Greetings from Harveyswamp, Texas

Harvey needs to leave. It’s almost 7:30 p.m. and it has

Not.    Stopped.    Raining.    All.    Day.

Fortunately, we are still dry, although last night I was uneasy about the water lapping at the top of our curb. It has since receded, but the anxiety returned with news that the Army Corps. of Engineers was planning to release water from the Addicks and Barker Cypress reservoirs. This excess flows into Buffalo Bayou, (already reported to be overflowing) which runs behind our neighborhood. It’s so close, you can walk to it from our house.

It’s so saturated outside, inside our house, both downstairs toilets and the drains in the kitchen and laundry room are gurgling.

Over the weekend, residents in our subdivision have been out periodically to clear the gutters of debris so that our streets continue to drain, and earlier today, a call went out for help clearing this tree that had fallen into the street last night.

A neighbor and his teenage son showed up with a chain saw which worked for about five minutes before quitting. John and I donned beach shoes and rain gear to see if we could help and John ended up fetching his handsaw from the garage. By then a couple other neighbors joined us with a second handsaw and rake and within about 30 minutes most of the tree was out of the street.

With no working chain saw to cut the remaining trunk into sections, the guys tried to rotate it, but that that didn’t work because the roots were still holding firm.

In most places the water was at mid-calf level, which is nothing compared to other parts of the city, so we can’t complain.

On the quilting side of life, since returning to work in May, I have not sewn or quilted much. I did complete a charity quilt for my guild, which is not at all attractive—or square, which is one reason I stay away from panels. I didn’t realize there was a panel in this kit, otherwise, I would have picked up another kit; but it’s done and hopefully, a kid somewhere will enjoy it:

Thanks for stopping by!

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Small adjustment = life changing results

Over the Fourth of July holiday, John and I had a four-day weekend. The better part of one of those days was spent on a medical insurance appeal. I composed several letters, printed forms, scanned documents and made copies for everyone under the sun who was in a position of “need to know.”

That’s when I realized my office space needed adjusting. When we first set it up after we moved, I’m not sure why, but I had positioned the chair, keyboard and mouse to the right of the center support for the desk (where the trash can is in the photo). In doing so, when I needed to use the work table (forming the L in the photo) the chair would run off the floor mat into the carpet. Turning the floor mat the other direction didn’t help, so I was stuck for a solution.

I am lucky to be married to an engineer because there isn’t much he can’t figure out. He agreed that a bigger mat was needed but also suggested I switch sides and work to the left of the desk’s center. Having the mouse to the left opens up space on the right for papers and writing, which is logical for a right handed person like me.

John found a large enough mat that allows for the chair to roll under both the desk and the work table without falling into the carpet. Also, we were able to re-purpose the other mat so we didn’t lose anything there. In the end, I was amazed how much easier it was to work in the space just by switching sides.

If you’re curious about the left handed mouse thing…Many years ago, John and I converted to using a mouse with our left hands to save wear and tear on our right hands. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s perfectly doable.

If only our medical insurance claim effort was that easy.

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A visitor and some cross stitch minis

My brother visited earlier this month and we had a good time hanging out. He brought the cross stitch designs I stitched for my mom back in the mid-90s. They’re done in her colors and she displayed them in her dining room. After she died, my dad said he didn’t mind if I had them.

Now I need to make two decisions: where to hang them in my house and whether or not to replace the pink matboards. Although I like pink, I think those two look dated. Anyway, here they are:

The designs are from the Just*Nan Ornamental Treasures collection and include

Nosegay

Snowberries

Rosebuds

Victorian Floral

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Shadow boxes

No quilting in my world since I was called back to work May 1. Our startup company lost funding last September and my job wound down in October. It was pretty depressing, but the team found a new funder and, this time, we have a real, honest-to-goodness project, so we are back in business and going 100 miles an hour every day. Moving from no job to a full time job was rough, but I’m adjusting and glad to be at the office doing whatever I can to help out.

I thought I would show you my sewing-themed shadow boxes, now that they’re all done. Back in January of 2014, on a trip to Houston, I took a bunch of my grandmothers’ and mother’s old sewing related items to a framing shop there to be made into shadow boxes. Three years later, we ended up with three unique boxes.

This one we named the Baby Box (27½” x 21½”) because it features magazine pages about how to make baby clothes. These likely belonged to my paternal grandmother, and if they were made for my dad and/or uncle, these pages would date prior to 1930.

Mom and Grandma used a lot of bias tape, piping and other trims for their sewing projects, mostly clothing, and some of the more unique ones with their unusual labels and ultra-cheap prices looked good here.

I wish I knew which of my grandmas had had all the crochet hooks. Only a couple of them might have belonged to my mom because I only remember her crocheting one thing in her life: an afghan for my college dorm room.

Most of the crochet hooks I found among her and my grandmother’s sewing things had teeny tiny hooks, likely not suitable for the thicker yarn Mom used for my afghan.

We picked a different frame for each of the three boxes as well as a different lining color. Here is the frame for the Baby Box:

Here is the Notions Box (21½” x 35″).

It’s a bit chaotic, but that’s often how our sewing rooms look, so it seemed appropriate.

This box had to be built up to make room for the box of pins and the wrist pin holder you see on the middle-right side, which belonged to my paternal grandmother.

My grandma could have been a tailor. Her sewing and fitting skills were impeccable. She used a dress form when she sewed her clothes; in fact, my dad remembers helping her make it. She handed him a roll of brown tape one afternoon and told him to cover her with it! When he finished, he and my grandpa (who was very supportive of her sewing endeavors) cut it and got it off of her. She mounted it on a stand that either she had made or my grandpa had made. Both my grandparents were very clever at fashioning things they needed for around the house, rather than buying everything.

Here is the Notions Box frame:

The last one is the Embroidery Box (41¾” x 25¾”).

In addition to the embroidered pieces, it also contains most of the crochet hooks I mentioned earlier, some darning tools and some upholstery needles like the wicked looking one to the left of the crochet hooks.

The envelope in the upper left corner contained a mail order pattern for my grandma and dates from 1937 to 1947, when she and her family lived at that address (removed for privacy).

After learning that postage in that decade was between 3 and 5 cents, I asked my dad about the 1 cent stamp.

He thought that commercial mailings at the time may have qualified for a reduced rate, similar to the discount second class (periodicals) get today.

I love and appreciate all the knots in this embroidered piece, which was a tablecloth for a card table (Grandma played bridge).

Here’s the frame:

Many sewing supplies remain, particularly thread and buttons.

I filled an old Ball jar from John’s grandmother with a bunch of the spools, and it sits on a shelf in my sewing room.

As for how to showcase all the old buttons, I’m still thinking

It was fun creating keepsakes that highlight two generations of my family’s sewing history. It’s also comforting to know that those little notions, buttons, thread and patterns won’t be lost forever and now can be enjoyed every day.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Triple finish

Done, done and DONE! Finally, I finished two UFOs and all eight Santa place mats. I hadn’t done any machine quilting since before we moved in 2014, so I chose smaller projects to ease myself back into the groove.

I admit, shame was the motivating factor for crossing the finish line, particularly since each of these projects was started around the turn of the century. First is the 42″ x 42″ Fences ‘n Firs wall hanging.

Designed by Susan Preglow and Cathy Slatterly, the pattern for this was featured in the January 2000 issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts.

I loved the scrappy nature of the design, but as a newbie quilter back then, I had no stash and no scraps, so I used fat quarters and standard, quarter-yard cuts to piece the top. Now, 17 years later, I can’t imagine my quilting life with no stash, although I could definitely embrace the no-scraps aspect of it!

Quilting this little project was an exercise in one step forward, two steps back. Besides not knowing for the longest time how to quilt the tree blocks, once I did figure it out, I ended up re-quilting all 12 of them because I hated the way they looked. The nylon thread I had used just didn’t look right, so I ended up using matching thread. Tension issues led me to quilt nearly half of them yet a third time.

On top of that, I’m hoping the stain in one of the rail fence blocks hasn’t permanently set in.

I’m not exactly sure how it got there; it’s possibly an acid stain from the packing paper the quilts were wrapped and stored in while we moved and built our house. More likely, it was caused by a Texas cockroach (no amount of pest control keeps them ALL away). Disgusting, I know.

The backing is pieced with leftovers from the top:

I used a simple cable design for the border:

Here’s a look at the free motion machine quilting of a tree from the back:

and a maple leaf:

The vertical lines running through the leaf are the ditch quilting lines inside the rail fence blocks.

My machine quilting is definitely improving, but I still find it intimidating.

My second finish is this simple, 46″ x 54″ quilt:

There must’ve been a perfectly good OCD reason for the last square in the bottom row to be red instead of blue, but so much time has passed, I don’t remember what it was.

The squares are quilted with diagonal lines spaced two inches apart and the sashing strips and border are quilted with a single cable design.

It’s made with Aunt Grace Christmas prints, which were available between 1996 and 2001.

Check out these vintage cuties:

Here is the backing fabric:

The only two places I could have bought these prints is Houston or a little shop in Estes Park, Colorado. The striped fabric used for the binding was purchased at the Houston Quilt Festival in the early 2000s.

Completing the binding for all eight Santa place mats is the third and final finish. Here they are with their matching table runner:

Although the curved edges in this project required it, I discovered that I’m not fond of working with bias binding!

It feels good to say “done,” but there’s still a lot on the list, so I’d best keep on keepin’ on.

Thanks for checking in!

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Filed under binding, borders, Christmas, fabric, machine quilting, quilting, scrappy backs, thread

A little learnin’

I finished quilting maple leaves in all 24 rail fence blocks of my wall hanging—yay!

And more good news…after a whole lot of dinking around in Electric Quilt, I finally figured out how to quilt the tree blocks for this project.

Cool, yes? Actually, it’s a huge relief because I didn’t think I would ever finish this little project for lack of a quilting plan and a years’ long mental block in coming up with one. What in the world was so hard about it? I still don’t know.

At one point, I quilted continuous curves in the background triangles and rectangles of four of the blocks, but ended up ripping it all out.

While I was satisfied with the technical quality of the stitches, I just didn’t like the way it looked. Seriously, this quilt was going to have to be re-named from something romantic like Trails Among the Pines to Arrested Development if I couldn’t get it together.

Now, with this major hurdle cleared, crossing the finish line is a reality. Getting there sure wasn’t easy, but I learned some things about editing quilt motifs in EQ, so it was worth it.

I started by importing this stencil design from the block library into the sketchbook for my project.

Once in the sketchbook, you can highlight the stencil design and click on the edit button to put it on the worktable.

Once it’s on the worktable, you can find out to what extent the motif is editable.

Click on the Pick tool and click around inside the design to understand how the motif has been sectioned; some stencils in the library contain one section, limiting your ability to edit them.

The motif I chose had four sections and I eliminated three of them by clicking on each section with the Pick tool to highlight it and then pressing the Delete key.

With one section of the motif left on the worktable, now I could start editing it.

First, I moved the motif to the center of the block.

Then I rotated it 45 degrees to orient it to an upright position.

Electric Quilt also lets you flip vertically and horizontally, but in this instance, neither was necessary.

Once the motif looks the way you want it to, save it to the sketchbook, then you can return to your quilt layout and place the edited motif inside.

One thing that helped, once I caught on, was to reduce the block size for the motif before saving it to the sketchbook so it would be easier to size once inside the layout.

The original block size of the stencil motif was 14 inches—notice how much empty space there is around the one section that was retained and centered.

My blocks are only six inches square, so I reduced the stencil motif block to three inches square. This made it much easier to drag it around within the layout, work around other motifs under consideration and size it within the block.

Now I’d better get back to it. Thanks for stopping by!

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Filed under Electric Quilt, machine quilting

Turn of the century projects

The 21st century, that is….

I’ve been busy dividing my time between several fairly old projects, ones that I started back in the late 1990s/early 2000s when I was brand new to quilting. The guilt about having so many UFOs in the closet, combined with the realization that I have fewer days ahead of me than behind, has spurred me into action.

First, though, here’s the sweater quilt, although it probably doesn’t fit the legal definition of a quilt since there is no batting—just a top and a flannel back.

I’m hand stitching the two layers together and it’s now more than two-thirds finished. My poor little paper pounce pattern is looking so abused, I hope it holds out so I don’t have to make another one.

Because the two layers are so bulky, my hands can only push the needle in and out for so long before they need a rest. I’m averaging about four rows a week, factoring in both hand fatigue and the monotonous nature of a running stitch.

I’m fortunate enough to have a sewing space where I can leave the sweater quilt draped on the cutting table, so it’s ready to work on whenever I am. Sometimes I’ll add a few stitches if I’m just walking by on my way to doing something else. Those little bits of stitching are adding up to a whole lot!

In February, I pulled out an unfinished Aunt Grace Christmas top I had made around the turn of the century—gosh, it feels weird to say that! I don’t remember the exact year, but Eric, now 23, must’ve been around six or seven at the time. I quilted it, made the binding and stitched it to the quilt. I still have to hand sew the binding to the back, but it’s almost done—yay!

Matching those tiny stripes took an entire evening, but I would have lost sleep had they not been.

Continuing with a variety of tasks to avoid boredom, I also decided to quilt a fall themed wall hanging I had made, again, around the turn of the century. To avoid cutting into a bed-sized batt for a twinky little 32 x 32 piece, I spliced together three batting scraps the old fashioned way, with curved piecing and a herringbone stitch.

It was a pain, but supposedly, the curves help to better disguise the splicing as opposed to the break line or ridge that could appear if done with a single, straight cut.

Lately, I’ve been machine quilting a single maple leaf motif to the rail fence blocks in a medium sized wall hanging begun in the early 2000s.

Here’s the layout:

The amount of quilting I’ve planned for this one seems disproportionate to its size, but I’m not sure where I would eliminate any, so I push on.

The border is all sized and ready to go, but I cannot figure out how to quilt the tree blocks, despite having more than a decade to figure it out. In the meantime, I’m open to suggestions.

That’s all for now. I’d better get back to it.

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Filed under batting, quilting, sweater quilt

Resolutions? Yeah, well, maybe…

Last month, in typical New Year’s resolution fashion, I plugged all my quilty UFOs into an embarrassingly lengthy Excel spreadsheet to get a

visual

reality check

WAKEUP CALL……….about the true number of tops languishing in the closet that need finishing—after which I dove deep into piecing my batik zig zag nine patch top.

zig-zag-9-patch

One project I dug up while compiling the spreadsheet was a Santa table runner and set of eight matching placemats which I had started when the boys were little (around the turn of the century) and stashed away under the bed with a serious promise to myself that I would finish them onedaysoon—ha!

santa-placemats1

Life intervened and those poor, cute little santas snoozed under the bed until last Thanksgiving when, for about two minutes I deluded myself into thinking that I might be able to finish binding the placemats in time for our company Christmas party—ha! The table runner was completely finished and all the placemats had binding sewn on, needing only hand stitching to secure it to the back, but with eight of them, there was just no way.

santa-placemats2

The plan is to stitch one per month to avoid boredom, but still finish the set in time for Christmas 2017. Now that’s realistic.

Thanks for checking in!

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A retail phone conversation

Me:      Hi. Do you carry batiks?

Clerk:  Yes.

Me:      Great. I purchased a batik in another state and need more. It’s a tone-on-tone with a small floral print in a very light gray-green color on an antique white background. Do you have anything that might even remotely match that description?

Clerk:  We might (silence).

Me:      Is there any way you can check?

Clerk:  Not unless I have the name of the manufacturer or the item number.

And…this is why people shop online.

When a call like that came into the shop where I used to work, we would always go to the appropriate section of the shop to at least do a visual check for that customer. Not sure why the person I spoke with couldn’t be bothered to do the same, but no matter, I took my business elsewhere.

Here’s the batik I was looking for:

batik

I bought two yards of it last October when we went to Colorado for my niece’s wedding. It’s perfect for the neutral squares that go with these scrappy 9-patch blocks.

9-patch-batiks

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Plaid stars

I’ve been working on these 5-pointed star blocks done in homespun plaids:

plaid-stars

The block is composed of 11 pieces, all with at least two bias edges, and is the polar opposite of instant gratification, requiring templates, tracing, cutting, marking, pinning and sewing, one patch at a time. This block is for quilters who enjoy the process and are not in a hurry. Because it’s so labor intensive, it creates fast burn out, so I work on it off and on when I’m in the mood. With 14 blocks completed, I’m a little more than a third of the way through and ready to set it aside and work on something else for  a while.

star-block

The quilt containing this block was featured in Rodale Press’ book Fast, Fun & Fabulous Quilts, with credit going to Judith Hughes Marte for the design. It was love at first sight.

book

Since my first view of the quilt pattern about 15 years ago, I have collected a nice assortment of homespun plaids and stripes, buying only a quarter yard of each; half a yard if I absolutely love it.

This project is the perfect reason to build a stash. Homespuns are not always easy to find, and if you’re going scrappy like this quilt dictates, you need to have plenty of patterns and colors to choose from to make it interesting and keep the boredom at bay.

blue-plaid1

blue-plaid2

brown-plaid

gold-plaid

green-plaid

orange-plaid

purple-plaid

red-plaid

In the meantime, we have enjoyed having Eric and Ross home for Christmas. They’re going back to school in a couple of days and have yet to go through all the boxes of their stuff. Let the mom nagging begin!

boxes

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