Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Home again

Don't you just hate it when you spend a lot of time on a quilt then discover an error after it's finished and delivered? I just discovered a goof on my Shakespeare in the Park. I was all ready to post how happy I was that it's finished and delivered – and my parents like it – when I pulled up the picture I took and discovered a goof.

I put a dark star on a light background in the place where a light star on a purple background should have been. This is what happens when you are trying to lay out a queen-size quilt on a table that's not big enough.

Aggravating, but I didn't notice it until I looked at the picture. I wonder if I should tell my parents or just see if they notice it?

Oh, well, we had a nice visit and I am glad to be home now. I spent the afternoon yesterday puttering around my studio, putting new toys away, trying things out, and figuring out what I want to do to reorganize (can you reorganize if some of it was never organized to start with?) my studio, and playing with some fabric.

Now that Christmas is over I can also show the wall hanging I made for my sister. It was pieced with scraps left from SITP, echo quilted using several different threads, painted a bit with gold ink and then finished with rhinestones. I tried out Mistyfuse for the first time to apply the gold mesh over the letters, and was really impressed. I couldn't have applied that with any other fusible I have.

 It looks like today will be a catch up with work day, then back to the studio I hope. More later.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays

I had thought I'd make a fabric Christmas card to share with all my friends online, but time has run away with me. So here is a Christmas card I created from a photo I took on Tybee Island yesterday.

Wishing the best of holidays to all my friends.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mmm... cookies

I just finished making about a bazillion cookies and since this is my favorite chocolate chip cookie in the world, I thought I'd share the recipe. I found this in a newspaper many, many years ago.

$250 Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour
5 cups oatmeal, ground (see note)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
24 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 8-ounce chocolate bar, grated
3 cups chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla and mix with flour, oatmeal, sale, baking powder and baking soda. Add chips, grated chocolate and nuts. Roll into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 10 to 12 dozen cookies.
Note: To grind oatmeal, place in blender or food processor. Measure before grinding.

A couple of notes. Make sure you have a really big bowl for this! I put the dry ingredients into my monster bowl, and use my food processor to cream the butter, sugars and eggs, then add the sugar mix to the big bowl. Also, be sure to make the dough balls one-inch. That way you end up with the perfect crisp bottom and chewy center. I usually divide out about one-third of the dough before putting the nuts in, for the people in my family who don't eat nuts.

Now that the cookies are finished, it's back to the studio. More later.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Where does your fabric come from?

I had a good weekend sewing, but it was mostly Christmas related stuff, and someone might peek, so I'll post on that later. My other effort over the past few days has been to create a new work station in my studio for sketching/painting/glueing and other non-sewing activities. There's some progress there, and more to come, I hope.

One of the hot topics of conversation on most of my quilting lists has been the expected increase in price for cotton, for fabric, for batting and everything made with cotton. Some people plan to restock before the price goes up, some work from their stash. And on the QuiltArt list, the discussion turned to repurposing fabric.

It was nice to see that so many talented quilters and artists see the value in repurposing, as I've been a fabric scavenger for a long time.

I love fabric stores, don't get me wrong. Let me loose in Mary Jo's, or a quilt shop with a good sale, and watch out! But I'm not a fabric snob, I'll buy fabric anywhere if I like the fabric and it fits my purpose. WalMart, JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby, quilt shops, you name it.

And thinking about my stash, a lot of it comes from non-traditional sources. There's quite a bit I've found at thrift stores and estate sales, there's fabric I've bought from quilting friends, there's clothing that's been cut apart for fabric, there's fabric I've gotten from people on FreeCycle,  and there's even fabric scavenged from the side of the road!

One of my favorite estate sale finds came years ago. The lady had made the most amazing jackets and blouses, using Seminole patchwork style piecing and mostly polished cottons. She had almost every color imaginable. The woman had moved into assisted living of some sort and her daughter was handling the sale. The daughter sewed too, and we had a great conversation as I picked out stacks of fabric to bring home. The next day I went back for even more. My only regret was that I didn't buy one of the Pfaff sewing machines she had for sale. I was new at sewing machine collecting then and didn't know what a treasure they were.

Points in this star came from fabric in a wreath.
Thrift stores are great, of course, and when you work in the same building with a thrift store you get plenty of chances to find treasures. Once the ladies who ran our store knew that I sewed, they often let me know when fabric or supplies came in.

One of the best finds was a fabric wreath. It was a cutesy country wreath on a foam form, but the fabric was a really nice turquoise and pink print. They were going to toss the wreath, but gave it to me. I took it apart and got over a yard of fabric from it. A little bit of that fabric went into the Shakespeare in the Park quilt I'm working on.

Fabric from clothes is another great source. I don't remember if I had been reading Bonnie Hunter's discussions of using men's shirts as fabric (I don't think so) when I first noticed that there were some really pretty men's shirts coming in to the thrift store. I started by picking up one or two with really nice fabrics that I revamped as shirts for myself.

Then I started buying shirts just for fabric. The thrift store does an end of season sale each summer and winter and clears out the old season's clothing. I started cotton shirts, skirts, sundresses, anything that had nice fabric. And I started picking up some silks and blends that I could use for other sewing. By the time I left the job in that building, I had stacks of shirts, and spent most of last winter cutting them up as I watched television.

This treasure trove of decorator fabrics came from
someone on FreeCycle
Another treasure trove came through FreeCycle. A lady who has an upholstery and home decor shop listed that she had scraps. I ended up visiting her and bringing back several huge bags of scraps and yardage. Not quilting cotton, but I've used it for tote bags, table covers, re-covering cushions and all types of things.

Okay, I'll admit now to picking up fabric on the side of the road. In the town where I live there used to be a small plant that made uniforms. About 10 years ago the plant had closed down and they were clearing out the building and literally dumped stuff on the side of the road. Fabric, tables, chairs, all kinds of stuff. It had been sitting out a while by the time I discovered it, so who knows what treasures I missed. But I brought home several metal chairs and a couple of work tables (that I'm still using). And I dug through the piles of fabric – it had rained by then – and brought home piles of fabric. Most of it was synthetics or blends that had been used for pants, and some lighter blends for shirts. But I did find a big pile of prints, mostly in bold prints. I spent the next couple of days washing all the damp fabric and folding it up.

I've used that fabric for everything from shorts to laundry bags to pet beds and there's still plenty left. The prints are still waiting for an inspiration to use them in a quilt.

So, am I worried about cotton prices going up? Not really. I don't like it, because I always enjoy getting new fabric. But it won't keep me from my quilting. With the exception of batting, I could probably sew/quilt/create for the next five years without buying any materials. I hope I don't have to, though.

Time to change gears and run to the store to pick up baking supplies. This afternoon I'm baking cookies  for a Christmas party. Yum.

More later.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sending warm thoughts

Think warm!
Beach towels and flip-flops. A finished batch of cards.
It's miserably cold here (another night in the 'teens) but I know many of my friends have it much worse, with all the snow and ice. At least we can get outside to get our firewood!

So I'm sending warm thoughts! Here's a picture of Tybee Island beach July 4th weekend, and the beach theme postcards I've been working on. Think warm!

I started quilting Shakespeare in the Park Monday evening and am making pretty good progress. The quilt has 41 large blocks, plus the border blocks, so I've set a goal of seven to eight large blocks quilted each evening. That should get me though the body of the quilt by this weekend and I'll have all weekend to finish up. I've found that I can quilt for hours on small pieces without getting tired, but wrestling the large quilt does get to me after a while. When I start getting tired, my stitches get very irregular, so I have to pace myself.

Stay warm! More later.

A grove of palm cards in progress.

Quilitng in progress

Monday, December 13, 2010

A little of this, a little of that

I'm going to have to find some occasion to wear these!
You know you have too much stuff when you go into a closet you seldom use and find, not one, not two, but three pairs of gorgeous sequined pumps. One is multi-colored, one black and one pearl. Gorgeous! From the masking tape price tags on the boxes, it's clear that I bought them from the thrift store in the building where I used to work. I used to find the best treasures there, and when I was working away from home practically my entire wardrobe came from the store.

As a bonus, at the end of the season, they cleared everything out. That's when I collected dozens of men's cotton shirts, and other cotton items, for future quilts. I think I spent most of last winter disassembling about two year's worth.

Test block
Back to sewing. I finished pinning the SITP yesterday and quilted one of the leftovers as a test block. I like the spirals, but think maybe they should be larger, maybe with a large spiral ending up in the center four-patch. Any thoughts? suggestions? I do like the variegated blue I used for the test and will stick with it.

I didn't want to start the quilting last night, so got back to my fabric postcards for a while. Since my free-motion machine is set up for the quilt, I just used my Singer 500, and tried out some new ideas. I'd been having problems getting it to do some of the decorative stitches, but I discovered that it works fine with the cams, so I used some of them. The water in all three of these cards was done using cams. I also tried sewing with a double needle. One of the nice things about the 500 is that you can actually use two needles, you don't have to have a special twin needle. The sand in the foreground of the right postcard was done with a double needle, one with variegated thread, the other a tan color.  I'll have to do some more experimenting with that.

Finally, last night I was reading through some blogs and ran across a mention of Zentangling, or Zendoodling. I'd heard the term and seen a couple of examples, but didn't really know what it was, so I looked it up. I've been a doodler forever, so I had to try it out. This one doesn't exactly follow the rules, as it is all pencil and fills the box, but it's a kind of cool first try. I have the feeling it won't be the last.

Lots to do today, so more later.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pinning away

I made good progress pinning SITP yesterday, got the top and backing pressed ( a huge job in itself) and about two-thirds pinned. It turned out my queen-sized batting wasn't quite large enough, so today's first task will be whip-stitching some extra batting at the end to give me enough for the quilt. Then I can finish pinning and start quilting.

I like this picture of the pinned section. The pins sparkle from reflecting the flash.

While I was pressing, my Pepper cat came to help. He's indoor only now because he doesn't like other cats, except his "sister" Phantom (Squirrel). My two outside cats, Shadow and Pixel, have been staying in the spare bathroom at night, because of this weather, which annoys him totally. He's even more annoyed when he can see them outside. His grumblings when Shadow climbed up the window screen were great, too bad I didn't shoot video.

Back to pinning, more later.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

SITP top done!

Just a quick update. Last night I finished assembling the SITP top. I had just enough of the blocks I was worried about, and extras of some others. I had some wide backing fabric I've been saving for this quilt, and I dug it out of my storage room last night. Batting is about to go in the dryer for fluffing and I'll be ready to start the pinning process in just a few minutes.

I just have one big decision to make, what design should I use to quilt it? I'm thinking softly curving lines that will emphasis the movement in the design. I'll let you know what I decide!

More later.

Friday, December 10, 2010


To my Canadian friends, your misplaced weather is down here in South Georgia. Please send someone to collect it!

Wow, we were wearing shorts on Thanksgiving and two weeks later we have near record lows (21F Tuesday night, the record was 20) and more to come – and it's not even officially winter yet!

South Georgia is known for hot, humid summers and I try very hard not to complain about the heat, because I know I will complain about the cold. When you live in a 100-year-old house without central heat or air, you have a much closer relationship with the weather than if you can close up in a climate-controlled house.

Some things I've learned living in a series of old houses.

1. They are designed wonderfully to handle the heat.
2. It's pretty easy to cool a room or two to comfortable levels with a window a/c. It's much more difficult to warm a room, even with decent heaters, the cold just creeps back in.
3. Our predecessors were much tougher than I am, having lived in this house with only small fireplaces for heat.
4. Wood stoves, electric blankets and flannel sheets are wonderful!

Okay, gripe over, now back to art.

One of the things I forgot to mention during the whirlwind of our quilt show was the ribbons. After we decided on the name of the show, High Cotton Quilt Show, I designed a logo, which we used on all our materials. Some of the talented ladies of our guild took it a step further and digitized the logo, and embroidered it on all the ribbons for our show. Not only did they embroider about a zillion ribbons and put them together, they changed the colors for each color ribbon, so blue ribbons were primarily blue, second place primarily red, and so on. Since our benefit quilt was done in 30s repros, they used 30s repros for the outside and ribbon part, using commercial printed ribbons only for the section that identified the award. I have to say they are the most beautiful ribbons I've ever seen at a quilt show.

Last night I continued assembling the Shakespeare in the Park quilt and am nearly done. Around the outside it uses 6.5 inch star blocks, some light on dark and some dark on light. For my dark on light I did some with blue on cream and some with pink on cream. I'm afraid I may be a couple blocks short of blue on cream, so I may have to make a couple more to finish. With any luck I'll have the top done tonight and be able to start pinning first thing tomorrow.

Lately one of my cats, Squirrel (Phantom) has decided that the coffin-top of my Singer VS2 treadle is a great place to watch the world. I just missed catching her in profile, but thought she made a nice picture with my quilt from the Treadle On winter holiday block exchange over the chair in front of her.

More later.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A good day of creating

I had a great day in the studio Sunday. After being on the road all day Saturday (including yet another stop at JoAnn's) I decided I'd better settle down and get busy on my Shakespeare in the Park. With so much going on in November, I hadn't gotten back to it since finishing the blocks. The big issue with putting it together is that it is queen sized and my work table is a relatively small dining room table. I finally decided to put it together in sections, then I'll assemble the sections. There's just no way to assemble rows of an on-point quilt on that small table. I don't want to even think about pinning it for quilting.

Between Sunday and yesterday I have it about half assembled. I'm hoping to finish in the evenings this week and be ready to pin and start quilting Saturday.

In breaks from SITP, I worked on more postcards. I got a batch of beach towel design cards finished, except for the final edging, and started another batch of palm trees.

And I pulled out some of the zillion acrylic paints I bought last week and painted some fabric for backgrounds for another batch of cards. The paints are regular acrylic craft paints, which I mix with fabric medium. I bought some cheap plastic tablecloths on clearance after Halloween and use one of them to protect my work table from paint spills. This batch was pretty simple, just random colors to suggest a sky at sunrise.

No sewing today, since I'm going to our guild's Christmas party. More later.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Creative chaos

Space and time (and money), there's never quite enough and you always have to juggle them to allow for whatever is the priority at the moment.

Time has been a priority lately, as I have been traveling cross-state to be with my mom during some health issues. Yesterday we got some very good news on that subject, so I'm both happy and relieved. But back at home, I have to work, I need to do some work around the house and I want to do a little Christmas decorating. And I want to play in my studio!

I got into the studio last night to finish a batch of fabric postcards to deliver to our business today. I'm hoping I'll get a few holiday sales. The hardest part about making these postcards is deciding when they are finished. I can always think of something else to do. A little more stitching on this one, add some beads on that one, stamp on another one. Finally I just had to say, enough, and finish them up.

By the time I did, my cutting table looked like a notions store had exploded. I set up my studio for sewing, and it still works pretty well for that (though too crowded), but other stuff is a challenge. The only space I have to work is my cutting table. Last weekend I was drooling over the artist's work table Michael's (hobby and crafts) had on sale – drafting table style table with side storage and even a stool. But I have absolutely no place to put it right now. (If I ever get my dream studio there will be space.....)

But somehow, I "make it work" because I want to create! Here are a few finished postcards. More later.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The toys of our trade

Don't we all just love our supplies and materials – our toys? I can fondle stacks of fabric, sift through piles of beads and tally rolls of ribbons and feel as rich as King Midas in his counting room!

Somehow it seems that every time I get "enough" of one type of material, like fabric, I find two others that I "need." My sister and I have a Black Friday tradition of hitting the sales at Jo-Ann Fabrics and the other sewing and crafts stores where she lives (I have very limited options where I live, so I plan a splurge). Usually I buy way too much fabric.

But right now I have a ton of fabric and am leaning more toward art quilts and mixed media than traditional quilts. so I bought other stuff! I did stock up on batting since I'd used all my big pieces during my quilting binge before our quilt show. But other than that, I bought toys, fun stuff to play with. And stuff to store my stuff in.

My tally included lots of bling; a big bin of cheap beads, with lots of little ones that will be perfect on my postcards, a big bag of rhinestones, some tiny rhinestones, jewelry wire, glitter glue pens, a gold leaf pen, and metallic threads. Also a big box of scrapbooking paper, a zillion colors of acrylic craft paint (for postcards, not quilts, since I doubt it would wash). Also some jewelry tools, which will do double duty for fine work on my sewing machines, and an assortment of storage containers.

As I drove home yesterday I was already getting ideas on how to use some of the materials. After I got everything unpacked and into my studio, I couldn't wait to play with some of the stuff and try it out, and just had to glue a couple of rhinestones onto some postcards.

Hope everyone has fun playing today. More later!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vintage treasures

I haven't disappeared, just running back and forth spending time with family over the past couple of weeks. That means not much time on the sewing machine, but there has still been some fiber-related fun going on.

Working backward, yesterday a box arrived stuffed with vintage fabric scraps. Someone on one of my email lists had offered the scraps for sale a couple of weeks ago and I was thrilled to be able to get them since I have several vintage quilts that need some repairs.

The box was full  of the goodies shown, including a thick stack of approximately 6-inch pieces of feedsacks (on right), some larger and some smaller scraps, and some partially completed blocks, including several partial Dresden wreaths. I guess I'll have to think of something fun to do with them!

Moving backward, while I was visiting, I worked on some hand applique and did a little bit on some postcards. That included adding some beading and making some little crochet pieces of seaweed and coral, which I stitched to the postcards. I was inspired to do the crochet when I ran across this blog, which has some amazing crocheted pieces, including instructions for seaweed.

In one of those bits of serendipity, while I was visiting my sister and I went to an estate sale where I found a large needlework basket full of goodies. It's one of the old-fashioned folding fabric baskets on a wood frame that sits open on the floor, but you can grab the handles to carry it. I'm sure there's a name for this style but I don't know what it is. The basket had some yarn (nothing exciting), a bunch of balls of crochet thread (more exciting) and a case full of knitting needles – more than a dozen pairs (very exciting).

Here are some of the almost finished treasure chest postcards. The "treasure" was created using all kinds of glittery bits and wash-away stabilizer, then stitched to the postcard. The coral is the crochet pieces and beads and glitter glue was added to finish it off.

Time to get busy. Happy Thanksgiving! More later.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Little steps forward

Well, there haven't been any major projects started or finished in the last few days, but there has been progress forward on a number of things.

One of the major issues with my studio is lighting. I decided to start dealing with that by hanging a workshop style fluorescent light this week. I got a very simple one, that hangs from chains and takes two bulbs (daylight bulbs) and we got it hung – quite a job with a 10-foot ceiling! Even with the daylight bulbs, it's very blue light (or maybe it's the blue walls!) but I'm getting used to it. I may need another one on the other end of the room to balance it, though.

In other projects, I got the filler blocks and triangles cut for the edges of Shakespeare in the Park. That should give me everything I need to start laying out the top and assembling it. That's a good feeling. With all the yardage cut, I can return the rest of the fabric to my stash and get it out of the way. Looks like I'm ending up with lots of interesting bits and pieces to go into the scrap bins, too.

And I'm moving along with the fabric postcards. I had to clear the way to my Singer 500, which I haven't used in a while, to work on satin-stitching around some of the appliques. I got several done last night, so now I can move on to quilting and embellishments.

Not a bad week, but I have a busy weekend planned, so don't know how much sewing I'll get to do. More later.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who says grownups aren't allowed to play?

Sometimes you just need to play. And when you can play and end up doing something productive, it's even better. After all the deadline sewing I've been doing, I wasn't in the mood to continue work on SITP this weekend. I wanted to do something a little more spontaneous (play). And I need to rebuild my stock of fabric postcards for sale, so that's what I played with.

I've been on a palm tree kick, so that's what I mostly worked on. I do these free-hand, using fusible applique. So I spent a lot of time pressing! For these I prepped the backing (a stiff interfacing called Stiffy that I get from Long Creek Mills) with fusible, then fused on fabric covering the whole card for background (sky). Then I cut shapes for the water, beach, vegetation, and palm trees, from fabric that I've prepared with fusible.

The prepping fabric is the longest part (but not unpleasant on a cold day) but the cutting and arranging is pure play!

Next up will be a day on the sewing machine, anchoring the applique, thread sketching and enhancing the design with quilting, then embellishments and finishing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A bunch of quick HSTs

I promised I'd post directions for making 12 half square triangles (HSTs) at a time, so here it is. This method is based on one I saw somewhere else for making eight at a time. I liked that method, but not having to stop at each corner, then come back to the fabric, so I adapted it to 12, so I could do continuous lines of stitching.

To start, decide what size you want your HSTs to be. (Mine are 6.5 inches.) Add one inch. (that's 7.5). Double that for the short dimension of the rectangle (mine is 15) and triple it for the long dimension (mine is 22.5.

Cut two rectangles in this size, in the two fabrics for your HST. Lie the lighter fabric face down on your work table. With a fabric pencil, mark one short end at the halfway point (7.5 inches for me), and mark both the longer ends at that distance from the end you just marked. Draw lines from the first mid-point to the points on each side, then from those points to the opposite corner, as shown in the picture.

Starting in one corner, stitch 1/4 inch from the marking line on both sides of the lines. For the outside stitching, you can stitch off onto a scrap of fabric, pivot, then stitch right back on the next line.

After stitching both sides, cut vertically and horizontally first, then cut along the marked lines. Press the HSTs open, then use a square to trim to exact size.

Super quick HSTs, ready to go.

More later.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

From photo to fiber

I've done two pieces now based on a photo manipulation of an original photo I took a few years ago. I thought it might be fun to show the evolution from photo to quilts.

 The first photo is just as I took it, on Tybee Island, GA, a few years ago. I was struck by the leaning angle of the tree, and it's starkness against the sky. Behind it is a walkway crossing the dunes and leading to the beach.

The second is the photo after I'd played with it in Photoshop for a while. I don't remember now exactly what I did, but I know I selected the circle around the top of the palm, then did all the manipulation to the inverse (everything else). Later I added lens flare, which looks like reflections and created the impression the top of the tree was in a bubble.

Palm Bubbles was the first effort to turn this into a quilt. I liked the other-worldly effect of the colors (which are a little off in this picture), but the bubble is too dark and there's not enough contrast to see the stitching for the palm leaves.
Next came Painted Palm (color is a little off here, too). For this one, I used fusible applique to create the palm leaves, then stitched over them.  I used threadwork, enhanced with watercolor pencil, to create the image of the circle. Without the highlights, it's not as suggestive of a bubble.

In both of these, I like the color and the stitching, but the bubble or circle really isn't a strong element. I'm thinking there will be another incarnation, this time dropping the idea of the bubble, and concentrating on the alien landscape effect through colors and stitching.

Any thoughts?

More later.

Palm Bubbles
Painted Palm

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Random thoughts before the sun comes up

What is it with cats? For the last few mornings, Mr. Stomp-O-Matic (usually known as Pepper) has been going nuts early in the morning, wanting to look out the windows in the bedroom. There's something very unsettling about suddenly awakening to the pop and swish of a cat pushing behind a window shade. For a moment you don't know what it is, then you cringe in fear of the shade falling down (it has) or the cat knocking something off the dresser (he has). This morning, just opening the shades wasn't enough, Pepper wanted me awake and breakfast in his bowl, so here I am.

Don't you just love it when you unexpectedly find something that you had given up looking for? I dump all my too-small-to-use bits of fabric and thread into a big shopping bag, which sits on the floor of my studio. Last night I was looking for selvages for a project, and ended up dumping the bag on my cutting table. There in the bottom, I found the ergonomic seam ripper I bought over a year ago! I had used it for a while, liked it, then it disappeared, along with most of my other seam rippers. This summer, on our annual trip to Mary Jo's in Gastonia, NC, I bought a couple more seam rippers (not ergonomic) and since then the others have reappeared. I think this makes the full collection.

Then later, I found several of my self-threading needles that had disappeared. I had been down to one, and had just gotten my sister to bring me more (no place around here to buy them). Sadly, my close vision doesn't handle threading hand-sewing needles very well any more, I'm lucky to be able to thread machine needles!

I've been enjoying the basted applique, so decided to start a project that I can keep ready as hand-work. I decided to do a Baltimore album style block, but with sea and beach themes. I designed the first block Monday night, and have enough background fabric for two more blocks, which will limit the size of this quilt.

As if I didn't spend enough time on the computer, I've been reading more and more blogs. Last night I joined the Artful Quilters Web Ring (icon in sidebar) and have been looking through many of the blogs. So much creativity! I really appreciate it when people explain a little about their techniques, or the materials they use for a project.

Time to get moving, more later.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The blocks are finished!

What a gorgeous morning! It's kind of a Goldilocks day. We had some days that were too cool for this time of year, then some days that were too warm. Today it's just right.

I'm in a good mood because last night I finished the blocks for the Shakespeare in the Park! I started this last year, with a spin-off group from the Stashbusters list,. and made pretty good progress for a while. But then I had Christmas gifts to make, and cold weather kept me out of the studio and so on, until it had been almost a year since I worked on it. But once our quilt show was finished, I decided to make it my first priority and get moving.

I was pleasantly surprised when I went through the box. I had finished all the small stars, and the Snail's Trail blocks and all I still needed was 18 large star in star blocks. To be on the safe side, I made 20, half light on dark and half dark on light.

I'll still need to cut the filler and setting pieces, but I'm looking forward to figuring out the layout. That's always one of the more fun parts for me.

Another thing I'm looking forward to? Getting the rest of this fabric back into my stash! For the past year, whenever I've needed a blue or purple, I've found my best fabrics were set aside for SITP. I'm looking forward to emptying the bins, putting yardage back into my stash and putting all the assorted cut pieces into the appropriate scrap bins. I know my 2-inch squares and triangles bins will get a nice infusion.

Here are the blocks. More later.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A reversal of fortunes

Have you ever.... carefully listed all the size pieces you need for a set of blocks, figured out which pieces need to be light, which dark, how many you need of each, got them all cut and then....

Realized you reversed the values and cut lights where you needed darks and darks where you needed lights?

Yep, did it. After finishing one set of star in star blocks (the light star on dark background) for Shakespeare in the Park, I figured out what I needed for the last set of blocks, the dark star on light background. I got everything cut for the inner star, then the outer star, then realized.... I had reversed the values for the outer star.

The worrisome thing is that I'm running low on the cream I'm using for the background, but the good thing is that the 40 cream squares I cut at 4 3/8 inches can be cut down to 3.5 inches, so I should be okay.

While I was cutting I noticed my rotary cutter was dragging a little. I replaced the blade and what a difference. I have to remember to replace/sharpen the blades more often.

At least it will be easier to recut the rest of the pieces today.

A couple of nights ago I got back to the thread work on the sample piece and added another couple of colors. I used some polyester machine embroidery thread with a nice sheen and it's really added to the depth of the piece. Instead of filling the open space with a tight filler, like I did on the first sample, I just added some small spirals and that fills it pretty nicely.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fun comes in all sizes

The great thing about working on small projects is that you can see the progress so fast. That's especially nice when you use them as a break from larger projects – like the queen-size Shakespeare in the Park I'm working on.

Last night I trimmed up the rest of the Flying Geese and sewed a couple of sections together for my large star blocks. With a little luck tonight I can finish sewing together the large light on dark stars, and be ready to move on to the last batch of stars. This is going a lot smoother than I expected. For some reason I thought I had a lot more to do on this quilt.

More fun with the little stuff. I had decided my little lighthouses were too big to be inchies, so I made them two-inch squares instead – twosies? They are coming along pretty well, last night I added some thread scraps to make vegetation around them, and did some quilting on the background and added metallic thread for the light area. I think some more quilting and then some embellishments and they'll be done.

I promised a picture of the basted applique. This is the palm tree I'm working on, with one of the leaves basted on. It seems so much easier to me to turn under the edges a bit at a time along the basting lines. I know I'm getting smoother curves than I did when I tried to iron around freezer paper.

And I'm really having fun with this thread work. This started as a sample piece, quilted in the dark pink. Then I added pale yellow. Last night I added a pale blue machine embroidery thread with a nice sheen. I haven't decided what's next, but I'm thinking sparkles....

 More later.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kitties and quilts

My Pepper cat is my quilting buddy, keeping me company in the studio and testing quilts for comfort as soon as I have two pieces sewn together. His best friend Phantom (aka Squirrel) only shows up if it's quiet and there's a nice sunbeam to nap in. She's the original scaredy-cat.

Yesterday I was putting some things away in the office and emptied a little box, which I dropped on the floor to collect for recycling. Within five minutes, Pepper had taken up residence – a 20 pound cat in a 10 pound box. He occupied the box on and off for the rest of the day. This morning I walked into the living room and Squirrel had claimed the box. It's a much better fit for her.

Another good evening in the studio last night. I got three of the large star blocks done for Shakespeare In the Park (SITP). My Flying Geese are turning out much better, though slightly oversized, this time. I'm doing a four at a time method explained on Connecting Threads site. They have a lot of nice tutorials on their site, as well as some cute free patterns.

I decided to revamp the rest of the little lighthouse figures I'd started a few days ago. They are a little too big for inchies, so I'm making them two inches square and will make brooches out of them. I'm starting to think in terms of inventory for sales on Tybee Island next year. I added a bit of fabric and fused them to the backing last night, should have something worth showing after tonight.

I'm still working on the hand applique, just one palm leaf to go. I started this to try out the basting method of needle turn applique. With this, you trace the entire design on the back of the background fabric. Then you roughly cut pieces of fabric for each applique piece, leaving lots of extra. One at a time, baste a piece, using a large needle and heavy thread. Then trim up around the shape. Then you cut a couple of stitches of the basting, tuck under the edges and start your applique. You take out a few stitches at a time and fold along the line created where the basting came out. It really does work, and I'm getting smoother lines than with freezer paper, etc.

There's a nice tutorial on it on the Tropical Applique blog.

I'm still experimenting with the multi-colored quilting/threadwork. One of the sample pieces I did at the quilt show was black, which I quilted with bright pink. It didn't show up as well as I'd hoped for the demo, but it is pretty. Last night I went back and added echo quilting with a pale yellow thread. Now it's starting to pop. Here's the start, there will be more to come.

More later!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some more thread work

I had so much fun with the threadwork I did on the sample piece that I decided to try a new project from the beginning. So yesterday I alternated working on my SITP blocks and working on a small floral applique piece with lots of threadwork.

I started with a simple background, then ironed fusible to some fabric. I freehand cut petals, leaves and stems for flowers, then fused them into place. Then I stitched the edges of the applique, using my Singer 115 handcrank sewing machine. I have this one set into a cabinet and it's my favorite for doing very precise stitching.

Then I layered it and started stitching, using different colors for different areas, but with at least three colors of stitching throughout. Then I did small curled stipples between all the motifs.

After it was finished, I used a light stroke of paint stick on the petals and leaves, then used a cotton swab to blur out the paint.

Final result, it's pretty, but not nearly as striking as the previous piece. The light colors get lost on the light background and the dark ones look kind of harsh. I also lost track on the spirals and they are kind of messy looking. And since I matched the paint color to the main colors of the petals and leaves it obscures the details in them. A contrasting color (or no paint) would have been better.

I haven't decided whether this one is done as is, or if I want to do a little more, maybe some watercolor pencils, or some beading to embellish the flowers. This won't be my last try with this technique.

In other efforts, I finished the inner stars for the cream on dark stars for SITP. Today I'll start a bunch of Flying Geese for the outer parts of the blocks. I hope I can get them a little more precise than the recent ones.

Lots to do today. More later.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sewing ADD?

I hate cold feet! What does this have to do with sewing? Last year I made sets of heatable corn bags for everyone in the family for Christmas. They're just like the rice bags except I fill them with feed corn from the farm supply store. I made a couple of sizes, a longer, narrower one that could drape around a neck, and a medium sized wide one perfect for warming the feet. The last couple of evenings have been pleasant, except that my feet got cold, and I cannot sleep with cold feet. So last night I pulled out one of the warmer bags, heated it in the microwave two minutes and tucked it at the bottom of my bed. Instant comfort and I was asleep in no time.

center of large stars for SITP
I had a very productive evening in the studio last night. I've been thinking about improvements and last night pulled out a swing-arm lamp with magnifier that I'd planned to use on my workbench. I set it up next to the machine I use all the time for piecing. Great!

I finally pulled out my Shakespeare in the Park (from Judy Martin's Creative Pattern Book) and figured out what I have and what I need to do to finish it. I'm doing it in scrappy blue, purple and pink, with a single cream background throughout.

This is such a gorgeous pattern, and I love the sense of motion. But it's not the easiest to put together, so I'm afraid I have some flying geese with their points cut off. But once it's put together, I don't think that will be noticeable. And, quite honestly, if I tried to go back and remake all those units, this quilt would never get done. Even if I had enough of the background fabric to redo it, which I don't.

So, I have all the Snail's Trail blocks done, and all the small star blocks, so just need 16 large star blocks (and all the assorted setting pieces).  Eight of the blocks are cream stars on dark, and I got five of the centers of those blocks done last night, with components for the rest of the eight centers ready to go. My new goal is to finish the eight light on dark blocks this weekend, then next weekend move on to the dark on light.

I played some, too (that's why it's sewing ADD), trying out some echo quilting and fills. A while back I wrote about seeing "hyper-quilting" on Patsy Thompson's site. While I was demonstrating at the quilt show, I did some simple free-motion in light thread on dark fabric. It came out pretty, so I decided to play with it. I cut off a small section and echo quilted the light with a bright pink. Then I came back and echoed again with spring green and did a filler stitch between the flowers, feathers, etc. Then, as a finishing touch, I brushed just a bit of color in with my new Shiva paint sticks. I think it's kind of gorgeous! Now I wish I hadn't cut the piece off, I could have done the whole piece this way and had something pretty impressive.

original quilting on back, with echo quilting and paint, front

Finally, I'm working on a little hand applique. In one of the magazines I picked up, they explained an applique technique where you baste the pieces on, using small stitches and heavy thread, then cut the stitches out and fold under along the stitching line. I wanted to see if I liked this technique better than the folding/gluing/pressing/paper template I've tried before – and I do! I'm getting much smoother curves and sharper points. I'll post more on this later.

Looking forward to a beautiful weekend. We need to get outside and do some work on the house (the joys of having a 100-year-old house) and I need to work on some of my organizing/decluttering projects, but I'm mostly looking forward to getting back into the studio.

So, time to get busy. More later!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Too much fun!

These little things could be addictive! I got back in the studio again last night and played with my inchies. I finished the first pair by trimming the excess pieced fabric, then fusing on a small randomly cut piece of fabric to break up the lines. Then I sewed on a few beads in coordinating colors.

I fused on a solid piece of fabric (black, for these) on the back, then hand-sewed on some fuzzy yard to trim the edges. I decided to make these into earrings, so I then sewed on some jump rings and attached the earring wires.

For the second batch, I went a little more detailed in the piecing. I sewed together strips of dark green, white and dark green to suggest the lines of a lighthouse, then cut the shapes from the strips. Then sewed on pieces for "sky" at the sides and grass at the bottom. Then I fused them to the backings, did a little free-motion quilting on the sky and grass, then trimmed off the excess. Then I sewed on some beads. Only problem here was I quilted off the edges, so when I trimmed I got loose threads. I haven't decided how I will finish these.

It's funny that sometimes I don't feel creative, other times I want to be creative but don't know what to work on. Then there are the times when I have so many things I want to do that I need eight arms – or a couple of clones. In breaks from inchies, I worked on plans for a star quilt I've been planning in my head for several years. And I'm thinking about improving the lighting and doing some organizing in my studio. And thinking about getting back to work on the Shakespeare in the Park I started last year. And getting ideas for an applique quilt. And more ideas for inchies. And...

I just hope this creative energy lasts long enough for me to get some of these things done!

More later.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A little creativity

After my quilting marathon for our show, I should be burnt out, but actually I'm eager to get back into the studio, just on a different scale. Instead of large quilts on a deadline, I'm in the mood for small items that I can play with.

Two inchies in progress, left, bases, center, and goofs, right
So, I'm going from a queen size quilt to .... inchies! I've been doing fabric postcards for a while, and have been intrigued by the question of what can you do with a one-inch work. I thought this would be a good time to find out.

So last night I pulled out a bin full of fun fabrics, and a drawer full of fiber stuff, and cut up some stiff interfacing into one-inch squares. My first effort was sewing two sets of four strips, then cutting them diagonally and swapping pieces, then sewing back together. But, oops! I didn't allow enough length for the seam and they were too small. Back into the bin to use for something else.

Fiber stuff to play with
Next was a simpler try, with three strips, made larger than my one-inch base. I fused them onto the bases on a diagonal, then pulled out some bits of fibers. For this one, I used threads I pulled from the edge of a scrap of pink lamé, and some threads that shredded off a new fat quarter when I washed it. I carefully laid the threads across the fabric base, then covered with a small piece of wash-away stabilizer. I quilted that down, using a metallic thread, then rinsed away the stabilizer.

I haven't decided what I will do next, some combination of embellishments, then put on a backing, and trim around the edges.

I can see why these little things can become addictive!
Fabric scraps to play with

More later.