Thursday, December 29, 2022

Folowing a MAP to My Happy Place

Mid-November I mentioned that I was setting up a new stitchery project for 2023. I'm calling it my Monthly Art Project: MAP. I know that hand stitching calms me, soothes my soul, but I don't do enough of it in the normal course of events. I surprised myself by doing the first installment during December. I chose the red spiral out of my collection of focal elements, thinking the color was appropriate for the season.

 I thought it would be the focal point of a stand-alone piece. Things don't always go as planned! The foundation I created for it turned out to be too busy. Around that time I also ripped a 3.5" strip (width of fabric) off of a yard of a Tim Holtz print with the intention of starting a new scroll. The red spiral found a home at the beginning of that scroll.

I did simple running stitches and back stitches to secure the fabric to a strip of scrap batting. I do like the feel of the cloth and batting in my hands. Generally the batting is pretty easy to stitch through as well. Not as nice as wool perhaps, but nice enough. 

The little text print square is a pocket, and so is the green patch.

I carried on stitching and embellishing well into December. Of course, the holidays eventually got in the way. And to keep the foundation print from repeating too frequently I ripped an additional strip the width of the fabric, cut off the end of the first strip, and then added the second.

Sorry, what a terrible picture!

The scroll is now longer than I will probably want it to be in the end. I'm leaving that decision for later in any case. It's time now to choose the focal element for January. I'm thinking I will choose something else that will be appropriate to add to this scroll. I had a lot of fun working on it before the holidays set in, and I could really use something to rejuvenate my creative flame right now. 

Hmm, what will I choose?


Friday, December 23, 2022

Definitely Not Red and Green!

 The project I've been working on this December is anything but seasonal. (Honestly, I thought I'd already posted about this but maybe not.)

 I've long been intrigued with the idea of making a yellow and black quilt. I had a small assortment of blocks in that color scheme in the Parts Department so I pulled them out last month to see what there was. There were only five 12" Ohio Stars, a couple of 9" Ohio Stars, these 8" postage stamp stars and the two blocks I know as Crosses and Losses. There were a few 6" blocks as well but I quickly discarded them from the mix. The fifth 12" Ohio Star and the 9" versions didn't make the cut either. When I realized I could use the 8" blocks to surround a medallion made up of the 12" blocks I knew what to do. 

However, once I had this 40" square flimsy constructed I hit a wall. Leave it a square? Make it a rectangle and closer to 60" x 80"? Either way it needed to be at least a little bit larger. I added 3" wide whole cloth strips to the top and bottom edges thinking I would try to make it longer and then wider. The flimsy sat on the design wall, mute. In retrospect I think the print I used for the potential sashing was too busy for one thing. This was also about the time I had the meltdown about my sewing machine

I've used the new Janome Skyline 5 once since we brought it home. I think I'll be happy with it once it off-gasses more fully. There were oil or grease fumes coming off of it when I tried it out. That set me back for a couple of days. Once I'd made the decision to bring this project up to a 60" square it didn't take long to find a block to use for that purpose. In my block book it's called Butterfly at the Crossroads. It looks like a bunch of tulips to me. They finish at 10" each, which makes the math easy. Twenty of them will go around the medallion I have perfectly.

While I still really like this color palette, I have become slightly bored with it. And my variety of yellow prints is actually running low! I have one more block to create and then I can audition them for placement around the central medallion.

Black binding will finish it off. I don't have any specific plans for what quilt to tackle next. Whatever it turns out to be, it will be multi-color and multi-print. 😁 In the meantime,  

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Scrap Happy in December

 On the 15th of each month we are invited by Kate in Australia and Gun in Sweden to share something we've made - or are working on - entirely out of scraps. I showed some of the scrappy quilt blocks I'd been making in my last post. I haven't done much sewing since then, for a variety of reasons. There were other scrap blocks that didn't make it into that post however, so I'll share them with you now. 😊

These stars will finish at 8 inches each. You may notice that the bottom row features stars utilizing a fraction of the 1" half-square triangles that I sewed into 2" Broken Dishes blocks some time ago. 

I also came across the parts for these blocks and decided to finally get them sewn up.

There's one Cake Stand and four Flower Baskets. They will finish at ten inches each. At the moment I have no specific plans for any of these blocks. Rest assured that they will eventually make an appearance in a Parts Department Quilt.

Regular participants in this blog hop span the globe. We each post in our own time zone on the 15th, although occasionally it may be the day before or after. Enjoy the journey!

KateGun, Eva, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, 
Jill, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys,
Claire, Jean, Jon, Dawn, Jule, Gwen,
Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue L, Vera,
Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Carol,
Preeti, Debbierose, NΓ³ilin and Viv

Monday, December 5, 2022

Crisis Averted

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been happily sewing up scrappy blocks lately. 

 Friday I got up to press seams and when I returned to my sewing machine the screen was black. It didn't respond when I toggled the on/off switch. I unplugged it and plugged it back in. Still nothing. I'd recently replaced the power strip I have it plugged into so I was confident power was flowing. All the room lights were on after all, and the iron seemed to be functioning just fine. Nearly in a panic I called my trusted sewing machine service man, Bill. It was close to closing time for him so there was no point in trying to take the machine in to him but he did spend time with me on the phone, offering what advice and counsel he could. It appeared I would need to replace my beloved Phoebe (Pfaff tiptronic 2040). Many tears were shed. 

Bill told me about the machines he carries, the Janome line. I've heard good things about them over the years. Given his four decades of servicing sewing machines I place a lot of confidence in his opinions. I'm not in a position to go to other vendors to try out other brands either. He recommended a model he had in stock and we made the commitment to purchase. I packed up my little Phoeobe and mourned her passing. 

I haven't unpacked the new sewing machine yet. My sweet husband took time out from his busy schedule to go pick it up for me but I just couldn't face learning a new machine at that point. Is anyone else unnaturally attached to their sewing machine like I am?! 

When I had finally calmed down somewhat I was impressed to check the power strip Phoebe had been plugged into. Because it's new to me I am less familiar with its' layout and operation. It's also black and gray, which has become harder for me to see unless I'm right on top of it. (The previous strip was white and had fewer outlets available.) I thought it odd that there was no little indicator light glowing. Sure enough, the power strip had been turned off. The on/off switch on that model is on an end. Apparently I'd kicked it, turning it off, in passing from the ironing board back to my sewing chair. When I turned it back on and plugged Phoebe back in she worked just fine, and has since. I can't describe the relief! Euphoria might do it. 😁

I've been using Phoebe for some 20 years. The question now is, do I keep the new Janome against the time Phoebe finally does kick the bucket or shall I return it? I do have my other Pfaff, Ruby Blue. She's a newer machine but I have never been as comfortable using her as with Phoebe. It may be time to send her on to a new home and hang onto the Janome...

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

New Guests in the Nest

 In my Scrap Happy Day post I made reference to a new-to-me block I've started using for scrap sewing. Actually, it's been around since the late 1980's or early 1990's. I've had the book the pattern is found in about that same amount of time.

The idea behind the book is to encourage quilt groups as well as individuals to make simple blocks that can then be made into donation quilts. I believe I've made the house block you see on the cover, and possibly other patterns found inside. I've only ever made single cats to fulfill friendship quilt requests. Until now.

It all started with one cat, as a trial run. Pretty soon I had three. Then six.

Now I have something like 25 cats! I found myself cutting every scrap that was large enough into the strips for cats and backgrounds. Which is a good thing, because I needed a way to use up some larger remnants and older prints.

The blocks finish at an odd size, 5" wide by 9" high. That will make them both a challenge and interesting to incorporate in any Parts Dept. quilt tops I may undertake to build. The quilts featured in Janet Kime's book used only the cat block, no sashing (and no borders!), so quite a number of them were required to make a 70" x 90" quilt. When you've got a  big guild all making one or two blocks you can achieve those numbers in a relative hurry. I expect I will be incorporating a row of cats or a couple here and there in the tops I make. I'm always happy to have some scrap patches cut and laid out ahead of time for mindless sewing and these are easy to set up. Best of all, there's no litter box to keep clean!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Plotting and Planning

 I have a couple of quilt tops in progress here in The Magpie's Nest, and others ready for the actual quilting. But lately I've been missing activity in another sector of my creative endeavors. There hasn't been any needlework for quite a while (partly due to the pain I was having in my wrist and hand). I don't seem to have any desire to pick up the needlepoint projects I started at various points in the past. I want an excuse to use the pretty threads I've been collecting. It's hard for me to make something that doesn't have an end use or purpose, to just pick up needle and thread and put stitches in fabric. Believe me, I've tried. I doubt that I'm the only one with this particular issue but I do feel a bit of an oddball. 

I've been watching Susan Taylor Brown* on YouTube and occasionally drop in on her Facebook group. She advocates making things "Just Because" it makes you happy to do so. Easier said than done in my case, even though I know it's good for my soul. I think I've shared one or two things I started under the influence of her encouragement. After the most recent live stream on YouTube (16 November) I had some new thoughts to ponder. 

I've also been aware of creative challenges offered to various types of artists via YouTube videos. While they rarely feel like a good fit for me there are aspects that have appeal. To that end I had a go at creating my own personal challenge. I've decided to call it my Monthly Art Project - my "MAP" to a place of happiness. I've tossed out parameters like a standard format. I'm going to try to do a small hand sewn project every month but I will allow myself the leniency of two months given potential days of poor health. The key to this challenge for me is going to be my "toy box." 

Over the years I have collected things that can be sewn down onto fabric that will make great focal points. And hopefully, great inspiration triggers. 😊 I have pulled some of those items from the stash and put them in an appropriate box:

Each month I will choose one item from the box, then close it up and put is aside until the next month. 

I will let the chosen item dictate color scheme, the size and shape of the project, and just let the spirit lead me down the garden path (which is my favorite way to work). I'd like to dedicate only a couple of days a month to each project but we'll see how that goes. I reserve the right to tweak these plans at any time. 😁 What I need now is accountability. I'm hoping others in Susan's Creative Circle will play along. And if there's anyone out there with a blog who cares to join in you are more than welcome!

*No relation that I'm aware of.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Scrap Happy in November

 It has felt like I've been wrestling quilt tops and yardage for quilt backs for several weeks. I really prefer to work on smaller pieces, like individual blocks. And so I indulged in some scrap cutting and sewing.😁

I tend to cut patches that finish at 2" whenever I come to the end of a strip. They typically become 6" Shoo-fly or Hole in the Barn Door blocks.

But I also cut 1.5" squares for postage stamp units, and they become the center of 8" Sawtooth Stars.

Some time ago, probably three years or more, I was making Ohio Star blocks regularly. That led to some patches that were cut but not used. I came across them the other day and decided to cut whatever was necessary to complete the blocks.

They will finish at 9" square. The Churn Dash block was another that only needed sewing up. It will be ten inches (upper left corner). All of these blocks will go into my overflowing Parts Department. I can barely get that drawer* closed anymore; something will have to be built out of that inventory soon!

I've tried out a new-to-me block for scrap sewing too. I'll save those for another post. In the meantime, here are the links for other bloggers who regularly participate in Scrap Happy Day, sharing projects they've made with used, recycled, upcycled, or leftover materials. We all post on the 15th of the month in our own time zones (all over the world). This link party has been organized by Kate in Australia and Gun in Sweden for you to enjoy and be inspired. 😊

KateGun, Eva, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, 
Jill, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys,
Claire, Jean, Jon, Dawn, Jule, Gwen,
Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue L, Vera,
Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Carol,
Preeti, Debbierose, NΓ³ilin and Viv

*Full disclosure: I have more than just the one drawer filled with parts. There are also boxes... and baggies... and another drawer. 🀭 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Feathering a Nest

 In my ongoing effort to put older prints from my stash to good use I recently pulled out a set of four panels intended for pillows - or so I assume. 

These were printed by the Rose & Hubble Company. I think the birds are meant to be an English variety of finch or sparrow. For simplicity's sake I'm calling them sparrows. The first decision I made was to separate the four panels and then only use two to begin a new quilt top. Of course, when I trimmed the panels they wouldn't fit dimensions that would be easy to work with. That made my first step framing them to a more comfortable size.

I chose to keep to yellow and blues for this project. My intention is to send this on for the benefit of Ukrainian refugees when it's complete. It was hard to match the colors in the panels given that they're from the 1990's. My hope is that in the end all the blues and yellows will work together harmoniously.

I spent time making flying geese to surround the panels. It seemed appropriate to stick with a bird theme. πŸ˜‰

That lighter blue isn't quite so bright in person. I got a bit stuck at this point, wondering what to do next. I didn't have much of anything in the Parts Dept. that would work. Eventually I hit on the idea to make yellow and blue 6" Shoo-fly blocks.

But they weren't enough on their own. So then I cut some strips of more blue prints - some old, some new - and built the blocks up to 9" chevron log cabin style. 

This was the setting I originally thought to use. It didn't really make me happy so I made some changes.

The next step will be to surround the whole thing with a new print I purchased specifically for the purpose. It's a blue ground with tiny bouquets of flowers with accents of yellow. Three inch wide border strips will bring the top up to 60" square. I just have to get the fabric laundered and cut now that it has arrived. 😊

Sunday, October 30, 2022

In Support of My Sisters in Iran

 I don't watch the news anymore, it's more than I can handle. But I do scan the headlines in an effort to keep abreast of what's going on in the wider world. So I was aware of the death of Mahsa Amini and subsequently, other young women in Iran. Then I saw this post and free pattern.* I had to take up needle and thread in solidarity.

 I don't think I interpreted the design lines as they were intended, and I chose to use a scissor charm in place of satin stitching the scissors, but the design still works. Amazing what a few simple lines can accomplish. 

As I scanned through the list of tags I've used on previous posts it has occurred to me that I might turn this into a prayer flag. I wasn't sure what to do with it until now.

*Thanks to Susan at Desert Sky Quilting for sharing the link originally.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Spooky NIghts

We are gearing up for Halloween here in the States. πŸŽƒ 

Some of us have been at it more diligently than others. This has traditionally been one of my more favorite holidays to decorate for. I love the colors of the season and enjoy the whimsy and even the macabre elements. I do not do horror or anything remotely demonic. Our decor this year has been seriously lacking however. The smokey air has had a lasting impact. There have been other distractions as well. Daughter discovered that the Halloween themed pillowcases I'd made for the members of her family in years past had been ruined in storage. So the energy I might have spent in getting out our Halloween decorations was put toward making replacements. 

For Mom and Dad I made a pair of cases in this print combination:

Steampunk Halloween

 For the daughters I made a selection, not sure who would choose which.

I did have one of the grands in mind when I purchased the gnome print and, sure enough, that's the one she chose. 😁

 I had other fabrics that had been set aside for pillowcases but had never been sewn up. I took the opportunity to make up a couple of those while I was sewing this bunch. In the end I made 9 pillowcases! (Didn't think to take pictures of the others though.) 

Historically we didn't get many trick-or-treaters on Halloween. The last few years we've kept our porch lights off to discourage the attempt. I just can't handle the scents, even to hand out candy. 😒 I do miss seeing the kiddos in their costumes.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Scrap Happy Follow-up

 I meant to post this sooner, but we've had very poor air quality around here for the past week. It's been so bad that even inside I had to wear a mask. Drift from wildfire smoke, coming from nearly every direction. I brought a small air purifier into the studio and stayed in there as much as possible. That helped, but I still didn't have it in me to accomplish much. We finally had some rain the last two days and things have improved significantly. On the other hand, I've been forced to purchase a new iron and the fumes coming off the first use are not doing me any favors. 

In my last post I showed the quilt top I created from scrap strips. 

A three inch border has put a calming frame around the busy flimsy.

I'm very pleased with the way this turned out. It will be about 60" wide and 78" long after quilting. Now I just have to create a back for it...

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Scrap Happy in October

I wasn't sure what I would do for this Scrap Happy Day - hosted by Kate in Australia and Gun in Sweden every month on the 15th, in our respective time zones. Then I remembered some liberated log cabin blocks in the Parts Department. They were made to finish at 6" each. I pulled them out and counted them up. Not enough to do much with on their own but...

I also had some 12" (finished) Lego blocks in the Parts Dept. There were enough of the 6" blocks to create four columns of twelve blocks with only a handful leftover for some other project. Two columns of the Lego blocks smashed together made for a nice wide center section. All I had to do then was figure out what to do about sashing those columns together.

I was tempted to use a single fabric for the sashing, but what color amongst all those bits and colors? In the end I decided a scrappy sashing treatment was in order. Why not go for the whole hog after all? I'd run across large scraps of various green prints in the process of hunting up the right thing. This seemed a prime opportunity to put them to good use.

At this point the flimsy would finish at about 54" wide and 72" long. I'm thinking of a 3" border all the way around to help control the busy and add a bit more territory to the completed quilt. Not sure what that will be yet.

Sorry about the corner of the table obscuring the bottom of the quilt. Until I get all those seam ends secured I don't want to hang the quilt top from the top of the wall where my quilt hangers are. 

I suspect this will be another donation for Wrap Ukraine With Quilts once it gets quilted and bound. 

Scrap Happy Day is open to anyone who wants to share what they've done with scrap materials. Just leave a comment on Kate or Gun's blog as you make the tour of those who regularly participate with us. 😊

KateGun, Eva, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, 
Jill, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys,
Claire, Jean, Jon, Dawn, Jule, Gwen,
Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue L, Vera,
Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Carol,
Preeti, Debbierose, NΓ³ilin and Viv