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!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

odds 'n ends

Are you in need of a good multi-purpose tote for all kinds of stuff?
I just made up this Union Square Floor Tote by Kenzie Mac and I really like it!  I took it along when I went down to Iowa so I could finish sewing the binding around the top edge.  Then I loaded it up with all sorts of things for the trip back home.  All of the items pictured below were packed into the tote, and even though it was heavy, the bag and handle was plenty strong.  We have the patterns for sale over at Bear Patch, in case you want one.

I've been looking for some little planters, something with a little more finesse than the usual terra cotta pots, and nice for indoors.  I used to have a pretty good green thumb, but pets and kids put a damper on my houseplants.  Now I'd like to have a few around to brighten up the space, but they can't require a lot of care.  Wouldn't want to worry about my plants when I am away on a trip!  

This little bunny was with the post-Easter clearance stuff at Target.  I peeled up some moss from a rock in the back yard, and it makes an easy-to-care-for bright spot.  One little seedling of something else sprouted out of the moss!

I've been on the lookout for interesting succulents, because I can usually get those to grow as long as I don't overwater.  This one is doing well, and I like the shadow it casts.

Last night I did some stitching on the binding for this little quilt.  It's from my pattern, Connections, and I used Cuddle fabric on the back.  The lines of quilting look sculpted!  I don't really like hand sewing the binding on that plushy fabric because it's harder to gauge whether I am picking up the necessary threads without stitches showing on the right side of the quilt.  I have to stop and double check frequently.  Good thing it's a little thing!

Last night I also baked cookies, using the Monster Cookie recipe that I like so much.  I'm taking some along to the class I'm teaching this afternoon, and I'm afraid there are going to be a lot of temptations with the rest of them here at home!  So I better think of some other ways to distribute them, other than to my own hips and thighs!

Monday, April 4, 2016

trip to Iowa

I'm feeling kinda special right now, because I'm visiting my mom and she takes such good care of me!  Right now, she's out in the kitchen making chicken and something else really good-smelling for lunch.  Usually, my lunches are just done on a sort-of driveby basis.  Just a brief pause in the day without really counting as a sit-down meal.  But back when lunch was dinner and dinner was supper, an actual meal was planned and served for the middle of the day!

It's been cold and SO WINDY!  The lake is gray and sprinkled with whitecaps.  The wind has been over 30 mph ever since I arrived, and temps below 40, so not a good time to do much outside.  So, we occupied ourselves indoors, instead!

Mom has been hand quilting on this for a great-granddaughter.  Can you tell that she is a fan of purple and pink?!  It's not a complex quilt pattern, a large star surrounded by squares.  It's the colors and designs that make it interesting.  She is quilting little shapes and patterns and numbers into each block.  I hope it is cherished forever!

I brought along a hand sewing project that was started last year (or the year before).  I ran into it when I was gathering examples to use for an upcoming Intro to English Paper Piecing class.  Lots of diamonds left to do....

I have completed 3 of the 8 sections necessary, and made progress on #4.  I have all the fabric pieces cut and stacked in a box, but I'm in trouble.  When I went back through the pieces, I discovered that I didn't cut enough of this one---

I need 9 more diamonds, and I can't find any fabric remaining in my stash!  So this has hit a snag!  Now I go on the quest to find more of this fabric.  Does it look familiar to you?  I don't even know who the manufacturer/designer was, when it was purchased, where it was purchased, etc.
Would you do me a favor and look in your own stash for it, and ask anyone you know who owns a scrap of fabric if they might have it?  I had to do this once before, and by broadcasting my plea to the world wide web, I was lucky enough to find what I needed!  Here's hoping I am that lucky again!

Here's an interesting idea for you!
I found out about an app for altering photos into something more "artsy".  It's called Dreamscope and it's a free app.  They have a lot of different filters that can be applied to create different effects.  I don't think it's the easiest to use, and maybe that's because it takes some time to process the image.  I didn't think I had succeeded in making it work, but when I went back to it later, the bottom picture showed up.  So here is the before and after:

 Kinda' cool!