Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Loving This Quilt Pattern!

I found a little time to sew yesterday and ended up with a heaping pile of blocks for the Lemon Pepper quilt. Sadly, I don’t have quite as many as I need to begin assembling the top. I hadn’t decided when I first began cutting out the strips needed for this quilt whether I was going to make the lap size or the XL lap size. I had enough fabric for the larger version, but I wasn’t certain if I wanted to go that big, as quilting a large quilt on a regular sewing machine can be quite a challenge. I just love this combo of fabrics so much, though, that I’ve decided the XL lap size is the way to go. If I find the time tomorrow, I’ll start working on the 32 blocks I still need.

Since I don’t have much progress to share on this project, I thought I’d share an older wall hanging.

This one is definitely showing its age. I can’t recall how many years ago my mom and I got together to make these–it was probably around 20 years ago, as we stopped doing much sewing together after my second child was born and definitely didn’t do much at all after the third one came along.

This little wall hanging was made of nine paper-pieced hearts. We had no actual pattern for the hanging. We pulled paper-piecing patterns from the internet and then decided how we would tie them all together.

You can really tell how long this has been hanging on the wall by the difference between the backing fabric and the sashing fabric. The front has faded significantly. I’ve found that different fabrics seem to react to light differently, which probably has something to do with how high quality the fabric was to begin with. That particular black/purple floral was most likely purchased from Joann Fabrics, as that was where I purchased most of my fabric then.

(I recall standing in line at the cutting counter FOR AGES when they’d have a big sale. I think we were able to get a yard for $1.99 or some equally ridiculous low price. Now it’s over $10/yard at the nice quilt shops! I probably sound like an old person…”Back in my day the fabric was so cheap you could get 5 yards for what you pay for 1 now!”)

This little wall hanging hangs in the guinea pig room…the room formerly known as the reading room…the room that will one day be the yoga/plant room when the guinea pigs move in with our middle daughter (their owner) when she graduates from college and moves to wherever she’s going to live. Until that time comes, my husband and I get to cater to the demands of those two tiny tyrants and get to enjoy their little wheeks, chatters, and chirps whenever she’s away at school.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Recovering Perfectionist

“Never let perfect be the enemy of good,” or some similar quote attributed to Voltaire (who I’ve heard of but know nothing of as my high school Honors English class never delved into his life or his writings and I’m not motivated to do so now), came to mind today as I was piecing together quilt blocks.

When last I sewed, I discovered I had used the wrong presser foot and some strips were sewn together with a slightly larger seam allowance. Old me, the me who learned to sew from a mother who spent years during her childhood sewing for 4-H projects and incredibly picky judges, would have immediately ripped out all the stitches to start over. New me…the me whose sewing time is jammed in between making sure son has completed all of the college-freshman-in-the-fall stuff and graduating-this-year-stuff (all of which is much more confusing thanks to the Great Contagion) and the me who has taken on the care of middle daughter’s guinea pigs while she’s at college and the me who’s helping eldest daughter apartment search from hours away from the city she’s moving to next month…that me doesn’t have time to be picky. That me just enjoys the process of sewing and making something new. That me has little patience for perfection anymore.

You can see in the photo that the wrong presser-foot strip sets are off by about 1/8.” That’s fine with me. I can make that work by just centering the smaller piece on the proper-sized piece. Had I been off by much more, I might have corrected the issue. As none of the seams need to line up properly from section to section, there was no need to make any corrections.

So far I’ve sewn a lot of strip sets together and cut them into the required width pieces. I don’t think I have quite enough pieces yet for the entire quilt, but I was antsy to actually get a few blocks sewn together. Below is a sampling of the blocks I’ve completed. I’m loving this pattern as it looks quite complicated but is really very simple.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Because I’m Tired of Scraps…

I’ve started a new quilt with fabric I’ve probably had for at least four years. I purchased it on a shop hop pre-Year of Doom, but I can’t remember exactly how long ago.

Which is slightly embarrassing.

Should my memory be that bad?

Anyway, the fabric was sitting in the closet just waiting for the right pattern to come along. As 2020 and the first part of 2021 was spent dealing with my scrap hoard, and making what felt like minimal progress getting it under control, I was ready to cut into some new fabric.

Here’s some of the fabric and the pattern:

I’ve chosen the Lemon Pepper pattern by Madison Cottage Design. I’ve not yet decided if I’m making it throw size or XL throw size. I’ve enough fabric for the larger size, but I’m not certain I want to make a 70″x70″ quilt or if I want to use the extra fabric to make a couple matching pillows. (I’m sure we don’t have nearly enough pillows.) I may also have to make this pattern again using yellows.

As I started this project, I read the pattern carefully and all the way through as the first direction stated. In bold print the pattern told me to test my 1/4″ seam allowance. I sorta, kinda did that and declared it good enough. Imagine my horror today when I sat down to sew and realized I had sewn several strips together with the wrong presser-foot! My 1/4″ seam allowance was off by a smidge. But I’ve left it as is and believe the pattern is forgiving enough to handle this error. We’ll see.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sláinte!

Cheers!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This part-Irish girl finally has a table runner for the holiday. I didn’t know if I would be able to complete it in time, but I finished it up on Monday night. Luck was with me when I realized I had enough black binding left from a previous project. Not only would I not have to take the time to make the binding (which I really don’t enjoy doing), but my black fabric was in short supply and I wasn’t certain if there was enough left for binding.

This project was made with bias strips (cut 1″ wide, sewn right sides together and pressed flat with the trimmed seam to the back). I sewed the strips down and outline quilted around everything. I added a quilted shamrock in the empty space above the middle of the word, but it isn’t visible as the green fabric is so busy. (Hint: Search for simple tattoos on Pinterest. They make great quilt patterns. I traced the design onto tissue paper, pinned the paper to the runner, and quilted right through it.)

Sadly, this runner will only be out on the table for a short time this year since I want to have a chance to use the Easter runner I made last year.

I’m not certain what my next project will be. I have a couple things in the works–another scrap quilt (as if we need another one!) and a paper-piecing project–but I really want to start something else. I just saw a cute hexagon quilt pattern I’d like to try, and I have a few patterns and fabrics paired up that I have plans for.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Missing our Easter Kitties

I’m happy with how my St. Patrick’s Day table runner is progressing. On Sunday I was able to spend a few hours sewing the letters in place. I was recently asked what “Sláinte” means. It translates to “health” in Irish. (Let me tell you something about the Irish language which I am discovering as I learn it. I’m fairly convinced that they just threw letters, making certain lots of them were vowels, on a page and called them words. Irish words would make excellent “vowel dumps” in a game of Scrabble. One of my favorite words is “comhghairdeas,” which is “congratulations. I truly have no idea why half the letters are in that word as they aren’t even heard when it’s spoken. Here are a few more delightful words to learn how to spell and pronounce: bhfuil, dteastaionn, dtriobloid.)

I began pinning the second clover down (not visible in the photo) then discovered I needed to make a bit more bias which meant changing out the thread and presser foot. Am I the only one who hates having to do this in the middle of a project? I was tempted to stop working for the day but forced myself to get the bias made so it would be ready when I next had time to sew.

I thought, as Easter is approaching and the decorating has begun, that I would share some of my earlier Easter projects.

First, in the bottom left photo, are our Easter baskets. My mother made the small one for me when I was a child. The other four were ones I made for my husband and our kids. This year I was finally able to put them back on top of the piano. They were there for many Easters until we had the piano completely refurbished inside and refinished. Several years ago we had all new innards put in the piano. Almost everything in there, with the exception of a few replacement strings, was from 1927. Once the piano was returned, we chose not to put the baskets on top at Easter as we had three cats at the time who liked to climb into them and we didn’t want them to scratch the surface. There was some sadness this year as I placed in the crochet eggs my mom and grandmother made which the cats liked to remove and leave around the house. (As children, my brother and I liked to throw them at each other.) A beat up pom-pom bunny brought back fond memories of our cat Buster, who loved to battle with that bunny and toss him on the floor. Buster died in 2017 at the age of 15. His brother Boo-Boo died in 2019 at nearly 17. (That was a rough year. Our daughter’s beloved guinea pigs, Beatrice and Mabel, also died.) In early 2020 we had to say good-bye to our cat Belle. She was 15. We have just one cat now, and she was never one to play in the baskets. Rosie is 16, and I’m convinced she has outlived all the other cats out of spite. (She’s truly a sweetheart. A mouthy, crotchety sweetheart.) We also have two dogs and two guinea pigs, but it would be amazing if they figured out a way to get into the Easter baskets!

The other two projects were cross-stiches I made. I have a snowman cross-stitch for Easter, Christmas, Fourth of July, and Halloween.

knitting · Quilting · Quilts · Uncategorized

The 2020 Afghan

My kids prefer afghans to quilts for cold winter days or chilly summer nights. I’ll let you in on a little secret…I do too. When it comes to having something to snuggle up under on the couch, afghans are our go-to.

That’s not to say that quilts don’t have their place. In our house that place is on the walls, the backs of the couches, or atop the beds. So basically everywhere…just not on top of us.

It’s silly, I know. I love making quilts and all the different designs, but to me they are more of a decoration than a way to keep warm.

We recently had a conversation after what happened in Texas about how we would never get too cold in our house even if the power was out for days since we have so many quilts and afghans and blankets all over the place. We could build a fort and stay nice and cozy in front of our fireplace. While it sounds fun and novel, romantic even, in reality it would probably be none of those things!

Without electricity, we’d have no hot water and quite quickly no water at all since our well would stop pumping it from the ground. While we’ve cooked in our fireplace before, it’s never been anything more complicated than a hot dog. In fact, hot dogs cooked over the fire was our Anniversary dinner this past December since we were without power that evening. Also, the guinea pigs, Winston and Basil, would suffer as they are delicate little fellas who can’t handle the cold. I’m not sure I’d enjoy having them in our fort since they throw hay all over the place!

I finished this particular afghan last weekend. I began working on it early last year. It looks a lot like another I finished last year since I wanted to use up all of the remaining yarn from that project. The pattern was my own design:

The first 10 and last 10 rows were all Knit rows.

Then Knit a row, Purl a row for as many rows as desired. This started out as 20 rows. As I ran low on some yarns and had a lot left of others, I adjusted and did less rows of some colors and more rows of others. (First 5 stitches in all rows were Knit.)

Then (when on right side) 2 knit rows, 1 purl row, 1 knit row. (I did these in green and purple)

Things got a little wonky color-wise as I neared the end of my yarn supply and had to change up the color pattern I had started out with. This didn’t bother me as it was a project I began just to use up leftovers. I was amazed that I was able to get two very large afghans out of 5 1-pound skeins of Caron yarn.

The Celitc Knotwork St. Patrick’s Day project is coming along nicely. I’m still not sure I’ll finish in time for the holiday, but I made good progress yesterday. The first clover is completely sewn now, and all the letters are glued in place. I’ve also begun sewing the letters. I’m hoping to make some progress this weekend but may not as there’s a birthday to be celebrated. Special food will be prepared. Brownies and ice cream will be consumed. Presents will be unwrapped. And fun will be had.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Yummy Rustic Loaves and a Quilt Update

During supper recently we were enjoying a crispy-crusted, extra-tasty, rustically-round loaf of Cranberry Orange bread when our son piped up that somewhere he’d found a list of items people won’t shut up about after purchasing. One of those items happened to be Dutch ovens…which is what I had been happily extolling the virtues of as we ate the delicious loaf that had been baked in one.

I’ve been hankering for a long time for a recipe that would produce a perfectly crispy loaf as I had never succeeded in getting such a loaf out of just a regular pan in the oven or in the bread machine. Then, strangely, my Pinterest feed became full of photos of drool-worthy rustic loaves and I began to pine for the Dutch oven that would be necessary for success.

We found one (the only one) at the store and and brought it home, where it sat in the cupboard for at least a week before I

a. became brave enough to attempt something new and

b. remembered to mix up the dough the night before so it could do its thing over hours and hours (because all those rustic loaf recipes seem to involve at least 12 hours of rise time).

The results were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Also amazing was the loaf of basic white bread. (I forgot to slash the top, but you can see in the photo that it just cracked up there all on its own.) We enjoyed the white bread with a bowl of creamy Chicken Gnocchi soup and a slice of cheesecake for our Valentine’s Day supper.

But enough about the bread since I don’t want to be one of those people who can’t seem to stop talking about their Dutch oven and prove that list our son found right.

Here’s a photo of the progress I’ve made on my St. Patrick’s Day table runner. I was only able to work on it on Sunday, so it is progressing slowly. The photo shows one clover pinned down. I now have it partially sewn in place. I may have to work a bit faster in order to have it completed in time for the holiday!

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

A St. Patrick’s Day Project

Though I’m nearly finished with all the blocks needed for another scrap quilt, I had to put the scraps aside for a while. The urge to design something was strong, and St. Patrick’s Day is approaching. How is it possible that I claim Irish heritage and have no St. Patrick’s Day decorations? This was a problem too great to ignore!

Ideas came and were tossed aside until I settled on creating something similar to last year’s Valentine’s Day project.

I love the simplicity of black bias and celtic knotwork. It is a simplicity that belies exactly how much work is involved!

Step one: Making the bias.

This is not actually a difficult task (cut 1″ strips, sew wrong sides together with scant 1/4″ seam, trim seams, and use press bars to press flat) until you realize that the large spool of “black” thread you purchased is not actually black but rather a dark brown.

In the absence of black thread and unwilling to go to the store to purchase any until I absolutely needed to leave the house for something more important (like food), I moved on to the second step.

Step 2: Hunting for the perfect background fabric.

I had the perfect piece of fabric in mind. On a Shop Hop back when such things were allowed and “safe,” I purchased the most gorgeous green fabric from Quilter’s Clinic, a tiny shop in Fife Lake, Michigan. I wish I had purchased the same fabric in every color available. It starts off light on one side and gradually becomes darker on the other half. For this project I planned to use the darker half.

(Speaking of Shop Hops, can you believe that we once jammed into tiny shops, breathing all over the place maskless, and munched on snacks that had sat out all day while every single customer walked past? Those were the days!! We quilters probably have excellent immune systems.)

The hunt for the fabric commenced. I searched through the box of greens and blues. Nothing. Out came the reds and oranges. Then the blacks, browns, and batiks. Nope, not there.

At this point I was convinced I was losing my mind and had not actually purchased the fabric. I almost called my mother to see if she remembered me making the purchase, but I didn’t want to have a witness to my faulty memory just yet.

Finally, after probably 20 minutes of searching through EVERYTHING again, I located the fabric in a pile on my sewing table. Good news is I’m not losing my mind. Bad news is I wasted so much time!

Step 3: I began working on the design. This is the fun, frustrating, time-consuming part of the process. I hunted for Celtic knotwork designs on Pinterest and finally settled on one I liked. I printed it off, thankful it was just the size I wanted and only needed a little tweaking to make it just right. It’s not a perfect Celtic knot. This one will have a definite beginning and end. Also, the over/unders will probably not work out quite right. I haven’t really looked too closely at this other than to notice that the original artist did not pay much attention to that detail. (In case you didn’t know, when making Celtic knotwork designs there should be alternating over/unders where lines cross.) I’m okay with it not being exactly perfect. Who’s going to look that closely?

Step 4: My least favorite step is step four. This is the part where I cut the fabric to size and transfer the design to the fabric. There is so much room for error here! What if I cut the fabric the wrong size? What if I mess up the drawing? What if I don’t have it centered perfectly? Ugh! This part just really brings out the anxiety!

To tame the anxiety as I worked on transferring the design, I listed to the Dr. Death Season 2 podcast, because what better way is there to tame anxiety than listening to a story about a really bad doctor from your very own state?

Today I will finally get out to purchase some black thread as I have a ton of errands piling up which can’t be ignored any longer. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the bias finished this week and then move on to the fun part of stitching it to the background.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

They Can’t All Be Pretty

I have a confession to make. Well, actually two.

#1 – All the quilts I’ve made aren’t pretty.

Thus…

#2 – I don’t like all the quilts I’ve made.

Allow me to introduce you to Ugly Quilt #1.

I don’t hate everything about this quilt. I like the way the color placement draws the eye and creates a larger pattern. I like the red fabrics I chose. I even like the green. Everything else…blah. I’m especially disgusted by the white fabric. I’ve made several quilts with white as my neutral fabric choice, and I’ve disliked half of them. White shows every wrinkle, every speck of dust, and every seam pressed the wrong way. I have no idea why I still use it.

I loved the sample quilt in the pattern book. (I can’t recall the name of the book as it was years ago when I checked it out from the library and made this quilt.) The author/quilter used some gorgeous bold colors, which worked so nicely together. Where I went wrong was in using stuff from my stash rather than purchasing just the right colors that would have played well together. I needed a bold orange to go with the bold red. My yellow was too pale. Purple would have been much nicer than the blue.

For now this ugly thing hangs in the corner of our piano room, hidden partially behind music stands and other musical paraphernalia. Perhaps, in time, I’ll make something new which I’ll proudly hang in that corner.

I’ve had minimal time to spend in the sewing room this week. Here’s why:

We had several cords of wood delivered in anticipation of a major snowstorm and at least a week of temps forecasted to be in the single digits. I don’t know if you realize this, but you gotta get that wood stacked before the snow falls on it. Otherwise it gets buried and frozen together in a massive heap. (Experience taught us that!) So, for four hours, over two days, we worked our arm and back muscles getting everything neat and tidy.

Thus…

…my scrap project is languishing, the blocks gathering more and more cat hair as Rosie, the cat, spends more time napping on it than I spend working on it. I’m also hoping to design something, perhaps a table runner, for St. Patrick’s Day. Time, though, is not my friend so it may not be finished until next St. Patty’s.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Cardinals in Winter

Brrrr. It’s a cold, snowy day in northern Michigan. It’s 21 degrees out with a forecasted low of 10 for tonight. Not the coldest weather we’ve suffered through (one year we had what seemed like weeks in the negatives), but it’s still not the kind of weather I enjoy being out in. I prefer the 30s if I’m going to do anything outside in the winter. I didn’t even go outside to snap a picture of the snow but rather took it through the back slider. The flakes have been both tiny and sporadic today, as well as clumped together and coming down fiercely. The sky is a gloomy shade of grey. I’m so glad we have colorfully painted rooms in our home. There’s no way I could handle grey walls all around and a grey sky above and white snow everywhere! Thankfully next week’s weather looks like it’s going to be a little nicer.

I thought I would share an older project today as I’m still hip deep in scraps and haven’t completed my latest scrap quilt top yet.

Let’s travel back to, I think, 1999 or 2000. I know my eldest was just a baby when I completed this project. My mom and I worked on these hangings together. Way back then I would schlep my sewing machine over to my parents’ house and we would work together on projects while my dad and the baby would nap away in the Lazy Boy.

The pattern was Cardinals by Connie D. Roys of Pine Meadows Designs. There were three patterns provided that included cardinals in either summer, winter, or fall. Now you might think that we’d be all about the bright summer option or the equally colorful fall option since we get plenty of winter and see plenty of snow, but you’d be wrong. We chose to sew cardinals in a winter scene. (Speaking of cardinals, I can’t think of the last time I saw one in the winter or any other season.)

An interesting trick we learned from a woman at the quilt shop where we purchased our fabric was to use the same fabric for the red bird’s body and wings but to use the reverse/wrong side of the fabric for the body portion. I’d never considered using the wrong side of the fabric before and haven’t done so since, but it worked for this project.

I like to bring this hanging out after Christmas and leave it up until it’s time for Easter decorations.

(In case you’re interested, we used a stick for hanging it that my husband painted with polyurethane. Sticks make cute hangers, though with their natural curves it can be interesting to get the project to hang straight on the wall!)