crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

UFOs

With the holidays over, my enthusiasm for finishing the Christmas “Joy” wall-hanging I previously wrote about has waned. It has joined the other UFOs (UnFinished Objects) in the closet. These, and my fabric scraps, seem to multiply like rabbits every time I turn my back. I’m almost convinced there’s a little sewing elf running wild in my sewing room at night cutting up new scraps to replace any I’ve used.

Since there are so many scraps, I’ve forged into the New Year, once again, with a goal to tame the pile. (I think that was my goal for last year.)

But there’s one problem.

I’m so bored with my scraps! I’m practically knee-deep in scrap quilts and scrappy pillows, but my fabric pile (mountain, is more like it) doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. The pieces are, but the pile is not. It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries.

However, I will persevere.

With my January goal being to finish one UFO, I pulled out this easy one:

Over two days I put together around a dozen new 5″ squares. Each square consists of strips ranging from 1″ – 2″ wide. I’m not certain I’ll be able to complete this project in January, but I’m hoping to at least have the quilt top finished. I have a ways to go as it is only about 40″ square at this point. (Then I’ll procrastinate the sewing of the backing, the pinning, and the quilting for a few months because those aren’t my favorite parts in the process! I had this wild idea of quilting stars on it. We’ll see.)

With boredom setting in after cutting strip after strip, I also did a little hand-sewing and added a few more EPP flowers to the quilt top that, at the rate I’m making progress, will probably not be finished in my lifetime.

crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Easy-Piecing(??) Grid

A few months ago…actually, now that I think about it, it was July…my mom and I went to an Inspiration Day at Interquilten in Traverse City, MI. (Time is just passing so quickly!) The theme of the day was Christmas in July, and as it was “Christmas,” there were presents involved. Our gift: a panel of Ten Sisters Easy-piecing Grid and a Christmas pattern.

My first thought was, “I’m never going to make that.” At the time, I wasn’t a fan of the pattern, mainly because I already had a couple of Christmas-themed hangings and wasn’t certain where I would put another one. I also thought that the Easy-piecing grid was just an unnecessary step to add to the quilt-making process.

That pattern and that grid laid on a table in the sewing room for months until mid-December when I looked at it and came within inches of depositing it in the garbage. Gasp! I know. I should have found a quilter to gift it to, but I was suffering from a room full of scraps and piles and was in a tossing mood.

But I ended up giving that pattern a second look. I had Christmas scraps and I didn’t know where else to use them. I figured I might as well give the project a try. I surely had enough scraps and wouldn’t need to buy anything, so I’d be able to whip the whole thing up super quick. It did use “Easy” grid after all, right?

Ha! Ha!

I ended up purchasing a yard of both a red and an off-white fabric as I didn’t have just the perfect fabrics in my stash to make the project look the way I wanted. (Luckily, I got both on sale)

And “Easy?” Lies. Lies. Lies. I’m not going to blame the product totally. We were given it free, so it’s possible it was old and the shop was trying to get rid of it and the glue wasn’t quite at its peak of gluiness. I ironed and ironed and ironed, but I still had squares of fabric falling off left and right. So…zero stars for ease of use. I do give it ten stars for creating near-perfect seams. Would I use it again? No. I think all the ironing and replacing of escaping pieces took way more time than just doing it the normal way.

My goal was to finish the hanging before Christmas. Unfortunately, due to some good-natured grumbling, I ended up spending my sewing time leading up to the holidays making three more stockings. I’d originally made four–one each for our daughter’s boyfriend and his son, one for our middle daughter’s fiance, and one for our son’s girlfriend. Then our son pointed to his sad, droopy stocking and wondered why his looked so bad and why he and his sisters did not have stockings with their names on them. So I made three more stockings. (They were a great way to use up leftover denim scraps and some knit I’ve had for over 15 years.)

Now that the holidays are over, my enthusiasm for a holiday project has waned just a bit. The question is, will I finish the hanging now or will I wait until next December when the Christmas mood strikes again?

crafts · sewing · Uncategorized

The Stockings Were Hung…

Where have I been for the past month?

Not in the sewing room, that’s for sure!

Does anyone else get to the holiday season and just find themselves swamped with tasks that aren’t difficult but take a disproportionate amount of time? Ordering Christmas presents, for example. So simple. So easy. One click, or ten, and it’s done. Finished. Complete. All family members getting exactly what they wished for.

If they arrive on time, that is.

Or at all. I’m looking at you, UPS. (Could you tell me whose front porch you left my package on? It wasn’t mine.)

Tracking the packages daily has me feeling like I’m trying to herd cats who are scared of the outside world into a car so we can evacuate the house during a wildfire.

That’s a very specific comparison, you might say.

Yes, it is. Been there. Done that. (Hubby got peed on.) Thankfully the wildfire never came close to the house. (I think the volunteer firefighters may have been a little over-zealous with their evacuations.)

Present buying and package tracking aside, there was Thanksgiving cooking to do, Christmas cards to address, a Christmas tree to decorate, and a few decent-weather days to hit the trails before the snow really starts flying. All that added up to less time in the sewing room.

However…

I finished these Christmas stockings for the newest members of our family. I still have one more to make.

I was excited to find that I had everything I needed to make these. The denim came from old jeans. (I’ve made many, many denim lap quilts over the past 20 years or so.) The red knit lining was from fabric leftover from our oldest daughter’s first Halloween costume. (She was a ladybug.)

For a pattern, I simply traced around a store-bought stocking we already had.

crafts · sewing · Uncategorized

Guinea Pig Hay Bags: The Quest for the Perfect Pattern

The past few weeks have been chaotic. I’m so thankful for the ability to write posts ahead of time and schedule them to post for me when I cannot get near a computer.

We enjoyed a wonderful week of vacation. Our plan A of visiting Shenandoah National Park and Congaree National Park followed by a wedding in Florida at the end of the week had to be scrapped due to the crappy weather thrust on the eastern US by Hurricane Ian. We decided to go with plan B which was to take the week one mostly spontaneous decision at a time. This was tricky for a planner like me.

We ended up spending three days in Pennsylvania, hiking through state parks and along the Allegheny River Trail. (Side note: I lived in PA for 4 1/2 years as a child, so it was wonderful to see the mountains of my childhood again.) We hiked 50 miles in three days and returned a pair of lost dogs to their owner. Then it was on to Georgia for a stop at Jeckyll Island State Park and Florida for a visit to Anastasia State Park. Attending a family member’s wedding on Friday night marked the end of our vacation fun. Then it was two full days of driving to return home.

Driftwood Beach, Jeckyll Island State Park, GA

(If you’d like to know more about our vacation adventures or our other adventures, check out my other blog at https://100booksin1year.wordpress.com/ If you just like to look at pretty pictures of nature, you can find mine on Instagram at s.wild.photog.)

What was waiting for us at home was nothing pleasant. We’d boarded our dogs for the first three-quarters of our trip. Our daughter picked them up on Thursday and stayed with them until our son could return home on Saturday to take over their care. (We usually like to leave the dogs with the kids when we travel, as both dogs don’t handle separation or stress well, but two of the kids are still in college and this trip did not correspond to their breaks. Our eldest lives a few hours away now, so she wasn’t available to pet sit either.) Both our daughter and our son warned us that the pups were experiencing some very unpleasant tummy troubles. I won’t go into detail. Let’s just say that I’m so thankful we own a carpet cleaner.

This past week we’ve been feeding the doggos a bland diet (chicken, rice, hamburger). The little guy started to feel better fairly quickly. Our old girl, though, couldn’t seem to get past her troubles.

So it was off to the vet for her yesterday, where she was diagnosed with colitis caused by stress. A couple prescriptions and 12 cans of extremely expensive special food in hand and $172 less in our wallet later, and we were on our way home. Thankfully, she seems to have improved overnight.

(I didn’t look until this morning at the cost of those special cans of food. It’s $4 a can! The serving size for a dog her size is three cans a day. That’s $12 a day! I don’t think Hubby and I eat $12 of food a day. She’s totally worth it, but I’m glad she’s only to be on that food for a few days.)

Between the doggos digestive distress that had Hubby and me monitoring them continuously for signs that they needed to get outside RIGHT NOW, doing copious amounts of vacation laundry, and a back injury that sidelined me on the couch with a heating pad for a couple days (I’ve apparently reached that age where one innocent movement can cause injury), I hadn’t had much time to get into the sewing room.

Until yesterday.

A few months ago I made some new hay bags for the two tiny potato-shaped tyrants that live in my “office.” (It’s labeled as a living room on our house plan. For many years we called it the Reading Room. Now we refer to it as the Guinea Pig Room. Our son refers to it as nothing. He does not like Guinea Pigs and refuses to enter the room. I just happen to have a desk in the room, so I consider it my “office.” The piggies will be packing their little suitcases and moving out when our daughter graduates from college this coming spring to go live with her, so we’ll need to come up with another name for this room then. I’m thinking it will become the Plant Room.)

Basil and Winston, the bossy little boys

Anyway, I digress. Back to the hay bags.

Having no pattern to follow, I made up my own. Unfortunately, I made the holes for the hay too big. Winston and Basil could pull the hay out too easily and would yank it all out, leaving it in heaping piles on the floor of their cage, where it would remain to be peed upon, trod over, and mostly ignored. They would then cast about for food, acting as if they were going to starve.

Middle daughter, to whom the little cavies belong, attempted to stop this wastefulness by sewing a strip of fabric across the middle of the holes, which she believed would make it a bit more difficult to pull out massive amounts of hay with one tug.

It worked.

For about a week.

Until they ripped those strips of fabric off with their very sharp teeth.

So when I set about designing a new pair of hay bags, I went with slightly smaller openings. Nearly 18 hours after filling them up for the first time last night, they are not empty yet. I think I might have finally gotten the pattern right. (You’ll note that my stitching isn’t perfect. I was fine with that. These hay bags are going to get chewed on, peed on, and ripped up. And Winston and Basil don’t care if my stitching is straight.)

crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Owl Progress

Fall brought with it some icky weather, but I persevered through the grey skies, the days and days of rain, and the lack of sunshine by working on these cute fall owls. Last week I had them all wonder-undered to the background fabric. This week I blanket-stitched everything in place and added the colorful pieced border.

If you recall from my last post, I was uncertain what type of thread I was going to use for the blanket-stitching. The choice was between using the clear thread that I had on hand and hate working with or purchasing thread to match each piece of fabric used. I ended up choosing the clear thread. Mainly because I am CHEAP.

The majority of the fabrics used in this wall hanging were batiks. I really, really, really like the one with the swirls of purple and brown. And the yellow one with the sunflower print. Actually, I really like almost all of them. (I got lucky at a going-out-of-business sale at a quilt shop and scored a ton of batiks really cheap.)

(See my last post for pattern info.)

crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

The Unfinished Object List Grows

Whilst in the middle of my sock drama a few weeks ago, I went on the hunt for a more well-written sock pattern. (Which would be the exact opposite of the sock pattern I’ve been using). I began this quest by perusing my notebook full of miscellaneous knitting and quilting patterns, where I located two (!!) sock patterns I’d previously purchased but had never used.

The question is, “Do I dare attempt a different pattern?”

I am, after all, familiar with the rotten pattern I’ve been using, and I’m about 50% certain I will eventually figure out all of the quirks (i.e. mistakes) in that pattern.

Time will tell if I take the plunge into a different set of knits and purls that will eventually yield another pair of socks. As it is, I’m stuck with what I’m using for 1 and a 1/4 more socks.

But…

Whilst flipping through patterns plucked from magazines or received free at shop hops, I came across two wall-hanging patterns I had completely forgotten about.

And…

Because I love having lots of UFOs (Unfinished Objects) laying around the sewing room, I started on one.

However…

Before I show you what I’ve been working on, let me present a couple pictures that show the dangers of time and sunlight.

No, these aren’t photos of my skin. I’m not that old, and I never lay out in the sun.

As I dug through my tubs of fabric, I came across two pieces of fabric I’d used in two wall-hangings in the past. I should take a moment to point out that these fabrics were purchased from JoAnn Fabrics probably in the late 90s or very early 2000s. I got my sewing machine right before our daughter was born in 1999, and the fabric on the left was used in the first quilt I completed. So that fabric is older than my daughter, it wasn’t the highest quality to begin with, and the quilt has hung on the wall for over 20 years. It’s no wonder it’s a little worn out and faded. The fabric on the left was used in a small wall-hanging that is slightly less than 20 years old.

I’m not sure if there’s a lesson here. Things age, but I wonder if higher-quality fabrics age better? (My guess is they do.) And, obviously, sunlight on quilts is probably not the best.

But back to digging through my stash.

You may remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about whether a stash was a good thing or a bad thing. Well, having a stash came through for me this week. I was able to find enough fabrics in my stash for the wall-hanging I wanted to make. How great is it to want to make something RIGHT NOW and you’ve got everything you need?!

Now I need to see if I have the appropriate thread for finishing up this project. I haven’t decided if I’m going to blanket stitch around everything or if I’m going to use a clear thread and a straight stitch to hold all the edges down. I’m not a fan of clear thread, but I think blanket stitching everything might be a bit too much.

I also need to sew a pieced border.

This pattern is called “Hoo’s Waiting for Autumn” and was a “Fall Skinnie” from the Quiltmaker Magazine July/August 2013 issue.

crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

Sock Drama Part Trois

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow

-Louis Armstrong

Need I say more?

Knitting socks and trouble. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, eggs and bacon, turkey and stuffing. You can’t have one without the other.

Well, perhaps you can.

Maybe you have zero sock drama.

Maybe you never tangle up your five needles. Perhaps you never drop any of those tiny stitches. Is it possible you don’t get hung up on turning the heel?

Some people have all the luck. Me? Let’s just say disaster comes calling whenever I pick up my partially-knitted sock. Which might be acceptable (annoying, but acceptable) if I had never knitted socks before. But this is my third pair and, frankly, this is getting embarrassing.

Last night I decided it was time to work on the dreaded heel. I was halfway through the heel flap, and things were looking good. I made short work of the remaining heel flap rows, and then it was time for the much-dreaded picking up of the stitches for the heel gusset.

I worked slowly. I counted carefully. I did a little hocus pocus to somehow find 15 stitches to pick up though there were really only 12 there to work with. I knit my way through those stitches, worked my way around needles two and three, then did a little more hocus pocus to conjure up another 15 stitches for needle four. Just when it all looked like it was going to work out, numerous stitches escaped from needle one.

I picked everything back to needle one, because there was no way I would be able to pick those tiny miscreants back up. I did everything a second time. I counted and counted and worked my way back to where things had gone wrong, and despite my careful counting, I discovered much too late that I had only 14 stitches where 15 needed to be back on…you guessed it…needle one.

Back to picking things out.

The third time was the charm, and it seemed things were finally going my way.

Until something weird happened somewhere between the first row around on the gusset and the fifth row around when I realized I was missing a stitch somewhere.

At this point, I was ready to chuck the sock and the yarn and the needles out the window. But I persevered.

After more tiny stitch picking, I finally found the issue.

Then I went to bed. It was late, and I was in no mood for any more drama.

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.