Friday, January 31, 2014

So Close...

I admit it.  I was hoping to get snowed it during this last winter storm.  I liked the idea of being unable to go anywhere for days on end.  However, I'm grateful that God is infinitely wiser than I am and we received less snow than forecast.  I say that because we had to make an emergency visit to the vet first thing Wednesday morning and the roads were in much better shape than they had predicted.  And after spending the morning there, I came home to find myself coming down with a bug.  This is all a rather long explanation for why I didn't quite manage my goal of completely finishing my Schnibbles quilt for the parade Sherri and Sinta will be hosting on February 1st.  As a reminder the pattern for this month is Jersey Girl by Carrie Nelson.

I used Meadow by Blackbird Designs for my fabric.  Before I added the sashing and border, I wasn't sure if I would like the quilt, but it has definitely grown on me.  It's busy, but that doesn't bother me as much now.  My quilt is the same as the pattern except for one change.  I added red cornerstones in the sashing between the 9 blocks.  This wasn't really a design decision as much as I misread the directions and cut all of my sashing strips to 10" instead of just the 6.  This was my way of salvaging the fabric!

I finished piecing the quilt last weekend and have been working on quilting it since then.    I started off with an ambitious quilting plan and then just kept adding to it.  Here's where I'm at now.  I think another couple of hours could see the quilting finished (maybe).

All of the blocks should look more or less like the one in the lower right corner when I'm done.  Although I'm still debating whether or not to echo quilt each of the flowers and add a filler in the background.  Any opinions?

I've really enjoyed working on this quilt, although I'm eager to finish it now and get it hanging up.  It was a fun quilt to put together and I like trying out new quilting designs.  It gives me a chance to practice my quilting and that's the only way to improve.

Be sure to check out all the quilts they'll have in the parade on February 1st.  I'm amazed at how different the quilts look based on the fabric choices.  I always see a couple that make me wish I had picked that same fabric!  In the meantime, I'm going to keep working on mine and see if I can't finish it soon.  Of course, the binding will takes me days longer.  I must be the slowest at hand sewing a binding of anyone I know.

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 
Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hunkered Down...

As the Southeast is getting hammered by an unusual winter storm, I'm hunkered down for the next day (or two or three - I'm flexible here).  I've got plenty of food, good company (of the four-legged variety) and this means lots more time in my quilting room!  In my last post, I mentioned my need to go shopping for fabric to finish my Schnibbles quilt.  My plan was to start with the closest quilt store and work my way out from there until I found what I needed.  I'm fortunate to live within an hour of at least 8 different shops.  I was even luckier that the first store I went to had everything I was looking for.  (Normally I'd enjoy going to several stores and looking around, but it was very, very cold!)

The bottom fabric is one of the French Generals Favorites by Minick & Simpson.  Although the charm packs I'm using are by Blackbird Designs, look how perfectly the two pinks match.  I bought enough to use for my backing and binding.

I'd really want to have this completely done in time for the parade, so I debated if I should do something simple for the quilting.  However, I'm having a hard time choosing simple lately and I may have decided on a plan that's a little too ambitious for the time I have left.  We'll have to see how it turns out.

In any case, I spent the greater part of today doing some outline quilting in preparation for the fun stuff tomorrow.  I'm using 2 layers of batting to give it a little more definition.  Here's a sneak peak...

I hope the winter weather gives you some play time too!

Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 
Romans 12:9 (NLT)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Time To Go Shopping...

I've been continuing to plug away on my Summer Meadows quilt (aka Jersey Girl).  Although I really shouldn't phrase it that way, because I have SO enjoyed working on this one.  Perhaps I'm still so relaxed from my vacation last week, but I'm having fun with every step.  There's something so nice about seeing a stack of sewn and pressed fabric.

I've had to stop along the way several times to make design decisions.  Did I want to go with a completely scrappy Bear's Paw block or controlled scrappy?

I was having trouble even spotting the block on the right, so it was easy to decide to go for partially scrappy.  And since all the HST's are the same in each block, I went ahead and pieced those sections before adding the 4-patches.  There was a lot of chain piecing this way rather than assembling each block individually.

It took no time at all to finish 16 blocks.  I laid them out so I could get an idea of how the quilt was going to look.

I'll be honest here and admit that I don't love it.  I think it's a little too busy for me.  However, I've been here before and then fallen in love with the finished quilt.  Hopefully that's what happens this time.  In any case, I'm having so much fun with the process, it doesn't really matter.  If I don't care for the end result, I can always give it away!

It was at this point, I started thinking about alternative layouts.  What if I used the extra HST's to border these blocks?

Nope.  It doesn't really add anything to it.  So how about making the border wider with a strip of squares?

Definitely NOT!  That's much worse.  In the end, I decided Carrie had the right idea and I followed her layout.  I've now finished making all 36 blocks.

Now for a real dilemma.  I was sure that when I got to this point, I'd be able to find something in my stash to use for the sashing and border.  I was wrong.  I have absolutely nothing that would work.  So I'm being 'forced' to head out to the quilt stores in search of fabric.  (Don't you feel bad for me?)  I hope I find something quickly though, because I'm still optimistic that I can finish this and quilt it in time for the parade.

Finally, here's the requisite picture of my sewing helper.  Jack managed to steal Sam's pillow one afternoon while I was working on my blocks.

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. 
Psalm 119:1 (NLT)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Impromptu Vacation...

Last week I took a surprise vacation.  I didn't travel anywhere exotic (although someplace warm sounds wonderful right now), but rather I took a vacation from all of my chores, errands and other responsibilities.  I didn't leave the house for 7 glorious days except for my Wednesday night Bible Study and church.  I spent every day in my sewing room.  Uninterrupted.  Just sewing and creating and puttering and enjoying every minute.  It's possible there was even a day or two where I was still in my PJ's at dinner time.

I worked on several different projects during the week.  I made some progress quilting Celebrations before I put it aside and started on a new project.  My quilt bee is doing another mystery quilt this year and I'm planning to make 2 versions of it - one to donate and one to keep.  It's a scrappy quilt and I managed to find all of the fabric in my stash!

I worked on Step 1 of the mystery for several days.  I don't usually do scrappy quilts, so I didn't think about the extra time it would take to cut out the fabrics.  It wasn't too bad though and it was fun seeing how different the blocks look.

All the pieces for Step #1
I also started working on Summer Meadows, my version of the Schnibbles quilt 'Jersey Girl' for this month.  There's a lot of 'cut, sew, iron, repeat' in this quilt.  By that I mean, you cut out the initial pieces, sew them together, iron them and then sub-cut them, sew them back together, etc.   I'm having a lot of fun making this one!

Although I'm a bit further along than this picture, I still have a ways to go.  I don't actually have a sashing fabric either, but I'll figure that out when I get there.  This fabric line is a little too old to find enough for the sashing without buying a FQ bundle (which is more than I'd like to spend).

Of course, I had some visitors during my 'vacation'.  Moses, Jack and David found the baskets underneath my cutting table to be too much temptation.  One of them would jump in and the others would attack from the outside.  You can barely see Jack's head peeking up from inside this one.

While they played, Sam kept me company on my sewing table.  I put this pillow there to give her a soft place to lay since her joints are giving her so much trouble.

I'm paying for my vacation this week with a full schedule of shopping, chores and errands.  However, they'e calling for snow tonight and if I should happen to be snowed in tomorrow, I wouldn't be surprised if Elmo makes another all day appearance in my sewing room...

Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 
Matthew 6:26-27 (NLT)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Flying High as a Kite...

When it came to the genetic pool, our cat Sam drew the short straw.  She's had arthritis since she was young, has kidney issues and has struggled with her weight forever.  This winter, her arthritis is acting up more than usual and she's been limping a lot.  It's heartbreaking to watch.  However, her vet prescribed some new pain medication and she's now flying high as a kite!  (You can tell when she's on it because her pupils are almost completely dilated.)

Check out those pupils!
The medication has been really helpful and I'm so grateful for it.  Sam's motor has been going almost non-stop and she's getting around really well now.  She's also very, very happy on it, almost like when she was a kitten.

One thing I've learned though is not to give it to her late in the day or she spends all night trying to rub her face against mine.  Let me tell you, she REALLY needs a kitty breath mint!

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 
1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

First Finish of the Year...

I have to begin by saying I had so much fun quilting this!  Initially I planned to switch between quilting this one and another as I grew tired/bored, but that didn't happen.  Once I started, I just kept going.  In a few short days, the quilting was done.

Festivities table runner
I used a gold metallic thread for the Dresden's and black metallic for the background.  I had almost no problems with it except for it occasionally creating a loop of thread on the surface while I was free-motion quilting.  When that happened, I'd have to stop, pull out those stitches and start again.  I probably had to do that a couple of dozen times, but considering how much quilting there is, I didn't consider it much of a hassle.  I used a 90/14 topstitch needle and had the thread on a vertical spool.  When I was finished, this is how much metallic thread I had left on the spool...

It's a little difficult to see the quilting motifs because of the whole black thread on black fabric thing, but I tried as best I could to show the quilting.  It actually has a lot of sparkle in person.

I quilted a half inch grid as a filler.  Because I free-motion quilted the grid, I marked it first using a yellow Sewline pencil.  It probably took as long to mark the grid as it did to quilt it!

I used a double layer of batting underneath the Dresden plates, so they have a bit of extra poof to them.  If I did it again, I'd probably just put a double layer in the entire quilt.  It would give the other quilting a little more pop as well.

Funny thing though, I was so optimistic when I started this project that I would finish it quickly that I made the label ahead of time.  Fast forward a couple of years and  I now think I've learned that I should probably leave the date off until I've actually finished the quilt - no matter how optimistic I feel! (In case you can't read it, the label says Fall 2011.)

I'm intending for this to be my Christmas table runner; however, it doesn't scream Christmas so I think I can use it all winter long.  I'm not going to leave it out on the table though for 2 reasons: (1) my cats would think it was both a toy and a binkie and I could see it ending up on the floor, and (2) it has a black background and for some reason, ALL of my cats shed white.  The black background probably wasn't the best planning on my part, but I thought it would set off the Dresden plates so well (and I think it does).  I'm just going to have to pull this out for special occasions and lock them away!

Here's a summary (so I don't forget in the future):
  • Size: 19" x 53"
  • Fabric: Nature's Gift by Deb Strain, Bella Solid Black
  • Batting: Warm & White (should have used the Natural!)
  • Thread: Madiera Metallic for the quilting
  • Pattern: I made it up.
I'm already working on quilting the Dresden wall hanging, but it's slower going.  In part because it's a much larger quilt, but also because I'm not finding a lot of time to work on it.  Too many other projects/tasks are requiring my focus right now.  But at least it's seeing forward momentum.  Finishing both of these quilts would mean 2 UFO's off my list (and many, many more remaining).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Summer Meadows...

Sinta has announced the first Schnibble of the year and it's going to be Jersey Girl.  As soon as Carrie released the pattern late last year, I knew this was one I had to make!

At first I thought I might make it using Mid-Winter Reds like Carrie did.  I love those fabrics and think the quilt is beautiful just as it is.  But since then I've seen the myriad of choices others are using and realize this quilt would look great in so many different fabrics.  I dug through my drawer to come up with some options.  (I have so many Charm Packs right now, I really couldn't justify buying any more.  They're packed 5 or 6 layers deep in this drawer!)

I considered using Barcelona by Zen Chic.

I've really been wanting to make a quilt out of this, but finally decided it was just a little too modern.  I wanted to go for something warmer and softer.  After choosing and discarding several more options, I picked Meadow by Blackbird Designs.  This is an older line from 2012 I think.  I remember buying the Charm Packs at one of my favorite quilting stores here and it has since gone out of business.

I've already picked a name for this quilt too (which is really on the ball for me).  I'm calling it Summer Meadows.  Like everyone in the US this year, we're experiencing a rather harsh winter.  I live in central NC and it was 9 degrees the other morning. (I realize that's not cold if you live in Minnesota, but we're definitely not used to this.)   As I'm bundled up in my 2 pairs of socks, long johns and as many other layers of clothing as I can put on and still move, this has me thinking longingly ahead to the dog days of summer.  

I found this picture of a summer meadow on the internet and I'm going to picture myself lying in it while working on this quilt.  I'm also going to meditate on Psalm 23:2-3.

He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.

I hope you're managing to stay warm (or cool) in your corner of the world!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A New Year's Resolution (Sort Of)...

Usually I don't make New Year's Resolutions.  It's just too easy to break them.  I figure if there's something I want/should do, why not start it then instead of waiting until January 1st?  That being said, I did delay the start of a 'new' project until this year.  (Although technically it's been in the planning stages for a couple of years now - picking out fabric, getting templates, etc.)  This week, I finally started my Farmer's Wife quilt.  I'm hoping to make the king-sized version, which needs 144 blocks, so I was thinking I would make 1 or 2 blocks a week.  It will still take a couple of years, but at least I'll finally be making progress on it.

Farmer's Wife fabric, book and templates
Several years ago, I signed up to receive the free conversion charts from Marti Michell to use her templates to make these blocks.  I had heard through the grapevine they were easier to make that way.  (If you're interested, you can still sign up to receive the next set of these emails on her website.  I can't speak from experience whether this is true or not, because I didn't try out the templates from the book.)  It does take a while to cut out the pieces with the templates, but almost no time to sew together.  Here is my first block cut out...

#16 Calico Puzzle
To be honest, my first block finished at 6 1/4" x 6 1/2".  In order to get my points to match up perfectly when I sewed my rows together, that's just how it turned out.  I was disappointed, but I made another one and used a scant, scant 1/4".  It came out perfectly.

Excuse David's tail!
It seemed like a lot of effort to pull out all of the fabric, book and templates to make just one block a week, so I kept sewing.  In a few hours, I finished another 3 blocks.

#21 Contrary Wife
#70 Prairie Queen
#72 Railroad
I was little iffy on the templates after my first block, but found them really helpful once I got the hang of it.  Although each of these blocks had quite a few pieces in them, the next few look to be simpler.  And I think working in groups like this will work out better than just making one or two at a time.

I'm really excited to have finally started on this project!  I hope I can keep up momentum on it throughout the year and have a nice pile of blocks to show for it by the start of the next one!

By the way, for those of you that are Downton Abbey fans, I just heard that the Season 4 DVD is coming out on January 28th and is available for pre-order at Amazon.  This means you can watch the entire season before it finishes airing on TV here in the US.  My husband and I prefer to watch an entire series at once rather than wait week to week.  I'm less likely to forget parts of the plot that way!
But the wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine and sincere. 
James 3:17 (CEVD)