Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How to Make Others Who Are Going through Tough Times Feel a Little Loved (or, Making Charity Quilts)

Both my guilds are collecting charity quilts, so in the spirit of FINISHING things, I got out a smaller top a few days ago that I made awhile back, with fabric even older than 'awhile back'.  I was playing with a pattern I've seen called cobblestones, and tried it out in two different styles of fabrics.  One is still blocks, the other was sewn together and just needed borders to make it the 3' X 4' size that Great Lakes Heritage Quilters is collecting this year.  This size is aimed at people bedridden or in a wheelchair.  I love the size in a purely selfish way---they are easy to sew, and easy to quilt.  The guild's collections efforts are really benefiting from the size the committee selected.  I've already made 4 or five, lost track.  Quilting these quilts are fun, no pressure, just relax, machine quilt, try things out, it's all good!!

 The picture below is during the free motion quilting process.  Before I started, I got a few books to look through for ideas and inspiration.  I chose what Angela Walters calls 'back and forth lines' and did them on the diagonal in each block.  Every-other block switches direction to make a nice over-all pattern.  I kept them bigger, as this is a lap quilt and should be soft and drapeable. 

As I sat stitching down the binding, I decided I was NOT happy with what I did in the border, so it all got ripped out, and re-done the next day.  For two sides I used some paper quilt-right-through-them border papers some de-stashed to me awhile back.  On the other two sides I did some diagonal lines, very simple, marked with chalk and stitched with the free motion foot.

Then, digging thru un-finished tops, I found one that was just a titch larger than the 3 X 4 size.  Picked a backing, got everything pressed and ready, and this one I will quilt next.  I initially made the pattern as a baby quilt gift but was unhappy with the results.  All finished up, I guarantee someone will be very happy with it!!  You can only see part of it here, but it's these columns of blocks. The sun coming through the window (LOVE IT!)  made it hard to get a better photo, a problem I'm willing to work around.

DAMQG (Detroit Area Modern) also needs quilts to donate, and those will go to a children's acute care unit. The nurses want them large enough to mostly cover a bed, so good-sized lap up to twin has been requested.  The children that get them are tiny up through about the age of 18.  The nurses have been thrilled when they are dropped off and can't wait to spread them over a bed to try to make a hospital room a little bit more cheery for an arriving child,  The child takes it home when they go.  A generous quilter in our guild who has a long arm quilting machine has been offering to quilt these for us.  This top was a Mystery Quilt we did at GLHQ two years ago. I wasn't really pleased with results, but hey, add a cute pink border and it's not looking too bad!  Not everyone is as picky as me. I got a backing pieced, pressed top and backing really nicely and it's on a hanger,  ready to be given to the longer-arm quilter at our guild meeting tonight!!  When she brings it back, I'll bind it and take a picture, you can see it finished later.....

I'd say that was several good days of work, wouldn't you?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Squirrels......and coffee!!

It's morning, and I don't awake easily.  Slowly, quietly...... orange juice, vitamins, then, an immediate need for coffee.  My DH and I are the same way.  Coffee is made right away, in our french press, sipped on, NEEDED.  Once it starts to course through my veins, I am off and running, ready for my day! (Mug available here)

To celebrate coffee, I am sharing these images I found.  One I just saw recently, someone had shared it on Instagram and I particularly laughed about it.  The other I shared on my blog awhile back, but it's well worth sharing again.

So this goes out for me, and also for my friend, Joyce (a Chicken), also a HUGE coffee fan.  In fact, we have been known to sprint quickly across the vast lobbies of the Amway Grand, for AQS Grand Rapids, just to try to Coconut Mocha, much loved by Kim Diehl.  Sadly, Starbucks discontinued it, but, happily, I found Coconut Creme by Coffeemate---it's delicious and I am now addicted to it!!!

And, the BEST for last,

Photo found here: http://s592.photobucket.com/user/squirrelcannon/media/coffee-squirrel.jpg.html

Have a great day!!  I know I will, cuz I've had my coffee!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Red and White Challenge

My small group, the famous (infamous?) Chickens haven't had many challenges, maybe 4 or 5 over our 20 years.  People usually want to work on the current, must-get-done things, not devote precious sewing time to something new, something un-planned, maybe even un-wanted.  But a challenge from me make something red and white was received very positively.  The challenge was issued in early 2014 for June 2014.  Then delayed to October 2014.  Then.... December 2014.

December 2014 did dawn, and a beautiful party was held at member Joyce's home, where she made us fabulous food, lunch, drinks, dinner on a Sunday afternoon.  We've done many things over the years for Christmas, but for quite awhile now, Joyce opens her home and makes a very special day for us.

We were very excited for the unveiling!!  Some had just started their projects in September.  At least one, who shall not be named, started hers TWO WEEKS before it was due! (To her credit, it was completed!!)

I started mine in the winter of 2014, around March.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do:  The block was one I LOVE and have long wanted to make an entire quilt of.  The quilting was envisioned at the same time.  Certainty was a beautiful (rare) thing.  I usually wing it, make it up as I go.

THE BLOCK:  a traditional block, also loved by the modern quilters, and many variations are out on there on this pattern, which I LOVE.  Rolling Stone!!

THE FABRIC PULL:  90% from my stash, but I found I did have add a few, as I wanted each block to have different fabrics in it and not repeat.

Cutting and sewing ensued, furiously.  Blocks began to go up on the wall.  Pinterest helped me find variations.  I loved this setting with background lattice strips and squares of the reds that created almost a chain connecting the blocks.  Again, no doubt.  I knew exactly how it should go!

I think it's one of the nicest tops I've pieced, every seam so nice and neat and perfect.  It ironed beautifully, lay beautifully, all ready for quilting!

I thought I'd quilt it right after I went to the Holly Girls Camp in late September, as the camp was all about machine quilting.  It was a great camp, great teaching, lots of inspiration.  Unfortunately, my gall bladder delayed quilting til November.

THE QUILTING:  SPIRALS!!!!  With my walking foot.  I practiced many methods; walking foot or free motion. From center out, from edge in.  What felt the most comfortable to me was center out, with the walking foot.  I got the nicest lines that way, the foot kept me an even distance and the shapes nice.  These two photos are from Pinterest and were used for inspiration only.  The first by blog.chriswdesigns.com, and 2nd by inspirations.blogspot.ca

I used a process where I traced that center part onto a tissue paper, pinned it to the quilt block where I wanted it and stitched thru it, then removing the paper.  This insured that my centers were consistent.  After that, it was very comfortable using the walking foot to measure my distance, keeping me in line for a relatively pleasing, consistent spiral.  I filled each block, then added background spirals that looked like they were 'under' or 'behind' the larger ones.  For doing the quilting on my machine,the quilt had to be 'packaged' into square sections, as spiraling around with the walking foot meant a lot of quilt movement.  There were some that thought I was crazy for doing it this way, so much moving around, but once I got going and had a system, it was very comrtable and I got the results I wanted.

The packing, how it looked when it went under the needle

The paper to create the center perfectly shaped
And the results!  Named "The Refresh Button"!  I've been collecting phrases that delight me, and get the envelope out when it is time to name a quilt.  I look through and see if there is somethere that I think suits the project.  This time, there was.  The Refresh Button suits it.  Classic pattern, classic color scheme, but with a fresh, contemporary look that suits our time.

Before binding

The reveal was a lot of fun, but some were in still progress.  One was blocks in a box!  But everyone's piece has progressed since the photos below, and we are hoping to have them exhibited in a group at our guild's quilt show.  These photos do not adequately show you these wonderful quilts, so come to the show. The diversity of these projects was amazing and reflect the range of interests of our group of very talented women.  I am honored to be part of this group.

The  Great Lakes Heritage Quilters Quilt Show, will be held February 27-28, 2015 at Canterbury Village.  The show will be spectacular, I promise!  The guild has many talented quilters and the setting is beautiful, you will almost NEVER see a quilt show anywhere similar to this beautiful place!  It is held in the King's Court Castle.  There will be vendors for shopping,  you can lunch in the restaurant, there are also quilt shops not too far; all the makings for a perfect day.  Come join us!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pictures---will they make up for the long absence?

Some of the things I made over the fall were for my Secret Sister project at Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild (DAMQG), or as we fondly refer to it, that DAM guild.  In fact, everything is DAM.  We are DAM girls, we have that DAM Quiltalong, when we demo a tool it is 'What is that DAM thing.'.  Just goes to show you can be silly at any age!

We are a relatively new guild, so our first two autumns now we have done a Secret Sister to get to know one another a little better.  We fill out a card with a little info about ourselves; favorite color, what type of thing we'd like (such as for the kitchen or for organzing or whatever) and then draw names.  We then gift our sister as we'd like from October til the big reveal at our Christmas party in December.  We may send a card, candy, bring a gift to the meeting (sneakily of course), hand-made or not.  We've kind of saved the last for the bigger thing they may want, the last fireworks explosion, if you will.

Here are the things I made my sister:

First, a machine quilted fabric postcard.  I've heard you can actually stamp and put in mail, but I was 'chicken' and put it inside an envelope, to protect it during mailing.  The other side is written on with a Pigma Pen to look just like a post card, with a stamp, name and address and message from 'secret sister'.  I had to omit that picture as it did have her name and address. Ooops!!

 Then I made her couple of things for the kitchen that I thought would be fun to have, a handle for cast iron skillet or other long pan handles that get hot, and a quilted pot pincher.  She said her favorite color was plum.  Funny how when someone says a name like that for a color you think you know exactly what they mean....then the doubt creeps in....what IS plum?  Is it a reddish purple?  A blue-ish purple?  Shaded? tonal??  Then you have to search on the web, but colors on a computer screen are always doubtful.  But I did the best I could!

Lastly, I made her the top item she wanted, a table runner.  I actually put the blocks together at a retreat we were at together.  Quietly.  Stealthily.  Late into the night.  As in, I turned out the lights in the sewing room because everyone else had already gone to bed!!

I can't remember the dimensions, although I'm certain I wrote them down, but I think it was about 16" wide by 48" long.  It was a lot of fun, and besides her favorite color, I used MY favorite color---green, mossy or limey.  And the color wheel LOVES that combo too!  I used some great background creamy-off-white based prints, using texts and others, the purples and greens.  The quilting was a lot fun, nothing like working on a very manageable size.  The loop-de-loops on the background fabrics were the BEST part,

It then occured to me that I absolutely had to make a Christmas stocking for my nephew Eli, youngest family member, and 6 years old at Christmas time this year.  Plus he loves getting packages in the mail.  Helps remind him he has a loving auntie in Michigan!

My other guild, Great Lakes Heritage Quilters (GLHQ) has a WORD quilt challenge this year that I am mentally preparing for, so I did some paper-pieced letters, a skill new to me, for his stocking.  The capital 'E' came out really good, but did not fit on the stocking well, so I saved it it.  Eli loved his stocking and it was proudly displayed when we visited Oregon for the holidays!

So that's all for now, but I have been busy sewing and hope to update you on that soon!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Finished a Couple Little Things

Embarrassed to have had a whole month go by with no entry.....October flew by!  Wish I could say it was because I was sewing so fast and so much, but alas....that's not the case. There was some fun travel though, a week long trip to New Mexico with DH and then a retreat with the Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild.

I finished a few things for my Secret Sister at DAMQG.  We draw names in September, gift each other til the December Christmas party, which is last gift and the Great Reveal.  Can't show those now, and one I forgot to get a picture of!  But here is a tantalizing tiny glimpse of her last gift.

 At the retreat, which was so much fun--we celebrated my Halloween birthday, sewed, talked, did a Project Funway Challenge (we had 2 hours to design & complete a pillow cover using a paper-pieced bra block), played games for swag, got gifted by various members, and also did a 'Halloween Swap', where you made whatever, wrapped it, and did some stealing.  I got this wonderful wallhanging by the very Talented Dana.  Isn't it great???
In New Mexico, well known for lots of art, we saw quite a bit of weaving, besides paintings and pottery,  Being a knitter and spinner also, I have toyed with the idea of doing some simple weaving, maybe place-mats and table-runners & scarves, which would be a great way to use the hand-spun yarn I have accumulated.  At a wonderful shop with modern weavings, I picked up this little 4" pin loom and will play with it a bit.  Not big, but the idea is to use it on the go, and then attach them together to make something larger.

My first attempt I think was too thin.  At the shop I was shown a yarn weight that would be appropriate for wrapping the little loom, but maybe picked something at home too light weight.  I'm making another.  But it was really fun.  I'll let the idea of a little table loom simmer for a bit before I jump in.  My spinning wheel is made by an American company, Schacht, and they make all sizes of looms too.  Their "Cricket" comes in either a 10" weaving size or 15", looks really easy to use, and inexpensive.  It would be great for the types of things I am interested in trying.

 Besides finishing the gift item for my Secret Sister, which I can't show in it's entirety, I also finished a 36" X 48" lap quilt for Great Lakes Heritage Quilters.  They are being donated a number of different places this year, and aimed for wheelchair use.  I pulled out some Civil War reproduction fabrics (or as my Southern-living SIL calls it, 'The War of Northern Agression) to make a patriotic quilt, perhaps for a wounder soldier.  It was great to finally get it quilted and bound this month and will be dropped off at the November meeting.  On the hourglass blocks, I did meandering five-pointed stars, and found that quilting them continuously is much more difficult than just drawing one, but I don't think the recipient will mind that I was practicing.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Holly Girls 1st Annual Quilt Retreat

What a fabulous week I had, Sept. 23-28!  Attended the 1st Annual Holly Girls Quilt Retreat with 3 friends.  We had a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom cottage at the White Birch Lodge, and had classes with the wonderful sister team Sue Nickels and Pat Holly.  So much quilting talent in one family!

We were immersed in a week of machine quilting, and I tell you, Sue KNOWS her machine quilting!  Her work is wonderful!  I've had short classes with her in the past, but it's been some time.  Her work was beautiful then and her skills have increased tenfold since.  You can see some of her work here, but photos don't do it justice.  Both sisters have multiple quilts in the Quilt Museum in Paducah.

I think this small piece below was a gift to her sister, Pat. (photo includes my feet, no extra charge!)

Weather was perfect, PERFECT, which doesn't happen often in Michigan, and the Holly Girls said it was the best of their weeks so far (we were week 4 of 5).   There was great harmony & joy in my group, we had 2 other quilter friends of ours who now live in the North visit us, and a great time was had by all.

I cannot rave enough about the great job Sue and Pat did.  So many wonderful hand-outs I will treasure and look at each & every time I plan quilting on a quilt-top.  They love all parts of the process, and hopefully I will now slow down and try to enjoy the quilting as much as I love the piecing.  I have the skills, just need the patience.

Now, just pics for you to enjoy.....

The Dining Hall at White Birch Lodge, otherwise known as the sewing room
View of Elk Lake and some of the lodging taken from the dock
ahhhh, Elk Lake
A sunrise, and our beautiful view from the condo doorwall & deck
Fall color was spectacular, and surrounded by blue, blue skies
a selfie of our happy, happy faces!!
A close-up of my finished whole-cloth project.  The designs were marked with pencil, then free-motion quilted
Then, when I got home, I became 2-3 ounces lighter, with removal of my gallbladder.  isn't it a pity that they don't weigh 5-10 pounds?  But then.... they wouldn't be able to remove them laparascopically!!
Beautiful flower basket from my good friends, The Chickens
P.S.  Was Holly Girls Retreat so wonderful that we signed up for next year?  Why, yes....we did!  And reserved our same condo!