Monday, October 19, 2020

starting a new project!

Starting a new project is almost always fun!  And I got to do that this week!

But first, a bit of "housekeeping" - updates on things from last week.

Most important, my brother-in-law is doing much better.  He has been weaned from supplemental oxygen and expects to come home in a day or two.  He continued to be quite sick for about a week after being admitted to the hospital and was transferred to the bigger hospital north of us.  He was on antibiotics, steroids and oxygen that I know of.  There may have been more, and it was scary to hear the updates when he wasn't improving as fast as we anticipated.  But when he called the hubby yesterday to complain about the football games, we knew he had truly taken a big turn for the better!

AND. He has tested serologically positive for Covid.  This means he DID have it, but the initial tests were unable to pick it up.  So let Science Katie explain this.  Put on your science hats, folks.  (Or just scroll down!)  Viruses cannot replicate alone, they need YOUR cells to do that.  Once they break in, they take over the cellular machinery with their own instructions to make more viruses.  And those new viruses do the same.  So, very quickly, there are a LOT of newly hatched viruses in your body.  These viruses are what the current large-scale testing protocols are looking for (or rather, their genetic material).  They are in large numbers early in the course of the disease.  Before you even start showing symptoms, there are enough viruses in your body to be detected - and spread to others.  But as soon as they break in, your immune system is like "NOPE!" and knows that virus is not supposed to be there.  It takes a bit for your immune system to create antibodies (flags that it sticks on these viruses to tell the "killer" cells to destroy them) and get ahead of the virus and, eventually, get rid of it entirely.  So, after the infection has been cleared, you will test positive serologically - this is a blood test that looks for the antibodies to something specific.  (Anyone out there ever have a titer test done?  That is exactly this test.)

So here is the craziest part of all for this virus: you may be sicker than you've ever been, show all symptoms of this virus and test negative.  Why?  Your body rids itself of the virus fairly quickly, assuming you have a competent immune system, but this virus sends your immune system into overdrive, creating all sorts of extra problems that are what can make this drag on for months in some people.  Technically you no longer have the virus in your system and are just dealing with your immune system.  I don't understand it entirely (even the docs are still learning), but this is the way I understand it.

And while I'm on my soapbox.  You CAN get infected again.  You will likely not show symptoms, but you CAN shed and spread the virus.  So WEAR YOUR MASKS.  Wearing a mask keeps your germs to yourself.  From a person who has to wear them for 8-10 hours a stretch, talking to people that whole time, I KNOW they suck.  Wear it anyways.  If you wanna skip something, leave your bra at home instead.

Okay, enough Science Katie.

On to Quilty Katie!

Last week, I was midway through a batch of tiny stars that I wanted to finish before I started the new project.  So here are the last 9:

Gabby did not come running for this photo - perhaps she had gotten herself locked in a closet again?  (She loves to explore doors that are not always opened and gets herself locked in my clothing closet about once a week...)

And then I started Well Suited!

I cut and cut and cut and cut and cut and cut and cut...

It doesn't look like much, but this is enough for 64 blocks!  I even gave myself permission to use some Tula Pink scraps in this quilt that I have been hoarding for no good reason.

It looks a little more intimidating here, but I've been here before.  This will be fun!

I had a system of mixing and matching to make sure that backgrounds and colors were mixed up (I cut multiples of backgrounds, but, almost always, only one each of the colors).

I sewed...

...and sewed...

...and sewed.  I failed to take more photos, but eventually I had all 64 9-patch blocks finished and it felt really good.

But then I had to cut the setting triangles so these could be on point.

Ugh.  More cutting.

I decided to cut one and do a test to make sure it was going to be okay...

Ah yes, this will do.  Note to self: pay attention to directional fabrics!

It was then back to cutting and cutting and cutting.  I raided my stash again and cut multiples from many fabrics (I have more in the grey/black colorway as far as yardage, but not variety - at least not in large enough chunks for this project.)

I've started sewing, again mixing and matching so things are (hopefully) well-balanced, but I got only the first triangle sewn on all 63 blocks when it was time to make dinner and stuff.  It seemed to take forever, but these are not quite as quick to line up and sew as the squares for a 9-patch.

I'll be heading that direction again soon!

In the middle of these, I needed to make the hubby a mask.  He is provided them at work (required he wear the ones provided by his employer!), so he just has cloth ones stashed in both of his vehicles.  This worked well until we took my car somewhere and he had no mask!  So I'll make one for my car.  I made him pick his own fabric, which was a nightmare...he will only look at the grey and black fabrics.  As if the entire rainbow is not there!  But...I tricked him...and he found one I like and I decided we both needed one!

His has elastic, mine as ties.  (I like the ties better now that I have tried elastic.  My ears get sore!)

His is boring inside, but mine...

I try to select darker fabrics for the outside, knowing that working in a farm store I'm bound to get dirty without even trying.  If I have a light-colored mask, it will show and I really don't want customers thinking I'm dirty!  But inside?  I can be a little more fun.

And we can't have a post without cats, can we?

Toby went in to be neutered last Wednesday.  At 7 months, it was overdue, but since we just got him a few weeks before, it was as soon as we could do it.  He came home with a Cone of Shame because he wouldn't quit licking the incision.  This is my first round with one of these and he was determined to defeat it.  I ended up taking it off and following him around the house, telling him to stop licking himself, because he kept getting at least one paw/leg through the neck hole.  But he is doing well and you'd never know he had surgery at all for all the feisty he continues to share.

Speaking of Toby.  Every time we let him outside into the kitty fort, he comes in filthy.

(He is also learning to quilt.)  But he has stark white fur on his legs.  It's not as easy to see in the photo, but he had filthy legs.  And a coating of dusty dirt on his darker fur, too.  Soon after, he had cleaned himself up, but in the meantime...

Finn also would like you to know he is helping:

This bin hangs from a hook on the side of my cutting table.  He nearly threw himself, the bin and the ironing board to the floor trying to fish around inside it.  I just put it on the floor.  About the time I got the camera ready, he lost interest.

He also climbed in my project bin, wanting to be the next thing I paid a LOT of attention to.  For a kitten who sleeps smooshed up against me all night, every night, he still wants a lot of loves during the day, too.

He even wanted to make sure he wasn't missing anything when the carrier came out for Toby to go to the vet.  In the time it took me to find and catch Toby, Finn made himself comfortable.  He will get his turn (just vaccinations for him) in another month or so, but silly kitty!  (And that is Toby's dinner on the top there.  The vet requested I do a drop-off the night before and they would give him dinner, so of course I made sure he had some good stuff!)

And that, folks, is my week!

I'm having a blah day today and haven't done much of anything, but I suppose maybe with this task crossed off my list, and having seen the pretty photos of my pretty new quilt-in-progress I will be more motivated?

Happy quilting!

Monday, October 12, 2020

a week already?

I'm trying to blog every Monday to keep myself on a schedule and keep things from getting away from me.  Some weeks seem longer than others.  This one seems to have gone by quickly!

So what have I done?

First, we'll talk about quilty-wise.

When I left you last, I had started making blocks from kit leftovers.  I got ten blocks from what was left:

Darn it, Gabby.


Okay.  Finally managed to get one without help.

But ten is an odd number for any setting, so I had to think a bit.  Did I want to make some alternate blocks?  I still had some rectangular chunks, but wasn't sure if that was the direction I wanted to go.  Should I remove one and send it to the orphan blocks pile?

Decisions, decisions.

I decided to send one block to the orphanage.  It was my least favorite and I felt it played least well with the others.  (Though the one that blends with the sashing was also a candidate.)

I had some skinny strips of the purple print that became sashing and also found some black dot (you can't really see the dot) stuck in with the leftovers that I was lucky to still have a small chunk of in my stash.  So borders and sashing went happily.

But it is still about 30x30", which is quite small, even for a baby quilt.

And I still have that stack of rectangles.


I figured out how many it would take of these rectangles for each side, but when I started laying them out, it didn't look right.  It looked way too long on one side and way too short on another.  (How is that possible?!)  So I winged it.  I sewed every single one together (after carefully picking them up in order so the colors were well-distributed) and then measured and cut the borders from that long strip.  I had a few skinny pieces from the block strips just in case, but I didn't need them.  I literally had a half-inch too much for the border.  No one can feel guilty about throwing that scrap away!

I used the black again as cornerstones (I knew it was going to be tight, so made that decision ahead) and that border went much faster than anticipated.  Before I knew it, I had a top!

It measures 36x36" and will be donated at some point.  It is not yet quilted, but I cut strips of black for binding, so that is ready to go and one less thing I can procrastinate with.

With that done, I had nothing pressing, so I decided to dig into the box of squares I cut at my mom's a while back.

I swear to you, I had not seen her in HOURS.  I hardly got the last of this set of nine on the floor and she came tearing in and flopped.  It took a minute to get a good photo of her, but she was winking at me.  She is such a silly kitten.

And then I started another set of nine (the fabric square sets were stacked and nine was the lucky number)...

Apparently these are hers, too.

Another set of nine is in the works, but are not yet finished.  Stuff needed to happen and I was at a good stopping point, so they are awaiting my return.

But yesterday, a new project was decided.  I was chatting with Colette and I mentioned this quilt having caught my eye and it has held my attention for a while.  She liked it, too.  So...we'll be making this quilt together-apart in the coming months.  I plan to get started cutting this afternoon!  (I realized, in my digging through the stash for sashing for the Nova Star quilt that I have a LOT of grey-black fabrics and this will be a perfect way to reduce that stash!)

In other news, the hubby and I both had the weekend off, so we went to a park not far from home and wandered the trails in the woods.  This is the only photo I took...

The trees have turned a lot even just in the few days since we were there, but this was still a pretty scene.  There was a guy fly fishing, standing in the river in waders, just to the left of the photo.  The forest was fairly empty of people and very quiet.  There was a stream running all sorts of directions through the trails and it was nice to just go do something!

Yesterday I finally broke down and bought new curtains for my living room.  I took the old ones down this summer and washed them during my maniacal cleaning this summer, but never got them back up.  Being summer and our bedrooms being upstairs...and the curtains of the decorative, not privacy, variety...I wasn't in a big hurry to get them back up.  But I decided to replace them with some that provide a bit more privacy and hopefully, this winter, will also help keep the large room a little less drafty!

I baked some this week, too.  I made pumpkin-cream cheese "muffins" that were okay, but not noteable enough to share the recipe.  I took the majority of them to work (it made two dozen!) and they went fast, but I think free food is a big draw, even if it's not particularly great.

And finally, a bit of bad news.  My brother-in-law was admitted to the hospital yesterday.  He has really bad pneumonia.  He has tested negative for covid, but is exhibiting a lot of symptoms.  And I know, because I'm a nerd who listens to sciencey podcasts, that sometimes the test can be wrong.  And sometimes everything looks like covid to everyone and the person still tests negative.  He will likely be transported from the small hospital here in my town (he lives about 20 minutes away) to a much bigger hospital a bit north of us, but that means his level of care will improve.  But we are all worried, so any good thoughts you'd like to send his way would be much appreciated.

And with that, the hubby has just pulled brats off the grill, so it is time to go pig out!

Happy quilting!

PS The hubby and I have not had any contact with the brother-in-law, or any of his family in fact, for two weeks or more.  Even the outside cookout that they held a week (or was it two?) ago.  We knew there had been a bug hitting his sister's family and were wary and stayed away.  It seems that may have been passed to her brother, or perhaps he acquired something on his own.  But with the hubby and I both being essential workers and having employers on high alert to ANY illness, we opted to stay home from the cookout, even if the kids who had been sick earlier in the week seemed to be doing better by then.  As hard as it is to stay away from family, right now I am glad we acted hard-hearted and stayed home that night or we might be home, isolating and waiting and worrying even more than we already are, right now.

Monday, October 5, 2020

bear paw finish and more

 Last week I teased you with longarming and binding my bear paw quilt.  I did get the binding hand-sewn down shortly after and ran out for a photo...I think it may have been the following day, on account of rain.  I can't remember.  It's been a long week!

But for the sake of a finish, let's take a look at the whole journey of this quilt, shall we?

Way back in late May, my friend Colette and I decided we would make this quilt together.  I had seen a photo on Instagram that inspired me and chased it down to a tutorial from Missouri Star Quilt Company.  Jenny used a jelly roll.  We used scraps.

We decided to set ourselves a goal of October to finish.  We both got off to a roaring start - she got ahead of me on making quarter blocks, but I caught up when putting the quarter blocks together and we finished within a week of each other.  Last week!

It was fun to revisit my scraps, choosing smaller pieces that normally might be left behind.

I raided my stash of 2.5" squares, too.  It had been much depleted, but there were a fair number of lighter fabrics that worked nicely for the backgrounds.  And reduced that stash even further beyond my Hands2Help 900-piece monstrosity earlier in the year.

Blue proved a bit of a challenge, but I decided to do half blue and half turquoise.  I have a LOT of turquoise and not much blue, but I knew the effort to include the truer blues would give my quilt more personality.

And obviously, Photo-Bomb-Gabby helped.  Or at least that is what she wants you to believe.  Mostly she just showed up for the photos that were not of her.

Some days digging into the stash and deciding was a daunting task.  More often than not, though, it was the getting started part that was hardest.  Once I got going, it was fun!

Some colors provided more variety than others and it became obvious where my stash has some issues.  But this is a scrap quilt, so it's all okay! And it provided me an opportunity to use up some smaller pieces of fabrics I wasn't sure what to do with any more!

Finally I had all the block quarters made, but there they sat.  Laying it out was another large task, as would be getting it together.  Each quarter block becomes a whole block, which then becomes part of the quilt, but sashings...  I struggled in my head for a while before hitting on a method that seemed like it should work to lay out the quilt, then stack the blocks and sew them together upstairs.

So, to the design floor!

I labelled carefully and started sewing.

But then realized my labels were great for horizontal rows, but now it was the vertical rows that were going to be the joining seams.  

I layed them out as they became rows and carefully relabelled things and sewed them again.  As you might remember from a previous post, this was not without error, but it took even me a few seconds of looking (and knowing what I was looking for) in the finished quilt, so I am no longer worrying about it!

Eventually, all the LOOOONG seams were completed and I had a top!

At this point, I was way ahead of Colette - she had something on her design wall that was taking its time becoming one piece, but she is a speed demon when she wants to be and I knew it wouldn't be long before she caught up!

I was in love with this quilt even more than I was before I started it.

But I stalled out here.  I needed a back and went to my local quilt shop and bought some yardage from the sale room.  But it wasn't "the" fabric.

Last week, I decided I needed to just quilt it.  And happened to have a striped fabric I bought for another quilt back that was also not "it" for that quilt.  I felt it went well enough, being brighter colors, and went for it.  It was JUST big enough, which means it was meant to be, right?!

I had help loading the quilt...

...more with the back than the front, actually...

...but it had been a while since the longarm had gotten any attention, so it was a new toy again for derpy Finn.  (I love this cat to bits, but he is NOT the smartest one of the bunch!)

I struggled at this step, too, deciding HOW to quilt it.  I went through a number of options and ended up with one I liked and thought doable.  So, once the cats grew bored of my nonsense, I finished loading and started quilting.

The quilting went quickly, as I had chosen a fairly open design.  Now that the quilting is done, I'm not entirely happy with it.  I like a bit more dense quilting than this got, but there's not much to be done and the quilting, overall, is evenly dense/sparse, so it doesn't look terrible.  Just not quite "me."

On to binding!

I have a stash of leftover binding pieces - you know when you need juuuuust over 3 strips and have to cut a fourth, so you have 32 inches left?  Yeah.  I pieced together about 300 inches of those (needing about 280) and you can't hardly tell!  But I will keep working on that stash!

The machine-sewn side seemed to go fairly quickly this time.  Maybe because I wasn't as antsy to get to the hand-sewing and finished quilt part?  Or maybe I'm learning more patience in my "old" age?!

Then it was down to the couch for a marathon of Gilmore Girls and hand-sewing the binding to the back of the quilt.  I think I went through 4, maybe 5, episodes, and then it was done!

I can't remember if I went out that day or the next day or the day after that for a was rainy and overcast for a few days here.  But I will not complain.  We are headed headlong into fall here, and I am savoring every single warmer day, rainy or not, until the s-word appears on my ground and the furnace runs non-stop.

And there you have it!  I think it's about 72x72, but I can't remember for sure and I'm too lazy to go measure it.  Basically, it needs to be long enough for my 6-foot hubby to use comfortably and this works.

No close-ups of the quilting...sorry!  I forgot!  Some of the motifs are better executed than others.  I did not improve much as I went along, as you might expect.  I never do.  It seems about the third or fourth one is my best and every one after that is a variation of better or worse.  But I am not quilting to win awards, I am quilting to finish quilts.  If I learn a new motif or skill along the way, so be it.  And I rarely rip anything - that usually only happens when the tension goes wacky or I run out of bobbin thread and need to stop at a good point!

With this done and the other two tops from retreat in line to be quilted, I could start a new project!

I had a pile of narrow strips left from the quilt kit I purchased at the retreat in January... I decided to make something with them.  I had seen a Greek Key block recently and thought it would work. (My original plan was something like a Log Cabin, so this fits nicely!)

A test block yielded this.  But due to inefficient cutting, I didn't think I could make it any larger.  Then I looked more closely at what scraps I had.  (I also had some squarish, smallish pieces and could I piece a strip?  I could!)

A bit of piecing leftovers and careful cutting on the next set and I have two blocks!

I have 20 fabrics, so will have 10 blocks.  Which is a nice, odd (though not odd) number for a quilt.  I suppose one will get the boot and the other 9 will become a small quilt.  I have to finish cutting pieces (I started, but I worked Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, so time has been a little tight this week!), but will get to those soon enough today.  I'm excited to be using these scraps.  There will still be some left, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Meanwhile, Finn has declared himself produce inspector on grocery day...

Freddie has, in the past, helped unpack groceries, but with the virus and stores refusing to use the reusable bags, Freddie has found other things to do.  Apparently he doesn't much care for the plastic bags I am being forced to use.  Finn this week, hopped himself right up onto the kitchen counter and attacked the bag of apples.  Three times.  The tomatoes and bananas were safe, but there are also a couple of limes behind him that got a bit of attention.

I have no idea what is wrong with this cat, but he is an endless source of entertainment and is a good boy.  (He is not a picky eater, he always uses the litterbox, he gets along with everyone (human or feline), and is generally the happiest cat I have ever met, so I will take the goofy along with all the other goodness and count myself endlessly lucky to be his human.)

And with that, I need to get some lunch and head to the sewing room!

Happy quilting!

Monday, September 28, 2020

two tops and longarming!

It has been a productive week!  I got tops made from the blocks I finished during retreat AND I removed a quilt from the Rack of Shame!

First up, I decided to tackle the Bringing Home the Christmas Tree quilt.  Fewer pieces, larger setting pieces...easier, right?  So I dug in and cut the pieces.  Then decided that my sewing room floor might be large enough to get at least an idea of where everything should go.  Guess what?

It fit!  Just barely, but I was able to get everything in there without overlapping or folding or anything.  Next I added in the sashing/background pieces and got sewing.  The seams weren't all terribly long, but it did get bulky before I was finished.  No in-progress photos, but I was done early enough in the day (whatever day that was?) and ran outside for a clothesline photo!

Freddie would like me to be sure to mention that he helped.

He inspected rows as I completed them.  Someone needed to make sure my stitches were even and my seam allowances proper.  He took one for the team here, before deciding I was doing well enough and wandered off to take a well-earned nap.

Toby also participated some in the sewing room shenanigans...

...but he didn't stay there long.  Every noise is a new noise for him, still, so he is fairly alert most of the time.  He is settling in just fine, though.  He plays chasey-chasey with all the other cats and they have generally accepted him except at mealtimes, when he growls at anyone over food.  We're working on the food thing, but this is proving to be a bigger obstacle than being friendly.  There will ALWAYS be enough food, we just have to get him on the same page with us for that.

Anyways, not to be deterred, I decided the Nova Star blocks needed to be sewn together as well.  Riding on the high of finishing another quilt top, I kept the momentum and again decided my sewing room floor might be large enough for this next set of blocks... IS!

(Full disclosure: I might have been too lazy to vacuum the floor downstairs, and knowing my sewing room floor is less likely a cat wrestling ring, I knew it was less furry, so I decided to do this in that room.  Also, the hubby has been binge watching Game of Thrones downstairs, so he was kinda in the way...)

Before I used up all my floor space, I auditioned sashing fabrics from my stash.  I didn't have enough of the white I used as "background" for more than about two sashings, so I needed something different.  I tried a variety of shades of grey, settling on a fairly light one that I had plenty of and started cutting.

I also searched out the turquoise that was my guide for pulling colors, hoping I had enough of that for cornerstones.  I knew it wasn't a big chunk, but thought it appropriate.  And I had enough!

Of course, I only cut enough sashing pieces for one direction (math...ugh...), but since I had about two yards of the grey fabric, all was well and I got a break before having to sew the long seams!

I pushed myself, but had it done before (late) dinnertime!

Once again, I ran outside in dwindling daylight for a photo shoot.  Thankfully, we had calm weather days and it was quick and easy!

I have no idea how I will quilt either of these, but they are out of project boxes and have been added to the sagging Rack of Shame.

After a few grueling shifts at work (okay, only one was that bad, but it wasn't THAT bad...just busy and trying to tackle a lot of things at once), I have a few days off and decided that I needed to longarm something.  Since Colette had recently finished her bear paw quilt, and we challenged each other to make this quilt, we set a goal of finished by October.  We both had a running start, but petered out midway through.  She longarmed hers during retreat last weekend, so I needed to get going, right?

A quick search through some larger pieces in my stash yielded a piece JUST big enough for this quilt and I was ready to roll.

After a LONG stretch of procrastinating about HOW to quilt it.  I wanted to do something more custom, but not go crazy.  Swirls are my go-to, but I'm trying to branch out.  And I finally found a video on YouTube that had a motif I felt I could tackle that I also liked!  Once I get that far, it gets a lot easier to load and get started quilting.

Well, easier to motivate myself.  The actual effort...

Obviously, I had "help."

Being a big oaf of a cat, he made a big dent in that backing when he flopped on it, but I misted it with water and rolled it back around the takeup roller and let it sit a bit while I wound bobbins and such and it shrunk back up okay.  But what a little stinker!  (He is so cute and sweet, though, you just pick him up and give him kisses and tell him you love him!)

Anyways, I finally got the quilt loaded and Finn found something else to play with.  Or took a nap.

I decided to do straight-ish, parallel lines in the larger sashings, which meant I would have to remove and rotate the quilt (a first for me, believe it or not!), but that was okay.  It stabilized the quilt nicely while I quilted each block.

And then I got to the fourth block.


No way am I going to be able to fix that now.  So I just told myself "I'll remember how to do that motif without the points to guide me."

I was wrong.

This block is all sorts of a disaster.

But I left it.

Moving on.

(But not without making sure there were no others that COULD be fixed without ripping out everything I had already done!)

It will be fine.  No one is going to notice, right?  And if they do, they'd better keep their mouths shut because I just might throw a shoe at them!

So the quilting went quickly.  Rotating the quilt was a bit of a task, particularly considering my backing wasn't as over-large as it could have been, but I got it done without having to sew on any leaders or make any special compensations.  Yay!

All along, I had planned to use up leftover binding, so that "measurement" started this morning.

I get out a calculator, pull out a binding scrap, measure it, add that number to the running total on the calculator, and stop adding to the pile when I'm a bit over my calculated need.  You wouldn't notice I even removed about 300 inches of  binding from the pile, but it IS gone.

I then sewed these together, being mindful to keep them random as much as I could.  And then sewed them to the quilt top!

And now I have the task of hand-sewing.  But the timing is good, as our fall weather seems to be setting in for real.

And with that, I'm off to lunch with my parents - who just pulled down my driveway!

Happy quilting!