Monday, September 27, 2010

the non-quilting stuff in life ....

... has been keeping me busy.

One of Mr. Pirate's nieces and her new husband recently moved to our town.  We helped them move into their apartment.

Mr. Pirate thought it would be a nice idea to have them over for dinner.  And her Dad (one of Mr. Pirate's brothers).  Then we certainly couldn't leave out her older sister ...and husband ... and 2 year old daughter.

And as long as he was inviting one brother, he really should have his other brother .... and wife ... and the one  daughter still at home.  And the 2 daughters who don't live at home.  As well has that brother's son ... and wife .... and 3 young daughters.

And in a wonderful surprise, our oldest daughter and her fiance would be able to combine a work-related trip to California and the weekend BBQ!   How awesome is that?

When the dust cleared, we had a head count of 19 people ... 15 adults and 4 little squirts.  :-)  We called it the Rodgers Ron-day-voo.  :-)

Here's looking down our driveway, from the street.  And what could that red arrow be pointing to? you ask.

Why, it's the Rodgers Ron-day-voo sign, of course!

Since September weather here is absolutely *gorgeous*, we would have the BBQ outside.  That meant that Casa Rodgers needed a thorough cleaning-up.  That took all the previous week.  Literally.  Not any one big project, but just a WHOLE BUNCH of little things that get deferred, delayed and procrastinated.  When it comes time to actually fix/clean/tidy up ... it's like painting the Golden Gate Bridge.  ::sigh::

But, we persevered ... and everything got done in time!

After some discussion on what we should serve, we decided on pulled pork (served over hamburger buns ... or not), BBQ'd tri-tip steak, chili with chopped onions, sour cream & shredded cheese, Mr. Pirate's Mom's shrimp salad with avocado slices & sliced black olives (Mr. Pirate was exceedingly pleased to have been able to replicate his Mom's recipe.  It was the first time he'd made it on his own and wasn't sure if it would taste right. But the entire family absolutely agreed that it did indeed taste exactly as Mom/Grandma had made it.).  We also had potato salad (brought my one of my sister-in-laws), a tossed green salad with  tomatoes, croutons and a crunchy salad topping (sunflower seeds, etc).  Appetizers were potato chips & French onion dip plus tortilla chips with awesome bean dip & salsa (both made fresh by Mr. Pirate's niece-in-law).

Youngest Dear Daughter made some of the most AWESOME baked onion rings I've ever had ... they didn't last long.  She also made a batch of great cornbread muffins from scratch.

Plus 3 ice chests of beverages ... water, soda, beer, juice.

We had music suitable for *our* generation (!) playing from one of those incredibly small but high storage capacity MP3 players and speakers set up on a sawhorse platform.

So that the little squirts could have a place to hang out, we set up one of our camping tents with a small integrated TV-with-VCR player on a small table inside.  I covered the floor with a blanket and poofy comforter and pillows.  The girls had a grand time watching the videos, coloring in the coloring books I gave them (for the occasion) and pretending the tent was anything other than a tent.  It was a marvelous place they could be in, their parents knew where they were and were safe.

The rest of us hung out at the tables we put on the lawn, under shade canopies.  It really was dreadfully hot but in the shade and with the small breeze that sometimes came up ... and lots of water! .... I think everyone had a great time.  At least I was always aware of a conversational buzz going on.  :-)

And that is what has taken up my time all of last week.  Now it's time to take everything down and put it all away.

The highlight of *this* week is something much more mundane ... but something that I've been waiting to do for *ages* .... clean out the garage!  Mr. Pirate insists that most of the 'junk' is mine.  I know it is not.  I'm going to feel very satisfied as we bring everything out to put in various piles and he will see that the stuff is *his*!   :-)

Which is why I have not attempted to clean out the garage on my own ... I could certainly take everything out and reorganize it but I wouldn't be able to throw anything away that was his, as I have no way of knowing just how valuable or useful (or potentially useful!) any one item could be.  But now, Mr. Pirate has agreed to jointly do the garage cleaning this week.  Oh, hooray, hooray!   (Really.  How pathetic that such a job would have me deliriously happy!)  :-)

I do have a quilty project semi-loaded onto Lizzie ... another client quilt.  I was able to get the backing loaded and one side of the top loaded before I was diverted by the Rodgers Ron-day-voo preparations.   I do need to return to working on that one.

And THAT is why there's been no quilty news for a while.  :-)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

more sneak pictures!

I've finished the client quilt and am showing more piece part pictures.

There are machine appliqued ladybugs ... these were outline stitched, then the ladybug bodies were stitched with a 2-loop meander  (the "Figure Eight Meander" from Darlene Epp's 'Pocket Guide to Freehanding - Meanderings" book.)

The background of the block was done in a meander that I call a "C" meander.  I have no idea where I first saw it; all I know is that *I* certainly didn't come up with it. :-) 

As I was stitching this, it occurred to me that they could also be cross-sections of mushrooms, an Ionic column top, lima beans or even .. wait for it .. Fallopian tubes and an uterus. :-)  

I think I will stick with the "C" meander. :-)

A close-up of the polka dot fabric shows that I did a swirly-curly design (from Carla Barrett's excellent blog).  The problem with this sashing is that if I got a distance shot to show the entire stitching, you can't SEE the stitching.  If I show a close-up (as this is), you don't get the whole effect.  ::shrug::

Such are my non-existent photography skills. :-)

The final border got a 4-curve swag and bead-board treatment, eventhough the busy floral print hides the stitching.

I bought a swag template from Constantine Quilts.   I *love* the look of swags and her template makes it *so* easy!   She also has videos on her website that shows how the templates are to be used.

I used Superior's Highlight thread for the Hooked on Feathers (green border, previously blogged about), Superior's King Tut for the other quilting.  Superior's Bottom Line was used in the bobbin.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Currently on Lizzie

I am quilting a queen size quilt for a client.   I can't show you the entire thing because
1) it's not done and
2) I haven't received permission to show the whole thing.

BUT, I can show you the WONDERFUL feathers I've done in one of the borders!  Yes, I certainly am blowing my own horn.  After all, if I don't, who will?  :-)

In any case, you will notice that these are not traditional feathers.  I'm still working on the process to create them.  I know there are several different approaches to traditional feathers and I'm trying all of them.  I'm not having terrific luck.  Quite a few of my feathers look like sausages.  :-(

THEN, I came across Sally Terry's "Hooked on Feathers".  I know I've written about this book before, but boy, does it bear repeating!  This book is WONDERFUL.  The resultant design looks like double feathers and the flow so effortless.  You don't *have* to mark the spine (although in this case I did) and you definitely don't mark the feathers.  These feathers are EASY.  They are FUN.  They look FANTASTIC. 

I love this technique. :-)

Here's a picture of the other corner ... I've just finished doing the last feather coming out of the corner.

As I mentioned, you don't HAVE to mark the spine, but for this border, I wanted a wavy spine.  My freeform artistic efforts leave a LOT to be desired, so I used Sue Pelland's "Leaves Galore" ruler for the wave.  Interestingly, this is not the primary intended use for this ruler but it worked out wonderfully well for this purpose.

When I got to the corner, I also marked the 45° line so I would have a guideline for the space where the feathers were to be.  Without that guideline, I know that I would tend to make the first feathers on the inside curve overly large, which would make the feathers on the other side of the curve overly small.  A small item like a guideline made all the difference for me to have those feathers look consistent.

I am sooooooooooooooooooooo happy with the way this border is turning out!
As for the rest of the quilt ... I'm *so* liking how it is turning out!  :-)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Cat Panel top finished

When last we spoke of the cat panel project, it was an EQ file only ... I was still musing over what exactly I wanted to do.

Funny thing happened on the way to completion.  :-)

The project spoke to me.  Honest.

No, I am not smoking anything. :-)

The two actual printed cat panels weren't a problem; they remained diagonally positioned to each other.  The alternate blocks were appliqued cats in ovals, as I had planned.

But the sashings turned out differently.  Originally I had planned to use a ribbon stripe for the 4 sashings, but realized that the ribbon stripe that came with the cat panels weren't going to be enough.  So, I used the ribbon stripes for just the vertical sashings and made a dogtooth sashing for the horizontal sashing.

I also need something on the top & bottom to make it a more useable length.  I have always liked 'ice cream cone' borders (essentially a dogtooth strip with a scallop on top) but the one time I attempted it (in 2004 ... Aurora Pinwheels quilt) I failed miserably.  :-)  But for THIS quilt, I actually figured it out properly!  I made myself a template of an equilateral triangle with a scalloped top and used that to make my borders.

In the picture to the right, the quilt top is completed but you'll notice that the scallops aren't cut.  I did indicate on the top border how the scallops will look but at this point, *both* top & bottom borders look like the bottom border, ie. with a straight edge.

For scallops, you do NOT want to cut that curve until all the quilting has been done, the curved edge stabilized and you are just about to bind it.

Oh, do you see the dogtooth sashing in the middle?  Do you notice that the one on the left has the white triangles on top and the one on the right has the gray triangles on top?  I'd sure like to claim that this was a Design Feature and let you guys think that I'm Very Very Clever.  :-)

But, alas, no.  I messed up when I sewed one of them on.  I didn't realize it until I pinned the top to my design wall.  Yep, I was certainly annoyed and even considered ripping it out to correct it.

And then ... the quilt spoke to me.  :-)

It said to *leave* it like that.  It looked kinda cool.  In this orientation, the white triangles were snuggled up against the white border of the cat panels and the gray triangles were against the block with the gray oval.  The more I looked at it, the more it looked like a very interesting juxtaposition.  So, it remains that way.

And I like it.  :-)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

when we say .. what the heck am I thinking???

I've been at loose ends this holiday weekend, waiting for my thread order to arrive so that I can return to Lizzie and finish the quilt that's >thisclose< to being done.

Because I know I have quite a few tops that are ready to be quilted ... and I *really do* want to get them quilted ... I do NOT want to get sucked into a piecing project.  In the evenings, when we all tend to gravitate to my sewing room and the TV is going on, I really need to have a project to work on.  Simply watching TV as the single activity drives me nuts. :-)

So, that's why I did the real quick-to-put-together equilateral triangle quilt.  But that was over almost TOO quickly.  Next, I started going through the two small baskets that I toss my scraps into.  When the become overflowing, I reorganize them into other scrap baskets.   I rediscovered some circles that were from another project and I saved them, since they were too big to throw away and, gosh ... it seemed that I *could* do something with them!

Using a manila folder template, I made circle appliques with them and started Googling images for 'circles and quilts'.  It's amazing what you can see with Google images! 

I found an image of something that looked like an asterisk, embellished with circles.  It seemed to me that I could use that image somehow.

So, I drafted that 'something', fooled around with it some more and made an applique asterisk-thing.

I had thought about putting the design in the middle of a smaller square, all by itself.   But the idea was beginning to occur to me that perhaps I could step outside my comfort zone and try something different for me.  Which isn't to say that I would get all avant garde or anything ... but definitely something NOT as  I normally do.

So the design in a small block was out.  Therefore, let's use a BIGGER block.  I found some yardage of a mottled yellow & peach that I'm sure I had ideas for but those ideas have long since been forgotten. :-)  I pinned off a 44"x44" section to see if that would be a 'good' size.  It looked OK, so that section was cut off. 

Then, just as I decided not to center the design on a small block, it occurred to me that I could deliberately place it off-center on this big block.   Having it off-center allows me the option of doing "something else" in the blank areas. 

The brown asterisk-thing was stitched down with a teeny-tiny zig-zag stitch in polyester monofilament.  There's a small circle applique of gold Fairy Frost in the very middle; that was stitched down also.  There are medium sized applique circles in gold quilter's lamé that were stitched down on the short arms of the asterisk.  The big circles that originally started this project were placed at the ends of the longer arms, but not stitched down.

I'm not sure where this is leading but I'm thinking of having some sort of streamers emerge from the large circles, as I've drawn in on the picture to the right.  What I've drawn in doesn't please me right now and being unsure about what I'm going to be doing, leaves me with a great big question mark.

Maybe the streamers aren't such a good idea.  On the other hand, it very well could be that since I'm not any sort of artist, I'm simply not drawing whatever idea is half-baked in my head. :-)

And just to be more perverse than usual ... as I was rummaging around looking for the background fabric, I rediscovered 2  pre-printed cat panels and coordinating print fabric that, I think, was supposed to be used for a throw pillow.  Maybe.  I sure don't remember.

It's been in my stash since FOREVER and I pulled it out.  Why, I haven't a clue.  I knew that this applique asterisk thing was going to take a while to work on, so why in heaven's name was I even contemplating ANOTHER project??? 

Probably cuz I'm just a glutton for punishment. :-)

So, yep, I pulled out the cat panels and coordinating print and started working with EQ to come up with a layout. 

I put the 2 cat panels diagonally across from each other.  In the other 2 quadrants, eventually I decided to do a cat applique in an oval. 

On the cat panels, there is also a narrow ribbon stripe.  Not too much of it, certainly not enough for sashing all around, but I think I'll use it for some of the sashing and use the coordinating print for the other sashing.  

Top & bottom borders of the coordinating print will give me the length I need ... I'm trying to make this at least 34"x48", which is the minimum size "my" charity wants.

So that's a preliminary version that I think I could live with.  Nothing on the cat panel project has been cut yet, so it's still subject to change ... but since *this* one is well within my comfort zone, I'll probably stick with it. 

BUT if my thread arrives tomorrow, both of these projects will be put on hiatus for a while.  If the thread still isn't here, I think I'll work on the cat panel simply because I know EXACTLY how to put it together and it won't take that long to do. 

The asterisk project?  I haven't a clue.  And without some spark of inspiration to work with, I know I'm going to lose interest in it.  It could get folded up and put away for another time.  I just don't know. :-)

Sunday, September 05, 2010

New Project: top finished! ... plus musings

And here is the finished top. 

It's about 48"x60", so I don't think I'm going to add any borders.  This top will be added to the pile of *other* tops waiting to be quilted. 

No quilting design immediately comes to mind (other than an edge to edge ... which could ultimately be the best design), so I think I will defer that process until it's actually time to do the quilting.

(Oh, sad note ... the mailman didn't deliver my eagerly awaited King Tut thread yesterday, so the soonest it's going to arrive will be this coming Tuesday.  Sad panda.)

Musings .....
All throughout my quilting life, I have been an enthusiastic proponent of steam pressing blocks during the construction process.  Some times, however, just steam isn't enough "ooomph" to flatten recalcitrant intersections.  During those incidents, I would apply brute force (crude, but effective :-)  ) and pound the offending intersection before apply steam.  The intersection wouldn't be completely flat, but better than not doing it.

And what about blocks that have bias edges during construction?  Or ... horrors! ... bias edges AFTER construction?  Steam alone won't help those edges.  I discovered you need something that will give the fabric a bit of body without making it stiff as cardboard.

Enter Mary Ellen's "Best Press" (the clear starch alternative).  I was introduced to it at a quilting retreat and I immediately Fell In Love with it.  It gives the fabric a light crispness and no residue (as will happen with regular starch).  This stuff is Awesome beyond belief!  My blocks had body, made sewing and trimming so easy!

I didn't care so much for the fragrance ... so I was happy when a 'No Scent' version came out.  Then I realized that it didn't much matter because the fragrance was only there for the pressing activity and since I always launder my quilts as the last step before storage or gifting, any scent that lingered would be washed away.   The fragrance became a non-issue for me.

The only problem?  The price.  Out here in California, the 8 oz bottle goes for $7.50.  The gallon (which would be the most economical size to buy) is $50.00 .. which is just a whole big chunk of change to drop at one time.  I don't know about you guys, but $7.50 for 8 oz of spray is higher than the nuts on a giraffe, if you get my drift.  Although I *love* Best Press, at that price, I was honestly evaluating everything I sewed and judged whether it was worthy of getting spritzed with Best Press.   Some seams or blocks would get spritzed and some wouldn't.  All in the effort to make Best Press last as long as I possibly could.  Really!  How idiotic is that??

But I really, *really*, REALLY couldn't justify buying Best Press in the amounts that I needed.  I sew a lot.  Truly prolific.  That means a LOT of Best Press.  That translates into mega-bucks that I can't budget for and regret when I run out and annoyance when I don't have any to use. [insert picture of a Vexed Pirate stamping her feet.]

In the way, way past, I had tried starch and really Did Not Like it.  I've also heard stories that it flakes and attracts silverfish.  Now, I will admit I have never, ever seen silverfish bugs where I live, but who wants to take the chance and be the first on the block?

Then, on a outing to WalMart with Mr. Pirate, I happened to come across Faultless' "Magic Sizing" fabric finish.  From their website, "Gives fabrics crisp body without stiffness. Gives clothes a fresh smooth appearance. Offers extra body for a crisper look."   Hmmmm ... doesn't that sound like Best Press?  A 20 oz aerosol can for 97¢  !!!! 

97¢ !!!  For 20 oz. !!!   I figured at that price, if I didn't like it I could toss the can with no regrets.

So, I bought a can for a trial run.  And Loved It.  I mean I LOVED IT.  Indeed, my quilt blocks had a lovely crisp finish and light body AND it wasn't going to break my budget.  I can get it almost anywhere, although I found out that my grocery store prices the SAME can at over $2.00, when WalMart has it for 97¢.  97¢ !!!  The mind simply boggles at the price.   I haven't priced it at Target yet (it seems I don't remember to check when I am there.) 

Now I can have the finish I want on ALL of my quilt blocks, whether it be a lowly seam for a strip set or Y-seams for a Lone Star .... EVERYONE can be spritzed!  :-)   I am one happy camper. :-)  :-)

The only thing that could make me happier would be if it was in a non-aerosol container, but that's certainly not a deal breaker.

Magic Sizing is now one of my staple quilting supplies.  I don't EVER want to run out of it.  I can't imagine how I ever sewed without it.  Oh, I am so in loooooooooooooooooooooove with it. :-)  [insert picture of Pirate with a vapid, glassy, enthralled look.]

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Stymied .... so a new project

first, a strange digression .... how can it be that I am able to pull at least 15 lbs of cat fur out of my keyboard and the cat doesn't get any smaller??? One of the true mysteries of the world and I have given up trying to solve it.

My *plan* had been to be quilting on Lizzie until my pile of tops was depleted. I was making great headway until this latest quilt. ::sigh:: I ran out of the King Tut variegated thread I was using. aarrghhh. I immediately placed an online order with Superior and they were REALLY fast in processing it. Now it's in the US Post Office's hands. I'm hoping it comes in today's mail ... if not I will need to wait until *Tuesday* since Monday is Labor Day ... no mail. ::sigh::

There is a TV in my sewing room. My *sewing room* is the de facto family room ... the girls have joined me to do their homework, Mr. Pirate has taken over not only a corner of the room for his laptop but I (since I just love the guy so much) have *cleared off a shelf* of my bookcase so he can put his computer gear there instead of on the floor. While it is really nice to have the family bonding ::chuckle:: all in one room ... but it's REALLY CROWDED.

Anyway, back to the TV ... in the evening, I like to be piecing something whilst watching TV (with whoever of the family is in residence at the time). Since my "plan" had been to be quilting, I don't HAVE a current piecing project. Now that my quilting is on hiatus until my thread arrives, I was at loose ends. I simply can NOT *just* watch TV; that would drive me nuts.

So, I rummaged around my sewing area and rediscovered some equilateral triangles that I had cut with my previously rediscovered newest bestest specialty ruler, Quilt in a Day's "Triangle in a Square". Gosh, this ruler set is AWESOME. It makes creating two different sizes of an equilateral triangle in a square block *effortless*. I highly recommend it. Note: this is not a Flying Geese ruler; these triangles are equilateral ones.

Still using the "Triangle in a Square" ruler set, I cut the side triangles and made 4-1/2" (unfinished) square blocks.

I had a LOT of blue and yellow triangles.  I used plain muslin for the side triangles.

I made a LOT of triangle blocks.

From my internet wanderings, I came across a Rail Fence (kinda/sorta) layout with Flying Geese.  I have no idea where I saw this picture, so I can't give you a link for it ... but I'm sure you can figure it out.  With that image in my head, I sewed 3 triangle blocks together.

To make the layout more visually effective, I am trying to keep all the triangles in the strip the same fabric.

I hope that I have enough to make the entire quilt top ... whatever size it turns out to be. :-)

As you might remember a Rail Fence layout takes the blocks and orients them alternately vertically and horizontally.  The key factor being that the blocks need to be *square*. 

Do these strips look square to you?  Of course not.

The 3 triangle blocks together are 12-1/2" unfinished .. which will be a nice size block.  But, I need 8" more of width to create that 12" finished block.  Happily, 8" is (2) pieces of 4" ... so all I need to do is put a 4" strip on either side of the triangle strip and I will have my 12-1/2" square.  But, using a single 4" strip will look really, really boring.  A strip set would look better.

Soooo .. what COLORS would look best with the yellow and blue triangle blocks?  More importantly, what colors do I *already have* in my stash that I can use?? 

Black would set it off nicely, but that's really stark.  White isn't enough contrast to the muslin.  Green would work. 

Digging through my green stash, I hauled out a glittery green Christmas tree remnant  (very long and skinny) and yardage of a deeper batik-type print. 

2-1/2" strips were cut from each and sewn into strip sets.  The strip sets were sub-cut into 12-1/2" sections. 

One section was sewn to each side of the triangle block strip.  This made the 12-1/2" unfinished block I needed for the Rail Fence layout.

Here's what I have so far ... it's obviously a work in progress.

The "plan" is to alternate yellow and blue blocks.  I have no idea how many blocks I will be able to make with the fabrics that I have; therefore I have no idea how big the resulting top will be  ... I'll need to wait and see.  I'm rather thinking it will end up a throw size.

I'm not sure if I will donate this to "my" charity or if I will keep it for family use or if I will gift it.

I sure can't QUILT it until the quilt that's *on* Lizzie gets done!  :-)

And that's what I'm doing this weekend.  :-)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

How annoying!

I was soooo close! I was on the 10 yard line! What kept me from scoring a goal? I ran out of top thread. AAAARRRGGGHHHH!

I now have an order in to Superior for not only the King Tut I ran out of but another cone for a top that is next line. This next top has a particularly BRIGHT color that isn't in my standard palette and I have nothing that is suitable, hence an order must be placed.

I love Superior's thread. I love their King Tut for my top thread, but I've also used their LAVA and So Fine .. depending on the effect I wanted. So far, I have been *so* impressed by their Bottom Line thread, that is all I have been using in the bobbin. I was already predisposed towards Bottom Line since that is what I used in the bobbin for my Janome 300e .. my embroidery machine.

I haven't felt too adventuresome with other thread simply because I am so content with Superior.

For a long time I was using Aurifil for my piecing ... what a GREAT thread! But my local quilt store stopped stocking it, so I switched to Superior's Masterpiece. I believe I like Masterpiece equally as well as Aurifil.

I know there are a lot of specialty threads out there, but I haven't explored them. Why? Oh, just call me chicken cuz I don't want to mess with my tension! :-)

Silly reason I know .. but there it is ... silly me. :-)