Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Thankful Heart

Have you met Martha of Q is for Quilter?

I discovered her blog about a year ago and enjoy reading it regularly.  I learn so much when I do. Martha has a variety of creative interests.  She is interested in vintage quilts and fabrics.  She sometimes finds vintage quilts that need remade and shares the process.  She often scans and posts old quilt patterns, free for the printing and/or as pdf files.  She has a collection of old and vintage children's books and coloring books, some of which are perfect patterns for children's embroidery.  She scans those, too, and makes them available for our use.  And so much more!  All in all, Q is for Quilter is a delightful blog to visit.

Every month Martha makes an apron from vintage fabrics and offers it to one person who reads and comments on her blog regularly.  The aprons for June -- yes, there are two! -- look like this and are made from a vintage table cloth.  Oh, the creativity!


Aren't they beautiful?  They're even more fabulous in person.  I know because I was the lucky winner this month!

Her photo really doesn't do justice to the details in the full-length apron.  There is the perfectly-stitched green trim and those little triangles on the sides - that the photograph misses.  I tried to take some photos to share but the weather's been cloudy and they didn't come out clear enough to post.  You'll have to take my word for it that these are gorgeous aprons.

I hope you'll visit Q is for Quilter and take a look around.  And if you'd like to read a little more about Martha, go to Lori's post about her visit with Martha at Humble Quilts.

Thank you, Martha.  I am beyond pleased and grateful for your generous gift of these two beautiful aprons.

--Nancy.
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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Baptist Fans on Churn Dashes?

I thought Baptist Fan quilting would be perfect for this plaid churn dash quilt.  I always think of it as old-fashioned and comforting.  But now, with a few fans quilted, I'm not so sure.  Maybe outline quilting would be better....  I do this too often:  begin, hesitate, reconsider.  I'd be set if I could see the finished product before I had to make any decisions.  (Chuckling to myself at the idea....) 

It took me a while but I finally chose fabric for the back.  The little 1" squares are printed on the diagonal:  I like how the diagonals echo each other on the front and the back.  The colors in real life work well together, maybe not so much in the photos.

Scrappy backs appeal to my use-it-up sensibilities but when I think of hand quilting through more seams I reconsider and then try to find a larger piece to use for the back.  I impressed myself by successfully matching the print at the seam on the back.  It's easier with a small print than with a large print. 

I love the adorable little scallop border printed along the edge of the fabric.  (Click on the photo to enlarge if you want to see it in detail.)  Of course, it's an extra inch or so of unusable fabric -- at least if you want to use it for quilt backing and have it match the rest of the quilt.  On the other hand, it might be a great ruffle for a little granddaughter's dress....

Speaking of my granddaughter, she and her family were here for a week's visit in May.  I'm teaching both of those children early about sewing and quilting.

Here's Olivia sitting with me as we scrolled through my feedly reader.  She was a little unsettled several evenings so while her mom was helping her brother, I invited her to learn about quilting with me.  My daughter said she could see little Olivia's head moving up and down as she watched the images move down the page.  I'm sure it wasn't just the photos or sitting with me that helped calm her:  I asked Pandora to play some lullabies.  Come to think of it, she didn't really learn much about quilting that night because she fell asleep within a few minutes.  No matter, she'll have other quilting lessons the next time she visits.

Little Malachi, at nearly 2, was beyond interested in what I was doing at the sewing machine.  He couldn't get close enough to see what was going on from the ground so I lifted him into my lap to watch the process and help.  He wanted to know what everything was and how it worked.  I showed him the thread and how it was threaded through the tension mechanism down to the needle.  I showed him the presser foot and the lever and he helped me lift and lower it.  He helped me guide the fabric through the machine.  Then we wound some bobbins.  He was very taken with the light.  One thing I did not show him was the knee lever!  I have no trouble imagining his little hand pushing it to full speed sewing up a storm of knotted threads!  During the week they were here, if ever I sat at the sewing machine, he was right there to sit on my lap and watch or help.  Boys love machines, don't they?

It rained this afternoon -- one of those wonderful, steady, drenching rains.  It was so dark at 3 p.m. that we had to put the lights on to see. 


I'm linking this post to
--WOW at Esther's Blog
--W.i.P. Wednesday at Freshly Pieced
--Let's Bee Social #23 at Sew Fresh Quilts
Thank you, Esther, Lee, Lucy, and Lorna.

Wishing you joy!
--Nancy.
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Mother's Day Tribute


I'll be thinking about my mom and all of my foremothers today with a grateful heart:  without them I wouldn't be here!  If your mom's still alive I know she'd be thrilled with a phone call or a visit and a few words of gratitude.  My reflections of Mother's Day also lean to thoughts of being a mother and the gratitude I feel for that opportunity.  I feel especially blessed that one of my daughters surprised me with a visit home for a few days this weekend.

I hope you have a joyful Mother's Day.

--Nancy.
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

String Play

I've been having fun playing with strings this week.

Because I have a lot of red and light-colored strings I considered putting together a block like this.
But I wasn't pleased.  Something about the size of the strings or the size of the blocks or the proportions between the two.  Maybe uniform sized strings would be better.  And as much as I love finished two-color quilts, I get bored making them.  I set those pieces aside.  

I moved on to log cabin blocks by themselves.  Each one is about 5" square with the narrowest logs being 3/8" sewn.)
I really do love log cabin blocks but I think they are most effective when the strings are narrow.  (The blocks in this quilt on pinterest are 3 1/2"-4".)  Most of my strings are at least an inch wide and I didn't think I wanted to waste the time and fabric cutting them narrower.  I laid those blocks aside, too.

Next I made some quarter log cabin blocks, like these.
Hmmm.  Maybe.  These are 4 1/2" blocks that will finish at 4".  Lots of color.  Bright.  Too much color?  Gosh, they are a lot of work.  I press seams after each log and then cut off excess to make the sides even.  It takes a lot of time, even with a system of sewing a dozen at a time.  These are some of the questions I asked when looking at these blocks:  Do they need more than just red centers to unify them?  The same red centers?  The same size red centers?  Should they be bigger?  Would it be better to have logs the same size?  Should I be concerned about wide logs?  But after all, it is a scrap quilt....  Do you ask yourself questions like these when you're in the process of beginning a quilt?

One more try.  These are 6" blocks in all brights, mediums, and darks.
These are perhaps not so time-consuming as the quarter cabins but the strings are longer, so probably the same amount of sewing time but less time cutting after each seam.  These look more peaceful than the quarter cabins.  Maybe....  The light squares would be formed from triangles at the corner of each block, probably all lights and different on each corner.

One of the challenges I face when I begin a quilt (without a pattern or when I'm not trying to make a quilt like one I've seen) is that I sometimes stop too soon.  Many blocks are more likely to give an idea of a finished quilt than a few blocks, but I quit after a few because I don't want to waste my time on blocks that won't become a wonderful quilt.  I need to give my ideas enough time (by making plenty of blocks) to know how a finished quilt might look. 

Hmmmm.  I've been busy this week but I haven't accomplished much.  And I'm trying to remember why I thought I liked sewing string quilts.  Mostly already cut?  Well, not exactly already cut.  Some of the strings are pretty shifty and uneven and have to be trimmed.  The time?  Unh-uh.  They take a long time to sew and press (because I press seams open to hand quilt).  And think about it:  the smaller the pieces of fabric, the more seams and time needed to make something large.  Being frugal?  Yes -- I'm not wasting much.  A jumble of colors?  Yes, I like many colors together if there's either some control of the colors or some pattern.  And it's fun to see what colors will look like together without committing to a whole quilt with just a few colors.

Some of the things I've been thinking about this week as I've stitched and ironed these blocks is the difference between seeing all of a quilt at one time, as in a photograph for display, and seeing only part of a quilt as it lays on my lap and feeling it around me.  There's a difference, isn't there?  The most beautiful quilt from a distance can be less than satisfying when seen in bits up close.  And if it doesn't feel good, it will probably be hung or folded for display and/or put in a closet and left there.  I want my quilts to be pleasing both in the overall view and up close, and I especially want them to be comfortable.

My quilt progress is like a guessing game.  Which will I choose?  Or which will I choose first?  Or will I choose something else?

I hope you're enjoying whatever you're doing.

I'm linking this post to
WOW (WIPs on Wednesday) at Esther's Blog hosted by Esther.
W.i.P. Wednesday at Freshly Pieced  at Lee's blog, hosted by Laura.
Let's Bee Social #19 at Sew Fresh Quilts hosted by Lorna.
Thanks, ladies.

--Nancy.
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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Early Strings, Strings Everywhere. . .

. . . hanging over a bulletin board,

waiting on the sewing machine,

and nestled into two baskets.

And there are more where those came from.  I just haven't pulled them out yet.  Who knows what these strings will become!

Pieced Brain
I was thinking about strings last week, trying to decide whether to start a project with them now or not.  Then on Saturday, Denise Russell of Pieced Brain invited me to participate in her Strip-easy Quilt Challenge.  I think I might.  I have enough strips that I should be able to make something from them, don't you think?

I'm linking to
Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation and
I Quilt Thursday @ Pretty Bobbins.  Thank you, Kelly and Gemma.

Thanks for stopping by!
--Nancy.
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Monday, April 28, 2014

Linen Love


I love linen.  It is one of those wholly delicious fabrics, delightful to the touch -- both to the hand and on the body-- and comfortable to wear.  Cool in summer, warm in winter.  I don't wear much linen because it wrinkles so quickly but I love it just the same.  Linen lasts nearly forever and gets softer and more comfortable the more it's washed and worn.  Sounds lovely for a quilt, doesn't it?

Will I love quilting with linen?  I don't know.  I've been collecting nearly-new linen clothing for a few years with the intention of using it for a quilt.  I cut one of the shirts apart the other day and realized how slippery linen is -- exactly one of those attributes that makes it so comfortable on the body but which may make it very difficult to sew.

The January/February 2008 issue of Quilters Newsletter Magazine had an article about using linen for a quilt.  I scanned the article knowing that one day I would want the information.  Pam Rocco, the author, made several observations about working with linen.
  • Linen fabrics can be paired with cotton fabrics in a quilt but try to keep the weight similar.
  • Linen frays.  Sew with 12-15 stitches/inch and use 3/8"-1/2" seams.
  • Linen is stretchy compared to cotton.  Use stabilizer before cutting or spray starch when pressing to prevent stretch and "wobbly" seams.
  • When sewing let the feed dogs do the work:  don't try to push or pull the fabric through.
  • Steam press seams open from the back.  Avoid ironing since it may stretch and rearrange the fabric.
  • Stay-stitch the outside edge of the quilt before layering and quilting.
She says, "It also helps to have a relaxed attitude and not to expect perfection--realize that the wandering seam lines add to the homemade charm of linen quilts."  Does that sound like me?  It will be good practice in overcoming perfectionistic tendencies, right?  (Just a note here:  I never accomplish perfection but it's always my aim.)

As far as the quilting, she does not mention hand quilting, which is unfortunate since that's what I'll be doing (if I succeed in piecing a linen quilt top!).  She recommends an all-over quilting pattern.  Not a problem if I can manage Baptist Fans on a linen quilt.


Probably many of you have seen the quilt made from seven shirts on pinterest.  I know whatever pattern I choose the pieces can't be too small because of the fraying and the 1/2" seams.

I have my stack of linen, not all of which is cut apart, some of which you can see at right and above.  I have yet to choose a pattern, colors, and fabrics.  I'll be earnestly looking at patterns and trying to imagine options. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with these linens shirts!

I'm linking this post to Design Wall Monday - April 28, 2014 at Patchwork Times.  Thank you, Judy.

--Nancy.
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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Which Comes First:  the Fabric or the Pattern?

In your creative process to make a quilt
do you choose the fabric first...


...and then the block/quilt pattern?


Or do you choose the block/quilt pattern first and then the fabric?

Is it always the same process?

If you choose the pattern first do you use colors you've seen others use in a similar quilt or go a different way with colors?

How do you begin the process of creating a quilt?  Are you thinking about a quilt to make long before you begin cutting and sewing?  What inspires you when you begin making a quilt?

I hope you'll respond and I also hope you'll send others this way to answer, too.  I'm interested in how quilters begin their quilts.  Thanks!

I'm linking this post to Anything Goes Mondays #61 at Stitch by Stitch.  Thank you, Marelize.


--Nancy.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

McCall's 6872

I've taken up sewing children's clothes again -- or at least another dress for my granddaughter.  I used to make nearly all of my daughters' dresses and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I'm out of practice, at least with the sizing.  It's hard to find patterns for babies and even harder to figure out which size will fits.  You wouldn't think that 1/4 or 3/8 inch would make such a difference but it does.

I chose this McCall's pattern.  Isn't it cute?  The sizes go from newborn to X-large.

Based on the measurements on the pattern I decided to make the X-small for my 13-pound grandbaby for my first try.  (I'm not going to show you photographs of that effort.)  When cutting the dress I didn't realize there were two lengths.   The pattern tissue didn't indicate cutting lines for two lengths, either.  As I was stitching the pattern together I kept thinking that the skirt was going to be so short -- and it was.  Very, very short.  (I later realized that what I thought was a dress was actually a top.)

But it was the bodice that caused me greater disappointment.  It was wide enough for a baby much heavier than 13 pounds.  And the long sleeves that I cut were long and wide enough to add a casing for elastic.

In the end, I laid that dress aside and bought new fabric for a second try.

I made these changes on the second dress:
  • I cut the skirt length as long as the longest pattern on the tissue.  I ended up with a 1 3/4" hem.  If she grows taller before she grows wider, I can lengthen the skirt.  Or it will just get a little shorter on her.
  • I fussed over the width of the sleeve and finally just cut it narrower from underarm to wrist.  Much narrower.  I angled the line from underarm to wrist ending 1 1/4" narrower at the wrist.  The result was a sleeve that looks a little narrower than on the pattern but which allowed enough room for Olivia's cubby little arms.

These are the changes I'll make next time:
  • I'll cut the neckline just a little lower in the front -- probably not even 1/4".  She had room but her mom was afraid the dress would slip toward her back and choke her.
  • I'll cut the sleeve narrow again (if I want long sleeves) but maybe not quite so narrow - maybe taking off 1" instead of 1 1/4".  
  • The lower edge of the sleeve was curved.  I'll cut it straight across, keeping it at the longest point on the pattern, or possibly add a little length (maybe an inch). 
  • I will not sew set-in sleeves.  The armscye on this dress is so tiny that after gathering and pinning, I was barely able to get it under the presser foot of my machine.  Next time I will sew the shoulder seams on the bodice, gather the sleeve, then pin them together flat, and sew them flat.  Then I'll stitch the underarm and sleeve seam all in one go.  It will change the appearance a little but not enough to make it worth sewing the set-in sleeve.
  • The other thing about this pattern is that the bodice is lined.  Great for a winter dress but a little warm for a summer dress -- at least in our humid summer climate!  That will take a little more effort to figure out the facings for the back opening....

Do you want to see the finished dress?

Here it is.  It's a little wide in the bodice for some growth room.  The sleeves could be a little longer but they'll fit for another month or two.  And the width and length of a skirt are (in my opinion) perfect for a kicking baby.  I think the fabric is a bit busy for such a tiny baby but I didn't have anything at home that would work and not much time to shop.  Next time I'll choose either a calmer fabric or one with a smaller print.

Are you like me?  Do you pick apart your work to figure out how you can make it better the next time?  I don't know if it's my introvertish ways, my perfectionistic tendencies, or my attempts at self-improvement....

By the way, Olivia loves "Center Light."  I could barely get her attention off the fabrics long enough to snap a few photos.

I'm linking this post to Really Random Thursday at Live a Colorful Life and Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation.  Thanks, ladies!


I hope you're having a great time quilting or sewing or gardening or doing whatever you're doing these days.

--Nancy.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Crazy Busy

My daughters and grandbabies visited for 10 days two weeks before Easter.  It takes this grandmother a little time for a grandmother to recover.  I use a lot more energy with my grands here than when they're away.  It was hugely fun to have them, and for 10 days!  Wonderful!

I worked the week before Easter at our friendly candy store.  That's always fun, and easier at Easter than other busy seasons.  Still, it was tiring.

And then my daughter, husband, and grandbabies came back for Easter weekend.   It was such a short visit compared to the 10 days they were here before.

I stitched a dress for Olivia while she was here.  I'll write about that in a different post. 

Malachi was very interested in helping at the sewing machine.  He handed me pins, pulled out pins and put them in the pin box, and sat on my lap and watched the sewing machine do it's work for a while.

I finished sewing together the red wings and stars quilt blocks before they came so I have no quilt blocks in progress at the moment.  And I still haven't found backing I like for the plaid churn dash quilt.  I guess I'm taking an unintended brief break from quilting.  It won't last long and it's nice to have a rest but I need to pull out something and get to work.

Crazy busy for several weeks but fun all the way! 

--Nancy.

P.S.  I tried to comment on some of your blogs earlier today but there was a problem with blogger.  I hope I can catch up with you tomorrow.
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Buying Fabric Online?

I've never bought fabric online before and I have some questions.  Can you please share your experiences?

  • Have you found that the colors shown online are true to the colors of the fabrics when you receive them?
  • How can you tell the quality and feel of the fabric?
  • Is one company better than another?
  • Have you been satisfied buying fabric online?
  • What other questions should I ask but haven't and what else do I need to know?
I'm linking this post to Really Random Thursday at Live a Colorful Life.

Thanks for any help you can offer.  I appreciate it.

--Nancy.


P.S.   Images above were screenshots made on April 3, 2014.  The first is from Connecting Threads, the second from Creating Keepsakes.
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Choosing Backing Fabric(s)

I'm eager to begin quilting but I don't have a back ready for this quilt.  I've been considering the fabrics along the top of the photo below. 
 

They're in the color range I think might work.  Except maybe the light one is too light; I think deeper tones might be more comfortable for this quilt.  I don't have enough of any one of them and would have to piece the back. 

I'm fine with piecing a back but haven't had been too happy with the ones I've done that way.  I only have two leftover blocks from the front which I could incorporate into the back. Then too, I'm trying use up fabric instead of add more to what I have.

On the other hand, hand quilting through even more seams with a pieced back isn't quite so much fun. 

I've been doing some online shopping for (= looking at) fabric but haven't made a decision yet.

I'm linking this post to Really Random Thursday at Live a Colorful Life.

I hope you're enjoying your day.

--Nancy.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Singer (almost) All the Way

I love shopping at thrift stores, though maybe just slightly less with bedbugs threatening to take over.

The other day I found a clear plastic bag with some sewing notions.  I saw the bobbins first, then the needles and decided it was worth $1.50. 


Many of the items will be useful but I don't recognize some of them.  Maybe some of you know....

Those flat bobbins just left of center toward the top... what kind of machine uses those?  I thought I could put them on the thread holder of my 201 but the hole is too small.

That needle plate cover.... what kind of machine is that for and what does it do?

Those little cream-colored plastic things toward the bottom....  What are those for?

And I'd ask you about the presser feet but the photograph probably isn't good enough for you to tell what they're for, other than the one at left which I know is a zipper foot.

Anyone want some ballpoint needles?  I think they're only good for knit fabric.

I thought it was interesting to see 4 different kinds of packages for Singer needles.  The little plastic cases look very handy.

That cloth pouch toward the top is folded over and closed with a safety pin.  It has about a dozen sewing machine needles in it.  I hope they're Singer brand.

The needle threaders all look the same but they are 3 different sizes.  Maybe I will try the Dritz magnetic seam guide.

Are you a thrift store shopper?

--Nancy.
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Friday, March 28, 2014

A Finish! Snowballs During the Winter that Won't End

This quilt is for little Olivia who is only 2 1/2 months old, and since it still feels like winter outside I think she'll have time to use this it before warm weather comes.  Whew!  She hasn't outgrown it before I finished it.  I'm new to this gramma thing and haven't got my timing down yet.

I'm still working on taking photographs that show the true colors....

Below, after a spin in the washer.

The finished quilt measures 41 1/8" x 52 1/8". 

I like to record details of each quilt I finish. 

Timeline  I record dates when part of the quilt was finished but not necessarily why it took so long.  Four months to quilt this little quilt is an impossibly long time except that I spent two weeks at my daughter's home before and after the baby was born helping her and watching new baby's toddler-brother.
10/14/13 - begun
10/26/13 - center blocks sewn together
11/13/13 - borders sewn on and applique finished
11/16/13 - quilting begun
 3/15/14 - quilting finished
 3/18/14 - binding cut, machine stitched
 3/20/14 - binding finished

Batting (info from package)
Soft n Crafty 80/20 (cotton/poly) from JoAnn
3/16" loft
2"-4" quilting distance
2-3% shrinkage

I found this batting easy to quilt through and I like the loft after washing -- puffed but not too much.  (After all, this quilt's meant to keep my grandbaby warm and it's the loft that adds warmth.  I might make another choice for a different quilt with a different perpson.)

Quilting
Hand-quilted using Natural Essential 100% cotton thread from Connecting Threads. 

Measurements
43" x 55" before layering
42 1/4" x 53" after quilting and before binding
42 5/8" x 53 1/2" after binding
41 1/8" x 52 1/8" after 6 washings and once in the dryer (because of the the pencil)

Actual shrinkage was about 9%.  Whew!!!  Much higher than the suggested 2-3% on the package.



I hope it will keep Olivia warm and comfy the rest of this winter and next year, too.


I'm linking this post to
TGIFF (Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday) at Devoted Quilter, Can I Get a Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.   Thanks, ladies.


Happy Quilting,
--Nancy.
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