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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Filed under Christmas, piecing

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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Filed under fabric, piecing

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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The refrigerator moves back in

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. Ross and Eric flew in from Colorado on Monday, and it was good to see them even though our time together was short.

While they were here, they helped John move the spare refrigerator from the garage back into the house.

fridge1

The builder finished resizing the laundry room cabinets in October and we’ve been waiting for the boys to be here so they could help.

Ross suggested removing the doors so the fridge would clear the back door more easily. John wasn’t sure he would be able to get them off, but he did and it helped a lot.

fridge2

fridge3

It took most of the day to clean the interior, exterior, and all the shelves and bins, as well as the floor where all three appliances sit; glad that’s in the rear view mirror now.

fridge4

It fits quite nicely in its new, larger space and the doors can be opened all the way now.

fridge5

On to the next thing….

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Filed under house, kids

Scrappy (and pretty) in pink

Last week I pulled all the leftover pink batik cuts from my pink lawn chair quilt to piece the backing for it.

pink white lawn chair quilt

I love the challenge of piecing the puzzle and the satisfaction of using up my stash.

pink-backing

Here is the binding:

pink-binding

Thanks for checking in!

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Filed under binding, piecing, scrappy backs

Fall cross stitch

One set of cross stitched fall fingertip towels: DONE!

Designed by Jane Chandler.

Designed by Jane Chandler.

Thanks for dropping by!

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I found Chocolate

For three months I have been looking for a picture I cross stitched 35 years ago. I had gone through boxes and bins in our storage room several times, an exercise that always ended in frustration and anxiousness when it didn’t turn up. John was a good sport and checked boxes in the garage again, even though we were both pretty sure that the picture wasn’t there.

Lasts week I found it—and as you would expect, it was right in front of my nose. I had stored it in one of the upper laundry room cabinets before our move to keep it safe—too safe, apparently.

chocolate

I found it by accident as we were putting stuff away in the laundry room after the builder finished resizing one of the cabinets in order to make room for our refrigerator—which means we were oblivious to it when we took it out of the cabinet (it was wrapped in clean newsprint). How embarrassing is that?

Here is Chocolate’s companion:

ice-cream

I was new to cross stitching way back then and thought they were so cute. I had visions of them in my first apartment and they have hung in the eating area of every place we have lived since John and I got married. I still enjoy them and would never consider replacing them.

As much as I wanted to hang them, instead, John and I took them apart.

xs1

xs2

After our experience with John’s grandmother’s needlework, we decided to fix these two and one other—and be done with framing issues.

Sure enough, the same damaging techniques had been used: staples, masking tape and strapping tape.

xs3

The framer used masking tape around all four edges of the cross stitch fabric, most likely to keep them from raveling.

xs4

Holding the masking tape in place was strapping tape with a killer adhesive—one that did not fully come out after soaking and washing.

Cringe-worthy.

Cringe-worthy.

xs6

Skeptical, I applied some stain remover to the edges and then washed them in a mild dish soap and cool water, followed by lots and lots of rinsing (until the water was clear) to make sure all soap residue was gone.

The stain remover didn’t improve much, but I had to try.

The stain remover didn’t improve much, but I had to try.

I refrained from pressing anything because the framer will want to try her magic first. Here’s Chocolate ready to go:

xs8

Close up of stitching.

Close up of stitching.

Here’s Ice Cream:

xs10

Close up of stitching.

Close up of stitching.

After un-framing Chocolate and Ice Cream, we tackled one last picture: a sampler I stitched 19 years ago which was framed by someone other than the framer I use now. We uncovered more physical damage than expected due to heavy duty staples driven into the fabric, which had a loose weave to begin with:

xs12

xs13

The sampler was mounted on a piece of foam core which had been covered with a piece of polyester batting.

xs14

The batting was stuck to the foam core with spray adhesive, something my framer would never use anywhere near needlework. Instead, she secures the needlework to an acid-free board by lacing it across the back. This is a more labor intensive (and costly) technique, but much better for longevity.

Framing points were used to hold the board mounted with the sampler inside the frame, and one of them cut a nice sized hole in the fabric:

xs15

So much for the tedious hem stitching I did to keep the project from raveling while I worked on it.

xs16

The other surprise cropped up when I washed it. The picture doesn’t show the true depth of the color, but the water turned seriously yellow, like someone had peed in it.

xs17

Then John came in to show me the glass, which had a nice imprint of the stitched design on it, an indication that no spacers were used to keep the needlework from touching the glass.

xs18

Here is the sampler soaking in the washtub. You can see 19 years’ worth of fading here, showing how important it is to select a glass that offers UV protection.

xs19

When John saw the yellow water and examined the glass again, he wondered if the framer had starched the sampler. We’ll never know, but it might explain why this piece always looked so faded to me so early on. I always thought it was because of light exposure, but now I’m not so sure.

As bad as all this seems, I take comfort in the framer’s statement to me when she was working on John’s grandmother’s needlework: “I’ve seen worse.”

I’ve been off and on mopey since we had to leave Colorado and move back to Houston, but when stuff like this comes up, I am very grateful to have a reputable framer in my back yard. It will be a comfort to know that when these framing mistakes have been corrected, barring a fire or natural disaster, no more harm can come to these family heirlooms.

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Filed under cross stitch