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 longarm...my 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.