Thursday, June 30, 2011

fabric shopping!

Life has been a little chaotic these past few days.  The hiker is running behind since a big rainstorm that came through here Tuesday night drenched him and he got a late start Wednesday after waiting for his gear to dry out.  So instead, I got to the grocery store in a leisurely fashion and switched around the menus ... buying enough to take dinner over to my Honey's sister and brother-in-law's new house and enjoying an evening on their back deck.  The hiker should hit his trail mark today around noon, and I'll pick him up, bring him home, and work from there this afternoon while cooking up a big meal of spaghetti and meatballs and chocolate cake for dessert.  I won't get back into my sewing room again before the weekend, much of which I'll be spending on the road. 

Today I bought some new fabric from one of my favorite online shops, Green Fairy Quilts.  Judi and Clint are having a sale on Moda Samples and I have been on the lookout for a fabric line that would make a beautiful quilt for my Honey, since he's the one I haven't begun one for.  I saw Moda's Panier de Fleurs line and thought that would be just perfect - masculine colors but a classic, refined touch in the designs perfectly suits my Honey. 

I bought their fat eighth bundle and now will have to keep my mind open to what to do with it.  I did see this quilt designed with it by Gerri Robinson at Planted Seed Designs that struck my fancy, but I could do a lot of similar designs with it without needing to buy yet another pattern: 

Fat eighths should give me a lot to work with, and I have always liked the French General designs, so I'll be pleased to get these and work with them.  By the time I have a top put together, the line should hit the shops and I should be able to buy the coordinating fabric, maybe something from the wovens line.  I also couldn't resist picking up a pair of Cape Ann charm packs:
It's just so darn adorable.  I have no idea what I'll do with it, but I have the Nickel Quilts book and hope that something in there will appeal to me and that two sets of charms will be enough.  To me, charm packs are like bon bons ... they're so inexpensive, especially on sale, and such a great way to get my hands on every piece of fabric in a new line.  I have a total weakness for those blues and pinks together and have not made anything from that book yet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

FWQAL Week 4

Last night I worked on two more blocks:
From left, #12, Broken Sugar Bowl; #6, Big Dipper.

You might notice that I did not use the focal print I had used previously, but a few prints from my stash that coordinate with my earlier blocks, show below:

I note that I tend to use one very busy print and a lot of tonals or solids to coordinate.  Just my comfort zone, I suppose.

One more night and I will be caught up with this week - Week 5 - but I'm not all that sure it's going to happen.  Tonight we are hosting the 18-year-old son of a friend, he has been hiking the Appalachian Trail and is stopping by for a homecooked meal, shower, and sleep in a bed after logging some 700 miles since March.  Although I imagine it will be an early night for everyone, I'm rarely motivated to hit my sewing room later in the evening, and I need some extra sleep myself.  We'll see if I do any sewing tomorrow night.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

FWQAL Week 3

My aim this week with no kids around is to get caught up with the Farmer's Wife Quilt-A-Long blocks.  I think they're in Week 5, and I'm just finishing Week 3, so it might be possible.  Anyway, here is what I did last night:
On the left is block #2, Autumn Tints; on the right is #57, Morning.  I chose to skip ahead and do that one because of this thread on the Flickr group - it's really about block #100, but someone mentioned this as being challenging and probably needing to be paper pieced, so I thought I'd try the traditional method first.

Here's the funny thing:  this multicolored square fabric was the third and final focal fabric I bought for the three different sets of blocks I'm making here (I figure I'll make three small sampler quilts from each colorway).  I was regretting the print when I began cutting templates, because it seems so large and varied.  I thought it would go better in the large pieces like the #2 template on the left, than being sliced and diced into small pieces - that diamond in the center of Morning is actually NINE pieces of the fabric cut and sewn back together.  But the odd thing is, I like the way it turned out better in Morning than in Autumn Tints.  I think that the first one is just too busy, especially because you're looking at squares next to four-squares.  I might end up redoing that one in a different print.  And no, my focal print does not need to be in every block, but I do want a sense of continuity in color, so it will be in most of the blocks I make in each set.

I admit that I more prefer to work in the blues and greens that went with the paisley, and the teals and purples that went with the spots, so those are probably what I'll go back to in order to catch up to weeks 4 and 5 this week.

I think the nicest part of making these blocks is that my Honey was relaxing with a beer in the big easy chair in my sewing room, venting about his day, as I was cutting the pieces.  I didn't have to choose between spending time with him and working in my sewing room.  :-)

Monday, June 27, 2011

A new week!

I spent the weekend with my son, which was relaxing and restful, but the only sewing I did was some hand-piecing of blocks which I'll have to upload a photo of after I press them and take one.  It's a lot of driving, though - I arrived at my dad's house at 2 AM Saturday morning, ten hours after I left my office.  Granted, I stopped off for dinner and s'mores with an old college friend I haven't seen in years, but it was still a heck of a drive.  I got frustrated with the completely stopped traffic around 11:45 PM - construction approaching the DC beltway - and hopped off until my navigation system rerouted me.  I ended up on a midnight tour of downtown DC, which was actually pretty cool, but I wouldn't attempt that at any other time of the day besides between midnight and 5 AM.

My boyfriend's daughters have returned to their mother's house for this week, so this will be our last full week of quiet at home until sometime in August.  While I'll make the drive north again this coming weekend, I will return with my son, who will stay for about six weeks, and his kids will continue to spend every other week with us all summer.  I plan to take full advantage of it by spending good quality time in my sewing room, catching up on my FWQAL blocks and maybe piecing the top for my boyfriend's younger daughter, or working on my own son's (paper pieced) blocks, or designing the border to a quilt for a jewelry designer with whom I am trading art pieces.  The running list of to-do's will keep me on target, don't worry.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

First two weeks - caught up!

It's official - I'm in the Farmer's Wife Quilt-a-Long.  I've got four blocks done and I'm seeing why people are enjoying this so much.

Clockwise from top left:  #1 Attic Windows; #4 Basket Weave; #9 Box; #5 Bat Wing.

I am doing two at a time in each focal print - I have a third print to do, but since we are in week 4, I can get caught up pretty quickly. 

There are two main things I am enjoying about this.  One is that I'm finding bits and pieces in my stash that go with these prints and it's so much fun.  I have so many random scraps or 6" squares of fabrics and have never had any idea of what to do with them.  When something matches the focal print so well, it's like a little celebration happening in my sewing room.  I start flipping through the book to find something to do with it.

The other thing, surprisingly, is working with the templates.  I've never had the patience for templates - I do the math and cut strips and squares and such.  But after reading the words from those who started on time, I thought I'd slow down and do the templates (and this was confirmed after measuring some of the templates and finding my Omnigrid ruler wouldn't get as exact as the templates).  Angela has a good blog post on the ease of the clipped corners here - it reminds me of Inklingo although I haven't gotten around to trying that yet either - and it really is lovely how the tiny pieces just match up.  The only thing I need to worry about is my seam allowances.  True, it can take three times as long to cut a block than to sew it, but because of the pace of the Quilt-A-Long, I'm not finding that annoying.

Tonight is hand sewing night at my friend Kitty's house.  I am deliberating whether to bring the Drunkard's Path blocks I'm hand piecing (first time ever trying hand-piecing) or to bring fabric and book and templates and cut some more FW blocks.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

today is the day

I'm feeling a little more up to returning to my sewing room tonight.  I still won't be going back to Sit & Stitch (and I deleted the previous post that was little more than whining), but I think today is the day that I finally begin focusing on some FWQAL blocks and playing catch-up.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sit & Stitch Monday again

My boyfriend's daughters have arrived for the week, which means our household is slightly more hectic than usual.  Yesterday, his whole family came over for a Father's Day dinner, but I still had time to prepare for tonight's Sit & Stitch session.  I did spend a good portion of Saturday sewing curtains, so tonight's project will be just a decorative sham/pillowcase for a full-length body pillow that I like to keep on the bed behind the regular pillows.

The Farmer's Wife book arrived on Saturday and I've been flipping through it and printing the templates - I even cut out the first 40 or so yesterday while my boyfriend's sister prepared dinner.  I have not yet cut or sewn any fabric, but I do plan to work on it this week.  I'm not sure how our evenings with the girls will work out.  I know they visit to spend time with him, so I don't worry too much about being present for every waking moment.  I'm also still kicking this cold, and early bedtime is a priority.  Since I go to a friend's house to sew handwork on Thursday night, it leaves me Tuesday and Wednesday to make some progress and have family time.  We'll see how that goes.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sewing Saturday

This head cold has really kicked my butt.  I left work early yesterday and while I couldn't manage a nap under the influence of antihistamines, I slept 11 hours last night and am moving slowly this morning.  I did do a little bit of work yesterday on my Civil War Chronicles BOM, which is pictured below all laid out to add onto what was previously done.  I like that this quilt goes together like a medallion quilt, and this is the second out of five months that there has been some partial top construction.
It's really challenging my quarter seam allowance abilities and each time I go to add blocks I hold my breath, hoping the seams match up all along the way.  The most challenging part is the triangles added on the bias - how do you ensure those match up so the tips aren't longer on one side than the other?

The Farmer's Wife book is out for delivery to me today.  It is our last Saturday without any children until sometime late in August and while my Honey is out doing yard work, I plan to power through this cold and enjoy it in my sewing room, with dinner out at the end of the evening.  Tomorrow will be spent with kids arriving for the week and other family coming over to celebrate Father's Day, so I'll handle all the tasks of cleaning up, grocery shopping and baking then and just enjoy today!

Green Fairy Quilts: Giveaway Giveaway!!! Plus - all Fat Quarter Bundles 25% off!!

Green Fairy Quilts: Giveaway Giveaway!!! Plus - all Fat Quarter Bundles 25% off!!

I do a lot of my online shopping for pre-cuts at Green Fairy Quilts, because she really has the BEST prices. Every Thursday she comes out with a new deal. Today Judi is giving away a Free Fat Quarter Bundle of Holly Jolly:

And who wouldn't want that? So if I have any readers who don't already know of Green Fairy Quilts - go enter.

And I'm excited to see I have my first follower! Welcome, mommysue7!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

my sewing room

I wish I could make the move to speak of myself quasi-professionally as a quilter and call this my studio, but that's a leap I haven't quite made yet.  Still, welcome in and let me show you around the place a little bit!
This is my sewing area.  On the left is Baron von Quilthausen, my Bernina 930.  On the right, Old Sally, a Singer who was born on April 23, 1930 and is still going strong.  She just got a new power cord and a cleaning, and she does the most perfect stitches, even though doesn't zigzag, backstitch or even adjust for length.

This is my cutting area.  I did NOT do any dressing  or cleaning up of my space for these photos.  On the far left you can see my whiteboard with my perpetual list of projects.  On the right is a basket I generally use for WIPs to move to the cutting table, but my Honey piled in a few quilts that were laying around the house since our guild show in March.  Behind it is a folding table that I set up when I'm doing some serious cutting in front of the TV.

This is my pressing area.  Last night I washed all my new fabrics and they were out of the dryer waiting to be ironed.  Pre-washing fabric is a habit I've gotten out of since I've been using so many pre-cuts, but when I buy cheaper cottons like from Jo-Ann's, I'll be sure to do it.  I love the fireplace off to the left and it's a goal of mine to get a gas log installed and running, because soot in my sewing room is very unwelcome!

Here is a shot of my main sewing cabinet, open.  There are four large plastic bin drawers full of fabric that slide out, a clear tray above that, and two shelves with various forms of storage as well as open place to store batting and so on.  This is an Ikea wardrobe which I designed to meet my specifications.
Here is the rest of my organized area.  The other door reveals a few wire bins at the bottom and lots of containers that hold primarily the kids' crafting supplies.  On the right is my bookcase and more Ikea storage solutions - the pretty Lingo cardboard boxes.  Everything is labeled - I like using the Post-It tape because it peels off so easily.  However, it tends to peel off too easily from plastic and is better at sticking to the paper boxes well, which is good because the projects in those change relatively often.

Are you tired yet?  I am!
I'll relax here in the La-Z-Boy and flip through a book for some inspiration, or do some handwork in front of the TV.  If it's nice out, I'll open the back door there and enjoy the porch swing under the back deck.  The powder room is right there too so I don't need to leave the room until I'm hungry.

If my honey is on the road, odds are that this is where I'll be spending my time.  The dog sometimes comes to hang out with me, but I haven't gotten him quite comfortable in the room yet - he likes to be monitoring the house from the upstairs, I think.  I really have great lighting and space, and there's enough room for the kids to play without messing up my area, so it works out well.  I'm so lucky to be able to have this area; it's my largest sewing room yet.

I was looking forward to spending a chunk of my evening there tonight too, but I seem to have a head cold I can't shake, and I may call it a day early to go home and sleep rather than sew.  That would stink, but there is the weekend ahead to look forward to.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recent projects

One of the things I really like about the Star Quilter's Guild is that they take and post photos from each month's Show & Tell.  Considering I often send off a quilt before taking a good (or any) photo of it, this has been a great way for me to document what I do ... and get it out there.  Here are a few from the past two months; both quilts are made from Kim Brackett's scrap basket books on quilts from 2 1/2" strips, and both were quilted by Laura at Star City Stitchery.

This is a quilt called "Tool Shed" that I made for my cousin Joellen, whose husband was senselessly murdered by a neighbor in January.  Scott was a deep sea fisherman and I made all the colors in blues and greens.  Many of the fabrics actually came from Joellen back when she owned an antique shop and sent me a big pile of musty old fabrics.  There's a lot of symbolism in this quilt to try to give her hope that what you send out into this world comes back to you in another form.

This quilt, pattern "Pinwheel", I made out of Me & My Sister's Favorites and Happy jelly rolls and pieced it in an all-day Quilting Spa Retreat hosted by The Quilting Connection in Boone's Mill.  I have yet to finish the binding but it's most of the way finished.  This quilt is intended for my boyfriend's oldest daughter ... I'm working on quilts for all three of the kids and they're all in varying degrees of completion.

FWQAL fabrics

Yesterday, after a grueling 11-hour day in the office, I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics on the way home.  As I mentioned in my previous post, their sale this week included fat quarters for only $0.99.  I ended up choosing yardage in three focal prints - the bright squares, the cool-colored dots, and the blue/green paisley - and then a bunch of fat quarters to coordinate.  Although their premium quilting fabrics were not on sale, I used a couple of 50% coupons and I ended up with sale prices on everything (plus my VIP 10% discount on top of that).  Honestly, I feel like I steal from that store sometimes. 

I also bought a Clover bias tape maker that I read about at Jillily Studio since it was 50% off ... I'd read about them and seen them often enough, but after such a glowing review I had to have one.  So 17 FQs, 3.5 yards of fabric, and a bias tape maker for around $35 ... not bad.

Rest assured, I have PLENTY of fat quarters, yardage and scraps to coordinate with these already, but part of the fun of fabric shopping is choosing things that match.  The woman at the cutting counter complimented my choice of fabrics, and I was surprised myself that I chose all modern fabrics.  Then again, Jo-Ann's doesn't exactly have the blowout selection like some of my favorite quilt stores.

I saw the book for sale there, and I think all quilting books are currently 40% off, whereas I ordered it from at 34% off.  I seriously thought about buying it and canceling my Amazon order, but I also ordered the third book in the Hunger Games series to read with my son this summer, and wouldn't get my free shipping on it.  Amazon is estimating delivery date between tomorrow and Saturday, and honestly, I have enough to do without beginning on these yet.  In flipping through the book I see that each book references various template numbers, and when I get it, I might sit down and create templates before I even begin cutting and sewing fabric.  We have had a Netflix DVD sitting in front of our TV since November so that sort of thing is good TV-watching activity.

I have already told my Honey that I need some quilting time tonight, and I'm looking forward to a rare weekend with absolutely NOTHING on tap.  Although I swear I will devote some of that time to curtains, tonight I want to get caught up on some other projects, like my Civil War Chronicles BOM.  I recently downloaded the Blogger app to my Droid and am looking forward to taking some more pictures for anyone who might be reading.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Farmer's Wife Quilt-A-Long

Well, I didn't make it to Sit & Stitch last night and I'm feeling slightly guilty.  I knew it was going to be a stretch to get everything together, especially since I had a 3 PM court date for the case to which I was appointed the CASA representative, and as usual, the docket was backed up.  I didn't get out of there until 4:30 and home at 5, which would have given me about 40 minutes to change, collect my sewing stuff, eat something for dinner, and get back on the road.  Sewing is what I do to remove stress, and when it actually becomes MORE stressful, it doesn't work for me, so I left my sewing room in half-packed disarray and instead my honey and I ordered pizza and both got out our work laptops to finish up some projects for the day.  On the bright side, it was a beautiful evening; I was actually getting chilly sitting on the back porch.

Anyway, one of the reasons I began this blog now is for the Quilt-A-Long I read about over at The Happy Zombie.  Monica linked to Amanda and Angela, who had put together a fun little project to make all the six-inch blocks in the book, "The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt: Letters from 1920s Farm Wives and the 111 Blocks They Inspired."  Well, I ordered my copy from Amazon and am waiting for it to arrive, and of course, the question top of mind right now is which fabrics should I use?  Monica is sewing them in her own fabric line, and since I am not brilliant or renowned enough to have my own fabric line, I guess I must go with a plan B.  A look at the Flickr group indicates that people are doing these in modern fabrics, in 1930's repros, in tonal solids, in red & white, in florals, and in Civil War repros.  Well, I am all 1930's out, with Elephant Parade recently finished and a Bow Tie next on deck for hand quilting, I have a red & white Jacob's Ladder UFO that's been waiting for years for a flying geese border, and I'm also halfway into the Civil War Chronicles Block of the Month as pictured below courtesy of the Fat Quarter Shop:

I should probably take it as a sign that Jo-Ann Fabrics is currently having a week-long sale on fat quarters - $0.99 each - and go let availability inspire me.  Then again, I'm also considering buying yardage of a single focal print and then a bunch of coordinating fat quarters for the blocks.  Or who even says that all 111 blocks have to go into ONE quilt?  I could make several smaller ones in various colorways.  I'm not fond of sampler quilts myself anyway, so I will probably donate the final product(s) to Margaret's Hope Chest or one of our guild's charity initiatives, which is one reason I'm considering using Jo-Ann's rather than stocking up at one of the many local quilt stores.  I suppose if I wanted to be truly authentic, I'd just use fabrics from my stash, and I'll probably use some of those too, but really ... what's a new project without new fabric?

The advantage to being behind in the QAL is that I'm already learning from others' mistakes.  Note to self:  use the templates and don't try to convert them into math.  Actually, if I buy the FQs at Jo-Ann's, the little pieces of cardboard they put in there to fold them up all neatly should double well as templates.   Win-win.

(Oh, and PS - we have a whole weekend at home with no kids until he gets them Sunday afternoon, so I PROMISE I will work on some curtains this weekend.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sit and Stitch

I am very fortunate to have my own sewing room - pretty much the entirety of our finished basement.  The kids occasionally use it as a playroom when they're here, but for the most part I can leave things set up or laid out and not worry about it.  Sometime soon I'll take some photos to post - I use an old changing table as a cutting table, I have my generations-old family dining room table in the corner for my machines, and I have a wonderful Ikea cabinet I designed several years ago just to be a sewing cabinet, next to a nice bookcase that holds lots of other goodies.  I also get a pressing area, a lovely recliner and TV, a private exit to the back yard (and porch swing), and a powder room to make it a wonderful place to spend extended periods of time.

When I get down there, though, all I ever want to do is quilt.  Which means that almost a year after moving into the home, I have not done any home decorating, including curtains.  I have fabric for curtains for at least two rooms of the house, as well as for some accessories in our bedroom (body pillow pillowcase and to recover a little bench) but I haven't even touched it.  About a month or so, my honey and I went to an open house of a gorgeous, hundred-year-old home in the city's historic district that was decorated beautifully, including custom window treatments all throughout the house, and the guilt kicked in.

When the City of Roanoke offered a special last month to register for ANY program for absolutely free, I thought this might be a good time to focus on the d*%@ curtains.  So I registered for their "sit and stitch" sessions in June, two hours each week to lug machine, notions, patterns and fabric somewhere else to work on something with help if needed.  Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Frankly, I'd really rather go home to working on a quilt tonight, especially since I bought a bunch of new goodies this past weekend at the Annapolis Quilt Show.  But instead my evening will be devoted to swags, jabots, and other assorted valances.  I really will post some photos as I get moving here (and there).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Introductory Post

I'm not new to blogging, or even to Blogger, but this is the first time I have attempted a quilter's blog. 

I am 41 years old, and I have been quilting for almost twenty years now.  My mother taught me how to sew when I was a child, and through college I would cross-stitch and attempt a random dress pattern, so when I saw an amazing quilt hanging in the home of my parents' friend, I thought I'd teach myself.  My first attempts were disastrous, which comes from skimming a book, saying, "ehhh, I know all this," and then cutting and sewing random fabrics like twills and poly-cotton blends from templates without seam allowances.  I remember being pretty discouraged when looking at that first Card Trick block I attempted!

Over the years I've taken many classes and learned all sorts of techniques (paying closer attention to instructions!), including redwork, various methods of applique, machine and hand quilting, foundation paper piecing, and so on.  I've read hundreds of web tutorials and blogs, and made all sorts of quilts.  The elephant quilt currently set as the background image took over ten years to complete, and is hand appliqued, hand embroidered, and hand quilted (blocks and borders are machine pieced).  Like many other quilters, I have at least a dozen quilts in progress at any time, and at least a dozen or so more that are in a planning stage.

You'll learn more about me as we go, but I am divorced from the father of my 10-year-old son, and living with the love of my life, with whom I reconnected after a hiatus of twenty years.  He has two daughters, and we get all three kids during the summers (off and on) and weekends, which leaves us lots of alone time during the week to do our own thing (including sewing!).  I work full-time, I also enjoy cooking and reading, and I'm a member of the Star Quilter Guild in Roanoke, Virginia.  Lest that all sound too boring, you should also know that I am rarely outside the house without high heels, and can often be found grooving to the Lady Gaga channel on Pandora.

I hope that's good for starters ... there will be more to come.