Friday, February 28, 2014

Plaid Beauty

I did it! I got all my plaid blocks sewn together into a quilt top before the end of the month!

This was a tricky quilt top to sew together. 
Just look at this mess of seams and blocks!  It was very easy to get the blocks twisted around, and I'm still not 100% sure that I have them all oriented correctly, so if you see a block out of place, please tell me :) 
To see more February finishes, hop over to A Lovely Year Of Finishes.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Product Report and a Finish!

Three years ago my friend Marjorie gave me a bag of leftover HST's that she was going to throw in the garbage (gasp!). I was happy to rescue them and you can see the beginning of the project here. This is a long term leader/ender project and I was really happy with the layout that evolved over the years. I finally pulled it out again to work on last week at quilt camp, and decided this would be the perfect quilt to experiment on. I usually use my Machingers or old dollar store gloves to help with moving the quilt around, but this time I tried out two new (to me) machine quilting aids that other quilters had brought to camp.

"Batt Scooters"

They were "okay" to use, and gave me good control over the quilt movement. But my hands tired easily from picking up the batts and moving them from place to place. It might be "user incompetence", and if I used them more, I might find a better way to move them around that would be less tiring.

"Steady Betty Bands" 

These bands worked really well, and were easier to use with less hand stress than the batts. However, they allowed me to get way too close to the needle, and guess what happened? 
Yep... sewed right through the side of my finger! OUCH! I didn't get any blood on the quilt, and managed to finish the quilting anyway. It was also probably "user incompetence" but if this happened to an experienced machine quilter, I wouldn't want to have beginners trying them!
Honestly I wouldn't buy either of these products and prefer to use gloves for machine quilting, although they can be hot to wear in the summer. In the winter, like today where it is minus 15 degrees Celsius, but feels like minus 26 degrees... I want the gloves! 
The quilting that I figured out is a continuous design which means I started in one place and didn't stop until the whole thing was quilted. Well, I did also stop when I was bleeding! The design is curved lines around the light star HST's and in the centers of the blocks, and a swirly vine and leaves in the sashing. 

This photo shows the finished quilt and the truer colours. It's a fun finish to enjoy, after it started 3 years ago from some garbage!
I have finished the binding but not the label because it doesn't have a name yet... any ideas?!?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Plaid Beauty UFO

On the design wall today is my UFO of the month - Plaid Beauty. This project came to quilt camp with me last week, but for some unknown reason, it never came out of it's bag. I just didn't feel like working on it then, but today I am wishing I had, because now I only have 4 more days to get these blocks sewn together! 
It took a while to get the project sorted out and remember what my plan was for this quilt.
This is a Bonnie Hunter pattern from her Leader-Ender book called "Blue Ridge Beauty". I have two more blocks to sew, and then I'll start to web the rows.
To see more design wall postings, hop over to Patchwork Times.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Slow Sunday Stitching

Photo from Handi Quilter
It's Sunday again... time to sit down with a cup of tea or coffee, and enjoy some relaxing stitching. This week as I stitch, I will be thinking about the wonderful friends I have made through my quilting adventures, and the great time we had at quilt camp last week. I can't tell you much about it because the rule is "what happens at quilt camp, stays at quilt camp"! 
But I can say that I feel very blessed to have these wise women in my life and to be able to laugh with them and learn from them - about quilting and about life in general. I enjoyed their company and was very sad when it was time to come home. 
While at quilt camp I enjoyed some hand stitching and finished the scrappy binding on my Civil War quilt which I posted about on friday. 

And I added a few more stitches to my Journey of a Quilter project. I am so close to finishing this quilt, it's getting harder to stay away from it. I am debating about the border quilting design as I finish this last block. So exciting!

The linkytools website is having issues but as soon as they are up and running again, I will post the Slow Sunday Stitching linky party. Until then, go ahead and put a few more stitches in your project!

The linky tools are fixed and we can get this party started!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Rainbow Scrap Challenge

I am just back from a wonderful vacation at quilt camp. I am starting to unpack all the projects that I took along, but it is a real mess in my sewing room at the moment! Order will hopefully be restored today.
These are the 3" pink spool blocks and 2.25" Alamo Star blocks that I sewed at camp.
I really enjoy sewing with pink, because there is such a wide range to play with, from the pastel pinks, to orangey pinks, to the deep reddish pinks. February has been a short month and I didn't get all the pink blocks sewn that I had cut, so you'll likely see a few more stragglers  next Saturday. I wonder what the colour will be for March?!?
Hop over to SoScrappy to see more pink projects.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Civil War Quilt Finished!

I am so excited to post that my Civil War Quilt is finished and I love it!

I got my friends to help me take a picture of it, even though the weather was "the usual" for this very cold and snowy year. They were fearless, and we went outside and got some interesting shots.
This was a block of the week pattern by Barbara Brackman that started in January 2011 and my quilt top was finished in January 2014 (read about it here). 
As you may know, my sewing machine was broken and in the shop for so long, I used that as an excuse to ask Cathy from Eagle's Wings Quilts if she would machine quilt it for me. Luckily she agreed and we decided to go with an angels wing design (which you can see here). I even got to visit Cathy at her quilting studio and see her Millennium machine! 

The angel quilting design is so perfect for this quilt. From far away it looks like a soft and flowing design, and when you get up close, the angels appear. It's like a little surprise! Can you see the angel design on the top of the flag?

This is a photo of the back of the quilt, which is almost as interesting as the front. It includes four extra blocks that didn't make the cut for the front, a panel of the war generals, the "flags of freedom", a strip of liberty bell fabric, and the declaration of independence.
By the way, I have an extra panel of the declaration of independence and will give it away to the first person who leaves a comment that they want it.
A big thank you to Barbara Brackman for the wonderful Civil War history lessons each week, and the interesting and sometimes challenging block patterns. Thank you to Cathy at Eagle's Wings Quilts for the fantastic job she did on the machine quilting. Thanks to all the readers who left encouraging comments on the posts and layout ideas. Also thanks to my quilt holders Cynthia and Barbara. 
It takes a village to make a quilt... and a blog post about the quilt!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bowtie Update

For some unknown reason, my old Bowtie UFO jumped to the top of the queue this week. I really was disliking it when it resurfaced, but it has really grown on me. I had 33 blocks sewn together, and 12 more blocks ready, so I cut the pieces for 68 more blocks, giving me more than 100 in total. Here are the blocks being organized into a layout. 

And here are the piles of blocks by my machine ready to sew. It looks like a big mess, but it is an organized mess, and it worked out perfectly. It's always "iffy" when you take the blocks from design wall to sewing machine, but all blocks ended up in their proper place.

Now I'm working on the border decisions. I don't want to buy anymore fabrics so this is what I have left, plus a few scraps that will make a nice binding.
How can it be that a project I was not liking turned out to be so pretty!?!?
The ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Design Wall Monday

I pulled out my Votes For Women blocks this past week, and have been working on sashing all the blocks. About half of them are here on the design wall. 
Somehow I seem to be 2 blocks short but I can't figure out what I am missing. There were 49 blocks posted and I can only find 47. 
I will check back through the posts and see what happened. 
Two blocks are either hiding from me, or were not made!
To see more design wall postings, hop over to Patchwork Times

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Slow Sunday Stitching

It has been a long time since I've needed some slow relaxing stitching time as much as I need it today! I am hand quilting the last block of my Journey of a Quilter, and will relish every single stitch I make today, while I watch athletes compete to be the fastest in the world. My goal is the opposite of that - I plan to win the gold medal for being the slowest hand quilter of all time! 7 years I've been working on this quilt - can you beat that today? Are you working on something older than that?
Isn't this a great block to work on?!
I am making wavy lines between the rows of words and really like how that is turning out.
What slow stitching are you enjoying today? I can't wait to see your hand stitching projects.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sweet pinks and a pup

It has been such a busy week, that I have not sat down in front of a sewing machine once! I can't remember that ever happening before in the last 20+ years! I have done some hand stitching and some fabric cutting and organizing here and there, but no machine work.

Today I am dogsitting and sewing ... all day! 
I plan to work on some pink blocks for my Omigosh project.  See how I am holding the blocks in place with the chocolate hugs that I plan to eat while I sew?!!

I couldn't resist taking a photo of the first pink block completed today with my granddog Max.
Isn't he just so adorable?!
Well, most of the time he is adorable but sometimes he is a handful!
Hey... come back here with my block!
To see more pink projects being sewn today, hop over to SoScrappy.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day to all my quilting friends! I hope you enjoy your day celebrating all the love you have created in your life.

I plan to start a new project - a Valentine's pattern by Temecula quilts - click here
to see the quilt.
This is the fabric I am using - LOVE It!
Is there any better way to celebrate what I love?! 
I think not! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

HST Heaven or Hell?

Half Square Triangles (a.k.a. HST's)  seem to be a block that quilters have a love/hate relationship with. There are so many ways to sew them and so many uses in block design. However, they can be somewhat tedious to sew if you need a lot of them. 
I like to use the Easy Angle ruler to make HST blocks, but mostly I prefer to make them as bonus corners when I'm sewing other blocks.
I made a ton of these blocks when sewing Celtic Solstice

For every Chevron block I made, I made 4 HST's. There are 100 Chevrons in the quilt, which means I have 400 HST's measuring 1.5"! Not all of them have been pressed or squared up yet, and I have bags of them waiting for just the right project.
Barbara Brackman recently had a great post on antique quilts using HST blocks - click here to read it. She suggests that to overcome cabin fever, you make 20 HST blocks every day until you see a daffodil, and you will have more than enough to make a quilt! 
If you want to see my all time favorite HST quilt, that I intend to make some day, click here and be inspired! 
Okay, back to pressing and trimming my 400 HST's.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hari-Kuyo Festival of Broken Needles

I read on Quiltville Facebook that February 8th is the 400 year old Japanese ritual called Hari-Kuyo "Festival of Broken Needles". You can read more about the festival here and here. I really enjoyed reading Kelly's post over at I Have A Notion blog. These links lead me down a cyberspace rabbit hole where I may have been lost for hours jumping from link to link.... hope you don't get lost there!
This lead me to many thoughts about sewing needles and I found this quote: also honors the secret sorrows that women have. As a woman sews, her essence permeates that small needle with her energy and aura. The needles are believed to share these burdens, and take some of them into themselves, so this burial is a way to thank them and put these matters to rest.

I wonder what burdens my needles would tell you they have carried for me? Here is the final resting place for my broken and bent needles.
My machine quilting needles rarely break because I am very careful what I sew on and never ever sew over pins. I hate it when a needle breaks when I am machine quilting - it really scares me, so I am careful to always use a strong needle with no burrs. When starting to quilt a large quilt, I change the needle, usually putting in a 90 Topstitch needle. When I finish the quilting on a project I change the needle again, usually putting in an 80 Microsharp for piecing.

However, I do seem to be very hard on hand stitching needles. They seem to bend easily, especially through thick seam intersections. This is the needle I bent during Slow Sunday Stitching this week!

These are my precious John James hand quilting needles. The "Big Eye" makes it easier to thread, and the small size needle helps me to take tinier stitches. I have probably tried every brand of needle on the market and have many packages laying around so I will never be without a new sharp needle to use.
I was thinking about pioneer women who treasured their needles, often having only 1 or 2 to sew with. Click here for a story about how precious needles used to be. 
Still thinking about needles? 
Here is a video on Schmetz needle production (a bit odd and slow moving with lots of advertising for Schmetz) and here is a Discovery channel video about needle and pin production (this video is half as long and more interesting to watch).
What's your favorite needle? Do you break and bend your needles? Do you have any tips for needle care?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Design Wall Monday

On my design wall today is the mystery quilt I sewed last weekend from Quiltbug. It was lots of fun to sew and a great mystery, since I had no idea how it was going to come together until right near the end.

When my quilt top was together, I decided that I wanted to applique flowers in some of the blank spaces. 

I have been trying to sew these cutout flowers to the empty spaces using some needleturn applique, but am having a terrible time with it.
How do you applique on a large piece of fabric/quilt? Do you just bunch it all up and try to hold it in your non-sewing hand so you can hold the part you are stitching? Do you use a hoop? There has to be an easier way!
All suggestions are gratefully accepted!
To see more design wall postings, hop over to Patchwork Times.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Slow Sunday Stitching - More Meditation... More Gratitude

It's Sunday! Time for Slow Sunday Stitching
Another week has passed, and it's time to rest, recover from the previous week, and prepare for the week to come. I do that by hand stitching... it's my meditation practice. I sit quietly and stitch.  Sometimes I sew while watching TV with family in the evenings, but mostly I love to stitch by myself - no television, radio or music... no distractions of any kind. 
Just my needle, thread, fabric and my thoughts.
I didn't have any embroidery projects to work on, so I started a new project that has been on my "to-do list" for a while. It is a free download pattern (thank you Amy!) which you can get over at Nana Company. I printed off the pattern on paper and traced it onto fabric with my Frixion pen.
Here is the beginning of my meditation stitching. Doesn't it seem like the perfect sentiment to meditate on while stitching? 
For more information on meditation, check out this inspiring article by Joshua Becker called "More Meditation. More Gratitude. Better Living."  After reading this, I decided not to grumble so much about shoveling snow and feeling cold, and decided to just wrap myself up in a quilt and do more slow stitching!
What are you stitching and meditating on today? Link up your blog post and share your hand stitching project with us.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Scrappy Saturday

I am playing in pink land! 
I did a lot of sorting and cutting of scraps this week and have started making my 1" strips into 9 patch blocks for Omigosh. It's slow sewing, without much to show yet... just having fun!
Did you see the pink Dragon Fruit we enjoyed last Sunday? What could be better than pink fruit?!?! I guess it would be better if the inside was pink too - it's white!
To see more pink postings, hop over to the Rainbow Scrap Challenge link up.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Mid Winter Grumbling

This has been the whitest, coldest winter I can ever remember. My Granddog Max loves the snow and can't wait to get outside to jump around. Here I am trying to get his sweater on, and just like a toddler, he is fighting me every step of the way! Maybe the sweater is getting a little too tight for this growing boy?

In order to go for a walk, the sidewalks have to be shoveled first. His legs are too little to climb through snow, so guess who is very tired of shoveling snow? Grandma! The snow banks are so high that there is no place to put the snow without lifting it higher than your waist.

It's perfect quilting weather, but because of all the shoveling, my back is perpetually sore and my arms feel like jello. 
I am turning into Crabby Maxine!
Although the weather is perfect, the body is weak. 
Boo :(

Come on Grandma. You did a great job on the shoveling, now let's go for a walk! 
More bad mid winter news for me. The part for my broken sewing machine is on back order. I am glad the part is still available, but it has to come from Japan. And that means my machine probably won't be fixed until March. That's three months without quilting on my favorite machine! How can I last?!?
Well, I have been sewing with my vintage back up machines, Sweet Baby Jayne and Blue White, but they are not industrial machines, and while they are good for piecing, they are not good at machine quilting. They both get quite hot when I've tried to work them harder.
But luckily my friend Louise lent me her lovely machine and I have been sewing these log cabin blocks while I get to "know" her (yes, all sewing machines are female according to my mechanic!)
I have it set up on my dining room table, and am almost ready to see if she will be able to tolerate my machine quilting habits!
I have been sewing while watching old QuiltCam videos on Bonnie's YouTube channel
Oh my... I just realized that my Christmas quilt is still on the wall... time to swap that out!
Tonight is a live QuiltCam at 9 pm. Just go to Quiltville and click on the link up arrow after 9 pm and you can sew along with Bonnie and all us Quiltvillians.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Forgotten Treasures - Bowties

My memory has definitely deteriorated since passing 50!
It is always a surprise when I open a box in the basement and find quilting treasures from days gone by. On the top of the box it says something like ... "stuff". 
Inside the box is a treasure-trove of long forgotten projects, many of which are  close to being finished. This is "deep UFO stash", where projects of the past lurk. Most of them I remember clearly, and wonder why did they end up here? The major reasons probably were that I had too much on the go, too many creative ideas, too busy of a life, and/or not enough technical knowledge at that time to push through the creative challenges to get to the end of the project.
Not so anymore! 
This is one of the projects found in that box. It was a guild class with Deb Beirnes from many years ago on using up scraps.
These are 4" bowtie blocks which I like to sew. So why did this one end up in "deep UFO stash"?
I guess it was because it is not my taste in fabrics. I was using up charm squares of gold overlay fabrics that I didn't really like, so I lost interest in working on it. But I know that someone will like it, and I want to finish it and clean out these abandoned projects. This bowtie project is going into the quilt retreat project pile, along with any fabric that goes with it. The quilt will become as big as the fabric that I have will allow, and then it will be given away to the guild's comfort quilt project.
I will be posting more about what was in the box as time and courage allow!! LOL

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

February's UFO - Plaid Beauty

Jumping to the head of the UFO queue this month is piecing the quilt top for Plaid Beauty. It has been in the works since the fall of 2010 when I took a class with Bonnie Hunter while visiting my sister in Michigan. 
Yes I did! 
In person!
Here's the photo proof!
It was sooooo fun!
When I was sewing "Always Home", I remembered how much I enjoy working with plaids and went in search of my bag of plaid blocks. I needed to count blocks, check the pattern, figure out how many I need to make a size I want, make more blocks and re-visit the design decision, which is likely the reason why this one became a UFO (layout indecision - chronic problem).  I like all of the possible layouts.
What to do?
First things first. 
There are 80 blocks sewn and parts of many more started. If I want a quilt 72" x 84", I  need 168 blocks. Okay, I'm about half way there in terms of block construction.
I'll be sewing plaids this month. Such a hardship! LOL
I am posting my goal over at A Lovely Year of Finishes February goal link up.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Design Wall Monday

On the design wall today is my finished Celtic Solstice

The photo was taken late at night, so it's not great but you get the idea. I am 99.9% confident that those hundreds of 4 patch blocks are oriented the right way (now). That was very challenging and let's just say that the seam ripper got a work out!
I ran out of the cranberry colour which I wanted for the inner border, so I had to put some gold in the corners. 
It took a lot of time to figure out the measurements to get the angles to match up for the gold corners, but I really like the effect, so I've decided it was worth it!
This quilt is for me and I can't wait to get my regular sewing machine back from the repair shop so I can start quilting it. The next step is to piece a backing, and there is just enough of the black fabric to make up the binding so it will be ready.
A huge thank you to Bonnie Hunter for another wonderful mystery, and a quilt that I love! 
Hop over to Patchwork Times to see more design wall postings, and over to Quiltville to see more mystery quilts!