Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Big Bear Little Bear Finished Quilting

After about 15 hours of machine quilting and at least 750 yards of thread (yes that is nearly a half mile of thread JUST for the top of the quilt - says nothing of the bobbins!), my Big Bear quilt for the Project Linus Book Blanket challenge is completed. Surprisingly, it is still mostly white, despite quilting in my basement. It was quite a task not allowing it to touch the floor.

The overall quilt is 44" x 56", which is really larger than I like to quilt on my machine. My Singer just does not have quilt enough throat depth to accommodate that much fabric.
I added the pale gold inner border in hopes of bringing out the color of the bears a little bit. I am still not sure that I love it as much as if I had kept it all in blue and white. Too Late now!!!
Around the six inch outer border I mimicked the diamonds of the main part of the quilt. Around them is quilted in a wave-like design of white rayon, while the inside of the diamonds is actually done in pale aqua. It's a little hard to see, but in person it shows nicely.
The binding is scrappy from all of the remains of the blues of the quilt.
The blankets will be turned in sometime before October 10th. The "show" is not until early November. I don't expect to win this again this year. This quilt is nicely made, but not as fun and childish as the one I did last year. The blankets will be distributed to children of all ages that are inthe Barbara Bush Children's Hospital in Portland, ME between Thanksgiving & Christmas. It's a win-win project either way. I could never imagine having one of my kids in the hospital. A soft sweet blanket can only make it a less frightening experience.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Blog to Showcase Quilts

Whether you want to submit your own quilts or just look at a new quilt each day, here's a site for you. Hermione Agee uploads a different person's quilt that they submit daily. Mine from the summer session of the Four Seasons Quilt Swap is up today! Last week there was one from the immensely talented Emma Howe. The blog is called Quilters Show and Tell. Have a look!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another Week, Another Stitch

And another power outtage. Once again, I spent half the afternoon by the kitchen window hand appliquing. Good thing I actually LIKE to hand sew!! Fortunately it was only off 2 hours, not 8 like last Friday.

I have been relatively good at making progress on my projects, despite really having much finished to show. As they say, slow and steady wins the race.
My Miniature Booty piece is done except for the label. Pictures will be later, may be after it is received. I like it a lot, which seems to be a common trend in my sewing lately. I really should make things I hate more so it's easier to send them off into the world.

My Simplicity quilt is making good headway too. It is dreadful to photograph - the pastels are wickedly washed out, and the rose inner bordering is much bolder than in reality. It is actually 20 boxes, and now has a 3" border of the corresponding yellow floral (shown next).

I have begun the borders for the top of the quilt (part that drops down the side of the mattress), and hope to have them on by end of next week.

My Project Linus Bear-Blanket quilt is coming out adorable. The top is 90% finished with the MQ. I have done a wavey-swirly tight quilt in white and aqua rayon threads. It has a wonderful shine. The bear blocks are a little different, with accent stitching around the bears, and more lateral stitching as if to mimic the ice and clouds.

The borders on this quilt are 6". That is quite a lot of area to have to figure out how to quilt! I have already used 6 bobbins and 500 yards of thread!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Some of my favorite Garden Moments...

Besides looking at the abundant color of the flowers, some of my favorite moments are spent watching the butterflies. They have such an incredible architecture to evolve from furry caterpillars, and to spend their days fluttering from flower to flower.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Booty Teasers

I have not posted anything about my Booty-2 quilt, which is not due until September 1. I have been appliqueing in in between my other machine sewn projects (which I am vowing to have all pieced before we leave on vacation in 3 weeks). Here's a little look-see (look thru the basting) ...

As for what I did the rest of the week... Well, despite offloading my boys to my moms for 2 days, the list of accomplishments is short. Having our power out for 7 hours yesterday certainly did not help either!

- added borders to the Big Bear Little Bear quilt top. It's ready to sandwich and quilt
- still sewing on the top of the Simplicity (queen sized bed) quilt - aim to finish top part this weekend, and begin cutting material for the borders this week
- hand quilting on the Booty-2 quilt. Has a bit to go still.
- Closed signups on the Spring Fling Round Robin-2, and have begun to send out partner emails. This stage of swaps sucks deeply into my dwindling sewing time!
- Sewed two of my birthday block swap blocks that are due in August/September. And am trying to sketch out Julie's fabulous house block (or will it be fabulous!!??) Will show soon-

Monday, July 14, 2008

Selecting Partners for a Swap Hostess

Being a swap hostess is a grueling job. I have to try my best to assign partners for people based on their likes, preferences and abilities. I get to deal with the grumbles when a quilt is not really liked or is not made exceptionally well. I get to notify people that their partner is way behind schedule. We have the occasional quilt get lost in the mail, sadly. And then there are those who opt to flake out completely. Fortunately, there has only been one case of this in the last year. Hosting six swaps of over 300 people has kept me busy for certain.

Being hostess, however, also affords me many luxuries that the common swapper does not have. I am able to know ahead of time what each person's quilt is, as it is made. I love to see the progressions, and to be able to think to myself, "she's really going to love what so and so is making for her". Of course it works that way for me too (althought I try my darndest not to peek!). I do have that dubious honor of being able to select a person that I will make a quilt for. That notion seems simple enough, until you realize that I am the hostess, and anybody that receives my quilt NEEDS to like it! I wouldn't get good repeat swappers if I made ridiculously ugly quilts?? So how do I select partners for myself?....

It is an interesting dilemma.

Last fall, I selected Linda for my partner. I have to admit, I did not put a ton of thought into the decision. It was my first session with the swap, and I had no history with any swappers. She seemed very nice from her blog, and seemed like they type person that was kind and somewhat accepting of all people. I made her this. It is not my favorite quilt that I have ever done, but it is nicely made, hand quilted & appliqued, and depicts fall.

In the winter, I chose Luisa as my partner. After receiving her lovely fall leaves quilt, which remains amongst my favorite quilts, I knew I wanted to make something for her. I was testing out this star pattern for a quilt for myself. The one I made Luisa is hand quilted with a snowflake (even if that is not apparent frfom the picture). Luisa is a gorgeous and thoughtful quilter. I just adore looking at her work and always look forward to seeing what she is making. She has been in all four of the 4-Seasons swaps as well as the two Round Robins. I am glad I got the opportunity to make something just for her.

In the spring, I made this springy tree quilt for Tami. She is another person that uses fabric to create amazingly lovely things. Besides being a great quilter, she makes dolls. Tami was not going to do the spring swap, but I assured her I would partner with someone that would make something nice. Oh Geez!!... Now I had to deliver on that promise :-) So in the end, I decided to make her quilt myself. I had wanted to do more applique, and actually found all of the hand work enjoyable to do. Her quilt is nearly 99% hand made...hand appliqued, embroidered and hand quilted. Oddly though, as much as I love it, it was not that hard to give away, as I know it is in a good home.

This summer, the last season of the swap, I really did not know at first who I was going to make a quilt for. I just let the sign-ups come in, hoping I would find inspiration in somebody. That is exactly what happened. These words caught my eye, "colors that evoke the ocean... blues and greens". The ocean, I thought. Wow, what a great summer idea. Here I was contemplating things like flowers, kites, watering cans, ice cream cones and lady bugs. I nearly forgot the most wonderful thing I have where I live, the ocean. So this, I decided, was going to be my partner. Now I just needed to figure out how I was going to make this quilt. I vaguely remember her also making a comment about liking the "beach cottage" feeling for summer, so I set out to find "beach cottage" fabrics (oddly, the only one of these I used on the quilt was the blue stripe for the binding!). This quilt, as many of you know, got completed early and then I decided I would keep it myself. It reminded me too much of my home to send it away to live in of all places land-locked Indiana (I say this joyfully!)! The coast of Maine is gorgeous and is much more rocky than I chose to depict in the quilt. I quickly set out to make another beachy quilt for my partner. It is very similar to the beach landscape I made first. In the end, I decided I would stick to my guns and give her the one I made initially, as this really was made with her in mind. To solidify this decision, I attached the label to the quilt's back. I then showed the teaser on my blog where I asked people to help me decide which one to send.

During this quilt's construction, I happened to stumble upon a posting for about.com's Doll Quilt Swap III, hosted by Ginger. She was so gracious as to let me in a day after the swap sign ups had closed. On top of that, she (of all people) made my quilt for the swap!! It is incredibly sweet and looks amazing in my daughter Sophie's room. I researched her blog some and learned that she also has a daughter Sophie, who is approaching age two too! I also learned that they vacationed in Hawaii last year, and do in fact love the ocean (very reassuring). Upon receiving her quilt, I had to chuckle, knowing I had one last secret, which would be revealed when she received her summer quilt. I just got word today that it is safely in it's new Indiana home. Happy Summer, Ginger! It was a joy to make, and I have one in my home too!

Big Bear Little Bear

Most of the Project Linus Big Bear Little Bear book-blanket challenge quilt top is pieced. I still have borders to add, but that will be quick. The blues in the quiltcoordinate amazingly well with the book.
I did an incredible job (if I do say so myself) of salvaging every last scrap of my bear fabric. I had less than a half yard to begin with. To make it go further, I used pieces of it in the small 9-patches, with mini-cameos in some of the centers.

It's very crisp and sweet. It reminds me of the colors of Santorini, but it is also very Arctic, ice and water and sky-like. I think it is playful enough too that a small child will appreciate it. Now, to get it completed by early October.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Spring Fling Round Robin Session 2

I have announced the signups of another session of the round robin I host. If you are interested, and are at least an intermediate level quilter, please have a look. It was very popular this spring, and the quilts made were out-of-this-world amazing!


Pin Wheels, Polka Dots & Pigs in a Blanket

Here's another Project Linus blanket recently finished. I am trying to incorporate (ie., use up!) my many yards of nice novelty fabrics. I got this Huff-n-Puff (the pig border print) last summer, and if were just a little more, I may have used it for Sophie's birthday dress. It is super cute!

The quilt is scrappy and bright. I had red polkadots that my mom gave me. Every summer, my grandmother who has been dead now almost 4 years, came to Maine. She was raised here, but always loved to come visit. On one of her trips in the mid 1990's, she needed to make a clown costume for work. I still cannot envision my 70 year old grandmother dressed as a clown, but then! Anyhow, the red dot is leftover scraps from her costume. I think she'd be tickled that I used it for a piggy kids blanket :-)
Here's the top...about 50" x 50".
And one quickie transformation of the lovely Simplicity squares...next time I'll get better light so you can see how lovely the prints are.

The makings of four 9-patch blocks, arranged with white print canters, more solid prints on the corners and another busier print in between.
Now they are cut...
...and rearranged to place the solids at the center, one of each color.
I need 16 more of these. Then they will get a mini-border of a medium blue that I do not yet have. Then 2" sashings of a pale blue & white print.

...next week's project!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Goodies in the Mail & New Projects

I had my entire week and weekend planned out. I was going to get going on a Project Linus blanket that will be entered in their Book-Blanket Challenge. The blankets need to be turned in by sometime in September or October, and should be designed around a children's book. The book and quilt will be given to children at this hospital between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year I made the Hungry Caterpillar (and won too!). This year my goals are lower. I will be happy just to get my blanket top finished before we go on vacation next month.

Anywho...so my plan to go full gusto on this quilt top came to a screeching halt when yesterday's mail came. Two squishy packages!! My Moda 3-Sisters Simplicity charm squares and accompanying fabrics came. OOhhh, they are so sweet and romantic. They will make a fantastic present for someone. I just had to piece a "few" of the charm squares together to see how it would look. You'll have to return tomorrow for pictures of that :-)

Here's a question for all you charm pack users. Obviously I did not prewash these before sewing. But should I prewash the yardage I bought before I cut and sew with that? or might it be better to wash the entire quilt top when it is finished? My inquiring mind wants to know what YOU would do :)

Well, back to my book quilt. Here's the book.
I actually found it at a local consignment store in hardbound for $2, brand new. That beats the $30 price tag I saw at Amazon! It's a supersweet tale of a polar bear mama and cub. I have a very small amount, maybe half a yard at most of this fabric too, which I knew when I selected the book. This was used on my son's bed quilt recently.
My plan is to cameo-cut as many of the polar bears as possible, and then design a pieced quilt around that. I have several corresponding blues and light grays in nice nursery prints - polka dots, checks, hearts, etc that look fantastic with the background of the bear fabric. They bring out all of the ocean, ice and sky characters of the fabric. Initially I envisioned appliquing a fleecy bear cub or two onto the border or the quilt, but concept will have to wait until the top is finished. I had much of the piecing cut yesterday before the mail came (and squashed my motivational steam...). Once the little ones were napping, I also started sewing to realize I 'd made a small error and my pieced blocks were coming out the wrong size. Seems I'd mixed up my two piles of squares and used one for the other's purpuse. UGH!.. rather than pick out 12 9-patch blocks, I decided I could afford to make the quilt 6 inches larger with just adding bordering to the bear cameos. My simple plan is still rather simple, just not going together without a little modifications. I still hope to have this top pieced by the end of the weekendso I can get back to the Simplicity quilt.

For all of you Booty Swap lookers...I have actually done a fair bit of that quilt top. It's 90% hand applique. It's another that I'd like to have finished before we go on vacation in August. I think I may hand quilt that one, but I'm not sure. I need advice. If there is anybody that uses (and likes to use) perle cotton threads, please tell me what weight you use and where you find it. Thanks-

My 4-Seasons Beach quilt is entering no-man's land (AKA postal service) - and here's where I begin to hold my breath and pray it arrives where it is destined to go. I hate the thought of lost quilts, especially one of mine.

Anybody that is inquiring about another round of the Spring Fling Round Robin that I host...I am just about to kick off the fall installment of the swap - in just a few days. Keep your eyes peeled here for the signup as it will be limitted to 25, and my awesome quilters from the first session will most definitely get priority.

Have a great week's end!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Belated Happy Independence Day

I know it's the 6th of July, but I was lazy this weekend and did not post anything. I took the kids to the beach on the 3rd and 4th. They love playing in the sand and water. It's a bit of a chore getting them cleaned/showered off so I opted not to go another day this weekend. The boys start swim lessons again in another week so hopefully they'll be swimming by the time we go on vacation this August. No plans are firm yet, but we're looking into a week on Lake Champlain in upstate VT. Is anybody familiar with that area? Will the water be freezing cold??

Scenes from Friday's beach trip...
Little sister was content to just play in the sand and try to pop the seaweed. I certainly fetched enough bucket fulls of water for her though.
I'm not sure if this is the "finished" piece, but in honor of the 4th, here's one of my more patriotic blocks. It's for the bday block swap. Anne's birthday is actually August, but I'm trying to get ahead, and was a bit intimidated by doing this block so I tried to get a head start. The darn thing took me near 5-6 hours, and albeit is not perfect either. I may remake it if I find time.

One of the other more mundane things I have done is complete the yellow scrappy borders on the scrappy blue heart blocks. I kind of lost steam on this project. I'm not sure that I really "love" the overall finished look enough to complete it for the person I was initially doing it for. I am leaning towards making the 12 blocks into 2 Project Linus quilts instead - just add a wide blue print border and quilt them. They'll be ~55" x 75" which is a good size for a teenager. Because I have felt lackadaisical (spelling???) about this project, I have allowed my mind to wander (ie., I have fallen off that proverbial "use your stash" wagon).

The first thing I got, mainly because I just LOVE the fabrics, are these from Lakehouse Dry Goods - Cherry Baby collection. I will save them until I make Sophie's twin bed quilt next year. They will coordinate with her room and curtains that will not be replaced, as well as several other fabrics I am hoarding for that special day. I love sewing for little girls! All things are Sooooo cute :-)

Anyhow, this is just a 7" alphabet panel that I will use on her quilt or a wall hanging of her name, or something like that.
I had to have a little bit of the sweet cherries too...
And these panels also...They may get used as blocks on her quilt top or on the back, or even as little pillows. I'm not sure yet; I just love it and know that if I wait until I know what it is for, I won't find it anywhere.

The other thing I have done is reconcile with myself that I will make one Christmas present. It has to be done by October so that I can get it to the quilter in time. I bit the bullet and ordered several of these charm packs which I found onsale for about $6 each at http://www.thequiltedcastle.com/. I thought that was quite a steal, and I don't have to cut the material. Win-win for me! I'll probably do a disappearing 9-patch pattern in blocks with three of the fabrics (which I had to order elsewhere) as block sashings and quilt borders. This is a project I am psyched about. I need to get it done realistically before I go back to work in September too.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Back With Batteries

OK, now that the battery-hog camera is fed, I can show pictures of what my mail lady brought me while I was off at the beach today. Despite having two rather unpleasant recent swaps, I decided to torture myself one more time (I actually did not know about the other two when I signed onto this swap). It was an About.Forums swap hosted by Ginger, who is truly a wonderful host. She's attentive and was immensely accommodating since I unknowingly sent her my swap info a day after the swap actually closed!

So while I was off at the beach with my 3 little wild things (getting a different form of torture!), this arrived. The colors are not entirely true, but it is genuinely lovely. It's old-fashioned and traditional. And totally summery. The fabrics are lovely Moda's and blues from Bleaker Street (one from this teal line which I have but have yet to decide what to make with!). She has hand quilted it too, which everyone knows gives me a real warm fuzzy. People that machine quilt nicely are everywhere, but to hand quilt takes time and patience. It's becoming a lost art.

Many thanks, Ginger, this was a treat to receive. You've rejuvenated my swapping faith again :-)

And onto another topic...My summer swap quilt for the Four Seasons Quilt Swap...
So I posted last week that I had decided to keep the summer beach quilt that I did (on the right below). I was a bit frustrated and defeated about this decision because I felt pretty good about actually having my quilt finished a month early. I redesigned another in most of the same fabrics, same beachy icons. I even bound it in the same blue stripe because it reminds me of awnings or umbrellas. I think I know which one is staying and which is going, but I thought I'd ask the gallery. Give me your comments...It has a long way to go, so I will likely mail it next week.

(BTW...those ugly feet get to stay)I did a "McTavishing" effect along the edge. It kind of gives the effect of waves (if you squint your eyes it does).
This one has 2 umbrellas rather than just one. And no adirondak chair as that was a lot of time, and I am uncertain if it has enough value added for the effort. I did love the lobster traps though so the second quilt has four. They really are very "Maine", as we are known for our lobsters.
And lastly a couple shots of the back. The fabrics are very simple, but they show the quilting. I strive to be one of those machine quilters that have backs that look as good as the fronts. I know I am not there yet (especially since much of this was quilting was done before I discovered the ton of gunk under the bobbin cover).

Next time I will post about a couple of Project Linus tops I have assembled and another source of migraines...Anne's Mariner's compass for Kate's birthday block swap :-) ...grumble, grumble...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Purring like a Kitten

Sometimes the ones with the highest intelligence overlook the most obvious things. My many years of college, multiple degrees did not properly prepare me for what I ran into yesterday.

You see, for weeks my machine which is a mere year old has been noisy. click-clack, clunk!...It was not back-stitching cleanly. It's FMQ was giving me unreliable tension. Many days, I could not adjust the tension to not see the top thread on the back. It even would loop the top thread around the bobbin casing while sewing, which locks up the fabric so fast so that Ihave to cut it off from within the bobbin or get a hole in the material. I really just figured I needed to stop and rethread my threads.

Stupid ME!

Then yesterday I came across a posting by Kate on the About Forums. It all sounded like my problem too, but I discarded it since I HAD tried to loosen those stupid cover plate screws. They never would loosen so I foolishly reconcilled that I wasn't supposed to go in there. This is just the point where stupid gets critically dumb, as this is NOT my 1st machine or only one. I have 3. And the other ones do get cleaned in there. And I should mention (if you looked at Kate's post), I am an engineer. Lord help my stupidity...

So I tried to turn those ridiculous little screws the other direction, and LOOK what actually happens! The cover plate comes off, revealing an inch of gross gunk!
And when I removed the bobbin casing, yes...even more gunk.
Oh, all the light bulbs of NYC are coming on about now.

THAT (above) was under my bobbin case. UGH...
And here's my pile of crap from within that was no doubt affecting the back-stitching, FMQ, and making all kinds of noise. It's a wonder I made anything nice.

But now, she's purring like these kittens, sweet & quiet, and awaiting me to go make something this morning before my 3 wild things (not what's below) awaken.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sewing Something a little Different

I mostly finished up my daughter's birthday dress. Her birthday is still 2 months away, but now she can wear it this summer too. I have used this pattern, but made a few small modifications/enhancements. I opted not to do a more time-consuming smocked dress like I did last year, in hopes of getting it done faster, and perhaps having her wear it more. It is a sleeveless jumper too so that when it cools down in the fall, she can put a long-sleeve shirt underneath.
It's much simpler than others (here and here) I have done...no ruffles, no petticoats, etc. But I still think it is cute. The bottom has a border of this colorful floral. I used a variation of this type print (only a smaller floral) as the bodice lining.
Sadly I could not find my wing-needle yesterday so that I could do a prettier edging on the collar. I can do a nice entredeux stitch to give a collar a great vintage look. This is one of my favorite needles, and I am distraught over misplacing it. Instead, I just did a double row of top-stitching with a narrow twin-needle. BTW, the collar is scalloped (the curvyness is not by error!).
Here you can see what I added to the bodice...a few pleats, a little decorative scallop stitches some ivory eyelet leftover from another pfoject, and 4 sweet ladybug buttons.