Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How to Bargello

Our quilt guild at church is always looking for easy patterns to do with the myriad of fabrics we own from our various sources.  Way back a million posts ago I blogged about a retreat I went on where we made a twisted bargello quilt or wall hanging.  I made a wall hanging, which is still not quilted.  The colors were wonderful, someone at the shop pulled together a kit of 20 fabrics based on my color choices of brown and teal.

My fabrics

Twisted Bargello, the top is finished
but that's as far as I got.
I have no problem kitting up patterns using strips that are brightly colored, but sometimes those browns and beiges throw me.  I always end up with a half full bin of things that just don't seem to "go" if you know what I mean.

I wanted an easy quilt but something more than a simple strip set, to challenge the skills of the new quilters without making life TOO difficult.  The aim is to encourage, not discourage.

I put together a small stack of things that I had in the drawer, where I had at least four strips of each fabric.  Here's my pallet.

Start with dark brown, through beige, to light with a blue
print, and end up with the teal/blue on the other end.

Then you make 'twosies' as they say on Fons and Porter... making sure you line up one end of the strip consistently.  The other end may or may not meet, but that doesn't matter.

Once you have all the strips you're using sewn into a set, you cut them apart across the sewn seams,  How big or small you cut them is up to you. 

If you want lots of movement, you cut them different sizes, anywhere from an inch wide to three inches wide for example, with increments of a half inch, and your strips can move from large to small to large to small to -- well, you get it.  That's what was done in my wall hanging.

If you want a very even spread, you cut them the same size as your original strips.  In my case that is what I chose.  It's a beginner's bargello, and I'm trying to make it simple and use it as a teaching tool - Bargello 101.
After the strips are cut (or before if you wish) you sew the two end strips together to make a tube.  Here the dark brown and the dark teal are joined.
Then on one strip, you open the seam between the pieces one strip away from the end color, in either direction.  On another strip, you open the seam two colors away, on another you open the seam three colors away, etc.  Do some in either direction.  A good tip is to number your colors, for example my number one is dark brown, number two is a swirly print that looks like melted chocolate, number three is argyle, number four is a small brown floral, etc.  Then lay them out as you cut them with the strips in numerical order, so those beginning with fabric 1 in the first stack, those beginning with fabric 2 in the second, and so on.
When you sew the strips together, you line up the strips in the order in which you cut them, so the color on the end is always the same as the color one block up (or down) on the strip next to it.  Or the strip ending in color 1 followed by the strip ending in color 2, followed by the strip ending in color 3...  you can start with any strip number, just go up or down from there.
On one end you can see my dark brown in the corner, then the swirly brown, then the argyle.
On the other end of the strip, the dark teal is in the corner, then the dk brown, then the swirly. 
At some point, you will reverse the order to create the peaks that are typical of bargello.

My goal for this kit was to use up strips cut from our existing fabric stash, some of which we don't have a large amount of, and make an attractive quilt at the same time.  We have lots of small floral calicos from the 80's and 90's.  Some of them can be used with patterns we have, but sometimes we have a lot of one print or another, and not a lot to coordinate.

I think we can do some interesting color progressions with this stash, don't you think?  They all look pretty piled up like that.  Why not have a bunch of them in the same quilt?

Wish me on!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The New Year and Resolutions?

Do you make New Years Resolutions?  I gave that up for Lent or something, a long time ago.  You resolve to eat healthier or do more exercise or whatever, and five minutes after you do, someone tempts you with a cookie or a snuggle on the couch.  Phewt!  Resolution broken!

On CBS Sunday Morning on January 1 they said most resolutions last until mid-February.  Such is human nature...

So far this year, I've spent a lot of time in my sewing room, moving things around mostly.  I did quilt some small things, and I blogged about those last week. 

This past Saturday we attempted to put together one of Miss A's Christmas gifts... it has a gazillion small pieces and none of our fingers were the right size to hold them.  She's helping Gramps hold the robot head steady while he works with the wrenches that came in the kit. 

And I'm making a friend some sofa pillow covers.  Two down, two to go.  I made the cording to go around the edges because I like that look, and because these two pillows were made with a soft fabric of either acetate blend or some type of rayon, which will hold up better with the seams corded.  The other two are upholstery fabric and should be sturdier.

I'm not resolving to do much of anything, but I am trying to finish some of the things I started.  So far I've only finished the three doll quilts, but I'm claiming one victory in 2017!

Wish me luck!

Sew on...

Friday, January 6, 2017

More Friday Sewing...

We took two weeks off for the holidays.  Since my aunty saw the quilts I did while she was gone, she vowed to stay home for a while and make me finish up her diamonds!  We shall see whether she keeps her promise or if I get to finish more of my own UFOs.  LOL!!

Sometimes the most complicated patterns are nothing more than small chunks of simple things, combined in a way that fools the eye.

So it went with the combination snail's trail/storm at sea quilts my aunt and cousins are making.

The snail's trail block starts with a small four patch, which turns into an extended square in a square.

We are going from here...
The storm at sea pieces are diamonds that finish about 4 inches by 8 inches if my memory is correct.  Neither cousin nor aunt enjoyed making those diamonds but I think it was due to the cutting instructions.  In order to conserve fabric (batiks are expensive!) the directions said to cut a rectangle of a certain size into two long triangles (scalene if I remember right from geometry class).  Then you put them on all four sides of the diamond.

But if they're too small, or your seam is slightly larger than 1/4 inch, you get into trouble!  Ask me how I know this.

I sewed a lot of diamond block, and sadly rejected a lot of the too small triangles.  Because, you know, it COULDN'T be my seam allowance, I was using the dang 1/4 inch foot!

See, mostly simple blocks, put together into something spectacular.   Here's Amy's finished top:

Where we're trying to go...
Sew on...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Coincidence or Blessing?

I saw this somewhere, not sure if it was Pinterest or somewhere else, but I thought I would share it...

Coincidence Is God's Way of Remaining Anonymous -- Albert Einstein

I'm not sure I agree.  I think it's more like we choose to see God in our lives or we don't. 

Recently Suzi and I were discussing the things we're trying to do at our church quilt guild with our very limited budget.  It's hard to stretch a few hundred dollars into the needs we find for our finished quilts.  People will continue to go into hospitals and nursing homes, we will continue to have more babies in the congregation (thank God for that!), and more comfort is needed all around.
We found sources for the rolled batting we like, but our budget only covers about one and a half rolls per year.  We usually use three or more.  We try to find free shipping, sales, and do everything we can to economize.  We were wondering how we were going to buy another roll before the next fiscal year comes.

The next thing we knew, someone gave a monetary donation dedicated toward the quilt ministry!  It's happened a few times, and often it's from a completely unexpected source.

Our private joke is that it's Loaves and Fishes.  You know the story to which I'm referring, don't you?  In the Bible, Jesus is preaching to a huge crowd, around 5000 men plus all the accompanying women and children.  They don't leave, and it's time to eat.  You can read it for yourself in Matthew Chapter 14 or in John Chapter 6.  Five loaves of bread and two fish feed everyone and the leftovers fill many baskets.

If you read crime novels or watch CSI type shows, you know that most law enforcement types don't believe in coincidence either.  It's never a coincidence when they find the victim's blood in the back seat of someone's car... or that two guys just happened to hate each other and one guy disappears.

Years ago, more than I will admit to -- I had a temporary job downtown.  The kids were in elementary school, and went to a neighbor's house after school each day until my DH got home.  It was easy work but it got difficult mentally and emotionally.  I needed to work to make ends meet, but I couldn't stay at that place any longer.  I took a week off during Easter break because the kids were home, glad of the time off, dreading having to go back.

That week I saw an ad in the local paper for a receptionist at a business less than two miles from my house.  I interviewed for it and at the end of the week I had a full time job that allowed me to go home for lunch or emergencies.  It eliminated two hours of commuting time.  I stayed there for seven years, very happily.

Coincidence?  Maybe not.

A couple of years ago, I was driving downtown to my current job.  I was on the busy freeway in the middle of a morning rush hour.  I was in the left lane, facing the southbound traffic across concrete dividers.  I was humming Amazing Grace... I think we had sung it in church the day before. 

About 45-50 feet up and maybe 500 yards ahead I saw what might have been a huge bird flying through the air.  On second glance it was no bird.  It was the wheel and tire from a car or small truck!  And it looked like it was headed in my direction...

Imagine this flying at you!
Queue shark music from Jaws!!

In rush hour there is normally be no slowing down, and if you do slow down, there is no shortage of people zipping around to fill the gap, plus horn blowing and maybe finger waving.  You know which finger.

That morning, everyone slowed almost as one vehicle.  Nobody flew around the left or the right.  The tire hit the lane I was in, about ten feet from my front bumper.  By then we'd come to a complete stop.  If that tire bounced again though, it looked like it would hit my windshield.

I held my breath and prayed hard and fast.  And then -- da da daaahhh! Instead of bouncing up to hit anyone, the tire stopped, wobbled and very gently fell to the left, into the hazard lane and out of traffic.

The guy to the right of me and I looked at each other and grinned, relief evident in both our faces.  Thank God it didn't hit anyone!  Or thank God that when that tire flew off, it didn't bounce anywhere?  Was I thinking about God at the moment I needed Him, or was He was thinking about me?  You can decide for yourself.  I know what I believe.  There's no such thing as coincidence.

Keep calm and carry on...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pet Peeves and Sewing Machines

Some friends and I were talking recently about pet peeves.  Do you have any?

I really do not like hearing people use bad grammar, or using words incorrectly.   I will admit that I don't always use the proper English or American grammar all the time but some things are like nails on the chalk board.

My least favorite usage error is when someone writes or says "please call Jim or myself..."  Mrs. Wright, my teacher in fourth grade always said take out the other person and see if it makes sense.  So take out Jim and you get "please call myself".

BZZZZ!  No!!  Only I can call myself -- names, or on the phone, whatever, it makes no sense.

Acronyms are another pet peeve of mine.  How many things can WRA stand for these days?  Well, there's the Water Reclamation Association,  Washington Radiology Association, Weapons of Removal and Abatement (I kid you not!), and on and on.   Go ahead, Google "WRA" and see for yourself.

Last on today's list is the Featherweight Sewing Machine.  It seems like everyone wants to get on the Featherweight bandwagon, so much so that you cannot buy a decent machine for under  $200 unless you're prepared to do a lot of restoration and/or repair.  Check out eBay or Google Featherweight.  many listings are as much as $500!
A machine like this is on eBay for $475

Granted they are nice machines for taking to class, they're small and light (thus the name).  But seriously, any other small machine should serve the purpose, right?  I have a Janome Jem that weighs 12 pounds and it works very well for classes.

So here's the peeve part:  There are people in blog-land who brag about how many Featherweight machines they own.  People will buy them in apparent bunches.  They buy one made in the year they were born, in the year their mother/father/sister/aunt/grandmother was born, one in black with decals, one in black with no decals, one in green, white or pink and one that works with a hand crank.

Pink FW

Basic black

Blue - did someone paint it?


Why do they need so many Featherweights*?  In my experience you can only sew on one at a time.  And if so many people are buying up two or six or twelve machines, what's left for the rest of us to buy?

<Sigh>  Whoever said life was fair? 

*Disclaimer, I do own more than one sewing machine, but they are all different. I have my main machine, a serger, an embroidery machine, the aforementioned Jem, and a treadle machine that was my husband's grandmother's first and only machine, and a small Babylock that technically belongs to my oldest Grand but it lives at my house.  When she's sewing, my youngest Grand calls the Jem "hers".  I'm good with that!

Sew on...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I Quilted!! But Not in A Big Way...

Yes, me, I did it! 

Well, before I get too carried away, I want you to know that I did it in a very small way.

Unlike my friend Suzi who can quilt a queen sized quilt before you can say it, I am definitely not that fast.  Or that good.

I started small... note the American Girl doll under this quilt.  It ended up as 18 inches by 24 inches.  I just did swirls back and forth.  I decided that this is the type of quilting I do best.  Relaxed, no pattern, just go with the flow.

This was quilt number two.  Also doll sized, maybe 20 inches square.  I made a small pillow of batting scraps, and made an equally small pillow case.  I did a kind of geometric pattern, tried to follow the lines in the striped fabric, but my corners kept getting rounder and rounder as I went.

I take NO credit for this one, it was a piece of already-quilted fabric, left over from another project.  However, I did make a matching pillow case.

And this last one was my very lame attempt at making feathers.   I decided that I need to mark those if I should ever do them again.  It's 16 inches by 18 inches.  I did a mangled version of a flower in the square blocks, then did a figure eight in the last border.  Both were more successful than my feathers.

I have to say that quilting with gloves works better than with bare hands, although my hands still ached after I was finished.  Maybe I'm still tensing up and gripping things too tightly.  I also need to consider clearing my table off before doing anything larger, and getting one of those extended tables for my machine.

After these were all finished, I needed a hot wax hand treatment and some pain relieving lotion.

On New Year's Eve day, Suzi and I went to our two favorite quilt shops and I bought some new gloves.  The ones I had only had grippies on the fingers, the new ones have gripper palms AND fingers.  Maybe things will go easier next time.

If I could just learn to relax at it maybe that would help too. 

I've got one larger quilt to finish for the Log Cabin Quilt Guild charity project, so I'm considering this my practice run(s).  Fingers crossed!  Ouch!  Or maybe not crossed so hard.

Happy New Year!  And sew on...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Winter Vacation

With the girls off of school for the week, DH needed a bit of a break so I anticipated that I'd be spending my week "off" being in charge of pretty much everything kid-related.

I was only partially correct.

Miss A decided we needed a schedule.  So on a daily basis she has made a list of all of the things we were going to do that day.  There is no room for deviation from the schedule!

On Monday 'we' planned everything from what to eat for lunch to what to do in the sewing room to what games we were going to play and in what order.  The only thing more rigid than her schedule is the schedule that Miss Kitty is on!  That includes a lot of loud meowing when you're not watching the clock!

We went to see Rudolph the Musical last night at the Todd Wehr Theater downtown.  That was very enjoyable and even the big sister thought so.  If you've seen Rudolph the Claymation Program on TV, you know the story and the characters.  With live actors it's very enjoyable.  The character of the "bumble" (abominable snowman) is part actor in costume and part puppet on long poles, so he can be of a size to work with the characters in person. 

You can just make out the person in a white costume holding up the bumble's left arm in the photo above.  There were a lot of those actors moving stage pieces around, and generally trying to be invisible.


The whole play takes about an hour and a half with intermission.  The theater only seats 500 so it is nice and intimate, you're close no matter where you sit.  We were far enough away to maintain the magic but close enough for a good look.

The only thing 'we' forgot to get on the schedule was Miss E's orthodontist appointment -- I looked at the calendar, saw the time and said yikes!!  We need to rearrange the day to get that squeezed in.  Which bent Miss A's timetable somewhat, but we survived.

Hermey wants to be a dentist, not an elf.
From Wikipedia:  Frederick "Todd" Wehr (April 14, 1889 -September 28, 1965) was an industrialist and philanthropist. He was co-founder of the Wehr Steel Company and founder of the Todd Wehr Foundation, Inc.  Wehr left the bulk of his estate to a trust set up for charitable religious, scientific and educational purposes. Many Wisconsin universities and cultural organizations have benefited from the Todd Wehr Foundation, including Marquette University.  Marquette has named its entire science complex after Wehr as well as a theater.
After the play ended we walked around downtown, looked at Christmas lights, and went to dinner at the Chinese restaurant I go to for lunch sometimes.

All in all, a good day.

Now for today's list...

Sew on!