Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sometimes I Just Need a FINISH!!

Do you have days when you just need to finish something?
I did yesterday!!
My studio is still torn up because spring has arrived and with it comes the season of bird migration.  
 I want to be outside enjoying all the "firsts of the year" -- crabapple blossoms ready to burst open.
 Or the meadows of a local park dotted with mist-bejeweled webs of orb spiders!
I want to sit and watch the pine siskins draining the finch feeder at the rate of about 1/2 pound of seed a day!?!  What began a week ago as 1 bird off and on during the day has become a flock of 12 to 15 birds for most of the day.
This feeder has not been vacant for over a week.  There is cracked corn and a wealth of fresh dandelion seeds in the surrounding lawn, but they only have beaks for the finch feeder.  Northeast Ohio is their wintering range according to Sibley's Guide to Birds but I rarely see them until late April/early May and then typically just for a day or so as they are return to Canada to breed.
A local birding acquaintance, Jon Cefus, shared this lovely close-up with me.   
Siskins are related to goldfinches, same size, but don't have the striking colors and can be easily mistaken for a sparrow.  For such a social bird, they are a bit cranky at the feeder with lots of bickering about who gets to sit on which perch.  The amount of yellow (see the wing bar) varies and they have a thinner, pointed beak unlike the other small finches.
 
Fair weather and southerly winds brings birds into our area over night during the spring so every morning brings the possibility of something new but with only northerly winds for the past 12 days, we aren't seeing much action and are getting a bit restless.  So yesterday, my birding daughter and I headed over to Northwest Ohio and Magee Marsh for 3 hours of up-close birding on a boardwalk through a lakefront marsh forest remnant that is one of the top 10 birding spots in the USA.
We had a modest 50 species and only 8 warblers but there are always interesting "firsts" to enjoy.  A whip-poor-will might have been a first for both of us -- we've heard them on trips in the southern US but I can't recall actually seeing this night insect hunting bird.
And then there was this tidy pile of feathers -- looked like a thrush was someone's breakfast. 
I wonder if anyone saw the event?
However, my lack of stitching progress is also frustrating so yesterday I decided a FINISH would be just the thing to settle my restless spirit.  So when we returned home, I set to attaching the lining to the dilly bag I've been piecing for the past month.  It's Brigitte Giblin's Nundle Dilly Bag pattern which she says should take about a week -- perhaps the decision making about the fabric slowed me down?
It turned out larger than I expected so I've decided to give it to my knitting daughter for her birthday.  I added two pockets -- a long one with several divisions for needles and a smaller one for miscellaneous bits.
It was an easy process to make the lining, add the pockets, create casings and ties.  The lining is interfaced to give the bag more body.
The only problem is that I can't seem to get a good picture of the bag which is large enough to hold enough yarn to knit a sweater.  Perhaps my iron gives you some perspective.
I think I'll make another one by machine and see how the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique works for a shaped piece like this.
 
So it was a very good day -- the best of both my worlds -- a day of birding and a stitching finish!  The frosting on the cake was looking up from my computer just now to see the first of the year ruby-throated hummingbird sucking nectar from the feeder. 
 
Maybe today, I'll paint . . . . .
 
Mary Huey
 
 
 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Number 300!!

Wow -- my 300th post!!

I moved all those fabric shelves and found this -- no doubt I've seen it as some point in the past 20 years, but I have also forgotten about it.  Now it has disrupted my studio paint-over schedule so my stitching is confined to deadlines and machine quilting this week.  Sometime in the past 100 years, some man who lived in this house decided to reconfigure the upstairs and added the yellow wall.  He just butted the new wall into the old wall -- that crack goes all the way to the ceiling and when I peer into the hole, I can see the baseboard trim all the way to the other side.
Perhaps more frustrating than the fact that he did it that way is the fact that at least five men have lived in this house since then and have never fixed it.  No, leave for the single quilter lady.
So I'm teaching myself how to fix it -- so far so good, but it is taking valuable time away from progress. 
 
After applying some more joint compound to the corner I spent the day at the sewing machine.  Today found me returning to my stitching roots.  I'm making a dress for my favorite granddaughter, Grace. (At this point, she would roll her eyes at me and say, "I'm your only granddaughter, Grandma.")   
I don't actually remember stitching before the lessons at the local Singer Sewing machine dealer when I was 10 years old, but there must have been some since that first project was a dress with a sash and a collar with lace edging.  It's still around here someplace -- pops up every now and then, when I'm sorting and thinning out.
I actually have a college degree in clothing construction (with a minor in retail business) and a graduate degree in textiles.  Within 10 years of graduating, I was so buzzed about quilt making that I opened a quilt shop. 

Chain piecing is chain piecing, so my sew-offs while making the dress were units for a rose star block -- lots of y-seams!
By the time I had to switch to the buttonhole foot, I was able to get half the units ready for a new block!!
Did you know if you "paint" the back side of a buttonhole with Fray Check and let it dry before cutting the buttonhole open, it holds up better? 
Turning the tube for the belt and inserting the elastic slowed me down a bit, but in the end I got it done.  Couldn't find the right tools?!  I'll have to correct that as I put the studio back together.
By the end of the afternoon, the dress was ready for buttons.  I need to mail it off in the morning so Grace can wear it for a special event at her school next week!  She chose all the fabrics herself!!
If you are teaching children to sew, that's very important.  When I taught children's classes at my shop, I always made their mothers leave so the kids could pull what they liked. 
Builds confidence and self-esteem!!
Meanwhile, Harry (the other black cat that lives here) was embellishing the Folk Art Cats quilt that I'm currently quilting -- so helpful -- but he insists that the black hair will enhance it.
 
 So let's celebrate this milestone.
Since I can't have all of you over for a party here's an opportunity to bag a copy of my DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified and Marti Michell's Deluxe Corner Trimmer (see my post about using this tool HERE).
 To celebrate my 300th post, order this special duo of my DVD plus Marti Michell's Deluxe Corner Trimmer (regular $32 with shipping) for a special price of $22.95!  Learn how to chain piece y-seam and use the tool to set up y-seam shapes for Set-In Piecing Simplified with any tool or ruler that you own.
 Offer valid through midnight (EDST) May 2, 2016. Shipping FREE for USA.
 International orders, please contact me for a shipping quote before ordering.
Just head on over to my Big Cartel shop -- click HERE!

 I hope we all score a FINISH this weekend!!

Mary Huey

Monday, April 25, 2016

Meditation on fabric . . . .

I have reached the last area of the studio to repaint!  It's the fabric wall. I emptied the top shelf and tried to move the shelving units. Nope.
But when I unloaded a second shelf, I discovered that I could scoot it out from the wall and give myself enough room to work over the next two days to sand the workwork, scrub everything, and paint.
I'm so relieved that I don't have to completely unpack all 20 shelves!  About half the shelves have been culled over the past few months and I like the way I have most of it organized so undoing everything is not appealing.
 
Today, I spent 3 1/2 hours helping a friend go through her mother's quilting stash.  She might have had more fabric than me?!?  She kept all of it in translucent plastic totes with lids.  She didn't very often buy small pieces.  I would guess that 75% of the fabric was in 3 yard or more hunks.  Someone must have told her to always buy 3 yards in case you want to use it for a border . . . or 10 yards in case you use it for a backing??
 
The reason I helped was to chose some of the fabric for my charity quilting making group's stash.  My friend had first pick -- she didn't take much.
This is what I took --
I didn't think to take a picture of what was left behind but it was about six times this much -- yikes! It will be donated to another group . . . . or two.  There aren't many pictures today because I'm still working with a "hidden camera" (ha, ha) and so all my photos are coming from my phone -- at least I figured out how to get them from the phone to the computer for editing this time.  I'm so tired of learning more about my technology!?!
 
The longer we worked, the more evident it became that her mother purchased the same fabric over and over and over -- not the exact piece, but the same style, the same color way -- and her stash though large was very limited in scope.  Despite a span of 30 years of fabric buying, there was no breadth of design or color.  It was all muted, pinks and mauves primarily, florals and elaborate stripes.
 
Her mother won Best of Show within the past 10 years at our regional show with a beautiful applique quilt -- all in bright cheerful colors -- completely the opposite of almost everything in her stash.  All the UFO's were bright colors.  What was going on?
 
I think her storage method -- stacks of large translucent boxes -- kept her from being inspired to use what she loved because she couldn't see it and it was a lot of trouble to dig through stuff to find what she wanted. 
 
Quilters -- how do you store your fabric?
I get a bit of fading every now and then but I also get a lot of inspiration from having my fabric palette right out in front of me.  I do have a few of those translucent boxes but they are used to store "categories" -- Civil War, polka dots, etc. -- and it's easy to pull one for a project. 
Sometimes it must have been easier for this gal to go buy new stuff but she must have forgotten than she already owned 100 yards of beautiful border prints any of which would have done the job. 
 
My philosophy is if I can't see it, I probably won't consider using it.
So how do you store your fabric and is it keeping you from making the best use of it?
 
My 300th post is coming up at the end of this week!
I'm planning some fun so I hope you'll visit again over the weekend!
 
Happy stitching!
 
Mary Huey
 
 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Y-Seam Warrior Link-up #3

 Have you indulged in any y-seam piecing during the past month?   
 I've been working my way through this little pile of bouquet blocks by using them as the "sew-offs" while chain piecing through other projects -- didn't know that was possible?  Well, it is!!
 
  This week I arrived at the point where I sat down and did the final assembly.
 For some reason there were only eight blocks in the set and if there's one thing I've learned the hard way, it's don't try to make more blocks to fit with some that have been ageing for a while on the WIP shelf!  I put them up on the design wall and went back to work sanding and scrubbing for the next painting session.  Every time I needed a break from that, I puttered with this!!
I added the floral that inspired the color combination to the wall first.
What would the blocks look like if I turned them this way?  Corners look clunky.
What if I turned the corner blocks, too? And added a plain square in the center, maybe with an applique motif?  Better.
Hey, there's a star in the center!
Time to get out the graph paper and sketch out a piecing diagram.
I discovered that I could treat the layout as a 9-patch if I framed the pieced blocks with background fabric -- square in a square for the on-point ones and sashing for the four corners -- it looks quite nice.
I've been seeing lots of little Dresden plate blocks so I pulled out my templates to see how small I could get and noticed this sample of a 3/4" hexie flower in with another template set.
I like it -- and so I have another WIP well down the road to being finished!
Once the hexie motif is appliqued to the center square, I'll start to experiment with borders.  My blocks are 6" finished and I cut them using Marti Michell's Template Set E for 8-pointed stars.  After framing, the blocks are now 9" square before squaring them up. 
 
I'm wondering about making it with 12" stars? 
And that's how I end up with so many projects going at the same time . . .
 
Now it's time to share your y-seam projects. 
If you are hesitant to give them a try, consider looking into my DVD,
It's an amazing technique that makes y-seams easier than you are expecting!
 
Mary Huey
 
 
 
 





Monday, April 18, 2016

Did you miss me?

A couple of you have contacted me over the weekend wondering what happened to my usual Friday post?  Well, check this out and you'll begin to understand.
video
 
The studio painting project has become something of an avalanche.  I got out alive but my camera is still buried in there.  The video is an experiment with my Kindle Fire -- sort of amusing, don't you think?
 
I have managed some stitching every evening for the past few days -- I'm making Brigitte Giblin's Nundle Dilly Bag (find it HERE) which is an English paper piecing project.  This photo shows my progress to date (phone camera this time).  My color/fabric combination is more subdued, perhaps more American, than Brigitte's pattern suggests.  I have to admit I don't get how to do that Aussie Bohemian look.  But I already have plans to make a second one by machine using Marti Michell's templates and the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique featured in my DVD and will take a stab at a more something fabric mix.
I also scored a "finish" -- my March pull for the 2016 APQ Resolution challenge.  My APQS George is not in the studio so I can work there unencumbered by the piles of treasures.  This is my son's Ohio BiCentennial quilt designed and pieced by his mother in 2003 which was coincidentally, Ohio's BiCentennial.  
 How do you label pieces that take 13 years to finish?
 I kept to my comfort zone quilting designs, arcs and straight lines.  I used the strategy for laying out the simple border design that I shared with you HERE.  Comforting to know that it works!
And then there was the weather?  Spring is in full swing after 3 weeks of cold days alternating with mild days.  The woods are calling me and there are new birds in my yard everyday.  Sunday afternoon, I worked in the garden all afternoon and witnessed a first (for me) ever event.  American toads found my garden pond three years ago and Sunday afternoon they returned! 
And I was there to see it all. 
These two embraced for 3 hours and left several hundred eggs along the edges of the pond. 
How could I stay inside sorting piles with that going on?
Can you see both toads?  I spotted the female first and then realized there was a second set of eyes -- the smaller male -- on her back.  They were still singing on Monday afternoon and "first of the year" migrant birds were showing up at my feeders -- pine siskin, purple finch, and yellow-rumped warbler for the curious -- so not much was accomplished.  Nice thing about stitching, it doesn't go anywhere while I'm off cavorting!
 
I hope you are enjoying the change of seasons in your part of the world!!
 
Mary Huey
 
 
 
 

Monday, April 11, 2016

My Plus Quilt Piecing Strategy!

 If you follow me on Instagram (@hueymary), you already know this is what I woke up to on Saturday morning (April 9 - third week of spring?).  This is the view (through the screen) from the ironing board in my studio. 
The upside of the 5" of the lovely fresh snow was that it erased any desire to work in the garden and enabled me to focus on painting the new woodwork around the new windows in my studio.
Of course, as is true with any "simple" remodeling/construction job, one thing leads to another and it seemed pointless to paint the new window trim and not re-paint all the baseboard trim.  And as long as I was going to do that, I might as well re-paint the walls since everything has to moved away from them to paint the baseboards.  Definitely more work than I intended to create!!

So the work wall had to come down.  
First, I had to finish piecing my blue scrappy plus quilt top . . . . . right?!?
And as long as I was doing that, I may as well take some photos and walk you through the process I used to do this efficiently.  There are lots of tutorials on cutting and piecing this appealing modern block (just google "modern plus quilt pattern") to see for yourself.

My first amazing quilting teacher, Mary Ellen Hopkins, taught me to eliminate seams whenever possible to stream line the piecing process.  So I chose to use 2 squares and 1 rectangle for each plus and construct the quilt top in rows.  I used 3" cut strips -- cutting two 3" squares and one 3" by 8" rectangle. 
The size of the plus can be customized easily. Start by deciding on the finished size of one of the squares -- say 4 1/2".  The rectangle is 3 times that length, so it would be 13 1/2".  Now add the seam allowances.  Cutting sizes will be 5" strips cut into two 5" squares and one 5" by 14" rectangle.  Generally, the larger the quilt you want to make, the larger "plus" block you can use.

When working in rows rather than blocks, one needs to lay out the quilt -- I had about half of it on the work wall before I started stitching the rows together.  I liked the results of using a wide assortment of lights, mediums, and darks and scattering them in a random order.
It only took a couple rows to realize I needed to add numbers to each row to stay organized.
The first few rows were accomplished with many trips back and forth between the work wall and the sewing machine.  Finally, I found a system that allowed me to take a complete row off the work wall and to the machine in one trip.  I realized that by starting at the top of the work wall and keeping the first piece on top of the stack and ending with the last piece on the bottom of the stack with all the pieces "right side up", I was able to stitch each row efficiently and without mistakes.
I worked down the stack, chain piecing pairs -- the number pinned to the first piece was a big help!  Here is one row still linked with the chain stitching - the seam allowances are to the right.
To get them back into a stack for the next step without going to the work wall, I discovered than if I flipped each pair over . . . . seams on the left side of each pair . . . .
. . . . then snipped the thread chains . . .    
and stacked them up from the bottom pair to the top pair, it kept everything in perfect order.
Then back to chain piecing!  The first pair is opened up . . .   
and the second pair right side down added and so on. 
At the end of the row, sometimes there is an odd piece/pair -- no worries.  It becomes the bottom of the stack for the next stage of the process. 
Flipping the pairs over before restacking was the key to this process working smoothly!
Row-by-row, I worked across the quilt during the morning. There are very few seam intersections between the rows and I found that ironing the seams in the odd rows up and the even rows down worked well.
Did you notice these y-seam blocks being used as my sew-offs at the end of each stage?  I'm making steady progress on getting these blocks together and you will see them before the month is out!
By lunch time, the top was together and off the work wall.   Now all I need to do is make a backing, layer it, and quilt it to cross off one of my 2016 Finish-A-Long goals for this quarter!! 
No more procrastinating the painting preparations!?! 
The work wall came down, I sanded the baseboards and washed everything down  -- the painting has begun!

Don't let the other stuff stop you from stitching!!

Mary Huey



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