crafts · Quilting · Quilts · sewing

Halloween Fabric Haul!

After an incredibly rainy start to autumn, we’ve been enjoying a bit of warm, dry weather.

Well, perhaps “enjoying” is too strong of a word. “Enjoying” would involve hiking miles and miles every weekend. And, while it’s true that we did spend several days hiking in Pennsylvania and walking along beaches in Georgia and Florida in early October, all we’ve been doing outdoors lately is working, working, working. The list of fall chores seems endless. We’ve cut down trees. (No “we” here, actually. I’m not really trusted to handle things that can cut off fingers or other important body parts after a rotary cutter incident several years ago.) We’ve hauled wood, stacked wood, raked leaves, blown leaves–burnt up a leaf blower and bought a new one–turned over the dirt in the garden, and painted the trim around two front doors. We’ve got more wood being delivered this weekend, so guess what will be going on next week? Yup. More wood stacking.

On the plus side, I’ve not had to “exercise” for a week and I’ve lost 3 pounds despite eating my way through half a dozen Oreo cupcakes. (What can I say? Fresh air makes me hungry!) On the negative side, I’ve not really had any time to sew.

I did take a day last week, though, to go to Inspiration Day at Interquilten in Traverse City with my mom, where I was excited to find Halloween fabric on clearance! I’ve wanted to make a Halloween lap quilt for a long time, but with fabric prices edging over $14 a yard and a stash that I probably shouldn’t be adding to taking up space in the closet, I’ve been resistant to purchasing any new fabric.

But that Halloween fabric was on sale for less than $9 a yard. Yea! I had no pattern in mind when I made my purchase and still don’t (mainly because I haven’t had the time or energy to devote to any projects). I ended up buying a couple fat quarters, 1-1/2 yards of most of the fabrics, and 4 yards of what I plan to use for backing. What’s really thrilling is that the images printed on the fabrics glow in the dark. I can’t wait to see those creepy skeletons glowing at night!

I also found some rolled 1-yard cuts of fabric in the “Last Chance” bin. So much for not adding to my stash. Ha! I couldn’t resist them at just over $6 a yard and hope I can find something to pair them with that’s already in my stash.

I noted to Hubby that, while we have some cute turkeys to hang on the wall for Thanksgiving (Doesn’t the one on the left remind you of Flo from Progressive?), we don’t have a Thanksgiving runner for our kitchen table, which is an oversight I think I should rectify this year.

What a conundrum I find myself in now. Do I finish one of my bazillion unfinished objects? Do I start on my Halloween quilt? Do I find a cute turkey table runner pattern and get sewing so it’s ready to display for Thanksgiving dinner?

I guess we’ll find out what I’m going to choose when I finally get all the fall work finished and get back in the sewing room.

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 · 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.)

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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

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.

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.)

crafts · knitting · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

The Never-Ending Scrap Pile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An innocent accident or something more sinister?

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

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