She like doing holiday placemats, so when I inherited her stash, I got a lot of holiday scraps, as well as some misc. pieces of placemats she hadn't finished, or just leftover pieces. In her stash, however, was one big scrap project. Now, normally, I do not enjoy finishing someone else's UFO's, but this one called to me.

There was a big pile of blocks, some muslin yardage, and extra pieces cut. I thought about making extra blocks since pieces were already cut, but then I realized she and I quilt quite a bit differently from each other, and my best bet is just using as much as I can of what she did.

I did find a note about the project. 205 finished, 31 to shape (which means trim maybe?) 4 to sew sides on, 17 to sew triangles = 257

Here's the thing about notes like this. I write stuff like that all the time if I'm setting a project aside. It means something if I write a note like that, and I'm sure this meant something to her. Did she need 257 blocks or was she just keeping track of how many she had so far? There is no way for me to know what her intention was with these blocks. Was she making a bed quilt for her queen sized bed? Maybe she was making smaller quilts for donation? I found some batting marked for quilt as you go that may have been marked for these blocks. Granny's project is now my project, and together we'll make something.

I found lots of evidence of sliver trimming in the bag of blocks. See how the left side piece is too long? There's a good reason for that, Granny's seams are approximately 3/8", not 1/4". My guess is she was using the edge of her regular presser foot as her guide. I wonder if she knew why her points kept getting cut off? Did she even care? It's pretty obvious she didn't chain piece, or use leaders/enders like I do. Look at all the thread tails on the back of this one block! Was she planning on trimming the thread tails later, or did she just leave them? I'm trimming them since I'm not used to having any.

I love that this project was a scrap project in every sense of it. Can you see she was using different color threads? For that matter, she was using completely different threads! So far I've found 11 different colors of thread in this project. The weights of the threads vary from fine 50 wt to probably a 28 wt., or maybe even a 12 wt.  There are cotton threads, poly threads, and likely poly cotton mixed. I mostly use cotton thread for quilting, but if I have some poly the right color, and don't have the right color cotton on hand, yeah, I'll use it too. I've also used up odd colored bobbins while quilting a quilt that's scrappy. It really tickled me about the different colors of thread, because although 95% of the time my top and bottom threads match, right now my top thread is tan, and my bottom thread is light gray. I was at the end of a 6000m cone of light gray, and I wound the remaining thread onto bobbins. I didn't have any more light gray, so I tossed a spool of tan on top, both neutrals, so I wasn't concerned. I think Granny would approve!

One of the reason I use leaders/enders is to avoid beginning like this. a lot of the blocks have that thread vomit on the back. Chain piecing, leaders/enders avoids that problem. I wonder if she knew about those concepts, or just was so set in her ways, she did it the way she always had. I know when I get comfortable with one way of doing things, I am hesitant to change my methods.

I thought about setting the blocks straight, but I decided this was a little more interesting. I'm going to make as many of these blocks as I can, then decide on a plan for a quilt. I have the extra pieces she had cut. I could do a piano key border, or a checker board border with the extra squares and rectangles. She didn't have extra triangles cut, but she did have the muslin stored with the project. I love looking at the scraps in the blocks. Some of them I have in my stash as well, or I have in a different colorway.

Some of the scraps are high quality quilt shop fabrics, some are cheap poly/cotton blends. You know what? Poly/cotton blends have made it into my scraps quilts too. When I come across a scrap from a dress I made one of my girls, or a fabric I used for a craft long ago, I use them in my scrap quilts, and I don't question the quality much. If you can read a newspaper through it, I'll trash it, but if the original item lasted a good long time, I'll toss the scraps in my scrap quilts, and I enjoy the memories. Scrap quilts are my all time favorite quilts. I don't do matchy matchy stuff well. I could go to a big box store if I wanted a quilt made with three-five fabrics, and pay far less than making a quilt from scratch. Scrap quilts tell the story of your life, and that's why I love them.

Someday someone may be looking at one of my unfinished projects, wondering what I had in mind, or why I did the quirky things I do. The quirkiest thing I do is binding though, and those quilts are all finished. I've made 200 or so quilts, and I have NEVER done the binding "correctly". I machine sew all my bindings, and someone can shake their head all they want at my bindings, at least those quilts are done.

I'm not sure when I finish Granny's quilt, right now I'm just going to make the bigger blocks as leaders/enders while I put borders on the pile of quilt centers I finished. One of my daughters asked what I was going to do with the quilt when I finished it. They thought maybe I'd give it to my MIL, or someone else in the family. I thought about it, and I'm going to keep it. Granny and I are making it together!

I got the border on this baby quilt, pieced some batting for it, and have it on a hanger with a backing. It's ready to be pin-basted!


 I pieced batting and a backing for this quilt today, as well as get the two borders on. It's on a hanger together ready to go too.

I'm trying to put a huge dent in my batting scraps. I normally keep my batting scraps in a pop up laundry hamper, but I had so many, I could easily have filled two hampers. My last several quilts have been queen or king sized, and I really don't want to piece a batting for a quilt that large. Now that I have some smaller quilts, I'm piecing up what I have. I had a large enough batting from the last time I pieced batting, that I think it will work for one of my grandson's quilts. If it's not quite big enough, I now have some more scraps of that type of batting, and I should be able to easily make it large enough. I pieced batting for the two baby quilts above today, and I also pieced a batting for a baby quilt for a grandbaby on the way. I haven't finished the top yet, so I had to guess on the batting size, but it should work.

Piecing batting is easier for me now. Now that my Bernina is in the corner, I can piece the batting without it hanging over the edge of the sewing table and getting stuck. One day I ripped a poly batting when I was trying to piece it and it got stuck on the back corner of my sewing cabinet. Now that the batting can only hang off the front of the cabinet, it's much easier to deal with :-)

I finished pin-basting DS the Elder's quilt this morning. I should have finished pin-basting it last night, but I had the backing a little crooked, and I ended up short in two corners, so I had to add more backing fabric before I could finish. The quilt is 115" square, so GINORMOUS! Sewing those extra bits on because of my mistake was not fun, but I don't think it will be noticeable once its quilted.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Assembly Line

....Or should I say assembling line, since I am the only one working and I'm assembling quilts? The last six or eight weeks of piecing has wrought a LOT of completed blocks, and it was time to assemble some quilt centers. I was running out of places to put piles of blocks!

^The top quilt center in this pic will be for Mr. L, the boy half of my grandtwins. The twins have been using their baby blankets as drag around/TV quilts, but they are getting so big, the baby blankets aren't really big enough anymore. I'm hoping to have both of the twins new quilts made for Christmas, but I haven't started Miss S's quilt yet. I made two of each of these blocks, so I can make another quilt this same size.

^This quilt is for Mr. J in South Africa. He is getting promoted to a big boy bed as soon as I get this finished and shipped.

^This is the quilt that was determined to be. The dark pieces from the nine patches were from DH's grandmother's stash. The colors are purple, blue, green and a metallic gold. She only had scraps of this fabric, but she had several pieces of it, and DD#2 was hoping there was enough of it to be the center squares for the pineapple quilt I am making her. Well, I didn't think there was enough fabric, but I cut as many 2" squares as I could from the fabric. Of course, then I realized the directions had given the FINISHED size, so I should have cut 2 1/2" squares. No matter, there wasn't enough fabric anyway.
I had run out of leaders/enders the other day, so I grabbed the pile of matching squares, and some various WOW 2" squares from my Scrap User System, and made nine patches as leaders/enders. I ended up with 20 nine patches, and I knew I could make a baby quilt, if I put them on point. I have a fabric in stash that would make a great border for this quilt, it's purple and blue stripes with a metallic gold. With more purple and blue coming I didn't want the alternate squares either of those colors, and I didn't really want to use white. The green in the floral is an odd shade, but I had just purchased a remnant the other day that would match well. I didn't have very much of it, it was only a remnant after all, but I hoped it was enough. I cut the alternate squares just fine, but I realized I would be four setting triangles short!
I went back to the store, hoping they had gotten another bolt in, nope. Since they are a chain, I checked online, nope. Hmmmm....They had another fabric similar in color, but brighter. I bought a yard of that, knowing I could cut the alternate squares and the setting triangles if I bought a yard. The thing is, I liked the original fabric better. I decided I would only make the setting triangles from the brighter fabric. I cut the setting triangles oversized so I still need to trim the quilt before I put the border on, but I think it's going to be cute! Not bad for a quilt I had no plans to make.
^Here is another quilt center I worked on. I made the nine patches last summer, while busting through a shoebox full of 2" (cut) squares. Again, it needs to be trimmed before I border it, and I'm still debating an inner border for it. 

^This quilt is going to another of my grandson's in South Africa, Mr. Z. He is turning five next month, and is really interested in marine life, especially sharks.
All of those quilts are getting borders, just slab borders, though some are getting more than one border. I have too many quilts that need to be finished soon to piece a border. I am in the middle of assembling another quilt center, then I'll spend this weekend bordering as many as I can. I'm leaving to visit my parents on the 18th, and I'd like to have all of these quilt tops done, and at least one of them pin-basted. If I can get the backings pieced for them, that will really be a victory for me. The year is flying by, and I have several more quilts to make this year, time to get some finishes in!