Friday, June 8, 2018

...resisting squirrels...

Did you all know the new Moda Blockheads series started this week?  Boy did I ALMOST start that.  But decided against it.  Since I'm not sure what the final layout will be, that makes it hard for me to decide on color options - for instance, if I change the background colors, or the placement within blocks, am I going to have bats again?  I mean, I had a quilt with bats on it once because of poor fabric color choices...

Also, I don't need another project.

So I resisted a new squirrel.  It wasn't easy.  I don't think resisting tempation is early in the 12 steps, so maybe I'm doing them out of order, but I probably do have a squirrel problem...  Probably.

Instead, I worked on the stuff I'm supposed to work on!

There was a little internal debate on whether to start the UFO for the month (#6 - also known as the house blocks) or the rainbow scrap challenge blocks (turquoise/aqua/teal).

I decided that, since I had today (Friday) off work, I would attend my guild's sew-in (scheduled a week earlier than originally planned due to a conflict with the multi-purpose room at the library where we sew), and that would be a great place to lay out the house blocks.  Also, the quilt shops are just a few blocks away, facilitating the acquisition of sashing/border material.

So dig out the not-blue, not-green fabrics and make a mess on my cutting table.  Prepare for another round of dreaded Patchwork City blocks.  (I'm on the down slope of making these, so it IS getting a little easier to talk myself into making them.)

Start sewing.  I had Monday, Wednesday and Friday off this week.  These blocks take about an hour each, so once chores were done, I had a few hours to work before the hubby arrived home from work and I felt I should spend time with him.


(you can see this is an old-timey streetlight where the hedgehog rides the bike and powers the light)


(please don't mind the template fail - unlike the others that are just photographer fails, this one is not quite rectangular as it should be)

So four down, five to go.  Not bad.  I work the rest of the weekend, so we'll see where I get.  But I do have a few days off again next week during the week, so other than a little tidying in the areas that I heavily weeded earlier this spring, I should have a fair amount of sewing time.  (Unless I decide to chase another cleaning squirrel...)

Today, at my guild's sew-in, there were few of us there.  One other member actually brought projects and worked on stuff.  My sister-in-law, who is not an actual member, but always welcome, drove down to sew and eat with us.  (That was super awesome!)  A few other members dropped by for one reason or another, but none staying too long.  Except Carol, who didn't bring anything because she "couldn't find her project."  She stayed and chatted for quite a while, which was nice.  (In all honesty, some of us don't get as much done as we would if we stayed home because we spend too much time chatting.  But that's okay.  This is a social thing, too!)

I took my house blocks.  In February of last year, I showed the start of things.  My guild was doing a block exchange.  For each of us participating, we made one in the style we wanted and passed a box.  Each member made a block based on our request.  I requested a house.  Any style, any size, any color.  Anything goes.  Make it your own.  And boy did they.

One member made an outhouse.  He's a little nutty and his wife was embarassed, but it's Bill.  Another member, truly a free spirit, made a free-pieced house.  And yet another, the owner of our local Dairy Queen, made a copy of the new DQ that, at the time, was just in the planning stages, to be opened many months later - her home away from home.

Today seemed like a grand opportunity to lay out the blocks, figure out how to place them (they're all slightly different sizes), and get them sewn together to complete my UFO for the month.  I knew it would be hard without help from the fur-babies, but I did manage.

This is what I decided I liked.  And headed to the local quilt shop to get some sashing fabric.  (Okay, okay, maybe some of you caught me.  I forgot to take a truly before photo and a few of these are already sashed...just pretend they aren't, okay?)

While at the quilt shop, making sure I didn't find anything better for the unification of houses, I came across fabric that is perfect for the back, so that jumped into my arms...

A little busy, but super fun and perfect for me!

I sewed a while longer on the top and finished it up today!!!

I'll probably bind it in something dark to give it a final "border," but I like it.  It's, um...36-ish inches wide and 50-ish inches tall.  I bought two yards of the backing, so that should be enough, right?

With this done and packed up, I might as well get project #2 out...the swoons!  These blocks finish 24", so again it was a good option to work on a layout without cat helpers.  I'm sure they would have made things better, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

(I left my feet in there 'cause it's funny.  Tonight it's funny.  Later it might not be, but whatever.)

(Also, you can see I'm not good at using my phone to take photographs when my arms are extended as far above my head as I can reach.  But you get the idea.)

I do have the rows sewn together, with sashing.  Also, the sashing between rows is cut to length, but at this point, the one quilter friend left, had tidied up all of her things, so it was time to go.  Her hubby was probably starting to get hungry (so was mine, to be honest) and it was a good stopping point.  But I failed to take a photo of the final stopping point, so you'll just have to imagine more of the grey background fabric between the blocks, okay?

It's been a great day of quilting.  We had a good lunch at the local deli, who serve sandwiches almost as big as your head.  I also caught up on some of the latest member news, as I've missed the last two meetings due to work.  (That's all part of the deal, though, so no pouting.)

The next set of instructions for the squirrel I started earlier this week (the checkerboard strips and "waves" with an undertow current) came out today, but I'll get to those soon enough.  First I want to finish the rainbow blocks and tidy up my cutting area.  All in due time.  I have more days off now than I did before and my commute is 3 minutes instead of 30, so I'm winning.  And earning.  (Got my first paycheck today - nice!)

Time to go finish up some laundry and then head to bed.  I open the store in the morning, so gotta be bright eyed and bushy tailed nice and early!

Happy quilting,

Monday, June 4, 2018

another squirrel

Before we get to the squirrel (and before I could chase it), I present to you nine Swoon blocks!

Today I finally had a day off (six straight is NOT the way I want to be part-time, but I'm training, so hopefully it will lessen as the weeks go by) and decided I was going to slack a little with the extra chores and finish the last one and a half Swoon blocks.  The blocks take about 3 hours each, after the pieces have been cut, so it was no small task.

But...I finished!

This collage photo amuses me because, aside from the very first one, all the photos were taken in the same room with the same camera.  Different times of day and different colors tweak the colors of the photo so it looks like the backgrounds are different and even the blocks are drastically different.  But I assure you, this was one line of fabric and the colors DO coordinate.  Once I get the top together, a single shot photo will prove it!

But the sewing of Swoon blocks to one another will wait.  This was a squirrel project last month when I finished my "assignments," so it was to be set aside for this month's assignments.

So today, on my day off, once the Swoon blocks were completed and out of my way, I SHOULD have been sewing turquoise Patchwork City blocks.  (The Rainbow Scrap Challenge assignment.)  Or I SHOULD have been figuring out what to do with the varied house blocks my guild provided in an exchange last year.  (The UFO challenge.)

What did I do?

I chased a squirrel.

This one is my friend Carol's fault.  She sent the link to me and then shared it with our guild on facebook.  My original response was something like "I need a new project like a hole in the head, but you know I'll probably make this."  If we're being honest, I didn't even really try that hard to talk myself out of it.  I thought, with a little extra added using borders, it would be a perfect size for another Jack's Basket quilt.  I have the Churn Dash quilt almost done (just gotta sew down the rest of binding) and figured this could add to the box and probably make the flat-rate postage box a better deal.

So I opened my closet where the stash hides and dug out red and white fabrics for the first step - checkerboard strips.

The pattern?  It's a cute quilt-along with a summer theme found here.  I left the door open and was busily, carefully cutting pieces with my back to the closet and heard some scrambly-scratching.  I turned around to find this:

I usually quickly close doors of places that cats are not supposed to go.  This one thinks all doors that open are for her to investigate (strangely, though, doors to the outside aren't a draw) and she will scratch at those she thinks she needs to investigate, too.  But this is the kitty that has recently gone deaf, so no amount of hollering will get her to get back out.  So it's even more important to close things because she's sneaky about her adventures and sometimes gets locked in places.  She's also mostly grey and blends quite well into the darkness of closet corners.

So today, she made a slightly bigger mess of some of my stash in her efforts to get up to the chest-level shelf that OBVIOUSLY had an open spot for her.  And after a little effort, I did get her to look at me, but for a bit she was oblivious to the fact that I'd spied her.

(And please pardon the messy closet.  I DO try to keep it tidy and parts of it are better than others, but the part that's tidiest she's sitting in front of/next to...of course...)

So anyways, where was I?

Oh yes, the checkerboard strips...

This part didn't take much and went pretty quickly.  Once I sewed all the parts right...  By my friend Carol, mentioned above, had worked on this project yesterday and her strips came out a significant bit longer than expected.  So I was careful and mine were okay.  She's an experienced quilter and we chatted a bit about it and still aren't sure what went wrong.

Then it was on to part two - three Snail's Trail blocks.  I haven't made one of these in a long time, but the instructions are SUPER detailed and I've been doing this long enough, no problem.  The hardest part was choosing two blues that contrasted enough AND looked good with my red.

But Carol had had trouble with these, too.  The triangles that you sew to make the square in a square-type snail weren't quite right for her.  I had checked the pattern math earlier in the day and everything looked good (you know, sometimes you get what you pay for...), so I figured I'd dive in and see how it went.  I had enough fabric I could re-do stuff if needed.

And it went just fine.  The pattern instructions say the triangles are a bit large and you have to trim after sewing and they were exactly that.  I'm not a huge fan of the extra effort needed to trim, but I know in the long run, it's definitely worth the effort.

So we still don't know what happened to my friend.  She holds that she's an applique gal, not a piecing one, and that's the trouble.  But she did manage to get her blocks figured out and done.

Mine?  Well...  My phone, what I was using to read the instructions (saving paper, plus the headache of fighting with my printer that will only print in the fast/economical black and white setting - any other setting, it will maybe print some things, but more often than not it "prints" nothing and spits out blank sheets of paper - don't get me started there, I've tried all I know to fix's just easier to reset the settings or use my phone), was dying.  So I jotted down a few notes on what size I needed to trim the blocks to at each stage and took the phone downstairs and plugged it in.

What did I not include?  Which side to sew those first triangles onto.  Silly me, I didn't think it made a difference.

Want to know when I figured out it DID make a difference?

When I was trimming the blocks to their final size.


But at this point, I say it's fine.  I'm guessing the recipient is not likely to know there's an error.  And I'm hoping that if they do, they'll be so happy with the quilt, they won't care.  (Also, if they know, they'll know how hard this block can be and will cut me some slack!)

Okay, a little wordy there, let's get a photo of today's work!

See - they look a little wacky, but it's okay.  They're supposed to look like waves and so maybe these waves have a little riptide current in there.  (I'm NOT ripping it out.)

The pattern has one row that has the word "Summer" in it and I'm working on ideas to replace that.  For a summer quilt, it would be great.  For a quilt that will be donated, the happy, bright colors I plan to use (just like the original), can span more than a season, so I'd like to take out the seasonality of the word.  I'm thinking maybe a row of simple hearts or something along those lines.  When that week comes around, I'll make the final decision, but for now, the week's assignment is done.

And now I should be working on my actual assignments.

Tomorrow I work again, but early, so maybe a little work in the evening?

As for the job...  It's not bad.  It's about what I expected and, so far as I've heard, my coworkers are happy with me.  I don't like being the person who doesn't know anything, so I'm doing my best to learn from every new situation and question and feel even in just the first week, I've gotten a much better idea of things.  Definitely a much less steep learning curve than the lab jobs I've had in the last many years!  And SOOOOOO much less stress!

Here's to hoping no new squirrels show up.  One at a time is about all I can handle!

Happy quilting,

Thursday, May 31, 2018

may UFO complete

(completed to my satisfaction, that is)

This month, the UFO number called was 12.  The dreaded UFO.  A box of blocks in various stages of done-ness for a quilt I'd mostly lost interest in.  It just seemed like a lot of work and, while I liked it to start, this project has taught me to be more selective when I get excited about a new project.  (How much work is actually involved - applique? pieced applique backgrounds? embroidery?  And is it large enough that I'm likely to lose interest before completion?)

But the hubby was away for a week on business early in the month, so I had the house to myself.  Not a whole lot different since my "retirement" started (more on that in a minute), but no need to keep any sort of schedule.  Now don't go thinking I sewed all night and slept all day - I kept my sleeping schedule fairly the same, and my hubby isn't a rigid schedule kind of guy, but there are still certain know, dinner...quilting stuff not taking over the couch...

So, I turned on the Netflix and DVR and plopped on the couch.

When I started, I had three blocks to go, with the backgrounds pieced and (surprise!) the freezer paper patterns traced and cut out.  I layed it all in the middle of my sewing room floor, hoping I'd be motivated enough to work on the project, not just walk around it...

(the colors are terrible here, but purple does not like to be photographed)

A few hours later, I went back up and decided I'd prep ONE block for applique.

Once this was done, I decided to just keep going.  Thinking again, like the mess on the floor, if I had my pins tied up in a project, that might be motivation to get them back?

No photos, but the other three were prepped as well.

I managed to applique one whole block each of the first three days the hubby was gone.

The next day was spent "arming" my snowmen.  Also the few other embroidery details.

And while my goal for this UFO was forward progress of any type, I decided I might as well put the blocks together.  The way the background pieces are put together, there are no sashings to deal with, so other than having fairly large blocks (18" or so on some sides!), and a few seams to match, it went together fairly quickly.

Well, I've got the fabrics out and the pattern out, so might as well figure out borders, right?  (I had a box of purple and tan stash fabrics and no official plan...)  And it turned out that, with a little effort, I even had enough of one of the purples for most of the back!

I don't have any in-progress photos of any of this because I was too busy sewing to take them, but I do have a (poorly lit, indoor) photo of the finished top!  (I thought about taking it outside for a photo, but it's been too windy here the last few days...never mind this has been finished for weeks...)

The back is one of the smaller scale purples with a little of the tan with pokey-looking purple flowers on it to make it big enough.

The noses, eyes, buttons and a few jingle bells and such will be added after quilting.  (On the first block, the snowmen got these details embroidered, but I decided that was a lot of work and I wasn't very good at it, so I bought some carrot buttons...)

I thought about quilting it, and am kinda excited to do a variety of motifs, but know that actually deciding on them will be harder than just anticipating it.  So I set it aside, along with the back and prepared binding (yep, that too!) to await further efforts.

This is WAY more than I expected I would do.  I actually thought, before the number was called, that I might just give it up to a loving home that would finish it.  But I'm glad I put in the effort.  I have no idea what I'll do with it when it IS finished, but that's a problem for another day.

And we can't have a post without a cat, right?

Super helpful Lexie.  She's recently deaf, so no amount of hollering at her roused her from her comfy slumber.  I had to physically remove her, but we're still in the learning process with that and scare the bejeezus out of here every so often.  But she's an indoor cat and we know the issue, so there's really not much more you can do.  (The vet says brain surgery could fix it, but seriously?  Brain surgery?  I don't think I'd attempt that on myself even if I knew it could fix something like being deaf, but in a 14-year-old cat? Other than missing a few meals if we don't tell her about them, she's doing just fine.)

Since this was completed, I started working on the Swoon quilt.  This quilt...I know the pattern is not to blame for my trouble piecing, but seriously.  I'm struggling more with each block and will be glad to be done.  I have seven of nine blocks done, so soon...

And about the "retirement"...  After a few months of paying bills and such, we discovered that we didn't have much fun money.  So I've gone back to work.  As a cashier at the local Tractor Supply Company.  Today was my third day and I've got a lot to learn about what the store carries, where to find it and generally everything, but it's WAY less stressful than the lab job and it's only part time.  Also, it's a mile from home.  I could literally walk to work if I chose.  (But not this week - it's crazy hot and I'm not sure if I'd make it before the mosquitoes carried me off!)  I kind of expected something like this would happen - for one reason or another - but with a great recommendation from a friend/former employee, I got in fast.  Now I just have to prove myself...hoping that won't be too hard, but I'm putting in the effort!

The worst part?  It's cutting into my quilting time.  But, it's also providing me with a little cash flow for more quilting stuff.  It's all about the balance.  (And I have tomorrow off - great timing since it's a new month!)

Happy quilting!

Friday, May 25, 2018


After pushing myself hard to get through all of the pink blocks last week, I feel like I've been slacking...

I took my new kitty Swoon project to sew-in and got the first block done...

(you've seen this one)

But these blocks seem to take forever.  You'd think with larger pieces, they'd go faster, but there are still quite a few pieces in them.

You'd also think that with larger pieces, the points would be easier to match.  You would be wrong.  This doesn't seem to make sense, but it IS happening, so there you have it.

I spent free time over the next few days, after the sew-in, working on cutting the remaining fat quarters into parts.  This itself took a while... can see the stack of colored parts there in the back - each set is clipped together so I make sure to get the right fabrics matched up correctly.  (And I don't know what possessed me to take this photo with the boring grey background in front, but sometimes I have a more blonde day than others...)

Thankfully I didn't make any cutting mistakes because this pattern has no room for error!  At least not when you have exactly the right amount of fabric and no more.

Anyways, with these all cut, I thought things would go faster.  But again, I was wrong.  This quilt is showing me that I'm just going to have to enjoy the process because it just won't go fast.  (And with all the point matchy troubles, faster is probably a bad idea...)

So I managed in the last week, between working in the yard (just the iris bed needs cleaned out and the two monster piles of brush need to be burned and then it's just a little upkeep!!!) and household chores (hey, let's pull everything out of that cupboard and clean the shelves, right? crazy.), I got the second block finished:

Those fabrics both look a little busy when you squish the fabric to this small size in a photo, but they're much better in real life, when the block is larger than a cat...a cat who would not humor me to be in the photo to help with proportion.  (If I hadn't asked, you know there'd be three in the middle, right?)

And then on to block #3, just finished this afternoon...

This one finally seems to have enough contrast, but when you have 18 fat quarters and need 18 fat quarters, you use them and be happy.  But it's amusing to me how different the fabrics read depending on the photo.  But I guess the photos were taken at different times of the day, so, well, whatever.

Other than this, not much is going on in the sewing room.  I have started working super part-time at one of the local quilt shops (today was my first day!) and it's definitely a change.  I'm used to a very structured workplace where you need to get A, B, and C done and here's the protocol and a quilt shop is definitely not like that - at least not on a slow day!  But it's a very nice change of pace and I'm sure I'll adjust soon enough...or be that crazy lady who is always following customers around tidying up...  (we'll hope for the former, okay?)  I'm also working on another part-time position close to home, but I'll share more as that develops - I don't want to jinx anything!  These will be great for fun-money to supplement the budget some, plus get me out of the house.  (Somehow I manage my time better when I feel I have less...anyone else have that problem?!)

The friend I mentioned in my previous post, who I was helping with car trouble, made me a squirrel.  She told me it was running around her house (she said I had been quiet about it being here, even if Swoon was being quite the squirrel last week, so she figured my squirrel was at her house...) and I should keep it.

How cute is that?  It's about 12" square and absolutely adorable.  I need to get a dowel or something to hang it, but it's definitely going into the sewing room!  It will make me smile every time I see it.

And the back is just as awesome!

(she has such pretty penmanship!)

And the friend blogs over here - she does super cute stuff in general and is a totally amazing longarmer.  She puts me to shame for sure!

And we can't have a post with a real cat, right?

Pardon the fact that I don't make my bed, but I thought new cat Gabby (aka Spazarella) slept under the sofa in my bedroom (it's a big room, okay? but it's also technically a "love seat," so there) because I'd never seen her actually sleep anywhere.  (You know how kittens nap for like 12 seconds and then they're totally recharged and spazzing around the house again...well, maybe you're that lucky...)  The other day I was sitting at the foot of the bed, putting on shoes and sending a quick text and I turned around and found this.  Crashed out.  Snuggled up to my pillow, right where I sleep.  I wasn't sure about this truly feral beast when we brought her home.  The vet assured me she'd bond and become a people cat, but I had no idea how long it would take.  She literally went from afraid of my hubby and I (but not the other four cats - she thought they were all BFFs from the first meeting) to being a people cat in about 2 days.  It took a few months to get to the point where she decided to trust us, but I'm so glad for it.  When she grows out of her kitten phase (she's a lot better, but still has her spaz-outs), she's going to be an amazing cat.  The hubby and I are kinda looking forward to that.  We love the energy and curiosity she has, but it's a lot to handle when she's the only one and we're all (the other cats included) targets!

Happy quilting!