Monday, December 29, 2014

Making Plans for 2015

Another Christmas has come and gone and I'm still working on little Christmas projects.  I started making tree ornaments years ago for gifts, a different ornament each year.  My plan this year was to crochet little birds, but I couldn't find the right weights of yarn in the right colors.  I already had red and white yarn, so my plan changed to little red stockings with white trim.  I tried three patterns before finding one I liked -- almost.  I'm still tweaking it to make the stocking I'm envisioning.  And I'm still crocheting dishcloths for a friend who really likes crocheted dishcloths.  I'm seriously thinking that I need to work on these little Christmas projects every month of the year instead of waiting until October!  (Part of my problem this year was uncooperative dogs who plopped in my lap every time I pulled out a ball of yarn -- aren't cats supposed to do that?)

We have another blast of arctic weather scheduled to arrive tonight and stay until Saturday.  I'll be staying at my mom's house finishing up crochet projects and working at the computer.  No sewing until the freezing weather returns to the arctic.  That gives me time to make plans for 2015.  On my list so far:
1. make Christmas gifts throughout the year
2. try a stained glass quilting technique
3. get to work on some of the design ideas I have in my notebook
4. keep searching for better internet service

So what's on your list for 2015?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Yikes! Only Two Days 'til Christmas!

Where did this month go in such a hurry?  Only two days before Christmas and I'm still baking and making small gifts!  I won't be blogging until after Christmas, so Happy Holidays everyone!  I'll be back sometime this weekend, I think.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Project: Bump on the Logs, part 3b

Yesterday, I double-checked my virtual quilt representation in Electric Quilt (EQ) and found nothing wrong.  It must have been my imagination that things seemed wrong!  But I did make some changes because I did my borders differently than I thought I would.  I thought I had cut 2" strips of beige for borders when I cut my 1.5" logs, but I couldn't find them anywhere so thought I'd have to do my best with the 8 inches left of that yardage.  On Saturday, I spied the missing strips underneath my chair.  It's an office chair with those five rolling legs and it's pushed against a dark wood bookcase when I'm not sitting in it, so it's easy to miss something small directly under the legs.  I suppose I have Trudy (chihuahua) to thank for the strips being on the floor.

So I went back to my original plan for borders, more or less.  Here's what I did:

Border 1 (could also be called the top sashing): cut 2 strips 2.5" x WOF of dark fabric, sew to top and bottom of quilt top.  This makes the top square.

Border 2: cut three strips 2" x WOF and one strip 3" x WOF of light fabric.  Sew two of the narrow strips to the sides.  Sew one narrow strip to the top.  Sew the wide strip to the bottom.

Border 3: cut one 3" x WOF of focal fabric, one 2" x WOF of  light fabric, one 1.5" x WOF of dark fabric, and one 2.5" x WOF of light fabric.  Sew these strips together, then sew the completed border unit to the top edge.

Note: I chose not to add more borders to the bottom edge because I'm running out of yardage.  But if you have yardage to spare, you can add to the bottom edge the same borders as the top edge to make your quilt a few inches longer.

My top now measures 37" x 45.5" (minus seam allowance).  It's now time to give the top a good pressing, trim off threads and neaten things up a bit, then find batting and backing fabric to sandwich it altogether.  I found a fleece throw on sale the other day that has the perfect colors for my top, but I haven't decided yet whether to use it or a cotton fabric that doesn't match so well.  Whichever I choose, I have just enough of the dark fabric left to make double-fold binding.  My finished quilt should look like this:

I've tried the "quick" pillowcase or birthing method of finishing a quilt and don't like it much.  Seems to take me longer to turn it and get those edges to lay correctly and then quilt (or tie) it than it does to quilt it and sew on a binding.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Project: Bump on the Logs -- Progress

Our normal, cold winter weather has returned, but I spent a couple of hours in my shed today sewing borders on.  As I worked, I noticed that my measurements were not matching those in my EQ rendition.  I must have goofed somewhere!  I brought the completed top over here where my computer is.  Tomorrow, I can redraw what I actually sewed instead of relying on my memory.

I took a short break from my sewing when my mom's caregiver popped in to chat before going home.  All of a sudden, my sewing machine started sewing all by itself!  After a flustered moment or two, I looked down and saw Dusty calmly sitting on the foot pedal.  When I shooed him off, his look seemed to say, "Gee, what's all the commotion about?"  Surprisingly, I didn't have to frog-stitch and redo the 2-3 inches that he sewed.  Can I now claim that this project is so easy that even a dog can sew it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Project: Bump on the Logs, part 3a

Well, things didn't go as planned today.  I awoke feeling ill.  By the time I felt like moving about and doing things, the weather changed drastically.  The wind began blowing, the temperature fell, and the rain came down by the bucketfuls.  Without an umbrella, I would have been drenched to the skin in just a few short seconds.  It's nearly 100 steps to my sewing shed, so I elected to stay in my office and do computer stuff.  But thanks to Electric Quilt software, I can show you what I planned to do today.

So, here's a virtual representation of what was completed yesterday:

I was a little off on my measurements last night.  EQ says the top at this stage should measure about 34.5 x 30.5 inches.

From here, my first step is going to be to add red sashing strips to the top and bottom, but I'm going to cut these strips wider than the vertical strips so that I can add some length to the quilt.  Cutting my strips 2.5" wide will add four inches to the length, making to top square (about 34 x 34 inches).  If you need a table topper, this is a good place to stop, or just add the same width borders to all four sides to keep it square until you get the size you want.

Where I go from here with each top largely depends on how much of each fabric I have left.  I usually put borders of each fabric on all four sides of the top, but I don't have enough left of the green and beige fabrics to do that this time.  So this quilt will have an asymmetrical look.

First, I'm going to add 1-inch side borders (cut two strips 1.5" x WOF) in beige, then a 2.5-inch (cut 3" x WOF) bottom border in beige.  I have one 3-inch wide strip of green fabric left, so I'll use it for the top border.  The quilt will be about 36" x 39" at this point.

I still have enough red fabric to do a border on all four sides, but I'll make the top and bottom borders wider than the sides to add a few more inches to the length of the quilt.  I'm currently thinking of 1-inch borders (cut 1.5" x WOF) on the sides and 2-inch borders (cut 2.5" x WOF) at the top and bottom.  This could change when I see how much fabric I actually have to work with.  If I do indeed use these measurements, the top will be 38" x 43" -- big enough for a baby quilt or a small lap quilt.

To make your quilt larger, you can increase the width of the border strips or add more borders.  Adding 4-5 inches to the width and 10-12 inches to the length will make a decent-sized crib quilt.

Part 3b will show what I actually end up doing!  It's past 9:00 now and the rain has finally stopped.  I'm hoping for better health and milder weather tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Project: Bump on the Logs, part 2

It was a typical drippy, rainy day here in Oregon, but it was an unsually warm 58 F.  So warm that I left my shed door open so the dogs could come and go freely.  Big mistake!  I forgot all about the mud they'd be tracking in.  If you see a few paw prints, you'll know why.  Tomorrow, I'll have to rig up a way to hang things on my door (I have no wall space) to take photos.  I opted to use my scanner today to avoid as many muddy paw prints as possible.

Okay, let's get started.  We're going to do a lot of what I think of as sewing on the freeway: pedal to the metal and only breaking for nature calls, winding the bobbin, and chihuahuas who stand between me and my sewing machine (I really have to think of a new way to arrange my shed so Trudy can't do  that).

Step 1: Sew the strips together.  I like to sew the three "log" strips together first, then sew them to the "bump" strip.  But they can be sewn in any order as long as you end up with four strips of fabric sewn together with the three narrow strips all side by side.

Step 2:  Press the seams in any direction you desire, then subcut the strips into 5-inch wide segments.  These are what I call the Bump on the Logs.  If your fabrics are close to 42" wide or wider, you should get eight segments per strip.  If your fabrics are closer to 40" wide, you might only get seven segments per strip.  I got eight segments per strip, for a total of 24 Bumps on the Logs.

Step 3: Sew four units together, "bump" end to "log" end.  Repeat this six times to make six strips of four units.  Press the seams.  My scanner couldn't get more than 1-1/2 units, but I hope you get the idea.

Step 4:  Cut 6 strips 1.5" x WOF for the "sashing."  I chose my red fabric.  Decide how you want your Bump on the Logs columns to go.  I chose to alternate mine: bump on the top, logs on top, bump on top, etc.  Sew a sashing strip to the right side of your first column.  Press the seam.

Step 5: Sew your second column to the sashing strip used in step 4.  Press the seam.

Step 6: Sew a sashing strip to the right side of the second column; press the seam.  Sew the next column to this sashing strip; press the seam.  Repeat until all columns have been sewn together with sashing.

Step 7:  Sew the last sashing strip to the left side of the first column.  Press the seam.

You should now have a top that measures about 28" long and 34" wide.  In part 3, we'll add borders and change the dimensions so that the top will be longer than it is wide.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Project: Bump on the Logs, part 1

About six or seven or maybe eight years ago, I was browsing through the fabric isles when a bright pink and green fabric with frogs caught my eye.  I'm not sure why it was calling to me.  I really dislike lime green, I think pink is best used in small quantities, and I don't have a particular penchant for frogs.  I like frogs, I just don't collect froggy things.  But that fabric didn't care.  It was calling me loud and clear.

It had evidently been calling other people, too.  I got all that was left of the frog fabric, about half a yard.  And I got one yard each of the lime green and bright pink polka dot fabrics.  To justify my purchase, I challenged myself to come up with a design that was: 1. fast, 2. easy enough for just-getting-their-feet-wet beginners, and 3. adaptable to 5-inch charms (which were all the rage at the time).  I came up with a design that I named Bump on the Logs.  (My dad would often admonish us kids to "stop being a bump on the log" when we were too inactive.  It must have been the old version of "couch potato.")

I was planning to publish this pattern, but before I got things written up one parent was hospitalized, then the other, and so on and so forth.  A few years passed and I began seeing similar designs published in magazines.  They weren't exactly the same as mine, but nevertheless the similar designs took away the excitement of publishing my own.  Instead, this design became my personal "go to" pattern whenever I needed to make a quick gift.  

But my first one hasn't even been quilted, yet!  It is sandwiched, though. The photo doesn't do it justice.  We had a rare sunny day so I hurriedly unfolded it and took a snapshot before the dogs jumped on it with their muddy paws.  I still don't like lime green.  I still think pink should be used in small doses.  And I still love this quilt.  It's bright and happy and makes me smile.  And the backing is just as fun!

The weatherman has promised us 3-4 days of warm winter weather (highs in the low 50's) -- perfect for working in my sewing shed.  It's time to put this pattern to use on some of that 2-foot high pile of Christmas fabric.  Each time I make this pattern, I change it up a bit.  That's part of what makes this a great design, in my opinion.  I can play with it, adapt it to my needs, and no two quilts ever have to look exactly alike.  Here's another top that was made with the Bump on the Logs units, but it looks quite different.

The Bump on the Log units in the frog quilt were sewn together in vertical columns.  Those in the dinosaur top were sewn together in horizontal rows.  The dinosaur top also uses seven different fabrics instead of three as in the frog top.  I have another top buried in a tote box somewhere that was made from pre-cut 5-inch charms and 2.5" strips that looks completely different from these two.  I can't wait to see what the next one will look like!

Actually, it might look similar to the frog one since I've chosen to keep things simple this time and only use three fabrics.

I only had 18 inches of the green fabric, 22 inches of the beige, and one yard of the red.  So by default, the green fabric is my focal fabric (the Bump), and the beige and red fabrics are my strips (the Logs).  The frog top has 15 Bump on the Logs units, but I'm choosing to make 21-24 for this project.

If you want to follow along, you will need to cut the following:

     3 strips 5" x WOF (width of fabric) of focal fabric (my green)
     6 strips 1.5" x WOF of contrast fabric A (my beige)
     3 strips 1.5" x WOF of contrast fabric B (my red)

Save all leftovers for borders and the strips that hold the Bump on the Logs units together.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Another Abandoned Project Found

My internet speed has been even slower than usual the last few days.  Do you suppose Cyber Monday shoppers have been causing traffic jams in cyberspace? 

I found another little work-in-progress that I had forgotten all about.  My brain is starting to dredge up a few memories about these projects.  I was working on them at my mom's house several years ago when I had a little table there for sewing.  When the pellet stove was installed, I lost my little sewing space.  Everything was hurriedly packed up and over the years I just forgot about them.  Every winter since, I try to find a way to carve out a little space for a sewing machine, but no success yet.  Maybe this will be the magic winter.

I'm not sure where I was heading with the little candy cane project above.  What you see is all there is of it, just eight little 3-inch square-in-a-square blocks.  I still have a yard of the light and about 1/4 yard of the dark fabric, but I'm not real keen on making more of these blocks.  Maybe it'll become a mini row sampler of some kind.  Or maybe it wants to be a towel hanger or the bodice of an apron.  Any other ideas?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Works-in-Progress Discovered

It's a normal cold, rainy day here in the Pacific Northwest once again.  The brunt of the cold front hit just north of me, but my sewing shed was still only 40 F yesterday afternoon.  I spent about 45 minutes digging through my Christmas fabrics, then high-tailed it back to my mom's house where both the pellet stove and the old wood stove were fired up (it takes a lot to heat an old house that doesn't have modern insulation).

Once my hands thawed out, I started sorting through a drawer of Christmas fabric I had stored over there and had completely forgotten about.  More surprising was the discovery of two works-in-progress: a table runner and the beginnings of a one-patch topper.  I remember the fabrics in these projects quite well, but I have no real memory of sewing these projects.  Finding them is kind of like finding unexpected gifts!

Here's a section of the table runner.  All it needs, besides a good pressing, is a border of some kind and then it can be sandwiched, quilted and bound!

This scan shows about half of the one-patch project.  I must have been cutting scraps from other projects into 4.5-inch squares and sewing them together as I went.  This little WIP now has 5 rows across and 5 rows down -- not really big enough for much of anything.  I think I'll just continue adding rows to it log cabin style until it's either big enough for something or I run out of scraps.  I'll probably meet the former before the latter!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Brr! Another Cold Front

Another cold front has moved in today and the temperature is plummeting from the 50's to the 30's and lower.  It's expected to be milder than the last one, but that's still several days of no sewing time for me.  I worked late last night getting my wreath top done, but the sandwiching, quilting and binding will have to wait.

I might put my gloves on tomorrow and brave my cold sewing shed long enough to sort through my Christmas fabrics and decide what to use up next.  Or, I might stay in my mom's toasty warm house and work on crocheted tree ornaments.  I'll decide when I see how icy the front yard is.  It's been raining here so much lately that there's no way to get to my shed without splashing through puddles.  Only 5 more months to go until May -- that's when the rain lets up.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wreath Project: Progress and Revisions

I finished the four center blocks for my wreath yesterday.  Thanks to strip-piecing methods, these blocks worked up fairly quickly despite the little 1-inch finished squares.

Next, I started on the eight outer blocks of the wreath.  Ugh, it took an hour just to mark eight strips in preparation for the 90-degree points!  At this rate, I would be lucky to finish the top before Christmas.  So I went back to the drawing board and simplified my design.

No more points!  I began piecing my leftover green strips of various lengths to neutral strips of whatever length needed to make 8.5 inch strips.  This is going much faster.  If I had the whole day tomorrow just to sew, I could actually finish most of this project before Thanksgiving.  But I don't, so maybe I'll finish it up on Friday.

Friday, November 21, 2014

New Project Started

Today didn't go quite as planned.  I did get the turkey wall hanging hung on my mom's wall.  And I did try canned diced tomatoes on my sandwich: not bad, but not great...better than store-bought fake tomatoes but still not as good as the real homegrown tomatoes (I used English muffins as my bread so the tomatoes wouldn't make a soggy mess).  But I didn't dig out my Christmas fabric stash.

Instead, I got a little sidetracked and worked up a wreath design in EQ based on one that I saw on the internet from Quiltmaker.  I don't know how closely my design resembles the original because my computer is set to display graphics with as little detail as possible so they'll load faster.  All pictures on the internet look sort of watery and out of focus, kind of like looking at reflections on a lake without wearing my eyeglasses, so I use my imagination and guess what things really look like.  This is what I came up with:

I've been wanting to make a wreath wall hanging for quite some time, so this afternoon, I dug out my small pieces (less than a FQ) of green fabrics and cut a bunch of 1.5-inch strips.  Tomorrow, I'll start making the 4-patch units for the center part of the wreath.  I'm probably crazy, but I'd like to get this project done by Thanksgiving.  Yeah, I'm crazy!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mourning the End of Tomato Season

At 3 o'clock yesterday, my sewing shed was still only 55 F, so I returned to computer work and odd little tasks that could be done in a warmer environment.  Today, my shed was a warm 70 F and everything is back to normal pretty much.  The only casualty of the arctic weather is my tomato garden.  We've had the longest growing season in years and years, and I've been thoroughly spoiled with home grown tomatoes.  Today, I had to resort to slicing a store-bought artificial tomato for my sandwich, the kind that look like tomatoes but crunch like cucumbers and taste vaguely like tomato water.  Yuck!  I think I'd be better off draining the liquid from a can of  diced tomatoes and spreading the remaining tomato pulp on my sandwich.  I might just try that tomorrow.

Today, I put the binding on my turkey wall hanging finally, and glued the beak and eyes on.  It's sitting on a shelf waiting for the glue to dry.  Tomorrow, I'll put away the fall colored fabrics and dig out my stash of Christmas fabrics.  Oh boy!  Isn't it fun to play with fabrics and dream of what they can become?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Unusual 4-Patch Design!

It froze harder last night, so I'm bundled in my flannels and fleece, sipping hot chocolate and playing on the computer.  While flipping through my 4-patch file in EQ (Electric Quilt), I found this virtual quilt design that I had been playing with at some point in time.

It sure doesn't look like a 4-patch to me!  After studying the situation a bit, I found that I had been playing with a block in EQ called "A Snowflake."

It took me while to find the original block in my variation of it, but it's there.

This is the colored block from the virtual quilt.

This shows all of the lines I added to the original drawing. 

This shows the original coloring of the original block within the new block design.

It's an interesting design and makes a striking quilt pattern, but why is it in my 4-patch file?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

4-Patch in 4-Patch Layouts

It froze last night, enough to put 1/8th inch of ice on the critters' water bowls.  Two
more nights of freezing temperatures are forecasted, so it looks like I won't get any sewing done until Wednesday.  Time to plan projects rather than sew projects!

Here's the layout of the critter top I posted yesterday.  The completed top, made with 8-inch blocks and 1-inch and 2.5-inch borders, measures 31 x 39 inches.

 This isn't the exact layout that I planned to use.  Somewhere in the sewing process, I got a couple of blocks sewn in different places than I originally planned,  But that's okay.  I still ended up with a cute top that will someday be a cute baby quilt.

Today, I played with Electric Quilt to see what a scrappy Christmas quilt might look like.  Several years ago, I used up a considerable part of my Christmas fabric stash, but last summer I found a hidden stack of Christmas fabrics to replenish that stash.  Since I'm not short on fabrics, I decided to upsize (is that a word?) to 12-inch blocks and use four plain blocks in my design.

A top like this, with 1.5 and 4 inch borders, would measure 47 x 59 inches.

The next step was to play with colors.  I like this version, but I'm not sure how many red and green fabrics I have left.  I think most of my stash is slightly non-traditional: snowmen (blue), gingerbread men (tan), Santa on the farm (red).  Hmmm, that Santa fabric might be perfect for this.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

4-Patch Scrappy Baby Quilt

Brrrr!  It's cold!  I'm on the fringe of the arctic blast that's sweeping North America.  There's freezing rain and ice 20 miles north of me, and it's a balmy 55 F forty miles south.  The low here is hovering around 32 F -- warm enough to avoid the icy weather but cold enough to keep me away from my sewing machine.  My studio is just a glorified shed.  It has a floor, four walls and four single-pane windows, and a roof.  There is no insulation anywhere and no ceiling to hinder heat from going out through the roof.  With my electric radiator heater turned on high, it's only 15-20 degrees warmer inside than outside.

Since I can't work on new sewing projects right now, it's a good time to take a look at one of my UFOs.  This is the top that was peeking beneath the red and white Sunrise, Sunset project.

Several years ago, my mom made a baby quilt and had a few scraps left over.  I added a few of my own scraps and pieced them all together.  The design inspiration came from one of the fabrics that looked like a montage of baby jungle animals.

I decided to go with that montage (or collage) effect by making a 4-patch within a 4-patch block.

I rotated these blocks different ways and set them with regular 4-patch blocks and two plain blocks of  the jungle fabric (I wanted three but didn't have enough fabric for three).  Here's an Electric Quilt representation of the quilt top.

I used 2.5-inch, 4.5-inch, and 8.5-inch squares (cutting measurements).  The yellow border was cut 1.5 inches wide and the blue border was cut 3 inches wide.  It worked up quickly and was a great way to use scraps that had a theme.  I plan to try this design out again next month to use up some Christmas fabric stash.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Picture Day!

It was sunny today, so I dared to prop a few quilt tops on a deck chair and take pictures.  My dogs were running about in the muddy yard, so I had to work fast before they decided to jump up on the chair and investigate.  So you're going to see some wrinkles because I didn't dare take time to smooth them out or lat thing out properly.

Here's the Sunrise, Sunset blocks all sewn together!  I haven't yet decided how to finish it, but I have until January to play with border ideas.  Yes, there is another top under it -- I'll share more about it another day.

Below is my infamous chihuahua, Trudy, sitting on my sewing table so that she can look out the window.

 This mass of fur is Dusty, who refused to show his face.  He's on top of the pile of fabrics I pulled out to finish my turkey wall hanging.  If I don't get frozen out, I think I can finish that project tomorrow.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset QAL: The Final Steps

It's Amazing what I can accomplish when I don't get interrupted every 15 minutes or so!  Saturday afternoon, I finished eight blocks.  On Sunday afternoon, I had just enough time to sew up the ninth block and then sew the blocks into rows of three before company came.  Today, I had sewn two rows together and was halfway through the last one when a car came up the driveway.  Trudy, my chihuahua, gets really, really excited when anyone comes and usually runs off to greet them.  But the weather has turned cold and the doors are shut most of the time now, so Trudy, unable to contain her excitement, just runs and jumps all over everything indoors.  I did my best to ignore her and finish the last seam as she ran back and forth across my sewing table.  I paused briefly only for the fractions of seconds when she actually obscured my view.  My top, minus borders, is now done!

Here are the final steps of constructing the block.

 The units made last time are sewn together to make the light and dark quadrants of the block.  They look like kitties to me, but they also look a lot like my chihuahua with her pointy ears standing at alert attention.  If you're not fond of animals, I suppose they could resemble the feathered end of an arrow.

The new seam on both color arrangements is pressed toward the half with the dark square.
(The light kitty above was not being very cooperative about being photographed!)

Now it's time to sew a light quadrant to a dark one.  I chose to press this seam toward the dark kitty.

Finally, sew two halves together to complete the block.

I found it easiest to not press this seam, waiting until I sewed the blocks together so that I could finger press the seams in opposite directions when the time came.  I'm putting this project aside until January to add borders and such, but I'll try to get a photo of it tomorrow.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset QAL: Sewing Squares to HSTs

Seems like I have very little time to work on quilting these days.  Tuesday was my only day this week to work in my studio without major interruptions.  I'm hoping life will settle down soon.  I want to get this project done so that I can move on to other things, like finishing a turkey wall hanging before Thanksgiving then making another full-steam-ahead effort at reducing my Christmas fabric stash.

So, onward with the Sunrise, Sunset project.  This next step is simple, yet it's the most challenging step in the project.  Each half-square triangle unit gets sewn to a square of equal size.  Easy-peasy, right?  The sewing is easy, the challenging part is getting the triangles turned just the right way.  This is when a color diagram (or sample block) and a pressing guide are invaluable.  I usually draw mine on post-it notes that I stick to my sewing machine.

My post-it note system has worked great for a good 15 years or more, even when I had kitty helpers inspecting everything.  Who would have thought that a little chihuahua would throw a monkey wrench into my system?  This summer, Trudy learned that she could jump on the arm chair then walk across the side table, jump onto the file cabinet and from it jump onto my L-shaped sewing table.  Once up, she prances over all and pokes her nose into every container looking for things.  Once she finds something she approves of, she snatches it with her teeth and runs off quick as can be.  Her favorite things seem to be spools of thread (not empty spools, they have to be full) and balls or skeins of yarn.  I swear she must be half cat!

Sometime during this project, Trudy took off with my little post-it note guide.  I couldn't find it in my studio and not wanting to walk back to my trailer (where my computer is) to make another, I decided to rely on my memory and sew anyway.  I'm paying dearly for that decision now as I try to sew units together that have triangles and seams going the wrong way.

Below is a copy of my original pressing guide that also serves as a color placement guide for this block.

Basically, there are four placement arrangements in the next units.  One block requires two of each.  I've arranged them below into groups that I've been calling the "white kitty" and the "red kitty."  For the white kitty, a dark square is sewn to the light triangle of a HST, and a light square is sewn to the light triangle of a HST.  The seams are pressed toward the light triangles.

For the red kitty, a light square is sewn to the dark triangle of a HST, and a dark square is sewn to the dark triangle of a HST.  The seams are pressed toward the squares.

I sewed enough of these units on Tuesday to make 5 blocks.  I'm hoping there's no 7-hour power outage this weekend like there was last weekend so that I can get the rest of these units sewn.

Oh, remember that missing post-it note?  I found it later stuck to the bottom of my shoe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Reproduction of Fabric Scraps

Sooner or later, every quilter begins to suspect that fabric scraps multiply like proverbial rabbits.  We don't know how or why they do it, we only know that after a project that was supposed to use up our scraps is finished, we end up with yet another bucket of scraps.  It's like fabric scraps are impossible to eradicate.  They multiply faster than we can sew them up!  After studying this phenomenon, I think I've found two methods of fabric reproduction.

Fabric Mitosis Method
Remember high school biology class?  Cells can multiply by splitting apart into two cells, a process called mitosis.  Whenever we apply scissors or rotary cutter to fabric, we're basically causing that one piece of fabric to become two: fabric mitosis.  Let's start with a yard of fabric.  We cut it in half, and then we cut each half into half to create four Fat Quarters measuring 18" x 21".  One piece has now become four pieces of fabric.

Now let's cut FQ #1 into 5-inch charms.  We get 12 charms plus one 1" x 18" strip and four 3" x 5" scraps for a total of 17 fabric pieces.

We'll cut FQ #2 into 6.5" squares for a block swap.  We get six squares plus a 1.5" x 18" strip and three 5" x 6.5" pieces for the scrap bucket.  Total: 10 pieces of fabric.

That 4-patch baby quilt needs more 4.5" squares, so we cut FQ #3 into 16 squares and get a 3" x 18" strip leftover, making 17 pieces total.

Nearly every project needs half-square triangle units, right?  So we cut FQ #4 into 43 3" squares.  Assuming our FQ really is 18" x 21", we have no leftover scraps of fabric.  Wow!

After all that cutting, we have a grand total of 86 pieces of fabric!  Ten of those pieces got tossed in the scrap bucket.  We dig into the bucket and trim the four 3" x 5" pieces to 3" x 3" squares for the HST pile, but we still have four 2" x 3" scraps that go back in the bucket.  Project pieces 80, scrap pieces 10.

Now we cut the three 5" x 6.5" scraps into three 4.5" squares for the 4-patch project.  We toss the three half-inch slivers in the trash can (I have a 1" minimum rule), but we still have three 2.5" x 5" scraps.  Project pieces 83, scrap pieces 10.  Only one large scrap left!  We cut the 3" x 18" strip into six 3" squares - no scraps leftover.  Project pieces 89, scrap pieces 9.

Nine scraps from a yard of fabric isn't bad, but eventually we'll have to cut those two long, skinny strips into several pieces to make string blocks.  The other seven scraps will sit in the scrap bucket waiting with all the other scraps for just the right project as they get buried under future scraps.

Fabric Attraction Method
I've watched enough nature documentaries to have noticed that when a young male comes of age and is outcast from the family group, that young male doesn't stay a "lone wolf" for long.  Eventually he attracts at least one female and they reproduce.  Fabric seems to do much the same thing, especially holiday and novelty prints.  If I have only one Halloween fabric left in my stash, sooner or later I'm going to acquire at least one more in order to make a patchwork project.  And then the reproduction by mitosis begins all over again.

I can't do much about fabric mitosis - it's a natural part of the patchwork and applique process and we just have to accept it.  But, by golly, I can do something about fabric reproduction by attraction!  When I end up with large scraps of a fabric that I don't want to multiply, I use it up quick.

After finishing my little Halloween wall hanging, I had two largish scraps of backing fabric left over.  I did not want this fabric to attract more like it and I knew it would if I tossed the scraps into the large-scrap bucket.  So I cut four small rectangles and four large rectangles, cut the leftover binding in half, foraged for a small zipper and, hocus-pocus, the scraps turned into a little zippered case and a tote bag with no scraps left over!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Making Test Blocks

Today didn't start out well.  I awoke feeling ill again, and like a steam roller had flattened me while I slept.  Nothing wanted to move.  When I forced the issue, everything creaked and popped like sound effects in a scary cartoon.  Is there some kind of weird initiation rite into the sixth decade of life that I wasn't warned about?

My only wish after breakfast was to crawl back in bed and sleep, but I dragged myself to my sewing machine instead and started sorting and pressing the pieced units for my Sunrise, Sunset blocks that I had sewn several weeks ago.  As I worked, the rhythmic pace of a repetitive task that required some degree of mental concentration seemed to ease my headache and sinus pain.  I think most crafts are just as good as aspirin-like medications and don't have horrid side effects!

While I was sorting, I was reminded of the value of a test block and remembered that I forgot to talk about this topic.  I made a test block weeks ago for the obvious reason of seeing if I liked my chosen fabrics in this block.  Colors and fabrics that look good together on paper or in software programs like Electric Quilt or Quilt Pro can look quite different in reality.  A test block will show how the real fabrics play together.

There are a few other good reasons for making test blocks, too.  As I assemble my test blocks, I also test my pressing chart and work out any problems I may encounter.  With the Sunrise, Sunset block, I quickly learned that positive/negative blocks aren't as simple as they look.  Seams have to be sewn and pressed just right or a completely different design develops.  Today, I found nine units that must be taken apart and resewn because the half-square triangles are going the wrong way!

Test blocks also show me how fabrics will behave as they're worked with.  I quickly learned that my light fabric ravels rather easily while my dark fabric doesn't ravel at all.  As I sew, I'll take care to be more gentle with my light pieces.  Another option is to starch the lights.  I rarely use starch or sizing unless a fabric ravels so badly that it can't be used otherwise, but that's my personal preference.

My last reason for making a test block is that I use it as my road map for making all the other blocks.  I find it easier to refer to a real block as I work rather than a diagram on paper.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

To Wash or Not to Wash

It seems like every year one quilt group or another has a discussion about whether or not to prewash fabrics.  There are many good reasons on both sides.  At my old house where the laundry room adjoined my crafting/sewing room, I was more inclined to wash fabrics before cutting them.  Now that I have to trek through the rain and mud to get to the laundry room, I only prewash when absolutely necessary and take my chances on everything working out.  So far, I've been pretty lucky.

But no one bats a thousand.  I recently unearthed a small wall hanging UFO that had to be laundered before it could be completed (somebody's muddy paw prints!).  When it came out of the dryer, I faced an unpleasant surprise: one fabric, the one I had used for sashing the blocks, had shrunk.  Groan!

Since it's a simple seasonal wall hanging for Halloween, I debated just finishing it with puckers and all.  Strategically placed quilting would have camouflaged a great deal.  But as I studied it, I decided that I really didn't like that pumpkin fabric anymore (tastes change over the years).  So I dug out a seam ripper and took everything apart while "watching" a tv show.  Then I decided to take a detour from my Valentine fabric project and get this UFO finished before this Halloween.  I dug through my stash for other fabric possibilities, spent several days testing this combination and that combination (while sewing heart fabric HSTs), and finally settled on two fabrics for a border and binding without any sash.

If I'd had an appropriate black fabric in my stash, I think I would have added a very narrow inner black border.  But I still like this look better than the original one.  And I have one less UFO cluttering my studio.  Tomorrow, it's back to work on my red and white Sunrise, Sunset blocks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Switching Gears as the Seasons Change

I've been ill.  After two rounds of antibiotics, I think my body is finally claiming victory over the infection.  While combatting that, the weather changed from sunny and warm to rainy and chilly.  My heaters are now on and my mom's wood stove is puffing away.  I hate the smoke but I sure love the heat a wood stove puts out - there's nothing better except good ol' sunshine!

Today was not rainy so we "battened down the hatches" for winter.  The summer things that could fit in the storage shed were put in the storage shed.  What didn't fit is now covered with tarps.  Tomorrow's storm is supposed to be windy, so we'll find out soon if the tarps are secured well enough.  It's time now to settle into indoor pursuits, like quilting, sewing, crocheting, knitting, embroidery, cross stitch, kumihimo and baking.  Most of these endeavors keep me out of trouble during our long rainy season.

The baking, however, can get me into trouble.  I love to bake, but too much of that and I find myself in need of a new wardrobe!  This year, however, I'll have three 15-year-old nephews (not triplets - twins and a cousin) near by who, I think, will quite happily take the baked goods off my hands so the calories won't go on my hips.  I can bake all kinds of yummy treats and not gain an ounce as long as I limit myself to one little taste.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Half-square Triangles

The friend I was expecting today actually came yesterday (Saturday), so here I am on Sunday instead.  That's kind of how life goes around here.

So, on to half-square triangles, or HSTs as they're commonly called nowadays.  Simply, these are made by cutting two squares of fabrics A and B in half diagonally and then sewing the resulting triangles back together, pairing a fabric A with a fabric B.  It's one of the simplest and most basic units of patchwork, but there are at least half a dozen ways to make them.  I'm only going to cover a few of them here.

For this project, I started with 3-inch squares of light and dark fabrics.  In the first method (top left in photo above), I folded the light square in half to make a creased line, placed the light square right sides together (RST) on the dark square, then sewed 1/4-inch from each side of the creased fold line.  The squares are then cut on the creased fold line, creating two HSTs.  This method is simple and low-tech, but requires good lighting and good eyesight.  At my age, my near vision isn't as good as it use to be, and the lighting in my shed studio after dark is pretty minimal.  I generally avoid this method now, but used it a lot years ago.

The second method (pictured top right) is very similar: the creased fold line is simply replaced by a pencil or pen line drawn with a ruler.  This method is a bit more time-consuming, but the line is a lot easier to see!  I used this method for years, starting with pencil lines at first, then later using fine-point, washable felt markers.

Lately, I've dispensed with the lines altogether and now use method 3 (pictured at bottom in photo above).  I stack my light and dark squares right sides together, cut them diagonally, then sew the triangles together.  As long as I'm careful to not stretch the bias cut of the triangles as I sew, this method is the speediest of the three.  In my early days of patchwork, I produced a lot of wonky HSTs using this method so I switched to the first two methods.  Experience, a better understanding of bias cuts, and the knowledge that
I'm not getting any younger, have made me brave enough use this method again.

Whatever the method, once the triangles are sewn together each HST unit must be pressed open.  In most cases, place the dark fabric on top and then flip it over and press.  This presses the seam toward the darker fabric and reduces the chances of it showing through.  In some block patterns, the seams need to be pressed toward the light fabric in order to make all seams nest together later.  In the "Sunrise, Sunset" block, all HST seams can be pressed toward the dark fabric.

Once the HST units are all pressed, it's time to trim them to exact size.  In this project, they have to be trimmed to 2.5" square.  There are all kinds of rulers on the market for doing this, and slightly different instructions to go with each ruler.  If you need help with this part, I suggest checking for a video that highlights your kind of ruler.  I still use my 5" x 18" ruler to do this part -- I haven't seen any quilter on tv do it this way since the 90's!