Monday, February 19, 2018

Another Finish!

Appropo of nothing, this is post number 526.  In case you were counting... lol!

Yesterday after church and a short nap on the couch, I went down to the sewing room.  Having spent Saturday morning with the Quilty Ladies at church, I was inspired to do some actual work, plus I had a bag that contained three backs that need to be pieced to make them larger.

I didn't do that, but I did pull out two things from the pile of UFOs that threatens to topple over when a strong breeze is created.

I had a small quilt layered and ready for quilting.  I have said I do not enjoy the quilting process enough that everyone's probably tired of hearing it.  My friend Suzi quilts so much and so well, and I admire her talent so much... and I know I will never in a gazillion years be half as good as she is at it.  But I do want to get over the aversion enough to do my own small projects.

Suzi suggested thinking in terms of small zones - that is, quilting a block at a time, or a column or area.  I seem to be better at swirls than at stippling, and there's only so much you can do with stitching straight lines.  So I decided that this little quilt was just the thing to start on.

Thinking in terms of small areas made it less intimidating.  I quilted each block with swirls, with white thread in the top and blue in the bottom.  I tried to fill each block before going into the next block, but I did let the swirls overlap the seams.

Some areas are better than others.  One thing I could not do was find a pair of quilting gloves.  I improvised with rubber fingers but it's just not the same.  My elbow hurts a little today from not gripping right.  I'm sure I'll find the two pair I have just as soon as I buy a new pair.

My swirls are not even or smooth.  Sometimes I just made waves to get back to where I wanted to be.  It was a learning experience.  I am improving.  Practice, practice, practice!

After I had done all the blocks I switched over to blue thread in the top to quilt the border.  I had a spool of King Tut from Superior Threads.  It's supposed to be relatively lintless, and I did not find a ball of fuzz on the shank like I had with the white spool.  I think the white was Gutterman.  The spool was empty and I tossed it, and the trash is already gone today.  (Yes, he IS that OCD...)

So one more finish!  I made aqua binding and finished it after dinner. 

The other finish was a top that had been waiting for its outside border for a while.  That one will go to the church quilt group next month to be added to their pile.

Now that I've reestablished my sense of accomplishment, I'll go back to piecing quilt backs.  

Sew on!!

Friday, February 16, 2018

TGIF! And A Finish

I love Fridays.  I only work half a day for one thing.  Another reason is Friday Night Sewing at my aunt's house.  The only time that's not a joy is if the weather is really cold, and I have to come home via a cold walk to the street to get into my cold car.  Which eventually warms up, but in the meantime -- brrrr!

We usually all wear red on Fridays in honor of The Troops.  We have family who have served or are serving in the military, and we thank them for their service.

This week in keeping with the weekday themes people seem to be doing of matching a word to the first letter of the day, I'm posting a Friday Finish. 

I'm following up on my resolution and I hope it can be fun!

I'm talking about my green lace sweater. I feel like I've knit the equivalent of two sweaters due to my inability to follow the very simple lace pattern... LOL!  When I finally set stitch markers every two lace patterns I thought I'd solved it, but even that didn't help.  I'm hopeless.

It's finally complete.  Sleeve progress was just as slow as the rest of it.  I knit the first sleeve twice, and had to completely rip it back at the point where it was about 4 inches long.  Each inch is five rows, each column of the lace pattern is seven stitches and there are 10 of them.  That's 1,400 stitches.  Then I had to pull out two rows, un-knitting each stitch so I didn't lose the yarn overs.  Oh don't tell me I don't know how to have fun!

Once the first sleeve was done, the second had to match.  Duh.  I tried counting the patterns and thought I had it just exactly right, then I knit the cuff and bound off, only to find that the first sleeve was about 3/4 of an inch longer.


This is the original sleeve cuff design.  I changed it, see below.

I have no idea why the Inspector hadn't told me that while it was happening.

She kept her advice to herself...

Once it was done, and I had tried it on, I decided that the garter stitch cuffs were too bulky and made me look like the Michelin Man.  That was 2 inches of cuff, so approximately 700 stitches.  Each.

Off the came, and I knitted a small ribbed cuff instead.  Now it just needs a good soak and blocking. 

Finished is better than perfect, right?
I skipped the buttonholes because I want to use one of those scarf fasteners instead of buttons.  I hope the sleeves are not too bulky when I actually wear it.  They are not going to fit inside of most of my coats, but it will make a nice spring/fall jacket alternative.

Too bad it's not red...

If you're interested in the pattern, it's February Lady Sweater and it's free on

And thanks to a few blogs I read including Patchwork Times by Judy Laquidara in Texas, I have some 'replacement' yarn coming via UPS some time next week.  She would have to remind me that Eat-Sleep-Knit dot com was having a sale.  The rest is history.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Knit on...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Quilt Guild This Week - The Topic Was Rulers

At our local Quilt Guild this week, one of our members gave a demonstration of projects she made with the specialty rulers and templates that she had in her collection.  You know, the drawer or box or pile everyone has of those notions that seemed so vital when we bought them... we all have them.

Linda did a super job of showing us how (and in some cases how not) to use more than a dozen rulers and templates for actual projects.  I lost count as to how many there were in total.  Some she said she loved, some not so much, but I have to say she did a beautiful job on the projects!

I own this ruler and I do use it.
One we probably all have is a Flying Goose (or Geese) template/ruler.  I have at least two of them.  The one I have does only two sizes.  Linda had that one plus another that does maybe 8 sizes. 

There were a couple of things she showed that I would never have imagined, like a quilt block made from a 2.5 inch strip using the tool you use to trim your binding ends.  The arrangement of the blocks makes it look like ribbons running down the quilt.
Image may not be the exact
one she used but this is
the right shape.
That made me think about my own personal pile of rulers and templates.  I hate to admit it but it's bigger than a bread box!

I've got a whole bunch of the Marti Michel templates that at first I thought were kind of an affectation... I avoided templates for years and years.  Then I saw Marti at Sewing Weekend giving a lecture about how quilting has evolved over the years.  She demonstrated some of the ways the templates actually save time in sewing by giving you accurate cuts.  Gotta love that. 
Linda showed us a runner she made
using a half hexie template.

Some of the templates I have get lots of use, and some of them, well, not so much.  I have a big hexagon that makes either full or half hexes.  I really need to get that one out for my next 'new' project.  I want to make one of the runners she showed us. 

But I do like the log cabin rulers.

Yes, there is a ruler for log cabin blocks, and yes, it does save time when you use it!

One of the things that always annoyed me about log cabin blocks was squaring them up.  And if you don't square every round, pretty soon your blocks get wavy on the outside edges and pretty soon you can have a bowl instead.
So if you do as Marti demonstrates, and cut all the pieces ahead of time, you can cut exactly the right sizes, match the ends, assembly line sew, and get accurate, flat blocks every time.  AND if you do as Marti recommended during her lecture and cut your strips lengthwise instead of across the grain, they'll be even more stable.

You know the problem when your borders expand as you sew them on?  The way the quilt police always teach has you measure the length of your quilt and cut the borders that size, then fit the quilt top to the borders.  When you're done, they are the same size and your quilt is square.

These rulers are on the same principle.  Then there's two on each ruler that, if you cut one side from the wider side and one from the narrower, you get a fat and skinny LC that makes your quilt block look curved while you sewed only straight lines.  I need to get one of those going.

Oh oh... two UFO finishes just lined up!*

One of the better things I've done with my rulers and templates is to put grippers on the backs so they don't slip when you use them with a rotary cutter.  I like these little TrueGrips.  I also like the film you can use on the back of the entire ruler.
I store my templates in a drawer along with my smaller rulers.  My big rulers go on the table or on the wall in one of these wooden slatted holders.  The medium rulers go on the wall to the left of my sewing machine and the big or long rulers go on the table at my cutting station.

I have been drooling over this shelf unit.  I'll have to hint when my birthday gets closer.

Linda summed up her presentation by saying the job is easier with the right tools and I agree.  And you cannot have too many tools.  I hear women say all the time 'I don't need another ruler'.  But you never, ever, ever hear a man say 'I don't need another screwdriver (drill, hammer, fishing lure, socket wrench, etc)'.  Trust me on this.

Sew on...
 *New Years resolution, finish one UFO for every new project started.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bed Runner Project

My helper, the Inspector...
Project number two on the UFO list is a bed runner for my master bedroom.  I started it several years ago and it got set aside.  Mostly it's pieces of things left over from other red and white projects, but there are some intentionally created blocks that didn't tell me what they wanted to be, just that they needed to exist.

One section is some of the nine-patches that I love to make with little left over chunks of fabric cut into two inch squares.  You can do so much with nine patch units.  And they're restful and relaxing to sew.

The middle section is appliqued hearts.  They are very small hearts, so I didn't sew them down, I just stuck them on with Wonder Under and quilted them on the background.  They're alternated with four patch blocks made with 2.5 inch strips.  The bottom row is pinwheels and squares.

The runner had to be wide enough to hang over the sides of the mattress, so I filled it out with pieces of a pretty red on red print.  The back is a yard of Kaffe Fasset print that I got as a part of the drawing I won at Quiltagious in Mukwonago.

And I QUILTED it!!  Under the theory of 'finished is better than perfect', I did some echo quilting inside the seam lines of the four- and nine-patches, I X-d the solid blocks, and quilted around the outside of the hearts.  Then, getting comfortable with the sewing machine and a little wild and crazy, I put figure 8s in one of the borders.

I sewed on the binding, and now just have to stitch down the last four inches of binding to be DONE!


And back.
The runner ended up at 72 inches by 26 inches.  Just right to keep your feet warm on a cold Wisconsin winter night.

Two down... and I'm not saying how many to go.  LOL!

Sew on...

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The "New" Sewing Machine

What kind of sewing machine do you have?
I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that.  Do you get that too?  One of your friends is in search of a first machine, or a new machine, or a fifth machine... I know, right?
I have seven sewing machines and a serger now.  My big machine and my serger both happen to be Vikings** (see update in my list below), but I also have a Babylock, two Brothers, a Janome and two singers.  I'm not a devotee of any one brand, each one was purchased for a reason except the one I won at Nancy's Notions Sewing Weekend.  That one was FREE and a super big thrill to win.

Everyone has an opinion about which machine is best.  They swear that only Pfaff/Janome/Babylock/ Singer/Elna will do and some won't sew on anything else.  My first machine was a White, bought second hand at the hardware store when I was in high school.  I paid $65 for it and it came in a cabinet.  It was a trade-in from a lady who bought a top of the line Something-or-Other machine.  It was my lucky day!
I sewed a lot on that machine.  I made myself a spring coat once.  I made buttonholes with a big bulky attachment with cams for goodness sake, and then I went and bought buttons to fit the holes!  The machine was my bestie until after I was married and my DH bought me a brand new White for Christmas.
My main machine for the past 15+ years has been a Viking Quilt Designer.  I know that because it was two house moves ago.  I got it because I wanted some of the newer (at the time) features.  I got a floor model at a good price.  I sew nearly every week and I got my money's worth!
For the past couple of months, she's had issues.  At first the reverse button had to be pushed really hard, then it decided not to work at all.  Backtacking is just second nature, right?  Well when it decided not to work I was irritated.  But I lived with it.
When you buy a machine, you buy a dealer too.  Unless you pick up your machine at some big box store where they're just a delivery agent, you get the dealer with the deal, so to speak.  I look for where I'm going to get service, and shop there.  Buy fabric anywhere and it's the same fabric, but in my humble opinion for a machine, you need a good dealer.
I boxed up the naughty girl and dragged her over to see Dr. Brad at what used to be Frank's Sewing Center.  (Can't get used to the new name...)  He's cleaned her and repaired her more than once.  I'd trust him with my entire stable of machines any time.
When I explained what happened he said that Viking is no longer shipping him parts.  You can google that whole merger/purchase thing and read up if you want to know the whole story.  Bottom line, the only dealership in the area is the big chain store, and to fix it they would ship it somewhere and that would cost a nice chunk of change to replace a $30 part.
Soooo... I asked what kind of trade in value it had.  Well, probably you can guess that -- it doesn't sew in reverse so not a lot. However, everything else works and I like it.  Brad said "hey, come with me"... and we walked over to the corner, where on the floor was a Viking Quilt Designer II with a bag of accessories and a box.
This was a trade in (I seem to like those, remember?) and the price was unbelievably low!  Three little figures... We talked.  The machine is one step up from what I have, a little bit newer, and it sews backwards!!  Plus all the accessories, like cards for additional stitches, at least a dozen presser feet, an extension table...
You know what I did, right?  I did not even think about it.

The old one came home with me too... my own personal parts department!  (Worthless as a trade so I'll just keep it.  Hey - it still sews forward, right?)
I guess it was my lucky day. 
You may be asking why a person would need all those machines.  Well here's my logic, but you can ask anyone who's got multiple sewing machines and they'll all have their own answer.
  • Machine 1 is a Singer Treadle machine.  It's a nice piece of history, and furniture.  In the event of the Zombie Apocalypse I'll still be able to sew, even if there's no electricity.
  • Machine 2 is a Singer 1959 antique in a blond cabinet that I inherited.  I keep her for sentimental reasons.
  • Machine 3 is the Babylock I won.  It's a small machine, easily transported to classes and light weight.  And I won it... that's the best part!  It's a sweet machine for sure, though.
  • Machine 4 is my Brother embroidery machine.  It's also a sewing machine but since that is not its main use, I just leave it set up for embroidery all the time.
  • Machine 5 is a Janome AGS 25th Anniversary edition JEM.  At 12 pounds it is also easily transported, but with only 12 stitches and no adjustments to speak of, it has limited uses.
  • Machine 6 is a $10 Goodwill find.  It's also a Brother, also a small light weight machine with limited stitches, a step up from the Janome.  It comes in handy at church guild for ladies who don't want to carry their big machine.
  • So that brings us to Machines 7 and 8, the Viking sisters.  They'll be the workhorses... doing buttonholes, it's the best foot in the business in my opinion.  Want 75 different embroidery stitches?  I have a dozen cards to choose from.  Memorize some text for making labels?  They do it.  I'll use them both until they fall apart for good.
  • **UPDATE:  After looking at my serger, I realized that it's a Babylock Imagine.  I haven't used it in a while.  I HAD a Viking 700 but when I bought the BL I passed the 700 to my sister-in-law.  I'm blaming a senior moment for forgetting.
See, not excessive at all.. although if I could get my hands on a Singer Featherweight -- oh well, that's a whole other story.  So if I ever do buy a brand new machine, it's a synch that I'll be talking to Brad before I go anywhere else.
It's the dealer, remember?
Sew on...

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Valentine's Day Sewing Sisters Challenge

A couple of weeks ago at my Friday Sewing Night gathering at my aunt's house, Auntie brought out a bag of muslin squares embroidered with big red hears.  She wasn't sure where they came from, she thought maybe from her sister had given them to her.

The squares were sewn in rows of five or ten blocks.  After discussing what we could do it was decided to cut them apart and share them between my aunt and us cousins.  Each one of us would get four and make a table runner or topper, depending upon what kind of table we have.

My aunt had some red yardage as did one of my cousins.  Another cousin was designated to cut the strips from the yardage while the rest of us un-sewed the rows.  Some of the seam rippers were better than others... so there was a discussion about un-sewing.  Our recommendation:  buy a GOOD seam ripper!! 

I calculated how much of each border fabric the squares would require, and we were all sent home with a kit.

I missed the next week's sewing night but I did work on my runner.  For holiday stuff, if you procrastinate, sometimes you've missed the holiday and it's hard to re-motivate.

My table is a big rectangle, and I like a long narrow runner down the center.  But when I calculated the amount of border fabric I was figuring on a square, so I was about 25 inches short.

I got the first border on and realized what I had done, so I only sewed the borders on three of the four sides.  Last Friday I went back and showed my incomplete project.  Lucky me, there was a big piece of the inner border left, and all I needed was one two inch strip.  My aunt had her block of four sewn together and was ready to layer it and finish.  One cousin had dropped part of her kit in the drive the previous week and had to be reunited with it, and the other two hadn't started yet.

Saturday brought snow and wind back to us, the perfect weather to stay in and sew.  Plus I had picked up a new sewing machine on Friday and I wanted to give it a test run.  The sewing machine post is for another day.  Let me just say, it was a total score!!

My aunt had suggested that we do a fancy embroidery stitch around the heart.  She had done that and it was really cute.  It was a rather plain block before that, and the hearts were kind of rustic-looking.  I agreed, so I added some fancy stitches through the quilt sandwich to serve double duty - embellishment and quilting all at once.
I did some free motion quilting in the borders but decided that my quilting is not good enough for the sections of solid fabric.  Combine a new machine with my inability to warm up to FMQ and all that negative space made me shudder to think of the mess I could have made.  So I quit while I was ahead.

While doing the fancy stitches around the hearts was fun, it was a little stressful too.  For example, doing this design taught me two things:  designs can be directional so this one might have been improved by going around so the scallop framed the heart; and drag matters.  See how the design elongated at the point of the heart?  I should have been making sure it was all supported, because it changed size and messed up the spacing.
Sorry for the fuzziness... but see how
the design got stretched?  There was
drag on the quilt that pulled it through
the needle too fast.
I'm sure that if I had been doing that design with a regular presser foot, that would not have happened, but I had the walking foot on the machine, so there was opportunity for the quilt sandwich to slide through too quickly and stretch the design.  Oh well, I was not taking it out.  No. Way.

I bound it with some bias binding that has been in my stash for a long time, and now sits on my kitchen table just waiting for the big day!

Regarding the FMQ, I think if I do another piece, I'll experiment with marking the quilting and see whether I enjoy that.

If not, I have a checkbook!

Sew on...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Finishing Things!

Yesterday was the last day of January, and I can mark a few things on my list of Finished Items for 2018.

I've had a slightly battered pillow form sitting on my pile for about two years, just waiting for a cover.  My living room is blue and tan, my bedroom is blue and tan, my den is green and tan... noticing a pattern here.  I like splashes of bright color against my sort of neutral backgrounds.  So I was straightening up and came across a lovely piece of leftover quilted fabric that I had kind of earmarked for a doll project.

The last time I sewed for dolls was about a year ago, so whatever idea I had has completely slipped my memory.  But I really like this fabric so I pulled the two UFOs together.  The rectangle of quilted fabric fit perfectly around the pillow with enough room for a seam allowance.  Three seams under the presser foot later and here we are... finish number one!

There is pink here, but the background is tan so it will work in the living room or the bedroom.

The newest start of the past 12 months was the table runner that my son requested.  Before Christmas it was done to the point of binding.  Last night I added the binding and called it a completion!  Finish number two.

The back is a little surprise, some blue and white Star Trek fabric that I picked up in North Carolina this past September.  The strips include barcode fabric, fishing lures and dog bones.  I hope his cat doesn't mind!

Last but not least I put some 6 inch borders on my Blue Brick Road (the pattern is Yellow Brick Road, the fabric is blue).  Now it's ready to be dropped off at the quilt shop so they can do the quilting on their long arm machine!

I took a picture of it before it had the borders but I have no idea which device I used and I didn't post it anywhere, but here's the pattern.

What I intend to complete in February is this red/black/white quilt that I started maybe four or five years ago... if not more.  My favorite aunt gifted me the center blocks and I added the border geese which made them into stars.  I just have to locate the bin they're in.

I surprised myself, two completions and a quilt going to the longarmer; it's a good start for 2018!

Sew on...