Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Dad - lazy days of summer kick off

June 21 is the first day of summer, occasionally Father's Day, and my old dad's birthday.  Today he would have been 90 if he had not spent the last 35 years in heaven.  In this photo he is on the left and is with two of my mom's six brothers and his new father-in-law.  For a man who didn't get to grow up with his own family around, he certainly picked the right group to marry into - he got 8 in-law siblings in that deal.  This photo is c. 1943-44 and they all look very spiffy, don't you think?

When I was a kid, June 21 meant the longest day of the year and I spent every minute running and playing outside.  Freedom!  That was a long time ago but June 21 is still my day to enjoy a little freedom so I took a day off work to give myself freedom to sew.  After surveying the hst supply I decided it was time to try putting another block in my hst quilt together.  My first attempt (described here) was an exercise in frustration but this time I was rested and had a new plan of attack.

Just when I was giving myself some mental high fives for "having a system" and "working methodically" I wound up with this - can you see the mistake?

But I did have a system and did work methodically so that minor blip was the only problem I had this time and my second block is done and much better than number 1.  Isn't that always the way?  You struggle through the first block in a quilt and then the pieces all start falling into place?

I would probably be a lot thinner if I still spent the day running around outside but sewing is pretty fun, too.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sew. Much. Fun

I am at summer camp!!  This week I am with 20+ like-minded crazy women individuals and fabulous teachers for a stitching extravaganza.  It is Country Sampler's (Spring Green, Wisconsin) Grand Olde Flag event.  Unlike some of my table-mates this is my first time partaking of a Country Sampler event.  I certainly understand why so many come back time and time again.  Let's try a visualization exercise...close your eyes and imagine six full days of quilting and stitching workshops with Paula Barnes (front row, right), Linda Lautenschlager (front row, left), and Carol Hopkins (front row, second from right) along with an incredible hostess, Jeanne Horton (front row, second from left).  Are you picturing it?  Okay, now add in breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, kits for every class packaged with ribbons and extra treats, space to cut and sew and press from morning 'til night and tell me what you think.  Heaven?  You betcha!!  Wait a minute, I forgot to add that you are doing this at the Country Sampler store in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  If you need a break you can wander over to the shop and browse the shelves of fabrics and drool over the complementary decorating items for sale.

The first workshop was with Paula Barnes, fabric designer for Marcus Fabrics and pattern designer with Red Crinoline Quilts.  The  pattern is Sampler Star by Paula and the fabrics were selected by Country Sampler staff with their impeccable aesthetic for combining country/primitive fabrics that result in a completely modern combination.  That red sashing in the middle of the class model is from Paula showing us an alternate idea.  Going this dark in fabric choices isn't something I would have braved without a push but I am so thrilled to get the chance to try it and love the way my own top is turning out.

After a full day of sewing on day 1, Paula treated us to a trunk show of her quilts.  I love hearing the stories behind the designs.

Did I mention the food here was de-lish?!?  Yesterday we trooped over to a local restaurant for a Greek pasta salad lunch, followed but some chocolate treats awaiting us on our sewing machines when we returned and then dinner was a lip-smacking chicken and rice casserole, phyllo wrapped asparagus, green salad, homemade rolls and strawberry shortcake.  I know I am repeating myself but what beats quilting all day and not having to cook?  Uh, not much.  Today, after pancakes for breakfast and healthy nibbles at lunch we had an early salad with shrimp and homemade chicken soup at another local restaurant.  Then, this evening we were treated to root beer floats in mason jars and s'mores over a real fire.  I took my picture after the treats were scooped up but you get the picture.  As anyone who uses Pinterest can tell you, everything is more fun to eat from a mason jar!

One more photo of the event hostess/organizer (Jeanne in the front) along with our great teachers.  My next post will show the wonderful cross-stitch project by Linda.  I wasn't even a cross-stitcher until I saw the project we had in store.  Now it's time for bed.  Breakfast is at 8am.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dear Jane!

(photo courtesy Linda at Quilts in the Barn blog - used with permission)

Have you ever had a dream - perhaps nightmare - where your shortcomings were right out in the open for all to see?  That's what I felt like when I saw the photo above on the Quilts in the Barn blog.  Row after row after row of completed Dear Jane quilts.

I started my quilt just before the year 2000.  I kept thinking the turn of the millennium was just a year or two ago until someone referred to it as "last decade."  Wow, it's been about 14 years since I started my quilt.  I've made 29 blocks which, by my count, is an average of about 2 per year.  So, time to get cracking and work on my two for this year!

I've been saving this fabric for this block pretty much since I started the quilt.  When I first saw the picture in the book I thought it was just about the ugliest fabric I'd ever seen.  It's grown on me and I have nearly a yard saved up just in case I want to make a few dozen more these blocks.  

So, block A-13 is complete - hand pieced. I've completed 30 Dear Jane blocks now.  There are a few hundred quilters in Europe and Australia who crossed that mark a l-o-n-g time ago.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

This going to take awhile

This is a quick post so I can whine just a bit.  You are forewarned.  My hubby had an unexpected business trip this evening so I thought I was going to get lots of sewing done.  Instead of tackling my list, though, I tried putting together one of the blocks for my son's quilt.  Actually, I was supposed to cut more strips for my half square triangles but I messed up on the first fabric (the yellow above) and, trying to make lemonade from lemons, decided to test out a block.  I cut the triangles for the outside of the block and then realized all the outside edges were going to be bias.  Did I stop and read the directions?  Nope, plowed right on.  Then, I headed to the sewing machine but when I stepped on the foot pedal, the machine started sewing...backwards.  &^%*(#  Not this again.  I tried turning it on and off, unplugging, whatever.  It still went backwards.  But I plowed on.  I wound up trying everything; literally pushed all the buttons and turned all the knobs.  Finally, it went forward.  Then I couldn't keep all the triangles pointing the right direction.  I had to "unsew" at least four times.  I haven't ripped anything out in two years until tonight.

I just read the directions.  I cut the yellow triangles wrong but I'm still using this block.  The rest of the blocks will not have bias edges on the outside.  Duh!  Tomorrow I am working on a different project and will stick to cutting and sewing the half square triangles.  If it takes me a whole evening to complete a block this is going to take awhile!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Unleash the Scraps!!

When I saw Kathie's post today with photos of all of her 1.5" strips all I could think of was one of those cans of snakes that explode everywhere when you unscrew the lid.  They looked like they were squiggling.  She's looking for another project to use them and I thought turning them into 1" half square triangles would be a brilliant idea.  Simply brilliant.  So, I suggested it.  She's still laughing, I think.

So, when I got home this evening I took a look at my own scrap box to see if there were some hst in the making for me.  My bin has been getting a little bloated lately so, surely, if I made some 1" hst then I could pare it down some.  I've got a lot of scrappy projects going right now so I thought I would do something more orderly.  Red and white!  Digging around in my box I discovered that there weren't too many red scraps in the size I needed for some quick and easy hst.  I was looking for 2" squares so I could get two 1" hst from each one.  Time, patience and supply lasted for twenty little triangle squares.  If you have the urge to make your own, cut a light and dark 2" square, draw a line diagonally on the back of the light square, pair it with a dark and sew a scant 1/4" on either side of the line.  Cut apart along the line and press open.  Trim the square to 1-1/2".  I pressed my seam open  I'll let you know how the quilting goes.

As I said, my patience only lasted for 20 triangle squares.  That is enough for what I like to call "bulletin board" quilts.  They work out to be about 6"x9" and are perfect for pinning to a bulletin board for a little bit of quilty fun.  I've rolled them up and put them in jars, too.  

Once I had all the triangles together, I measured and added 1-1/4" border strips.  Ta-da!  A "quilt" top made from 1" half square triangles.  I used most of the reds in my scrap box that were 2" or bigger and there were plenty of light pieces available.  But, it definitely did not make a dent in the scraps.  In fact, I had enough scraps left over from my weekend project to more than make up for what I used.  So, I squished everything back into the box and locked down the lid.

Above is my weekend project!  The Temecula Quilt Company "Spring T" top.  I have a particular affinity for "T" quilts and this was a super easy block to make while still being clearly a "T."  I bought the kit because I just love the colors in the "T" blocks.  The kit was generous enough to prewash the fabric and still have some usable scraps left over.  The block was easy enough to crank out the top while the hubby was at Pilates.  (Yes, Pilates, but I'm am not going there)  I want to thank Jan from "What a Load A Scrap" blog for permission to prewash small fabric pieces.  It was her post here where she mentioned she washed her 5" squares of fabric that freed me up to do the same.  It's a personal preference but I can't stand sewing with unwashed fabric. I dumped my whole kit into the washer and it turned out great.  That is rarely the case with kits I am sorry to say so if you prewash be prepared to augment from your stash.  Anyway, this little top is destined for hand quilting, too.

Finally, a "work in progress" shot of my various scrappy projects currently in progress.  To the left are my own 1.5" strips (A-ha! we are back to where this post started!) that are destined to become 5-1/2" strips for my scrappy rails project ripped off inspired by Kathie's project here.  In the middle are more strips that will be come MORE (and bigger) hst for that pattern peeking out at the top of the photo.  To the right are the hst for my Edyta inspired quilt for my son.  I am currently up to 264 half square triangles.  I need 720 for the quilt but I've decided I also need more variety so I will be making more and more and more.  My goal is at least 120 different fabrics.  I am at 44 fabrics right now.

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