Monday, May 27, 2013

Well, It's Done

As you can see, it's a monster.  This is good; I will actually use this quilt, since I don't think I'll ever love it enough to cherish.  I do like the way the bright colors play against the fairly drab blue and green framing pieces.

I'm less happy with the yellow accent fabric--it seems too light and lemony to pick up the yellow pieces in the applique as I hoped it would.  Nothing else seemed available during my search though.

Now to wrestle with the huge backing piece--washing it, splitting it, and adding the strip to piece out the width.  Then off to the long arm quilter.

It's a wet, cold Memorial Day here.  I hope everyone else has a better one.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What a Week!

We've had a wedding, a retirement, and a promotion to full professor in the family this week. I guess that makes it a week of milestones indeed. I think I'm hoping there's not a fourth shoe to drop!

Some not-very-good photos again:  The bride and groom, the groom and parents, and my older son, the full professor, and his wife.  Personally, I think a City Hall wedding is the way to do it.  Everyone had a wonderful time!  It's fun to see the cross section of people and situations represented by the couples waiting their turn.  A novelist could imagine many plot lines.  Afterwards we all went to the chilly and windy 16th floor terrace of the Trump Tower for overpriced drinks and then out to dinner.

Meanwhile, in the basement, I have finished the pieced borders and the inner border, and have started sewing them on.  Someone please kick me the next time I think I want to make a king size quilt.  I hate wrestling with the sheer size of the thing at these last stages, and I'm totally defeated by the pressing.  It was pressed, but by the time the borders are on it will be messed up again.  And then there's the backing to put together.  I have to piece that, because the fabric I wanted didn't come in 118" width.

Meanwhile, I've gotten back to reading blogs a bit, and came across one of those blogosphere controversies, this time about poor quality work.  In case you're interested, here's the link.  Found this via Nellie Durand on Facebook.

Monday, May 13, 2013


The border piecing is moving along, going smoothly, Y-seams and all.   Interesting that these units have a right and a left to them, and two borders are the opposite.  At least, I think that's right, otherwise I'm in for a shock and some wasted cutting.

I hoped to do more yesterday, but I spent several hours doing alterations on a dress I bought at Macy's for a wedding this weekend.  I took in the gaping armholes.  That's simple, but the dress was lined, with the lining beautifully top stitched around the curve of the armhole and tacked to the dress in several places, so undoing all that careful work and putting it back made a tedious job. All I can say is I have lots of respect for Calvin Klein's Vietnamese garment workers, and hope they're well paid, with a safe building to work in!

Ironic that I did this, since it's unlikely I'll wear the dress without a jacket.  Even though lots of workout time has given me muscles in my arms, there's still that old looking skin.  I guess I'm expecting either a miracle in the look of my arms or such a hot day that I will have to go sleeveless!  Or maybe I could try the increasingly popular upper arm surgery...

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Cute Gadget

It's a brooch.

It's a magnetic pincushion.

I found this little thingie when I went to pick up my sewing machine from servicing a couple of weeks ago.  The young Mennonite salesgirl was wearing one on the capelet of her dress, and of course the shop was selling them.  It's handy, since I usually end up carrying my pin container from sewing machine to table, and leaving it in the wrong place.  This would also work well on the sleeve I think.

In other news, all the blocks on the vintage reclamation project are sewn together, and I'm ready to take final measurements, do some math, audition some fabric for the inner borders, sew them on,  and then start piecing the outer border.  I hope it goes smoothly.

The weather is so beautiful here right now that it's hard to stay inside.  I hope everyone else is enjoying spring too!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Another Hiatus

I wish I had more new work to show, but I'm helping out at my sister's for a week, and don't have any quilting. Before I left home, I sewed together all the rows for the vintage block quilt and started putting the rows together. Here's one corner, done correctly this time. I've also made a plan for the border and final layout. Although they're not final, it's what I'm thinking about now. There's lots of piecing, but I think it will be worth it.

I'm now a total believer in Judy Martin's point trimmer tool. The blocks I made with that are so much more accurate than the earlier ones! When I reach a series of those, it's like being able to breathe freely--they fit together perfectly. No fiddling required. There's also less bulk to make the Janome stall at the intersection. And speaking of that, how can a machine that has trouble going over bulky seam allowances call itself a good quilting machine? Does anyone have a secret solution for this problem?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Oops Clarified

I had comments from people who didn't see my mistake yesterday.  That's understandable since the blocks faded into the white design wall.  So here it is in all its glory.  I hope this doesn't happen again, but it's tough to keep the orientation straight with a long row, and they will get longer.  The weird triangle has been ripped and turned and all is well. I do like the way this is looking so far, so I'll be doing more today.

Monday, April 22, 2013


I finished the side and corner setting triangles, laid the blocks out on the bed, and started sewing them together.  I foolishly thought they would be easy to put together, but I find that I have to press the seams open because of the bulk where the blocks come together.  What a pain, especially on something large like this.

After two hours, I happily sewed two rows together, put them on the wall to admire, and  you see the result.  Grrr. Time to rip.  Fortunately, it's trivial.  Carry on.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I'm finishing several days of Nanny duty with my grandsons today, and hope to be back in the routine tomorrow. It's been fun. I find that I can relax and enjoy time with them without impatiently thinking of other things I should do or want to do, as I did with my own boys. Possibly one should regret having the slightly scattered approach to motherhood, but actually, I don't. I think it's inevitable. Mothers are busier, and part of being a grandmother is a clearer realization of how precious childhood is.

Before leaving to come to Chicago I took my sewing machine for routine maintenance so that it would be ready when I get home. I finally worked out a border design for the vintage block project, all the blocks and most of the side triangles are pieced, so I hope to plow through and finish it quickly.

In other areas its busy too. My husband is retiring soon, and we're planning next steps. As an emeritus he can keep an office, write, and keep involved. He wants to do this, but we are also thinking of buying a place in Chicago. The question is whether to make the move immediately, or have two places for a while. Problems either way, as you can imagine. I'm trying not to stress.

Meanwhile, here we are at Easter brunch. Not a good picture of anyone really, but we're happy! It was a great day.

Monday, April 08, 2013


Quilters should enjoy Blendoku, a terrific game for Apple and Android devices that teaches about color.  I first read about it on Dena Crain's blog, downloaded it, and have been playing it quite a bit since.  You can see a screen shot on Dena's blog, or at Googleplay.  It's also at the Apple app store.

The object is to move colored squares so the the colors blend smoothly.  It starts simply, using different values of one color or different tones of the same color, then moves to analogous colors. Then it becomes more difficult, asking you to move across the color wheel to blend two complementary hues, using the grays and browns in between.  If anybody is familiar with Jinny Beyer's old book, Color Confidence for Quilters, you will recognize the process.

I found it fun, and it has to sharpen my eye for those strange grayed colors that I have trouble with.  Take a look if you've got the right kind of device for it.  One suggestion: the developers have tried to jazz it up by putting in the competitive element of trying to beat the "world average" time.  I think it's better to ignore that, take your time, and try to see the concept at work.  I also like to study the finished product a bit.  But then, I may be just a nerd at heart!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Some garment Sewing

I took time off from the old blocks to make a bridal shower gift. This is the shower gift to accompany a wedding gift of serving pieces in the couple's silver pattern (shipped to their home). My aim was a cute hostess or party apron. I might have succeeded if the apron hasn't turned out so big!  The bride is slimmer than I, and I have the ties wrapped all the way around and tied in the front.  Why, oh why, didn't I check the size by holding the pattern up to my body before?

Well, it's still cute, I hope, and maybe it's actually functional. And the other gift is very nice.

It's been a long time since I used a garment pattern and I found it very frustrating: so many pieces, such complicated organization of the instructions, those wide seam allowances.  In addition patterns are amazingly expensive, serious sticker shock to me.  So I don't think I'll be making my own clothes any time soon.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Blocks Finished--Almost

Twenty-four of the twenty-five vintage blocks are now framed. Here are sixteen on the design wall, taken with the camera turned to give an idea of the look when they're joined diagonally. I'll also piece a bit of the frame on the setting triangles to finish the design. Unsure about the border so far.

This is posted using the iPad Blogger ap because I messed up the desktop computer with the world's stupidest move. It was on April Fools Day, appropriately enough, but it's no joke. Maybe some day I'll fess up to it, but not now.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Patterns Aplenty

Last September, we visited the Alhambra, a 12th century Moorish fortress and palace in Granada, Spain.  The Alhambra is famous for the beautiful intricate patterns in tiles and molded plaster, and is a treasure of ideas that would translate into fabric.  The variety is dizzying:  I gave up trying to photograph each one.  Here are just a few:

These  examples show the richness of the effect.  There is often a layering of more than one tile pattern and plaster designs on the same surface.

A detail of the plaster:  the plaster designs are usually trees and flowers, mixed with calligraphy.

Here's one of the tile patterns.  This supposedly has no repeat.

There are many variations on six sided stars like this, both in plaster and in tile.

Even something as simple as the grill on a door makes a wonderful design.  Wouldn't this be an unusual setting for simple fabric squares?

Another simple one, but isn't it a great interlocking pattern?

This pattern is unusual for the Alhambra, both because it is painted, and because the four sided pattern doesn't seem to have been as popular.

And finally, this photo has it all, tile, plaster and those wonderful grill patterns too.

 My husband and I spent two afternoons there.  I hope you can see why.

Next time, back to some fabric work in progress, I hope.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Trimming Points

Is trimming points before sewing a waste of time?  I've always thought so, and I still do, but when sewing a trapezoid piece to a quarter square triangle to make this frame for my old blocks, there are two places that must line up perfectly.  

Here's what the finished piece should look like--straight on the bottom, and with a quarter inch seam allowance at the top so you don't lose the point.  Eye-balling the placement for this is hard.  Believe me I know.

So I thought I'd give Judy Martin's point trimmer tool a try, and I'm a believer, at least for this.  It took some experimentation for me to work this out, so in case anyone else needs to do the same thing, here's what I learned.

To trim the 45 degree angle on the trapezoid that goes at the top of the join, I used the C trim, lining it up with the point of the triangle.

The triangle has its tip cut off, also with the C trim.  (If you use a quarter-square triangle tool, the tip is already cut off.  More about that another time.)

Then use the B trim to cut off the 45 degree points, like so.

Triangle trimmed:

When the pieces are lined up for sewing, they look like this, a perfect match:

And the result is also perfect, or almost:

You just repeat the process with the other side.

Now this is rather tedious, I certainly admit.  But it makes the sewing so much faster that I think it's worth it.  But I still wouldn't want to trim hundreds of these pieces like that, would you?  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Claiming the Blog

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Here I am claiming my blog, whatever that means.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Black and White

Larry's quilt is done.  Isn't he a beauty?  Quilt looks ok too, if I do say so.  It's packed up now, with backing (also pieced, using more black and white prints) and binding to be finished for a guild giveaway.

Black and white prints are unexpectedly tricky to work with.  The value contrasts are sometimes surprising.  The first set of triangle squares didn't seem to have enough contrast for my taste, and so on the second set I over compensated and made them with too much contrast.  The pieces or blocks are hard to square up too, because the fabrics blur together making it hard to see the seam line.  None of these problems show up in the photograph though.  Interesting.  That must also have something to do with the particular characteristic of black and white prints.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Made to Order

I had to find a use for those black and white triangle squares, so I'm putting together this quickie quilt.  I guess maybe I made it for Larry.  It suits him, anyway.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Winners and Cutting: A Brief IHQS Report

The number of entries, vendors, and I believe class attendees was down from last year.  Nonetheless, there were some outstanding quilts.

You can see pictures of the winners here.  Marilyn Badger's Eureka won best bed quilt.  It was a big medallion, it was bright, it had fabulous quilting.  Best wall quilt was America, Let It Shine by Sherry Reynolds.  This quilt has won other awards, and you have probably seen pictures of it.  It seems an odd quilt to be such a winner, in some ways.  It lacks the knock-'em-dead-from-across-the-room impact of many others because there's so much apparently blank white space.  You have to be at least mid-distance or even closer to see the unique qualities: phenomenal quilting, not just dense, but very precisely patterned, lots of metallic thread, superhuman piecing, and last but not least, the thousands of tiny crystals.   Amazing, indeed.

In Debbie Caffrey's Power Cutting class we learned, among other things, her technique for making triangle squares.  Here are mine: there are about 40 of them, 2 1/2 inch square, very accurate and with no dog ears to trim.  I can actually see using this technique again.  I repeated it after I came home, and as promised, it was easier the second time.  I will also start using my smaller cutting board so I can turn it for cutting from the other side.

Debbie presented a huge amount of information.  She's one of those engineer-type quilters, very interested in efficiency, planning, and the mathematics and logic of the process.  I learned plenty I didn't know about some of the tools, especially the Omnigrid triangle tools, and have ordered Judy Martin's point cutter tool.  Ironically, I had one of those once, but put it in a white elephant sale because I never used it.  But now, I think it will help me do a better job on the triangle/parallelogram placement.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Quilt Shows, Past, Present, Future

Present:  I will be leaving tomorrow for the Indiana Heritage Show in Bloomington, Indiana, which I like to visit every year.  I don't have a quilt in the show this year, but I'll be taking a class called Power Cutting with Debbie Caffrey.  I chose this class because it teaches a process, not a project, and I THOUGHT it required no sewing machine.  But, alas, when I read over the supply list yesterday, I saw: "sewing machine".  Blast!  How could I have missed that?  So it's time to load up the heavy thing after all, along with fabric and cutting tools.

Last year at this show I took a wonderful class from Sally Collins called, I believe, Precision Piecing.  This was a delight.  She's an excellent teacher, and the skills learned have carried over, at least a bit.  I now try to be very careful in starting and stopping each seam, and I set the machine at a slower speed when I piece.  It makes a difference.

In the class we worked on this block:

In class I completed the center basket; the outer frame was added later, and I made it into a pin cushion. The overall size is 3 inches, and the smaller triangle squares measure 3/8 inch.  Although this sounds impossible, there is a system to sew and then cut down carefully that produces amazing results.  Enjoyable, even though I'll probably never do anything so precise again.  I'd recommend Sally's books. They're as clear and inspiring as her teaching.

Future:  Yesterday's mail brought a brochure for the IQF show in Chicago, June 20. Having been out of the loop recently, I didn't realize this show was coming back to Chicago.  Cincinnati must have been a bust, as many predicted.   Interestingly, there are no classes scheduled for this show.  Does anyone know why?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

More Blocks, and Shopping Time!

Yesterday I pieced three more blocks, and here's where we are:

I made a change in the cutting/piecing.  I had originally drafted the frame with a triangle piece at the corner like this:

I thought this would be easier to piece than a set in seam.  I don't know why, because I've done set in seams before.  Anyway, this triangle was a pain to piece accurately, and of course required cutting eight more pieces per block.  So I decided to try cutting the side in one long piece and making a mitered corner with a set in seam, like this:

It wasn't harder really.  Fewer pieces equals less cutting, fewer seams, less bulk.  I've still got the placement of that muslin triangle and the angle of the roof shaped piece though.  Now if I can just figure out exactly how to do that right the first time, every time...

Now the fun part:  I don't have enough blue fabric that reads as fairly solid in that lighter value, so I'm going to have to go buy some.  I also need to decide how much pattern can go in those pieces without losing the effect I want.  Too solid is boring, but too much pattern would be distracting.  So I've been auditioning the fabrics I have before heading out to the quilt shop.

I'm not sure about the one on the far right.  What do you think?  Decisions are tough.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Block!

Sometimes you've just gotta make a decision and do it!  I stewed and fretted about fabric and color choices for setting the World's Ugliest Blocks, but decided that one color, two values, scrappy was going to be the way it would be.  Two main reasons led to this decision:  I have lots of blue fabric, and I hope that one color will calm the wild voices of those multi-colored prints.  In addition, my husband actually ventured an opinion:  "I see lots of blue."  If it's that obvious, then why fight it?

Here's the draft of the frame I drew for the block:

It's not hard to piece, although lining up the parallelograms with the triangles takes some fiddling.  The cutting was tricky.  I never rotary cut a parallelogram before, and realized I didn't know how.  I dug out an old book called Measure the Possibilities with Omnigrid by Nancy Johnson-Srebro, and there it was.  The procedure is not at all intuitive, at least not to me.

The big surprise was realizing that you have to add 3/4 inch seam allowance to the finished length instead of 1/2. Also there is a right and left hand to a parallelogram, and since the dark and light have to be placed consistently, I'm sure there will be ripping. And swearing.  

Still, for now I'm pretty pleased.  I love the way the white triangles change the shape of the block.  More cutting tomorrow.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

An Idea, Maybe

After lots of tinkering with Quilt-Pro, I came up with this possible layout, done in grey scale.  I scrapped the alternate block plan, and instead framed the original blocks, using an idea from Sharyn Craig's Great Sets, and set them diagonally. When the frame is colored in  two values, this three- dimensional effect appears.  (I can't remove the patch lines, so the effect might be stronger if you squint so they disappear.)

This is all very tentative.  I don't want to overpower the original blocks, and this design is quite strong.  Also, I have no idea about the colors, and even more importantly, I don't know whether it would require only two fabrics to be sure the values stayed consistent, or whether I could go scrappy.  Scrappy would probably lose some of the 3-D effect as values changed.  Would that be good or bad?  Also would the framing pieces need to be two values of one color throughout, blue for instance, or could each X design be a different color?  Since the original block is multicolor,  I'm thinking one color, but I'm not sure.

Part of the decision is related to available fabric.  If I keep the same fabrics throughout, I'll have to buy fabric.  I don't want to, because I already have too much.  A dilemma!

So I guess I'm at the auditioning fabric stage.  It's fun to think out loud, so to speak.  Thanks for reading.