Sunday, October 17, 2021

heather's quilt

There has been sewing this week, but not always quilty sewing.  I'll get to that in a bit because I'm going to start with Heather's quilt.

In January of 2020, back when the virus we're all learning to live with was just a speck on our radar, I went to a quilt retreat.  I sewed and giggled and had loads of fun.  And I visited a quilt shop and purchased a kit, on impulse.

It's a variety of purples and greys and how could I go wrong?

Oh, here's a photo of the back for a better idea of the fabrics - these gals at the shop know how to pack a kit so we know what we're getting into!

In April of 2020, after my country had been "locked down" (there are so many terms being used and all can be interpreted multiple ways, but this seemed to be the consensus at the time) and I was struggling to figure out what to sew, this kit slapped me in the face and I got down to business!

The pattern is fairly simple and I was able to cut multiple fat quarters at a time.  Bonus!

Next came mixing and matching of fabrics.  Each block gets three fabrics and I had a little struggle to make sure there was contrast as well as making sure the same fabric didn't get repeated where it shouldn't have been.  That's okay...what's a good quilt without a little struggle, right?!

Once I started sewing, based on blog entries, these went pretty fast.  Here are a few of the finished blocks from way back when:

As I worked with the fabrics, I became less enamored of them.  There is a lot of metallic silver printing on some of them (the paisleys are the worst) - something needles do not like - and just in general the variety of colors that, while when seen as a whole play nicely together, did not really suit my fancy.

But I pressed on and eventually had a top.  That went onto the Rack of Shame.  I knew it would speak to me when it was time.  And it had been whispering to me that maybe it should go to my high school friend, Heather.  But I haven't seen her since she got married, 24 years ago, so though we've somewhat reconnected on Facebook, I thought it might be a little odd that this person who occasionally comments on random posts was sending her a whole quilt.  (Well, a quilt.  Because who sends HALF a quilt?!)

Then, two and a half weeks ago, I sat reading a post on Wednesday night and I thought I must be mistaken.  April first was months ago - this isn't the right time for a joke.  And this is not a joking matter anyways.  My jaw was hanging open.  Not only at the news, but at her ability to coherently articulate it on social media.

Heather's husband had been killed while riding his motorcycle.  She stated an "impatient motorist" as the reason and nothing more.  He was out with his dad and a friend.  She also has a motorcycle, but he was out with the boys that evening.  Instead of him riding into the driveway that night, it was two members of the police force, with the worst news she could have imagined.

That was the day this quilt started SCREAMING that it was for Heather.

My longarm has been being fiesty, but I was going to fight through this one before trying to do maintenance/repair work myself.  Just in case.  It was still functional and I couldn't be sure it would be after my efforts.  So I went out and found a back.

The gold doesn't exactly "go", but the rest of it does, and I found nothing even remotely close to being also good enough, so this is it.  Back home to piece it and get ready for what would likely be a long, stressful day of quilting.  This thing is also quite large.

Often quilts fight me for quilt motif ideas.  This one, being needed urgently, I didn't have time to question and double-guess myself.  I figured out something and rolled with it.  I took one photo at the corner to remember, when I got WAAAAY to the other end, what I had done.

And it looks not so great here, but part of the ickiness is due to the metallic printing playing with my camera.  Playing badly with my camera.

I did orange peel-like curves in the nine-patches and wishbones in sashing and the larger, rectangular, parts of the blocks.

My machine fought me.  Counter-clockwise, between about noon and 9, it would shred thread.  I learned to do motifs in a different direction than my left-to-right handwriting had trained me for and it helped.  I slowed down the machine and it helped.  At lunch I called the nearest Innova dealer, who informed me that, because I had not purchased my machine from them or any other dealer, that they would not service my machine.  (Although the guy did help me determine what was likely the problem - more on that soon.)  So I gathered up my courage again and dug back in after lunch.  It took hours.  Far more stops and starts and picking out stitches than anyone would want, but this needed to be done.

Finally, after 10 hours or something (some of that was spent eating lunch and on the phone and maybe some swearing), it was finished.

Thankfully, I had already prepped the binding, so things started looking up again.

As I was sewing down the hand-sewn side of the binding, I noticed a few thread snarls I had missed before (sometimes it snarls up and I don't realize - usually it results in a thread break, but not always), so I dealt with those as I went, and finally, after two long sessions on the couch, I had the binding sewn down.

This process was not without assistance.  (Nothing I do is without assistance.  Who are we kidding?)

I snuck this photo on Facebook and she commented about what a cutie the kitty is.  Ha!  Little did she know what I was doing was for her!

Making a label always slows me down, too.  Much like deciding on a quilt motif, I overthink it.  But one day (a day before I had found a suitable box), I had a brainstorm and off I went.  The following day at work I snagged a suitable box and then contacted a mutual friend to confirm that address the interwebs told me was hers was actually hers.  (You know how that goes - once on the internet, always on the internet, and she may have moved three times since!)

The last bit was to get something for her corgi, Sheldon.

Since I work at a store that has a whole aisle of dog toys, and me not being a dog person at all, this was a challenge.  But a few friends had suggested, since I know this particular puppy is a super chewer, that Kong toys last a bit longer.  This guy has a squeaker inside, but also rope.  So do we call that a surprise inside?!

I got up early this past Wednesday to get to the post office before their early truck left.  I know their delivery times are getting longer (they, like everyone else, are short-staffed, making everything take longer) and wanted this to arrive as soon as possible.  I had already had a two-week delay since the news and was getting impatient with myself.

Imagine my surprise when the gal at the desk told me it would be there Thursday.  Tomorrow? I asked.  Yes, tomorrow.  True, we only live an hour or so apart, but I was shocked.  I really expected she would say Thursday next week!

So I, being a nerd, tracked the package all day.  Of course I'm worried it will get lost, but I was also excited for her!  Eventually I saw it had been delivered, but I let it go a few more hours.  I wasn't sure what all she was dealing with that day, and truly hoping her employer hadn't brought her back to work already (unless she wanted to be), so I tried my best to exercise patience.  Finally I gave in after 5pm and sent her a quick message to check her mail.

About 15 minutes later:

The following day, she posted a photo of the whole thing, spread out on her couch.  And a photo of her puppy with his new toy - his tail a blur of happiness!

Oh, you wanted to see the whole quilt?!

Quilt name: Town Square
Designer: Amanda Murphy
Size: 73x88" or so
Pieced and quilted by me.
I think the fabric is all one line, but I no longer have the selvedges to help you with that.  Sorry.

It is larger than I might have chosen for this purpose, but that is not how things go sometimes.  And I'm truly glad to have been able to send this to my friend as a comfort and I hope she uses it.  (I sent her a color catcher and instructions for washing!)

Bonus?  One more quilt gone from the List/Rack/Closet of Shame!

Now on to the last week of sewing!

I've been wanting to make catnip fishies for the kitties for a long while.  I have a few ideas saved on Pinterest, even.  But the idea of sewing, then turning, then stuffing, then sewing them shut, seemed overwhelming.  Then one day, I decided it wasn't going to go any faster if I put it off, and I might as well make them.  It helps that there are no quilts screaming at me right now.

My plan right now is to give some to friends with kitties.  For Christmas.  (Goals are good!)

These fishies have pieced bodies, so my training as a quilter to nest seams has been a boon.  I can layer pieces and nest seams and then trace and cut pieces!

From the back side, these fabrics don't look very fun, but they are.  I'm trying to choose colors/fabrics that, when licked and the greenish tint of catnip seeps through, will not be terribly gross.

I learned to do a ladder stitch to make the closures more tidy (how I've never learned that before, after all the odds and ends of things I've made in the past, is beyond me!) and found the turning process, while fussy, can be done while watching television or sitting at a quilt guild meeting!

Of course, when you work at home, you get lots of help...

He looks like he is sleeping in the second photo, but I assure you, he was not.

Thankfully, after about 10 minutes of active help, he settled down to supervise from the couch.  It helped that I let him keep a few.

I've found that this pattern will allow me to make seven fishies out of a width of fabric - or two widths (the long way) out of a fat quarter.  That works well for me.  Of course, the list of friends with cats is long, so the 28 I've finished (minus payment of two for supervision) and the 14 that are waiting for stuffing is still not enough for each family of kitties to get a fair share, but I'll get there.  I've got a few months.

To break up the monotony of fishies (and give my hands and back a break from the stuffing and closing work), I've started sewing rows of tiny stars together.  With 33 rows of 33 stars, it takes a while to pin, then sew, even one set, but I'm getting there.

I'm excited to be to this point, even if it is a long process.  Yet this part is much faster than star construction.  I'm in no hurry, as this was started as a "forever" project, but now that I can see the finish, I am getting excited.  A few folks have commented about the longarming/quilting process, but I have no doubt this will be just fine.

Speaking of the hubby and I finally had time together today, in daylight, when my brain was in a mood to fool with nonsense, to adjust the height of the hopping foot.  We only broke one Allen wrench getting the screw loosened to do the adjustment...  But we got the adjustment made and I loaded a small piece of junk fabric onto the frame to test.  It seems to be working fine, but sometimes you need to run through a whole bobbin before it really starts having a tantrum, so the next quilt will be a true test.  Maybe tomorrow?!

For today, tiny stars will be the focus.  Until I have to make dinner.

Happy quilting!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

masks and cats

I HAVE sewn a lot this week, but don't have much to show for it...and most of what I've done is large and it is windy, so photos are difficult.  So I guess this will be a fairly quick check-in?!

First, the quilt for a friend is finished.  Last week I shared Toby helping with binding.  I've finished that and sewn on a label as well.  I intended to snag a box at work on Tuesday (freight day is always best for many box choices!), but forgot.  So that is waiting.  No photos of it yet, either, but if I did have them, I'd be saving them for after the quilt is received, just to be safe.  Hoping this week I'll remember a box.

Next, the School Bus quilt that I purchased fabrics for a few months back.  I had all the blocks sewn and ready to go, but had stalled at math.  I knew HOW to do what I needed to do, but I needed to do some math to cut the right amount of things and not waste any more than needed.  I did the math, sewed and sewed and sewed, and then decided that final outside border was not important when considering binding, so I have a top.  I made the binding, too.  It is just over 70x70, so also large and no photo.

Just in case this got boring, here is a photo of all my boys in one place:

If only Toby could get along with his sister, she would have been in the room, too.

Anyways, back to quilty stuff.

The two quilts I featured last week went out in the mail on Thursday.  Or was it Wednesday?  They aren't due to arrive until the middle of this week, but they are out of my house and off my list!  Hooray!

And tiny stars rows are all sewn.  I did end up laying out a 33rd row and sewed that as well.  Next weekend I hope to sew the rows into a top when hanging out with guild members.  I can't wait!

I forgot last week to share the new Halloween masks I made.  One for me (the kitties) and one for my boss (the dogs):

And of course, inside:

Mine looks less Halloween-y than hers, but I love it because it has my Freddie on there!  (Maybe those stars glow in the dark?  I might have to crawl in a closet again this year to find out for you!)

Upon giving the mask to my boss, she showed it to a fellow friend and dog-lover.  Who promptly asked if she could buy one.  So what's a quilter to do if they have enough fabric for three more masks?

These were a bit fussy to cut and despite my efforts, some seem better centered than others, but it's all good.  And I'm not taking money for these (or any others), so I feel less concern about perfection.  (But my boss has suggested to, as she has, make a donation to the local cat rescue in lieu of payment.  I'm good with that!)


I chose three different fabrics that all seemed fun and coordinated mostly with the outside.  I dropped them off earlier today.

I have a list of other projects I want to start on, some for the holidays, some just because, but I have also been doing some fall cleaning.  (Like spring cleaning, just in the fall!)  To help get the upper portion of the stairwell walls, I bought a new mop.  (I know that sounds silly, but I WILL use it to clean floors, too.  I just knew the mops I have cannot be wrung out enough to not make a sloppy mess of everything, particularly on a vertical surface.)

The mop is awesome, and Finn highly approved of the box.  I pulled everything out and before I even had the mop parts assembled, he was inside.  He is my box boy, but he also (as you see in the photo above) knows how to use the softer furniture, too.

And that about wraps up my week.  I hope next week I can share Heather's quilt, as well as maybe a few of the smaller projects from my list.

Happy quilting!

PS The kitty hammocks were finally delivered (delay due to volunteer real-life troubles) and she sent me this photo later in the week:

Could that BE any cuter?!

Sunday, October 3, 2021

valle crucis finishes and more

The quilt-along for Quilts for Kids has ended and I have to quilts to share!

First up, my first pull:

And second is my second pull of fabrics:

They really are flatter than this, but I was struggling with the wind, timing between rain showers and my clothesline isn't a straight line because, well, that's the nature of rope strung across a long space.  Also, I might have been struggling to frame things properly with the days aren't always perfect!

After having made my list of quilts waiting for longarming last week, I got busy with these two.  They have a deadline and I wanted them done first.  But my longarm is being fussy.  I quilted these simply with a loop-de-loop, figuring something simple to build my confidence again would be good.  The quilting went okay (more on the longarm shortly), but I had some other issues...

Despite measuring and carefully loading, I needed a bit more fabric here...

I unhooked the end from the longarm and, as I've done before, brought in my little machine and added fabric on.  It isn't the easiest solution, but it could have been worse.  I had more fabric that matched and room to work.

While I ran upstairs for the fabric, *someone* decided to put a little extra love into the quilts.  He does love kids, so I guess it's only fair.

These quilts will be washed (actually, they have been in the fully-finished photos above), so I wasn't too worried.  He does look rather proper here, though, doesn't he?  Good kitty posture.

When I got it done and trimmed, this is where I stood:

I used about a quarter of an inch of that extra fabric.  But because this had to be pinned to leaders on the longarm, and the machine needs room to maneuver around those leaders, I needed more than just that quarter inch, as the earlier photo showed.  Turns out, this didn't even show once I got the binding sewn on!  But that's okay with me.

After that, I double-checked (again) the backing for the second quilt.  It was enough, but I still loaded carefully and had to laugh when I got to the last roll and saw this:

I had more than enough!  While I still would have needed the extra piece sewn on to get it properly onto the longarm, I didn't actually need it for the back.  I (and all longarmers out there) prefer this problem to the first one I shared!

After I had cut and pressed the binding for these, I realized I needed to machine sew the binding down - both sides.  I had cut it skinnier than I would have, had I known better, but I just adjusted my needle to have a slightly narrower seam allowance and it worked out fine.

But I was dreading that machine sewing of binding.  I haven't done it since my last round of Quilts for Kids, back in 2011!  (And I realized in that post, I linked to a tutorial for doing that binding...)  I sorta remembered how, but I consulted the interwebs for additional information because I remember nearly bleeding to death for all the pins I needed to put in and that stabbed and thought I could learn something.  Canuck Quilter has a great tutorial that helped me a lot - particularly suggesting I use Wonder clips.  Also, she mentions the game-changer, pressing the binding!  I did much better this time and was able to even place the clips 3-4" apart, not on top of each other, as I remember doing with pins.  The corners gave me a bit of a struggle, but after just two, I figured out that pins were the key for me in that specific spot and I am no longer as afraid of doing binding this way.  But I still like the look of it hand-sewn.


After these two going fairly well, I thought I could attempt a larger quilt.  I'll share more of the story of that quilt soon, as it is done (except a label) and needs to go to its new home very soon.  But my longarm was not in the mood.  I finally broke down and called the nearest dealer, asking about a service call, figuring I could get a whole-machine tune-up type thing done.  Well.  Because I bought my machine from a person, used, not a dealer, they will not schedule a service call because their service people are too busy.  I understand that I might need to wait a while.  I understand that I'm a few hours from their store and it might require a consolidation approach to scheduling.  What I don't understand is why my money isn't as good as that from someone who paid them directly for their machine.  And what I can tell you is that they have lost my business for any extras I will ever need for my machine again.  (Not the company, just this dealer.)  Thankfully, my machine is built to be able to maintain yourself and there is a wonderful community of owners on Facebook that are helpful and encouraging and knowledgeable.  But I just thought, after 10+ years of use, a "spa day" wouldn't be a bad thing.  Instead, I just get to be my own mechanic!  So, when the hubby and I can coordinate time off, we'll be adjusting the hopping foot height (I need his muscles - it's a tight nut to crack!) and hoping that is the problem.  If not, we'll keep going with less-simple solutions.

I did, however, get the quilt finished.  Lots of thread breaks and a few thread snarls on the back I didn't realize were there until afterwards, but I got it done.  I might have made up some new swear words.

And then I hand-bound it.

Toby helped.

Well, he was involved.

I'll share the whole quilt story in a week or so, after it makes it to my friend.

The longarm adjustment requires some fancy Allen wrenches, of which the hubby does not own.  He collects and hoards tools like a quilter does fabrics, so it was not a hard thing to convince him to go to Harbor Freight for a new toy.  Even if he had to use it to fix mine.  While we were out and about, JoAnn fabrics is just a few blocks away and it's about time I get Christmas fabrics for the annual pillowcases.

Though many of the Christmas calicos were not in the area with the other calicos and it took a minute to find them all, this year I got some really awesome fabrics and I am going to have a hard time giving these away!  The fabric has been washed and pressed and folded neatly, awaiting sewing, but I'm in no hurry to get these made.  Currently I am working on getting my tiny stars into rows, as my guild has a sewing day in a few weeks (on a Saturday that I am not scheduled by some fluke!), and I'd like to have that project to work on there, if anyone else commits to going.  (We're notoriously light in participation and if I'm going to be there alone, I might as well sew at home!)

While I was waiting to get these cut, I noticed they had rolls of batting on sale.  Not quite the price of Black Friday, but I also had a 25% coupon off everything - even sale items - so into the cart went a big roll of batting.  And then I got a receipt with this at the bottom:

Yeah, that's how I like to do things!  (I only spent $103!)

So it's been a fairly good quilty week.  Three quilts from my list have been completed and I'm itching to get another done.  And another.  And another.  (Really, I'm excited about getting my machine adjusted to run well again so I can better focus on what I'm quilting, not whether my machine is going to have a snarly hissy fit!  Then I can actually get better!  Probably?!)

The remainder of the week has been, well, meh.  The dryer quit, so that cost a bit to have a guy come out and change the thermal fuse.  It could have been worse and he worked fast.

Work was a little stressful, as the district manager was in to audit our freight procedure.  Long story short, it wasn't my best day at work that day!  But I still have a job and I learned something.

And this week, it was my turn to go to the doctor.  Just a yearly physical, meeting a new doctor (my old one quit).  She says I'm boring.  Medically.  She made sure to clarify that.  But she is really nice and even complimented my mask (one I made), saying it looked professional!  And best yet, taking myself to the doctor is a LOT simpler than a cat.

Time to get back to the tiny stars.  I have 24 rows sewn up, so 8 more to go, unless I decide I want it to be 33x33, then I need to pick out another row.  That should go a lot faster than the first 32 that I did all at once!

Happy quilting!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

completed blocks and not much else

Last week I left you with block parts sewn, but not whole blocks.  In the past week, all I have gotten done is to sew those block parts into whole blocks.

To be fair, there are 49 blocks, so it wasn't a quick task, but it's been a fairly pathetic quilting week if we're being honest.  The next step is making sashing, which is pieced.  And made with the black fabric, so also directional.  And my little brain has just been cringing at the idea of that math.  It's not hard, I just don't like it.  And if I'm not in a math mood, I'd better not try it.  Nothing will go right.

Instead, I decided to create a List of Shame to tally up the Rack of Shame and the Closet of Shame - all the quilts waiting to be longarmed.  I printed just one page and turned off the computer.  I had to turn it back on to print another...

Yep, 38.  Actually 39 because there are two dolly quilts listed in the middle of page one as one entry.  The back for those is one bigger piece, so I can quilt them together, so we're gonna call it one, okay?

But this helps me know where I am with things.  I got out a measuring tape and measured those I didn't have sizes noted elsewhere, so I even know what I need for backing or binding!  (The numbers may not be exactly accurate, but they are within an inch or two and that is fine for purchasing a back.)

The #1 and #2 quilts will probably be done first, as they are for a quilt along and will be donated.  To keep up with that, they need to be finished.

And #26 was just hanging out, with a little idea that it would be given to my high school friend Heather, but it wasn't hollering yet.  And sometimes you need to wait for that holler to know it's time.  Well.  It will be up very soon, as she lost her husband Wednesday.  They're motorcycle folks and he was out riding with his dad and a friend and he was killed.  She stated an "impatient motorist" as the reason, but I don't have more details than that and really don't have the heart to ask for more.  So, it's TIME.  I wish it was a happier reason to send it, but life doesn't always work that way.  So tomorrow, when my local quilt shop is open, I will zip down to see what she has for a back.

The remaining quilts?  They'll get their turn.  A few of them I didn't even remember I still had.  A few I made with intentions that no longer exist (like I was going to put that red and gold quilt on my bed and decorate around it and while I still love the quilt...well...I painted my bedroom grey a few years back...and put a grey and purple quilt on the bed, so...).  And a few were made just because and will continue to wait their turn.

Sadly, I have no more quilt photos, so here is a pic of Gabby viciously attacking the "blanket monster."  It's a good thing the vet trimmed her nails, or I might be minus a hand with her ferocity!

This was later in the evening after she had gone back to the vet for a recheck of her dental work.  She was super angry with me, and is still wary of me if I'm moving, but once I'm in bed, covered up, in my pajamas, I'm safe.  So she comes out to play.  And attack.  And throw things on the floor.  (She refuses to hide out in my sewing room now - probably being put in a carrier twice in just over a week from that room has turned her off - so she has now adopted my bedroom as her safe space.)  I love her so much, but she is still fierce!  And her week later checkup was great.

Last up, I went to a used book sale yesterday.  This one was great.  The one I usually attend on July 4th has been broken up into smaller sales that will happen every few months.  I'm not sure if this will be the long-term new routine or not, but it has some good points that I'm happy with.

$5 gets you a paper grocery sack.  There were so many good candidates, I bought a second bag.  I brought home 40 books.  (I actually had 43, but I gave my mom three for a book exchange thing she does at her quilt retreat.  This is one she runs, so having a few extras for someone who wishes to participate but forgot is never a bad idea.)

I added these to the book stash I picked up a few months back and the stack comes up to my chin.

I think this is more exciting than fabric.  For me.  All the possibilities of good stories!  I read them and donate them back to the sale and someone else can enjoy them - and the library earns money for special programs.  I don't think there's a loser here!

Bonus?  The cats liked the bags!

With that, I think I will go tackle some tiny stars row construction.  I still don't feel like doing directional sashing quilt math.

Or maybe I'll go read a new book?!

Happy quilting!

PS Don't get me wrong.  New fabric is also exciting.  Maybe books are more so because I can just pick it up and read - no cutting or trimming or quarter inch seams to muddle with?