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!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Do You Like Making Bags?

I am primarily a quilter, and sometimes making other types of things is not that fun.  But for the last year or two, inspired by my 'modern' friends, I am making many different kinds of smaller things.  Awhile back, I bought this pattern by Carolyn Friedlander, to make her Social Tote.  Sounds like a great thing to; put your basic sewing things in it, maybe some handwork, keep all your things together for a project, ready to go.  Then, sit with your friends and do a little social sewing.

My 'modern' friend Marie is WONDERFUL at making bags!  She's so good with instructions, her construction techniques are impeccable.  AND she makes beautiful quilts!  She has made many, many bags.  I do love having bags, totebags, project bags etc., and have bought some and made some.

Some of the instructions I found challenging, had to read them a few times to figure out what they went.  My thought went "WHAT???", but then, gradually, it went into the brain.  Very helpful, Carol Friedlander has a page of extras, and these pictures helped me a lot.  I am definitely a visual person.  Especially confusing was the part where, after putting some intricate interior parts together, it said "now cut this unit in half".  WHAT???  You definitely want to be sure before you do that!

But it all worked out, I looked at pictures, read and re-read, and ended up with a nice bag.  I wish the top was a little tighter, corners tighter, but using bias binding does help, and you have to pull it a little, and that helps the bag have good shape.  I also put an extra piece of Annie's Soft and Stable in the bottom of the bag, even though it doesn't say to in the instructions.  It made sense to me.  MARKING your pieces is very, very important!  You use 1/2" seams, and you should mark these on all pieces.  All pieces!

I even made the little optional pincushion that fits perfectly into one of the sections, and filled it with crushed walnut shells (buy them at the pet store---cheaper!), and a little poly-fil.  I became very good at sewing a cube, but marking those lines are imperative.  Also, when joining sides to a top or bottom, do opposite sides first.  It makes it so much easier.  You'll see why when you try it.  You can make a pincushion whatever size you want using this method, and the square shape is very pleasing.
Also going on in the sewing room this week, is a couple of projects for my DAMQG Secret Sister.  Names were drawn at our September meeting.  Now we will gift & pamper our sisters til the big reveal at our Holiday Party in December.  I have some ideas, a little guidance from a short form we will fill out to draw names, and think she will really enjoy what I have in store for her!!  I can't show photos right now, but will after the reveal; right now it's TOP SECRET and HUSH-HUSH!   Shhhhh!  Don't tell her I am busy working on things for her......

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cutting Kits & Some Washing and Folding

If you like pictures, today is your lucky day!  There are lots!

Not a lot of sewing was accomplished this week, and last week I was in Grand Rapids for the AQS Show.  When I got back, I had some things to unpack, including putting my new Martelli Cutting mat to work on my cutting table.

Mostly I concentrated on organizing a bit this week and was reminded how fun it is to pet our fabric.  Touching, folding, looking at the colors and prints again is always fun.  One of the nice things of having it!!

I cut up two kits for future quilts this week.  One is to make another Greek Plus Puss Quilt, which I really liked.  This second one will be 20 blocks, 4 X 5, and end up approximately 48 X 60.  I plan to hang it on the wall in the living room, where I finally put up my Magnet-ficent Quilt Hangers.  The system uses easily removeable Command Strips by 3M and magnets.  I still used a rod pocket on the quilt, and the rods are 48" flat metal strips my husband & I found at Home Depot.  It will now be quick & easy to change out wall quilts!

Here's the quilt I hung:

The Greek Plus Puss kit, will be made from turquoise, bluesy-greens, greens and a bunch of those WONDERFUL text fabrics I have been accumulating.  Very very scrappy, which takes awhile to cut.  This quilt is going to be SOOO cute!  I really look forward to starting it, but not sure when that will be.  With it all cut & organized, in a bag, with the pattern, I can grab it for a sewing day out, or just a day at home, when I have the itch to PIECE, not machine quilt or make a backing or any of that kind of thing.  Sometimes a girl just HAS to piece & nothing else will do.  And I will be READY.  With my bag.  READY TO GO.

Next, after our floodwaters, we've been organizing things a little more in the basement.  Looking at some older civil war reproduction fabrics (relegated to the basement to make room for more colorful new fabric) from my darker times, I felt sorry for them.  They needed to be re-folded to fit nicely on the shelf.  Which is important to me.  First, I WASHED all the reds.  They will NOT run in future projects.  If they do, my color catcher will be ready for any last bit of dye to come out. 

As I was refolding, I pulled out the pieces that were less than a quarter yard, and put them in their own pile.  Destined to be cut up for the scrap box.  But as I touched them, reds and blues, I thought---I know!!  I'll make a patriotic quilt for Great Lakes Heritage Quilter's donated quilts pile.  We are making 3' X 4' this year, a great size, and they will go to people of all ages, some wheelchair bound.  I actually haven't made a "Patriot" or "Quilts of Valor" before.  It's high time!  So I decided to make hour-glass blocks that would finish at 6" using shirting and that pile of smaller cuts of blue traditional or civil war repros, and there will be ONE row of 6" wonky stars, in red & white.  Got those cut up, and they are also ready in a "to go" bag, my scribbled measures and block requirements included.  I wanted to see how the wonky stars would work out, and THERE---got in a little bit of machine time!

So now these cute stars and a few of the hour-glass blocks, are done, but everything else cut and ready to go.  I was reminded that although the civil war repros are beautiful, and you can make cute things from them, I am SO OVER IT.  But these stacks won't go to waste, and I will make some very cute quilts to give away.

After cutting out the quilt top, any left-over pieces that were less than 1/4 yard got cut into strips, 2 1/2" and 1 1/2".  Then, using a selvage or just cutting a skinny strip, they are tied together.  That way, when I want some 'patriotic' fabrics, I can go right to these little bundles.  They won't be falling all over in a mess, wrinkly, tangled pile in my box.

I've been teased sometimes for my 'organized ways' and 'neat stacks', but hey---that's me!  That's how I function best!  And most of the time, I can find what I want, when I want to.  Unless I put it into the dreaded 'safe place'..........

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Great Flood. Or as I fondly call it #floodpocalypse

My week started off great, with almost an entire day of sewing on a gray, then rainy, Monday.  I decided to work on some 'filler blocks' for my DAMQG "That DAM Quiltalong" quilt.  We've been making two blocks a month. The wonderful Marie has planned & guided our blocks, picking out 2 a month,  and then finding instructions or a tutorial online to guide us.  She even did a couple tutorials herself, compelte with beautiful photos!  She wanted a little time off over the summer, so in the spring, we had one larger block assignment and then instructions to work on 'fillers'.

The quilt will be a sampler, put together in an improv or modern way, maybe in the style of the Gypsy Wife quilt by Jen Kingwell of Amitie Textiles in Australia (although we are not using her pattern, will merely be inspired by the look).

So Monday I got to work.   These cute churn dash blocks will finish at 6"

These Economy blocks were paper-pieced, which was great, and we could pick from 4 different sizes---I made 4", but might have to go back and make some of the littlest ones, 2").  Frankly the 2" blocks scared me a little, but hey, that's what paper piecing is for!

Then came some of these super cute blocks called Cross Stitch Blocks, from Pile O'Fabrics Blog & tutorial.  I made 2 sizes, the 4" and the 2".  They were lots of fun!

The photos above don't show perspective really well, so here they are together--I now have FORTY filler blocks ready for my sampler quilt top!  It was a good day---nothing more fun than being in the studio, sewing.....listening to music, kitty visiting me a bit & hanging out. A good way to spend a rainy day!

I still have to do the other block we were 'assigned' in the spring and will get to it soon.  It's Wandering Foot and pretty big---15"??  The original pattern was even larger, but ours is sized down a bit.

BUT THEN.  Around noon.  The rain began.  It DIDN'T STOP.  In fact, by 5pm it started POURING.  The pouring DIDN'T STOP.  Husband barely got home at 7pm, the streets were starting to flood.  We ate a delicious white chicken enchilada dinner (The Pioneer Woman Cooks), with homemade guac, drinking some of Atwater Bewery's finest, Dirty Blond (hints of orange &  coriander) by candelight, snug at home.  But started feeling worried.  The water began to creep up over the curb, then over grass by the street.....then over the sidewalk....and creeping up towards the house, up the drive, over the grass!  I think it was 9pm or later by the time it stopped.

 Meanwhile, it began to come up the drains into the basement.  Throw down the enchilada fork, drop the beer, head downstairs and start moving boxes UP, setting up tables on which to set things.  For a little while, it stayed at one end.  But then covering the entire basement floor.  We had about 4" total (some of it 'dirty'--ugh).  Many in our area had far more than we did.  Helicopters flew over the area all week, as Gov. Snyder toured.  Freeways were closed in some parts for 2-3 days.  An I-75 overpass washed out.  Many cars & people stranded on the freeways or out whereever they were at the time.  TOTAL DISASTER.

Thank God, we personally lost nothing truly important.  Water heater, washer, dryer & furnace ok.  All my sewing things, safe upstairs in my studio, except my older Bernina 1090, but she was the first thing evacuated upstairs.  Our priorities are straight!!  Some sewing supplies (batting etc) downstairs, as well as yarn & fiber for spinning, but all in plastic boxes 5 feet off the ground.

That said, here is our trash pile of wet, sodden, smelly, stuff, after a couple days pulling stuff out of the basement.

The poor trash company employees have so much to pick up, as our county was hit very hard.  Odd thing is how one house got water, and the one next to it, little or nothing.

But that was the end of sewing for the week.  Instead, rubber gloves & disinfectant..  Out shopping trying to buy a shop vac (score!!), mops (just barely---you can't hardly find them now) and anti-mold treatments (Amazon Prime comes thru, but have to wait a few days for that).  Then, the search for plastic storage boxes and more shelving to get things up, off the floor.  A few stores have some of this left, most do not.  Again, Amazon Prime membership comes thru!!!  But have to wait a couple days for that.

Two more days maybe, of 'on hands and knees' on the floor, inch by inch.  Get things re-boxed, put away.  Then.  I SOLEMNLY swear.  I will begin to go thru the entire contents of my basement, and get rid of things, pretending we are getting ready to move into our stylish loft condo downtown somewhere.  It will have a LARGE WELL LIT studio for me........