Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Spending a very exciting New Year's Eve here in my recliner! 
I have been reviewing photos from 2010 and reflecting on my quilting adventures. 
I spent way too much time tonight making this photo collage of some of the quilts I worked on this year. Picasa is definately not a "user friendly" program! However I was successful in finally producing this photo summary.
I hope that 2011 will bring some great new quilt projects, but mostly I hope to finish lots of golden oldie quilt projects. I plan to organize my fabric and especially my scrap bins, and hope to make a significant dent in the pile! To that end, I have joined 2 groups...Judy's UFO challenge (see my list here) and Angela's rainbow scrap challenge. The first colour of scraps we'll tackle is blue, so I'll be digging around in the blue scraps this week. Blue is a colour I haven't used as much in the past couple of years,  and thinking about blue reminded me of one of my very old UFO's which is blue...I'll see if I can dig that one out.
Two of the quilt highlights for me in 2011 will be my annual quilt retreat in February, and attending the Vermont Quilt Festival in June with some quilting friends...can't wait!
I was able to do some sewing this afternoon and will post sometime over the weekend what I have been working on. My sister came by to sew for a bit, and I got her to pull the winner's name for this little Christmas package from me. Drum roll please....there were 24 names, and the winner is... Candace!
I send each of you my best wishes for health and happiness, and hope that you will have fabulous quilt adventures in 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The end of the year

I am remembering now why I rarely go to New Year's Eve the end of the year, I am partied out. I am so run down from all the Christmas festivities that by New Year's Eve, I can only stay in my PJ's and watch movies. All of the cooking, shopping, wrapping, baking, travelling, and visiting is wonderful, and I enjoy every minute, but the lack of enough sleep, plus too much activity/excitement eventually catches up to me.
I had a wonderful Christmas and managed to see ALL the relatives on my side of the family and my husband's within 4 days! Phew! That's a lot of chatting and germ exchange right there!  So far, my family has not come down with any of the flu and cold viruses that were going around at these events!
These are the quilty gifts that Santa brought me... a gift certificate for guilt-free shopping at a local quilt store, Tonya's new book (which I can't wait to spend time finally arrived today and I haven't even peeked inside yet!), a magazine, and a new rotary cutting mat. Santa also has the elves working on a quilt ladder for me...they haven't finished it yet, but I look forward to receiving that in the new year.
Tomorrow is my self-declared quilting day...I can hardly wait. Pat Sloan is hosting a New Year's Eve party if you want to join in on that. I don't like to waste my quilting time with all the twitter, facebook, and emailing stuff that is involved... I'll just be here sewing on whatever I feel like working on (once I get the pre-Christmas quilting frenzy mess all cleaned up...sheesh, it looks like a bomb went off in this place!) I briefly considered starting this new mystery quilt on New Year's Day, but am trying not to start off the new year violating the resolutions I will make on that very same day :) I can't promise I will be able to resist, because I am addicted to starting new quilts, and this one is such a small project, and I'd be able to make it totally from stash....hmmm....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Design Wall Monday #48

Since this is the last Monday of the year, and by my count this is my 48th Design Wall Monday (and not my 52nd) I must have missed a couple of posting along the way! However, that is a pretty good effort and I am pleased with how these Monday postings have helped to move projects along.  I have received some great ideas in the comments/feedback of these postings, and sometimes the encouragement to continue has really helped to keep a project out of the UFO dungeon! I definitely plan to continue with these Monday postings in 2011. Thanks to Judy for organizing this opportunity.
I have been stalled with my Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll mystery quilt since step #3. Partly it was because of finishing Christmas projects, but partly because I thought if I was going to string piece some blocks, I should be working on this quilt.
This is a project that is on my UFO wish list and hasn't been seen on my blog for about 4 years! It is my first, and likely my only, "quilt-as-you-go" project. I started string piecing these blocks at a quilting retreat in February 2007 to use up some scraps. (You can click here to see the first blocks). I have been working on it periodically over the years and received some string scraps from Julie earlier this year that I been using up and really want to finish this quilt in 2011.
There are 2 reasons why this thing is taking forever to finish.
1) When I picked up the project after a long hiatus, I made a big mistake. Can you spot it in the block on the bottom right??
I forgot that I was making light and dark sides, and made many string blocks just totally scrappy, which wrecked my pattern. So when I finally remembered my original plan, I had to decide whether to take the scrappy blocks apart or use them as is. Some were just too terrible scrappy to be included and needed to be reconstructed, and some are going to be carefully placed as outside blocks.
2) The second problem is that although I love string piecing the individual blocks, I really dislike sewing the blocks together. I am joining the blocks together using the method that Andrea showed on her tutorial here. And I get a lot of this problem...

No matter how careful I am, and how I fuss around with pinning, it seems impossible to match up these seams when joining up the long rows. So I have decided to just accept that "endearing quality" about this quilt and just get it done! This project is on my 2011 UFO list so look for more postings about it next year.
What's on your design wall as we come to the end of 2010?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It's 1:30 in the morning here and so I can wish you a Merry Christmas! I will soon be falling into bed for a few hours of sleep before heading into a very busy celebration tomorrow. But before I do that, I wanted to quickly show you the gifts I made for Christmas.
These are the 22 photo calendars (which have at least 12 photos each) using a total of more than 260 photographs that I have taken throughout 2010. There are 2 for my parents, 1 for my mother-in-law, 2 for my kids, 1 for my daughter's boyfriend, 12 for nieces and nephews, and 4 friends!

And here are my 3 finished quilts before they were wrapped! Well, the one on the left is not exactly "finished". It still needs the binding hand stitched on the back, which will be done in the car on the way to the festivities. The quilt on the right has already been delivered to it's new owner, my Aunt Eleanor, and the other two are going to my 2 sisters-in-law.

I also made 8 mug mats for the older nieces,  the girlfriends of my nephews, and my siblings. I was planning to make them all oven mitts, but I struggled so much to make the first pair, and then the second pair was a total disaster, so I gave up on that!

Then I remembered this great tutorial on how to make cute little mug mats. Jennifer's measure 7.5" x 9.5" and mine are a little smaller at 5" x 6". In the pockets are a tea bag, a little spoon, and a tiny packet of sugar. Also wrapped in their packages will be Tim Horton's gift certificates (a favorite place to buy coffee around here).

And guess what?! I made up a little gift to give to one of my blog readers...I couldn't leave you out! I cut up a kit of pieces for you to make this Ho Ho Ho wallhanging for next Christmas. I'm also adding a Ho Ho Ho decoration, a box of smarties, and you'll get your very own mug mat too! Everyone who left a comment on my blog this week automatically gets entered (and thank you for all your encouraging words to help me believe I could accomplish all the tasks I set out to do) and if you leave a comment on this blogpost, I'll throw your name in the draw for the Christmas package. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another quilt top completed

Ta Da!

The H quilt top is together!
I was pleased with how well the blocks went together, and the borders also went on OK (well, you know me and borders...we don't really get along!).

I'm happy that it sort of looks like a Christmas quilt, but could also be used all year long.

I wanted to use the same flannel for the backing as I did for my other sister-in-law's quilt (which is also still not finished) but I guess I didn't measure properly because I didn't have enough of that flannel.

I briefly considered driving over to the quilt store and buying more, but knowing I didn't have the time forced me to scrounge around in my flannel scrap box and I found enough leftovers to piece the backing.

It's not pretty but it'll do...just barely!

Now that I have suffered through the 2 jobs I don't love...putting on borders and piecing a backing, I get to enjoy 2 of my favorite basting and machine quilting!

Here is my Christmas tin filled with my basting pins, and my trusty  Kwik Klip basting tool which I love. I almost finished the basting tonight.

I have one more 12 hour shift at work and then I am off for the holidays! The bindings I can sew down on Christmas day if need be, but I have to finish the quilting in the next 48 hours...wish me luck!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Design Wall Monday #47

This was on my design wall very briefly. I just finished putting on the borders. "To border or not to border" was a big decision for the group that made the quilt, and we finally decided to border the quilt with this fabric.
It had to be finished to go to the quilters' to give them lots of time for the hand quilting. To read more about this quilt - click here. This quilt will be donated to the Mennonite Relief Sale quilt auction to be held in May. To see the gorgeous 2011 feature quilt which is now posted on the website - click here.
And now...back to Santa's quilty workshop where there will be mass production of oven mitts for my older nieces and nephews for Christmas. Making oven mitts is not a fun job for me ( I particularly dislike the part where you sew the EIGHT layers together!)  but I like the end result, so I'm going to put on the Christmas music and enjoy the machine quilting part of the process.
Even though I quilted through 4 layers including the heat resistant lining, I'm having no trouble quilting with the Aurifil thread. (I wrote about some machine quilting challenges using other thread last week on this blog post).

I made this hot mat last month from Maxine fabric. It was a gift for a friend who hosted a thanksgiving dinner party and it was more fun to sew than the oven mitts :) I think I might make a few more of those with any leftover pieces of the heat resistant lining.

To see what other quilters are working on the week before Christmas, check out Judy's Design Wall Monday.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

UFO reflections

If you have been a long time reader of my blog, you know I have a chronic UFO problem. I finish many quilts, but I start more than I finish, which means I accumulate piles, boxes and bags of UFO's. I posted a UFO list on the side of my blog this year which named 17 quilt projects I wished to make progress on. I am very happy with how that list has helped to keep these projects "on the radar" for me. The top 3 on that list are long term projects that I have made progress on but won't be finished in the foreseeable future.  I was able to finish 4 quilts on that list, which I am very proud of... I kept 2 of those quilts for use around my home, 1 quilt was donated to the guild comfort quilts project and 1 is a Christmas gift.
In addition to those efforts,  I have belonged to my guild's UFO group for many years, and this is the pile of quilts I showed on my blog in September which I took to the first UFO meeting of the season. Some of these are on my blog wish list and some are not. From this pile, I have finished two quilts - this one  which was given as a wedding present in the fall, and this one which I am giving to my Aunt for Christmas. So, if you are keeping track of all of this...that still leaves me with  a few hundreds of UFO's!
So, for 2011 I am doubling (tripling?) my efforts and am signing up for Judy's online UFO challenge group. Here's my list:
1. Kaleidoscope
2. Celebration 9 patch
3. Houses and trees
4. Quiltville mystery
5. Quilt-as-you-go project
7. Judy's June mystery
8. Carnival
9. Arrowhead
10. Basket wallhanging
11. Spiderweb
12. Garden Path
A couple of these are so old, they are from pre-blog (and pre-computer!) days, and I don't even have photos of them. #6 through #12 were started in 2010 so they aren't aged very well yet! I would be beyond delighted to get this list of quilts finished and out of my sewing room! Wish me luck in 2011!
If you want to join in the fun, click here to go to Judy's blog and sign up. Why not start your own blog and keep track of your quilting efforts in 2011?  (It's easy - click here.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Sewing Frenzy

I am trying to finish two quilts for my two sister-in-laws for Christmas (yes...THIS year!).
I am also trying to do it in a relaxed manner so that I can enjoy my pre-Christmas sewing. But I am remembering why many quilters chose to "send out" their quilts for the actual quilting part...the physical challenge of pushing the entire quilt through that small space (called the "harp").  The harp on my Brother 1500 is about 6" x 8", which is relatively larger than other domestic machines, but still not big enough to eliminate the struggle. 
But it is a good upper body workout...hard on the shoulders, but still manageable for me at this stage of my life.
I finished all the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting to stabilize the vertical and horizontal seam lines. Then I did a second stitching line with the walking foot around the inside of each of the coloured diamonds, which is where I struggled with the bulk of the quilt. 
But I persevered and finished those lines and moved on to the border quilting.

Then I have remembered another reason why quilters don't like to do their own quilting...technical challenges.
My current challenge is that the thread keeps breaking. I have been up against this problem many times before. I struggled with the Presencia threads on this quilt and this one, but I on this quilt I was using a Sulky Blendables thread because I love the varigated colours.
My usual remedies for fixing thread breakage (change needle, clean and rethread machine, loosen tension, use Magic Bobbin Washers, stitch slowly, etc) did not stop the problem. I went to the Sulky website and they recommended a 14/90 topstitch needle. I tried various 14/90 needles... embroidery, quilting, microtex, and universal, and also 12/80 in topstitch needle. Nothing worked. So I went out and bought a package of 14/90 topstitch needles (because having 20 different kinds of needles to chose from at home was not enough! LOL) and this made the thread breakage less frequent but did not eliminate the problem. I would have gone back to using my favorite thread (Aurifil) because it never breaks when quilting at high speeds, but those threads don't have the wonderful colour range that other threads entice me with. Maybe it's the dying process that those varigated threads endure that makes them susceptible to breaking? 
Anyway, that's enough procrastination with complaining on the blog...time to get back to quilting!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Indian Orange Peel Update

Another project update (before Santa goes into full Christmas production)....
on my Indian Orange Peel Quilt. To read about this undertaking - click here. According to my production chart (that makes me sound like a real geek, eh?!?)  there should be 14 finished arcs by Dec. 11th.
By Dec. 15 (today) I have finished 10...and I'm happy with that progress, all things considered.
Although the bottom right arc should not technically be considered "finished", since I missed one of the sewing lines and created my own original arc design there, I am officially "done" with that one for the moment!! I was too frustrated to fix it and too busy with other things, so I am putting this project away in it's own little shoe box to wait until after the Christmas festivities have passed. In the box are my finished arcs, the arc patterns still to be sewn, and some paired warm/cool strip won't be opened until 2011!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Design Wall Monday #46 - H quilt

On Wednesday I wrote about accidentally starting a new quilt of 9" H blocks - to read about it click hereNow I have finished about 50 blocks and have enough for a nice lap size quilt.

I was bored of green and beige, although that is the colour of my sister-in-law's rec room, and I just had to throw in some red, and a sprinkle of blue and now I like it much better. This is not the final layout yet but getting closer!

I have a nice flannel for the backing, and have searched the stash for border and binding fabric but don't have anything I like, so I will have to take a quick trip to the quilt store.

I got a little carried away with these 'H' blocks. I originally saw the pattern on the Golden Thimble website, and then I saw a post by Barb on the Fun with Barb and Mary  blog.

I started making smaller 'H' blocks in a 3" size and added the 'O' blocks to make the 'HO HO' and added a fussy cut Santa block for a fun Christmas placemat. We are supposed to bring Christmas placemats to guild meeting this week, so I'll have a couple of these to contribute. I used up a lot of small scraps of my Christmas fabric to make these blocks!

And then I got the urge to try to make the blocks even smaller...

The 'H' and 'O' blocks at the top of this wall hanging are 3" and the smaller 'H' and 'O's are 1 1/2".  These two quilts are difficult to photograph because of all the gold in the fabrics, but I think you get the idea of how they turned out.
Why not make yourself a little 'Ho Ho' for Christmas?!?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Another LCQA block

I whipped up another block for the Layer Cake Quilt Along, made from my Happy Layer Cake.

This is my funky basket block. Block pattern is by Sarah Varderburgh - directions are here.

These are my first three blocks in this project:
 This project box is also going into the cupboard until after Christmas.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Stay At Home Robin - Step #5

This is my "Stay At Home Robin" project after step #5, which I added across the top. This addition doesn't have any circles on it, since my temper tantrum from using the Cut-A-round ruler last weekend resulted in the decision to be "circle free" for this step! I did not intend for the black fabric to be emerging from the half circle in the middle, but I kind of like how that turned out. It's a very weird looking thing, but I must say that I am enjoying how different the process is from the way I make most quilt projects. The next step will be 2 blocks added to the left side, but I must put this project in it's box until 2011, because Christmas preparations are underway. 
 I have one more project to update tomorrow and then Santa will be in full production in her quilty workshop making Christmas gifts. And here is Santa's little elf...she is beyond adorable!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The "H" Quilt

I accidentally started a new quilt! Hey, at least I'm not as bad as Julie, who has already cut out 20 (probably more!) quilts that are just waiting for her to sew together! LOL!
I first got the idea of making an "H" quilt while visiting The Golden Thimble website. I thought it would be a great quilt idea to make for my sister-in-law and her husband because their first and last names all start with the letter H. For some unexplainable reason, I couldn't resist making up a few test blocks and found it was a fun and easy block to sew.
But would I want to make a whole quilt of them? And how would I set them together?
This is the layout on the website pattern, with every other block set sideways. This layout did not appeal to me at all.

So I went back to the first idea I had when putting the blocks on the design wall and much preferred the look of all the blocks standing upright, and I alternated the light and dark blocks.
It was so quick that I got the crazy idea that I could make this for a Christmas gift (right on schedule, as predicted, I get a big idea to push my stress to the next level just before Christmas...I must like it since I do it every year!! LOL If you want to read about last year's "add some stress" project - click here).
So/sew... Santa has gone into full block production! I will dig around in the stash for more fabrics as I have determined that I will only buy fabric for the 3 B's (borders, backing, binding) if I can't find anything suitable in my stash.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Design Wall Monday #45

Last night, instead of watching TV or reading a book, I finished up the Arrowhead quilt top... here it is and I just love it!
To read about the start of this quilt - click here. Even though the blocks were made by different people, and even though the block edges are bias (I used Best Press Spray before trimming the blocks), the top came together perfectly! Then I had to figure out how to get the borders and binding from the fabric that was donated. At this point I could pass the project on to another guild member to finish, but I have become attached to it and want to see it to the end, so I'll keep it until after Christmas to quilt and bind.

This photo is really a testament to the motivating power of Judy's "Design Wall Monday". Near the end of the weekend, I start thinking about Monday and what to post on my blog, and it motivates me to work on a project to post. I'm sure I will continue with the practice of posting a photo of what is on my design wall on Mondays in really helped me this year! Thanks Judy!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Indian Orange Peel Plan (IOPP)

When you take on a big job, you need to have a plan. And the scarier the project, the more structure I will impose on myself in order to cope! LOL
So here's my plan for the IOP...
There are 120 arcs to be sewn in 16 weeks, which means I need to sew 7.5 arcs per week in order to be finished for the final layout class on March 19th. I have all the pattern pieces cut out now and clipped together in groups of 7.  (BTW...for an interesting read on the topic of fear and anxiety, click here to hop over to Libby's blog...very timely for me to read today!)
Back to the sewing of the arcs...
I had issues with scoring the sewing lines as we were instructed to do. My patterns started falling apart, so I'm not doing that anymore. I understand that it does make it easier to remove the foundation papers at the end, but I don't mind that part and am not worried about removing them, since I am using a small stitch length, a big needle, and will fold the pieces when trimming.
So here is my progress so far. By now I should have 7 blocks week into it, and I'm already 5 blocks behind! LOL
There is planning going on to have an Indian Orange Peel retreat at Jacqui's house (did I invite myself over or was I polite enough to wait for an invitation??) in January so hopefully many arcs will get made then. And I have my annual quilt retreat at the end of February, so that will give me lots of time to catch up also.
One of the issues that was holding me up is the fabric selection for each arc, so I have cut lots of 2" strips and am going to try to be more random... I'll let you know how that goes! Also with the fabric selection, these are the pieces that were suggested to be voted off of the project at the class because they are too "middleville" and because they are a mixture of warm/cool colours (each arc is to be made from one warm and one cool colour). However, I just can't let them go, so I'm going to use them selectively and am thinking about overpainting a couple of my favorites to make them darker.
I'm going to try to do weekly regular blog updates on my arc progress and see how my plan works out!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Some Saturday Sewing

I had another frustrating try with my circle project, and had another bad experience with the Cut-a-round ruler. (You can read about the first episode here, but it's the same as today's!) Perhaps the issue is that I am trying to make the circles too small and this tool is not good for that size.? When I calm down, I'll maybe try it for the third time with the larger size. I just hate to give up on it since it was quite an expensive ruler and I'm making a circle themed quilt, and it's just frustrating that I can't get it to co-operate with me (or me with it?)

Then I decided to use my quilting time for some relaxing sewing (while I ruminate about the next step for my circle SAHR, the IOP plan, and the Christmas to-do list) and all that thinking gave me lots of time to finish up my guild mystery sampler blocks for this month. I am doing 2 in browns and one in scrappy brights and am amazed at how my pile of scraps is getting used up!

These are the December blocks #7 and #8 in the two colourways.

These are all the brown blocks so far...4 more to sew and then the sashing and borders! My plan on this is to finish the blocks for the 2 samples by the end of the year, so that I can start a new 2011 block sampler using the new 100 blocks magazine!

And lucky me...since I am getting low on scraps, Becky sent me some of hers! I won a draw on her blog and these scraps arrived yesterday...look at these treasures! I've already sorted them into the string bin, the bright scraps, ...don't you love other people's scraps?!?
Thanks Becky for sharing!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Stay At Home Robin - Step #4

I don't like to be behind in any of the projects I have on the go, but sometimes it happens.  I have fallen a bit behind in my Stay At Home Robin. In September I had finished step #3 and step #6 has just been posted...yikes! So I got the project box off the shelf last night and spent some time in circle land.
Here it is after step #4 was added on the right side. To see the other robins after step #4 - click here.
I have an idea for the next step, so might be able to post that one fairly quickly...Let's see how easily the idea converts to fabric!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Step #2 Roll Roll Cotton Boll mystery

While I am working on a plan for the IOP (being mathematically impaired, it takes a long time LOL) I whipped up these HST's for step #2 of Bonnie's mystery.
Quick and easy step...and how I love that Easy Angle ruler! No more trimming of my HST's with this ruler...perfect every time!
Of course, other things weren't so my ability to remember to sew with "right sides together"!