A cross stitch finish

At some time this month, I morphed into a sloth and became consumed with a case of the slows, just like the animal. But while slow is natural for this unusual creature, it’s not so much for me. I think all the extended shelter-in-place hogwash has not been kind to my motivation level. I’ve been going into work almost every day but miss the daily interaction with others at the office. Normal cannot return soon enough.

In the meantime, the green lawn chair quilt is getting quilted in fits and starts, but that’s about it. So today, I’m showing off a cross stitch project finished at the end of February which didn’t get any coverage here because I posted about other things.

This is number three in a five-part series by Linda Bird.

Thanks for stopping by.

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More vintage tree blocks

I visited with a dear high school friend a couple of weeks ago and we both agreed that now is not a good time to be without a hobby – thank goodness for quilting, right? To that end, I managed to finish four more vintage tree blocks.

Construction of additional blocks has been suspended, pending recovery from the piecing torture inherent in a block with 32 one-inch half square triangles.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Busting stash

Production in the sewing room last week shifted from quilts to masks after receiving a call for them from a local quilt shop. Links to video tutorials on mask construction, tie construction (since no elastic currently exists in the city) and a .pdf of tips, hints, dos and don’ts were included with the email, so I went to work.

Five minutes into the video, I was already starting to question the construction. Further into the video, I grew frustrated at the lack of specific information about pleat formation and the vagueness about adding a filter. After attempting one mask and redoing a lot of stitching, I abandoned the recommended video and watched others (among the gazillion out there) until I found the perfect one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QrW4zIjMwY

It took about 2 hours to complete one mask, partly due to the requirement for pleats,

but also because of the need to make ties, which consumed most of the construction time. Had I had the right type and width of elastic, construction would have gone faster, but you work with you have.

Below is the cutting map used for making masks from a fat quarter

and for using a standard quarter yard cut of fabric:

My ties were cut 2″ wide instead of 2½” because the latter measurement just felt and looked too bulky. This also expanded fabric choices to include standard quarter-yard cuts.

As is my nature, I modified a couple of the construction steps because I thought it would result in a better mask. The first was to top stitch around the filter opening to keep the seam allowance on the inside from rolling in on itself or turning inside out after washing:

The second modification was to use the zipper foot to create a smaller casing (the instructions called for a ½” casing) for the nose wire so it wouldn’t slip around so much on the wearer:

The instructions called for a 4″ stitching line ½” from the top edge. The mask was 6″ wide, leaving a 1″ wide opening on either side of the casing for the nose wire to shift around and possibly work its way out during washing. I stitched the line as directed, increasing the stitch length so it would be easy to pull out later. After inserting the nose wire and nudging it close to the top folded edge of the mask, a second, permanent stitching line was created across the entire width of the mask using the zipper foot.

John had these chenille stems in his workshop which were the perfect length for this project.

In the end, I finished a dozen masks, donating 10 of them to the quilt shop and giving away two: one to my hair stylist and another to a friend of hers with underlying medical issues who is still reporting for work.

Almost finished.

All said and done, my stash is down 3 yards, so yay for that! More importantly, I hope the masks are comfortable and work well for the people who use them. Thanks for checking in!

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Fun with the letter “Q” and two more blocks

It’s quite something, this Covid-19 quarantine.

As the media quibbles over quantities

and we all avoid quorums greater than 10;

instead, remaining close to quarters

in a quest to quash its spread,

there is no reason for querulousness

if you are a quilter.

If you’re like me, you have a stash to outlast multiple quarantines, so now is a perfect opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet and sew. In the last week, I’ve managed to piece two more vintage tree blocks. They’re still a construction nightmare, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the results.

Hope you’re all well and staying healthy. Thanks for checking in!

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Vintage tree block #2

I took a break from machine quilting the last couple of days to piece another vintage tree block:

With 83 pieces and 82 seams, those tiny, oh-so-darling one-inch finished squares look sweet and innocent enough, but they hide the piecing nightmare that accompanies this block.

Still, you endure the nightmare when you believe you’re creating one of the coolest blocks on the planet. I try not to think about how many I need to make a decent sized quilt, so my goal for 2020 is to make one per month. At that rate, it will take two and a half years to get to 30 blocks, but my vintage fabrics will have been depleted, which was the original goal. The block’s cool factor is a bonus.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Halloween in February

Yay! I’m excited to share another finished project with you this month.

This Halloween wall hanging joins two other seasonal wall hangings I’ve made, which you can see here. When Eric was in high school, he sauntered into my sewing room one evening and asked when a Halloween quilt would be added to the collection. I remember responding that I wanted to add one, but was stuck on how to finish the design because I couldn’t figure out what to do with the corner blocks. As he pressed me to finish the layout, I dared him to have a go at it, which he did, and this is the result:

It was amazing how quickly he found just the right block and colored and rotated each one in just the right way to create the dynamic frame around the center snowball block.

The back is a cute print from Robert Kaufman:

This was the original quilting plan:

Rhonda drew the spider web pattern in AutoCAD and printed it for me on the plotter at her office.

Despite its size, this little 36” x 36” quilt seemed to take forever to quilt, partly because of a change to the quilting plan once I got to the corner blocks and realized that this motif was not going to work:

The motif didn’t work because the thread needed to match the color of the patches. Black thread looked fine on the black patches in the block but stuck out like a sore thumb in the orange patches; likewise with the orange thread. Part of the quilt’s excitement comes from the way the corner blocks are oriented relative to the zig-zag border, and contrasting thread in the patches of those blocks detracted a lot from the effect.

Once it became clear that thread color had to match the patch color in those corner blocks, a search began for smaller quilting motifs to fill individual patches.

This simple figure-8 design was used in the center 4-patch:

I located a border stencil in my collection and used portions of it for the triangles:

The three vertical loops in the center filled the corner triangles quite nicely:

A single curlicue (to either side of the loops) filled the medium sized triangles:

Here’s a look at one of the corner blocks from the back:

One pleasant discovery made during the quilting of this project was that Sharpie makes an ultra-fine point white marking pen, which was fabulous for transferring the quilt motifs to the Solvy for the black portions of the corner blocks.

Thanks for letting me share this quilting adventure with you. Until next time . . . .

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Time wisely used

Happy new year! I’ve taken advantage of our work slow down at the office this month by progressing nicely on a few projects here at home, bouncing back and forth on them so as not to get too bored or burned out on any one of them.

Two more beaded Christmas ornament kits in my stash were finished:

The lawn chair quilt top – green version – was layered, basted and ditch quilted. I revised my plan for the overall quilting design, choosing gentle, wavy lines spaced 3 inches apart. It’s about half done, and I hope to show you the finished product next month.

I also re-engaged with a cross stitch project begun a few years ago and recently finished the purple section in the lower left corner.

Thanks for checking in!

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A year-end finish

I finished a UFO started in 2003. The crazy quilt pattern was pieced with a bundle of red, green, and white homespun fat quarters purchased from can’t-remember-where.

Years later, I regret the gold border, wishing I’d used the same white for it that was used for the back.

But, what’s done is done and I pulled this one out of the closet because, at 54 inches square, it was the perfect size for practice quilting on my new Q-20.

Ditch quilting was done between all the rows and columns, as well as between all the patches. Overlaid onto that was a continuous quilting design of large, gentle curlicues.

The border curlicues mimic those in the top, but with a much tighter curve.

Those tight curves caused the fabric to bunch up quite a bit inside them, so much so, I re-quilted the entire border. Although better, the second attempt was still not quite to my satisfaction, but there comes a point where you must declare “done”.

If I ever quilt this border design again, instead of pin-basting the border layers, they will be generously thread basted to keep everything as flat and smooth as possible to minimize puckering.

The binding fabric was generously donated by a dear quilting friend in Colorado.

Perfect!

While I have plenty of red and green homespuns in my stash, all are quarter-yard cuts, not nearly enough for 200-plus inches of binding. I so appreciate her contribution, as quilt shops in the Houston area are drying up (we just lost another one this month) and shop owners here have never been inclined to carry much, if any, of that type of fabric.

Thanks for checking in. Hope your New Year’s celebration is merry, fun and safe!

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Year-end fun

We closed 2019 with two wonderful outings. In November, we enjoyed the Houston Symphony’s performance of the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back.

In mid-December we returned to Colorado for the Denver Art Museum’s exhibit Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature, which was FABULOUS. The collection took 3½ years to curate and includes more than 100 paintings. We invited the boys to go with us, and their first response was to decline – more than likely with wrinkled noses, rolling eyes and shaking heads.

My three favorite men in the world.

A couple weeks later while chatting with Eric on the phone, he revealed that he’d changed his mind and would like to go after all. Not long after, Ross conceded and said he would go as well. Great – family outing!

I don’t know about the menfolk, but I was in heaven from start to finish. Check out these beauties:

Monet’s works were grouped according to the various regions where they were painted: Norway, the Netherlands, London, Venice, Paris and numerous towns in the French countryside.

Poplars were a recurring motif in Monet’s paintings.

The Japanese footbridge at Giverny.

Closeup of the water lilies painting above.

One interesting subset of paintings were those of winter scenes, with the intriguing statement that white just might be the most complex color of all.

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A non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Our day was quiet, so we skipped the Thanksgiving fare and planned a menu around a 3-pound beef tenderloin so we could play with some more features on our steam oven.

When we built our house, instead of the standard, built-in double oven configuration, we splurged by pairing a conventional 30-inch single oven with a steam oven and have never looked back.

In fact, we love this appliance so much we’re not sure we’d ever live without one again. It does wonders for your leftovers, elevates a fruit pie to professional chef status, hard boils eggs in 22 minutes and cooked today’s beef to perfection. We followed the instructions written by a chef who works for the local appliance dealership here in Houston and they are shared below:

The beef was sprinkled with salt, black pepper and garlic powder.

Next, it was seared on high heat (400º) 2 to 3 minutes per side.

After searing, a generous amount of rosemary was pressed onto all sides of the meat. The meat probe was inserted and plugged into the oven, the beef tenderloin setting was dialed up, and that was it.

The oven figures out how much time the meat needs to cook, including time for it to rest at the end.

There is a way to override the temperature, but we wanted to use the default settings for our first attempt so we would have a better idea of what we might want to do next time.

In the meantime, I prepped the vegetables for roasting:

carrots, butternut squash, brussels sprouts and shallots tossed in a drizzle of oil and seasoned with salt, black pepper, fresh thyme and half a dozen cloves of fresh garlic tossed into the mix.

We also roasted a few red potatoes seasoned with salt, black pepper and rosemary.

When the beef was done, John sliced it

and returned two slices to the griddle for additional searing.

Delicious!

For dessert, I baked an apple crisp – Granny Smith apples are the best!

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