The plaid star blocks of summer

I managed to knock out ten – count ‘em – ten – plaid star blocks this month! Ten is a nothing short of a miracle because by the time I started the seventh or eighth one, I was sick of plaids, sick of stars, sick of bias edges and sick of matching diagonal seams.

When I wasn’t too tired, I sewed a little bit in the evenings after work, and then carved out time on the weekends to power through and finish two or three blocks each week.

Ten blocks to go!

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6 more plaid stars

May’s plaid star blocks got finished in the nick of time – one day before the calendar rolls to June. I spent two solid weekends at the beginning of the month cutting the 130 background patches for the remaining 26 blocks, followed by the cutting of 156 star patches, followed by the marking of all 286 patches and then finally, laying them out.

To tame my OCD tendencies, I tried to cut an equal number of background patches with the stripes running both horizontally and vertically. For the star patches, I tried to use each of the 7 colors (except for brown) more or less equally in each position. I also tried not to use the same plaid in the same place twice, very much possible with my healthy homespun stash. Years of fabric hoarding does have advantages, yes?

Most would not care about any of those self-imposed rules, but my brain requires me to deal with these details.

It’s been liberating to have all the prep work and color decisions out of the way so I can sit and sew whenever the mood strikes or time allows. Also, with this advantage, I should be able to finish piecing the top by the end of the year.

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New York, New York

Last week, John and two others in our office had business in New York so the three wives went along for fun and a bit of sightseeing while the husbands were obligated to an all-day meeting.

Most of Tuesday was a travel day, and I was stunned that La Guardia airport looked pretty much like it did in 1986 when I was last there. There was a lot of construction in the vicinity, but 30 years of no visible significant improvements was a surprise.

Tuesday night there was a dinner at the Yacht Club. Now, when I hear the word yacht, I think large boats, water, piers, etc., but it was a place in downtown Manhattan. The dining room was grand, with a high ceiling featuring a back lit Tiffany-style stained glass inset, lots of ornately carved wood trim and scale model boats on the walls: very 1940s.

The strict rule against cell phone use inside the club was a welcome change of pace; how refreshing to converse with people who weren’t distracted by an inanimate object that too many people value as much as their own kidneys. We enjoyed visiting with a couple from Canada and several people from Denver.

The highlight of the trip was on Wednesday morning when we walked over to the Downton Abbey exhibit.

We were especially excited because the exhibit, scheduled to end April 1, had been extended, so we were able to get tickets for a 10:00 a.m. admission. After a leisurely breakfast at a bustling little cafe, it was only a 5-minute walk to the exhibit.

While the exhibit featured various rooms in the Crawley home like the dining room, Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen, Mr. Carson’s office, etc., I had been especially looking forward to seeing all the clothing and the exhibit did not disappoint; indeed, I have 150 pictures to go back through and study. I tried to get one good photo each of the entire outfit and then zoom in for a closeup or two of the fabrics, trims, beading, overlays, pleats, tucks, necklines, hemlines, collars, cuffs, buttons, buttonholes, belts, hats, gloves and shoes.

What a marvel the workmanship is on these beautiful bound buttonholes on this navy and black dress worn by Lady Mary.

It was all just wonderful, and I lingered at every one, trying to soak in every last detail. As I was admiring all the fashions, I thought of my mom and wished she had been there with me; she would have loved it.

In the afternoon, we walked to the Frick museum to see an amazing collection of paintings, Chinese porcelain, sculptures and furniture inside the former residence of American industrialist Henry Clay Frick, who made his fortune in steel.

Wednesday evening, there was another dinner, followed by, for guests who were interested, seats at the Imperial Theater for the Broadway show Carousel.

The theater was pretty inside, and while the seats were comfortable, there was less leg room than you would encounter in the coach section of an airplane, so at least two people in our group were feeling pretty cramped by the second act.

Still, a New York theater experience is quite special, and John and I were grateful for it.

It’s been nine or 10 years since John and I have taken a real vacation and after this trip, we both realized that we’d better start planning other getaways. We have some ideas….

 

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Plaid star blocks: ramping back up

After two marathon plaid star block weekends at the end of March, I took a couple weeks off. Yesterday I immersed myself back into the groove when greeted by a cool, rainy Saturday morning. I finished cutting the last few star pieces and then spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon marking seam lines on the remaining 286 patches.

I had to revise my decision to go with a 7 x 8 block setting because of the way the quilt is sashed. The pattern calls for vertical sashing between the blocks in each row but NO sashing between the rows.

Image captured from EQ.

In a 7 x 8 setting, the quilt measured 6 inches wider than it was long, which looked peculiar.

A 7 x 9 setting resulted in an almost square quilt by 2 inches. With a jump in the block count from 56 to 63, I had to make sure there was enough background fabric in my stash for an extra 35 patches without too many repeats of any one fabric.

Thankfully, there was, but I spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to get the maximum number of patches from each of the remaining fabrics, most of which, by then, were less than a fat eighth in size.

It’s like playing with paper dolls, but it works!

With 37 blocks completed, there are 26 to go. At 5 per month, I’ll be able to start putting the top together by September or October and then hope for an end of year finish—of the top, not the quilt—as there is a pieced border, which will take extra time.

In the meantime, here are April’s blocks:

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March star blocks

Progress on my plaid star blocks continues, albeit slowly.

I forced myself to make the blocks for next month as well, and in the process, used up all the background pieces I’d cut when I first started the quilt.

There was enough of each of the 12 background fabrics to cut one more block’s worth,

with a little left over from some of them to cut one or two more background pieces. This would yield 48 blocks, but with a little finagling and the addition of 3 new background fabrics,

I figured I could eek out another 8 blocks for a total of 56. This would allow the quilt to grow from a 6 x 8 setting to a 7 x 8 setting.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to find out how much time it took to mark the seam lines on all 11 patches of this block and the result was one hour. It’s borderline crazy to spend this kind of time on one quilt, but I think it will look really cool when it’s done—that is, if I can keep up with it!

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February star blocks – better late than never

I missed my self-imposed deadline for my February star blocks. Now, if February had the same number of days as March or June, and I’d had a day off work, they’d have been done in time. Yeah, that sounds good.

I’m well aware that piecing these blocks falls well outside the realm of instant gratification so, out of curiosity, I set a timer to see how long it took to just pin, sew and press five star blocks: 2 hours, 34 minutes. Yikes! That’s more than half an hour per block. Sewing the sub units together consumes most of that time because of the difficulty in matching all the diagonal seams. Once in a great while, I’m lucky and nail it the first time, but more often than not, un-sewing and re-sewing multiple times is required for a perfect match.

For the next set, I’m going to see how long it takes to mark the seam lines.

Happy quilting!

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Snow days and star blocks

We have been enjoying real winter weather here in the south. I should probably rephrase that to say “I” have been enjoying real winter weather. Most people who live here are sub-70s wimps and don’t do cold. For me, I’ll take 30 degrees over 90 and humid any day.

house with snow

Proof of our snow! We covered the camellias and they survived just fine and continue to bloom.

I would have posted about our unusual weather sooner, but my computer died and it’s taken this much time to order a new one and bring it up to speed. The old one got stuck on a Windows restart loop and John said to bring it back to life would require a complete overhaul, including reinstalling the operating system and re-configuring the hard drive. Thank goodness for Carbonite! I was able to retrieve all my files and emails, and although a few tweaks are still needed; I’m up and running close to 100 percent.

Back to the winter weather: Two weeks ago, we experienced temps in the high 20s/low 30s, had our second dusting of snow this season, and rain, which iced up the bridges and overpasses. With weather like that, things here shut down, and for us, that translated into two days off work.

I took full advantage, spending two glorious days in my sewing room making five more plaid star blocks:

5 star blocks

I decided to try to make one star block a week until I have enough to put the top together. That kind of a goal should not be too difficult to manage around a full-time job, and since I do fairly well with deadlines and schedules, I thought it was worth a shot.

Hope you’re sewing something fun today! Thanks for stopping by.

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Bacon boxers

Did you ever see Jim Gaffigan’s 2009 comedy performance King Baby? We watched it with the boys and enjoyed it immensely, especially when he got going on the subject of bacon. Since then, when we see or smell bacon, we think of Gaffigan running on about bacon and smile. So it seemed like a fun thing to do to make boxer shorts for the boys with bacon fabric.

The pattern featured a mock fly and only had two pieces: a front/back and a waistband. Still, construction was a challenge and when the instructions called for sewing through the two overlapped layers in front to create the mock fly, I didn’t like the way it looked or felt when smoothed out. I also wondered why it was necessary, so I ripped out the stitches and instead, reinforced the opening ¾” below the waistband

and again at the bottom of the fly.

The boys were underwhelmed, so it’s not likely that this pattern will be used again, but I’m still glad I made them.

I also managed to finish two beaded Christmas ornaments that I had purchased many moons ago.

I had started the stocking in Colorado, and finished it first,

after which I decided to tackle the Santa sack.

I enjoy these little kits, but sorting the beads for the Santa sack ornament took an hour. I finally pulled a round baking dish from the kitchen to keep those bouncy, roly-poly beads contained.

Maybe 2018 can be a year of finishes…

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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In-house tech support

I have nothing quilty or crafty to show this month. Since I went back to work in May, that part of my life has really fallen by the wayside. I wish there was room for more work/life balance, but startup companies like ours don’t allow for it. It’s okay for now, and my income is helping to pay for college. Plus, I like what I do and I enjoy my co-workers so I can’t complain too much.

We enjoyed having the boys home for Thanksgiving. They flew in Monday evening and left Saturday afternoon. It was hard to say good-bye, but they’ll be home within the month for Christmas. After that, it will probably be another year before we see them again.

While they were home, John arranged it so we both had one-on-one time with each of them, which was nice. Also nice was the fact that when I had trouble booting my laptop, both of them jumped in to figure out what the trouble was.

I am so lucky to have in-house tech support!

The diagnosis was insufficient memory, so all the menfolk piled in the car for a trip to the computer store, which likely doubles as male bonding, right?

The added memory did the trick, and I’m grateful for avoiding the purchase of a new laptop.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Tidbits

I finished piecing two more plaid star blocks and I’m really liking the way they’re turning out, even though the going is slow.

I also finished the second charity quilt required by my guild. Both quilts allowed me to practice quilting on my APQS George, and although I’m still getting used to it, I learned a lot. Now I’m anxious to finish a couple of my own quilts that have been languishing in the UFO pile because they are too big to run under the Bernina with any modicum of success. Twenty inches of throat space is magical!

Admittedly, the quilt is nothing special to look at, as the fabric in the kit put together by the guild is vintage 1990s, but hopefully it will get good use and keep someone warm.

Over the weekend, I upgraded to Electric Quilt 8. It was nice to save a little cash by having the option to download the two guides rather than having to purchase a printed manual.

I got both printed and bound, and worked through the first exercise in the Quick Start Guide.

The user interface is completely different and I really like it. Now I’m wishing for a week off from work to immerse myself in it and start designing again—maybe over the holidays.

My last little tidbit of news is that I scored a free ticket to the Houston Quilt Festival next weekend.

The woman who cuts my hair has a client who works for Quilts, Inc. The client left some complimentary tickets with her to give to her customers so she called and asked if I wanted one! I only have one day to go, so it will be a marathon day, but I’m looking forward to it.

Happy quilting!

 

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