Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bread Maker Update

While checking reviews on bread makers, I noticed that many reviewers said the first loaf or two smelled funny.  They were right!  My first loaf of bread smelled so badly of machine oil (I think that's what it was) that I couldn't eat it.  Goosey got to eat most of that loaf.  The second loaf smelled much better and was edible.  Now, I'm ready to try other things in it, like quick breads and cakes, but was quite disappointed that all those recipes included in the booklet that came with the bread maker call for commercial box mixes.  Gee, the only reason I bought a bread maker was to get away from processed foods!

I was starting to wonder if the bread maker was worth the $33 I paid for it.  Then I went grocery shopping today and noticed that the price of bread had gone up again.  The cheap, store label brand of breads (that aren't the really cheap "balloon" bread) is now $2.49 a loaf (it was $1.99).  That's one of the brands that now taste bitter to me.  The one brand I found that I can still tolerate is now $4.99 a loaf!  Guess I made a good investment afterall.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sewing in a Cold Studio

Brrr!  A cold front has moved in, sending nighttime lows below freezing.  Even though the days are sunny and warm up to the mid-40's, on the north side of this shady hill we don't get any of that sunshine.  No sunshine means it's usually 5-10 degrees cooler up here than down at the neighbors who live in the open, sunny fields.  Since moving out here, I've been relocating my sewing paraphanalia to my mom's living room during the winter.  My sewing studio is an uninsulated shed with nothing but electric space heaters for heat.  Even with two heaters going, it doesn't get warmer than 20 degrees above the outside temperature.

I can't do that this year.  We were in the process of rearranging everything in the living room to make room for a pellet stove when Mom had emergency hernia surgery in August.  Without her present to direct where to put things, we packed everything in boxes and stacked them up along the walls until after the pellet stove got installed.  Long story short, the pellet stove installation was finally completed 2 weeks ago.  We still have the furniture to move back in and all those boxes to unpack.

So, I will have to brave the cold and do my best in my shed this winter.  Jodi, another Oregonian, e-mailed a suggestion: fingerless gloves.  I've wondered about them, but being skeptical as to how gloves without fingers could really keep your fingers warm, I was reluctant to spend more than $1 on a pair.  Our local Dollar Tree never seems to have them in stock when I'm there shopping, so I've never tried fingerless gloves. 

But today, I found an extra pair of $1 gloves with fingers and cut the tips off, then tried sewing the rows together on this month's Montana Maze block while wearing them.

Can you tell what color the gloves are?!
Guess what?  They sorta, kinda work!  My fingers weren't toasty warm, but they were warmer than if I hadn't any gloves on at all.  Using scissors with a glove on was difficult but not impossible.  But I'll remove the gloves before doing any rotary cutting.  Sewing felt awkward at first, but I soon got the hang of it.  The biggest problem was the little fuzzies from the cut yarn dropping here and there, so maybe some real fingerless gloves will be worth the investment.

The benefit of cutting my own was tailoring them to my needs.  I'm a lefty and don't use my right hand for much, so I cut less off the fingers on the right glove.  I did the same for the little finger on the left glove, but then discovered that I use that finger more than I thought so I cut more off.

I now have a little pile of tiny snowman hats.  I know some kids who'll have great fun crafting with these!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

I did not purchase any fabric this weekend.  Nor did I purchase any batting, rotary blades, needles, sewing machine, or anything else quilt related.  I almost got through the entire sales period without buying a thing!  Almost.  My downfall was finding a bread maker for half-price at a local store.

For many years, I've resisted getting a bread maker.  But I had a strange reaction to the pain relief medication prescribed after my fall in October and since then many things have tasted funny.  The worst has been store-bought bread, which now tastes very bitter to me.  I'd hoped this strange effect would go away with time, but it's been 6 weeks since I quit taking the med and bread still tastes horrible.  Thinking it might be the preservatives and so forth that I'm now tasting, I decided it was worth the gamble of buying a bread maker.  I plan to test it out tonight.  If nothing else, the home baked bread will be healthier and probably less expensive.

If you haven't noticed yet, there's a new Sundrop Critter on my website.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving is Quickly Approaching

Well, I got a little sidetracked this weekend.  My intent was to get the new critter done and get caught up on the applique/stencil patterns for the Home on The Range BOM.  But when I realized Thanksgiving was so close, I decided to squeeze out a little time for just one new addition to my Thanksgiving page.  I drew a cute little Pilgrim outfit for my Pixiekin boy and added the pattern for it to my Thanksgiving page, but when I tried to upload the changes I found that page missing from my website!  While looking for it, I noticed several other pages missing, too. 

So I spent a lot of extra time yesterday tracking down everything for my Thanksgiving page and uploading nearly all of it.  Oddly, the pdf patterns for the Dresden Turkey and Friendship quilt were already uploaded right where they belonged.  I have a vague memory of losing a few things several years ago when I changed web hosts, and another vague memory of deleting old, old files because I was out of space, but surely I wouldn't have deleted something so important as Thanksgiving, would I?

The rest of this week will probably be on the crazy side, so I'll wish you a Happy Thanksgiving now while I have the chance.
Have a wonderful day!  Enjoy the food (but don't overeat).  And if you go out on Black Friday, please stay safe.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Block Named Old Fashioned Quilt

Instructions for the 9th block for the Home on the Range BOM are now available on my web site.  This block, called Old Fashioned Quilt, has 49 pieces but goes together quite easily.  The 7-inch block that I made was even fairly easy!  I think I'll be adding this block to my list of favorites. 

I like the "star within a star" effect that can be created.  I colored the block below in pink and lavender to demonstrate the double star that I see: a pink inner star and an outer lavender star.  This block could have great possibilities as a scrappy block. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Unwanted Excitement

We had a little more unwanted excitement in my family again, only this time I was the one who got a trip to the Emergency Room in an ambulance.  While shopping, or intending to shop, I slipped on the wet parking lot and fell fast and hard.  Since I coudn't move, breathe or talk at first, someone naturally called 911.  I'm very grateful that we have good emergency care here, but it was a bit embarrassing getting an ambulance ride when I knew intuitively that nothing was broken - I just couldn't catch my breath quickly enough to assure everyone that I was okay.

Ninety minutes later, the x-rays confirmed that nothing was broken.  My superficial head wound was already healing and there was no sign of concussion.  But my right side had been bruised and jarred to the point of causing non-stop muscle spasms, so I've been on medication and haven't done much of anything but sleep for the last twelve days.  I stopped taking the meds today and my mental faculties seem pretty clear now.  I'm still reallly sore but expect to be at work again tomorrow. 

So once again, life has put a detour in my plans and I'm further behind schedule.  But it takes more than a few detours to get me completely off-course.  I will see these BOMs and other projects through to the finish!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bow Tie Bat Block

Saturday is usually my day to play (not work!) in my sewing shed, but the weather was sunny and mild yesterday so I did outdoor chores.  Today, my arthritic foot is complaining loudly that I overdid it yesterday, so I snuck in some playtime this afternoon.  Here's what my test block for the Bow Tie Bat looks like:
He's a classy bat dressed in a tux!  I'm not sure what to do for eyes, yet.  The ones you see now are straight pins with extra large ball point heads.  They're great for testing different positions for the eyes, but they can only be temmporary.

I haven't found my wiggle eyes, but I did find a bucket of Duplo blocks that had gotten wet enough that green, brown and black microbial yuck was starting to grow on the blocks.  I dumped them in a sinkful of sudsy, antibacterial water and have been working at cleaning them off and on all day.  After trying various cleaning tools, I finally decided on a toothbrush.  It works to get around all those "teeth," but it's tedious work.  I wonder if the Lego company has ever thought of designing a cleaning tool for cleaning a bucket of blocks at once?  I am happy to discover that the faces on the little people/animal blocks held up to being scrubbed.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pink Magnolia Bats

While working on the Pink Magnolia block for this month's Home on the Range BOM, I happened to notice that the quadrant units kind of looked like bats wearing big bow ties (possibly because the dots in the red fabric look like eyes in the lower right quadrant!).  The bows seemed just a bit big, so I played a little with the block in Electric Quilt and came up with this design:

Now I just need to find time to test this with fabric.  But I think I'll make five of the bat units and join them together horizontally to make a valance for my shed's door.  And if I can find the little plastic wiggle eyes left from my days of doing child care, I'll add them.  But then again, the block above in the 14" size would make a cute trick-or-treat bag.  And a big, big block (like a 21" or 28" size) would make a cute table topper with a candy dish positioned in the center.  Decisions, decisions!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Emergency Creative Juices

It was the last day of July and I was scanning the components of August's block for my Home on the Range BOM when I happened to notice that the block I was making was not in the public domain.  Ee-yi-yi, how did that happen?!  I thought I had weeded out all of the blocks that were credited to someone who might still have a valid copyright.  This particular block was Judy Martin's Puppy Dog Tails.  I remember seeing Judy Martin on a TV quilting show in the last dozen or so years so I know she has a valid copyright to that block.  I have no desire to infringe on someone else's copyright, so at the eleventh hour I had to come up with a new block.

I looked at the blocks I had passed on for this BOM and didn't like any of them.  Some were too complicated, some were too much like others I've already chosen, and some just don't appeal to me.  I stared at my pile of pieces already cut out with most of the components (like HSTs) already sewn and groaned at the thought of having to start completely from scratch.  Then the light bulb went on!  Maybe I could rearrange the components into a new design that wasn't copyrighted.

After an hour of playing with Electric Quilt software, I had six designs at my disposal.  Next came the hard part: researching to see if they already existed.  I think of these blocks as 7-patch designs because they're based on a 7 x 7 grid of equal squares.  But Barbara Brackman, in her Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, classifies them as "unequal 9-patch" blocks.  And Maggie Malone, in 5,500 Quilt Block Designs, has them grouped with the "5-patch designs."  I've seen lesser known books use different classifications yet.

The sixth design that I created was my favorite, so I did my best to locate it in the first two major reference books.  An hour later, I breathed a sigh of relief because I didn't find it in either book.  Of course, I could have missed it.  And quilters are designing new blocks all the time and these two books by no means contain every pieced block ever designed.  But there's absolutely no way I can research every quilt block ever designed.  I've done my best for now.  I've named my block design "Cowboy Star" and will claim copyright unless I learn otherwise.  I sewed up my reorganized pieces into my new block today and will have all of the photos and instructions on my website tomorrow.

And I've got my fingers crossed that no one notifies me that they saw this block in such-and-such book.

And if they do, please let it be in the public domain!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chained Star Project: part 2

I almost had this project completely finished before health issues intrrupted everything.  Although I'm feeling much better and have little pain, I'm still being sent off to have tests done.  There's only one scheduled test left to do and I hope it's the last.  None have been horrendous, most have been annoying, and all have been time-consuming.  I have taken a redwork project along to work on in waiting rooms and I finished a block last week, so I guess I've accomplished something, but I'll be glad to have more time devoted to quilting again.  Here's what I had finished on the Chained Star wall pocket project.

After finishing the block, I backed it with muslin and used flannel as batting, then machine-quilted it with a loose meandering design being very careful not to quilt through the little pockets.

Then I used double-fold binding to bind the top edge only just as I would a quilt, only I sewed the binding to the back first then folded it over to the front and used a blanket stitch to sew it in place by machine.

Now it was time to make a final decision about what fabric to use for the back of the pocket.  Earlier, I had pulled two FQ's that I thought might work:
After holding the finished block up to them, I decided that the crayon print was just too busy and chose the striped FQ.  I cut this FQ to the same width as the block, making a piece that was 18" x 12.5".  I then cut some muslin and flannel (for batting) the same size.  Next, I placed the striped fabric piece on top of the flannel, pinned the quilted block to the bottom half, then machine basted it in place by sewing the sides and bottom with a 3/8" seam allowance.

I was about to pin the muslin piece on top when I noticed the leftover piece of the striped FQ.  It was the perfect size for another pocket!  So I cut a piece about 9" x 12" and folded it in half, right sides together, to make it 9" x 6".  I stitched around two sides, leaving one short side open for turning right side out.  I pressed the raw edges under 1/4 inch then sewed the opening closed.  After a good pressing, I machine stitched on the top edge (optional), then pinned this soon-to-be pocket to the striped fabric above the Chained Star block.  Using a decorative stitch, I sewed the sides and bottom of the new pocket to the striped back and flannel.

Then I thought, "What if I don't want to hang this on a wall?  What if I want to tie it to a headboard or to a curtain rod or to a walker or something?"  I couldn't find any ribbon the right color, so I improvised by cutting four 1/2" x 12" strips of red fabric.  I folded each strip in half then spaced them evenly apart at the top edge of the striped back and tacked them in place at the folded center of each strip.

Now it's time to pin the muslin to the top of all this and stitch around it, leaving a 4-6" opening for turning.  I hope to get that done tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Getting Back in the Saddle

Between health issues, Yahoo hiccups and painfully slow modem speeds, I haven't accomplished much lately.  I'm feeling better, Yahoo has supposedly recovered (so maybe I can actually send out my August newsletter), and I found a new ISP so my modem now works at 40k rather than 20k.  40k might seem like turtle speed to those who have DSL and other modern technological goodies, but it's seems to zip along at rabbit speed to me.  Maybe I can get something done now!

July's block for the "Cowboy" BOM is one I designed myself, so I thought you might like to see what happens when several are set together.

Here it is without sashing.  If you take a few steps away from your monitor (or squint your eyes), you'll see why I named this block Roundup. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chained Star Project: Part 1

It wasn't my intention to sleep the whole of last week like Rip van Winkle, but an old issue with back pain and muscle spasms made a surprise visit and the medications made me sleep most of the time.  But they did their job - the spasms are gone and the pain is mild enough to not need any medication, so it's time to get back to work and cram two week's worth of work into one.

Let's get back to the Chained Star project that I almost finished before my sewing machine died on me.  (That issue put me behind schedule before last week, so I guess I'm cramming three weeks of work into one - wish me luck!)

When assembling my block, I decided to create two mini pockets from the vertical rectangles at the top and bottom of the block.  To do this, I cut 2 extra rectangles and hemmed the top of each.

These were placed on top of the regular rectangles and sewn as one in the block as per directions in Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks.  The only tricky part was remembering to place the pocket opening for the bottom of the block the opposite way from the top.

The pockets are rather small, but as the saying goes: "great things come in small packages."  A great variety of tiny treasures can be tucked into these tiny pockets: nail clippers, jewelry, crayons, flash drives, micro cars, little love notes and maybe a frog or two.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Another Highlight

I forgot to mention another highlight of the last seven days.  While sewing one afternoon, a flash of bright color through the window caught my eye.  It took me a few seconds to find the source of that flash, but it was worth abandoning my quilting for a bit.  I saw a brilliantly colored bird dive into the filbert (hazelnut) tree about 20 feet away.  The bright yellow body, black and white wings and red-orange head made me think some tropical pet had escaped a birdcage, but as I watched several more appeared, all flying at breakneck speed between the filbert tree and a tall viburnum (snowball bush) only 10 feet apart.  The sun happened to be shining just then, making their colors even more brilliant.  It was impossible to count how many there were as they moved so fast, but I'm guessing 8-10 - enough to know that they weren't escaped pets.

All too soon, the birds flew northwest out of my field of vision and the show was over.  The rain was pouring again within 5 minutes, so I hope the little creatures had reached a safe place by then.  Later, I checked out my now favorite bird identification web site ( and soon learned that my little visitors were western tanagers.  This resource said they spend the winter in Mexico and Central America then migrate north for summer breeding.  These guys must have been making a pit stop before traveling farther north.  I hope I'm lucky enough to see them again next fall when the fly south.

My Week with Murphy's Law

This last week was ruled by Murphy's Law - just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  It started with another altercation with Windows 7, which refuses to run one of my favorite and most used programs on the grounds of incompatibility.  It's the program I use to design and print my pattern covers, and it's no longer being produced by Microsoft and therefore no updated versions of it are or ever will be available.  If I upgrade to Windows 7 Pro (or whatever it's called) and add a virtual XP program, there's a chance my beloved old program will run, but there's also a chance that it won't.  I'm pretty sure that Windows 7 is going to give me more gray hairs than I'd get raising a teenager for 6 or 7 years.

I think my best bet will be to redesign my covers in another program, one that isn't owned by Microsoft and has a reputation for sticking around for a long, long, long time.  I'd much rather use that time for other things, but we do what we have to do.  If I do one redesign per week, I should be done in about a year or so - groan!  Maybe I'd better try two per week.  Meanwhile, I still have my funky old conputer with XP at my parents' house that I can use.  May it live long and prosper!

I won't bore you with the rest of my mishaps, but share something positive instead.  A Yahoo group I subscribe to is doing a monthly challenge this year.  This month's challenge is pieced braids.  It's a technique I've wanted to try but never made the time to do so, so on Sunday afternoon I made time to try it.  I think I've fallen in love!  Lol!  I pulled scraps from my scrap basket and had a nice looking braid going in minutes.  I can see this as my go-to method for using up scraps from now on.

My first braid is being used to make a small purse.  On the second braid, I tried using only blue scraps.  I don't know, yet, what it'll become.  It's pretty but only 12" long (only 6" in the photo), so it might become trim on a tote bag, or a dog jacket, or perhaps an apron.  Or ...?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chained Star Project: Fabrics

I began cutting fabrics on Monday.  In the end, I let the fabrics sort of dictate which colorway to use - the black chalkboard fabric has to be the rectangles because chalkboards are rectangular!

It takes less than half a fat quarter of each fabric to make this block.  In most cases, one-fourth of a fat quarter is plenty.  This project also requires:
14" square muslin for backing the block
14" square thin batting or flannel
two 12.5" x 16.5" fabric for back of wall hanging - choose a coordinating fabric for one piece as part will extend beyond the quilt block
13" binding
scraps and miscellaneous trims for embellishing

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chained Star Project

It's still Saturday here on the west coast, so I'm squeaking in under deadline even though most of you have called it a day and tucked yourself under a quilt.  My dial-up internet service was being quite cranky today and disconnecting every 5-30 minutes.  When your modem works at 24K, 5 minutes is barely enough time to even log on!

Anyway, on to the project!  Here's a shot of the novelty fabric I've chosen for this project.
It's a kid print with bright primary colors which will be fun to work with.  This fabric came in a pack of FQs and being a large print, the options for using it are rather few.  With fussy-cutting, there's enough to get four 6.5" squares, but I've decided on a 1-block project: a large wall pocket for stashing diapers or bedside reading material or other treasures that clutter a kid's bed until mom or dad insists that they be put away.

The copyright for my Chained Star block currently belongs to Quiltmaker so I can't give you instructions for making the block for at least another 6 months when the copyright returns to me.  While we wait for the 100 Blocks issue to go on sale (May 10), I'll share some of my pre-sewing process with you.  First, I pulled coordinating fabrics from my stash.  I settled on a red with white dots, a yellow with tiny black and white butterflies (I think that's what they are) and a black with white "chalk" drawings. 

Next, I used  Electric Quilt software to play with the colors, and I found even more ways to color this block!
Oh my, it's going to be difficult choosing just one!  Since children often think of stars as yellow or gold, I chose yellow for the star points in most of the colorways and I'll most likely choose one where the star really pops out, but isn't it interesting how a set of five shapes in one configuration can yield so many variations.  A dozen blocks could easily be made with these four fabrics with each block being different. And even though they're different, the "chain" still links them all together.  I love playing with designs!

And the Winners are...

The lucky winners of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks are Sandi P.and Becky.  Both winners have been notified by e-mail.

Thank you to everyone who left comments.  It was so much fun reading them all.  If I got that many comments for everything I posted, I could easily get addicted to blogging!  I'll be back later today to post about a project using the Chained Star block.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Quiltmaker's Blog Tour

Welcome to everyone dropping by from Quiltmaker's blog tour!  Today (Friday) is my day to be featured on the tour along with many other talented designers who have blocks in Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, vol. 3.  Here's the Chained Star block I designed:
Scroll down to the previous two posts to learn more about my block and see it in different colorways.

If you haven't checked out the blog tour, I encourage you to do so.  You'll meet some great designers and get to see some of the creative blocks in volume 3 of 100 Blocks, which should be available in stores next week.  But I have to warn you that once you see these great blocks, you'll want a copy of the magazine!  I know that money is tight for many of us, but getting 100 original block designs for only $6.99 is quite a deal, I think.

If you're feeling lucky, you just might win a copy of the magazine.  The Quiltmaker blog and every designer on the blog tour is having a drawing for a free copy of the magazine.  And Quiltmaker has drawings for other super prizes, too.  Plus, I'm giving away a second copy of the magazine to one of you who comments on  today's topic: What would you most likely put in the center square of my Chained Star block?  A novelty print?  Embroidered block?  Applique block?  Photo transfer?  Hand-painted block?  Something else that I haven't thought of?

On Saturday, I'll post part 1 of the project I'm making with my Chained Star design.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More on My Chained Star Block

I was going through my stash of novelty fabrics for examples that could work with my Chained Star block and, except for the realistic animal prints, they were mostly bright colors.  Maybe living in a rainy climate makes me gravitate toward bright fabrics.

I'll be using a bright print later this week to demonstrate a small project using my Chained Star block, but I want to mention that applique and embroidered blocks also work well as centers for this block.
I've been working on a set of stamped Sunbonnet Sue embroidery blocks for several summers now (I like to work on these while sitting in the sun so I'm making slow progress).  I'm nearly finished with the fourth block and thought about using them with the Chained Star block, but they're 8" squares and I refuse to trim them down to 6" squares!  They'll just have to wait for another block design, but here's what a redwork Chained Star might look like:
And here's what a small redwork quilt might look like, with and without sashing:

Do you see how the stars are "chained" together in this quilt?

For instructions on entering a drawing to win a copy of Quiltmake's 100 Blocks magazine, scroll down to my previous blog post.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Block and a Free Magazine

This is my block as it appears in Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks:

I named it Chained Star - you will understand why when you begin playing with multiplle blocks!

This is one of the blocks I designed to utilize 6.5" charms (unfinished size) of those great novelty and bold floral prints that are so difficult to cut into smaller pieces.  For the block above, I used leftovers from a layer cake pack that were sitting on my sewing table at the time.  It doesn't look anything like the bright colors I usually work with in Electric Quilt when I play with designs!  Below are some computer-generated blocks, in my more usual colors, that show other ways to color this block.

In the bottom two, you can see how the "star" can pretty much vanish when the color placement is changed.  They're all great designs, but I think I like the ones with the prominent star best.  Which do you like best?  Leave a comment to this question for a chance to win a free issue of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, vol. 3!  On May 7, a lucky winner will be chosen from all who reply.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

100 Blocks Coming Soon!

Volume 3 of Quiltmaker's special edition magazine 100 Blocks will soon be on sale at quilt shops and newsstands, and one of my blocks is in it!
My designer's copy of the magazine arrived last week.  It's full of great blocks ranging from easy to complex and with representatives for every major method: pieced, foundation pieced, applique and combination methods.  There's also a range from traditional geometric to whimsical fun to drop-dead gorgeous.  It's going to be difficult choosing which block to try first.  Quiltmaker is hosting a blog tour of the designers' blogs starting May 2 with lots of giveaways!  Check it out here:

And stay tuned here, too, as I have a few issues of the magazinne to give away.  I just have to decide how. And I'll be showing off my block, giving you color variations and ideas for using it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Home on the Range Fabric Requirements, 21" blocks

If you've chosen to do the 21" blocks for this BOM, you will need the following amounts of yardage:
Color A - very light - 2 1/4 yds. (includes sashing)
Color B - light - 1 yd.
Color C - medium - 7/8 yd.
Color D - medium - 1 yd.
Color E - dark - 1 1/8 yd.
Color F - very dark - 1/2 yd.

These amounts do include some leeway for a few miscuts.  If you are still concerned about shrinkage and more than a few miscuts, or simply want extra fabric for your own creative interpretation of my design, add another 1/4 yd to the amounts listed above.

The border I designed uses pieces of each color cut 3.5" wide (3" finished).  For this border, add the following amounts to the yardage requireed:
Colors A & B - 3/4 yd.
Colors C, D, E & F - 3/8 yd.

This quilt will finish at 81" x 105".  For binding, you will need 10.5 yds. of purchased binding or 3/4 yd. fabric to make your own double-fold binding (non-bias).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yardage and Borders for Home on the Range, 14" blocks

Here are the yardage requirements for the Home on the Range BOM when using 14" blocks.

1-1/2 yds. Color A - very light (includes enough for seventeen 2.5" wide sashing strips)
3/4 yd. Color B - light (yellow on my EQ blocks)
3/4 yd. Color C - medium (green on my EQ blocks)
3/4 yd. Color D - medium (blue on my EQ blocks)
1 yd. Color E - dark (red on my EQ blocks)
1/2 yd. Color F - very dark (navy on my EQ blocks)
These amounts include a little extra for a few miscuts along the way.  Excluding sashing, the largest pieces in the BOM are 5" squares and 2.5" x 6.5" rectangles, so an extra 1/4 yd. will go a long way in covering any mistakes.  Add the extra 1/4 yard if you're concerned about shrinkage or multiple miscuts or just want extra fabric to play with creative urges along the way.
Amounts above include 2.5" (2" finished) wide sashing and cornerstones, but do not include borders.  The border that I designed is pieced and makes the most of our precious fabrics.  If you decide to use this border, add 1/4 yard to all of the yardage amounts above.
Finished size of this layout with 14" blocks will be 54" x 70" - large enough for a sofa throw or a twin bed topper (nothing to tuck in at the foot of the bed).  For binding, you will need 7.25 yds. purchased binding or 1/2 yd. fabric to make your own double-fold binding (non-bias).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cowboy Shirt

With this year's Home on the Range BOM, my intent is to show a different way to do something each month.  Last month, I used the fusible web backing from my cowboy boot appliques as stencils to stitch around when machine quilting a block.  This time, I traced the cowboy shirt line drawing on an old sheet of typing paper (remember that thin paper we typed on before the days of computers and ink-guzzling printers?)  I was going to use the drawing I'd printed on inkjet printer paper, but when I spied the typing paper in my sewing shed with my art supplies, I thought it might tear more easily.  I just traced the image rather than walking 100 feet back to my trailer to run the typing paper through my printer.  (Someday, I'm going to get a cheap printer set up in my shed and save myself some time running back and forth.)

After tracing the image, I cut away the excess paper, pinned it to my Tonganoxie 9-Patch block sandwich, then stitched on the lines just like when doing foundation paper piecing.  The only drawback to this method is pulling off the paper when finished - just like paper piecing, it can be a tedious pain!

 Here it is with half the paper removed.  The paper looks much like a tiny white shirt!  I'll have to try this as an applique someday using white batiste or some other sheer fabric.

Paper is now completely removed.  This method went fast for quilting one 7" block.  If doing a lot of blocks, I'd want a paper that was even easier to remove like the disolvable kind.  As a 7" block, the Tonganoxie 9-Patch is so small and busy that I didn't try the shirt as an applique.  The appliques can always be used on another block, though.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Things

It stopped raining today!  We even got brief periods of sunshine when the clouds parted at the right moments.  And the thermometer made it to 60 for the first time this year.  I'm feeling so much better.  Actually, I'm still fighting this "boomerang" virus that's been plaguing me on and off all month, but nice weather sure helps my mental attitude.

While I've been under the weather (gee, I think I now understand how that saying came about), Goosey has been laying another batch of eggs.  She now has 19 in the same nest she made for the first batch.  She even tries to sit on them this time, but no matter how she arranges herself or the eggs, she can't cover all 19 at once.  I decided to let her keep the eggs for awhile this time.  No one around here seems interested in cooking with goose eggs, but I'm thinking they might be fun to put in Easter baskets in a few weeks.

I also acquired a 6-month old chihuahua about two weeks ago.  Goosey and Cupid are still in the process of learning not to chase each other.  Cupid is also learning not to chase kitties, not to jump on people, not to tear things (like quilt batting) to pieces, not to remove laces from shoes, not to irrigate the floor, and a host of other "nots."  He's supposed to be a foster dog in training for a forever home.  We'll see.  The real problem is not his lack of training but his size.  Cupid is like a Greyhound in a chihuahua suit.  He's a deer head chihuahua with a long nose, long body and long legs that didn't stop growing when they were supposed to.  Standing on his hind legs, he's tall enough to pull things off the kitchen table.  If he had spots, he could easily pass as a fawn.  Prospective doggy parents take one look at him and run!  Too bad, because he has a sweet personality, he's intelligent, friendly, loves kids, and is quite happy to to sit on a human's lap all day.  I think Sophie (my little chihuahua) better get used to sharing her bed with a dog nearly twice her size.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fabrics: the Bold, the Beautiful, and the Ugly

Yesterday, I sent a sloppily written message to a Yahoo quilting group that caused a bit of an uproar. I didn't choose my words wisely and as a result, I offended people. I've already apologized, but I think the subject, the perception of colors and beauty, is important and worth exploring here.

When I wrote my original message, I was thinking of people I know personally who are visually impaired and really don't care about colors. Their attitude is that quilts should be warm and soft and wash well, and that's all that counts. So I suggested that fabrics that we consider to be ugly could be used to make quilts for people with visual impairments. I did not intend to convey that all people with visual impairments place no value on color. I should have been more careful in my use of words, as I do know that colors are important to many visually impaired people for a variety of reasons. It would be more accurate to say that some people, for various reasons, do not place importance on colors. These people are probably a very small percentage of the population, but they do exist.

Neither did I intend to advocate that people purposely use all of their "ugly" fabrics for charity quilts. Please don't! Quiltmaking is a wonderful blend of craft and art, providing myriad opportunities for self-expression.  We all need the freedom to create what is pleasing to us and to use materials that we take pleasure in using.  Some of us find pleasure in challenging ourselves to create something out of materials we consider to be less than nice, such as "ugly" fabrics.  On the other hand, some of us get no pleasure at all from such a challenge. For those who don't, it's better to pass those materials on to someone else, or use them for testing new techniques. 

What I am advocating is that age-old proverb that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I perceive as ugly may be perceived as beautiful by someone else. And, though I might not like admitting it, the flip side is also true: what I perceive to be beautiful may be perceived as ugly by someone else.

As I thought about my "ugly" fabrics, it occurred to me that the artist who designed that fabric must have seen beauty in it. So did the people in the manufacturing company who were responsible for choosing to print that design on fabric. The same can be said of quilt designs.  I don't like every quilt pattern I see in a magazine or catalog.  There are even some that I'd call "ugly."  But the designers liked, even loved, those designs.  And the editors of those magazines and catalogs must have seen something of beauty in those designs, too.  Just as "you can't please all of the people all of the time," no fabric or quilt design is going to be loved by everybody everywhere.

But somewhere out there, there is a perfect someone for every fabric and every quilt created.

Perhaps the importance of color is more a matter of pragmatism versus esthetics for some people. Even before my dad lost his sight, he would have said something like, "Stop fussing about the colors. My eyes are closed when I'm sleeping so it doesn't really matter to me whether the colors match or not." My dad is a pragmatist. As long as an object serves its function, what it looks like is not important to him.

I'm not like my dad. Looks matter to me just as much as function, and I love working with colors. If I wasn't so in love with color, I might have gone into woodworking or baking or some other craft where the use of color is more restricted. I'm willing to bet that most people who enjoy quiltmaking have a similar love affair with colors. That's part of what attracts us to this craft. But I don't think that all people are as attuned to colors as I am.

I've been learning since childhood that other people often "see" colors differently than I do. One of my uncles was color blind. Decorated Christmas trees that looked like they were sparkling with beautiful jewels to me, looked like brown trees with various shades of brown objects hanging on them to my uncle. To design a quilt for someone like him, I'd need to ignore colors and focus on values only. Sometimes I like to challenge myself to do a monochromatic design, but in general I prefer to have the entire color palette at my disposal. But many people love monochromatic designs.

My mother is not visually impaired, but she sees colors differently than I do. What I call blue-green, she calls blue. What she sees as green, I see as yellow-green. It's as if her personal color wheel is one notch off compared to my personal color wheel. Her use of color and pattern is also different from mine. I irritated her immensely as a young child when I refused to wear clothes she set out for me, things like pink socks with a red dress or a paisley blouse with a plaid skirt. To me these things clashed horribly, but she saw nothing wrong with the combinations. She still doesn't. The baby/toddler quilts she makes are a wild mismash of colors and patterns that make me cringe, but young children tend to love them. Their parents may suppress a grimace and a shudder, but the kids love them and that's what counts. My mom has found the right target population for the quilts she makes.

Colors can also be perceived differently by different cultures. Not so long ago, my culture considered black to be the color of death and mourning. In some cultures, white symbolizes death. My culture's white wedding dresses make no sense in these cultures. Color combinations that I perceive as gawdy might be quite pleasing in another culture. Once again, my "ugly" quilt might be an object of beauty in another culture.

Got some spare time?  Do an image search on "ugly quilts."  You might be surprised at what comes up.

Going back to the topic of blindness, way back in my college days, I learned that colors give off (or absorb) varying degrees of heat, and that some blind people can distinguish between colors of paper, fabric and similar substances by how warm these substances feel. My first reaction was "no way!," but after giving the matter some thought, I could understand the possibility. Even as a sighted person, I have experienced this in small ways: white and pastel clothes are cooler than dark clothes, a car with dark upholstery is unbearably hot in the summer, and my white cats' fur is considerably cooler than my black cats' fur. If I had to, I could probably learn to distinguish white fabric from black fabric without sight. I seriously doubt my own ability to learn to distinguish between more subtle color differences like red from green or yellow from white, but I can accept that it's theoretically possible. For those who can, it adds a whole new dimension to design. Imagine creating a quilt design based on how we feel the colors rather than how we see them!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tonganoxie Nine-Patch

Here's the finished Tonganoxie 9-Patch block (that I can't upload to my web site, arrgh) made from the test fabrics that I found at Wal-mart.  These fabrics more closely match the colors that I used in my Electric Quilt versions, so I decided to use them for my instructional photos in the Home on the Range BOM.

This block uses fabrics from the fat quarter sampler I purchased from Connecting Threads.  One thing missing from this sampler is a blue that reads as a medium blue when compared to the other fabrics.  So I chose the lightest blue in the bunch and the darkest red, then used the back side of the red to make it look darker.
The front side of the red print has a lot of white in it, which really brightens the overall color.  On the back side, the white barely shows so the overall color is more like a dull burgundy.  In most cases, I prefer the bright, right side of the fabric, but I think the duller back side works better for these small, 1-inch squares (finished size) of fabric in this block.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Climbing Sand Dunes

Sometimes life seems like climbing sand dunes, taking two steps forward only to slide backward one step.  This week has been like that.  I got everything finished this weekend to get this month's BOM caught up on my web site, and now I can't upload anything new to my site.  Aarrgh!  I'm not sure, yet, but it looks like my web host changed ownership or is making major changes in other ways.  Until I learn exactly what is going on and how to deal with it, I'll be posting things related to this year's Home on the Range BOM here.

Maybe this was meant to be?

There's a new poll for March below - check it out!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Boot Quiltin' Boogie

 Today was my first day back in my shed to sew since we had that cold spell of weather.  As usual, I spent more than my usual amount of time using my seam ripper.  Why is it that I make more mistakes when I haven't been at my machine for awhile?  I did get something accomplished, though.

I used the 2-inch boot patterns from this year's Home on the Range BOM (go to Sundrop Designs for the patterns) to make fusible appliques for one of last month's 7" sample Bear's Paw blocks.  (The entire time I was working, I had Billy Ray Cyrus's old "Boot Scootin' Boogie" song playing in my head.)  At the 2" size, I didn't try to put the little pull tabs on the boots, but they turned out looking like cowboy boots anyway.

I saved the little paper backings from the fusible web and glued them to another sample block using washable glue.  It's best to put the glue on the dull paper side, not the shiny plastic film side.  But if you get it wrong like I did a few times, don't panic.  I was able to scrape off the plastic film that stuck to my block using my thumbnail as a scraper.  After layering the backing, batting and block for a quilt-as-you-go method, I glued the little paper boots in place then stitched around them using a specialty stitch on my machine.  This particular stitch pattern was 3 stitches forward, 1 stitch back.  It has kind of a rope-like appearance on a tiny scale.  Once the stitching was done, I removed the paper.

Here's what the backing side looks like.  The batting only requires quilting every 10 inches, so these four tiny boots will be enough quilting for this 7-inch block.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Call for Hearts

Whenever a natural (or sometimes unnatural) disaster occurs, quilters and other crafters open their hearts and want to put their hands to work to help those affected by the disaster.  It can be a little frustrating to hear that financial help is all that's wanted.  But Evie Harris (no relation) of New Zealand has come up with a way for crafters to use their talents to show emotional support and boost the moral of the people of Christchurch, New Zealand, recently shaken by a devastating earthquake.  She's asking people to make hearts with a string for hanging that can be displayed in public.  For more information, check out the blog that Evie set up for this mission:

This sounds like a great activity for involving kids.  Perhaps you still have a heart-shaped candy box still hanging around from Valentine's Day that can be used for a tracing template.  I dug mine out of the trash a few days ago thinking it might come in handy for something - I just found that something!  If you don't have a box, there are lots of free heart coloring pages on the internet that can be used as patterns.  Dig out the craft supplies and have fun!