Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Using Up Leftovers

Kind of ironic that after I posted the link to the NY Times photo essay about folks living with MCS I had a really bad week physically. There was just one toxic exposure after another, and unavoidable for the most part. It gets discouraging. I appreciate the support I've received from my blogging friends.

You may remember that I recently purchased a new sewing machine. It would have been too much to expect that Phoebe's bobbins would fit Ruby Blue (even though they are both from the Pfaff family). One thing I managed to do in the last week was to start sewing together 1.5" strips using the thread on the old bobbins for those short seams.

It was restful to sit and sew mindlessly while I chain pieced the strips in pairs.

And then the whole lot went to the ironing board.

I've been cutting my strips to 12.5" in length. I'm not sure I'm going to sew them into 12" blocks though. It didn't occur to me at first that it would take 12 strips to make a 12" block (duh!). When that finally dawned on me it didn't sound like so much fun. Since then I've had an idea to use columns of three or four as vertical sashing in a strippy set quilt.

Since these were pieced I found another stash of 1.5" strips I'd forgotten about. I still don't have much of a brain for creative problem solving so I'll probably keep emptying bobbins and add these growing piles to my Parts Department for future use. I'm going to have to find an appropriate container to keep them in though, so they can be put out of the way when my brain finally kicks back into gear. ;- )

Monday, September 19, 2011

NY Times Photo Essay

This is a beautiful photo essay about what it can be like to live with chemical sensitivities. I encourage you to take a few minutes from your busy day to see how some of us spend our days.

Canaries by Thilde Jensen

I can't imagine having to live outside year round. I'm too sensitive to wood smoke and it would be hard to find a place completely free of drifting particulates.

I can't even wear the masks you see in some of the photos because my body reacts to the materials they are made from. When I go out I wear a mask like you see in pictures 9 and 14, with two carbon filters inside it. Rarely does it completely protect me from the effects of the fumes and vapors in our environment.

I'm grateful that I don't have to go the extremes that some folks do in order to sustain life. I'm grateful that I'm not sensitive to electromagnetic fields in addition to everything else. I'm grateful that my husband understands and supports me both emotionally and financially. I'm grateful that he has a reasonably secure job. We have health insurance but it doesn't cover any of the medicines I take or the specialists I visit on occasion. Compared to many I'm very fortunate indeed so I try not to complain.

If you haven't already clicked on the link above I hope you will do so now. And feel free to spread the word. For that matter, refuse to buy artificially scented products. At least that would be a step in the right direction.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Eventful Week

One of my brothers, who I rarely hear from, called early in the week to inform me that our father had fallen down a flight of stairs and broken his arm. This was not just a simple stumble and fall either. He was moving a table, by himself, up or down those stairs. Apparently he damaged the shoulder socket and had to have surgery to repair it. Turns out he also has hairline fractures in his pelvis. The most recent report is that he's well but he's going to be laid up for several weeks. I pity his caretakers. He has never been a patient person and needs to be engaged in some activity most of the time. Meanwhile his wife (not my mother; she passed away several years ago) is having to be moved into a care facility. Fortunately her daughters are nearby and can help a lot with those arrangements.

The next call I had was from my sister, informing me that our one remaining maternal aunt had been hospitalized with bacterial meningitis. Less than 24 hours later she had passed away. This is a real blow to my sister who lives close to this aunt and was more like a daughter to her than a niece. Well, it's just plain hard anyway because she was the liveliest of the three sisters and the last one surviving. She would have liked this pillowcase I put together yesterday:

I made this pair as well, out of yardage I purchased some time ago.

They will complement the flannel Lincoln Logs friendship quilt that will soon be on my bed for the winter months. They may even work with the Pioneer Medallion quilt I've been working on ever so slowly. In fact, I wonder if I have enough scraps from the pillowcases to make the last Spinner block I need?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Making Fabric, Making Blocks

Victoria over at Bumble Beans invited the 15 Minute players to make a block for a Quilt of Valor that incorporated some scraps of camouflage uniforms she had left over from a commission quilt. This is what I did with the scraps:

I haven't been surfing other blogs much lately but I did see what Julie and Tonya are up to. They inspired me to go through my bin of strips and strings to pull out anything about 1.5" wide. (Most of what you see to the right of the bin below is narrower than 1.5")

That created the pile you see below. It looked much taller before I moved it to get a better picture!

I have 1.5" strips neatly cut and hanging from a skirt hanger in the closet too. And then there's the wicker basket under the sewing table with all the chunks and bits... I won't be sorting through it, I don't think, but I will raid it for 1.5" squares because I know there are some in there. Sewing these strips and squares together will probably be my Between Seams project for the time being.

I set aside the second Priority Quilt last week so I could work on the made-fabric block for Operation Uniform. While I was working on that block I made another small heart block from red scraps and it seems to be just what the Priority Quilt needed!

It's the one at the bottom of this composition. I think the six inch heart block I started with was just too big for what I had in mind for this quilt. Once I get the strips cleared out of the way I have a feeling I'll be able to move this forward now. We shall see!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friendship Blocks

I've been trying to put together a another Priority Quilt but so far it hasn't gelled. I'm letting it sit while I make blocks for friends and for my Parts Department.

One of our guild members' mother is recuperating from a fall (or surgery - I don't remember which at the moment) and Diana wants to make a comfort quilt for her. Her mom loves cats so she asked for cat blocks or blocks featuring cat prints. This block is a variation on Pussy in the Corner. I guess this one would be Mousey in the Corner. ;- ) [double click to biggify]

The second block is for a member who asked for flower blocks. I looked and looked at block patterns for this one but finally settled on an old favorite, a variation of a log cabin block:

I sewed half square triangles together between the seams of the other blocks. The left column in the photo below are the blocks that resulted from this effort. The right column of blocks were created a while back.

The little paper ribbon with the school picture on it was recently unearthed from a box in the garage. It's my oldest son when he was in preschool or kindergarten. I had the cutest kids (if I do say so myself)!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Collaborative Effort

Remember this?
The Sunbonnet Sue block was hand appliqued by a friend of mine in the last years of her life. I have about four of these blocks. Long-time readers may recall that I added the top and bottom borders with the intention of turning this into a Priority Quilt for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. I finally made good on my promise. :- )

For the longest time I couldn't figure out how to quilt the piece. Quilting is not my strong suit. All along I had a voice whispering in the back of my head that I should just echo quilt it. In an ideal world I would have hand quilted it. I feel the block deserves that but it's just not my thing (nor is applique for that matter). Yesterday I gave in to the voice but used an iridescent thread to bring this traditional block into the 21st century. After that it was playtime, adding the rick rack and flowers.

I had to give the chicks a mother hen to watch over them too. I did not embellish Sue's hat or dress, preferring to let Arlyne's work stand on its' own. I've titled this "Ripples of Friendship." The registration form has been submitted; I expect to get it shipped in time for it to go to Houston if that's what the powers that be decide to do. In the meantime, there are some pretty spectacular quilts up for auction right now. The auction ends in a few days, you should go check them out now!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Finished is Better than Perfect

Way back in July I put together a Halloween quilt top. You can see it here. I finally got it out last week and basted it. This week I quilted it. Today I laundered it and sent it on its' way to Margaret's Hope Chest.

Designing the top and making the parts fit together was fun. Turning it into a completed quilt has been less than fun. "Finished is better than perfect" became my mantra as I worked on it this week.

Almost from the day I finished the flimsy I planned to quilt this using a spiderweb design. Originally I thought I would put the center of the web sort of in the middle of the quilt, off to the right side. After I'd basted it, however, it occurred to me that I had a giant spider and the beginnings of a web already in the quilt. Why not use that as my starting point?

It all began well enough. Once I had the upper third of the top quilted I found myself getting confused about where I was and which way I needed to go. I took the quilt out from under the machine, laid it out on the kitchen floor, and used my ruler and chalk to draw the lower part of the web in place.

I really thought I'd have this quilted in no time. In spite of my chalk lines I got lost. Plus I'm still learning the idiosyncracies of my new machine. I managed to screw up the tension somehow and my stitches weren't looking the way they ought to have done. Some lines of stitching had to be taken out and done over.

Eventually I got everything working smoothly again and filled in all the gaps in my web. It's not wonderful but it will hold together. The web is actually more visible on the back of the quilt but I can't get a decent picture of it.

The quilt trimmed up nicely (it was more of a trapezoid than a rectangle when I basted the layers together) and I had just enough of the black I'd used in the quilt as filler strips to make the binding.

Once it came out of the dryer I liked it much better. In fact, I was a little sorry to see it go. Guess I'll just have to make a similar one for our own use!