Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crisis vs Opportunity

In contrast to the challenges facing so many Americans these days this is trivial. But it's still frustrating!

I signed up to make a birthday quilt for a young lady in the Wrapped in Hope program through Margaret's Hope Chest. I've had this project in the back of my mind for a while. I recently decided to make Patience Corner blocks using red prints and a white with black music note print. I thought this would be a good project to use to begin to get familiar with my new sewing machine.

She sews faster than Phoebe, that's for sure. In no time at all I had 4.5" strips sewn to 2.5" strips. I cut them into sub-units and added 2.5" strips to one other side.

This is what the finished block should look like:

This is what I ended up with:

I didn't understand what I'd done wrong for what felt like a long time. Eventually it dawned on me that I'd cut the sub-units too long. Great. That might also explain why I ran out of the music print before I expected to. And now I get to decide whether to make these rectangles work somehow or trim them down to the squares they're supposed to be.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Unexpected Purchase

You know how when you go shopping with a friend (or a daughter!) they can talk you into buying something you know you want but wouldn't buy without their encouragement? I blame C~ for what happened to me this week. ;- )

First of all, here's some of the random piecing I'd been doing.

This is Phoebe, the machine they were sewn on.

Turns out I've had Phoebe for 9.5 years. Time flies when you're having fun and getting good results. But this week C~ asked me whether I was aware of the special deal being offered by our local Pfaff dealer. I'd received the flyer but hadn't paid much attention to it because I didn't think I was in the market for a new machine. She filled me in on the details, and the next time I went out on a routine errand I stopped in at the store. The air quality was too poor for me to stay long but I got enough to whet my appetite. Because they know me there and know of my situation the store manager allowed me to take the floor model home overnight for a test drive.

This is the Pfaff Expression 2.0. You may be able to see at a glance that it has a longer arm and much wider throat. There are 3.5 extra inches between the needle and the column. That doesn't sound like much but when you're trying to maneuver a quilt of any size in and around there for quilting it will feel like a lot. This machine finally has the serpentine stitch that I always wished Phoebe had too.

I didn't fall in love right away. That first night I was feeling poorly and didn't realize that I didn't have the even-feed system engaged while I was doing my piecing. Once I figured that out I was much happier with the results. Then the next morning I layered up a sample quilt sandwich and had a go. This machine is capable of faster speed than the poor old Phoebe. Quilting could actually become fun!

All evening long there were discussions amongst my husband, my son, and myself as to which of the four sewing machines in the house I would use to get the $500 trade in credit. Two of the machines are vintage. They belonged to my husband's grandmother and mother respectively. They are quality machines that work but aren't currently up to par. DS has a starter machine he bought with high school graduation money and it has served him well. I wasn't excited at the prospect of trading Phoebe in. So while I tried out the new machine DS tried out Phoebe. By the time I had to return the Expression 2.0 to the store DS had decided that he wouldn't miss his starter sewing machine that much after all!

Because I had a couple of lingering questions about the new machine I took it back to the store the next morning and left the trade-in machine at home. Fortunately at that hour the store was virtually empty and the air quality tolerable. I was able to spend enough time to have my questions answered, my hesitations assuaged, and in the end I made the purchase. DH went back later in the day to turn in the starter machine.

These are the blocks I pieced while trying out the new machine.

I was really glad I had patches at the ready so I had something to practice on. All of these blocks turned out perfectly, in spite of some of the challenges I had. I can't say that I'm head over heels in love with this new machine but I feel confident she will grow on me over time. She is the machine I would have bought when I bought Phoebe if it had been available. All she needs now is a call name. I figure that, too, will come to me over time.

And before you go: I saw this vehicle on the street this week while I was stopped at a light. I was thrilled that this time I actually had my camera with me even though I had to take the picture through my car's window. Isn't it a beauty? Someone has put a lot of time and effort and love into it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's Cooking?

I had planned to be back before now to show you the results of what's been cooking in the studio. We've had some internet connectivity issues. It's a little scary how dependent I've become on being able to access the internet!

The finished wall quilt (16" x 20"):

I've titled it "What's Cooking?" I think I mentioned in the previous post that I expected to use red to frame the chefs but liked the white "onion" print better. The same thing occurred when I got to the binding. I originally thought I would use red but this old mottled print with varying shades of green caught my eye and held it.

When I finished the wall quilt there were a few chefs still intact in the original half yard cut. Hmm, what do to? How about coordinating potholders?

This time I followed my inclination to use red as a frame. The red in this pair has a swirl in the print that could be interpreted as steam:

That pair of potholders used up the complimentary food print. For the next pair I decided to keep the red frames (but I had to use two different reds this time) and then use what I'm calling the onion print to bring the blocks up to size (8"). The black and white check I'd been using was all gone by now too so I had to find something else for the hanging loops. Again, this wiggly stripe reminds me of steam.

There's a third set of potholders. I'm keeping them for myself. I don't enjoy cooking but I do like to bake. I did all the decorating on my children's birthday cakes as they were growing up and had a lot of fun with that. So this pair of chefs seemed appropriate to have working in my kitchen. ;- )

The corners of the snowball blocks are a light pink on white that looks like sprinkles to me. The black outer frame and loops are a tiny muffin or cupcake print from eons ago.

Now I'm in that uncomfortable, anxiety producing zone between projects. We have company coming in a few days so I'm reluctant to begin a major new quilt effort. I've hit a snag with another project and have to wait a bit for supplies to arrive. So I'll probably resort to cutting and sewing scraps into random blocks for the next couple of days. I did take time yesterday to rearrange some of the storage in the studio. I needed a place for those random blocks to accumulate that was easier to get to. I think I've succeeded. I guess the next few days can be the trial run to see how it works!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cooking in the Studio...

So to speak. While I admit to eating in the studio (you know nothing gets done without chocolate), I have never enjoyed the process of cooking. But I have been having a lot of fun playing with these chefs:

I fussy cut these guys from a print called the Daily Special from Wilmington Prints. The black and white checkerboard reminds me of the tiles you mightfind in a busy kitchen. The question was, how much of that checkerboard would be pleasing?

Yeah, I think that is a bit much. In the end I set them right up against each other. I thought I was going to frame them out with red but this white and black print caught my eye. It made me think of onions, sliced and peeled. Double click on the photos for a better look.

The wide border print is also from The Daily Special line I believe. I bought it at the same time as the chefs at any rate. My whole plan was to make a little wall quilt for a kitchen. This measures 16" x 20." In between seams for this kitchen quilt I sewed together random blocks for future quilts. At one point I got a little sidetracked by a dog print. This is what my design wall looked like when all the pots were boiling.

The chefs have nearly cleaned up all their mess now. I'll show you the feast in the next post. :- )

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Colorful Additions

If you've stopped by my blog in the last few weeks you know I made this 12" x 12" quilt for a swap over on the 15 Minutes of Play blog.

This was not a direct swap but more like a round robin swap. So instead of receiving a quilt from the person to whom I sent my quilt I received a quilt from someone else in the group. In this case, I was given this absolutely delightful quilt from Nancy over at ColorFiberTexture:

When she showed it on the 15 Minutes blog I admired the happy colors with the black and white prints. Now that I have it in my hot little hands I see that not only is the center of the star made up of scraps ("made fabric") but so is the narrow border between the picot ribbon trim and the binding. And I love that she hand quilted it with embroidery floss. What a cheerful piece to have hanging in my home!

On another front, DD gave me a bouquet of flowers for Mother's Day. One of the little carnations was too short to fit in the vase with all the longer stemmed flowers. My begonias were in need of trimming so I combined a bit of the cuttings with the carnation in a bud vase. There's also one leaf from another house plant whose name I don't remember at the moment.

The arrangement made Miss May Belle's walk with the hounds this morning a bit more colorful.

Here's wishing you a colorful walk through your day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another

My nearest bead shop (the one that was closest relocated, much to my disappointment) sent out a newsletter with a coupon to use for Mother's Day. Who am I to pass up such an opportunity?!

One of the things I purchased was this hank of purple seed beads. I thought I'd share with you a slick trick I came up with for getting the beads off the strings and into the plastic bags I like to use for storage.

Holding the hank at the top I very carefully cut the lowest points of each string, making sure the hank is well into the little pitcher (actually a creamer I found at the thrift shop one day).

The beads slide off the strings into the pitcher...

And then I can easily pour the whole lot into the baggie. :- )

I didn't really need any new beads but going into the bead shop and bringing home a few new goodies was inspiring. QuiltDivaJulie asked me to contribute a block for her new lab coat. This is the block that I pieced for her coat:

I wanted to do some beadwork to dress it up a bit. Putting away my new treasures from the bead shop was enough to start the juices flowing.

I used some of the dyed shell chips I'd used on my ATC for January's bead journal project. They're called "Happy Beads." They couldn't be more aptly named in my opinion!

I have some serious catching up to do on the rest of my bead journal projects for this year. I've been making notes about what I might do for each month but right now sewing up blocks with the sewing machine is what has my full attention. I suspect I would do more beading if I didn't have to clear space to do it. DH and I have discussed things we might do to create a dedicated space for my beading projects. We'll see whether or how soon any of it comes to pass.

Finally, let me take this opportunity

to wish all my readers who are mothers

a Mother's Day that warms your heart.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dots So Happy

I've been wanting to play with dots for a long time now. An opportunity to play on a smallish scale came my way so I went through my stash to see what I had that I could use. There are lots of dots and dot-like prints but only a few had the white background I wanted. Aw darn, another trip to my LQS. ;- )

Look what I got!

They're in the washer now, preshrinking and being cleansed of the fumes that tend to cling to bolts of new fabric. Then it will be PLAYTIME!

Since my last post I've made a few more blocks out of scraps and samples of newer prints.

Mostly old scraps I guess.

FYI, that block in the bottom left corner is just four flying geese units, not actually a block.

I have no plan in mind for any of these blocks/units. I'm finding that I rather enjoy making blocks out of scraps and letting them pile up until I have enough to build a quilt top. I suspect the trick is going to be to make blocks in a variety of sizes to give myself a wider range of options when it comes to setting them together.

Time to put the newbies in the dryer!