Tuesday, September 19, 2017

the season's changing

Taking a little walk around the neighborhood shows just how much summer is slipping away.  Moving on to the next season, with days becoming shorter and shorter.  This morning, daylight didn't show up until about 6:45.  Very tardy, compared to the 5AM dawns of midsummer.  This little pond down the street is all green speckled with the turning-crimson leaves of sumac.

And these bright orange berries tell me that summer vacation is over and school buses are making the rounds again.  We had these trees growing in front of the school that I went to.  Summer seemed like a wonderful time, but when I saw these berries appear, I knew the fun was coming to an end.  These said Back To School before anyone dreamed of school supply sales at Target!


But back to the sewing room!  I'm getting ready for a vacation next week, and I need some little paper shapes all set up and ready to go with me.  I'm continuing at a slow but steady pace on the Round We Go Sew Along from Sue Daley Designs.  These are the 2 blocks I have finished so far.  They are 7" diameter, as a frame of reference.  I am instructed to make 4 blocks of this design for month 1. 

 And here are the pieces for blocks 3 & 4, all prepped and ready to go on vacation with me!  A little Halloween and a bit of summertime flowers.

These take me a bit of time to pull together, I have to review my entire fabric stash to find just the right colors and shapes.  I look for interesting little bits of color and design that might catch the eye and even stir up a bit of humor in an unexpected place.

The Month 2 blocks have a couple of different shapes, and even though it doesn't show up well in the photo, I've mixed in a little metallic sparkle.  Along with little owls in stocking caps!

Also tucked into my little sewing bag is a block that I had forgotten about--also English Paper Piecing, that goes with another collection of blocks that I haven't finished!  This one is on a little larger scale, and I love the way the fussy-cutting of the red and white outer ring.  Some might call me crazy for spending time on these little things that are really of no great consequence in "the big picture".  But this is a little touch of beauty that I can create, and helps me make it through the mess of the daily news created by the people that are supposedly world leaders.  Just give me some fabric!

An interesting side note, for readers that know a thing or two about EPP-- The new project I am undertaking comes from Sue Daley Designs, and Australian company with a lot of history in this segment of sewing.  The paper pieces, acrylic templates and instructions all come from that company, and the acrylics are sized with a 1/4" seam allowance.  That's a little bit different from most other things I have been sewing that originate from Paper Pieces.  That's an American company and supplier.  Their acrylics have a 3/8" seam allowance.  That 1/8" difference might not seem like a lot to you, but it does make a difference to my fingers as I work on basting the fabric to the paper.  I much prefer the 3/8" size, but sometimes you have to work with what you've got.  The picture below shows the slight difference in the size of the fabric turned to the back side of the paper piece.

I use a fabric glue pen to adhere the fabric to the papers until they are all sewn together.  The glue isn't permanent, and I use a light hand with it.  The basic glue pen I have is from a company called Sewline, and the refill sticks from various makers (Fons & Porter, Bohin, Sue Daley, etc.) all fit the same basic glue pen.  This might be the first time I have used the F&P brand, which I picked up yesterday when I went to the Joanne's store for a Halloween decoration.  I knew I was running low and needed to get some of this done prior to my vacation.  But I'm now thinking that this brand might not be the best for what I'm doing.  I've noticed that I'm needing to use a little more of it, and hold pressure a bit longer to get a bond.  I'm talking a second or 2, so not a big deal.  But I'll probably go back to one of the other brands when I need more refills.

I don't plan on spending all of my vacation just sitting around and stitching on these things!  But it's good to be prepared!  I might get some reading done, too, in between other fun stuff.  I'll share a progress report when I get back home. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

retreat wrap-up

Last weekend, my mom and I attended a quilting retreat at Bridge Creek Cottage in Augusta, WI.  We've been there before with essentially the same group, so it's nice that mom has this circle of friends away from home.  She doesn't have a regular sewing group at home, so this is a good chance for her to have some fun with the rest of the quilting group.
She was very busy and productive!  She made all the blocks and put them together for this pretty quilt that will go to a great-granddaughter.  She started picking some of these fabrics while we were on our trip to Sisters, OR.  At Bear Patch, she added more fabric selections.  The pattern is by Terry Atkinson and is called Birthday Presents.

Last night she sent me this picture --

She added the blue border, layered it with backing and wool batting, got it rolled onto her quilt frame and has started the hand quilting!  She's going to see this little great-granddaughter, Elsa, who lives in CA, this winter so she wants to have it done to take along.  After that, she will get going on quilting the one she's already put together for great-grandson, Jack.  She is on a mission to make each of her great-grandkids (6) a "grown-up" quilt that will fit a big bed and be suitable for them at a later date.

 I did some sewing on those 3 1/2 days, too!  Here's what I worked on:

A Christmas wallhanging with fabric and pattern by Sandy Gervais, to use in the Christmas display at the store.  This needs some interesting quilting in all of the white space.  Little buttons will be sewn to the tops of the trees and hats.
The back is also pieced with a star, but I didn't get that done yet.
Here's something that had been waiting for me to sew together for awhile.  This is called Hexagon Shuffle, and it's a free pattern from Moda that came with a pack of the solid colored pre-cut hexagons.  The 2 rows on the left are completed and sewn together.

I had worked on these stockings last year and finished 3, but I had 3 left to do.  They were mostly done, but needed finishing up.  They still need buttons for eyes on the moose and squirrel.  Then they are ready for gifts!  Pattern is Stopping By The Woods by Laura Heine.

This quilt started out as demo samples for using a special ruler, the Curved Slotted Ruler by Creative Grids.  I had prepared several "step-out" samples to show the process of making a block.  After the demo, I hung onto the pieces.  I figured out I had enough material to make several blocks, and this is what I ended up with.

This is not a sewing project at all, but it does involve fabric!  This is a piece of wonderful woven cotton flannel called Mammoth Flannels by Robert Kaufman.  It's available in many colors and designs of plaid, and I've used this for samples at Bear Patch last winter.  They make great winter scarves by just raveling a fringed edge.  This particular piece was from a bolt I spied at Stitch Supply Co. on the way to retreat.  It was a color combination I hadn't seen before and really called my name!  So 4 scarves were born!

This picture isn't very flattering, but it's 2 little laminated Trash Stash bags that were another old project just waiting for me to finish!  They have a little hanging loop.  I use one by my sewing machine and one in the car.  The laminated fabric came from Bear Patch, and we used the pattern  as a make-and-take project for a retreat.
Here's an amusing sight!  I sewed on my Bernina 820, which is one of the large bed machines so it's a little larger than some other machines.  Saturday night, I ran into some problems with bobbin tension that I couldn't figure out, even with the coaching of my friendly Bernina technician, Beth, by phone.  So I got to borrow a spare machine that Barbara had brought along.  It's a baby Janome!  It looks like my big machine just gave birth!  It sewed just fine, and is light as a feather.  I did get my machine straightened out Monday morning.  Well, actually, since the problem was operator error, I got myself, the operator, straightened out!

So, all's well that ends well, and this retreat was very fun!  By taking along some things that I had started before, plus a couple new things, I felt productive with my time.  I used to go to retreats more frequently.  For right now in my life, that can't happen, so it's good to get the chance to go to this one.  I don't get another quilting get-away until January, so I'll have plenty saved up to work on for then!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

life at its best!

Doesn't that make you want to go hug someone!!?
Already 1/2 a year old, and so happy that it makes him wiggly all over!  
When's the last time you felt that happy?!
And what could you do to make yourself feel that happy right now?

I know!  A trip to the quilt shop!  Last week our group of 6 friends visited the Perham, MN store, Bay Window Quilts.  This is a great destination quilt shop.  Perham is smallish city in west central MN.  It's right on the railroad and a main highway, so it's a hub for people in the area.  5 of us drove from Blaine to Nancy's house on Big Swan Lake in Todd County, northwest of St. Cloud if you are looking at a map.  We are a group who have become friends through quilting.  So it was only natural that the next day we set out for about 1.5 hours drive to Perham with the goal of romping through the fabric!  They have a good selection of types and styles of fabric, including quite a bit of flannel and "fluffy stuff" - i.e., Minkee/Cuddle/fleecy fabrics.
I don't get to shop in other stores very often, since I'm in my very favorite store to work a few times a week.  On our trip to Oregon, we actually were in 10 different quilt shops which is a treat for me.  I approach that kind of shopping excursion differently than a lot of quilters, because I end up looking at displays, brands, patterns, etc., that I can take pictures of to bring ideas home with me.
But before going to Bay Window, I decided that my mission would be to add to my stock of orange-ish fabric because when I did my last culling through the stash, it was low on orange.

I came away with a bit more than orange!  Here's a pattern for a dress that they displayed, and it looked like it would be comfortable and not so hard to make.  The 4 little fabrics in front were in a bundle that was my reward for spending enough money!

I did find some good oranges in small amounts to be used in some paper piecing--

I also bought a spool of thread that I want to try for paper piecing.  It's 60 wt. cotton from Presencia.  Under the spool is a piece of nice woven brushed cotton flannel that I can use for a winter scarf or 2 or 4.  The gray cloud fabric was purchased to go with the moon panel below --

the gray will make a nice border for a wall hanging for one of my walls.

We ate lunch right across the street at a very good little cafe called Whisk.  We all recommend it!

When I returned home, I found that the caterpillar that I found on a milkweed by my driveway and metamorphosed into a chrysalis!  According to what I have read, it should take about 10 days to turn into a monarch butterfly.

If this video works right, it will show a time lapse of this very interesting transformation!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

a little English paper piecing episode

Don't ask me why - I've got a couple of new handwork projects started.
I guess I have very little resistance to something eye catching!
It doesn't help that I have a group of like-minded people at Bear Patch!  We have our monthly Paper Pizzazz group, plus I have co-workers who aid and abet me!

The blocks you see below first caught my attention in a quilt called Floating Colors that I saw on the Paper Pieces website.  It is from a book titled Millifiore Quilts.
Later, I saw another quilt called Quatro Colors by Sue Daley, and I put 1 + 1 together and figured out that they are actually the same block.


I ended up ordering the acrylic templates and necessary paper templates to make a few of these blocks.  I got the starter pack, this made me feel like I wasn't tackling anything that I couldn't manage!  Well, now that I've dabbled a bit with colors and shapes, I might want to get a few more blocks done and put this together for something to hang on my wall.

If you are comparing the 2 quilts, Floating Colors and Quatro Colors, the difference in them is a 45 degree turn.  Also, the Floating Colors uses assorted colored pieces where I have used light background pieces in mine.
I don't really have a good color plan worked out for my blocks, I'm basically just picking things that I like out of my stash and mixing it up as I go.  We'll see what develops!

Then, at the Quilt Market in St. Louis last Spring, I saw a new Sue Daley block program that interested me.  Since I'm the leader of the Paper Pizzazz group, it's part of my job to bring new ideas and projects to the group.  Debbie (my Bear Patch boss) is a great enabler.  She always tells me that if I like it, go for it!  So, I ended up ordering this Round We Go Block of the Month program.  There are 5 more people starting this along with me, and we can sign up more if you are interested.
Below is my first attempt at picking colors and fabrics for a block.  The block is round and after it's assembled it will be appliqued to a background square.  This picture just shows my bits of fabric laid together on a design board.  I'll be able to show you a better picture when I get some sewing done.

I just finished a book, The Lost Boy, that is a real page turner.  I've read some other books in the series by Camilla Lackberg, and this has the same recurring characters.  I've discovered that there are 8 books in the series, so I should figure out which I've read and which are still out there waiting for me.  This happened to be an actual softcover book loaned to me by a friend (a Paper Pizzazz friend!).  Mostly I've been checking out digital download books from the library, and I was so happy when I figured out that I can get them on my phone and play them over the car speakers when I'm driving.  It's great when technology works in my favor!  With a drive of 40-45 minutes to get to work, I can move through a book at a good pace.

Read any good books lately?

Friday, August 11, 2017

bits & pieces

I'm having a cactus moment!
This plant has been living with us for over 2 years.
It showed no growth at all.
I thought it might be dead, I couldn't really tell if it was growing or had become petrified.  Not petrified as in scared, petrified as in dead and turning to rock!  Still, I watered it, wiped off the cobwebs, kept it in a sunny spot, and figured that even if it was going to die, it was a unique specimen.  Then, I started noticing something funny going on up on top.
Now it is sprouting out little clubby branches!
So we'll have to watch and see what takes shape!

Last night my quilt group, Ham Lake Piecemakers, had our summer picnic/party at the home of one of our members, Nancy.  After our potluck feast, we had a little socializing and show-and-tell.
Maggie showed this quilt, just back from the longarm quilter, Dawn.
It's a pleasure to see one of my patterns all sewn up by someone other than me!
This pattern is Connections and I think it was from 2015 for Quilt MN.

Yesterday also brought some work in our garden, and picking more green beans.
A few had been allowed to grow past their prime!  I much prefer them at a smaller, more tender age!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Minnesota Quilters' Annual Show

I had missed out on going to the MN Quilters' show for several years, but last Thursday I had a perfect chance to go with some friends to Duluth for the day.  
The quilts I am showing have a very distinct theme--scraps!
They also are quilts that are one-of-a-kind, in most cases.  
Maybe they will inspire me, or you, or anyone watching, to dig into those scraps or bits and pieces of fabric that just really need a home in a quilt.

This is a small section of a quilt with an overall neutral tone effect.
Mostly beige/tan/gray with random slivers of colors.
Then all heavily hand quilted!  It was striking!

Here are some blocks that we use in many quilts,
so there's nothing technically difficult about this one.
But the overall combination really creates a textured look.

This is a pattern I have seen before but I can't find the name.
I know it is by Brigitte Heitland, designer of Zen Chic fabrics and patterns for Moda.
She designs some great "modern" or contemporary quilts.

I loved this version of a different layout for scrappiness.

This pattern is apparently well-loved, because I saw it more than once in the show.  The quilting is shown in better detail below, and was done by Karen McTavish.  She had the honor of being "MN Quilter of the Year", and had a great exhibit of her work.  She is a very talented and innovative machine quilter, who teaches worldwide and has published several books.  She is from Duluth, and has a studio/store there for classes and use of her longarm machines.
Karen's name has been given to a specific quilting style, McTavishing.  It's the echoed circles and swirls shown in one section above, and makes for a great background texture.  I've taken a class from her and applied the technique to some of my own quilting, although not in the teeny tiny scale shown here!

Here's a design I've seen many times in quilts,
but this just popped out at me as something I would like to make.

Again, back to the scraps!  I've included this quilt especially to show
the straight-line quilting that doesn't have to always be straight to look great!
Random sizes of strips sewn into groups, then chopped up in sections combine
to make a design-it-yourself quilt!
Notice that seams don't need to be aligned and sections are different sizes.
So much freedom!

Improvisational triangles trimmed to make squares of one size give this quilt a
much more organized look, but still allowing for lots of
freedom in fabric choices and piecing angles.
The quilt info said that many of the fabrics came from mens' shirts.

 And lastly, below, a luminescent quilt that seemed to glow!
I had to get up close because I thought it was all painted, 
but, in fact, it's all fabric pieces appliqued onto the black background.  
It had an eye-catching result.
A work of art!

There are also a lot of shopping opportunities at a show like this.  I guess having worked quite a few years in a quilt shop makes me a poor consumer when I go to the vendors' booths, because if I see something I like I can make a note and then order it for Bear Patch.  I ended up buying only 1 pattern, but I had my hands on a couple of different quilt kits that were tempting.  I reached into my fortitude and resisted!  Maybe I'm actually understanding that I have more than enough fabric and patterns to last my lifetime already!  But I do appreciate all the hard work that goes into setting up and running a booth at a show.  I've done that a couple times for the store, and it is no picnic!

I hope you've enjoyed the quilts, and I wish I could provide more information on designers, patterns, maker, etc., for them.  It was a fun field trip, and I thank Jean and Mary for doing the driving for our group!  It was a pleasure to ride with you!

Monday, June 12, 2017

the kids are here!

It's that glorious time of year when the days are extra long and the world is a riot of growing things.  It's hard to imagine that life could get much better than that, but it did!  The kids are here!
Brita, Ben and the 3 little boys flew from Charlotte, NC, for a nice long stay.
They said it was the best flight they have ever made with kids, so that's a great way to start the vacation!  If you have ever traveled much with little people, you know that it takes a whole different kind of wrangling to get to your destination!

It's been about 2 months since we saw baby Leo, and what a change!  He is almost identical to his 2 older brothers at the same age.  There is so much more of him to love and snuggle!
He interacts now, has developed a little smiley face, holds his own head up, likes to be upright so he can learn how it feels to support his weight on his feet, and can be happy spending some moments on his playmat alone.  He's just amazing!  I imagine he's thinking "oh boy, my grandpa and grandma are back, I remember their arms and scent from my days as a baby!"

 Ian and Jack are growing into such wonderful little boys, and they LOVE Superheroes!
They have these great little shirts with capes on the back, so they totally have awesome super powers!
We have a deep window well that often is home to some frogs, 
and they were looking to see if any needed to be rescued.  

Yesterday our pastor performed a baptism service for Leo, so that makes 3 for 3 that he has baptized!
The big brothers and 2 of their best Minnesota friends had ringside seats, and they even poured the water into the basin!  It was fun for them to help and they stood so nice and still during the important bits! 

We arrived at church just as a severe thunderstorm hit, so actually we were all baptized by the heavens above on our dash into the church!

We love having the Burkes visit, and I'm sure we will have many memorable moments while they are here.  Sometimes we get photos, but just as often they are images that pop up in our conversation weeks or months later that are vivid reminders of our family life together.  We are so blessed!