Thursday, May 19, 2016

vacation time!

One of the best things in life is new adventures.
This time, the adventure takes place in the northwest corner of Montana.  
And into British Columbia for a bit.  
We are enjoying our excursion to Whitefish, MT, thanks to Dan's hospitality.  
Every day brings new scenes that I try to capture and keep forever. 

Dan and Bob hanging out on a foot/bike bridge in Mt. Fernie Provincial Park in British Columbia.  It was a beautiful day outdoors.  Dan always takes off on his bike over hill and dale, while Bob and I walk along the trails that aren't really for bikes.  On this particular trail, I got a little nervous about the great big hoofprints that were left by some wild creature not far ahead of us!

We stopped at a little out-of-the-way brewery, HA Brewing, near Eureka, MT.
This fun French couple were very welcoming to everyone.  And I beat Bob and Dan in cribbage!  That is a rare happening!

I keep taking pictures of flowers along the trails, even if I don't know what they are!

We drove to the northwest area of Glacier Park, outside the park boundary, to the tiny town of Polebridge.  Gravel roads and solar power and composting toilets are pretty much the norm here.  They have a reputation for making fabulous pastries and desserts from huckleberries harvested around there, and we agree that the bear claw we shared was like a little bit of heaven!

Have you been watching or hearing about the "Tiny Homes" movement?  I've seen several examples on TV, and I was excited to see a business building and selling that type of home in Fernie.  I think I could enjoy living in a small place part of the time.  If I had it all to myself.  And if I had an additional tiny home for my fabric!  And if it did not have a composting toilet!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

how to build a better binding

I take a lot of pride in getting a job done right.  I bet you do, too.  
The final step in getting your precious quilt finished is a prize-winning binding.
Now, I don't know if my bindings are prize-winning because I have never entered them in a contest!  But I do know that they turn out neat, tidy and consistent.  So I'm going to tell you about a couple of very easy things that I think make a difference in the look of my binding when I'm done.

First off, I cut my bindings just 2" wide now.  When I started quilting, the standard binding width was 2 1/2".  Then it shifted over to 2 1/4".  I think it's because of a few reasons, most notably the fact that the battings that I use now are not as "poofy" as they used to be.  I use Quilter's Dream Cotton in the Select or DeLuxe weight.  Either one is pretty compressed, if compared to some other brands.  I used to use Hobbs Heirloom batting 80/20 mix (80% cotton/20% poly).  That worked pretty good, but I found that there seemed to be a lot of variation in the thickness.  Maybe that has changed, but when I started using Quilter's Dream because it was the brand we stocked at Bear Patch, I found my new favorite.

Another reason that I use a 2" strip is that I want the folded edge of the binding to just cover the binding seam when it is folded around and stitched to the back.  I always use a walking foot when I sew on my binding, I've tried to do it without in an "emergency", and it just isn't right!

Also, I'm very careful to get a good 1/4" seam allowance when sewing the binding to the quilt.  Sometimes, my seam allowance strays because the weight of the quilt puts too much drag on the portion that is going under the walking foot.  So I keep a little table or cart handy to park to the left of my sewing table to support the bulk of the quilt as I'm sewing.  Sometimes I even have to go back and correct a section that goes askew.  Don't rush past that, just because you can see the finish line on the horizon!

So, after I've finished the machine sewing, I move to the ironing board.  With the right side of the quilt facing up, I press the binding over in the direction that it will need to be folded for the hand stitching.  In the picture below, you can see the bottom section of the binding is pressed over.  It gives a nice crease and makes it easier to do the hand sewing.

In the corners, I just use the point of the iron to nudge the mitered corner out away from the quilt top.

Next, I sit down with a good movie and glass of wine to do the hand stitching.  Or maybe I catch up on a few missed episodes of one of my favorite shows.  Whatever floats your boat!

Finally, after I've taken the last stitch, I go back to the ironing board and press the binding from both the right side and wrong side of the quilt.  It now lays nice and flat and smooth.  
Voila!  Try it for yourself!  Happy binding!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

plants and things

It's not time to plant the garden yet, and already I have harvested some punkins!  I finished the quilting on this little quilt (it's 36" square) to have it ready to hang up in the store because I'm going to teach it as a class this summer.  The pumpkin blocks are 6" square and are made with the Mini Quick Curves ruler from Sew Kind of Wonderful.  This was a fun project and I liked working with the ruler.  The directions are easy to follow, and you might want to give it a go yourself!  We have the patterns and rulers over at the store, and we always so mail orders if you like.

And another addition to my household planting---

I went with my neighborhood friends to Plant Nite just a few nights ago.  This is modeled on the Paint Nite events that you might have heard of or experienced.  A group gathers with a leader who brings all the supplies and teaches/explains what to do.  This was a fun and different evening out.  We found a location convenient to us (Ham Lake Lanes!) and joined a group of about 20 people for some planting.  The company operates in many locations.  We did have to meet first for food and adult beverages, luckily there was a designated waitress who kept us supplied!  I like my little planter!  Plus, this was offered as a Groupon, so the price made it silly not to give it a try and enjoy a night out with friends.

The next day I was visiting my friend, Nancy, and she had over-wintered her succulents from the garden and yard.  It was finally safe to put them outside on the deck, although they did get a tarp over them the night we were there because it was borderline cold.  And she is generous with clippings, so I have more plants to put into pots now!  They will spend the summer out on the patio, and hopefully survive for another year!

I have a book recommendation for you, if you have reading time.  This book really didn't take so long to read, partly because it was hard to put down.  One night I read until 1 AM, and I hardly ever do that!  It's Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  I won't tell you much about, so as not to spoil the story.  It's historical fiction, set in Paris, in 1942 and the present.  It's a compelling story.

Monday, April 25, 2016

ollie blocks

I know what you're thinking!  What's an Ollie Block?
Well, this is a little toy project that is crafted and assembled in hopes that my sweet little grandsons will be fascinated by them, and not use them as weapons!

Take a look over on the Ollieblocks website and look at the examples.  They are stacked together to make people and animals and pirates and goblins and just about anything you can think of!  But each side of the block is a different picture, so the fun comes in mixing and matching together.

For me, a lot of the fun came in making these during an overnight Block Event with friends!  
My friend, Marilee, first introduced this idea to us, and next thing I knew, I was signing up for a trip to Nancy's house about 2 hours away!  Marilee purchased all the designs we wanted, had them printed on good quality paper, bought a box o' blocks and a good supply of Mod Podge.
The desired beverages and food were packed up and off we drove out to Lake Wobegon land!

Here are some examples of that we did!

It really was easy, and didn't take a lot of concentration, so the conversation and laughs never stopped!  And while we were toiling away, just out the window we watched the full moon rise over Big Swan Lake.

The next morning we added another coat of Mod Podge, took a walk, watched a tear jerker movie (Miss You Already), then visited The Old Creamery Quilt Shop in Randall, ate lunch nearby, and toodled on down the road to home.  Such a good trip, and now I have blocks for the boys!  I made 24 of them, people and animals.  I guess I must plan a trip to North Carolina now!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

more paper talk

 Paper and fabric fit together in several ways.  In my last post, I talked about English PAPER Piecing.  This time it's PAPER triangles.  English Paper Piecing uses heavyweight (cardstock) paper.  Paper triangles require lightweight paper to work best.  I learned about paper triangles quite awhile ago, and I take it for granted that everyone who quilts knows about this technique.  But I often run into customers at Bear Patch who don't know what I'm talking about.  Here's a little explanation:

What I'm showing you here involves making Half Square Triangles (HST), but papers are available for Quarter Square Triangles and a few other types, too.

I'm making groups of matching HST for a quilt.  This paper method is the best for making a bunch of matching blocks, not a whole bunch of scrappy mixed fabric blocks.  There are better methods for those.  The blocks I'm making require 18 matching 3" (finished) HST.  I only need a fat eighth (9" x 20") of each color.

 This picture shows 4 different brands of triangle papers. There are more.  This just happens to be what I have at home.  They all end up doing the same basic thing.

The long skinny package on the left is from Thangles.
The rolled paper is from Triangles on a Roll.
The package underneath that is from Quiltime.
And on the right is a CD from Bear Paw Productions.  This actually is something I couldn't part with because I use it to print my own triangle paper.  So if I'm in a pickle because I need those triangles when stores aren't open, I do it myself!  I included the package of "typing paper" in the picture because that's what I use for printing.  Paper that is lighter weight than everyday printer paper is the best because it tears more easily when it comes time to remove that paper.  I find this cheapo paper at dollar stores.  This package actually is labelled 16 pound (normal is 20).  Other packages I have purchased have no info about weight, but once you touch it, you know it's thinner.

Each of the websites above have directions or demonstrations of how to use the paper.  The easiest way to explain it without a demonstration is:
Cut 2 pieces of fabric the same size or slightly larger than the paper sheet.  Place them right sides together with the paper on top, loosely pinned.  Start sewing on all the dashed diagonal lines, then cut on the solid lines.  Open the fabric and press.

This is what I am assembling from my triangles and solids.  I have a lot more to go.  You might think that this is a more time consuming way of making these triangles, and in some ways you are right.  But the upside is accuracy.  There's no stretchy bias edges to sew, no wonky corners, no marking, no uneven edges to be trimmed.  You can make the right size of HST blocks from the get-go, not overcut and then trimmed down evenly.

I found a pretty good way to store my assorted sizes and brands of triangle papers.  A magazine file, this one happens to be cardboard from IKEA.  Put a label on it and you know where to find those triangle papers every time!  I use these files to store a lot more than magazines!

Friday, April 15, 2016

take a trip!

I'm happy to report that the sun is shining and we have spring-like temps for the 3rd day in a row!  Wowza!  I've had some time at home in bits and pieces to do some sewing, but kind of aimlessly.  I have things that need to be finished, so I'm getting back to that list now with fervor.  Well, low grade fervor!  Completely under control!

When I can get a bit of time to hand sew, I'm working on English paper piecing.  I have 2 works in progress that are ongoing.  
#1  The Glorious Hexagons quilt, I showed you a few blocks already, but I have assembled what I have done so far:

My Glorious Hexagons so far.
This is what the whole quilt should look like at some point in time!  

It's set up as a monthly subscription through Bear Patch and Paper Pieces.  I'm still on the first packet of pieces and blocks.  I calculate that at this rate, it will be put together about Christmas 2018!  Obviously, I'm not concerned with any self-imposed deadlines on this one!  The best part of this is that there are 6 more employees at Bear Patch that are working on it, too, so we compare notes and have started some work sessions together.

#2  My Lone Star quilt, which had hit a snag due to lack of foresight on my part, which left me begging for fabric once again!  Well, my wish has been granted, and thanks to the fact that I have co-workers who collect fabric just like me, I was gifted enough to cut my diamonds to finish the lone star!  
Actually, 2 people unearthed some of this.  It's from a fabric group called Hints of Prints by Robert Kaufman Fabrics, designed by Darlene Zimmerman.  Darlene is from the great state of Minnesota, and familiar to me through quilty dealings and events.  I went out on a limb and emailed her for verification that I had the right name, which would make tracking it down easier.  She replied that she had pieces of this fabric left in the other colors that were produced, but no red!  Darlene, if you need some of this, contact Sharon or Kristina!

 Aside from paper piecing, I puttered around one night with these pieces that were leftovers from a quilt called Urban Beads by Sew Kind of Wonderful.  I had made extra blocks to use when I demo'd the ruler needed for the curves.  Now I have a little tablerunner to brighten the place!

I've also had some fun scanning some old slides.  Well, the process isn't so fun, but the results are!  Last time I was at my mom's, we went into the archives of slides that chronicle many years of travels.  Every summer, for as long as I can remember while I still lived at home, we had a family camping trip for about 2 weeks in August.  This was one of my most favorite experiences.  We usually went somewhere in the Rockies, but there was one trip to Montreal in 1967.  Dad would get the necessary field work done, find someone to take care of the livestock, and we headed for the hills!  I think he was truly a mountain man who masqueraded as an Iowa farmer!

These 2 pictures are from a trip to Glacier National Park in 1961. I'm 8 years old, the one with the really straight short bangs and curls on the sides.  Jarry, the oldest, was 10.  Jan, the baby of the family (wearing wonderful red pants!) was 5.
There's another trip from 1958 that I have yet to work on, Jan wasn't along on that trip, apparently staying with grandparents while the big kids went on vacation.  The whole plan to dig into these old pictures was a result of my son's, Dan, interest in comparing Glacier then to now.   I love these happy family pictures!  I am so thankful that my parents had enough wanderlust to make these trips happen.  The places we visited really helped shape who I am now.  So if you are reading this and have some kids or grandkids or nieces or nephews, take them on a trip!  It's priceless!