Sunday, July 25, 2021

little bits

It doesn't feel like I've done much sewing in the past week and I can't exactly put my finger on why.  But since I don't have many photos, I suppose my feeling is right!

I did get the Positivity quilt quilted.  First, though, I went outside for a photo of just the top:

The quilting IS finished, but I have no in-process photos.  Between using batting scraps that were cut wonky and having to piece in inch-wide strips every here and there and my machine not wanting to behave (again), I was more focused on making sure that was all going correctly than getting pictures.

I trimmed it and used the leftover backing to make binding, which is also sewn down.  The machine-sewn side.  The hand-sewn side is waiting.  Partly for a cooler day, partly for me to have time.  Though I only work part-time, it seems to take a larger part of my week than I would like some weeks!

I promise a full reveal soon.

With that off my plate, I decided to start working on tiny stars again.  I had replenished my stash of fabrics with a visit to my mom earlier this month and it felt like time to get started sewing those.  It was either that or start something new and with my pile of to-be-quilted getting the better of me, I decided on tiny stars.

This first set is actually from fabrics I've added in the past few months.  Not much, but a few additions.  And all were purchased for projects specifically (except that one in the lower left corner, which I found when making cat hammocks - it had been sewn in as an additional piece for a quilt back and I didn't realize it was even in there!).

The second set (and third that is midway through sewing right now) started into what I cut from my mom's stash.

If you remember when I mentioned cutting these, my sister-in-law was also there.  And in cleaning up her sewing space, she threw some too-small-for-her scraps in a box, which she brought to me this weekend.  I don't have a photo of the fabrics, nor have I cut into them yet, but I do have Finn, who enjoyed the box very much.

He looks a bit perturbed here, but he was being a squirrel up until the photo, where I demanded his attention.  Gabby has since also claimed the box and ripped that green thing off that was stuck to the lid.  (I think it's an anti-mold thing or something?)  It clearly did NOT belong there, so she dispatched it with haste.

The reason I saw my sister-in-law, as well as my brother and parents, was the annual book sale that happens at my hometown library on July 4th had been reimagined in the last year.  Instead of one giant sale, they started having smaller ones every few months.  I didn't realize it until recently, but when I did, I made sure to ask for the Saturday off!  So I picked up my dad (mom had knee surgery on BOTH knees the day before and I think welcomed an hour or so of quiet, though I also think she was sad to have missed the sale) and my brother and his wife met us there.  I had run out of books that I owned (and have not read - the majority of what I read, I donate back) and was actually checking books out of the library!  Not that library borrowing is a bad thing, it just takes more planning (and wearing "real" pants) than a stash of your own.  Anyways, they had paper grocery sacks that you could purchase for $5 and fill.  I'm very good at book tetris!

How many books is that?

Good thing I'm a quilter and own proper things to measure stacks of books!

All of the cats had a good sniff.  All of these books having been previously owned, I'm sure this brought a wide variety of new smells to the house.  Freddie would NOT leave me alone.  I took about six photos of the stack before I got one without his tail or ear or face in it.  Finally I gave up and included him.  But this is probably my one photo of the quarter he will allow himself to be in, so enjoy it!

The sale was much smaller than the once-a-year sale.  I expected smaller, but they had about 3 10-foot tables full of paperback fiction (three wide) and that was it.  I'd guess usually they have a dozen 3-table setups in the annual sale.  And while I expected it to be smaller, I didn't expect it to be this much smaller.  But this stack will keep me reading for quite a few months, and if no other sales happen before I run out again, I've found my local library to be very friendly.  (And now that I've again learned to navigate the aisles, I'm less hesitant to visit.)

No photos of Gabby this week, but the other night, I was poking Toby with my toes and this is his mad pose:

He is such a ham.

Time now to get back to tiny stars.  And whatever else my day brings.

Happy quilting,

Sunday, July 18, 2021

lead head and cat hammocks

This week has not been terribly productive.  And not just on the sewing front.

Let's start at the beginning.  It started out promising...

Monday I met with a friend at the local quilt shop to use their (small) classroom to determine a layout for a wedding quilt she is making.  In years past, we would have done this at our guild's monthly sew-in, but those continue to be postponed.  The space there is larger, and often more members show up for input, but it is what it is.

As it turns out, a few other members did join us midway through the process, as they were invited to lunch with us.  Being vaccinated, I was okay with that.  This is most of the quilt - another row is pinned to the wall on the left.  It's going to be a huge king and the pattern was from All People Quilt, but I didn't get the name.  Barb always uses beautiful fabrics and this was no exception.

We had a great time fussing over the blocks, admiring the fabrics and chatting about all the things we've missed out on in the past year.  Lunch afterwards was also a fun time, but I was pretty worn out by the time I got home.  Peopling at work is a lot different than peopling with friends!

On the way home, I stopped for a new cat scratcher.  There is one in my sewing room, but it is on the small side for our kitties (the platforms are more kitten sized than cat) and I've been wanting to replace it.  I found an interesting corner scratcher and assembled it up in the room.  Gabby wasn't sure about me being turned loose with a screwdriver, though!

She makes such great faces!

(The scratcher was only three pieces plus a brace for the back, and went together just fine.)

Tuesday I went to work and worked my tail off.  I had coordinated with a gal at the local rescue to pick up the cat hammocks from me there, but since my boss is not so great at scheduling, we had more cashiers than registers, and being the most seasoned of the group, I was pulled away onto the sales floor to do freight and recovery duties.  As such, I missed her, but the hammocks are where they need to be, so all is well.

Wednesday I was exhausted.  Again, the tasks at work on Tuesday were more than average, so I was more tired than usual.  But I did manage to get some borders on the two dolly quilts I started, using my July sticks leftovers assignment.  (I guess I didn't take any photos of them at that stage?)  I'm sure I did more, but can't remember what.

Thursday the hubby was off work.  He had an extra day off this weekend for having worked last weekend, so we ran a few errands, but I got home and was so tired I ended up crashing out on that yellow chair you see Gabby sitting in above.  My throat was a little dry-scratchy, but I thought two days in a row of peopling more than usual might be the cause.

Short version here: Friday morning it was worse.  Saturday the sore throat was replaced by head and some chest congestion.  I was scheduled to work, but did not.  No one likes a sick coworker.  Today my head feels like it is full of lead, but as the day wears on, the lead seems to be dissipating.

This morning, I got up to do chores.  There are only so many days my hubby will let me lie around being sick before he gets feisty, and there were chores he just won't do that were getting necessary.  I thought getting up and doing them would help.  Turns out the nap following chores helped more.

And so I went up to quilt the dolly quilts I never took photos of...

Just using my walking foot here, but it was giving me fits.  I'm very tempted to look into a new machine.  It has been misbehaving with a lot of things lately, and just general sewing should not be this difficult.  (The walking foot has its own issues, but this goes beyond that.)  I'll have to do some pondering there, but since the hubby just spend a LOT of money on a PlayStation 5 (more than I'm sure I've spent on ALL my sewing machines (longarm not included) in my lifetime), so maybe I should get a new toy, too?

Anyways, these are intended as donations for kids who will probably not understand that they are special, so I'm not too worried about show-quality workmanship.  I wrestled two of them through the machine, each finishing about 17", and sewed down the binding.

I still need to hand-sew down the other half, but it feels good to have these done.  The remaining scraps have been placed in the stash and that box is empty.  Actually, it's been broken down for recycling!

And as I've sewn, my head has cleared quite a bit.  I'm very glad, but still have maybe something more like cobwebs in my brain now.

A few of you were asking about how I make the cat hammocks, so I thought I'd share that here as well.

The sizes of the hammocks were given by the rescue group.  I'm not sure how they determined them and will not share them with you, as other groups may have other size cages or needs.  I would guess they are probably the same width as a cage or crate, but not as deep.  The loops add a little width and help them hang down, but I can't say for sure how they calculated them.

1. Cut two rectangles (or squares) of fabric to the desired size plus ONE inch. 

2. Cut strips of fabric for loops - 6" per loop - at desired width.  (I used a 1" bias tape maker and cut the strips 1.75" as directed.  You'll want a sturdy strip in there, so double-fold bias tape, top-stitched shut, will work nicely.)

3. Place loops 1" from edge on short sides (if not square), with 1/2" sticking out of seam.  (This photo is of an earlier model in my efforts, so it doesn't stick out as much, but trust me, more is better!)  This should result in about 2" loops.  Well, 4" loops, but only 2" long.  Make sense?

4. Sew, right sides together, using 1/2" seam allowance, leaving about 5" open for turning.  Back-tack over loops, giving three layers of stitching in those spots.

5. Turn right side out, poke corners out as well as possible, and press.  You'll want to press these so you can top-stitch the edges.  This will require a little fabric shifting, as those sewn seams don't want to turn and lie flat.

6. Top-stitch all the way around, back-tacking anywhere you stop and start, about 1/8" to 1/4" in from edge of fabric.  (This is where that wide seam allowance is handy!)

7. Where loops are, create an "X" of top-stitching over the inner portion of the loop.  (Initially I did this by going back over it after I had gone around with the top stitching.  Later efforts, I realized if I stopped after I went over the loop and then turned to make the "X", I ended up on the starting side and was able to give it a second round of stitching.)

I hope that makes sense to those of you asking!  It is by no means a technical accounting of what I've done and I made up a good portion as I went along, using skills gained from making pillowcases and masks in the past.

And because I have no photos of my own, I stole a few from the rescue group's page to show you what the hammocks look like in action!

photo credit: Saved by Zade

And with a lucky kitten:

photo credit: Saved by Zade

As you can see, this kitty looks quite pleased with herself (himself?) to have such snazzy digs.  My understanding is that it gives them a comfy place to hang out, but can also provide a respite for momma cats who are nursing.  Sometimes it is necessary to keep momma and babies in a crate together, all the time, so momma has no break.  If she can climb up into a hammock, she can take a little snooze and recharge.  Kinda like those moms in commercials who locks themselves in pantries to eat a candy bar!

I also know that some of these will see little use before they are thrown out.  The kitties this group rescues are often in bad shape and many body fluids will be deposited onto whatever is put into the crate or cage with them.  Sometimes it is just easier, and safer, to toss these things out than wash them and possibly contaminate other resources the volunteers have.  I went into this project with full understanding of that, and accepted it without trouble.  I know my work needs to be quality to keep the kitties safe (the group specifically requested things like old towels not be used, as the little loops can catch claws), and if it only helps one kitty for one day, that will be enough for me.

If you are interested in making these, I would suggest you contact your local shelter or rescue groups and ask how you can help.  It may be they just need fabric.  Or maybe they don't do hammocks and would rather have cage mats.  If you want to help, I'm sure there is a group out there that will work with you and your abilities, because fostering is just the tip of the iceberg with animal rescue groups.

With that, I should start thinking on how tomorrow will proceed.  With the lead leaving my head, perhaps I can get something of substance done tomorrow?  I sure hope so.  I'm getting annoyed with my layabout lifestyle!

Happy quilting,

Sunday, July 11, 2021


A week ago, I was spending time with family, gaining a large bag of unwanted fabrics intended for cat hammocks.

Monday, I shared this first set of six:

I worked on Tuesday and Friday, but the other days this week, a good chunk of each day has been spent working on more hammocks...

I didn't take many photos, but I did stop often to pet my kitties, as I had a lot of "help" during my sewing episodes.

I worked through some pretty ugly fabrics, though in their heyday of the 70's or 80's, they were the best that was out there.  Before the big names we all know now were doing big business.  Before they bothered with fancy selvedges - or even dating them!  Back when fabric was actually 45" wide.

As I worked with each fabric, I cut what would make best use of the fabric and strayed from the original sizes listed in the request I found.  One of the volunteers indicated larger was okay and I expect these folks are no strangers to making things work, so I hope they will employ the same efforts used in catching these unfortunate kitties to get the hammocks to hang appropriately.

My two "pastel" rescues love each other very much.  Finn will let you scratch his face for the rest of eternity, grabbing your hands if you stop, so he was very pleased that big sister Gabby was in a mood to tidy things up.  This went on for quite a while and ate into my sewing time because I was trying to get a good photo of her with her tongue out!

Today, as I finished the last stitches, I realized I went from what pretty much filled my washing machine to this:

I supplemented a few long, skinny strips to make the hanging loops for a few, but on the whole my stash remained untouched for this batch.

And then I counted...

Thirty-one hammocks.

And in these last two photos, you can definitely spot the 70's and 80's fabrics.  (That top one is actually a Lori Holt print, dated 2013, but my mom didn't much like it, so into the pile it went!)

I sewed six hammocks each day I didn't work this week, except today, where I made seven.  Six seemed to be a good number that wasn't too much time, but also enough to make a dent in the stack of fabrics.

In addition to the hammocks, I of course made meals and cleaned things and read and all the other normal things one does in life.  My hubby may claim to have been feeling neglected, but he would have been planted in front of the television, playing a game on his phone, whether I had been upstairs sewing or sitting next to him.  The bonus of sewing was that I got to listen to what I wanted to listen to, not his sitcom of choice.

One night, though, we made a "run for the border"...

Toby was fascinated with the bubbles in my pop from Taco Bell.

I'm not sure what he thought was going on here, and this is definitely not the first time we've brought drive-thru food home since he came to live with us last September (until just a few weeks ago, that was about all we could get that wasn't cooked ourselves!), but that night he was fascinated.

I love his curious face.

As usual, Freddie has been camera shy this week.  And generally stubborn.  He gives loves when HE wants to give them, but don't you dare think you can take his picture.  How RUDE!  But he is still here, creating his own brand of derpy mayhem, usually with his tail puffed up as big as a raccoon while tearing through the house at top speeds and his eyes popped open as huge as can be.  We have no idea what he is chasing - or running from - but it is Serious Business.

Since the hammocks took all of my sewing time this week, there is no quilty business to report.  But with the stash of fabrics busted, I suppose I'll have to get back to the projects I abandoned a week ago.  Tomorrow I'm meeting with a guild friend to help her lay out a wedding quilt and then we'll head to lunch.  It is so nice to be able to do some normal things again, but it's still a little scary that so many people don't want to get vaccinated and I'm worried those folks are going to send us back into lockdown.  (99% of folks ending up in the hospital now are NOT vaccinated...that seems like ridiculously good odds for the vaccine!  But I'll stop there.  This blog is about quilting, not scientist Katie going on a rant about virology.)

Time to go plan the coming week.

Happy quilting!

Monday, July 5, 2021

squirrels masquerading as projects

The past week has not been as quilty as it might have been, but some weeks are just like that.  Part of my problem was that new sticks would be drawn in a few days and I didn't want to start something that might be abandoned in a few days for a more favorable "assignment."

I did find some fabric for the back of my Positivity quilt.  I made an oopsie figuring out how much I would need, but that's okay.  I just pieced a section of leftover brown in the middle!

Turns out that wasn't an all bad idea, being that there are stripes here that would have probably annoyed a number of people if they weren't lined up correctly.  This solves that problem nicely.  (And the fabric in this photo looks a lot more coarse than it really is.  It is truly a printed quilting cotton, not a woven fabric.)

I also mentioned the Covered in Love block drive in my last post as a possible direction to turn.  I decided to raid my stash and see what I could find that I felt would work nicely.  And in my effort to just cut a few and just use up that fabric...and that one that will also work and that one...I ended up cutting a set of 18...

I sewed all of those in just a short amount of time, but my sewing time for that day was up.

But the next day I could get to the sewing room, I cut another stack.  This time 17, while again not aiming for so many.  At that point, my stash of tan fabrics pretty much ran out.

Again, these went together quickly, chain piecing all the way, and I suddenly had a stack of 35 blocks to send along.

For this project, unlike so many others I will mention here today, I actually took a decent number of photos.  After this photo, I packed them up and sent them off on the last day of the month - and the last day of the two-month drive for these blocks.

All this scrap-busting (even my stash of blues seems a bit diminished!) brought me to the beginning of the month, allowing me to draw another set of sticks.  No photo, but they are:

Longarm: bright random with embroidered birds
New quilt: from a book I own
Scraps: from the princess castle quilt
Other: pajama pants

I looked through a few books and found a quilt I was interested in making, and most of it could have been made from stash, but the background looked like it needed to be cohesive, yet required 4.5 yards and I just didn't feel like heading out to buy so much fabric when lately my effort has been to bust some of what I have.

So that went on hold and I pulled out the box of scraps from the princess castle quilt.  There were quite a few strips, or remainders of strips, from cutting a lot of pieces.  There are also some somewhat larger pieces that I wouldn't have any trouble adding to the stash, but those strips annoy me.  Now what can I do with those strips?

These are currently 15" each, but I plan to add a few borders.  The fabric that had the dolls had a bunting-like printed border above the selvedge, so that will go on as a border, but also maybe something else.  I'm hoping to get these large enough to be dolly quilts, though maybe a little smaller than some I've made.  (If I pair them with smaller dolls, it will be okay, right?)

This project was abandoned today when I started making more cat hammocks!  We went to visit my parents for the 4th of July holiday, having a potluck lunch and just hanging out.  I had run out of tiny stars parts from my last raid of my mom's stash, so while there, I raided her stash again.  My sister-in-law joined the fun and helped select fabrics and press them so I could cut faster.  I have no photos of the box of squares I brought home, but I promise you, they exist!  And eventually I will begin sewing with them.

While cutting, the subject of cat hammocks came up.  A lot of people know my mom will take pretty much any fabric and figure out how to use it.  As a result, she has a LOT of fabric.  She tries to use it for charity quilts, some she sews up and stuffs with fabric and batting scraps to make pet beds for shelters in her area, but some of it she just can't figure out how to use (or it becomes too overwhelming!).  After hearing about my project with hammocks, she dug into a bag of stuff she was planning to re-home.  I came home with a big bag of fabric, a lot of it 70's-looking calicos.  As soon as we got in the door and the more important things settled, I started the laundry to get everything washed.  While the fabrics seemed clean and smell-free, I can't guarantee they won't fade and ruin something else in the wash.  And a few of them had a fair amount of sizing in them.  (One still stands up on its own!)

Today, I cut into the first very large piece.  It is a little heavier than quilting cotton, but I believe it is all cotton and not a blend.  It was approximately 80x64!  There are two pieces of this and I wonder if maybe they were sheets?

That piece yielded six hammocks.  Two are significantly larger than the other four, but all are good-sized.  My only trouble was top-stitching through four layers - my machine did not like to go fast and would skip stitches if I got moving too quickly.  I tried a jeans needle, which made more noise, but also poked threads through the back and made obvious holes.  Also, I was afraid to go any faster than I had with the normal just didn't seem like it was wise.  I may try one of the super-sharp needles for the next one, but in general, I can slow down and it should be fine.  If I have to go back and re-sew a few short sections, that's okay, too.  The goal here is to make them sturdy, not pretty.  (Though pretty isn't all bad!)

Gabby supervised.

Right.  Supervised.

I'm afraid after seeing her sleeping in this pose twice today, I will no longer be able to convince people that she is at all feral.  She was, but in the last six months, she has mellowed out a lot.  To the point where she sleeps upside down where I can see her.

I will take this every single day over her formerly feral fearfulness.

Perhaps she is learning from her brother?

The other two boys also sleep upside down like that, Freddie (the black kitty) does it in the middle of the living room floor and makes us walk around him.  So maybe she does think it's normal?

Time to go see about making some dinner.  Lasagna - that has to cook a while, so you gotta start kinda early!

Happy quilting!

PS The Positivity quilt is a top.  Last time you saw it, it was not.  I have no photos yet.

PPS The pajama pants may morph into summer pajamas as a whole.  I'm struggling to find some I like (that also aren't the dreaded polyester that doesn't breathe and you end up in a pool of sweat, which is not okay any time of the year, but far worse in the summer), so this might be my solution.  Wish me luck.  I'm not so great with sewing clothing...