Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Few Good Books

The 4th of July was a four day weekend for me.  It would be hard for me to say which I prefer, quilting or reading, and I did both over the holiday.  I know some of you are bookworms too so today I'm sharing a few books that I've enjoyed recently.



The Heirs, by Susan Rieger
Story of a wealthy family living in Manhattan and the upheaval in the lives of the wife/mom and five adult sons after the death of the husband/dad.  It would make a good choice for a book club.




The Wicked City, by Beatriz Williams
Beatriz Williams is one of my favorite authors but this is not her best book.  Intertwined stories, one set in the present, the other in the 1920's, but the historical part is vastly superior to the contemporary as the modern story lacks the excitement, drama, and danger of the Prohibition setting of the other story.  If you haven't read any Beatriz Williams, I recommend giving her a try but maybe start with A Certain Age.  Her newest, Cocoa Beach, is next up for me.




The Deepest Grave, by Harry Bingham
 This is #6 in the Fiona Griffiths mystery series.  I discovered the first about a year ago and quickly read through all four books available at the time, then reading #5 and #6 as soon as they came out.  Fiona is a detective with the police in Cardiff, Wales.  She is a complex and unusual character and events in her personal life unfold side-by-side with the murder mystery.  If you like mysteries of the procedural, not cozy, variety, I suggest you start with the first book, Talking To The Dead.



The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, by Jennifer Ryan
It is hard to believe this is the author's first book, it is so good.  It is about a group of women living in the same small village in England in the summer of 1940, some months into WWII.  With the men away, the church choir morphs into an all-women's group and becomes the bond between this otherwise eclectic group.  It is the best book I've read in a long time.

I'll be back soon with a quilting update.


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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ta Da, It's Flutter!

Flutter is finally finished!


I started this quilt in 2015.  The top went fairly quickly.  I knew I wanted to hand quilt it but the finished top sat in my sewing room until early this year because all my hand sewing time was taken up with Rondeau.  After a false start with a quilting design that wasn't quite right, I landed on this pattern of diagonal lines and am pleased with the way it came out.  


I didn't quilt through the butterflies, just around them, which made things easier.  Hand quilting through the added layer of fabric plus the adhesive from the fusible web would have been difficult.  But the butterfly pieces are small so this works out fine.



By the way, my new favorite tool is this Clover needle threader, wow, is it ever fantastic!  Well worth the price, it makes threading the small eye of a quilting needle a breeze!  Why didn't I get one of these earlier, it would have been so handy while I was English paper piecing too?  Live and learn and now I won't be without one.  If you are certain that the eyes of needles keep getting tinier and tinier, along with the font size in newspapers and restaurant menus, you need one of these gadgets.  So easy to use!


In the photo above, you can see how the quilting design comes together across several blocks.

I used a variety of ecru fabrics for the block backgrounds and a Hoffman strip pack/jelly roll for the butterflies.  (A charm pack will work too.)  I used a dark brown tone-on-tone from my stash for the binding, it matches the butterfly bodies though you can barely see it.  The pattern is Little Butterflies by Laundry Basket Quilts. There is a stencil available that makes cutting out the shapes much easier.

Must go, I have another quilt waiting to be bound.


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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Garden Delights from In The Beginning

I really have no business buying fabric because I have more than enough to keep me occupied for the next few years (if not my lifetime, especially at my current rate of productivity).  But what quilter ever heeded that kind of voice in her head!  No, it is pretty easy for me to justify any fabric purchase. And when I saw the Garden Delight line from In The Beginning Fabrics, I was quivering with the must-have-its.



If you like the English Liberty fabrics, you will like the Garden Delights line!  If you've always wanted to make a quilt in rainbow colors using floral prints, you will love this line!

The line comprises 40 small floral prints in rainbow colors from red to violet, with cream and gray for some neutral balance.  I bought a jelly roll and a fat quarter set in the blue and green colors from ShabbyFabrics.com.  Stitchinpost has very good images as well as a project book.   Delightful, right? I  have a few vague ideas of what to make with my stash and am giving them some time to crystallize in my brain before I start.

My other recent purchase was the latest Quilt Sampler.  It was good for a couple of hours of browsing and a few items caught my eye, unfortunately samples of items displayed in the photos of the featured stores rather than the project featured in the magazine, so I will have to track them down. 




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Monday, June 19, 2017

Still Here!

Lordy*, it's been too long!

First, our girl Miss Main Street graduated from college.   My mom flew out from Michigan for the occasion and we drove up to Saratoga Springs for the festivities, then back home with all of Miss Main's stuff in our two cars.  It was a festive family time as we were joined by my sister and her two young adult kids as well.  We are so proud of our girl!


She is at home with us, looking for a job or internship in writing or producing for TV or movies.  Her major was Theater, with a minor in Media and Film Studies, and she has a talent for comedy.

Next, Mr. Main Street attended his last commencement and retired from his job as Chair of the English department at Peddie School.  But it is not quite total retirement as he is going back in the fall as an adjunct** to teach one class.

But pretty much the same-old, same-old for me, with my job and my quilting when I can squeeze it in.  I'll be back soon with an update on my current project as I've made real progress.


*Don't you agree this word deserves a come-back!
** Latin for works for next to nothing

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Snippets


I have a few things to show you.

Real progress has been made quilting Little Butterflies.  I'm close to turning to stitch in the other direction.


That's good because I have two quilts waiting for binding.  I'd like to get them finished before the weather turns hot.  I don't like sitting to sew with a quilt over my lap in the heat of the summer.  We have air conditioning but it is still uncomfortable.  Binding is a good winter activity but I missed that window of opportunity.


I welcomed spring by switching the quilt on our bed to Love Actually, my double wedding ring quilt made in 2015.




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Monday, April 3, 2017

Topper or Quilter?

To be truthful, I am more a topper than a quilter.  Though I hand quilt the occasional small project (and I have about 35% of the quilting done on my butterfly quilt now), I outsource anything sizeable to a professional longarm quilter (and highly recommend Karen Thompson of Greenbrier Designs).  I've taken two free motion quilting classes but concluded it would take a major investment of time in practicing before I would ever be satisfied with the outcome.

I've used my walking foot to quilt straight lines on a few baby quilts but always thought that approach was rather limiting.  Well, I clearly don't have the imagination of Jacquie Gering, whose new book Walk, takes straight line quilting to a new dimension.


I became inspired just browsing through the book and even more enthused after I sat down to read it cover-to-cover.  Jacquie provides lots of instruction in how to use your walking foot,  how to mark your top (or not mark it for some designs), along with designs even a beginner can manage.  I particularly like shattered quilting, curved crosshatch, and some of the radiating line designs.  Though I probably won't attempt a bed size quilt on my machine, there are lots of designs in the book I can see using on a wall hanging or small throw.  


And the designs are not all straight lines as this sampling (the back cover of the book) shows.  I think you will find Walk to be a good addition to your quilting library.  And if you think Jacquie's name is familiar, you are probably right. She blogs at Tallgrass Prairie Studio and is Chairman of the Board of the international Modern Quilt Guild.

A big thank you to all of you who left comments on my last post, sharing how you got your start quilting.  I enjoyed reading all of the stories.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

25th Anniversary


How long have you been quilting?  I date my official start to the early spring of 1992 and that means it has been 25 years!

I dabbled in quilting prior to 1992.  I was in high school during the USA Bicentennial celebration, when traditional American crafts experienced a resurgence.  I was an occasional garment maker so I used some leftover cotton (probably cotton poly blend) fabric to make a tote bag.  I cut the squares and sewed them with a 5/8" seam because I did not know any better.  That tote bag held up for a long time though.

Then in the early 1980's, I took an evening quilting class offered by the continuing ed department of my local public school district.  We used cardboard templates, cut the fabric with scissors, and sewed by hand.  I enjoyed it but those were my hard-charging early career years of little leisure time.  I made a pillow in the class, followed by a small wall hanging.  Then I started on a set of place mats.  A year later, I had one place mat finished and a second one started.  Food was never coming in the vicinity of those place mats after all that work!  I put quilting aside.


An early project, my first Christmas quilt

But the local quilt shop still had my address and I'd occasionally take a look at the newsletter they sent me.  In early '92, I noticed they were offering a "Log Cabin Quilt In A Day" class.  I was extremely skeptical about making a quilt in a day but dropped into the store to find out more.  The staff introduced me to rotary cutting and machine sewing.  I  had the machine, bought the other equipment, and took the class.  I did not quite finish the quilt in a day but took it home and kept working on it.  Just as I was finishing up the top, my sister announced her pregnancy, and that first quilt went to my nephew, Nicholas.


My sewing room, where it all happens.

Miss Main Street came along two years later and she needed some quilts.  By then, I  was hooked. And when we moved into our present house in 1997, I could have  a dedicated space.  No more picking up the supplies to make room for dinner on the dining room table; I had a room where I could leave everything ready for when I had a few minutes to sew.  I've had a least one project in process ever since.


The collection grows.

Now, my collection of quilts is outgrowing my storage space.  How did you get hooked?


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Monday, March 13, 2017

Quilting By Hand Is Slow Going


I didn't intend for such a long time to pass between blog posts.  My current project is hand quilting this butterfly appliqued top (Little Butterflies by Laundry Basket Quilts) and it is taking forever so I haven't really had anything to write about.


It did not help that after a couple of weeks of working on my initial quilting design, a grid created by vertical and horizontal lines, I decided I didn't like it and used a seam ripper to take it all out.  Then I started again with diagonal lines.  There will be a second set going in the other direction so they cross.  I like this look much better.

The blue painters tape is how I mark where to quilt.  It is very easy to follow and no markings to get rubbed out or removed later.  I'm using tape that is 3/4" wide.  I estimate I've finished about 20% of the quilting, but I hope that means this won't take all year to finish.  I just got two quilts back from my longarm quilter and they need binding.  Then, there's all the other projects I have in mind...


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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What I'm Working On Now




A beginning of the year trip to Hawaii.  I worked on my dance steps and my tan.


Just kidding about the tan.  I'm a redhead and that just doesn't happen, less white is all I can hope for.
  Despite much time spend relaxing on beaches.  This one is Kapalua Beach on Maui.  

Lots of fun and now I'm back to real life again.  My first order of business is to clear the decks in my sewing room.  My sewing room doubles as our guest room and one of Miss Main Street's friends stayed overnight after interviewing for a job to teach English in Japan after graduation.  The room got its first clean in quite some time.  I sent two finished tops off to be quilted and unearthed Little Butterflies, a project I appliqued and pieced in 2015.  So, definitely a UFO!



Little Butterflies is about to be quilted, by me, by hand.  I've been meaning to do this for a while but got side tracked by other projects.  My plan is to quilt a sort of grid behind the butterflies, to make them stand out more.  No marking necessary, I use painter's tape.


Painter's tape comes in several widths (I'm using 7/8" wide) and it sticks to the fabric without leaving any residue behind after removal.  You can re-position the tape several times so each piece is re-usable.  After a few times, it won't stick as well; I just ball that piece up, throw it away, and start with a fresh piece of tape.  No marks to wash out after quilting is done.

I'll be back soon with some progress shots.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Plans for 2017

OK, I bought the cardboard, the comic book backing boards.  Did you somehow miss out on this "thing?"  These pieces of cardboard were originally sold for comic book collectors to use to protect their collectibles and keep the paper from creasing.  A clever quilter re-purposed them as the stiff center for mini bolts of fabric.  After folding yardage a second time length-wise, it becomes the right size to wrap around the card, creating a mini bolt that can stand upright on a shelf.

So, I bought a package of 100 (surprisingly inexpensive) and spent the long weekend cleaning and organizing the closet in my sewing room.  I like the way they stand on end, like a bolt of fabric in the shop; it makes it easier to pull a piece of fabric out to check and easier to put it back in place than the piles I had previously.  Unfortunately, they take up about the same amount of room as the folded piles of fabric that were my previous method of organization.  I had visions of being able to squeeze more into the closet.  I have several plastic bins of fabric that I store in the attic (really, a 3rd floor) but out of sight, out of mind.  My goal is to get my entire stash into the sewing room.  It's not happening this year though.

What is going to happen this year is completion of a UFO, Little Butterflies.  I finished the top in mid-2015 but it has been waiting for me to get to the hand quilting.


And I updated my Quilts to Make Pinterest board.  Well, I updated it in my usual way, editing the board's title to change the year while deleting the few projects I finished in 2016.  It still holds way more than I'll get to this year but my priority projects are Colorway (I have the fabric purchased and set aside with the pattern), a Christmas quilt (probably All Wrapped Up), a lace clutch using my collection of vintage and cutter linens, some pillow shams or cases, and some smaller projects.  I'd love to make a Flowering Snowball quilt with my stash of Kaffe Fassett fabric and am looking for the perfect background fabric to use.  Oh, and I ordered paper pieces for a new English paper piecing project.  It will be my new portable/travel project, not necessarily to be completed in 2017.

What are your quilting plans for 2017?

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Monday, January 2, 2017

It's A Wrap

I finished piecing my scrappy Fig Tree quilt top.  It is pressed and folded, ready to be shipped off to the quilter, as soon as I piece the back.  I found some fabric in my stash, an off-white tone-on-tone with a large floral design, that is perfect.  And the piece I have is just the right size, so that is perfect too.  


The photo is not great, it was raining and I had to take the photo indoors with the lights on, which gives the quilt a yellow cast.  

The design is a variation on Irish Chain, and a sort of mash-up of two quilts I saw on line.  First, the colors are from this quilt from the Hollyhill Quilt Shoppe.  And the piecing instructions are from a tutorial by Red Pepper Quilts.   The end result is exactly how I expected it to look, which does not always happen, so I am happy.  And of course, I'll like it even better after it is quilted.  

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