Tuesday, December 6, 2016

retreat recap

I have prepared a slideshow of the fun things that have been going on during my 5 day retreat at Stitch Supply Company in Altoona, WI.  The shop has a very nice retreat facility that is for rent for groups or individuals on some weekends.

This weekend happened to be one of the "per person" retreats, so Leisl and I decided to sign up and see what a new retreat place would be like.  It's always good to try something new now and then!  There were 11 of us, max capacity is 16, so we weren't crowded.  Meals are "on your own" for this weekend, but in other situations either the meals are included or the group shares meal assignments.  We have gotten to know the 9 other people here, from different locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Quite a variety of sewing backgrounds, styles, interests, etc.
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Sunday, November 27, 2016

a brew or two for you!

It's a special time of year, which calls for a special kind of beer!
Here are a couple of my recommendations, taste-tested, of course!

Deschutes makes an annual winter beer, and I would have never picked it out of the crowd normally.  But, they put some cool art on their labels and boxes that are especially appealing to the quilter in me, and my thoughtful son gave me some.  In 2014 it looked like an appliqued scene.  I missed 2015, but last week I was able to pick up the 2016 release.  The label is by Karen Ruanne, an artist of marbled paper, and that is what is shown on the beer label.  Would be very nice to have on fabric!  The beer itself, once I get past the pretty label, is dark and flavorful.  I'm not a connoisseur of beer, I couldn't tell you whether it has notes of apple, spice or dustballs, but I do like it for a change from the routine.

Next up, an even darker beer--
This is a real departure for me, since I always choose a lighter beer.  I don't like the real light ones, or the lite ones, but a medium is fine for me.
This beer, however, is a special one.  It's crafted by a young guy I know since he was just a little kid, Pete Stacy.  His mom, Leisl, is one of my best quilting buddies, and we have been on many a trip and retreat together.  Since he started working at Summit a couple years ago (roughly), she has been able to share some Summit brews with us.  This beer, Dark Infusion, is a special release in a line of "Unchained" beers.  Pete is the brewer, and the label bears his name and signature!  It is a coffee milk stout, which didn't sound too promising at first.  I remember Bob getting some stout beer in Germany or England, and one sip was enough for me!  So I was very happy when I sampled Dark Infusion and liked it!  Very strong coffee flavor, so a good choice for breakfast!

So there you go--my beer review for the year!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

travel here and there

We've been visiting back home in Iowa for Thanksgiving.  We had a yummy dinner at my brother and sister-in-law's place on the farm.  We had both wild and domesticated turkey and all the necessary side dishes.  The wild turkey was contributed by my nephew, Spencer, from a spring hunting foray.

Back at my mom's we took care of the list of odd jobs that she needed doing.  And had some reading and sewing time.  I finished up these 3 hexagon pieces, each made from 6 triangles.  They don't necessarily look like they go together, but they might all end up in the same quilt!

The maple leaf print was a souvenir from a trip to Fernie, British Columbia, last May.  If you are ever there, make sure you visit the Cotton Tree Quilt Shop.

I've been admiring some of the artful decor here at my mom's, so I took some pictures to share.  My mom and dad traveled all over the world, and brought back interesting things from all over.

This plate is displayed on the mantel and mom can't quite remember where it came from.  This label is on the back--

 Looks like Greek to me!
The colors and designs are very impressive.

These pieces came from Russia, from Petrozavodsk, a town northeast of St. Petersburg.  They went there to teach English in a Russian school for several weeks.  These were given to them in gratitude for their volunteer work.  The colors are very rich and vibrant.  The gold seems metallic.  They are made of wood.

Also from Russia, but not sure exactly where.  I love the shades of blue and red and gold in the figurines painted on a large (about 5" high) wooden egg.  I would love to know the stories behind the characters.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

all kinds of sewing going on!

Two weeks ago I joined a group of friends for a retreat at Bridge Creek Cottage in Augusta, WI.  We tried out these temporary tattoos.

My body art!
Assorted adorned quilters' arms.

 One of the quilts I worked on at this retreat was derived from a pattern I made in 2010.  After publishing the pattern for this quilt, I added a modification for a little baby quilt using the center portion.  By changing up some of the fabrics, I gave it a new look.
Star Light, my design for Quilt MN 2010

This is the baby quilt version.  It's for a little girl due in December!  My nephew, Scott, and his wife, Katie, are having their first baby.  Scott is the son of my sister, Jan.
This will be quilted very soon and finished right around the time that this little princess arrives!  They are using nursery colors around the theme of the vintage Peter Rabbit pictures and storybook, so this will hopefully fit with that.  They live out near San Francisco.

I tackled another new project, too.  My machine got a good workout making 8 owls.  Each of those eyeballs has about 20 pieces in it!

I was relieved to get them all done, except for that poor fellow on the left.  I made a mistake in the cutting and didn't have the extra fabric along with me to correct the problem while I was there.

Forest Friends by Elizabeth Hartman

I picked up and worked on a project that I had started last year.  I made 3 of the 6 stockings in this pattern by Laura Heine. See the full set below.  These will be displayed at Bear Patch for our Christmas window.

Stopping By The Woods by Laura Heine (Fiberworks)

Here's something I started working on when I got back home--my little grandson, Ian, is going to be moving to a new sleeping arrangement soon.  A new baby brother in the house in March means Ian (4) moves to a new bedroom and a bunk bed!  He needs a special new quilt to make that move happen with ease, don't you think?  He's really involved with super heroes right now, they are his favorite topic of play and entertainment.  Thomas the Train is so 2015!  So I ventured into the licensed prints aisle at JoAnn's.  I was gobsmacked by the assortment there!  I don't think I've ever been in that aisle before!  I found some good choices for Ian's quilt, and drafted a simple design that keeps large sections of the characters intact.  Here are some blocks on my design wall--

I showed him, via FaceTime, some of the fabrics and he was so excited!

I had been looking at a pattern for a little bag, Sew Together, by Sew Demented.  I was a little hesitant to get it going because it had quite a few parts to it and I couldn't decide what fabric to use!  I wanted it to be just the perfect fabric because I thought it would probably be the one and only that I made from that pattern!  Do you ever have that feeling?  I finally took the plunge and put all the pieces together.

It has 3 zippered compartments inside.  I used mostly fabric from Cotton + Steel.  And some Moda Grunge for the pocket lining.  I added some beautiful ribbons on the outside for trim.  It actually all went together very well, my only stumbling block was putting together that long purple zipper with the striped binding at the edge.  I'm not real satisfied with my top-stitching for that.  I did have some helpful coaching from my friend, Mary, who was at the retreat and has made this more than once.  Thanks, Mary!

And here's something that is part of a much bigger plan.  A little birdie, part of the Urbanologie quilt pattern from Sew Kind of Wonderful.  It's made with the Mini Quick Curve ruler.

Can you find the birds in the picture below?  I'm considering making this as a block-of-the-month class at Bear Patch in 2017.  There are 12 different pieced units incorporated into the overall layout.

So that pretty well sums up what's happening in the sewing world at my house!  Today is the day before Thanksgiving, and I'm not scheduled to work but had thought I would go to the store anyway.  It's closed, and I have to get working on changing the window display to our Christmas theme.  It's nice to do that when there aren't customers observing the mess!  But it snowed during the night, and has started snowing again as I write this.  So I probably won't be driving the 30 miles to do that.  Instead, I will make it 10 miles to the grocery store to get what I need to make my pumpkin dessert for dinner tomorrow at my brother's house!  Priorities, you know!  And that will leave me more time for sewing at home!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A bit of a problem

I have often posted pictures here of the longarm quilting that I do for customers and myself.  I usually take the pictures when all the work is done and a wonderful design has been stitched to complement the blocks and design of the quilt top.

What doesn't often get shared is the stumbling blocks along the way to that great outcome.  Today I am going to share 2 examples of problems that can be encountered.  Believe me, there are many more than these 2!  This happens to be a quilt of my own, and if it had been a customer's quilt I probably would have done things differently.  Anyway, here goes!

First, the problem of skipped stitches as shown in the picture below.  The cause of those skipped stitches can be several things.  In this case, I think it was because I had stretched the quilt too tightly on the frame.  There always has to be some slack.  If the quilt is too tight, it effects the stitch formation when the needle drops down to the bobbin.  I was using a pantograph for this design, and unfortunately, that means that a problem like this is often not noticed until I have quilted far beyond.  Sometimes I don't even notice it until I have reached the bottom of the quilt and I look back over everything.  Some skips are minor, maybe a stitch or 2, but this one was major.

To fix something like this, I have to rip out some stitches.  The stitches have to be removed aways preceding and following the problem spot and the thread tails have to be kept intact, unlike ripping out a seam and just clipping all the threads.  After removing a few inches of stitching, I have to re-quilt the same stitching from each one end to the other.  The distance to be ripped out and re-quilted varies depending on the design.  The stitching has to be very very accurate at the beginning and end spots to meet up with what was originally sewn.  

Then I locate the thread tails at each end of the re-quilted section.  I pull the bobbin threads to the top, and I need about 2" (or more) of thread tails to make it possible to tie off a square knot of all 4 thread ends.

Here I have tied the know that connects the old stitching with the new.

 Next, I thread those 4 tails on a needle.  I insert the point of the needle into a hole occupied by one of the joining stitches right where the tails appear.

The point of the needle is manipulated so it goes into the batting but not out the back, and then pops out of the top again about an inch or so away.  

When you pull those threads through the batting and out to the quilt top, you can usually feel a little "pop" as the knot gets pulled through and buried into the batting.  Trim off the tails snug to the surface of the quilt.  (Without snipping the quilt, because then you have another problem on your hands!)
And voila!  The fix is nearly invisible!  If you're lucky!
These are the needles that I use for this kind of work because they thread through the side of the eye and I don't have to work to get all 4 thread tails into the eye of a regular needle.  And it lets me work with a much shorter thread tail if need be.  Look for them at senchneedles.com.

Now on to the next problem!
When I started quilting this quilt, I didn't have a good plan of what I wanted to do.  I had an idea to do sort of a squared off spiral into each of the rectangles.  In theory, that worked.  In actuality, it didn't.  At least it didn't look attractive to me!  At that point, I took the quilt off the frame because I needed to get something else done and take some time to reconsider what to do.
I would have liked to pursue that idea but alter it some way so I would like it.  But that was going to take me a lot more time to plan and execute than what I wanted to invest into this particular quilt.  So I decided to keep it simple, and use a basic pantogram instead.  
I had done the stylized spiral quilting in the first row of blocks before changing plans.  So I ripped out those stitches and put it back on the frame.  The majority of the fabrics that I used in this quilt are from Art Gallery, and they are wonderful.  They also have a very smooth finish and relatively high thread count.  I use a large needle on my longarm to get good stitch quality, usually an 18 or 20.  For comparison, most of my sewing is done with a size 12 needle.  That larger needle leaves a little trail of holes in this fabric when the stitching is removed.  It's pretty obvious in this picture--

 To get rid of those holes, I have a couple of options.  Sometimes, just rubbing them with a finger or fingernail is enough to smooth the fibers.  Sometimes rubbing an eraser over the holes will help.  In this case, that wasn't working.
The next option that I know of is to dampen the fabric and let the fibers swell just a little and fill in the holes.  That's worked for me many times.  So I did it again, and had mediocre results.  And a new big problem---

The areas circled above show that some of the fabrics bled color onto the white sashing when it was wet.  Not a pretty picture!  And not a happy camper!  After a glass of wine to help me calm down, I used some of this---

It's something I picked once in the laundry aisle at WalMart when I was searching for something else.   Not my favorite place to go, but it can have its positive aspect like finding this!   It's a powder, so I mix a little with some water and dab it with a q-tip onto the stained area.  Then I walk a way so it can dry and I have another glass of wine!  Eventually, I work up enough courage to go back and peek at it.  It did help remove some of the stain, not all.  But it's something I can live with.

So there you go!  You have learned a couple of the little techniques that I use for these problems, and maybe they will help you someday when you are faced with a similar dilemma.  And don't forget the wine!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

projects in the works

 Hi!  A little re-cap here and some new, too!
I finished up this tote bag as my first encounter with Kraft-tex.  It's that brown stuff on the bag bottom portion.  It's a papery fabric alternative, and something I have wanted to try for quite awhile but never made it a priority.  Not very long ago, I saw a purse/bag pattern in a shop that uses Kraft-tex, and their sample was appealing.  Knowing that this was in supply over at Bear Patch, I immediately wanted to make it!  But first I found this free pattern over on the C&T website and thought I would start with something easy.  So here's my first project!

I have continued to whittle away at my Mini Rings quilt (shown below) and as of bedtime last night I now have it 2/3 done, with the first 2 vertical rows all sewn together.  I do like the color and design style of this.  But it also is made with some different techniques, and I'm not sure I have mastered those!  I'm not sure if it's my sewing, or just the nature of the beast, but a lot of my seams and corners do not match, which is not my norm.

On a whim, I took a few spare minutes and glue-basted these 2" hexies from a pre-cut pack of Tula Pink's newest fabric line, Slow and Steady.  The colors are happy!  No definite plan for these yet, but I'll cook up something from those ideas running around in my brain!

And I've picked out fabric and supplies for the next little bag project--

Since I have a couple of sewing retreats coming up this fall, I want to be prepared!  This Sew Together Bag has been simmering on the back burner in my sewing room for quite awhile, just waiting for me to pay attention and pick out the fabric!  I love picking out fabrics to go together, but I often can't be rushed with that.  I just like to take my time, I guess!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

a special visit

We have just had a fabulous weekend with these 3---

Dan, Jessica, Sage

They are on a vacation road trip from the far reaches of Montana to West Virginia, with a couple of stops in between.  It's wonderful to have "my boy" back home, and it's nice to have him settled back into his spot here, however briefly.  And to have a chance to meet and know Jessica for more than just a moment was perfect!  And Sage is like the "cherry on top"!  Such a calm and patient dog.  She's very quiet, not barky at all!

Dan hadn't been here for a couple of years (we've been together in other places over that time) so there was some reminiscing to do and that was augmented by the fact that we sat down to sort through some of his old things that remained stashed here for quite awhile.  We set aside the things that were important for him to keep but couldn't go with him right now, and found a good bit of stuff for the garbage and donation.

We did some sight-seeing and visiting places both new and familiar--

We wanted to visit the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center in downtown Minneapolis.  But we discovered that it is not open to the public and very much under construction!  This picture is taken from the footbridge that connects to Loring Park, so we could still see a bit of the cherry and spoon amidst the rubble.  We will have to designate a time to visit about a year from now when it's finished!

We walked around Loring Park, a great little urban oasis.  Then down to the Uptown area of the city to walk and explore places like LynnLake Brewery and shops on Hennepin before crossing the river to St. Paul for the Surly Brewery experience.  That's a fun place to visit, and we had some real good brisket there along with a couple of beer selections.

We did some biking/roller blading around the neighborhood and gave Sage a run.  And then we made another little field trip to Pine Tree Apple Orchard (which was a very popular place to be on a sunny fall weekend) and found this wonderful tall corn that's part of their corn maze.  This corn patch must be on a fertile spot, because it was looking very healthy!  Dan is over 6 feet tall, so these were some good-sized stalks!

Much sooner than we wanted, it was time for them to pile back into their car and continue on down the road.  I hope they have a wonderful and safe trip, and plan to come back again, sooner than 2 years!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

growing things

 I think I owe you a little more about that new grandson that I mentioned!  It's so exciting, and so hard to keep it to myself until I had the go-ahead to disclose!  So, the Burke family of 4 will become a party of 5 next year!

March, to be exact, since that's when the other 2 boys have birthdays!  I guess the birthday decorations can go up for the whole month now!  We all found out it was a boy when they were visiting here in late August, and neither Ian nor Jack had been let in on the secret until then.  Because there is nothing secret in their world!  Ian, who is 4, was pretty astounded when Brita told him about the baby inside her -- "Really?  Is it there inside right now?  Can I see it come out?"  Jack, 2, didn't seem that impressed, but he did like playing the new game of "Jack, where's your baby?"

This was his answer every time!  He's a child of few words!  And it's a good thing he still wears a diaper because otherwise those pants would be on the ground!  I think he might need suspenders soon, because he's on the verge of moving into underwear.

So, of course, a new grandson needs new quilty and knitty things, so I'm working on some of those ideas.  With the fact that they live in Charlotte, NC, there's not much need of warm wooly things, so I have to think beyond the little knitted hats, mittens and sweaters.  But it is still cool there in March and April, so there's still a need to keep a little guy cozy!

But back to what's happening at home--

I'm experimenting with sewing on something new.  It's called Kraft-tex, and it's a papery fabric crossbreed.  I'm first making just an easy tote bag from a free pattern on their website.  Then, together with Leisl, we each want to make a new tote bag from a pattern we saw last week.  You'll hear more about that!

This is as far as I've gotten with my first bag because I forgot to pick out the webbing for the handles when I was at Bear Patch Saturday.  The brown part is the Kraft-tex after crumpling and wetting and mashing it around during sewing.  I sewed a bit of a decorative stitch on it with red thread to echo the chevron design of the fabric.  Next time I would do more of that, but for my first attempt this is fine.  The bottom looks like an old grocery bag!  I'm hoping it gets better when I get it finished!  It's strange to sew, because it has stiffness like real heavyweight paper, but it doesn't tear or rip.

Yesterday I had some time at home to take care of some plants that have been outdoors this summer.  Thanks to a birthday gift card from Dan, I was able to buy what I needed to make this little arrangement of assorted plants and rocks.  I don't know the names of the individual plants, but each is different.  Dan has nurtured some succulents indoors because he doesn't have a suitable outdoor space, so I'm hoping mine will do OK in the house, too.  A couple of these had to be repotted, and some leaves were broken off during that process so I am using them to try to propagate more plants.

Here's hoping the scant winter light will be enough to keep them happy!