Friday, December 17, 2010

Specialty Longarm rulers

Note: yes, there *are* pictures ... but you need to wade through the verbage first.   Just sayin'.  :-)

The big quilt show where I live is Pacific International Quilt Festival, held in the Fall of every year.  It's honkin' big show.  Really big.  Not quite as big as Houston, but it does take a full day to cover all the vendors and another full day to give at least a cursory look at the quilts.  If you want to study or admire the quilts, give yourself another day. :-)

This year, as in the past, I was able to attend with a fellow quilter.  She's not a longarm quilter but graciously allows me to gush and pontificate about longarm topics.  At least she doesn't roll her eyes when I'm looking at her. :-)

One vendor that I really noticed this year was the Quilter's Rule booth.  The items that caught my eye were the templates/rulers that can be used with longarm machines.  Since I'm really still a neophyte when it comes to longarm quilting, I'm always on the lookout for new and nifty toys that will make my quilting life easier.

I found two templates this year ... a tool that stitches circles *inside* the template and a tool that stitches a 5 line cable in a continuous stitch.

The circle tool .... it's one of several that allow stitching of circles of various sizes.   I bought the set that will stitch circles from 1" to 4", in inch increments.  What's the big deal about stitching circles?  Well, in a nutshell, at some point your arm is going to be in the way of the machine.  

Think of a full circle template. Plop that template down onto your quilt.  Hold it there with one hand .. let's say at 9:00.  Now, start stitching around the outside of the template ... say at 12:00 ... remember to hold that template firmly so it doesn't move! .. and when the machine head gets to 9:00 .. OOPS!!  your arm is in the way.  You need to stop stitching .. keep that needle in the down position to keep your place! ... move your arm elsewhere ... then resume stitching.  If you are talented or lucky or if you've practiced enough, you'll be able to resume stitching without a noticeable break in the stitching. 

The point being that, as long as you are stitching along the outside of the template, at some point, your arm is going to be in the way because you are stitching a 360° design.  It's annoying. 

Quilter's Rule has come out with a nifty line of nested rulers that will allow you to stitch the ENTIRE circle *inside* the template!  It's a very ingenious design.    (They have other shapes using this nested feature, but I only bought the circle template.)  This means that as you are holding the template firmly, your arm never gets in the way .. you can stitch the entire circle without stopping.

The vendor manning the booth was doing demos and she showed me how to use this template.  She had me hooked with just the basic circle!  But she also showed me how to do variations, one of which she called "String of Pearls", which is a line of circles that just kiss each other.

I'm working on a quilt right now that I decided I would try the circle template.   Actually, I was cleaning out my sewing room and rediscovered them.  ::ahem::   I didn't realize they had been MIA for 3 months.  :-) 

I probably should have tested the template on a doodle cloth first, starting with stitching a single, stand alone circle.  But, oh no ... I want to work on a quilt!  This particular quilt has two narrow borders, 2" wide.  I would put the 1" circles in a line in those two borders.  Furthermore, I wanted to put a String of Pearls in the border.  Nothing like cutting your teeth on the fancy stuff. :-)

Now when you use templates with a longarm, you need to push the template against the hopping foot while at the same time, pushing the hopping foot against the template.  This keeps the machine nice and snug against the edge of the template for accurate stitching.  Apparently I push quite firmly.  :-)  What I discovered is that I tended to move the circle template so that, when I needed to backtrack (necessary for the String of Pearls), I wouldn't always be exactly on the previously stitched line.  But, I figure this is a case of Practice Makes Perfect and for my first attempt, I was pretty doggone pleased with the result.

In the picture above, you can see the green centerline I chalked in .. this lines up with the guideline on the template.  The top half of each circle is stitched twice; this is due to the technique necessary for String of Pearls.   You can see that some circles are dead-on and some are slightly off.    

[To stitch the String of Pearls, you first stitch a complete circle, stopping at the starting point.  Then you *re-stitch* either the top or bottom half of the circle get to the point where you want the next circle to begin.  In my case, I started stitching at 9:00, coming full circle back to 9:00.  I then restitched from 9:00 to 3:00 ... at which point, the 3:00 position became the new circle's 9:00.   Lather, rinse, repeat.]

The other nested shapes that stitched on the inside are diamonds, ovals, stars and a spider web!  The oval one is pretty tempting.

Bottom line:  I'm very happy with this template.  I do have other, traditional full circle templates, which I can still use but I think it's going to be nice to have this option.  The other available shapes offer me design options that I currently don't have and are worth looking into.

Then, the cable tool.  This incredible tool allows the longarm quilter to use a *continuous line of stitching* to create a 5-line cable!  Whoever thought of this template is a genius.   The drawback is that it's a fiddly template to use.  There are several pieces that must be removed (and replaced) in order to stitch the cable properly.  It's not difficult but you do need to figure out how and where to hold the pieces so the hopping foot doesn't jump on top of the template.  (It's scary when that happens!)

Once again, I didn't bother to practice on a doodle cloth and, as a result, the cable wasn't centered properly in the space.  While instructions on how to USE the template are, thankfully, printed right on the template, there are no guidelines or directions (printed or on their site) on how to gauge positioning.  (There are also some extra markings on the template that are not referenced in the printed instructions on the template.  I intend on contacting Quilter's Rule for clarification.)

As for using the template, once I figured out where to hold it so that the hopping foot wouldn't jump on top of it, it allowed me to stitch out several 5-line cable segments that looked pretty doggone good for a first time!  More practice will let me align the template properly so the lines that are re-stitched aren't obvious.

Bottom line:  this template is fantastic!  Allowing for the fact that there *are* loose pieces, this is a terrific tool.  

In the picture above, you can see (at the bottom of the picture) the seam line that I used as my horizontal guideline.   I didn't position the template correctly, so the last stitched arc extended  past that seamline ... that was my mistake in not centering it.   But, DANG!  Don't those cables look terrific???  I'm really pleased with how they look from a distance!  I figure, once the quilt comes off the frame, is washed and has a chance to wrinkle up, you won't notice most of my goofs.  :-) 

And I want to re-iterate ... that ENTIRE cable was stitched as a CONTINUOUS LINE.  There was a tail to bury at the start and a tail to bury at the end ... and *that was it*.  There were no other starts or stops along the way.  Pretty doggone clever.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Drum roll, please! Accomplishments!

Y'all might have thought I have been doing a very good imitation of a slug.  A sluggardly slug, at that.  I've been talking about working on projects but not a whole lot in the way of pictures.

Well, this post is to show what I've been working on ... and in some cases .. completed!

First ... and no pictures here (because it's a Christmas present!) ... I have finished the hand-stitching for a quilt top.  Whew.  Because of household logistics, I was only able to work on this project on certain days and only during a certain window of opportunity.  At last, this one is done!  The actual quilting will be done after Christmas.

Next: Lumiere de Noel.  This is both a free pattern from Moda *and* a line of fabric.  I liked the pattern but didn't want to spring for the fabric.  Instead, I mostly used stash fabric ... the only fabric from the Lumiere de Noel line is the dark tan/red linear stripes.  I just couldn't find anything, anywhere to substitute for it.   But, the quilting for this is now FINISHED!  woo hoo!  I railroaded the top (i.e. the length of the quilt is parallel to the rails) so that I could quilt each column in one pass.   I deliberately didn't quilt into the star points because I wanted them to be poofy.  I hope they remain so after washing.

I love, love, LOVE the border ... a two-arc swag with beadboard and a 4-lobed flower inside the swag.  I *finally* learned how to do beadboard correctly!  :-) 

I even like the corner treatment!  :-)

Oh, I used Quilter's Dream Puff for the batting .. a first time for me.  I'm looking for a poofy batting that will yield a cozy quilt capable of draping nicely.  I hope that the Dream Puff will fit this requirement.

Next: Carpenter's Wheel.  When last we looked at the Carpenter's Wheel top, the 4 blocks had been sashed and to allow it to be a useable bed-sized quilt, I decided to put a border on the top & bottom.   I am now working on the top border.  This hand-appliqued scroll will be mirrored on the right side of the border.  The bottom border will look the same as the top.

Next: Dress Me Up.  This is my current Forever Project and is a collection hand embroidered quilt blocks.  This is dress #6.  I have already started dress #7.  There are 12 dresses in all.

Last: I was doing some Christmas shopping at an upscale do-dad store .. the store that has all sorts of lovely, lovely china, crystal, flatware, accessories, kitchenware .. even furniture ... that will never see the light of day in my household.  :-)  But I do so enjoy looking at their stuff. 

Whilst wandering around, admiring all the lovelies, I saw a felt pillow with a three dimensional Christmas tree on it.  Upon closer inspection, the Christmas tree was made up of lots of little felt circles that had been tacked onto the felt background but horribly bunched together so that they stood cheek-by-jowl with each other and made a wonderfully dense Christmas tree.  What an incredibly fantastic idea!

And why should I BUY it, when so clearly I could MAKE it?  :-)  Well, in retrospect, it probably would have been less expensive to buy it. :-)   Also, I was only willing to consider making it myself because I have a Sizzix machine (the original one) which would make cutting all those felt circles a snap.  Alas and alack, I don't have a circle die the right size.  To the rescue comes my neighbor, Angie, who has a Big Shot Pro Sizzix machine.  This one takes the bigger dies *and is electric*!!  which means that you do NOT have to crank a handle to get the dies through.  ::swoon:: I fell in love.  Cutting out all those circles was absolutely effortless.

If I didn't have access to a Sizzix machine & a circle die, there is NO WAY, José, that I would have EVER cut all those felt circles by hand.

I didn't have any felt, therefore I needed to buy some.  The tree was made up of LOTS of different shades of green felt.  Wool felt.  Did you know that wool felt is deadly expensive?  That was a revelation to me.  I used acrylic felt instead.  :-)  Did you know that there are not a whole lot of DIFFERENT shades of green felt available?  Joann's had 6, but 3 of the greens were so close in color as to be indistinguishable from each other.  I opted to add a yellow for a little "sparkle".

Luckily, I already had a pillow insert, otherwise, I would have had to buy that also.   

While I was examining the store pillow (without trying to LOOK like I was inspecting it), I saw how the tree was constructed but was unwilling to really take the time to count out the rows and spacing .. so I just kinda guesstimated.  Back on the home front, I cut out the felt background, made a triangular outline shape for the tree and pencilled in a grid.  One felt circle was tacked to each intersection.

Since I did only a cursory inspection of the store pillow, it turned out that I made my grid MUCH TOO DENSE and my pillow has many MORE felt circles than the store pillow!   Ah well ... better than being too sparsely populated.   And I think it turned out cute.

Now, since I have lots of green felt circles left over, I'm collecting ideas of what to do with them.  Any suggestions are gratefully requested. :-)

And that is what I've been working on lately.  :-)

Next up: 
  • square up and bind Lumiere de Noel.  Take pictures. Make webpage.
  • continue working on the applique border for the Carpenter's Wheel
  • make webpage for the Christmas pillow
  • contemplate next pieced project NO! NO! NO!   I need to load the next quilt top onto Lizzie and get some of those tops turned into QUILTS!  No starting another pieced project!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Rubber Chicken is Shelved

We have chickens.  We've had chickens for darn near 20 years.  (egads, I can't believe it's been that long!)  Not because *I* like chickens but because Mr. Pirate contended that it would be a good "educational experience" for our children.  

Yes, that really does mean that *we* now take care of the chickens.  :-)   To be fair, our girls are now 27, 22 & 22 and don't necessarily live at home any longer.  Mr. Pirate also likes chickens.  I will admit to be vastly amused by the stupid creatures. :-)

Our latest flock contains 2 Ameraucanas, which are a breed that lays colored shell eggs (color other than brown).  Well, at least that is what the store labeled them as.  There is conflicting information available as to exactly what is an Ameraucana, the ancestral Auracana and the 'mutt' Easter Egger chicken.  ::shrug::  I really don't care ... our chickens look like pictures I've seen of Ameraucanas and so we shall call them.  :-)

We've had Ameraucanas before and knew that they produce green shelled eggs.  This current batch has been recalcitrant about sitting down on the job.  I've threatened to bring the Rubber Chicken into the hen house, to serve as an example of What Could Happen To You.  I guess the threat worked because two days ago and today, we have collected a green egg.  :-)

I haven't a clue which chicken is producing ... and they are covering for each other ... so I suppose that all of them are safe at this point.  :-)

Two days ago was the bumper crop of eggs so far ... we collected 10!  In addition to the ordinary white Small size (between 35 & 43 grams) that our bantam chickens lay, we get a wide variety of brown shelled eggs (we get all different sizes: medium, large, extra large and jumbo) .. and now!  our green shelled eggs!

One of the brown shelled eggs is noticeably darker than the other brown shelled eggs.  We do have Maran chickens, which are supposed to lay "chocolate eggs", i.e. very dark brown shells.  Since not all of our hens are laying at this point, I'm not entirely sure if the really dark egg in the picture above is one of the "chocolate eggs" or not.

One of the hens has been named Roadrunner  because that is EXACTLY what she looks like as she scurries from the other hens. She's one of the smaller hens and probably lays the medium sized eggs.

I haven't a clue what breed she is, since they all took off their name badges shortly after we bought them.  Silly chickens.   If they don't look like any pictures I see to identify them, then all I can say is that they are chickens!  :-)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What I Put Up With

Let's see ... I'm trying to work on a needle turn applique project.  It's going to be the top and bottom border of a 60" wide quilt, of which I have already made the center 60" wide square.  I vacate my chair to get "something" from "somewhere" and THIS is what I return to. 

Yes, that is Little Paw, occupying the EXACT spot where my applique is.  See that placemat in the background?  THAT is where I would like to her be ... I have grudgingly sacrificed the immediate useability of a placemat just so she could have some warm fabric between her furry little bottom and the surface of the cutting table.  (The "sacrifice" is because after she sits on ANYTHING, that item immediately needs to be laundered.  She is NOT a tidy cat.)  Apparently, the placemat was deemed Unacceptable .. probably because the "sun" (in the form of the light source ... wasn't there.)  Where was the sun?  On my applique, hence that's the spot to be in.

All righty then ... let's abandon hand sewing for a while.  Let's mosey on into my office.  I can read my email ... catch up on my forum messages ... read the blogs I follow in Google Reader.

But hark!  What do I see in my office?  What IS that dark furry spot in the middle of my office chair??

Why, none other than Sneaker, our Mighty Hunter.  Obviously tuckered out from a day's honest labor of Hunting and Protecting Our Honor.  I don't dare disturb the Mighty Beast of Armagossa for fear that my fetlocks could be severely menaced.  Oh, and don't click on that link if you are easily grossed out.  It most definitely contains Grisly Matter.  ::yuck::

My two favored past times are temporarily put on hiatus .. I'm not quite sure what to do with my "free" time.

Don't suggest housework; that just ain't happenin'.  :-)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Why is it ....

that I am finding ALL these really nifty Christmas patterns to make NOW?  It's not necessarily that the patterns were created now but I *found* them now.

For Christmas Day, we always use Mr. Pirate's Mom's cream-and-gold china.  It's gorgeous.  I have a dark royal blue tablecloth that sets the dishes off beautifully.  I was thinking that a cream/gold/blue table runner in the middle of the table would be a nice change of decorations this year.   I've found a couple of suitable ideas .... but where am I going to find the TIME to do them???

They aren't terribly complicated (well ... hopefully not TOO complicated :-)  ) but I'm still finishing up a major Christmas present (no details ... "people" actually read this blog!) and all the other stuff for Christmas that needs to be done.

I can just see me starting a nifty table runner and getting MOSTLY done but not in any condition to be used.  heh .. maybe I just should do that so that I will get it finished for *next* Christmas!  :-)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

On the Design Wall: Carpenter's Wheel, part 2

When last I left you, Dear Readers, I was in a quandry as how to expand or use 4 large Carpenter Wheel blocks in a "useful" sized quilt.  I didn't want to make any *more* Carpenter Wheel blocks.

After letting the 4 blocks stew in the back of my mind (or what is left of it) for a while, I came up with this layout.

Putting a half-square triangle in the corners of of the block allows for a secondary design of a Shoo-fly block at the intersections.

The borders echo the outer band of the Carpenter's Wheel, although the green half-square triangles are darker. 

Why?  Well, I ran out of the light green and I had the darker stuff.  :-)

At this point, the top is 60"x60", an excellent width for a "useful" sized quilt, but not nearly long enough.  Therefore, a top & bottom border will be attached to give me the length I need. 

Right now, according to the design I've done in Electric Quilt, I am going to put a large scale scroll applique in the top & bottom borders.   I *think* I like the scroll design ... it was in Electric Quilt's library, making it very easy for me to use.  Yes, sometimes I'm all about easy, especially when venturing into an area that is new to me, as applique is.  :-)

I'm not showing the applique design right now because I just might change my mind.  :-)

Monday, November 29, 2010

On the Design Wall: Carpenter's Wheel

It all started with the trimmed corners of the Snowball blocks from another project (which can't be displayed because it's a Christmas present!).  The trimmed corners yielded a messload of 3-1/2" half-square triangles ... 48 of them to be exact.  These are a sufficient size that SOMETHING could be done with them!

These are pile of 16, which are the number I need to use in the block I eventually chose to use them up.

With so many half-square triangles, I wanted to do SOMETHING with them but not pinwheels ... BTDT and besides, pinwheels are such an ordinary solution; I was looking for something with a little more pizzazz. 

After using Google's Image search function, I settled on the Carpenter's Wheel block as the most suitable for using up my half-square triangles.

This particular pattern came from Marcia Hohn's Quilter's Cache and is the 'easy' version since it uses only half-square triangles and not the traditional Y-seams.  However, after looking at other Carpenter Wheel blocks, I discovered that if you *also* put a half-square triangle at the outer 4 corners, you will get an interesting secondary pattern with or without sashing ... so I made that very slight alteration to Marcia's pattern.

Because Marcia's pattern very conveniently calls for 3-1/2" half-square triangles, all I had to do was find the complimentary third color to work with what I already had and sew *those* half-square triangles.  The resultant block is a monster-sized 24"!  :-)

Marcia's directions are VERY clear and VERY easy to do.  The most difficult part was putting the correct half-square triangle in the correct place!  :-)  

I chose to use a medium green for the third color and was able to pull quite a few from my stash.  Some of them I later decided not to use. 

I was able to make *3*  24" Carpenter Wheel blocks before I ran out of suitable greens.  Because the original half-square triangles came from another project, I was also running dangerously low on those two colors (the light background and the deep coral); fortunately, they came from Joann's calico wall and they were still there!  woo hoo!  :-)

I also found, in the remnant bin at an additional 50% off, another medium green that will make the fourth and final Carpenter's Wheel block.  I don't want to make any more 24" Carpenter Wheel blocks because 1) this was SUPPOSED to be an almost quick-and-dirty project to be done in-between others and 2) after the 4th Carpenter's Wheel block is made, I just don't want to be making any more.

It is at this point I am now stuck.  I like to make "useful" size quilts, which normally translate into bed-sized quilts.  I am also amenable to making a throw size from these 4 blocks ... but what layout?  I can't quite use them as they are as the size isn't "useful".   I love using Electric Quilt to help me with design choices but for this particular layout, I have discovered that I don't have the specific knowledge I need to do what I want ... and that is very annoying.    I may be reduced to doing this old-school .. with paper cutouts!  Fortunately, Electric Quilt can supply me with the blocks to cut out; I'll just move them around on my worktable.  :-)

Since each block is 24" square, using a horizontal grid layout gives me 48" wide (if no sashing is used) or slightly larger (say 50" - 54", if sashing is used).  I need to add top & bottom borders to give me a proper length. 

But what??  I'm still struggling with what to use.

Maybe I could repeat *half* of the Carpenter's Wheel over each block for the top & bottom borders for an 'arch' kind of look.  But, I can't get Electric Quilt to give me the layout I want for the borders!

Then, it occurred to me to see what an on-point layout would give me ... and that resulted in another set of problems ... not only would I still need top & bottom borders for length, but I would have the setting triangles to deal with.  Perhaps some interesting applique work?
Or if I split the setting triangles into 2 pieces, maybe put a *quarter* of the Carpenter's Wheel in each small triangle?

See the outer sashing/border in the layout on the left?  Electric Quilt cut the blocks at each corner off .. they are triangles instead of the squares that I wanted.  That's one of the skills I don't have for Electric Quilt, so the layout looks odd.  I just need to remember how I really want it to look.

And instead of finishing up this "quick and dirty" layout, I'm now still in the design phase!  I just may let this one sit on the design wall for a while.

What I REALLY want to be doing is quilting "Lumiere de Noel" with Lizzie .. I have the batting, I have the backing ... but this Carpenter's Wheel project has waylaid me!  :-)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Can you contribute a Healing Heart for New Zealand?

You may be aware that New Zealand suffered a major mining disaster late this month at Pike River mine on the west coast of the South Island, resulting in the deaths of 29 miners. Many of these miners had young families.

Shirley Goodwin of New Zealand is spearheading and coordinating an effort to make quilts for the families involved.

From part of her blog of November 25th, 
 I am part of Kiwiquilters, an email group for New Zealand quilters. We have a tradition, as do other quilting groups, of making Healing Hearts quilts for members and their families or friends who are suffering personal tragedy or serious illness.
Please consider making a block or several blocks for this cause. It doesn't matter that you don't know the people involved - neither do I. The love and support from strangers that is embodied in these quilts is something tangible that the families can get comfort from for years.

Here are the block details if you want to make some:-
  •       Cream background – calico is fine
  •       6 ½” unfinished size (so they will be 6” finished)
  •       Pieced or appliquéd heart or hearts
  •       Any colours or patterns for the hearts. Some of the quilts will be for children, so children’s  fabrics are fine too.
Please send to me at the address below. Thank you so much.
Shirley Goodwin
51 Charles St
Rangiora 7400
New Zealand
Bobbie (another New Zealand quilter) has kindly made a heart pattern in PDF format to download if anyone wants one.

She posted more information later on ....

Here are the answers to some questions I've received-

1. You can write on the blocks if you want - your country, name or whatever you would like to put.

2. If you are making an entire quilt top, you can make the blocks any size you like. The 6 1/2 " size is just for people making a couple of blocks so that we can standardise the tops.

3. If you have uncompleted quilt tops that you would like to donate, we are happy to take those.
They do not need to have hearts on them.

4. We will be making predominantly single bed sized quilts, big enough to cover the top of the bed. They do not need to come down the sides.

5. If you are putting heart blocks together before sending them to me, you can do them in different ways if you like. For example, you may want to join 4 blocks together, then surround them with sashing. There are no "rules"!

Thank you so much for contributing.

I used this as an opportunity to use some new (to me) techniques and patterns that I found interesting.  Here are the blocks that I've made so far:

Won't you make some heart blocks also?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Lumiere de Noel" top finished!

My version of  Moda's "Lumiere de Noel" .. the top at least! .. is finished. 

To recap: the free pattern is available at Moda.  Lots of online and brick-and-mortar stores offer a kit with the 'official' "Lumiere de Noel" line of fabrics, but I wanted to make it from the fabric in my own stash ... I knew I could. :-)

One very prominent fabric is the linear stripe used as the sashing.  I didn't have anything remotely like it and I discovered neither did any of my local quilt stores. 

Fortunately, the Quilted Cottage in Santa Rosa, CA had it in stock and I ordered it online.  The
fabric was safely delivered promptly, tossed into the washing machine, dried, fussy cut and sewn between the columns.

The outer slab-o-border was sewn on and the top was completed!  (From my blog readings, I have discerned that my Australian compatriots refer to a "top" as a "flimsy" .... which I find to be a simply adorable term!  and so apt!  :-)  )

There is one completely GLARING error in this top, which I didn't discover until I was done with it.  I'm not entirely sure it's going to annoy me enough to fix it. :-)   I knew that my postive/negative fabric was directional.  When I was cutting out and sewing together the Flying Geese segments of the Sawtooth Stars, I was careful-careful-careful to make SURE the orientation of the the stripes was all north/south.  See all those lovely linear stripes all going the same direction?  EVEN in the Flying Geese unit on the right where the 'goose' is the white stripe and the 'sky' is the red stripe ... the strips all go north/south!  I was so proud of myself for remembering that.

The  directions for Lumiere de Noel were careful to let you know that you needed to place the linear stripe carefully so that the same design element was at the same spot across the width of the top.  And I was careful to do so .. see that yellow line?  All the round flower things are nicely aligned.  Dang, I did a good job!  :-)

And then.

And then.

As I was looking at the completed top, patting myself on the back and feeling rather smug about finishing another top, the GLARING mistake hit me between the eyeballs.

See the round flower thingies?  They line up nicely, don't they?  Now look at the leaves below the flower thingies.  One is upside down.   !!!!!

There are *four* sashings from this linear stripe in the top.  By sheer dumb luck ... since I wasn't even AWARE that the stripe was directional ... three of the sashings go in the same direction and the fourth goes the other way.  I was soooo careful to make sure the flower thingies were aligned horizontally, it never occurred to me to check to see about anything being directional!!   aaaarrrrgggghhhhh!

How. Very. Annoying.

I'm thinking that I'll just leave it has it is, as a testament to my hubris for gloating.  Since Dear Daughter has already told me she doesn't read my blog (" ... but Mom, I *see* this stuff as you're making it ... "), she'll never notice it if I never tell her.  :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Current Forever Project: Dress Me Up, dresses 4 & 5

I always have a "Forever Project" ™ going on.  The term "Forever Project" was originally coined ages ago when I was working on a crewel embroidery pillow, which eventually took about 10 years to finish.  The next Forever Project took substantially less time.  :-)

Nowadays, a Forever Project is whatever handwork project I am working on ... whether or not it takes Forever.  It's a take-along project that I have contained in a 'grab-n-go' project box: a plastic flat tote that contains all the things I need to work on the project.  Whenever I go someplace in the car, whether it was for Little League games, a doctor's appointment or a road trip, the tote was grabbed and we went.   Heaven forbid that I have no sewing to do with large stretch of empty time ahead of me!

My current Forever Project is a quilt that features 12 embroidered 1950's era dresses on mannequins.  It comes from Bobby Socks Quilt Company.

A while ago, I finished dress #4 but neglected to share it.    This is a cute little 2-piece dress, whose French knot bodice features a lovely peplum. 

The peplum has a little drawstring bow at the seamline.

Dress #5 is a sleeveless dress with a darling Peter Pan collar and lace edging. 

The pattern calls for the entire skirt to be covered with French knots but as I had just finished Dress #4's bodice and this bodice, I was real tired of doing massive expanses of  French knots.   Instead, I opted to do a border of French Knots on the skirt.

While I *could* have started on a different dress that did not have any French Knots, that would have entailed doing the dress ... oh the horror! ... *out of order*  ::gasp!:: 

A Little Slow on the Up-take

Have you heard of Framed Hexagons?

I sure hadn't. Apparently they are one of the latest trends on the quilting scene and, once again, I'm behind the times.  :-)

I do know about regular, plain, ol' vanilla hexagons and about all the variations of Grandmother's Flower Garden.   I know what a great take-along project hexagons are.

But all the procedures I've seen are a little on the fiddly side for me.  It's not that I don't like small scale projects or that I won't attempt projects that are detailed, but there's just something about making hexagons with the paper or plastic templates, the basting,  etc, etc that just doesn't float my boat.

And although I appreciate the time, effort and skill that goes into Grandmother's Flower Garden, I just don't care for that setting.  BUT ... when I was at Pacific International Quilt Festival (Santa Clara, CA) this year, I saw a terrific Grandmother's Flower Garden variation that I really liked ... but guess who didn't take a picture of it and now I can't remember what it looked like!   Oh the "advantages" of growing old(er)!  :-)

However, ... back to the hexies ... on Quilted Delights' blog, she talked about a "FRAMED Hexagon".  OMG ... look at that!  That's *awesome*.

Apparently this is a swap block, being hosted by International Friendship Quilters and is something that you sign up for.  I'm not doing swaps these days (heck, I haven't done a swap since 2000 or so) simply because they generate more UFOs and projects for me and I have enough of those on my own list!

But, I sure do like the look of that framed hexie.  I wandered on over to the IFQ site and read the following:

"Putting them together is easy and fun. You'll end up with something that is automatically reversible since the back will be completely different from the front.

The block is made by cutting one large hexagon from one fabric and cutting a smaller hexagon - one each - from a contrasting fabric and from batting / wadding. Place the smaller hexagons in the center and fold the edges over twice and stitch! That's all! And your mitered corners happen naturally!"      (Their hexagon measures 5' finished)
Now, how easy is that???  (If you have one of those nifty die cutting machines, cutting out the hexagons would be a snap.)    You can fussy cut the smaller hexagon and showcase it. (I-Spy, anyone?)  You could use a plain fabric for the smaller one then embellish it in some manner (embroidery, tatting, applique, beads).  You can hand-stitch the folded over edge or use decorative machine stitches to hold it down.

Best of all .. in my book .. this is rather like a Cathedral Window quilt ... each block is completely finished (back and front) when the block is complete.  Whip stitch the blocks together and your quilt is DONE.  Careful use of fabric for the back and specific placement could yield a lovely design on the back .. otherwise you could disregard placement altogether for a totally scrappy look on the back.

What an awesome Forever Project idea! 

Now to be fair, to get the pattern, you need to become a member of the IFQ group and sign up for the swap, BUT the experienced quilter wouldn't necessarily need the pattern to reproduce this block.   I bet any one of my Dear Readers could do this block without having the 'official' pattern.

However, Mary in Orlando, FL (one of my quilting buddies on's Quilting forum), did some internet sleuthing and found directions on the Australian site, Oz Quilts Patchwork & Quilting  Yes, they are also selling hexagon templates on the site but the directions are in the middle of the page.

Jonna in Texas (another quilting buddy) found this French site, which has excellent photographs.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, you can just disregard the French text if you don't parlez vous.  :-)

One of the blogs that appears in Google Reader (my aggregator), showed a video of a fabric origami technique with a hexagon demonstrated by Ane Matos.   The You Tube video is in Spanish, but the demonstration is self-explanatory (and I suggest muting the playback so you can pay attention to the demo).

AND THEN .... it was a Light Bulb Moment (tm)!  If I could make the origami hexagon the proper size for the framed hexagon, it could be a very cute variation for a framed hexagon!

The paper templates that I had were for an inner 5" hexagon and an outer 7" hexagon.  I had absolutely no idea how much shrinkage the origami process would create, so I arbitrarily drew a 10" hexagon template.  Using that for my origami practice, I was astonished to find out that the finished hexagon was 5"!  Exactly what I needed for my own templates!

Here's my grand total of 3 framed hexagons ... the pink framed ones were my first practice ones and I tried out some of the decorative stitches on my sewing machine.

The maroon framed hexagon is obviously the origami one ... and turned out doggone cute!  :-)  I made a Very Small yo-yo to put in the center of the framed hexie ... an alternative would be a cute button or a small pre-made flower.

This isn't going to be my immediate next project; I have too many things already lined up for that BUT all my practice pieces and documentation have been filed away for future use.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Lumiere de Noel"

Originally, I saw this pattern in a catalog.  It's a simple enough pattern ... done in a monochromatic color scheme,  Sawtooth Star variants are sewn in columns separated by a linear stripe fabric, all surrounded by a slab-o-border.  I clipped the picture with the intent of figuring out the yardage requirements on my own.  The pattern showcases Moda's "Lumiere de Noel" line of fabrics.

Then, whilst I was doing my research, I found pictures of the actual Moda fabrics used!  woo hoo!  Now I could see if I could find compatible fabrics in my stash.   I knew it wouldn't be an exact match but I was going for the "look and feel" of the pattern, not creating a replica.

More perusing of the internet uncovered LOTS of sites offering the quilt as a kit ... but I most definitely did NOT want the kit.  I even found a website that was selling the pattern only for about $3.00  ... and I bookmarked that site.  This was a real deal in terms of the price for the pattern and it would certainly save me a lot of time.

THEN .. I wandered on over to the Moda fabric site and to my astonishment, I discovered that Lumiere de Noel is a *freely available* pattern to download!  I'd like to say shame on the website that was *selling* the pattern, but I suppose they've done nothing illegal but it sure seems to me that they could make a link to the Moda site for the pattern since they were selling the fabrics too.   (On the Moda site, just scroll down until you see the "Lumiere de Noel" link.)

I saved the pattern and printed it off.  It contains not only pictures of the specific fabrics used, but yardage requirements and complete construction details.  There was nothing left out of the download.  I was extremely pleased to have found it!

I had previously found and purchased two "remnants" of a positive/negative design.  (The "remnants" were 2 yards EACH!).  I'm just a sucker for positive/negative fabrics, even if I don't have a project in mind for them.  When I saw Lumiere de Noel, I knew that I had a use for those fabrics!

I had *more* than enough of both of them so that they could be the main fabrics of the Sawtooth Star blocks.

The rest of the fabrics for the Sawtooth Stars also came from my stash ... toiles, neutrals, sparkles from previous quilts .. even remnants from a Daisy Kingdom pinafore that I made for my youngest Dear Daughter, when she was a mere squirt!  (Anyone remember Daisy Kingdom patterns & garment fabrics?  Gosh, I loved them .. still do.  My girls had a number of Daisy Kingdom garments and they loved twirling around in the full skirts).

This is where I am right now ... all the Sawtooth Star blocks have been made and I've bought fabric for the slab-o-border.  You can't see the entire top in the picture because I couldn't back away far enough to get the whole thing in the viewfinder! 

Also, only the 1st two columns are stitched together; the other columns are just pinned to a sheet, which is my 'design wall'.  You can see that I've left space between the columns for the sashing fabric.

At this point I need one more fabric:  the linear stripe that is used as the sashing between the Sawtooth Stars.  No quilt store in my immediate area (and there are 3 that I frequent) nor Joann's is stocking linear stripes in red/white or red/cream these days.   I *VERY* briefly thought about using my embroidery machine to create a linear stripe ... but the sashing is 70" long.  My biggest hoop is 7" long .. that means I would need to do *ten* hoopings just for one sashing.   If you look back at the pictures, you'll see there are FOUR sashings.  That's a total of 40 hoopings .. and although I love my daughters, I don't love them THAT much!  :-)  (yes, I am just that selfish.  :-)  )

More Googlings for the Moda linear stripe and I found it!  It comes in two flavors: red on "antique" white and red on "pearl" white.  Dear Daughter preferred the antique look, so that's what I ordered.  The online site showed that they had 5 yards left in stock; I only need 2.  I left instructions with my order that if the full 2 yards weren't available, the order would need to be cancelled.  I hope they have at least 2 yards!  :-)

Otherwise, I'll need to order from another site and will have to wait even more!  While this quilt isn't for Christmas, since I am >thisclose< to finishing, any delay in finishing the top would be excessively annoying.   I want to GET IT FINISHED!

The linear stripe fabric is then fussy cut to isolate the stripe and use that as the sashing. 

Because the fabric is 2 yards long, the sashings will be one straight cut of fabric ... I won't have to piece it.  I've pieced sashings before .. I've even pieced sashings and matched the patterns so that you really couldn't tell it had been pieced ... BUT this particular fabric has no convenient break point in the print that would allow for easy piecing.  I wouldn't look forward to needing to piece this fabric together.

I hope they have the 2 yards available!  (crossing fingers!)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Ultimate, Practical Christmas Tree

SewCalGal is running a Christmas quilt show starting November 14, 2010. 

This blog entry is my submission to the show, although the quilt itself was made in 2004.  Although this quilt has it's own webpage on my quilting website, Dread Pirate Rodgers, I am copying the information here, so it can be included in SewCalGal's Christmas Quilt Show.

The Ultimate, Practical Christmas tree  
(for apartment dwellers)  
made in 2004

I'm not quite sure how I allow myself to get into these situations, but here's another case of Real Life doing an end run around my plans to stick to my UFO pile.

Earlier this year, my oldest Dear Daughter, who is living in an apartment while she attends college, had bemoaned the fact that she had absolutely no space for a Christmas Tree and she was Very Sad. Being the supportive Mom that I am, I suggested that I could make her a quilted Christmas Tree wall-hanging as a substitute.  With further discussion, it evolved into a wall-hanging that she could actually hang real ornaments on and that real lights could be used. At that point, we just left the discussion where it was.

Over Thanksgiving, she was able to come home and the project was resurrected.

She drew a full-sized pattern for me to work from; we raided my stash (pitifully lacking in appropriate fabrics) and augmented with fabrics from 2 different local quilt stores.
I began working on it and steadily over the days, it began to take shape. Dear Daugher returned to school and I continued working on her wall-hanging.  I put an extra layer of batting in the snow boughs so they would be extra poofy.

Originally, my daughter wanted "branch shaped" quilting lines on the snow boughs, but after I showed her a picture of it, she decided that she liked the unquilted snow boughs better and could I please remove the quilting? [sigh]

(aside: isn't this picture awesome??  The light coming in from the side window really shows the poofy "snow covered" branches and reveals just how three-dimensional it is.  It also shows the branchy quilting I had done, which was ultimately rejected.)

Originally, the thought was to put ribbon loops on the tree so that real ornaments could be hung, but in practice, the ribbon loops looked awful. I substituted loops made from perle cotton. I found some extra tiny mini-tree lights, powered by a battery pack at JoAnn's. I made buttonholes in the wall-hanging where the lights could be pushed through to the front.

At night, with the mini-lights turned on, it looks very dramatic. The battery pack was placed in a pocket I sewed to the back of the quilt. Two hanging sleeves where made .. one obviously on the top, but another one on the bottom, so that another rod could be put there for weight ... to help hold the wall-hanging straight.

Addendum:  the quilt was delivered to Dear Daughter,  who has since moved several times.  I hope that this quilt has moved with her, even if all the boxes were never fully unpacked after each move.   When she finally settles in one place for "a while" and the contents of the boxes are rediscovered, I hope the quilt brings back fond memories. :-)

Merry Christmas, Catherine.  :-)

love, Mom

Monday, November 01, 2010

It's Nov 1st ... do you know who won the giveaway?

I wrote out .. by hand, mind you .. everyone who commented (and thank you for doing so!).  Crumpled each name into a little ball and tossed the paper ball into Mr. Pirate's winter hat.

Holding the hat out to Mr. Pirate, I asked him to pick a name.

(drumroll please) .....  and the winner is ..... Sewing Geek!

Sewing Geek .. whereever you are ... would you please email me your snailmail and I will pop the selvages into the mail to you!    Remember ... the project isn't 'for real' until we see pictures!  :-)

Friday, October 29, 2010

oh! oh! a giveaway!

I've seen a lot of selvage things in the quilt world lately.  Truthfully, they don't float my boat.  I've never saved selvages but when I went scrapbox diving today, I found a *modest* amount of scraps where the selvage was intact.

So, since *I* have no intention of doing anything with them, I have decided to play havoc with my surly reputation and GIVE THEM AWAY!  

Oh gosh ... I said that in my outside voice, so it must be true.  :-)

Therefore, if you would like to have a chance to win this *modest* amount of selvages, leave a comment (and be sure that your email is available, OK? ). 

For every commenter who has an email, I'll put that person's name in a hat and have Mr. Pirate do the honors.   The drawing will take place on Monday, November 1st .... what a way to start out the month!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I can't make this stuff up

Mr. Pirate & I live in suburbia.  No doubt about it.  But we have an older lot ... it's almost an acre of flat land and just across the street (no sidewalks, mind you) is county.  But *we* are in the city limits.  Just barely.

And the only reason I mention this is that we also have chickens.  Mr. Pirate thought they would be a "good learning experience for the children"  (HA!) but now we keep them because Mr. Pirate just plain ol' likes them.  (He always did .... he just wouldn't quite admit it. :-)  )

Our chickens are cage-free and free range.  Heck, with an acre of land, why wouldn't they be?  :-)  Most of the time they are kept in their chicken yard but around 1-1/2 hours before sunset, we open up the gate to their yard and let them 'escape' onto the lawn and field.

And herein is the story .... this little dark Rhode Island Red hen got separated from her buddies.  She was cackling up a storm right outside my home office window.  I opened up the door that leads to the outside, stuck my head out and commented to the fowl creature that her friends were "that way" (pointing to the flock on the lawn) and remained standing quietly in the doorway.

Well, Miss Little Red Hen made her way over to the doorway, looked inside the room and you could SEE that she was intrigued by this new space.  I opened the door a little wider and quietly moved aside to give her more passage space and .. yup! ... into my office she came!

Eventually, I was able to *very quietly* sidle over to my desk where my camera was to capture the moment.

She thought the pickin's were slim ... why would anyone want to live here?  No bugs, no grain, no crumbles .. what a barren source of amusement!  So out she went!

Nope, life around here is never dull.  :-)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

another finish: Equilateral Triangles

Earlier this year, whilst Lizzie was down for repairs, I went on a mad sprint of piecing tops. Now that family events and obligations are over, I am able to finally get to that pile of tops.

This top is made from 4" blocks, an equilateral triangle in a square block. I used Eleanor Burn's "Triangle in a Square" ruler set to make the blocks.

Lots of blocks.  A tremendous amount of blocks.  Uncountable number of blocks.

They were so very, very easy to make. :-)

Putting the blocks directly together in this orientation created a zig-zag path through the triangles.

Carla Barrett has a wonderful tutorial on some great swirly curly designs for sashings.  I've loved the basic one so much that I never got around to using any of the others.  With this quilt, I deliberately set out to use the zig-zag paths as a sampler of the other designs.

 The triangles themselves got a low-key squiggle design. :-)

The resulting texture on the back is just wonderful. :-)

For all the gory details, links and more pictures, please visit my web page for the Equilateral Triangles quilt.