Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Australia Day!

It's a day late for those of you in Australia but here in the USA, it's still 1/26.  :-)

And because my consciousness has been raised concerning Australia Day, Mr. Pirate & I are having barbequed lamb chops in your honor!

Cheers!  :-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sewing Machine Pincushion

a what?  Why would I want a sewing machine pincushion?

After all, I have a lovely, lovely pincushion that I received in my goodie bag at one our our Arizona Retreats.  I used to use the bottom half of a travel soap dish (the top half having sprouted legs and walked away).  I didn't realize how much a pincushion was *useful* until I got this one!  So, thank you, Arizona Hostesses!

I also have a small Cathedral Window pincushion that I occassionally used.  I made this one to practice making a hand-pieced Cathedral Window square using a sample of a machine embroidery design and decided to make a pin cushion out of it.  I don't really use it that much.

Then, I ran across an archived blog for sewing machine pincushions from Kathryn at I Can Find The Tim Blog  ... way back from July 2010.  I don't even remember if she reposted it, if someone ELSE reposted it or if I found it myself  (probably on the way to looking for something else completely!).  But ... Kathryn has come up with the most AMAZING, useful, practical pincushion!

When I'm sewing and I remove pins at the sewing machine, I normally just put the pins, loose, on the bed of the machine.  I know I have to keep track of them but sometimes they do get pushed aside and fall down the slot between the machine and the cabinet.  I find an astounding number of pins on the shelf the machine sits on.  :-)

Having this sewing machine pin cushion *right at the machine*, out of the way, but still in a fixed position completely solves the problem of not having a secure place to put the pins as I remove them from whatever it is that I am sewing.

This is an AMAZING idea!  (I'm flumoxed that I didn't think of this myself!)  I know *exactly* where that pin cushion is; I know it isn't going to move around; I know it isn't going to fall on the floor.

Whereas Kathryn secured her pin cushion with a ribbon tie, I used a wide grosgrain ribbon and Velcro dots.  I had played around with the idea of sewing a small section of elastic to the grosgrain so that I would be able to make *sure* the pin cushion would fit snugly around the machine .. but when it came time to dig out the elastic, I got lazy.  :-)  It turned out that I really didn't need the elastic after all; I'm able to pull the grosgrain ribbon quite snugly and the Velcro dots provide the necessary adjustability.

I liked the idea so much, I made another one for my Janome Gem Gold, which is the machine I take to classes (my Janome 6500, while being a terrific machine, is a *bear* to lug around).

Now, both of the machines that I regularly use have attached (but removable) pincushions!  I'm so pleased!

Kathryn came up with a winner of an idea and I'm so glad that I found her blog entry!   Thank you, Kathryn, for being so imaginative!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh My Stars! quilt-along

You might have noticed that I have a badge over on the right for the Oh My Stars! Quilt-along.  Created by Sheila of Thought & Found blog, it's going to be a set of 15 different Sawtooth star blocks in 3 different sizes.  She also has a quilt layout that attractively distributes the variations in designs and sizes.  Sharon created her version in vintage floral quilts which caught my interest.  While I don't have any vintage floral sheets, I could still make my own blocks using fabric from my stash!

Intially, the tutorials for each star block was going to be published once a week.  This would make the project 15 weeks of construction and then however long it would take the participant to sew the blocks together and get it quilted.  I rather liked the one block a week timeframe ... it would give me the space to actually MAKE the blocks while keeping up with the other activities going on in my life.

However, at some point, Sheila decided that a 15 week project was too long and she has shortened up the timeline by publishing TWO tutorials a week.  Oh dear ... this makes keeping up with the schedule somewhat more problematic.  For each tutorial, you need to make (1) 12" block, (2) 8" blocks and (5) 4" blocks.  And now .. twice a week.  Ouch.   But .. I'm current (so far)!

The first block was the basic Sawtooth Star.  The star points are Flying Geese blocks and Sharon gives instructions how to make them using the No-Waste Method (which gives you 4 identical Flying Geese blocks .. exactly what you need for this project).  I *love* this method!  Sharon's tutorial is rather long and drawn-out ... which, I suspect, is for the very beginner and that's quite all right!  But for me, the best general *1 page* tutorial for making Flying Geese any size you want using the No-Waste Method can be found at Patchpieces.  (That link will bring up a 1 page PDF, which is just fantastic).

Because the basic Sawtooth Star was the first and I had nothing else to do that night, I just kept on making a messload of basic blocks in all the different sizes!  I hadn't quite read the instructions thoroughly and didn't realize that we only needed to make (1) 12", (2) 8" and (5) 4" blocks.  Ooops.  :-)

In reality, this excess of blocks came in very handy when one of the variations turned out to be a real PITA for the 4" size ... I just substituted some of the excess basic star blocks.  :-)

I had run across some strips of Christmas-themed fabric and decided that I would use THESE strips for my Oh My Stars! quilt.  I'm pretty sure that I was given these strips, as I know doggone well that I have never used (or seen!) these fabrics before.  :-)

So far, there have been 6 tutorials for the Sawtooth Star and 2 other informational posts.  It's been interesting for me to figure out how to use the strips of fabrics that I have to make the blocks required.   Luckily, because this is more-or-less a scrappy quilt, if I run out of fabric strips, I can simply augment with other yardage from my stash ... I really do NOT want to buy new fabric for this project.   (I'm trying very hard to 'shop my stash' these days and use what I have.  We all need to economize in our own ways.)  :-)

Then, another Sawtooth Star caught my eye .. but not from the Oh My Stars! quilt-along.  There is another quilt-along using fat quarters (Fat Quarter Stars Quilt-along), which I am NOT going to be participating in!  BUT ... one participant blogged about her finishing block #9 that was a VERY intriguing design of two small Sawtooth Stars sharing star tips!  Since this *was* a Sawtooth star and it was a 12" size .. I have decided to include this non-Oh My Stars block in my own quilt.  

Sunday, January 01, 2012

the Last Hoorah of 2011 (Smitten with Neutrals)

In a totally unexpected surprise (uh .. attention redundancy department!), I have a last minute, final quilt of 2011!

The pattern is "Smitten", designed by Rachel Griffith. Although the pattern was released in April 2011, I didn't see it until December 22, when LittleBook Notes showed the blocks she was making.  I felt it calling my name. :-)

I pulled together some neutral prints and a compatible background/sashing.  The block went together very easily and I was able to make (12) twelve-inch blocks with the fabric that I had.

I couldn't leave well enough alone, as I changed the borders from the 3 slab-o-borders that were in the pattern to a pieced border that I found in one of my reference books.  I got the top pieced in about 2 days.

I *was* going to leave it unquilted, but started doodling.  A quilting associate mentioned that I sure could get that thing quilted, couldn't I?  I could, but nope, I was not.  Other things had precedence!  But a strange thing happened ... somehow that quilt got loaded onto Lizzie!

Over the next 2 days (December 30th & 31st), for a total of 5-1/2 hours, I was able to not only QUILT it (granted, it's a small, throw-sized quilt) but make the label & bind it!  I even had a couple hours to spare before midnight, New Year's Eve!  :-)

I did more quilting on this than I normally do but it still came out *wonderfully* drapeable and soft ... I think because I used polyester batting instead of cotton.  It really defined and high-lighted the fancy quilting I did.

I did use a circular template to help with part of the feather spines and I used a straight-edge to help me with the stitch in the ditch.  I chalked various guidelines to help me with all the rest of the quilting, which is totally free-motion.

And I am very, very pleased with the way the quilting came out.  Lots of feathers and swirls.  I'm getting better at this stuff!  :-)

Please surf on over to my Smitten webpage to see LOTS more pictures and LOTS more verbage and all the appropriate links.  :-)

Those pictures are just teasers! For all the gory details, links and more pictures, please visit my web page for the Smitten with Neutrals quilt.