Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Empty Nest Cleaning Frenzy

I went into a cleaning frenzy over the weekend. After moving our younger two to college (the middle for her junior year, the younger for his freshman year) and getting all of the “stuff that needed to go with them” cleared out of the piano room, I decided some major cleaning in order now that it was only going to be my husband and me rambling around the house for the majority of the next nine months.

I started with the kids’ rooms then moved on to the bathrooms, which got pretty much a top to bottom, every cabinet and surface lysol-ing. Then I worked my way through the downstairs and the basement, dusting and sweeping and mopping until I was exhausted. (It didn’t help that we’d had two nights of horribly interrupted sleep. Night one involved major storms that seemed to last ALL NIGHT LONG. Our “little” dog, Neville, hates storms. Thunder, gunfire, smoke alarms…they all make him shake. Just the sound of rain makes him nervous. He spent the night army crawling around under our bed, shoving things out of his way and out from under the bed as he went which I would then trip over in the dark. His stress made our other dog, Luna, stressed. So stressed that she decided to snooze in the closet. Night two involved a misbehaving smoke alarm that went off twice for no reason and a stressed Neville, as not only was the smoke alarm terrifying but so was the new storm brewing outside.)


After hearing me complain several times about how I had to kneel on the floor to use my large rotary cutting mat, my husband decided that there had to be a way to get the mat off the floor in our shared office/sewing room. So we tackled that room on Saturday night.

Let’s rewind for a moment to see how I came to be kneeling on the floor to use my cutting mat. Twenty years ago when we built our house we planned for the “den,” as it was labeled on the print we used, to be my sewing room. I was sooooo excited to have a room just for this purpose. For several years I enjoyed having my own craft room. Occasionally I would move my sewing table elsewhere in the house when it became more convenient to do so. For a short while it was in our bedroom, then the living room, while the craft room became a play room so the kids could be nearby when I cooked meals.

Around 14 years ago my husband took a job with (what we referred to after a very short time as) the Evil Empire and the Boss Who Shall Not Be Named. Let’s just say it was a rough four years. The only good to come of those four years was that my husband could now work mostly from home.

There was only one problem.

He needed office space.

So I had to share my sewing room.

We’ve been sharing ever since. (And, thankfully, he no longer works for the EE and the BWSNBN.)

Once we started sharing, I lost one large table and about a third of the room. As I didn’t want to have to travel back and forth between, say, the kitchen table and the sewing table, I chose to suffer through long bouts of kneeling on the floor whenever I needed to cut fabric.

But, no more!

With our new arrangement, I’m able to keep my largest mat on my sewing table AND also have my two smaller mats on a desk. I’m pretty excited to get back to my projects now that I have this new arrangement. My husband is excited that I can no longer talk about taking over our oldest daughter’s bedroom which would have us on totally opposite ends of the house. Of course, we will both probably be in a nursing home before she finally moves her last possessions out of her room, so the likelihood of me moving up there anytime soon was pretty slim anyway.

Here’s the progress I made on the Pieceful Retreat quilt last week. I really like this one!

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

UFO #43 & WIP #20

Unfinished Objects. Works in Progress. I think I may have even heard them referred to as PIGs once at a quilt ruler class, though I can’t remember now what those letters stood for. Perhaps “Project In…” and something starting with ‘G.’ There was some story that went along with it about pigs in a barn or something like that. I’m in my early 40s and I think my memory is already going.

I know some people keep track of how many projects they’ve got in the works at any given time. They may even have them divided into their own little container with all the pieces carefully labeled. I am not one of those people. I’d take a picture of my sewing room right now, but that would be embarrassing. I have projects piled on my sewing table, stuff stacked in the closet, fabric on the floor that I was sorting through to start yet another project this week, laundry that needs ironing hanging off the back of my chair. It’s a disaster. I should also add that there are carefully cut fabric bits on the ironing board, which means my husband’s church attire won’t be meeting up with the iron any time soon.

I was thrilled to have several hours to spend in the sewing room on Tuesday while I enjoyed one of those incredibly rare moments when everyone was out of the house. (I homeschooled my kids and my husband works mostly from home, so days alone happen once in a blue moon. Our youngest will start college this fall, middle will move back to college for her junior year, and our eldest is living on her own in another part of the state, so those blue moon type days might roll around a little more frequently in the upcoming weeks.)

I sewed up some bits for scrap quilt #4 (or 5–I’ve lost count), then decided it was time to tackle a project I intended to do eons ago. My mom and I were supposed to take a class nearly 20 years ago to make a bed quilt. We bought the pattern, chose our fabric, but never took the class. (Which was fine with me. I’m not a class kind of person. I like to sew in solitude and figure things out on my own.)

The pattern is Pieceful Retreat by Laura Boehnke for Thread Head Designs. It makes a 99″x99″ bed quilt. I once said I would never make another quilt that large as it is difficult to quilt them on my machine (and I don’t send my quilts out for quilting), but here I am making another one.

Thus far I have nearly completed the cabin section. Only 95% of the quilt to go!

I’ve also made some progress on another scrap quilt. As I’ve mostly run out of cut strips to use for this one, I’m taking some time off from working on it until I get some more strips cut. I really like how it’s turning out, but I think I need to add to the width a bit. I thought 8 blocks wide would be sufficient, but it’s a bit smaller than I intended. I just love all the bright colors!

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Playing Around With, You Guessed It, More Scraps

We’ve been replacing our deck this summer. Actually, we’ve just been replacing all horizontal surfaces, which has left us with, what I think is, a cool new look. (I’m not sure what’s going on with the little guy. I think I caught him just before he sneezed. He loves the deck. It is his absolute favorite place to be. He would probably prefer a few less trees so he could spy on the neighbor a little more easily. He really likes the neighbor or his dog. I’m not sure which. But he can stare over there for ages. It’s quite embarrassing.)

Several years ago we stained/painted the deck. It has not held up well. Within a couple years it was peeling up, falling off, and getting stuck to our feet. But this was only happening to the horizontal surfaces. Plus the wood was just getting old. Like me. We decided this year was the year it had to go. In the interest of frugality and objecting to the American way of just tossing things that are still perfectly serviceable, we kept all railings. (The old boards will be repurposed into a “boardwalk” to the pond. Presently we have an ankle-breaking path made up of downed trees.) I actually really like the painted railings with the new wood look. And, that view isn’t too shabby either!

On Saturday I assisted with the deck project, attempting to unscrew the stairs and being mildly successful at it. This was NOT an easy task, and it aggravated the tennis elbow I’ve been dealing with for nearly a year now. (Which I did not get from playing tennis. I got it from weeding the garden. Because I’m getting old. And everything seems to cause some sort of ache, pain, or injury now.) So, thanks to elbow pain, I spent Sunday inside sewing.

I pulled out some fruit and veggie scraps and played around with those. I’m thinking of creating some sort of small, place mat-sized project to use on a plant table we have by our front door. I also dove back into my scrap boxes and started another scrappy lap quilt. You can see from the photos that Rosie did not approve of my arrangement of the blocks. I also spent some time corralling the scraps and at least it now looks like I have some sort of handle on the scrap situation.

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

Easter Egg Table Runner

I was thrilled to have my sewing machine back last Thursday. It’s so quiet when it runs now, which made me wonder if something was wrong! I will do my best to oil it more frequently and take it in sooner for routine servicing. When you can’t recall the last time you had your machine serviced, it has been much too long.

While I had planned to make another pillow out of scraps similar to what I used last time, a pattern that I’ve had for a long time caught my eye. And, since Easter is coming, I thought I would finish something holiday-themed long before the actual holiday rather than the day of or long after.

The original pattern (found in the Spring 2013 edition of Quilts and More magazine) was a bit different than what I made. There were five eggs and a wider border (with some adorable chick blocks). I would have loved to include the chicks somewhere, but I’ll have to save that part of the pattern for another project. The original finished size was much too big for our kitchen table.

My changes:

I opted to only make three eggs. This reduced the length by more than 20.”

I eliminated the wide border and went with a 1-1/2″ strip of pink fabric.

Instead of using a satin stitch to outline the eggs and the egg decorations, I used a small blanket stitch. (The eggs were Wonder Under-ed down first.)

For quilting, I used invisible monofilament by Superior Threads. I like how thin it is, and it seems to behave better than most monofilaments. I don’t think I’m the only person who has difficulty sewing with clear thread. I set my tension at 2 and place the thread in a jar that sits on top of my machine. I’ve found that if I put it on the sewing machine spindle, it tends to come off obnoxiously and get all tangled up. Then it breaks and makes a mess! I’m not certain how or why the jar works, but I’ve had less trouble with that solution than any other I’ve tried.

Quilting · sewing · Uncategorized

Upcycled Denim Potholders

The old jeans had been in the closet for several years. They had frayed knees and stains and worn spots. There were so many pairs that the container I had chosen to store them in had become too small.

Over several days, I dulled a pair of scissors and at least one rotary cutter blade as I cut the jeans into usable bits. It turned out that storing old jeans without all of the seams and zippers intact made the mountain of denim in the closet just a wee bit smaller.

I cut some squares at 6 1/2″ and some at 8″. I used the smaller squares to make cozy lap quilts. (I’ve got four tucked away to give as gifts and will share photos of those at another time. There are two more draped over the ironing board waiting for me to be just bored enough to want to sew backings for them and deal with the tying and binding.) The 8″ squares make perfect potholders.

This weekend I finished four potholders. I have two more pinned and waiting for binding. For the batting, I used one layer of Warm and Natural and one layer of Insul-Bright. The binding came from a jellyroll I received as a gift during a quilt hop. I’m fairly certain this jellyroll was just made up of stuff the quilt shop was trying to get rid of as none of the strips really “matched.” That’s okay, though, because I’ve still enjoyed using them. There were several hippy-ish strips that were perfect to use as binding for the potholders I made for my nephew and his wife when they got married. I was thrilled that there was an identical strip left over to use for one of my own potholders. (That’s the top one in the photo.)

The binding gets a little tricky to connect at the ends when using the binding tool that I favor, but I made it work and things only look a tiny bit wonky on the backside.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

My First (completed) Quilt

It’s a snowy day in northern Michigan!

Recently I posted a photo of the very first quilt I started. That quilt took MANY years for me to finish. I began working on it when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. I finished it after she graduated from high school. Shortly after starting that quilt, I discovered I was pregnant. Wanting to make a quilt for the baby (who everyone was certain was a boy due to a family “curse” that had been responsible for no girls being born for 17 years), I put aside the Feathered Star quilt and chose to work on this bunny pattern from Quick Rotary Cutter Quilts. I was convinced I was having a girl and thought this quilt would be perfect for either gender. (We didn’t ask baby’s gender when we had the ultrasound, preferring it to be a surprise.)

I learned so many things while making this quilt. First and foremost, I learned to never, ever cut out all of the pieces for a quilt at once. Being still rather inept at sewing, I think I ended up with every bunny block being a different size and none of them matching the size of the strips that I had cut that were to be sewn to the side of the block. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the bunnies were smaller than those strips, but as the bunnies were bigger, I ended up needing to cut new strips. Thankfully I had purchased plenty of fabric! I also learned how to properly attach the walking foot to my machine. There were hours of frustration, hours spent wondering why it wasn’t working properly and what even the point of the foot was as it didn’t seem to be doing anything, before one phone call to my mother provided the answer. I hadn’t attached it properly.

Each bunny block is comprised of approximately 70 different pieces! This was definitely not an easy project for a beginner, but I am not one to be stopped by a challenge. I also made crib bumpers from the cloud fabric and the dark blue fabric.

When we pulled this quilt out of the my daughter’s cedar chest to take a photo of it today, I was struck by how thin it is, evidence of how well-loved and well-used it was.