Tuesday, September 27, 2011

a hexagon fest

I have been working on some new hexagons lately which I hope to pull together for a new pattern. I have done plenty of hexagons before with the English paper piecing method. This is pretty much the same but with a little twist using a tip I picked up from Bari Gaudet (Sierra Cottons and Wool owner and Bareroots pattern designer). Instead of basting the fabric around the paper template with needle and thread, she has started using a little dab of glue at the corners. Something like this--

first, place the paper hexagon on the wrong side of the fabric which is cut about 1/4" larger. Fold over one straight edge and finger press the crease. Place a dab of glue on the corner and fold the second straight side over. I work clockwise, moving to the next corner with the glue. The key is to try to only get the glue in the area of fabric-to-fabric adhesion, not on the paper, so removing the paper later won't disturb all your work.

Pressing with a hot iron helps set the glue and crisp up the edges.

When you get 7 hexagons ready, they can be sewn together into a "flower", and sewn to other sets of hexagons. Use little stitches just through the fold of the fabric, not into the paper. You can add other shapes, like the white half hexagon shown above, to create a straight edge around the outside.

I read somewhere that placing the pieces side-by-side to stitch together is better than holding the 2 pieces flat, so I wanted to try that--

So far, this is not working so well, but maybe I just need some practice. Using the proper tools always makes the job easier, so here are my thoughts on that--

I have become a connoisseur of glues! No jokes about sniffing the glue, these are all non-toxic and safe for fabric and the gluer's health. These are what I have been testing for effectiveness with my hexagons. So far my favorite is the pink Sewline glue stick in the front. It has a smaller diameter than a regular school glue stick so it is easier to put the glue right where I want it. The Elmer's glue pen laying down is a similar size, but that glue seemed way too gunky. The bottle on the left is Roxanne's fabric glue, it has a fine point (large bore blunt needle) which I have problems keeping unplugged. The bottle of regular school glue has an altered tip on it to give a tiny bead of glue. That is a plastic mechanical pencil tip placed inside a chopped off standard glue nozzle. The things I do for some good glue! That sometimes plugs, too, so I am going to try the spiffy metal glue bottle tips from Bear Patch. The product on the right is also from Elmer's, and is my second choice. It has a fine tip on the end pointing up and a broad applicator on the other end. I have to be careful to not squeeze much and get too much glue.

My thread of choice is Aurifil 50 wt. cotton (on the orange spool) in a neutral color. For this type of hand sewing I love the Black Gold needles from Clover. They are slick! They look a little strange, with a black tip, but they make a difference especially when I was working with batik fabrics. And the one I was using on this project has a really little eye, and my up-close focusing isn't so great when I have my contacts in, so the little tabletop needle threader (also from Clover) handles that problem for me. All of the things here can be obtained at Bear Patch Quilting Co., by the way!

Is that enough about hexagons?? Oh wait, take a look at this quilt I finished this morning for my mom--

Do you see the hexagons? Do you see the stars? Do you see the cubes? Pretty cool, don't you think? These are not just diamonds any more!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

big news

Look at all those apples!

We need to get some pickin' done before that branch breaks! This is going to be a bumper crop of apples from our 2 trees this year,the first time they have done so well. Bob has paid special attention to them all summer, getting advice from the nursery on what to treat and how to help the trees be happy. Well, I think they are very happy! Bob bought a new electric juicer and started making apple juice last night.

I have some more very fun news to share, I have been holding off for a long time, ever since June. The need to keep this under wraps has been an awful long wait for me, but at least I don't have to keep it hush-hush for 9 MONTHS!

Can you guess what that means?!! Brita and Ben are blessing us with our first grandchild, due in late February--hoping to avoid Leap Day! That's them on the right, with Dan and Grandpa and Grandma Herbert back in June when the baby was maybe peanut-sized. Brita is healthy and fit, no morning sickness, Ben is looking out for her, and things seem to be developing just as they should be.

As for me--since it's all about the grandma, right?--I'm planning on some things to make for our new little one. Trying not to overwhelm Brita with a whole pile of baby things all at once, but here's for starters--
I'm trying to learn how to make little knit booties from this wonderful new book filled with totally cute baby stuff. You will notice that the yarn is black, kind of drab for little baby, but this is a test run and as soon as we get the results of Brita's next ultrasound I fully anticipate a switch to another more appropriate color! Also made a couple little flannel receiving blankets, an easy way to pacify my need to start a supply of handmade items for babies!

Making these little quilts for donation is a fun task, and I got all three finished, bound, and washed today, ready to deliver to Deb and Quilts For Kids. This is the same corduroy I talked about last week, and after washing it is nice and soft.

Here's another quickie that I made today--

wine bottle gift bags from Quilt Smart--the pattern is printed on fusible interfacing and sewn right into the bag. Makes it so easy! The pink one is destined for the upcoming silent auction at Bear Patch to raise money for Susan G. Komen fund. Watch The Bear Blog for more information.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

fresh quilts

Had a busy day on the longarm yesterday and stitched these:
Debbie made this one from Riley Blake fabrics and Texas Two Step pattern by Terry Atkinson. The fabric group is called "Happier", and it really is!

These are 2 of the 3 little quilts that I put together last weekend on retreat. They were made from some donated fabric packs that were salesman's samples, so they were multiple small pieces in varying sizes, stapled together to a cardboard label. They are all pinwale corduroy. I found some solid brown at a store to supplement all the little prints. I just kind of made it up as I went, trying to waste very little and pull together something that would please a child. They will be finished up and donated to our local Quilts For Kids chapter as soon as possible.

And that's what's happenin' here!

Friday, September 16, 2011

hello again

OK, when I got up this morning I determined that the first priority was to get a blog post done! I have been so sidetracked lately and not feeling like I had anything to say. I'm blaming it on the lovely vacation we had in August and the letdown that I typically feel afterwards. Do you get that way , too? Or am I the only one? I do have the bad habit of over-anticipation for upcoming holidays/vacations, which occupies most of my thought and attention for days preceding the event, and leaves a big black hole in my head afterwards. So coming out of that black hole...

The Minnesota State Fair, also known as the best place in the world to watch people, was a great outing twice this year. Sometimes we don't go at all, but this time I happened to attend twice. This actually worked out better, 2 short visits rather than 1 long one was much more enjoyable. With the heat and throngs of humanity in combination, 4 hours was the point at which it changed from fun and enjoyable to miserable and annoying. This little item on display caught my attention--

How odd! Hardly even looks like a tomato! Brita and I missed out on witnessing the birth of twin calves, but we did see the cow in labor and learned some interesting things from the vet in attendance. Even though I lived on a farm for 17 years, I never saw the birth of anything that big. Saw some piglets born, but never a calf. Probably a good thing, after watching some videos of other calf births.

Last weekend was a fun quilt retreat with members of the Ham Lake Piecemakers. We went to Bridge Creek Cottage in Augusta, WI, near Eau Claire. It is a great place for this type of gathering, and our group of 14 had an excellent visit. Lots of sewing, creating, laughing, eating, and sharing. A little sleeping thrown in there, too! This place has excellent beds, which is very welcome after spending many retreats at church-camp-type facilities that offer bunkbeds without the comfiness that ladies of a certain age desire! A couple things that I worked on:

"Vintage Baby Quilt" by YoYoMama and "Reader Wrap" by Atkinson Designs. The baby quilt is raw edge squares sewn in a grid on a solid piece of fabric, and this one is intended for a boy baby since I sorted out the pinks. Those will go into another little quilt when I accumulate enough to make it interesting. These are mostly 'homespuns' or woven plaids, and finding them in pastel colors is a challenge. That's why you see some of the tans/beiges mixed in there to make enough squares. It was a fun project and I am happy with the way it turned out. The Reader Wrap houses my Kindle, and turned out very neat and professional-looking. It's important for me to avoid that 'dorky homemade look'! The black elastic band makes a perfect closure, and since it is an elastic headband and I had to buy an assorted pack, I now have plenty of other colors for future projects!

I worked on making some more blocks for my selvage spiderweb quilt, it is growing slowly. I also added to my batik hap quilt. Both of these are ongoing projects that will eventually reach completion, but they are the type of blocks that I like to work on sporadically.

A couple projects from others, these gals really put the pedal to the metal! That's Tracy on the left, with a quilt made with the X-Blocks ruler. I have seen this pattern before but seeing it put together with these colors made it much more appealing! She continued on with adding a border of pieced blocks. On the right is Erika holding her quilt that looks like stained glass. It turned out beautifully, but I don't know what the pattern was. I will have to check at our next meeting.

Carol C. used the Little Twister ruler and a pack of Halloween squares to create this little wallhanging or tabletopper-
This little ruler/template is just perfect for making a complicated-looking project from uncomplicated sewing. I have used this template before and highly recommend trying it out in any of the 4 sizes available.

I offered to teach a little tutorial for the group on making 9-patch blocks from fabric squares instead of strips, and put together this sample project with directions for them. I love using this method, learned from a Primitive Gatherings book.

And that brings us up-to-date on the happenings around here. Enjoy your day!

"If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner." --Tallulah Bankhead