Monday, August 22, 2016

FNSI Weekend

I did manage to spend a lot of time in the sewing room Friday night and most of the weekend although it really doesn't seem like I accomplished all that much!  I received my fabrics for Lisa Bonjean's Magic of Christmas Stitch-Along on Thursday so that was the first thing I worked on. This stitch-along project will have 25 six inch red & white blocks. The setting is still a mystery. I chose to do the "country" version (red & cream/tan) and decided I would try to make two of each block for a larger quilt. The first block was nice and easy and went together quickly.

I couldn't decide what to work on next so I thought I would dig out my APQ UFO and see where I stood on that one.  The answer?  Very,. very far from being complete. Really only barely started. I assembled a couple more blocks just to say that I at least worked on it this month even though I can't claim much in the way of progress.  This is one of those projects that cries for a nice weekend retreat. 

Our local TAS chapter met on Saturday morning and we had a guest (and hopefully new member) that brought along a collection of 23 album blocks that she and her late sister had been made starting as far back as 1990.  She is working on finishing a few more blocks to bridge their two different color palettes and will then assemble them all into a quilt.  The blocks are beautiful!

I spent a little time cutting and sewing hourglass blocks for my first Clarissa block. The colors aren't very true in this photo but I really like how this came together.  I'm envisioning an off-white sashing and border. I plan to do the rest as leaders and enders - this one was just to get a feel for the project and help me plan for cutting.

The remainder of my sewing time this weekend was spent trying to catch up on SBOW prep work.  I assembled three more of the freebie blocks and three My Crazy Life blocks.  There were a lot of little pieces to cut out!

I am headed out of town for the Warsaw hook-in this weekend and hope to get some of these blocks stitched.  I am so far behind!  I think I have enough wool applique in the works to last me several lifetimes...

Monday, August 15, 2016

New Project - Ruby McKim Patchwork

I was able to spend quite a bit of time in the sewing room this past weekend and managed to finally complete week 2 of my Among Friends SBOW (yes, it is now week 10...). I went "old school" on this set and cut my HSTs from squares rather than using the paper. That gave me 1/4" seam allowances that behaved better with pressing, and I pressed all seams in alternating directions to enable nesting. It might have taken a tiny bit more time to cut my triangles and trim my squares but I felt like the large squares went together much easier this time.

Once I had week 2 behind me I gave myself permission to take a break and start something new. I know that the last thing I need right now is another project but this one has been on my list for a long time and my guild has started it as a BOM so I had to jump in.

The pattern is Ruby McKim's Patchwork Quilt first published in newspapers in 1930. Here's the drawing of the quilt that originally ran when the pattern series was introduced in newspapers around the country:

I'm a huge fan of the old newspaper quilt patterns and acquired a copy of this pattern quite a few years ago. I've been following the preparation for the 2016 Celebration of Ruby's legacy from the beginning and had hoped to participate in some of the activities but haven't been able to thus far. 

I was discussing the Patchwork Quilt pattern with the ladies from our guild who are now running it as the BOM at our quilt show last June and decided then that I had the perfect plan for it. I had been trying to decide on a pattern to use the fabrics I received at the 2014 Houston Quilt Festival 40th Anniversary Ruby Jubilee celebration.  I attended the Ruby Jubilee luncheon at Festival and the tables were beautifully decorated with Moda fabric tablecloths and napkins. I managed to choose the chair with the secret marking at our table and was the lucky winner of the yardage used as the tablecloth (the red below).  The other two pieces are my and my friend's napkins. I had been wanting to do something special with them and decided this would be the perfect use for them.

So, fast forward another year and my guild friends have prompted me to actually get this party started!  I caught up on the first two blocks over the weekend.  I am planning a predominantly red & white quilt using fabrics that match the Houston fabrics.  I plan to use the red piece for the border and will incorporate the napkin fabrics into my blocks. 

The first block assigned for the BOM was the Double Nine Patch. Ruby's original directions used solid red blocks for the four corners but in one version of the pattern published there is a note that it could be made a little more challenging by using five nine patches. I decided to go with that option. 

This month's block is Crosses and Losses. this one went together very quickly. It was nice to start with some of the simpler patterns from the quilt.  There are a couple that are pretty intense!  

The most entertaining part of making these was trying to get my mind around the HUGE pieces!  These blocks finish at 12" which isn't really that big - but clearly I have been working on much smaller stuff for a while because I was getting really tripped up by how enormous everything seemed.  

I finished off my weekend in the sewing room with cutting and sewing a few more hourglass blocks for this year's leader and ender project.  I intend to use it as a true L&E project but would like to get at least one "inspiration" block together to give me some direction. I was able to make a little progress on it before calling it a day. I hope to get the block together over the course of the week - maybe during the August Friday Night Sew In.  Want to join in the fun?  Click on the button below to sign up!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


After playing around with a few charity quilts and a blank piece of fabric I decided it was time to try a "real" quilt.  I figured I would start on my Quatrefoil quilt because I like it less than the other one that I have ready.  It was definitely not as easy to load this one as it is the smaller ones but after a few course corrections we (thankfully I had help) got it onto the frame. 

I decided to fire up the machine on a Saturday night when I could spend the evening in the basement keeping an eye on it and advancing it along. My husband decided it would be a good night for us to watch the new Star Wars while the machine ran. Not that being distracted by Star Wars has anything to do with what happened next... Everything was going along well.  I had quilted three complete rows and advanced on to the fourth. It was looking great.  And then the thread broke. I re-threaded, restarted, and noticed that the tension looked a little odd. Then the thread broke again.  Re-thread, restart.  The tension started looking really bad.

When the row was finished I rolled the quilt forward to see how bad it was. And it was BAD. Very, very bad.

I will have to rip out the entire last row of quilting, reload the quilt and try to line things up to begin where it left off. And figure out what the heck happened and correct it. So far I have taken the quilt off the frame and made a start on ripping. I started at the end before things went bad and it is not going well. It may take a month - or longer - to get all the stitches out!

I've been distracted from making progress on any of my UFOs by my SBOWs and Panama Pyramids.  I didn't touch my Rising Sun this month (the APQ UFO selection for July) and didn't even do enough orange peels to warrant a count.  I did finish two more Pyramids (I love those stamps!) and two more Clara's Stars.  

And then another shiny object came along and grabbed my attention....

Kathy over at Kathy's Quilts shared that she decided to use this year's leader and ender project to make the Clarissa Quilt. She shared pictures of the quilt and it is very cool.  She's planning to host a sew along of sorts to make it.  So of course I want to join!  I ditched the red and cream hourglass blocks I made last weekend and made a few smaller ones using fat quarters from a collection I have that I think will be perfect for this quilt. I will have to do some planning and cutting to have this ready to use for leaders and enders.

I have a couple of other projects I'm itching to start but more on those next time.  I'm quite confident I will give in and start them very soon. In the meantime I have been making progress on my basket.  I replaced the pear and like it better now.  Quite a few of the pieces below are only basted but I am loving how it is coming together.

That basket was a bit of a hassle but I am pleased with how it turned out. I'm still a bit hung up on the fact that the basket is see-through and looks empty with stuff floating on top. Yes, I definitely have issues!

Monday, July 25, 2016

FNSI Update

I was able to get a fair amount accomplished this weekend in spite of being severely handicapped by an overly ambitious workout on Thursday night. I really had no idea muscles could be that sore...I could barely make it up and down my stairs!

My weekend project was week two of the Among Friends SBOW.  I decided to try it old school this time with no triangle papers. I finished 15 of the 44 blocks and prepped 8 more.

I checked each of my HSTs with a 1.5" square ruler and trimmed here and there as needed but found that they are coming out pretty accurate and are going together easily.  So far much more enjoyable than dealing with paper.

I haven't tried sewing them into the larger block yet but I am ironing the seams one direction this time so that I am able to nest them when I put them together.  I am hoping that makes for a much more accurate and less frustrating assembly process.

I took a break from the tiny HSTs to try out a few hourglass blocks.  I was planning to avoid the temptation to start Bonnie Hunter's new leader and ender challenge since I haven't made much progress on last year's, but where's the fun in that?

These were a lot of fun. They go together quickly and seem huge (3.5" unfinished) compared to the other things I have been working on.  I have no idea what setting I will use for these but I am thinking that it would be a good way to use the stack of red and cream fat quarters I have had sitting on a shelf in my sewing room for years.  I remember collecting the stack on a trip to the lake - perhaps a shop hop - that included Homestead Hearth. I recall having a plan for them at the time but have long since lost the plot on that one. I really like them and am anxious to make more!

I figured if I was going to start a new leader and ender challenge then I needed to try to make some progress on the old one.  I finished off a couple more rows and added them to the five I already had together. Seven down, forty to go!

I'm just not very disciplined at using them as leaders and enders.  I tend to use whatever project I am working on as my L&Es instead (starting the next block when finishing the last seam on another, etc.).  What is really amazing is how many times I manage to end up with the same fabrics lined up together. I even have places where there are three of the same blocks lined up. Oh well, I'm still counting on no one really noticing once all 2000+ tumblers are put together!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Slow Stitching

It seems like I have spent quite a bit of time sewing over the past couple of weeks but I don't have very much to show for it! I am overwhelmed with projects right now and love every one of them so much that I can't make myself focus on just one!  I always go a little overboard during SBOW season but this year I have completely lost my mind.

I haven't really done much with the wool SBOW. I've prepped a few blocks but I plan to change out many of the applique motifs and so I need to draw patterns and pull wools that will work for them so that one is on the back burner for now. I have prepped the first four freebie blocks and have stitched the first two:

I am enjoying stitching all of the pennies and have been working with my already vast collection of threads rather than ordering the recommended colors and am finding I can match them pretty well. 

I was able to attend one day of a local retreat and started prepping Clara's Stars.  I was able to get all of my background yardage cut into 5" squares and to start playing with the week one fabrics.  I have always thread-basted my English paper piecing but decided I needed to go with a quick prep method if I was ever going to get any of these sewn, so I tried both starch and glue. I liked the starch method when I started with it but found that it was really easy to get the paper wet and then you had to be really careful not to lose the shape when you pressed the seam allowance. Not a bad way to go, though. But then I tired the glue method and I was completely hooked! I am not a fan of working with glue but it goes so quickly and holds so well!  I might regret it when it comes time to remove the papers but it sure speeds up the prep process!  I haven't gotten very far but have a few stars sewn and completed one triangle. 

I find EPP very addictive - it is hard to resist working on this project!  But then there is the album quilt - we started the third block for that one and we have a deadline - or perhaps target is a better word. We decided to knock out one of the basket blocks next as there are several in the quilt. I have made a fairly strong start on my block (note that quite a bit of the pieces below are only basted but most of the basket is finished. I am tweaking the pattern a bit, skipping the big knife that is supposed to be next to the pineapple and replacing the mystery item that was next to the pineapple with a pear (it looks somewhat like an apple in the original quilt, but looks like a part of the male anatomy in the drawn pattern).  I also did my basket in brown rather than the traditional Baltimore album red.

Looking at this picture I think my pear is too pale...perhaps I should switch to something a little more green. There's a lot of green in the pattern, though, so I really wanted to go more gold. I will have to give that one some thought.

Although I already have more than enough projects in the works, I am completely obsessed with all of the Panama Pyramids I am seeing posted on Facebook.  I am really trying not to be sucked in - to leave it at the one block - but they are so tempting!  And then I saw that Cindy Blackberg released a stamp for them.  I have been wanting to do a hand piecing project with stamps for a long time so I had to order them!

I stamped my first block - clearly I need a little practice!  What an awesome way to prep hand piecing, though!  There's a little more cutting involved since you can't get them right next to each other but I started sewing them last night and love the precision of the seam allowance and the strong sewing lines. They are great to work with!

Last, but definitely not least - I got a new toy for my birthday this year!  I have been looking at longarms for a very long time as I have always hated not being able to make my own quilts from start to finish.  I've tried quilting on a domestic machine but I usually make large quilts and clearly don't have the talent to make it work. I spent quite a bit of time noodling over which one to go with and finally landed on a Gammill. The thing is HUGE!  It occupies a big part of the basement just outside my office.  

I have a very long way to go in learning how to use this beast but am just about ready to put a "real" quilt on it.  Luckily I never got around to mailing the last two I finished to Missouri Star.  I'm very excited about doing them myself!

Oh - I almost forgot!  This week is the Friday Night Sew In!  I have quite a few things lined up....perhaps even some machine work. Read more about FNSI and sign up to join in the fun on the Sugarlane Designs blog here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

SBOW Troubles

I couldn't wait for the first SBOW shipment to arrive.  I was SO disappointed when I returned from New York and my package was not waiting for me. And then that weekend when nothing came. Then, on June 20, it arrived.

Even though I knew that the first shipment would contain the background fabrics for all of the projects I somehow didn't expect it to be this large!  It was full of all kinds of wonderful goodies. I was very excited!

Fast forward to the following weekend, when I had already received week two in the mail and was feeling a little behind.  I never expected to keep up with all - or even any - of the projects but figured I would be able to make a respectable dent in at least a couple of them with a weekend of sewing.  I decided to start on Among Friends. Lisa Bonjean recommends starching fabrics - says it is critical - but I am not a fan.  I have previously seen her method of saturating the fabrics with starch and letting them dry and was curious, then saw an episode of The Quilt Show where a "precision piecer" also recommended prepping fabric that way.  I finally tried it with a couple of the 365 Challenge blocks. I saw absolutely no difference in accuracy and didn't feel that it helped in the piecing at all.  I therefore decided I would skip straight to the sewing.  After an entire weekend of sewing I had maybe one or two stars completed and a huge stack of paper-backed pieces to trim and press. Add in another weekend - a long holiday weekend - and I finally finished the first week's blocks. 

Sadly I can't say that I enjoyed it at all!  And there are 12 more weeks to go! I am not a fan of paper piecing (these use triangle paper) and felt that the blocks did not go together well. The instructions recommend pressing seams open and I had a lot of trouble with the intersections not lining up well. I had to rip and re-sew about half of them. I haven't started week two yet, but I am thinking old-school piecing (no paper) and seam allowances pressed in opposite directions. There has to be a better way!

I finished my second album block only one day behind our June 30 deadline. It was a fairly easy block although those ovals in the center wheel started getting old..some are not quite oval-shaped. I am okay with how it turned out, though, and have moved on to block three.

I didn't take a picture of my pathetic orange peel progress for June - only 18 completed after a very strong start.  The new total is 136. I am bound and determined to hit my target one of these months!

I need to decide what I will work on for the retreat this weekend.  I can only attend one day but want to make the most of it!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Recent Travels & FNSI Update

The weekend before last I took a little mini-vacation to the Ozarks and Kansas City for some quilting and rug hooking fun. We started the long weekend down at the lake with a stop at Renee Nanneman's open house. Renee's studio is located just a few miles from our lake house but this was the first time I have been able to go there.  We were very surprised when we turned onto the road to her house and ran across three zebras and an emu.  We had to stop for a picture...

We later found out from Renee that there's a camel that lives there too. He must have been hiding as we never saw him.  

Renee's place is absolutely gorgeous!  The photo below of the outside was borrowed from her last newsletter as it never occurred to me to take one.

The studio is beautiful and there were gorgeous fabrics everywhere! I don't seem to have taken many pictures of the actual fabrics, but she had a great selection of fabrics (mostly or all Andover) and some great fat quarter bundles.  There were quilts hanging everywhere.

The windows along the back of the studio overlook the lake - what an inspiring place to work! It would be a wonderful place for a class or retreat but unfortunately fabric and quilt designing keeps Renee too busy to host those kinds of things so we will have to settle for open houses.

I have been admiring Renee's basket and tumbler quilts in her last few newsletters and was very excited to see both in person.  Although I am not a fan of pink there is something about the colors in these that I absolutely love!  I had to have the kits even though I have no plans to make another tumbler quilt.

Everything was staged so beautifully that it was impossible to leave there without a healthy addition to the stash....

After the stop at Renee's we headed over to Blue Springs/Lee's Summit for lunch at the Salty Iguana (the Iguana dip is awesome!) and a visit to Quilter's Station.  I managed to find a few more pieces for my stash there - all intended to become orange peels.

Then it was time to head to Janice's. This is definitely my happy place. The wool is gorgeous and Janice and Jim are incredibly wonderful hosts. 

Every direction you turn there is more beautiful wool!

I had planned to work on one of Janice's designs that I purchased a year or so ago but within minutes of arriving I had changed my mind.  Janice tempted me with an enlarged version of her "April's Floral" design.  It is 50"x 62". Yes, I have lost my mind! 

Janice has fantastic color sense. Here she is working with Betsy on a modified version of her "My World" design in which the cats were replaced with a horse.

Leah was working on a Maggie Bonanomi design.  She hooks really fast - she was even farther along than this when we wrapped things up on Monday.

Jeannette was hooking her "Cat of Many Friends",a fun design that she hooked with wool scraps she had collected from many hooking friends at camps and workshops over the years. He is so cute!

I got a solid start on my rug, even though it doesn't look like much when spread out over a giant pattern. I love the colors we chose! I need to get back to it soon so I can make sure I have sufficient notes to be able to remember what we decided.

I spent the rest of last week in New York after returning from Janice's and was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first BOW shipment from Primitive Gatherings. I was planning to spend the whole weekend playing with the new BOWs. Unfortunately, though, I came home Friday to find it hadn't arrived. It didn't come Saturday either.  I was SO disappointed!  I am hoping it comes today but that likely means I won't really get a chance to play with it all until next weekend.

So, because I didn't have my BOWs to play with I decided I would dip my toe in the water and make one - just one - Panama Pyramid.  I love hand piecing so much! I really don't have time to start this now but I don't think I can stop here. I think I need to prep a few more.

I decided to spend my FNSI and other weekend machine time working on my Allietare blocks. 

Amazingly although I wasn't all that inspired to work on these I managed to finish all the rest of the blocks and the setting triangles.  I'm ready to assemble the top now. Perhaps a good objective for my upcoming retreat?  I would love to check this one off my UFO list!