crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing

A Slow-Blooming Garden

I always start each month with the best of intentions. Then something happens. Or lots of things happen. And then nothing happens, especially anything related to my intentions and carefully made plans.

My goal for January, as I mentioned last weekend, was to finish up one unfinished object. Will that be happening? Nope.

I pulled an unfinished project from the closet, cut lots and lots of strips of fabric, sewed up several blocks, then got bored of cutting and sewing strips. So I put that project aside and pulled out my English Paper-Piecing flowers. You know I’m bored when I pull out anything that involves hand sewing.

The photo above is the one I shared last weekend. The bottom photo shows the progress I’ve made over the past week. Clearly, this is not a speedy project. Or, clearly, I’m not a speedy hand-sewer. It’s probably the latter.

Each flower takes me approximately 1 hour to sew. So, doing up the math quickly and probably totally inaccurately in my head, I’ll probably have about 4 bazillion hours into stabbing needles through paper hexis by the time this thing is big enough to cover anything bigger than a baby.

As for how big it’s going to end up being…who knows. Least of all me.

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?

Quilting · Quilts · sewing

Autumn Owls

What an autumn it’s been. Between traveling the first week of October and all of the fall chores we’ve been attempting to jam into the few days of decent weather we’ve been blessed with so far this month, the days have flown by. Now it’s almost November, and I am not anywhere close to being ready for winter. (We’ve already had a few days of snow that didn’t stick around, so we know winter isn’t far off.)

The lawn is covered with leaves–mostly wet leaves since it’s rained so much–and there are still so many more that need to fall yet, making raking/leaf blowing useless at this point. I did spend a couple hours this past weekend moving leaves from the “lawn” to “not the lawn,” but by the time I’d finished it looked like I’d done almost nothing.

Then there’s been the firewood issue. Hubby cut down a massive oak near our pond. As he’s cut it into chunks and split it, I’ve loaded it into the wheelbarrow and made the long trudge up the hill to the woodpile over and over. If I think of it as mountain climbing training, I think some of the misery is lessened. But I’m not sure. It’s still a pretty miserable task. And what’s extra infuriating is that for each trip from the pond to the wood pile, which is clearly the equivelant of 3 flights of stairs, the health app on my phone only gives me credit for 1 flight of stairs. Not that I do anything with the numbers the health app gives me. I just don’t want my phone to think I’m a slacker.

While the rain has kept us from getting our outdoor woork completed as quickly as we’d like (work completed=more time for fall hiking), the rain has provided me with an excuse to hibernate inside with good books and sewing projects.

I’m not sure I’ve ever completed a project as quickly as I completed this owl hanging. I just knew, after finally pulling this pattern out after years of having it filed away, that I just HAD to get these cuties up on the wall this fall.

When I last wrote about this project a couple weeks ago, I was debating whether to satin stitch around each wonder-undered piece of fabric with matching thread or use that dreadful clear thread to do a blanket stitch around the edges. I ended up using the dreadful clear thread, which didn’t misbehave as much as it has in the past.

(I think I finally figured out the secret to keeping that clear thread from breaking. Rather than place the spool on the spindle on the sewing machine, I’ve been putting the spool in a jar that I place a little bit behind the machine. This seems to let the thread come off the spool better. I also set the tension pretty low on the machine. If anyone has any better ideas, please drop them in the comments!)

After blanket-stitching around each piece of fabric, I quilted freehand around the owls, leaves, and branches. I added quilting on the underside of the wings as the pattern showed and added some freehand leaves. Considering I’m not much of an “artist” and have minimal freehand quilting skills, I think the leaves turned out pretty well.

I’m particularly fond of the hanging tabs that I made for this project using a pattern from a previous project. To make the tabs, cut fabric rectangles twice as wide (plus seam allowance) as you want them to be when finished. Cut to the length desired. Fold in half, right sides together and sew along the long edge and one short edge. Turn right side out. Place the tab along the edge of the back side of the quilt, raw edges together, and sew in place. Sew binding on normally. Once the binding is sewn down to the back side of the quilt, fold the tabs over and sew in place on the front. Add a cute button. I just happend to find two wooden buttons in my massive can of buttons that came from my grandmother and great-grandmother that I thought would go nicely with the outdoorsy theme of this hanging.

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 · 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

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!

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Everything’s Coming Up Squash

The summer squash and zucchini in our garden are multiplying like rabbits every night, and I can’t keep up. We’ve had Tomato-Zucchini Tart and Italian Roasted Veggies. I’ve made bread for the freezer (which barely fit in there as we still have soup made with zucchini in there from last year, along with too much ice cream, frozen strawberries, veggie broth, and icy chunks of leftover tomato paste because the larger can is cheaper). We’ve eaten zucchini muffins (actually summer squash muffins, but they are totally interchangeable). Tomorrow, I’ll be whipping up a Sausage and Zucchini casserole for dinner.

Today, I air-fried an entire summer squash as a side for my lunch. (Slice 1/8″ to 1/4″ slices, coat with a bit of olive oil and Parmesan Cheese, and air-fry for approximately 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Super simple. Super tasty. I tossed it in a bowl with quinoa, garden peas, grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and a drizzle of herbed olive oil, added a bowl of honeyrock melon, and finished my meal with a square of dark chocolate. Do I feel healthy? Yes, I do.)

Approximately one week of harvest

And the really crazy thing about all that squashy goodness?

Most of the plants that have produced veggies thus far weren’t plants we actually planted. I did plant one packet of zucchini seeds and one packet of summer squash seeds, but they haven’t done much yet. The plants that have been thriving for weeks now came up from seeds that were in our compost pile. And what’s even crazier is that we seem to have some strange zucchini/summer squash/spaghetti squash hybrids sprouting from the ground.

I also did not plant tomato plants, but we have those too, and we seem to have some sort of watermelon/pumpkin that’s coming along nicely. (No one is quite sure yet what it is. It’s getting big, though.) I may even have a butternut squash.

It’s a plant free-for-all out there, and nothing is neat and orderly, and it makes me just a teeny bit sad that my lovely row of beets is hidden and shaded by massive squash plant leaves. But I shouldn’t complain. Food is growing and it’s tasty and basically free.

Clearly, with this Great Squash Uprising that’s going on (along with taking time to enjoy the few summer weekends we get in northern Michigan), I have been spending minimal time in the sewing room. Thus, I have nothing new to share. What I do have is an older project that I don’t think I’ve shared before.

This is the Ice Cream Social wallhanging fom the Spring 2012 issue of Quilts and More magazine. The sample in the magazine was a little “busier” than I liked, with a dotted background, an inner stripey border of many colors (kind of like my outer pieced border, though the stripes were printed on the fabric), and an outer border that had various ice cream novelties printed on it. The corner blocks on the sample were pinwheels. It was a bit much for me. So I opted for an inner border that matched my more muted background fabric, another narrow border in pink (to match my binding), and an outer pieced border made of various width strips that matched what I had used for the ice cream and popsicles. (One great thing about this project is that you could make most of it with fabric scraps.)