Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ad Hoc Invitational

On a recent explore in Blogland I came across Fret Not Yourself and the invitation to link up our utility or improv quilts. The focus for the first quarter of 2017 is a quilt design traditionally known as Chinese Coins. This quilt I made for my FIL is a pretty good representation of that type of quilt.

You'll notice the body of the quilt is composed of columns of short strips of various prints separated by narrow vertical sashing. In this case I interrupted the stacks of coins with pre-printed panels that relate to his areas of interest. That would be the improv part of this particular quilt. ;- )

The quilt I've been working on lately is another version of Chinese Coins. It began as a potential medallion style quilt but after visiting Ann's blog I was inspired to make it a vertical strippy quilt. You can read about the beginning of the process in this post. The central column of the quilt top was built in more of a row-by-row style.

But that could be considered really large Chinese coins! The side columns more closely resemble the Chinese coins concept in that the blocks are stacked on top of each other directly. There are a couple of compensating strips inserted over the length of the columns but they aren't technically sashing like you would find in a traditional grid style quilt.

I have since added the vertical strips to separate my three columns in this quilt top.

I've used the same text print for outer borders too. You may notice that the inner sashes are wider than the outside borders. That's the opposite of what I thought I would do as I considered the layout of this quilt top. But when I realized that the central column would fit squarely on top of a twin mattress with about 1.5" of sashing showing on either side I decided to treat the two side columns (and their sashing) as the drop down the sides of the quilt on the bed. By putting 3.5" between the central column and the side columns there will be 2" of the text print showing on either side of the side columns when the quilt is on the bed. That makes me happy. :- )

Here's the completed top, turned horizontally. All I have to do now is make a back!

I'm linking this effort up with the other improv and utility quilters over on Ann's blog. I still want to make at least one more version of an improv Chinese coins quilt top but I doubt that will come to pass during this first quarter of the year. I have too many other irons in the fire for the next couple of months!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bee, Myself and I in February

Last month I announced that I was starting yet another set of blocks but this time strictly for myself. This is in conjunction with Carla's resolve to make something for herself, something that she's wanted to make but could find no other reason to pursue the project. She created the Bee, Myself and I selfish sewing circle as a way to make her commitment firm. To that end I began making Scrappy Trip blocks in my favorite colors, in batiks. In January I made these two:

I was a bit more ambitious in February.

I started with the pink blocks but then couldn't resist the urge to make the orange-y one to fill in the empty spot on the design wall! I'm planning for 20 blocks overall, mostly in the yellow-orange-pink range. I think I'm actually going to need a bit more yellow before I'm done! I haven't gone to the length of deciding how many blocks to make in each color or how many to make each month. For the time being I'm just playing it by ear. There's no rush, no deadline, for this project. It just provides a pleasant change from projects that may be more pressing or challenging (like the wedding quilt coming up!).

Next month I suspect you will see some truly orange blocks. Or maybe there will be more pink - you never know. ;- )

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

PDQ Progress

P.D.Q.= Parts Department quilt, pretty darn quick!

To recap, last week I started with a couple of chicken themed orphan blocks out of my Parts Department. They ended up creating this medallion:

I decided to build another strippy version quilt rather than a medallion quilt. To that end I added only to the top and bottom of the original square. I pulled more blocks out of the Parts Dept. but had to make a couple of new ones for a more cohesive look. (Yes, even with a multitude of scraps you can achieve a cohesive design!)

Another goal was to use up some of the scrap strips in my collection. I had Chinese Coin iterations on my mind but ended up making half log cabin blocks instead.

This made a nice dent in my inventory of 6" scrap blocks. :- )

I used a handful to top off what I've been thinking of as the central column for this quilt.

There's a similar row at the bottom of the column. The rest of the blocks were divided into two groups for secondary columns. To achieve the same length as the middle column I had to throw in the occasional extra strip.

Naturally, I can't get the whole thing into one picture!

Hopefully you get the idea. The challenge now is to decide how wide to make the vertical sashing and borders. And whether to make them whole cloth or out of more scrap strips. Or whether to use vertical sashing at all! I need to get this finished up p.d.q. as now there's a wedding quilt to build for an April wedding. :- )

I've just found out about Kat's Sew Some Love link parties on Wednesdays. Since this quilt top is intended for donation through this year's Hands2Help quilt drive I'm linking up!

Linking to Quilting is More Fun than Housework where quilts from orphan blocks are being featured. ;-) 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

SAL in February

Since I've been sharing my embroidery and linking up with Slow Sunday Stitching on Kathie's blog I was afraid I wouldn't have much to share to day. For those who haven't been here since the last SAL I finished up the two needlepoint cases I've been working on.

You've seen the crown in stages. I used an iridescent floss within the crown to represent diamonds. I think the heat from blocking the finished case with steam may have taken the shine out of it however.

I'm not sure you've seen this second case, at least not as frequently. I acquired the two kits at the same time, and both of them needed tweaking, in my opinion, in terms of design and colors.

I found it difficult to see the tulip clearly in the original version of this design so I simplified the  color application significantly. These cases are now in the hands of their new owners (or the postal service; I haven't heard that they've been received yet).

After the completion of these two small cases (they're each about 4.5" x 3.5") I was at something of a loss as to what to tackle next. That's when I decided to add more puppies to the dish towel I've been embroidering.

Well actually, I added the puppies after placing a couple of orders online for new embroidery projects. ;- ) I couldn't find a needlepoint design I was willing to tackle but I did find this pre-finished pillow cover to embroider, from Sublime Stitching.

It came with packets of floss in various shades but without clear instructions as to which color goes where. There were more skeins of floss than the pattern requires. Not a big deal really, I just haven't taken the time to decide which colors to use where. It will be a happy project to work on though.

The other embroidery project I ordered came from Estelle in France, via Etsy.

I was looking for another image entirely to be part of a wedding quilt for our newly-engaged niece. So far that remains a complete fail. But when I saw this I fell in love with it! Even if I don't use it in the wedding quilt I will enjoy stitching it and having it in our own  home. :- )

This post is part of a world-wide group of stitchers who update us on their progress every three weeks. Our next post will be on 12 March. I invite you to take a world tour to see some amazing needlework!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

And Still More Scraps

The Rainbow Scrap Challenge color of the month is anything in the aqua to teal range. I don't have a lot of scraps left in those colors after making blocks for Kate's quilts to raise money for ovarian cancer research and treatment in Australia. I have managed to produce these however:

There might be a couple more small blocks before the month is over but unless I break into yardage this is pretty much it. On the other hand, I'm beginning to put some of the blocks in my Parts Department (where my orphan blocks go to live until they're needed) to good use. I had two of these Arrowhead blocks featuring chicken prints.

They finish at 16" each. There are a handful of other blocks featuring chickens too but they didn't play well with the Arrowheads. Which is probably why the original project stalled in the first place!

This is a 10" block. I figured if I made another 10" block I could set them in a four patch arrangement with the Arrowheads.

I framed the smaller blocks with another chicken print and then used the rusty print to make the composition 36" square, an easier number to build upon.

At this point I had to decide how I wanted to make this big enough for a twin bed. I did a little blog surfing and came across the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters Chinese Coins invitational. While I'm not officially participating in that effort it did give me ideas for this project. I've decided to make another strippy quilt, this time featuring a wide central column and two narrower side columns. The first step was to lengthen this square medallion. I did that with 3x6" flying geese units. Now it's 36" wide and 42" tall. In a few days I'll show you what I've done since then. Today I'm linking up with the RSC quilters so you can pop over there to see what everyone else is doing with their aqua and teal scraps. :- )

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Scrap Happy in February

It's that time again! Time to show you what I've been doing with my scraps that don't fall into the Rainbow Scrap Challenge category. Last month I started making Scrappy Trip blocks out of random 3" strips. I've made four more since then.

That gives me a total of fourteen so far:

You can see that I've also made a Hole int he Barn Door and Shoo-fly block out of scraps. By the way, if you've got scraps Bonnie K. Hunter's Quiltville.com is a great resource for ways to organize and use them.

Kate and Gun have a list of others who may be sharing how they're using up their leftovers bits and pieces. We're all around the world, from Gun in Sweden to Kate in Australia. Pop over and have a look! And then come back on the 15th of March to see how many more Scrappy Trips I've made. ;- )

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Slow Sunday Stitching

I decided to add more of the Cocker Spaniel puppies to my dish towel. I'm using this set of transfer patterns from Aunt Martha's collection:

You may remember this first one that I placed diagonally on one corner.

I was able to place three more puppies across the bottom edge of the towel. I've cut away the text that accompanies the patterns.

The little guy with the butterfly on his tail backs up to the completed puppy in the corner.

And this one with his nose in the bush is on the extreme left of the towel. So far one dog has black eyes and one has brown. The pattern suggests blue as an eye color but that seems out of place to me. I've never seen a Cocker yet that had blue eyes! I'll be stitching the rest of these designs in basic primary colors. This is meant to be relaxing after all. :- )

I'm linking up with other slow stitchers over at Kathy's Quilts.

Friday, February 10, 2017

It's So Pretty!

I got out my F2F2 blocks the other day. They've just been sitting there, waiting for me to have the energy to do something with them. I finally decided not to make any blocks of my own to add to the collection. The blocks I'd made previously didn't seem to fit in with the blocks I received from the rest of the group. But the rest of the blocks work wonderfully well together! So well, in fact, that it didn't take long to get a pleasing arrangement for a strippy set quilt top (four columns of six blocks each).

I already had a couple of options for sashing and/or borders.

There were other possibilities too but these were the strongest contenders. It didn't take long to figure out where and how to  use them either. The squiggles went between the blocks to create columns and the leafy print (which is a batik) would separate the columns and maybe frame the quilt top if there was enough of it.

There was! But just barely. I only have the equivalent of about 8" x 18"  left. 

Of course it's too big (about 65" x 88") to fit into a single picture given the parameters of my studio space. But isn't it pretty?! Or maybe 'dramatic' is a more accurate word. Whatever, I love it!

This is the lower edge. I hope that shot doesn't make you dizzy - it's sort of doing that to me.

I have backing fabric in the wash right now. I even know how I want it quilted, which is rare for me. I'm going to have James do an overall leafy design, much like the pattern in the batik. We're going to see whether the variegated orange-yellow-red polyester thread I have will work. Some threads work better than others, and it's not always easy to predict which ones will cooperate. I think I have enough of the squiggle print to use for binding too. 

This quilt just makes me so happy! It's been a great experience from beginning to end. As of this writing there won't be another round of Footsquare Freestyle in the immediate future but if someone else decides to spearhead another block swap I'll probably be one of the first to sign up. ;- )

I almost forgot! A HUGE thank you to all the ladies who contributed to this quilt! Lynn and Sandra and Kate and Susan and Esther and Moira and Gun and Claire, you're all rock stars!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Be Aware

I've never known precisely which chemicals or types of chemicals are the source of my persistent reactions and poor health. I haven't really been interested in knowing that information because it would have little practical application. I have no doubt whatsoever that some of my issues are the result of hormone disruptors.

My daughter turned me on to essential oils and their applications. Eden's Garden, the company I've been purchasing my oils from, have been running a series of blog posts about the hazardous chemicals commonly found in cleaning and beauty products and safer alternatives. From them I've learned about the more specific types of chemicals my body reacts to. The thing is, these chemicals are not often listed on the labels of these products - at least here in the USA. 

To quote directly from the Eden's Garden blog on the topic of personal products:
The skin is the largest organ on our bodies and it easily absorbs nearly everything slathered on it. On average, the skin absorbs 64% of what we put on it according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Beyond that, chemicals are more likely to penetrate the face and scalp.
Formaldehyde is one of the most toxic chemicals often included in beauty and personal care products. A report by the Federal Drug Administration found that nearly 1 in 5 cosmetic products contain a substance that generates formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. The sad truth is product labels are unlikely to reveal formaldehyde as an active ingredient. Instead, the ingredient list might include chemicals that are known to be a formaldehyde releasers such as DMDM hydantoin. Used as a preservative, DMDM hydantoin can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and lungs.
Another preservative, methylisothiazolinone, is a known human immune toxicant or allergen according to the European SCCS. Beware of shampoos and conditioners that claim to be “natural.” The FTC has found numerous cosmetics with synthetic ingredients that were labeled as “all natural” or “100% natural.” As a general rule, if you can’t identify the ingredient list, it’s best to avoid the product. Retinyl Palmitate (or vitamin A palmitate) is a skin-conditioning agent that is banned in Germany and restricted in Canada. According to a study by the FDA, the chemical may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions.

One of the worst triggers for me are perfumes. It takes longer to recover from a whiff of someone's perfume than most any other exposure. Here's the word from Eden's Garden:
Sensitizers, hormone disruptors and reproductive toxins are just a few descriptions of some of the chemicals found in fragrances. In a study done by the Environmental Working Group, 17 name-brand perfumes were tested to find chemicals not listed on the labeling. On average, 14 undisclosed ingredients were discovered, including galaxolide, tonalide and diethyl phthalate. In the same study, EWG found that a majority of the perfumes’ ingredients had never been analyzed by a cosmetic safety organization, such as the Cosmetic Ingredient Review or the International Fragrance Association.
In a separate study performed by EWG and Rachel’s Network, it was reported that galaxolide and tonalide, two synthetic musks, were found in the cord blood of 7 out of 10 newborn babies. At this time, galaxolide and tonalide are believed to cause hormonal disruption and weaken an organism’s defense against toxins. Until more studies are performed, there is no certainty as to how much of a health risk these fragrances pose.
Banned in the European Union, diethyl phthalates (DEP) are very prevalent in fragrances made in the U.S. Diethyl phthalates are used to make fragrances long lasting in perfumery. According to a recent study by a group of environmental and public health organizations, 17 out of 17 perfumes tested contained DEP. Diethyl phthalates have been found to cause endocrine disruption, cancer and reproductive toxicity, making pregnant and breastfeeding women very vulnerable to the use of cosmetics containing DEP. Without lab testing, one can’t be sure if cosmetics containing fragrance also contain diethyl phthalates.

Another area of concern are the products we use to clean the textiles we wear next to our skin. This is what Eden's Garden had to say on that topic:
 When it comes to the most harmful chemicals in household products, there may be none more troublesome than 1,4 dioxane. A number of conventional cleaning brands include 1,4 dioxane in their products to be used as a solvent and laboratory reagent. The International Agency for Research on Cancer named the chemical as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Studies done by the EPA prompted the organization to name 1,4 dioxane as a chemical likely to cause cancer.
Artificial coloring agents are also often added to laundry detergents. Think of the blue laundry liquid featured in tv commercials. The sad truth is research shows that coloring agents can cause skin allergies and irritations and may even cause cancer. Furan and imidazole are coloring chemicals that are known to cause cancer according to CA Proposition 65. Coloring agents may also be responsible for organ damage and genetic defects.
Formaldehyde is another chemical ingredient packed into many over-the-counter household products. The EWG found that the chemical not only irritates the skin and respiratory system but is likely to cause cancer. The International Agency for Research On Cancer names formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.

That's enough for now. About all I can do is try to avoid exposure to these chemicals, which means staying home and indoors for the most part. Obviously we've cleaned up our personal environment as much as possible. Bringing in new items is always risky due to fumes from invisible chemicals. I do what I can to educate and advocate but most often I'm in no position to be very effective on those fronts. Just be aware, my friends, and do what you can to spread the word. If we as consumers quit buying these products loaded with dangerous elements the manufacturers will have to change their formulas. I don't expect to see a sea change in my lifetime but I have to keep trying for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Monday, February 6, 2017


We had a little snow early last week. Not entirely unexpected for the end of January or beginning of February but we generally don't get a lot of snow where we live, either in frequency or quantity.

That snowfall lasted longer than I would have expected but melted away and the rest of the week we had rain, which is far more common.

I happened to be up at midnight last night. The night seemed awfully bright on the other side of the curtains. I peeked out and saw snow again! We had more this time around:

Schools are closed and the Husband is working from home rather than risking the 60 mile commute he usually makes. The world is quiet this morning (except for my canary who is singing his guts out at the moment!). What a lovely change, so peaceful. It won't last of course, but I intend to soak it up while I can. :- )

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Small Victories

Between toxins and hormones there hasn't been a lot accomplished here in the Magpie's Nest this past week. However, I may have stumbled across the healing properties of hand embroidery and I have found a new use for a piece of family history.

I've finished up two needlepoint cases that I had in progress. I'll share those in the next SAL post (Feb. 19). I didn't have the energy to cut or piece or even throw blocks on the design wall for a new quilt. I shopped for a new needlework project (online) but of course I have to wait for that to arrive. Then I remembered a set of two pillowcases I picked up on clearance a few years ago. I knew one pillowcase was already completely stitched. I wasn't sure how far along the second one was. It took me a while to remember where I'd stashed them too!

When I finally found them all that remained to be done were half of the yellow flowers and all the pink flowers and French knots. That took me about two days finish, only a couple of hours each day.

I noticed that I felt better overall after each stitching session. Could have been coincidence, but my appetite had been whetted for more needlework. In the bag where I found the pillowcases I also found a flour sack dishtowel from long, long ago. It's a new towel but it had been along time since I ironed on the embroidery design. For whatever reason I'd been intimidated to begin stitching it. Apparently this was the week for that towel.

I was able to use some of the leftover floss from the various needlepoint kits I've been stitching. Score! And it didn't take me nearly as long to stitch this design as I expected. Better than that, every time I picked it up I was feeling crummy but when I put it down I was feeling better.

I'd heard that quilters benefit from their hobby, I guess it works for embroiderers too.

During all this I've come to the conclusion that it might be a good idea to make my embroidery projects more accessible. I've had them in this appropriately labelled tote bag - which seemed like a good idea but disappeared among all the other tote bags I have hanging on the back of the studio door.

"Sew or Die" with skeleton head pins. :-)
So I've decided to re-purpose my mother's pie basket.

I always thought of it as a picnic basket because I've seen modern versions outfitted that way but my mother called it a pie basket. There was an insert that enabled the her to stack at least two pies inside. It was one of the gifts my parents received when they married. I've never been a pie baker - I preferred cookies and cakes and let my sister do the pies - but it will be fun to honor and remember my mother by using her basket in a way that suits my current lifestyle (I don't know what happened to the insert, I don't have it). There should be room enough in it for both embroidery and needlepoint projects, thus consolidating my needlework somewhat. It should be harder to misplace too!

I'm linking up with the other Slow Sunday Stitchers over on Kathy's Quilts.