Friday, March 27, 2020

Staying Busy at Home

It's been five days since the governor of Ohio decided it would be best if as many of us as possible just stayed home.  Monday was unsettling as we reviewed what we had and what we might need so my daughter could make a supply run but as each day passes since then, I've felt a bit calmer mostly because I've stayed busy.  I have the advantage of being retired for the past year and a half so I've adjusted to "not working" other than to do my own stuff.  

I've seen a number of quilters talking about losing their creative drive during this challenging health crisis.  Folks, we don't need to be "creative" - we need to be "calm" and the best way I know to do that is keep those hands busy.  I'd bet that most of us have enough UFO's to keep us moving along in spite of not feeling creative, so my advice is to get something off the shelf and push into it!

This past week, this quilt has been my focus.
Isn't it gorgeous?!?
When I finished the piecing (more than 5 years but less than 10 years ago), I set it up to be machine quilted in sections.  This is not a new approach for me and it has enabled me to finish several large quilts myself.  The thing I always notice right away is how much better my machine quilting is working this way -- not having a large piece to struggle through the machine makes a huge difference.
I took this picture a few days ago -- all four sections are quilted up to 2" from the edges that will be joined.  Notice that the "joins" of the top half and the lower half will not be centered to each other.  This is one of my "bulk management" strategies and it works very well.
Join me for a quick tour of the process from this point.

With the right sides of the sections matching and the batting and backing pieces of both pulled out of the way, I pin and stitch two sections together.
Once stitched, I spread it out on the ironing board and press the seam to one side.  Since I use 100% cotton batting, I don't need to worry about a hot iron damaging my batting, but if it had any synthetic fiber, I would make sure to have a pressing shield/cloth handy for the tight spaces. 
Now I need to join the batting and the backing.  I find spreading it over a narrow table as below works best as the weight of the quilt hanging down on both sides keeps the quilt smooth. 
The batting is overlapping at this point.
I need to be sure both pieces are flat and smooth. . . . . . 
. . . . . because now I'm going to cut up through the middle of the area, cutting both layers of batting as I go.  Steady does it!  I lift the batting slightly to keep my scissors away from the quilt top. 
There will be excess batting to pull away and the trimmed pieces will butt up to each other nearly perfectly. 
The batting edges can to basted together with a "catch stitch" or use a fusible tape like this one from Marti Michell.  It's 2" wide and fuses to cotton batting beautifully.
Once the batting edges have been basted together, they will lay flat and it's time to seam the backing pieces.  
I overlap one side over the other, trimming off any excess and stitch it by hand -- like applique.   
One of the delightful parts of this finish for me is getting to use these three charming prints that I have been hoarding in my stash for quite some time -- one had 2002 on the selvedge?!?
I stagger the three seams -- the seam of the quilt top is centered in the open space, the seam of the batting pieces is about 1" to the left of the quilt top seam, and the seam of the backing pieces is about 1" to the right of the quilt top seam.
This staggering both helps reduce bulk and seems to make the join more secure.
In the photo below, you can see the unquilted area -- notice how far the backing seam is from the center of that area. 
Here's a view of the same area from the front -- notice the unquilted area along the top half of the photo.  Except for the fact that it isn't quilted yet, you can't even tell that I'm working in sections.
My reference book for this process is Machine Quilting In Sections by Marti Michell.  
When I was working as an educator for Marti, quilters often said to me "oh, I have that book" and my response was always, read it four times and try it!!

Click HERE to read another post I wrote about this process and THIS ONE shows some of the other quilts I've finished using this approach.

So on we go through this huge world event -- it's going to be bigger than Y2K in my memory!  I hope you can keep yourself motivated through the calming solace of stitching a bit every day because when we look back, we want to be able to point to the blessings of this time not the fears.

God bless you abundantly!

Linking up today over at TGIFF even though I'm not quite finished!?!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

What a Difference a Week Makes!?!

Is your head spinning over every thing that has happened over the past week?
A week ago, we were being "urged" to take precautions here in the USA and now we are being "ordered" to take precautions.  Today, I am suppose to be on the Platte River in Nebraska enjoying a "bucket list" birding experience but I'm home doing laundry, figuring out what to fix for supper, and puttering in my sewing studio.  Thank goodness I have a lifetime supply (really, maybe a couple lifetimes) of stuff!!

I finished and washed this little quilt to donate to a local veterans facility (though that may be delayed at this point).
I machine quilted this funky piece of scrappy patchwork I showed you last week. I am so surprised at the response it got on Instagram -- really, it's just leftovers?  
And I didn't even like it while it was happening.
I decided to finish it into a pillow cover and while I love the finished look of a piped edge, I hate the actual task of adding piping to anything.  It would be whimsical to use ball fringe -- but a bit too funky for me.  So as I was poking through the trimmings stash looking for inspiration (without leaving the house), this wide rick-rack caught my eye -- insert that in the edge seam???  
No, too much like adding piping. 
But (light bulb moment), what if I stitched it to the patchwork like a border.  
Perhaps it will distract the discerning eye from an easy (but common) knife-edge finish.
That works!!
(Make a note if you also hate inserting stuff to make a pillow cover more whatever.) 
One pillow down!!

In January, I set a goal of "eliminating" 10 UFO's.  I "only" got to 7 in January but I have been continuing to reach for that goal.  I decided to finish this color exercise sample from an old teaching workshop into a large floor pillow.  So while the motivation from finishing one pillow was high, I set to machine quilting this piece.  It took two evenings, nothing fancy, a simple grid with fuchsia thread!! 
There was even a nice big piece of black and purple corduroy in the stash for the backing!
Ta-da -- UFO #9 eliminated!! 
But as if often the case, almost as soon as I eliminate one UFO, another appears to take it's place.
When I pulled out my "drunkard's path" teaching box to use a template to curve the corners of the pillow cover, this little block was lurking inside.
The greens were part of a 2 1/2" square charm pack.  I must have been bored and stuck with no sewing machine when vending with a friend at a quilt show because it's hand pieced.
Cute block -- the rest of the charm pack was there, too -- maybe I could make a few more of the blocks?!?

It took less than a minute to squelch that impulse because there wasn't enough of anything to do much except create a bigger UFO.  
 I put the rest of the charm squares into my 2 1/2" squares scrap basket and decided to make the block into a potholder.

Well, this morning when I decided to stitch some of the leftover squares together to make a potholder back, this little block happened -- I may be intimidated by "improvisational" piecing but I am a master of "spontaneous" piecing.
It occurred to me that someone else might find this little block useful.
It uses sixteen (16) 2 1/2" squares.
Nine laid out in a 9-patch grid.
Six squares cut in half - 1 1/4" by 2 1/2" for the "sashing". 
One square cut into fourths -- 1 1/4" squares for the "cornerstones". 
All laid out and ready to stitch together!
And here's the back of the first block I made to show you how I pressed it.
Then while I was eating lunch, I sketched the block out in EQ7.  It finishes at about 8 1/2".  I also set it into a simple layout with sashing (cut 2 1/2" wide) for a small quilt that will finish about 32" by 42".
Since I always have a stash of 2 1/2" squares that need using up, I think I'll piece more of these blocks in bright colors for an easy, pleasing quilt to donate or give away.
No hurry -- just a quick little block to piece now and then until I have a dozen.
(Did I just create another UFO or is this a WIP?)

Those two blocks are still destined for potholders for my impromptu gift stash!!
Let me know if this block inspires you to use up some scraps!
Staying inspired and cheerful is the thing that is going to get each of us through this weird and scary time, isn't it?

Using up more stash for now, Mary

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Contemplating Social Separation

Owls are lucky!  
Social separation is big part of their daily lives -- people, not so much?!?
Barred Owl in a favorite daytime roosting spot
Here in Ohio, we have just had a whirlwind two days of enforced social separation.  Events all over the state have been cancelled, schools are taking a three week break, institutions like museums and libraries are closing.  It will definitely be a memorable life event for many of us.

I'll be quite content.  I'm a bit of a loner already and there's lots to do right at hand from enjoyable stitching projects to birding my local patches and walking.  I might even do some serious spring house cleaning for a change this year?!? 
 (Yesterday, a friend texted that she was "stress painting a closet" -- LOL.)
On my birding walk this morning, I was thinking about all the parents who unexpectedly have kids at home for a couple weeks without the usual activities available?  Since I was in the woods, I was reminded of taking my own children on walks and how enjoyable that was.

While I don't need research to embrace being outdoors everyday, there is research that encourages it and assures us of the benefits -- click HERE to read for yourself
(Google came up with 266,000,000 information bits about this!)
My personal reasons are that it restores my ability to focus and helps me stay calm!
Winter wild beach walk with my daughters and oldest grandchildren -- seasoned outdoor walkers!!
I realize everyone isn't in the habit of walking outdoors on a daily basis but with all the benefits and given that all of our schedules have been scoured clean, why not use this break from social responsibility to explore those benefits for yourself.  

If you have kids tagging along, here's a idea to use or share for pleasant outdoor walks -- 
make it a scavenger hunt!
Compile a list ahead of time of things to try to find -- then once on the path, just give them a couple items at a time to keep them from running all over shouting so you can enjoy the walk, too.

Watching ahead on the trail can help you decide what you want them to find.
If you see birds up ahead, ask them to find a red bird or a brown bird or a bird on the ground or a bird in a tree -- the idea is to involve them in observing what is happening around them.

Here's a list I thought of as I was walking this morning:
moss on a log, moss on a tree
smooth tree bark, shaggy tree bark, black tree bark
holes in a tree, a dead tree, a tree stump
little trees, big trees
birds by size or color or where they are
prickly shrubs, shrubs with berries, 
different shape leaves, nuts, colored rocks
tracks, nests, holes in the ground.

Spring is a week away here so there isn't much green but once spring starts, there will be flowers and leaves, frogs and tadpoles, fish, lots of insects -- all sorts of things to spot and wonder about.
Green shield lichen and maybe another species?
I use the I-Naturalist app on my phone to help me identify plants and trees but identification isn't necessary to appreciate the variety of nature.  They have another phone app a friend of mine uses called Seek by I-Naturalist that young people will enjoy using.  Just show the phone the plant or mushroom or bug you are trying to identify and it tells you very quickly!  My birding gang sometimes uses it as a little contest judge -- everyone tries to identify the plant and then we let the app confirm it (or not) for us.

So lets make this world wide event memorable for good reasons and keep the fearfulness of it in proportion.  Make your own fun and when you are successful, share it with others!
Soon we'll be able to hang out with all our friends as often as we like!!
Turkey vultures just hanging out!
There's the oven timer!!  Time to cook the English muffins!


Thursday, March 5, 2020

National Quilting Month Scrap Challenge

I got all my English paper pieced blocks appliqued to the backgrounds over the weekend and now that I'm home with them up on the design wall, I'm hesitating.
One quilt with all twelve, two quilts with six, three quilts with four -- twelve big pillow covers?
So the best strategy is to leave them up there staring at me and do something else.
Let my subconscious work on it for a bit!

It's National Quilting Month here in the USA and so lots of quilters are gearing up for that with special projects, sew alongs, and retreat days!  Meg, @teaandbrie on Instagram, is leading a "Sew the Scrap out of March" and her first email got me all wound up to tackle my scraps, too!  She had lots of ideas to share and the hashtag #nqmscrapchallenge on Instagram is full of inspiration!

Getting quilt fabric scraps under control and using them up is a universal form of entertainment, don't you agree?  There must be hundreds of blog posts and tutorials out there for how to organize and how to use fabric scraps.  For at least 25 years, perhaps more, the 2 1/2" strip stash has been my main "go-to" strategy.  When the box is full, it's time to do something with them.
(The box is full . . . . again?!?)
There's also a 2 1/2" squares stash which actually pre-dates the strip box.  I put a big dent in this basket last fall with the Scrappy Triple Irish Chain quilt I made -- you can revisit that post with a brief tutorial on my strategy HERE! 
I just came down from my studio (I yelled down but Willie, my cat, wasn't willing to bring lunch up to me) where I've been sorting and chopping and stitching for half the morning!
Bright scraps are going into this cute box.
They are destined to be stitched into little slabs for cat faces! 
I made a cute quilt to donate in 2018.  The blocks were so much fun to make that I've wanted to do another little project for myself -- perhaps a couple pillows?  The pattern was designed by Elizabeth Hartman for the Janome Sewing machine website -- HERE is a link to it.
This was a seriously cute little quilt and a bit hard to let go but I did in the end! 
As usual, if I'm in the studio, I can't stay away from the sewing machine for long -- either "I just have to sew this together to see what it looks like" or the cutting is getting boring!?!  
For the past couple months, I've been stitching the leftover triangles from the hexagon quilt I cut last summer from a layer cake into pairs. The triangles were just "chopped", no template used.  I've sewn them into pairs of light and dark.  There wasn't a plan and it got tedious more than once but they were just sew-offs so I persisted.
Here's where they came from -- I chopped the "hourglass" leftovers in two to get the triangles.
Once I started to join the pairs into rows and put them up on the design wall, "chevrons" started to appear -- now I'm glad I persisted!! 
Today, I stitched the rows together as sew-offs while I assembled some old teaching hexagon blocks into a quilt top.  It's fun!!  I'll set it aside to quilt later and I'm thinking it will become either a pillow cover or a tote bag front?
Scraps busted!!
This is the quilt I'm piecing -- it's destined for donation to a local veteran's project.
Then it was back to the pile of scraps -- all pressed and ready to chop up.
2 1/2" strips or squares are always first.
For some time I've been cutting colorful squares for this block -- there are several tutorials for it floating around -- I'm using the one from Purple Poppy Quilts (link HERE) because it uses lots of  2 1/2" squares and strips which I already have cut! 
I have enough of the colorful squares to start but need lots more light 2 1/2" squares so those are a priority with the scraps I'm busting these days!  I'm anxious to get started on the piecing this one so it's up next and will start as sew-offs while I finish up a few more UFO's -- still finding teaching samples that needs to be eliminated one way or the other!!
So go check out the @teaandbrie feed on Instagram and follow the hashtag #nqmscrapchallenge -- be inspired and make another assault on your scraps -- you won't be done with them, but it will be fun!!

The triplets are 9 months old!!  
Lots of smiles, sitting up and starting to move around on their own!?!

Hope your weekend is full of good things!