Thursday, May 26, 2016

Minky Mayhem

Have you sewn with Minky before? Did you enjoy it? If you did, you are a far better sewist than I am. I am so used to using cotton for everything, that minky was a nightmare for me. When I was cutting the minky into squares, so much "fur" went all over my sewing room, it looked like a whole clan of teddy bears was murdered in there. Here is my shirt when I first started this morning, covered in minky bits. It got MUCH worse than this!

Sewing the squares together? So much slipping and sliding around, shifting all the time. I pinned a lot, and normally I never pin! I finished my project tonight, and all I can say, is now I will use the leftovers from this project ASAP, and get that mess out of my sewing room. I should have enough minky left for one more blanket, and after that, no more piecing minky for me. I might be talked into using minky for a backing of a quilt, but I'm not going to make a habit of piecing with minky.

So, what did I make with the minky?

I made a weighted blanket! If you don't know what those are, or why you might want one, read this. The article I just linked to also has a link to the first video tutorial on weighted blankets I watched. One of my grandkids needed a weighted blanket, and so I provided one. I'm hoping it helps them. I'm also making a weighted blanket for someone else, but that one will be fleece, and I have no problems working with fleece.

Now that I've made a weighted blanket, I'll pass on some tips I learned. I started out using the method shown in the Man Sewing video. Thanks to Katie, who reads my blog, I left both the top and the bottom of the quilt open when I enveloped it, with an extra 2" of backing on top and bottom. After turning right side out, I sewed up the vertical channels (stitch in the ditch from top to bottom only), then sewed only the center horizontal line. At that point you can work from either end, and you don't have to shake the poly beads all the way to the bottom of the quilt from the top. That was priceless information, so thank, Katie, for the heads up on that.

Another tip I saw, had you use a pencil to roll the beads down into the correct section, and holding the pencil in place while you sew, so you don't hit a plastic bead and break a needle.

One tip I learned all by myself, after having a bead disaster and picking up beads from all over my sewing room!

After you shake the beads down to the correct section, roll the top down and pin it closed, so you don't end up with beads all over the floor. The thing is, when you are stitching in the ditch on those horizontals, the weight of the blanket is pulling it off your sewing table. When the weight is hanging down like that, the beads end up trying to fall out, and were successful in doing so in my sewing room. Once I started rolling the ends up and pinning, no more messes to clean.

Now that that blanket is finished, I am not sorry I used minky. The blanket is amazingly soft, and has several nice textures to it. I really hope it helps the little one it's going to.

I laid out part of the I Spy quilt that is up next for sewing. I have less than a month to get this quilt finished and mailed off to Texas. While I am working on assembling this quilt top, I'll also be assembling the top to the fleece weighted blanket I'm making, and maybe getting those scrappy blocks sewn into fours. I won't be getting back to the medallion quilt until the I Spy quilt is finished. So many quilts, so little time!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Little Goes a Long Way

A few weeks ago, I posted this pic.

It shows two baskets, with some cut pieces in it. With nothing to show scale, you might think these baskets are large, with large pieces.

Here is some scale for you.

Here are those two baskets from the first pic, between my iron and my coffee mug. They aren't big baskets, and the pieces that were in them, finish at 1"x2". How big of a quilt do you think I can make only using those pieces? I wasn't sure until today. I did cut some more light fabrics, but they would have fit in the basket, I was just making the lights even with the number of darks.

I finished making these pieces into 4" blocks today. I ended up with 254 of them. I am going to use those 4" blocks, to make bigger 8" blocks, and I'll have 63 of those, with two 4" blocks to toss in the orphan bin. I can set the 8" blocks 7x9, and at that point, having used only what fit in those two little baskets, I'll have a quilt top 56"x72"! It always amazes me how far scraps go. This won't be my prettiest quilt, but the variety of fabrics in it will make it interesting.

I finished sewing up all the QST's for the I Spy quilt as well, and I finished clipping the dog ears right before I started dinner. I think I'll go lay that quilt out on the guest bed so tomorrow I can start assembling it!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Coming Along

My mom reminded me that I hadn't blogged this week. I haven't been travelling this time, and I have been sewing, so I really have no excuse. Ah well, here's what I've been up to this week.

I took this pic in awful lighting, so it looks blue and pink, but it's purple and pink. In fact, the shades are almost exactly the shades in an afghan my mother crocheted for me when I was a young girl. These QST's will be the alternate blocks in the I Spy quilt I'm making. I have just over 60 made, but still need to make about 20 more. I hope to get the remaining blocks finished tomorrow, then I'll have to trim off all the dog ears.

I've still been using these super scrappy blocks as my leaders/enders. I have about 160 of these done so far. This is just a quilt that is happening, no plan. I'll make blocks until I run out of pieces, then see how big the quilt will be. I am thinking once these blocks are done, I'll sew them into fours, then decide the rest.

I haven't been working on the medallion quilt, because now I have a bit more time on that one, and it wouldn't make a good leader/ender.

I haven't taken the time to cut the weighted blankets yet either. It seems like I've been really busy, but when it comes time to say what I've been doing, I can't recall.

Cooking has been taking a lot more time than usual. Gluten-free baking has a learning curve, and the first lesson I've learned is to use a scale to weigh ingredients for baking. Even the recipes I've seen that use cups or weights, come out better when you go by weight. Gluten free flours vary so drastically from one to another, that the results seem to be a lot more variable. So far I've made some awesome peanut butter cookies, some lousy bread, and some pretty decent biscuits. I'm going to try the bread again (and weigh the ingredients this time), and tomorrow I think I'm going to tackle pizza dough.

I didn't expect to see any results of any kind for months from the gluten-free diet, but surprisingly, the swelling in my feet and legs that happens every summer has gone down drastically. I find that really amazing, since I've had several long sewing days this week, and all that sitting usually makes the swelling worse. Now I'm pretty curious if I'll get some pain relief somewhere down the line. Chronic pain is why I started the gluten-free diet to begin with. We'll see, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Change of Plans

Did you ever start a quilt for someone, and decide it just wasn't the right quilt for them? Although I am happy with how my medallion quilt is coming out, the more I work on it, the more I felt like it shouldn't go to my intended recipient. On the other hand, it seemed perfect for another person. I did some questioning of the mama's involved, and I'm now using the medallion quilt for a different granddaughter than it was started for, and I'm making a fun I Spy quilt for the other granddaughter. I am feeling much better about the switch, even though it means I have to start a completely different quilt, that's due in less than six weeks.

I have two slightly different stars done for the medallion quilt now, seven of each. I'm almost done seven more.

My current leader/ender project is not likely to be stunning, and it's really just a way to use up some smaller scraps, but I'm having a blast with it. Since the medallion quilt is mostly the same fabrics over and over again, a super scrappy leader/ender project is a nice change.

I have about 30 of these blocks done now. I'm sewing up several units at the end of each chain. Sometimes I just really go for the kitchen sink kind of quilt, the kind my husband doesn't like, but I love, because each bit of fabric brings back memories of what I made with it, or where I got it, or who gave it to me. A lot of these scraps are so busy, they aren't really sticking with light or dark, but that's OK. I really just put them in different directions to put some movement in the final quilt. I have no idea how big this quilt will be, I'm just sewing these up until I'm out of pieces.

I worked out the cutting requirements for the new I Spy quilt I am starting. I did order one piece of fabric from ebay, a novelty so I could add a couple squares of something specifically requested. I keep a drawer full of 6.5" cut (6" finished) novelty squares, and I dug through it, and chose all the other novelty squares. I like 6" squares for I Spy quilts, because it's big enough to show most novelty fabrics, and there are lots of options for alternating squares when using that size. I debated sashing the squares, but decided on alternate hourglass blocks instead. I was told pink and purple for colors, so I'll do the hourglass blocks in those colors, and the I Spy blocks themselves are lots of colors. I chose the two fabrics for the hourglass blocks from stash, and I hope to get them cut this weekend, but that's iffy because we have company coming. It may have to wait until Monday.

It will be a busy weekend around here. Company coming, eye appointments for both myself and DH, some housecleaning is needed, and if I can snag a few minutes, maybe some sewing!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Beach Trip

DH, DD#3, the grandtwins and I took a quick beach trip for Mother’s Day. It was the twins first time at the beach, and they loved it! We took the kids to an aquarium while it was raining, and I was surprised at how many sea creatures they could identify thanks to the cartoon Octonauts.

DS the Younger and DDIL came here, packed up all their stuff both here and in storage, got their dogs, and they are now officially moved to Texas! I'll miss having them local, but I enjoyed living in Texas when DH was in the Army, and I bet they will too.

In the sewing room, I got all those pre-cut scraps put away, then started sewing the next deadline quilt. I had heard of a ruler on an online quilting group, bought it on a whim, and it's really perfect for this quilt.

I'm making a medallion quilt, with a panel as the center. I wanted star borders, one with 5" blocks, one with 10" blocks. To make variable stars I'd have to cut some really odd sizes, so I grabbed one of the quilt books that I've used a bunch.

My favorite thing about this book, is that every star has cutting directions in multiple sizes. I found a variety of stars to choose from in the sizes I needed.

This book uses multiple sew and flip corners in the construction of the stars. That's where this new ruler comes in so handy. Normally, I enjoy drawing diagonal lines for sew and flip corners, but I'm in a hurry on this quilt, so I'd rather not spend my time drawing lines.

Using this ruler allows you to avoid drawing lines on your squares, and instead, you trim first, then sew with your normal 1/4" seam.

I was using a 1.5" square on top of a rectangle, to get a knocked off corner. I lined up the ruler on my square...

...and used my rotary cutter to trim off the section I didn't need.

Everything lined up just fine, and it was faster than drawing lines. I used the same ruler later on during the construction of the star, and pretty soon, I had my first star done.

I ended up getting 7 of these blocks done today, which was my goal for today. There will be 14 different stars in this quilt, 7 each of some, only 3 each of others. I'm hoping to get the stars completed in a timely manner, so I can start assembling the quilt soon. It will be a twin sized quilt, and I only have six weeks before it needs to be in the mail!

All my supplies came today for the two weighted blankets I am making. I'll have to get those cut out. One of them needs to be finished ASAP, the other can wait a bit.

DH and I have started on a gluten-free diet for six months. Gluten is a trigger for DD#2, and I told her I'd try it since it helped her. None of us are celiacs, but I've heard multiple people say that going gluten-free helped them with chronic pain, so we're trying it. I know it can take 3 or 4 months to notice a difference, so I figured six months was a really fair trial. If neither of us notice a difference, we'll be back on gluten by Thanksgiving, but if we feel better, it will be worth it to stay gluten-free. Right now, cooking is taking up more time than usual because of the diet change, but I'm sure I'll get used to cooking gluten-free, and it will get easier.

Tonight's dinner was a chilled "pasta" salad, but instead of using pasta, I used quinoa. Since DD#2 has had wheat issues for years, I've tried several gluten-free pastas, and all I've tried get gummy when refrigerated, so I knew it wouldn't be good for a cold salad. There is a new corn pasta out, that is supposed to be the best of the gluten-free pastas, but I can't eat corn, so I won't even try that one. The quinoa was good choice, and I really enjoyed it. The grain held up well to the vinaigrette I used, and was a nice texture with the vegetables and chicken I had added.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Since I Was Cutting Anyway...

...I decided to tackle my growing piles of scraps. Actually, I had three bins this size overflowing with scraps, I just didn't think to take a photo until I had already emptied the third bin. One of these bins is almost all leftovers from quilts, backing trimmings, leftover borders, etc... The other bin is almost all scraps from garment sewing, the scraps from the 14 pairs of pajama pants I finished, and the scrub tops I cut out, but haven't sewn yet. The third bin not shown, was a bit of everything. A lot of leftovers from cutting other quilts, the end of strips, the odd bits leftover from using my Accuquilt GO! cutter.

It took me four days, but those overflowing bins now look like this.

The cut sizes of what I save are 3.5" strips, 2.5" strips, 2" strips, 1.5" strips, 10.5" squares, 6.5" squares, 4.5" squares, 3.5" squares, 2.5" squares, 2" squares, and 1.5" squares. Those are the sizes that work for me. While I was cutting the scraps down, I cut some scrappy setting triangles I needed for another big quilt. I've already put the squares away, and tomorrow I'll work on putting the strips away.

I did get the other wedding quilt cut out, as well as setting triangles and alternate squares for another quilt. While I was gathering my scraps together, I found a set of quilt blocks that I had forgotten about, and I knew I had planned on sashing them, so I cut sashing and cornerstones for those too. Now I have LOTS of quilts cut out and ready to sew.

I am really glad I took the time to deal with my scraps before they built up anymore. Scraps just want to take over, and as long as they are messy in a bin, I'm not going to use them. I know some people don't pre-cut, because they don't use the pre-cuts, or they are afraid they'll cut to the wrong size. Since most of my quilts are multi fabric quilts, there is no such thing as cutting to the wrong size for me. I just see them as a color after they are cut. I'll divide the strips up into color families before I put them all away (and yes, I do have a multicolor stack for each size, when I absolutely can't decide on what color it is ;-)

Since I am used to having pre-cuts on hand all the time, even though I have never purchased a jelly roll in my life, I'm used to being able to use a huge variety of each color in my quilts. For anyone who doesn't pre-cut, I can totally see why you may shy away from multi-fabric quilts. The silver/purple wedding quilt I cut out last week was a rude reminder of how difficult it is to deal with 50-60 fabrics for one quilt. If I had chosen a different pattern that used those colors, I would have gone to my strip drawers and pulled everything from them that would work, then see if I needed to grab any fat quarters or yardage. Since I was working with big pieces, and couldn't use strips, I had to actually press and cut 50+ fabrics. I thought the cutting for that quilt would never end! It took me two long days of cutting to cut that one quilt. Quite a difference when the next day I was cutting a five fabric quilt, and it took just a few hours. I've made two color quilts with over 100 fabrics, where I could pull from my strip drawers, have great variety, and with only having to sub-cut the strips, it was quick to cut. If I wasn't a pre-cutter, I might stick to five fabric quilts more often.

At any rate, with the scraps dealt with, my sewing room looks much neater, even with piles of quilt pieces everywhere. I doubt I'll get to sewing until next week, but at least I'm ready to go!

DS the Younger and DDIL arrive tomorrow. They will be packing up all their stuff and moving it to Texas where DS the Younger is now stationed. I'm not planning on doing anything quilty for the next week or so, aside from cutting out those denim circles a little along. I can cut those while visiting or watching the twins.

I'd say I won't be cutting again for a while, but it's not true. I just ordered what I need to make a couple weighted blankets. Weighted blankets are used for people with anxiety, autism, various psychological disorders, and even insomnia and restless leg syndrome. I have a couple of people that I love with anxiety issues, and I decided I really needed to try making them the weighted blankets. When the supplies arrive, I'll blog about the process.