Wednesday, June 30, 2010

YACQ: Sashed Disappearing 9-Patch

So, what is a YACQ??   (you Trekkies will immediately recognize the similarity to the Star Trek acronym YATI .. Yet Another Trek Inconsistency ).  Well, in this case, it's not an inconsistency but Yet Another Charity Quilt. :-)  I have quite a few tops left on the pile, so you may be seeing this acronym again. :-)

Hot on the heels of my Alternating 9-patch toddler quilt, comes the latest crisis nursery quilt .. this time a sashed disappearing 9-patch.  There are a LOT of ways to lay out the disappearing 9-patch blocks and this sashed version is one of the very attractive ones.

As can be SOP with me, there was DRAMA in the construction of this quilt.  Limited fabric selection!  Running out of fabric! Not big enough! and the ever-present .. omg .. how do I quilt this thing?

I used one of the meandering designs from Darlene Epp's "Pocket Guide to Freehanding" books that I had previously used on one of the doodle cloths for the middle of the quilt and Sally Terry's "Hooked on Feathers" in the borders.

Have I mentioned before that Darlene Epp's books are something that you NEED TO HAVE in your library?  Have I mentioned that Sally Terry's book is AWESOME?  Get that one too.

Geez, I wish I got a kickback or freebie every time I gushed about those books. :-)

For all the gory details, fulsome verbage and lotsa pictures, you gotta go to my web page. :-)

Here is the link for the web page for this quilt.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lizzie is aliiiiiiiiive! :-)

I've had my (original model) Tin Lizzie since the Spring of 2006. Like others, I've had my share of 'learning experiences' and the need to tweak Lizzie to work properly. Since I've really been serious about quilting with Lizzie, I've done a total of 46 quilts of *all* different sizes .. from doodle cloths for pet cage liners to queen sized quilts.

However, earlier this month, I was experiencing some really weird behavior: I'd be merrily quilting along and all of a sudden, Lizzie would go v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y and I'd need to move the machine head slowly so as to not create toe snagger stitches. Then, the very next minute, she'd move reallyreallyfast and the stitches would be teenytiny so I'd have to move the machine head faster so I wouldn't get excruciatingly small stitches. This went on for a while and was excessively annoying.

I'm on a surge protector but it just seemed as though there weren't enough electrons getting through.

And then Lizzie just stopped. Plain ol' stopped. No power to move although the light was still on. Very puzzling.

I went to the back of the carriage to see if anything obvious would hit me over the head. The first wires to look at were the ones going into the encoder at the back of the carriage. And bingo .. there it was. Something even Capt Obvious could see. :-)

The one of the wires at the connector to the encoder had completely sheared off. Bingo .. no information to or from the encoders. I disconnected the Y-cable, since it was no good anyway, to see if Mr. Pirate could possibly fix it until I could get a replacement. But the connection is *so* tiny, it's a very specialized part .. no one around here stocked anything remotely useable. We could see that the way the cable was connected to the encoders was unprotected and so those poor thin little wires had been subjected to a lot of stress when Lizzie was moving around. This was a flaw with the initial frame set up ... something Utah obviously hadn't anticipated. Newer frames have a different setup so don't have this problem.

I called my "local" dealer, Eddie's Quilting Bee in Sunnyvale, CA (which has been mentioned on this list before). Eddie's is about an hour's drive from my house. I explained the problem and although they didn't have a new Y-cable in stock, they said they would take one off one of their spare machines so I could get going again and order themselves a replacement from Utah. Sounded like a plan to me. BUT .. because I was just so danged eager to finish the loaded quilt (I was on the 10 yard line!), Mr. Pirate & I drove to Eddie's to pick it up. (We also made an Adventure out of the trip, so it wasn't all chores. :-) )

Back home, I plugged in the new Y-cable and ..... nope, it didn't work. All the wires in the new cable seemed to be in the same place as the  pins and wires on the old cable; all the connectors were firmly pushed in as far as they would go but Lizzie had only one speed in the stitch regulated mode. Obviously this was unacceptable.

Phone calls back to Eddie's ensued .. talked with Drew (Eddie's son) & we went through a checklist. All items checked out fine. Drew consulted with Eddie, who had some more check list items. They were all fine. Eddie consulted with Ernie in Utah (who I personally think of as "Uncle Ernie" :-) ) and more check list items were verified. The only thing left was to actually bring Lizzie into Eddie's for an on-site inspection. ::sigh::

Did I mention that Lizzie is 95 lbs.?

Well, Mr. Pirate & I hauled Lizzie over to Eddie's and after much inspection and calls to Utah, it was decided that the Y-cables that the current models (which is NOT my model) use is incompatible with my model. No one knows why .. I'm sure that Utah doesn't manufacturer the computer boards nor the cables that hook up the boards to the encoders but there is obviously a difference between the electronics on the new models and mine; the Y-cables might very well be wired differently too. There just isn't any way to tell.

When Eddie originally talked to Utah and the girl who was in charge of inventory, there was a massive miscommunication as to what kind of Y-cable was needed. I'm thinking that she didn't know there were differences between the current models and the original models, so that current model parts can not be used on original models. However, when Eddie talked with Uncle Ernie, he understood immediately and said that he would pull an old-style Y-cable from his stock and send it out.

In the mean time .... for the *first time* ... I was using my Lizzie in speed regulated mode, which doesn't need the encoders nor cable. I was actually surprised to see that I was creating fairly decent stitches myself, although they weren't as small and uniform as the stitch regulator mode creates. :-) But, in speed regulated mode, I was able to finish the quilt on Lizzie, as well as a charity quilt.

When the new (old stock) Y-cable arrived, I held my breath as we connected it. We also secured the new encoder wires with some tie cables to take any stress, instead of having the connector itself be subjected to stress.  The red arrow points to an eye screw that one tie cable goes through and secures the encoder wire.  The green arrow points to another tie cable securing a different spot of the encoder cable. 

Oh gosh .... what if it didn't work? (Yes, I *do* engage in anticipatory worrying.)

Lizzie was turned on and .... it didn't work. Drats. Double drats and damn, damn, damn. ::stomping of feet::

Then Mr. Pirate got right down at eyeball level and observed the encoder "O" rings ... and saw that one of them was NOT turning. Oh hooray! A problem ... possibly THE problem! We redid the tie cables so they didn't interfere with the encoder rolling and .... ta da! Success!

Oh, sweet success! :-)

Lizzie is now working wonderfully in stitch regulated mode. I have another crisis nursery quilt loaded and is being quilted.

This was a case where I'm very happy with my dealer's help. Both Eddie and Drew worked for quite a while trying to figure out the problem and then finding a resolution to the problem.

Oh .. and did I mention that Eddie's Quilting Bee is the most phenomenal quilting store I've ever seen? They not only have a mountain of fabric bolts but, I swear, every notion, gadget, ruler, template, book, pattern, thread, bobbins, accessories and geegaws ever made, as well as holding classes. My *goodness* ... I think I'm VERY glad he isn't my local quilt store! I think I would be constantly broke!

a Bay Area Crisis Nursery quilt

I've mentioned before that I support a local crisis nursery by making quilts for the kids.  I have a whole pile of tops to be quilted and here is one that I've just finished ... a very simple alternating 9-patch. 

The fabric in the 9-patches and the narrow inner border came from my local Freecycle group; the alternating blocks and wide outer border came from my stash.

The center medallion is quilted with continuous curves, the narrow inner border has a wavy line and the wide outer border has a trillium leaf vine ... eventhough you can't see the quilting due to the busy-ness of the print, I wanted to quilt a design that I had recently practiced. :-)

Here is the link for the web page for this quilt.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another charity quilt top

I support a local crisis nursery by making toddler sized quilts for them.  As a child leaves the crisis nursery, he/she can take a blanket/quilt with him, so there is a never ending need for these items.

Like so many of the tops I have been making for the crisis nursery, I have been using the fabric I obtained through my local Freecycle group. I augment that fabric with coordinating pieces from my stash and piece together batting from leftovers from previous projects.  All in all, a rather satisfying way to use every single resource available. :-)

However, this particular top didn't turn out quite as nicely as I had envisioned.  The center medallion, made from Freecycle fabric + stash wasn't nearly big enough, so I sewed on a narrow turquoise border.  To bring it up to the necessary minimum size, I would need to put some HUMUNGOUS borders on it, which didn't please me.

So, I decided to substitute pieced borders instead.  I fussy cut some florals for the center of a square-in-a-square block.  Those blocks were put on-point. 

Since I was using stash remnants as the coordinating fabric, I kept running OUT of fabric I was using for the setting triangles for the on-point square-in-a-square blocks.  That's why the setting triangles for the top/bottom borders are different from those in the side borders.  ::sigh::  AND I eventually ran out of the fussy cut florals.    That's why the corner square-in-a-square blocks are *completely* different from those in the borders.  ::sigh::

Once the setting triangles were sewn on, I realized that the original narrow turquoise border I had put on wasn't going to work .. the float border between the center medallion and the pieced block border needed to be MUCH wider.  Fortunately, I did have more than enough of the turquoise fabric to recut new float borders.  I should have just waited to cut the float border once the pieced blocks were done, but at the time I sewed on the original narrow border, I hadn't thought of the pieced blocks.  Hindsight is 20/20, ya know?

Sadly, the math for the top/bottom & side float borders didn't work out nicely at all.  The corners of the pieced borders and the float border are horribly done.  You're not going to see pictures of them. :-)

This top will go on the pile of other tops waiting to be quilted.

Since I now have quite a stack of tops to be quilted (along with companion batting & backings), I am going to take a small break from piecing and work on the quilting.

There is still a nice pile of Freecycle fabric to be made into quilts, so I'm not quite done with that .... it will just need to wait for a while.  :-)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stonehenge by Northcott

I love fabric.  :-)   Heh .. try saying that without smiling. :-)

Yesterday, the Pirate family had an Adventure (nope, no webpage or blog about it) to Columbia State Park (in California) which is a historic gold mining town preserved to the 1850's era.  Our middle daughter has an out of state friend staying with us for the week and this Adventure was to show her one of the places that our family enjoys visiting.  One of the private shops in town (used to be) a Dry Goods, which stocked Civil War Reproduction fabrics.  Yes, I know that the Civil War is after the 1850's but in this case, it's "close enough". :-)  (The Dry Goods store recently relocated just outside the park boundaries, in Columbia town proper).

And while I love fabric, Civil War era fabrics just don't float my boat.  So, I am not in the least tempted by them. That's why there's no post about Columbia State Park.

BUT .. on the way to Columbia, if you take Highway 120, you go through the sleepy little farming town of Oakdale.  On the main thoroughfare (Highway 120) is a quilt shop.  :-)   I casually mentioned this to Mr. Pirate, rather facetiously.  I had no intention of stopping or shopping there ... I have enough fabric in my stash right now to work with.  But Mr. Pirate insisted (Really.  He did.  Insist.) that Oakdale would be an appropriate time to stop & stretch our legs, for him to get a cup of coffee, etc, etc, etc.  So we did. 

Quilter's Cabin is a DELIGHTFUL log cabin, absolutely *stuffed* with fabric.  You can hardly walk between the aisles.  You definitely could NOT maneuver a stroller between them.  The picture to the left of Quilter's Cabin is not good quality because it's from Google street view .... *I* didn't think about taking a picture of the place for myself.  My bad.

Since all 5 of us trooped into the store and used their bathroom, I felt compelled to buy something in return.

Since our Adventure involved a Road Trip, I naturally brought along my Forever Project box so I could do handwork along the way.  Unfortunately, I neglected to pack in a thimble.  Fortunately, Quilter's Cabin stocked the soft leather thimble I normally use but I spotted a new product, W'nder Thimble, on the rack and decided to try that one instead.

This thimble is made from a VERY VERY thin, flexible plastic material.  It fits snugly on my finger tip yet doesn't feel confining.  Upon using it, I discovered that the tip of the thimble is smooth and the eye of the needle tended to slip off the surface.  (Since then I found out that they have another version, called the Diamond Thimble that has ridged cross-hatching to prevent that very thing from happening .. but Quilter's Cabin didn't stock that version.).  To solve this annoying situation, I simply stuck a small piece of stick-back Velcro (which Mr. Pirate happened to have in the vehicle) to the tip of the thimble.   It worked well, although my silk thread does have a tendency to get trapped in the fuzzy Velcro. :-)

Youngest daughter is currently enamored of cute, girly aprons.  (Since I cook only under duress, *I* have no need of aprons!)  We found this awesome dessert fabric, "Chocolate Lovers", by Studio E Fabrics which will be made into an apron at some point.

But the piece de resistance .. the SCORE of the day was Northcott's new Stonehenge line.  Oh. My. Goodness.  This stuff is g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.   I normally don't buy fat quarters or jelly rolls or cake layers or bali pops or any of the pre-cuts ... they just don't (at this time) fit in with the way I use fabric or the patterns that I use.

HOWEVER, the bolts that Quilter's Cabin had in stock were just So Luscious that I could not POSSIBLY decide which ones to take home with me.  I buckled and bought a 'Stone Roll' .. a collection of 18 fat quarters in cool tones.  The picture to the right is the rolled up fabrics.  ::Sigh::  they are sooooo pretty!

and there they are laid out flat.  They are absolutely PERFECT blenders and I looooooooooooooooooooooooooove them.  :-)

I have NO idea how I will be using them but some idea will be formulated .... at some point. :-)

I don't think that Mr. Pirate ever got his cup of coffee.  :-)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

At Bat: the alternating 9-patch

A while ago, my poor Tin Lizzie had a conniption fit and stopped working.  Turned out it was an encoder cable that had sheared off from the connector.  My dealer has ordered a replacement for me, but it hasn't arrived yet.  In the mean time, since I couldn't be working on Lizzie, I made productive use of my time by piecing a bunch of charity tops. 

Here's 4 of them.   I decided that I'd work on the one at the far right side ... the turquoise and coral alternating 9-patch.

Last night, I spend some quality time at my sewing machine piecing together batting scraps.  I don't save the really small pieces, but I can't bear to throw away "salvageable" ones.  :-)

As a result, I have a LOT of batting pieces.  I've seen a new product on the market to help quilters piece batting together .. it apparently has a fusible surface on one side of the strip, so that you simply use your steam iron to adhere the strip to two pieces of batting.  I smiled when I saw that because I've been doing a variation of that for years!

I had experimented with different ways of sewing batting together by butting the edges together and using various multi-step stitches to hold them together.  None of them worked very well UNTIL I put a strip of muslin connecting the batting pieces.  Using a multi-step zig-zag stitch worked wonderfully except that the one inch muslin strip would wiggle all over the place.   That problem was solved when I spritzed one side of the muslin with spray adhesive! 

So, well before this new product came on the market, I already had a solution!  I've not tried the new product (and more power to the person(s) who thought it through and marketed it) and I really don't intend to because why should I spend money on a single use product when I have the component parts already?  That leaves me more money to spend on fabric.  And patterns.  And tools.  And thread. 

You get the idea. :-)

Eventually, I pieced enough batting scraps together and got backings prepared for the above 4 tops.  I neatly laid them on my sewing machine cabinet last night in anticipation of quilting today.

But the Quilt Inspector had different ideas.

Ya know, I just didn't have the courage to dislodge her.  :-)

It was quite a while before she vacated her spot, but once she did, I swooped in and put the snatch on all four bundles!

And here is the Alternating 9-Patch loaded on Lizzie.  Since my replacement encoder cable still hasn't arrived, I am unable to use the stitch regulator mode BUT, thankfully, I can still use Lizzie in the speed regulated mode.   My stitch length in that mode isn't as uniform and nice looking as in the stitch regulated mode, but they aren't toe snaggers either. :-)
I'm doing a trillium leaf meander in the borders and a continuous curve in the alternating patches.  

Initially I had thought to do (small) continuous curves in all the patches of the 9-patch blocks, as well as (larger) continuous curves in the plain block.  But, honestly, once I stared at all the 9-patch blocks, I didn't want to spend the time required for continuous curves in them.  Instead, I am doing the same size continuous curve in *all* the blocks, i.e. I am treating the 9-patch blocks as though they were plain blocks.  

I won't be able to finish tonight nor even tomorrow (family event is happening) but hopefully I can finish this quilt this coming Friday.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Doodle cloths

Check out the gallery page for all the gory details, pictures and links!

My latest project to be finished is a set of 8 cage liners .... comfy, quilted pads that will be placed in the cages at our veterinarian's so that the animals have something nicer to lie on than the towels the staff currently uses.

I needed to practice my longarm quilting designs but didn't want to waste a perfect good top just to practice, hence the doodle cloths.  I don't need them when I'm done but they are still useful.

Check out my feather meandering!!   Pretty doggone good for the first time!

I am using Darlene Epp's "Pocket Guide to Free Handing" as my reference and OMG, what a resource this is!  LOTS and LOTS of meanders, borders/sashing and textures/fills. 

I sure wish I had known about this series years ago!  :-)

I'm eagerly looking forward to more doodling and becoming a more competent longarm quilter.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What's on the design wall?

I have two active projects going right now: a Forever Project (which is intended to take "forever" to finish and is portable so I can work on it even when I'm not at my sewing maching) and a charity quilt.

First, the Forever Project.
I think this is my 4th or 5th Forever Project ... they just don't make 'em like they used to.  :-)   Moondance was Block of the Month in 2004 from Beth Ferrier of Applewood Farms.  It's no longer available as a BOM, but you can still buy it in book form.

There are 9 *big* pieced blocks: they were easy enough to knock out one a day.  Then there the connector blocks.  Those were also fairly easy.

Then came all the appliqued flowers.  There are 43 of them.  ::sigh::  *THIS* was the Forever part.  I swear I was making those flowers since 2000 .. which would be a real feat, since this project came out in 2004.  :-)  I was delighted and surprised when I finally finished the last flower!

There are also 18 dragonflies.   You will notice that is NOT an appliqued dragonfly.  My goodness, do you know how SKINNY dragonfly bodies are???  Well beyond *my* mediocre applique skills!

However, all was not lost!  I thought that I might have a machine embroidery design of a dragonfly and I was right.  They are all done as a free-standing lace type, as they have been made on water soluble stabilizer.

Here is where I am right now:  these are the bottom 3 rows.  You can see a white square on the extreme left side of the top ... those are paper row markers.   The bottom 2 rows (#6 & #7) have been appliqued with their flowers and dragonfly and have been sewn together.  The 3rd from the bottom row (#5) is just pinned above row #6.  I'm busy appliquing flowers and dragonflies to row #5.

Second active project: charity quilt
Nearby to me is a crisis nursery, Bay Area Crisis Nursery. (i.e., it's not a chain or wide spread).  I like it specifically because it's a one-of-a-kind LOCAL crisis place.  I support it by making toddler quilts.

A while ago, I received a bunch of nifty, neato quilting fabrics from my local Freecycle group.  A lady was doing a remodel, cleaned out her closet and realized that she was never, ever going to make quilts with the fabric that she found.  I got the fabric.  :-)

The fabrics were of a color palette and design that I would never have ordinarily bought, so it's been interesting to work with them.  In addition to yardage, there were also several 13"x17" pieces ... they looked like sales representative samples to me, but I'm not sure.  It was VERY interesting trying to find a layout that would work nicely with those size pieces!

The quilt above is a WIP ... the turquoise is the Freecycle fabric and I am augmenting it with additional fabrics from my stash.  Unfortunately, see the coral setting triangles on the sides?  I've now officially run out of that fabric and I still need to put more square-in-a-square blocks on the top & bottom.  ::sigh::

Obviously, what is going to be used is a coordinating fabric.  Hopefully, it will look like a "design choice" and not an act of desperation!

And that's what's on my design wall now.

In Which We Begin

I've resisted having a blog for a VERY long time.  Mainly because I have never liked diaries, journals or generally noting what is happening on any sort of regular basis.

But, over on's Quilting Forum, where I have been a participant since Before Dirt, there is a topic titled "Sew Daily Challenge".  It was created so that we could essentially jot down the 15 minutes a day that we did creative stuff related to sewing.  The concept was that you can do amazing things in just 15 minutes a day.  (Of course, the same thing could be applied to house cleaning, but we are not going to go there.)

It seemed to me that as I posted the small things I was doing on a (kinda/sorta, more or less, not exactly) daily basis, *this* was a blog of sorts ... only everything that I was doing would get lost in the postings of what everyone ELSE was doing.

Hence, the resurrection of this blog.

My intent is to talk about what I'm doing on a (kinda/sorta, more or less, not exactly) daily basis.  No promises!  The UFOs that I'm working on, the quilting that are loaded on Lizzie (my longarm quilting machine is a Tin Lizzie 18), ideas floating through my head, the bizarre/mutant/idiotic chickens we have, and just "stuff".

And since this is just *my* stuff that I'll be talking about, I will have a record to look back on.  Maybe "stuff" won't get lost so easily.  :-)

For anyone who happens upon this blog, I welcome your comments.  Of course, if you are a scum bag, heave-ho, ye scurvy cockroacher .... we don't wants your kind on this blog!