crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing

Project Updates

Good morning on this beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Actually, it’s raining and gloomy, and all I wanted to do this morning was stay in bed reading a book I’ve been struggling to put down. (Don’t you love it when a book is that good?!) Plus, it’s 65 degrees in the house, and staying under the covers sounded nice and toasty. (We should not have to turn the heat on in mid-September, right? I refuse to do so.)

I forced myself out of bed. Partially because I try to maintain some sort of image of a mature, responsible adult, but mostly because the dogs needed to go out. Except they weren’t too keen on the idea of going out in the rain. Luna took one look at the water pouring from the sky and her forward momentum out the door (which wasn’t too fast to begin with) stalled. I had to give her a gentle push on the rump to get her moving. Nevy, meanwhile, was being his usual ornery self and hadn’t even come down from upstairs. He likes to make me climb halfway up before he charges down toward me. Once we finally got outside, he took care of business with more speed than usual since he hates rain. (See photo below showing his disdain.) He didn’t even try to pull me toward the neighbor’s house as he usually does in hopes of catching a glimpse of his hero: neighbor dog.

Rain is the worst!

The rain, which has been falling off and on, for the last few days, has put a damper on all of the outdoor fall tasks that need to be completed before winter. Not that I’m complaining. Clearing out flowerbeds, hauling logs in from the woods (which I did for what felt like eons last weekend), washing windows, and finally getting to some painting (a couple outside door frames) are not high on my list of Things I Can’t Wait to Do. However, they’ve got to be done soon because once the leaves start to fall there won’t be time to get to them.

Between fall tasks and kids being home for the weekend from college and a college scholarship awards banquet and a housewarming party for our oldest daughter and a church community service project, my sewing time has been at an all-time low.

But I wanted to share the little bit of progress I’ve made on two projects over the past week.

First, my English paper-piecing quilt has grown by a few “flowers.”

Each “flower” takes me approximately one hour to piece and add to the project, as I’m not the fastest hand-sewer. I’ve not yet decided how big this quilt is going to be. But, at the rate I’m going, I should finish it in about fifty years. I like to put a show on Netflix while I work (currently Virgin River) or listen to audiobooks with Hubby (currently Picture of Dorian Gray). Since this is simple work, neither is distracting.

A hint I would like to share is to purchase moleskin to use in place of a thimble. Usually, when I do any hand-sewing, I find that the eye of the needle pushes painfully into my middle finger, sometimes even piercing the skin. I don’t like the inflexibility of thimbles, but find that moleskin works wonderfully. You can buy it by the roll on Amazon.

The second project I’ve been working on (usually at night while Hubby and I watch television) is a cross-stitch project I started early in 2020. I’d had the pattern for years, and, though it isn’t really applicable to my current life (not too many ASAPs or SOSs in my life, although I do have a bit of piled-up work to do in the form of logs in the woods), decided to work on it since I had everything I needed. I’ve completed all of the regular stitching and have started on the backstitching. (Some of those things that look like blobs right now will actually look like something once I get the backstitching finished.)

Though it doesn’t really fit my life right now, I do like all of the bright colors.

crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

To Stash or Not to Stash: That is the Question

Are you a stasher? Or are you a person who buys fabric, yarn, and craft supplies for projects as needed?

I’m a little bit of both, but mostly I’ve been a stasher.

Now, I’m a reformed stasher. (There should be a 12-step program for stashing addicts. I can see a step being, “Forgive yourself for purchasing fabric that you loved 12 years ago but hate now.” Another might be, “Forgive yourself for buying 1/4 yards (not fat quarters) that looked cute but match absolutely none of the other fabric in your stash and are too small to do much with.”)

I had a real problem. (That is if you think stashing is a problem). I’d see a fabric, think it pretty, and buy a yard. Or two yards if I really liked it. (I once read in, I think it was a Debbi Mumm book, that you should never buy less than two yards.) I’d see clearance fabric and add it to the stash. I’d buy little bags of scraps and toss them into my already ridiculously heaping pile of scraps. I bought until I had three huge storage containers and several smaller containers full of fabric.

Sure, I’d pull out a piece now and then to use in a quilt, but I never seemed to have just the right color or the right amount of anything for whatever project I wanted to make. And that is the problem with a stash.

Well, that and the fact that as I aged, my tastes changed. The cute fabric is now blah. That Noah’s Ark panel I planned to use for a kid’s quilt? My kids are now all grown. Those I Spy-specific fabrics? There aren’t enough babies being born to use them up!

I admire the women who have the willpower to purchase just what they need for a project, and I aspire to be more like them every time I enter a quilt shop. It’s actually rare now for me to purchase any fabric. I’m not saying that stashers have it wrong. I’m just admitting that I have enough. Too much still, in fact. So much that if I don’t up my quilting speed, my kids are going to inherit a mountain of fabric.

All that said, here are two projects that I made entirely from my stash. I’ve shared each previously. While I had specifically purchased a few of the fabrics in the quilt on the left for previous projects and had bits left over, I did not purchase anything for this quilt specifically. The quilt on the right was made entirely of batiks that I purchased on clearance when a shop in our town was going out of business. I did not have a pattern to use in mind when I purchased the 1 to 2-yard pieces.

(By the way, Hubby makes all my quilt hangers.)

Side note: If you’re looking for a way to use up those fabrics in your stash you now find icky, they are great for pillow forms. That way you don’t even have to look at them.

crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

The Thousand Squares Quilt

It’s finally finished! All 1,540 squares have been sewn together, pinned, quilted, and bound into what might be one of my favorite scrap quilts. I was excited to scratch this UFO (Unfished Object) off my lengthy list!

The Thousand Squares quilt

With the exception of the cream fabric and the green binding, this quilt was made entirely from scraps. The four-patch blocks (12 per row, 24 rows) were made from 1-1/2″ pieces of fabric. The cream squares were cut at 2-1/2,” as were the squares in the border. The outer cream border was cut at 1-1/2.” The entire quilt finished at 54-1/2″ square.

This lap quilt finished a bit smaller than most I’ve made because I was limited by how much background fabric I had on hand. I’d purchased two yards of the cream fabric on clearance at a Shop Hop several years ago and had no way of acquiring any more.

If you’re interested in how many squares to cut of each size, here you go:

  • 1-1/2″ patterned fabric = 1,152
  • 2-1/2″ cream fabric = 288
  • 2-1/2″ patterned fabric = 100

After digging through my stash–watch for a post on that soon!–and tossing aside several decent options, I finally selected a piece of fabric I didn’t like for the binding. It was army green with crackly lines, and I think I may have used some of it to make tadpoles and frogs for the children’s growth charts I put together eons ago. Once I laid it against the quilt, I was sold. And now I really like it. (Probably because just a thin bit of it shows!)

I almost had a binding SNAFU. My aging brain refused to remember how wide I ordinarily cut binding, and careful study and measuring of past quilt bindings had me all confused. (Thank you, middle-aged brain fog. I’m enjoying you just as much as the poor body temperature control and general moodiness.) Throwing my hands up at my confusion and refusing to do the easy thing and look in a quilt book for an answer, I finally just decided to let my gut instinct run the ruler and rotary cutter. My gut instinct decided to cut everything 1/4″ smaller than usual. But it all worked out, and there was just enough fabric to fold over and cover the stitching line. Phew!

For the backing, I pieced together a couple larger pieces. The “love” fabric was leftover from another project. The other I pulled from my stash.

I did an easy diagonal quilting pattern.

Now the question is, which UFO should I tackle next? It may be the pair of socks that I put aside when I hit the heel flap. It may be the cross-stitch that’s been in the works for the past two years. Wait and see!

crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Lonely Sewing

My sewing room has been a bit lonely the past few weeks. I’m still sharing it with Hubby, who works from home most days. The dogs still wander in to have a snooze while I sew, but someone is missing. My sweet girl Rosie, overseer of all the projects (as you can see from the photo below), crossed the Rainbow Bridge a few weeks ago.

The sewing room was her domain, my chair her favorite bed. (I’ll probably never be able to sweep every last hair from the seat.) Whenever I moved her from the chair to her bed to work on anything, it wasn’t long before she had her face right up in my face, hoping for a few snuggles.

Rosie and her sister Belle who died in early 2020 came to live with us (and our other two cats…yes, that made 4) when they were a day old. We fed them with pipettes and, later, bottles. We burped them and, at the risk of too much information, we wiped their fannies with damp cotton balls to simulate a mamma cat cleaning them which makes them go to the bathroom. We got up in the middle of the night to do all these things for several weeks. It was just like having human babies in the house again.

It’s a strange time we find ourselves in. We are cat-free. Other than for a few months after we got married and a few months after we moved into our new home 20+ years ago, I’ve had a cat in my life since I was 5.

It’s not like we’re without any pets now. We still have two dogs and two tiny potatoes with legs (guinea pigs who actually belong to our daughter), but it feels strange to be cat-less. There is nothing quite like snuggling with a cat, no sound like a quiet purr in your ear. There is nothing quite like being woken up in the middle of the night by a cat stepping on your neck, no comfort like that same cat curling up next to your cheek.

But for now, as we enter this stage of life where our kids are heading into (or are already in) adulthood, and we think about traveling a bit more while we are still young enough to enjoy big adventures, we’ll probably stay cat-free for a while.

I did venture into my lonely room for a bit this past week to work on an English paper-piecing project. This one has been in the works for several years. As you can see, I am moving at a snail’s pace. I’m not much of a fan of hand-sewing, but adding to this project was a relaxing way to spend a couple afternoons. I should probably keep at it now that I’ve got some momentum going. We’ll see.

crafts · knitting · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

The Never-Ending Scrap Pile

I had planned to post on Saturday after a day of sewing on Friday. Then Saturday rolled around with an Arts Festival where I was playing in a community band concert (and where I narrowly missed being hit in the head by a pigeon egg…more on this later), a trip to the store for over-priced groceries (I thought food costs around here would go down with two kids out of the house this summer) and dog food ($30 more expensive than it used to be), a tasty early dinner (air-fried salmon), a walk around the neighborhood with the dogs (battling deer flies the entire way), and a trip to the tennis courts for a few matches with Hubby (I did not win).

Then there was Sunday with church in the morning, weeds that needed pulling, summer squash and wild blueberries that needed picking, trees that needed felling (not by me…I can barely be trusted with a rotary cutter, let alone a chainsaw), dogs that needed walking, and a Dark Winds season finale that needed watching.

So here I am on a Monday to show you what I was up to with scaps on Friday.

I have oodles of scraps left over from the I Spy quilts I’ve made for just about every baby relative (and there have been A LOT of babies). As I have to fussy cut images from the fabrics, I’ve been left with piles of holey fabric. (The fabric looks a lot like newspapers used to look after my grandma got done cutting out the bits that interested her. In other words, only the boring bits are left.)

I finally pulled out this box of boring bits on Friday and vowed to come up with a quilt that would use them up…or at least make a dent in the pile.

For the blocks above, I cut strips from the fabrics in widths ranging from 3/4″ to 1-1/2.” I sewed these strips together, then cut them down into 2″ chunks. I then sewed those chunks together until I ended up with a 13″ block. I sewed two 13″x2″ blocks together and added a 1-1/4″ border. I plan to make enough blocks for a decent size quilt.

Am I in love with this project? Not really (or at least not yet), but it is mindless sewing I can do while listening to audiobooks with Hubby AND it uses up scraps in a different way than I’ve used them before. After middle daughter declared all of my scrap projects as looking exactly the same, I thought it might be time to shake things up with a new pattern.

I also added about 11 more paper-pieced tiny pineapples to my growing pile on Friday and began blanket stitching my table runner/wall hanging. I attempted to start “turning the heel” on my knitted socks last night, but how was I supposed to concentrate on tiny stitches when Dark Winds was so intriguing?!

An innocent accident or something more sinister?

As for the pigeon egg story…Our community band plays in a pavilion next to a lake in town. When the pavilion was expanded and lights were added, the local pigeons moved in, nesting above the lights. They have created what I disgustingly refer to as the “Excrement Drop Zone” right next to where I sit during the concerts. As we were preparing to play a piece on Saturday, I saw something come flying through the air in my peripheral vision. For a moment, I thought I had narrowly missed being splattered with pigeon poo. Then something hard hit the ground in front of me, and eggy shrapnel scattered all over the place.

The question is, did the pigeon lay that egg on the fly? Did it land in the nest and dislodge the egg accidentally? Or was there something more sinister going on? Did that pigeon not like how I was playing and choose to throw that egg at me? We’ll never know. What I do know is that with it turning into an Alfred Hitchcock-esque scene down by the lake, I might just have to start playing in body armor.

crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

The Danger Zone

Before we get into the yarn and needles business of today’s post, let’s pause for a moment for a brief update on piggies and hay.

Remember these fellows?

If you don’t remember them, I present to you Winston and Basil, the two tiny tyrants who demand their dinner the moment I stand up from the table after eating mine. Their loud chorus of wheeks sends me scurrying to the fridge night after night to prepare a heaping bowl of romaine, carrots, tomatoes, and peppers. Oh, the joys of being a guinea pig grandma who is on duty while their mama is off at college. (Side note: I think they eat more veggies in a day than my son.)

Perhaps you remember that I sewed these two little monsters some adorable new hay bags a few months ago. It quickly became apparent when hay was being pulled out with wild abandon and left in heaping piles on the bottom of the cage that I’d made the holes in the bags much too large. To remedy these hay hijinks, my daughter sewed some inch-wide strips in the middle of the openings. This, she was certain, would keep the boys from getting up to no good.

Clearly, this idea was flawed.

It didn’t take even a week for those greedy gut guys to rip the strips off so the hay spillage could commence again.

Alas, my daughter and I will need to put our heads together. Perhaps between the two of us, we can design a new hay bag that will outsmart our sharp-toothed cavies.

Now, on to the yarn and needles bit, which I’m certain is vastly more boring than cute critters, so I’ll keep this part short.

I have entered the sock DANGER ZONE.

Oh, who am I kidding? Every single change of directions in this sock pattern seems to have found me flirting with danger…or at least mistake after mistake. Now, though, I’m working on the heel flap which comes right before turning the heel.

Wish me luck!

crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

Sock Drama part deux

The sock drama continues.

Yet again we were watching an episode of Grantchester. Yet again I was knitting away at a pair of socks. Yet again I was paying full attention to neither the show nor the mess of needles and yarn in my hands. Yet again I missed part of the plot and made a mistake. And yet again I wondered why I bother knitting socks.

The end result: there was a hole in my sock. It wasn’t a big hole. It was barely noticeable. After a close inspection, I determined it wasn’t a dropped stitch. It was more like something got twisted in a funny way. I decided I could live with that. Who would ever even notice such a tiny hole other than me?

And so I knitted on.

For about six more rounds.

Then the little perfectionistic demon that I usually keep under control reared its ugly little head and insisted I needed to do something. I whined. I complained. (Mostly in my head.) I swore at that demon. (Also in my head.) Then I gave in. I could not allow that hole to remain.

I decided the best course of action would be to work up to the problem stitch, drop it down to the hole, and pick all the stitches back up. While this would be a challenge considering the thinness of the yarn and tinyness of the stitches, it was preferable to picking out six or more rounds of knitting and re-knitting everything.

Apparently, a tiny crochet hook would have been the perfect tool for my stitch picking up. I learned this after the fact. Unfortunately, I don’t own a tiny crochet hook because I don’t crochet. (I tried it once. It made my hands hurt. Don’t do things that make your body hurt. I learned this the hard way with running.)

Strangely, as we began season 3 of Breaking Bad last night, I managed to knit several inches without any mistakes. Could it be that Grantchester is the problem and not me?

crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

The Worst Pattern Ever!

I picked up the pattern for the third time. This was the time, I was certain, that I’d read the pattern properly. This was the time I wouldn’t make a mistake. This was the time I wouldn’t have to rip out stitches, teeny tiny stitches in fingering weight yarn on teeny tiny needles.

I was wrong.

For the third time, I had a five-needle nightmare going on as I worked my way out of multiple rows of mistakes.

Will I ever learn?

Is it just me? Am I unable to comprehend basic directions?

Clearly not, as most projects go smoothly. Clearly, this time and the other three times this has happened, the mistakes I’ve made have been the fault of the Worst Pattern Ever!

But it was free, so I can’t really complain, can I? Besides, you’d think I would have learned a thing or two the first two times I worked my way through the pattern.

There I was, happily knitting around and around, my five needles all behaving and not in a Pick Up Sticks jumble. (Remember that very safe childhood game with its long pointy eye poker-outer sticks?) I had one eye on my knitting and one eye on the episode of Grantchester we were watching, so it took a few rounds of knitting for me to realize that something wasn’t quite right.

I looked at my sock in progress. I looked at the pattern. The pattern said to “Do pattern.” (No “pattern” was given. It was a knitting-free-for-all situation. And when it’s a knitting-free-for-all situation, I choose to knit. I’m not a purl fan.) But above that, someone had written in “Plain knit.” I was just knitting, plain knitting as the hand-scrawled note said to do. I wasn’t “patterning,” as the original pattern stated. I seemed to recall “patterning” on the last pair of socks I’d made. A quick check in my sock drawer at my still pristine homemade socks–2 pairs! Barely worn! They take too long to make for me to actually wear them and wear them out!–showed that I had, indeed, done a K3 P1 pattern in the past.

With a great sigh and a whole lot of swear words running through my head, I headed back downstairs to spend an hour picking those tiny knit stitches out, vowing to add yet another “Don’t be an idiot here” onto the pattern.

I suppose the fact that I’m having to write “Don’t be an idiot here” multiple times might be a sign that the problem could be with me and not with the pattern.

No. Nevermind. I refuse to take any responsibility for these sock debacles.

For this pair of socks, I’m using clearanced Premier Serenity (Serenity? Ha! More like Angry-stitch-ripper vibes!) sock yarn from JoAnn Fabrics. I snagged multiple skeins for $2.97 each! My pattern is a free sock pattern for Five Needle Socks that I got at a local (now closed) knitting store.

crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

A Scrappy Patriotic Project & an Update

Several years ago my mom and I went on a Shop Hop around northern Michigan. At each shop we were given a free patriotic pattern.

Am I the only one who usually finds the free gifts on Shop Hops to be…well…not that great? I know I shouldn’t complain, but the last thing I want is patterns I don’t like, swatches of fabric I’ll never use (and no one else wanted either if you have them left over to give away), or a weird little sewn together tissue holder that makes getting a Kleenex out of my purse so much more difficult because I’ve now got to get through a flap and a piece of velcro to access what I need to wipe my nose. Trust me, that Kleenex holder that someone spent so much time putting together is just going to get taken apart so I can use the scrap of fabric it was made with for something more practical.

Wow. I probably sound like an ingrate.

Sorry. I just don’t like clutter. (Though the state of my sewing room right now tells a different story.)

But back to those patriotic patterns that were given away free, because that’s where we were before I went off on a tangent. Some of those patterns were actually pretty good. I chose the four best, dug out my patriotic scraps, and made a small wall-hanging.

I want to point out that I had originally used different colors for the bottom right block. Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you think they’re going to. Which is fine, because you can always throw that ugly mess into a scrappy quilt like I did. (I only used a portion of the ugliness, because the entire block would have been too overwhelming!) I think what went wrong in this block was I reversed the darks and lights and the star part of the pattern just didn’t stand out.

Now for an update.

Maybe you recall how I made some guinea pig hay bags a few weeks ago. As it turns out, the openings for the hay were too large for our greedy little boys. They relished shoving their heads into the bags and yanking mounds of hay out, mounds that they would then leave uneaten on the floor of their cage. As the price of hay has risen astronomically, those potato-shaped monsters needed to be stopped. My daughter (the owner of the piggies and the purchaser of the hay) decided to sew a small strip of fabric across the middle of the openings in the hope that they would no longer be able to yank everything out as easily. We’ll see how this goes. (Look at Winston with hay on his face!) If they continue to waste hay, we may need to find them jobs so they can earn their keep. With their skills at munching, I think we may be able to hire them out to do lawn maintenance.

crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Tiny Pineapples

I’ve been working my way through my list of Unfinished Projects this year. I was on quite a roll, then stalled a bit over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been working on some other projects that aren’t craft-related, have been planning some summer adventures, and have been helping move college kids back home.

My piano room presently looks like a hoarder lives here as Middle Daughter has to move back to college next week for her summer classes and we piled all her things in there when we unloaded the car rather than put them away for such a short period of time.

Son came home with mountains of laundry a week later, claiming he’d run out of Tide Pods a few weeks before the end of the semester. I can finally see the floor in the laundry room again…after days of tripping over hoodies and blankets–he sleeps under no less than 10 blankets every night–and underwear.

With my days spent moving laundry from the floor to the washer to the dryer, my sewing time has decreased significantly. However, I did manage to eke out some time to work on a few tiny paper-pieced pineapples.

These pineapples measure just over 3″ square and are great for all those tiny scraps!. I found the pattern at https://www.thelittlemushroomcap.com/paper-pieced-3-pineapple-log-cabin-block-mini-quilt-progress-free-paper-piecing-template-a-video/.

Originally I made a stack of these blocks with lights where the darks are in the above photo. As I laid them out, planning how I was going to arrange them, I decided that I liked the look of alternating blocks with lights and darks in the corners. So now I’m working on creating a stack of what I’ll call dark blocks. (Like the one above. Below you can see the difference between the “lights” and the “darks.”)

I haven’t yet decided how large this quilt will be. Considering all of the time involved I will probably choose to hang this one on the wall rather than have out where it can be used.