Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

I had JUST announced my intentions to my quilting buddies that after the holidays, I *am* going to finish quilting all the tops that I have piled up and then I *am* going to finish the UFOs that are stacked up.  The accumulation of partially finished projects has now reached the level that is driving me to distraction.  Getting them completed will feel sooooo good!

But then ...  ::sigh::  .... I ran across the blog, "Thought and Found" and the newly started Quilt-a-Long, "Oh My Stars".  There is only one star, a sawtooth star, but the colors and arrangement of her sample are simply wonderful!  I feel myself being sucked in.  (Patti ... don't you DARE start giggling at me!)

Now, eventhough I just love, love, love her colors, they aren't what I have in my stash and/or scraps, so my quilt will look distinctly different from hers.  BUT the layout will be the same ... and that is simply visually attractive!  She did a wonderful job in the placement of the different sized stars.

So, check out Oh My Stars quilt a long .... and join the fun.  You know you want to.  :-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

It was *just* a second ....

Honest to goodness, I stepped away from my computer for JUST A SECOND. 

When I returned, THIS is what I saw.  ::sigh:: 

If you look closely at the monitor, you'll see a BUNCH of extra windows that popped up, including one that had the computer *talking* to me.  

Fortunately, exiting/cancelling/closing down the windows also got rid of the voice.

I guess I shouldn't wonder any longer how I can remove 15 lbs of cat fur from my keyboard.  What IS worthy of a question is how come the CAT never seems to become less furry??

Sunday, November 13, 2011

(2) Friendship quilts for a fundraising auction

My newly-married Dear Daughter #1's mother-in-law runs a not-for-profit day care center. Apparently they have a fund-raising auction near the end of the year (or maybe right after the New Year .. I'm not quite sure). DD#1 said that child sized quilts had been donated to the auction in previous years and would I consider making a quilt?

And so I did. :-)

I chose a Friendship Braid layout, as it is very easy to do ... mindless sewing, really ... and it would be an excellent way to reduce the size of my scrap bins. Quite a while ago (probably several years, actually), I had cut all of scraps at the time into strips, 1-1/2" and 2-1/2" wide. Why I decided on those widths, I can't quite remember, but there were a LOT of them. A Friendship Braid would use up a lot of those strips.

The first step was to sort all of my strips into color families.  I wanted the braids to be basically two colors .. one color on one side and another color on the other side.

What I did NOT realize (but should have) is that using strips of different widths causes the result braid strip to skew one way, then another, depending on how wide or narrow the strip is and what side that strip is on.

I was completely surprised .. and somewhat dismayed ... to see that the assumed vertical of my first braid strip was COMPLETELY skewed.  It wavered back and forth across the width of the strip.

Because there wasn't a true vertical line to use as a base, figuring out where the sides should be was confusing.  But, I knew (um ... from past experience) that if you deliberately continue a "flaw", it ultimately becomes a Design Feature.  LOL!  For all subsequent braid strips, I continued my blatant disregard with respect to the widths and as a result, all the strips showed the same curving vertical line.  At least I was consistent.  :-)

The sashing between the strips and the outer borders are of a beige/pink paisley design that is rather subtle.  From a distance it merely looks like a textured print.  I was pleased that it blended well with all the different colors in the braid strips.

Although the workmanship was fine, it was NOT what I had seen in my mind's eye and so I wasn't sure if the top was "good enough" to donate.  With all the colors in the top, an all-over quilting design would be best, as there was no place for a quilting design to stand out.  I used "Flirtacious" By Timeless Quilting Designs.  It's one of my favorite all-over pantographs.

I used Superior's "King Tut" on the top and their "Bottom Line" in the bobbin.  Because King Tut is a thicker thread, it sits "on top" of the quilt.  I love the variegated colors.

You really can't see it well in the photograph (nor in real life, either!) so here's a photo of the back (which is plain muslin).

Wow .. it is really *difficult* to photograph the quilting design!  My hat is off to all the people who do it so well!

Once the quilt was laundered, I was very surprised to realize that I was very pleased with the final result!  The all-over panto plus the laundering had softened the lines, minimizing the wonkiness of the braid.  The final result is a very cozy quilt indeed!

But ... I just could NOT leave well enough alone.  The fact that the braids wandered all over the strip still annoyed me.  It was fortuitous that one of my fellow quilting buddies had posted a link to a Missouri Star Quilting Company YouTube video on making Friendship Braids with a half-hexagon template.  Here was another way to make the braid, use up a pile of wider (3") strips that I had found AND have the strips turn out straight and vertical!  :-)

I thought the technique intriguing.  I didn't have a half-hexagon template, as the video shows, but I found a hexagon shape using Google Image search.  I copied the shape into my graphics editor, resized it to 6 and printed it out.  Then I glued the shape onto thin cardboard, cut out half of it .. and voila .. I had a half-hexi template.  Good enough for this use, at least. :-)

The reason I sized the hexagon to 6 inches is that I had pre-cut 3" strips.  Half of that whole hexagon would give me a 3" half-hexagon and allow me to use the pre-cut strips.  Boy, did that work out well!  Two cuts across the strip and I had my half-hexie segments!

A little math and a little tweaking showed me that I needed 42 half-hexie cuts to make a strip 60" long.  The finished width would be about 8".

Indeed, the assembly went together exceedingly quickly ... and much more consistent that the technique I had used with the first Friendship Braid quilt.  Because these braids are wider, I didn't need as many as the previous quilt top.  I also did NOT color sort my 3" pre-cut strips simply because I didn't have enough of any color to do that.  This new top is completely random in color placement.

I used a deep maroon solid for the sashing and outer borders.  Once again, I used plain muslin for the backing.  (I buy bolts of 108" muslin because I just love seamless backings.  Muslin gets softer with laundering and it's a traditional backing.  But the real reason I use muslin?  I'm cheap. :-)  I used to use quilting cottons for the backing but I can't afford that any longer.  In reality, no one really sees the back of the quilt, so it doesn't need to be decorative.  Although I have pieced backings before, I really don't care for them, as they cause their own problems when I load them on my frame.  Extra wide muslin is a perfect solution, especially when I have a discount coupon to boot!)

I needed another all-over design for the quilting.  I didn't want to do another pantograph .. my setup with my Tin Lizzie is less that user-friendly for working from the back of the machine, simply due to the constraints of where I needed to put the frame. 

I've always liked Baptist Fan.  I have a set of plexiglass circles that I use to do Baptist Fan and in short order, the quilting was done.

As with the pantograph used on the first quilt, the quilting itself isn't readily apparent.

For this quilt, I used Superior's "So Fine" in the top and their "Bottom Line" in the bobbin.

Because So Fine is a thin thread, it tends to sink into the quilt, which is great when you want to emphasize the piecing design instead of the quilting.

And finally .. a label!  I have a personalized "pirate" label that I put on all the quilts that I keep or give away as gifts.  I created the graphic in Paint Shop Pro and print it with Print Shop on an as-needed basis.

But for charity quilts, I don't want to use that specific label but do want to put "something" on it to acknowledge that I did the work.   So, using my embroidery machine, I created another label to use when I don't want to use the original pirate label. :-)

And for all you nit-pickers out there .. yes, I KNOW that the iconic pirate symbol of the skull and crossbones is called a Jolly Rogers.  But because my surname is RODGERS, I have taken poetic license with the spelling to incorporate my name.  That makes it more personal. :-)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Quoth the Raven ....

... "Nevermore".

The clever folks over at Urban Threads come up with the quirkiest machine embroidery designs.  This one, "Nevermore", caught my eye because Dear Daughter #2 is an English major and she's into off-the-wall stuff.

This design is small (approximately 3-1/2" x 6-1/2") but I had The Perfect pillow insert for it!  I had purchased a standard size pillow insert for a previous project.  Unfortunately, the previous project was a non-standard size and the standard pillow insert was slightly too long.  Not to worry ... I would simply cut off the excess.

But wait!   In looking at the leftover bit, it really was too big to throw away; surely I could use it for "something".  (That is the mantra of horders collectors.  If you could possibly use it sometime in the future, better save it so that you won't have to buy it when you need it.  However, you do need to ignore how much STUFF you are saving.)   So, I saved the cut off piece for later.

Well, "later" came sooner than I thought it would (Hooray!).  The "Nevermore" embroidery would fit nicely on that custom sized, cut off bit!

Digging through my scrap stash, I came up with a lavendar-n-white print which was just big enough for the embroidery.  However, it wasn't big enough for the small pillow insert.  Not to worry, digging through my fabric stash again, I rediscovered 2 pieces of a fabulous deep purple fabric with copper "writing" on it.  Once piece was used for borders on the embroidery design to bring it up size and the other piece was used for the backing.  Combined with the "Nevermore" quote, this ::ahem:: literary fabric would be perfect for my English major daughter.

Just to jazz it up a bit, I used some leftover gold metallic fabric (from a previous vintage ballgown I had made for Dear Daughter #2) for a narrow flange between the embroidery and border fabric and also as the piping all around the pillow.  (Yes, to be coordinated, I should have used a copper fabric, but I didn't have any and didn't want to wait until the next day to buy some.  The gold metallic looks nice anyway and will remind Dear Daughter of her ballgown.)

The stitching was done without a hitch.  I have a Janome 300e, a very basic, stand alone embroidery machine.  It doesn't have many of the bells and whistles that other machines have, but it certainly suffices for my needs and it stitches beautifully.

I like to make my pillow covers with a zipper hidden at the bottom seam.  It makes the back look nice (one single piece of fabric) and makes the pillow cover removable for laundering.  When cutting out the front & back of the pillow, you need to remember to also cut a zipper extension, so there is more than a simple seam allowance to sew the zipper to.

I remembered to cut out the zipper extension on the back.  I remembered to cut out the zipper extension on the bottom front border piece.  When I finally got the front & back sewn together and sat back to admire it .... the zipper was on the TOP of the pillow, not the bottom.

::lots of unlady-like words::
::stamping up and down::
::temper tantrums::
::hissy fit::

I had sewn the border piece with the zipper extension to the top of the embroidery instead of the bottom.  I'd love to say that I was a complete idiot to do that but obviously some parts are missing.  :-(

Sooooooooooooooooooooo .... gritting my teeth, I disassembled the pillow: removed the zipper, separated the front from the back.  Luckily, the piping didn't need to be removed.  :-)

However, the front border piece with the zipper extension needed to be repositioned to the bottom of the embroidery piece.  If you look at the finished pillow, you'll see that the embroidery piece is really just an insert ... so to make my life easier (since I did NOT want to mess with the narrow flange fabric), I decided to remove the embroidered "insert", turn it upside down and .. voila! ... the zipper extension is now on the bottom!

The finished pillow is a very small accent size ... 7" x 14".

I love solutions.

From then, it was just a matter of re-assembling the pillow as before.  This time, there were no mishaps and the pillow was successfully completed. :-)   The next time Dear Daughter makes a personal appearance at the Ol' Homestead, she can take possession of it.

And ONE MORE THING .... take another look at the photo at the top .... see that small blue bowl of shortbread cookies?   *THOSE* are not store-bought.  THOSE were made by our Dear Daughter #3, who is the most AMAZING cook and baker.  These shortbread cookies absolutely, positively MELT in your mouth.  They are soooooooooooooooooooooo good.

Gosh, I'm glad she made them for her friends and that they are soon leaving the house.  :-)

Dear Daughter #3 has a food blog, The Adventures of an Epic Baker.  Since she typically takes her photos first and then writes the blog, the entry for the shortbread cookies might not be up yet .... but keep checking back, it'll be there eventually.  In any case, you could always peruse the other food entries she has written about ... they are ALL really, really tasty!  :-)