Friday, August 27, 2010

Ready to Quilt Along!

Today I came home to check the mail and did not see the package at my door until my roommate pointed it out. "MY FEET! MY FEET!" I exclaimed! She looked at me as she usually does--i.e., with eyes saying "I understand you because you are weird like me, but your weirdness is confusing me just now." And so I pulled out my tiny box of sewing machine components and clambered downstairs to demonstrate.

For free-motion quilting, I have my wonderful darning foot (centered among the rest of the supplies for the quilt-along)!

And I have my walking foot! It made a nice, straight line. The darning foot bounds and bounces all over the place in a squiggly line. And the 1/4 inch foot...

Well, in theory it is supposed to help me make 1/4 inch seams, which my machine currently does not, but are you seeing what I'm seeing? This foot has no way to attach to the machine! Seriously, Sears? It took me long enough to figure out that my machine is "vertical"--sweet baby Kenmore has no item number anywhere, google and customer service didn't help... What's a girl to do, ay?

My button hole plate is worn out, so maybe I'll ask when I order a new one of those. ON the plus side, HOORAY! Totally stoked to be working with my new feet and feeling gloriously prepared to free-motion quilt!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Name That Block!

I'm poring through quilt block images for a couple of reasons. Here's one of 'em:

The block is called "Flyfoot" according to this site. Monday night I spent some time with my mother and two of her sisters, and the eldest brought fifteen of these blocks that her mother had pieced! My aunt had gently washed and pressed them for me. I am not sure when they were put together, but they were machine-pieced.

Fifteen is an excellent number but rather awkward for a quilt, so I measured and cut another block. I used scraps from memorable projects and unbleached muslin to match the off-white sections. This morning I began hand-piecing. I love the story of this quilt! I love that I finally have pieces from my grandmother! Her name was Frances, daughter of Lillian, and she died four years before I was born. Growing up I felt connected to her and missed her presence. I look forward to putting her quilt together and having something that tangibly connects us and represents her in my life.

I've been pondering the above quilt top. It's another treasure from my friend who gave me my pinwheels blocks. This top is quite large, but the pattern is unfamiliar. Any ideas?

And, while we're at it, who ever heard of a 12-spoke pinwheel block? My eyes are getting sore looking for the pattern used to create my glorious yoyo-topped pinwheels! Please let me know if you have a name for any of the above or can suggest an illustrated compendium :-) Thanks!

Giveaway here--for a few more days :-)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pinwheels and a Quilt Along

Ok, so THIS is officially my centennial post (hooray!) and if you want to enter my giveaway, do so here. Thus far your chances are good since not many people have entered :-)

School started this week. Hello, children! Goodbye large chunks of free time! Lesson plans, meetings, schedule modifications...

But in-between I've been putting together my antique pinwheels top.

I pinned the horizontal sashing this evening. Ten seams, then two more for the long vertical borders, and she'll be done! Well, almost...

... 'cause I "found" something to applique onto the sashing! I remembered being given this set when the blocks and tops were given to me. My friend had already made up the mini quilt, but the leftover hearts and instructions are now mine. I think the blues and greens will counterbalance the bright magentas and pinks quite nicely! And it's one more bit of history in this beautiful story!

In other news, I have cut my fabric for the free-motion quilt-along!

Christina recommended using ugly fabric. The above is the ugliest I had on hand and will be my "practice pad".

This will be my quilt! Really and truly, I do not do "ugly". It's just not in my vocabulary. "Gross," maybe, as in "it's so gross it's good!" Or maybe "hideous" for the same reason. But straight-up ugly? No.

I'm using purple tulips for backing, first because it's one of the only fabrics I have on-hand in yardage, second because the print is so large it will be celebrated in backing, and third because it works quite well with the top fabrics!

I imagine this little sweetie will make a good picnic-for-two tablecloth or drape over the back of a chair. Looking forward to getting started. Now about that supply list...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Giveaways :-)

Hey, guess what?

This is my 99th post.

To celebrate my centennial, I am giving away a yard of my FANTASTIC thrift-store-found Alexander Henry fabric!

And I'm sure I'll give away more somethings of a pre-cut and/or scrap nature. :-)

To enter, leave a comment on this post answering the following question:

Imagine you're traveling with a friend to a new destination. To remember your trip, you pop into a locally-owned coffee shop, gallery or boutique, looking for something handcrafted by local artists. What catches your eye? What do you buy? How do you incorporate mementos into your everyday experience of life?

One entry per person. will select the winner on August 28. No extra entries for blogging or following, but feel free to do so! :-)

And while you're at it, pop over to A Few Scraps and check out the quilt-along I've joined, 'cause she's having a giveaway, too!

Battle Banner

My colleague requested a banner for her sixth grade class. It required appropriate inspiration.

Lord of the Rings Extended DVDs... my cinematic comfort food!

She wanted a pale blue banner. We worked on an emblem that was based on a Venn diagram, taking blue and red and finding unity as a purple center. She hoped to symbolize her girls, guys and class as a whole.

I sketched a fifteen-inch circle, then cut out about 1/3 inch around my sketched line.

After cutting my circles, I reinforced them with Heat N Bond.

After applying the backing, I stitched down the raw edges, then overlapped the circles, pinned and cut out the interior section.

I traced the interior section onto more Heat N Bond. I then sketched out a number six, making sure the orientation would be correct once applied.

To create the pole, I used three half-inch diameter dowels. The crosspiece is three feet long, and the two vertical pieces are four feet. I used wood glue and scrap suede leather to keep the wood in place. More scrap leather pieces were fed through metal eyelets in the body of the flag. The flag is made of ripstop nylon and the appliques of poly-cotton broadcloth.

Loved learning how to tie a hangman's noose knot!

All finished! Each section was machine stitched using an applique setting.

All told, the flag is just shy of five feet long. It has such great weight and sound as it moves! I ran it around the house taking pictures!

If only I had a breastplate and helmet... :-) Can't wait to see my friend's face when I deliver her banner!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Snack Bags, or A Metaphor for Life

Frustrating tasks are even more frustrating when they were SUPPOSED to be simple, amiright? Take, for example, happy eco-friendly scrap-bustin' snack bags (made from this tutorial)! Hooray! Easily made, nice way to start the school year, make my machine sing after being neglected while I was at inservices, right?

But then she started acting up. The thread wasn't catching, or it was breaking and curling up on itself. So I switched thread. Same thing. Grr... Maybe I need a new machine? This baby's vintage, after all. Maybe there's something gumming her up?

Boldly going where no little seamstress had gone before, I opened her up, allowing my secret mad scientist / cyborg aspirations room to breathe.

Ew, gross.

Even grosser! Lint and dust and thread and grime, oh my! I used an old chopstick and a glass-headed pin to their best advantage (technical tools, I know!)

Proudly modeling my flathead skills...

And hey-presto! Snack bags! All it needed was cleaning...

... and if that were true, this would be a nice, tidy three-point sermon of a blog post. But no. Although the bags did turn out, the thread continued to gum up AFTER the cleaning. Grr...

So what happened? Any clues?

[pregnant pause for effect]

It had to do with the needle. It had to do with the fact that I was using mismatched velcro. The fuzzy side was industrial strength (read: public school teacher-strength) self-adhesive, the prickly side was sew-in. Not trusting the adhesive to survive a washing, I figured I'd sew it down, too. After going through the trouble of cleaning the machine, I realized that the adhesive was so strong its residue on the needle was wreaking havoc. Goop would get on the needle, thread would stick to the goop, and the thread would stretch and pull and snap! On the third bag, I sewed extra carefully so as not to catch the adhesive. Still, it gummed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't keep my needle clean!

And then I knew what I had to do. If I put the bag together, sewed the seams and the prickly side of the velcro, and only after all was done would I adhere the fuzzy side, then the needle would not come in contact with the adhesive and all would be well.

So I tried it. And it worked. I made the last bag and stuck down the fuzzy velcro at the very end, then turned it out. Beautiful, beautiful completion! Sigh...

Was all the trouble of cleaning the machine worth it, even though the problem wasn't the machine? Yes. My machine is healthier and can run smoother without all that linty gunk, and I now have the knowledge of how to clean it! Having gone through that, I am better equipped both for the present and the future!

Here's the metaphor: sometimes in life it's worth going through the process of trying to figure out what the problem is in your heart, even if it takes awhile to diagnose, because in the course of investigating, other things get cleaned out that wouldn't have been addressed otherwise.

And then, some parts of life only work out when they come into place at a very specific time. Because of the nature of the materials I worked with, that last bit of velcro could only be applied at the very end, but once in place, the project was complete! Because each of us has a unique history, the "best" for our lives is unique to us. What works for one person at a certain time can be disastrous for another person if given the same thing at that time.

All you ladies and gents reading this blog, I am on a journey, and I think we all are. It seems there are places in all of our hearts that are tender--desires that seemed to be fulfilled only to let us down, places where we're in pain because of unmet longings. Although it hurts to be there, I think my heart is like my sewing machine, and maybe that desire is that bit of velcro. There is a time for the project to be complete, and if in the process I get cleaned out, however uncomfortable it may be, well, it's got to be worth it.

They say faith is blind, but blindness only eliminates one sense. The others may be sharpened and in operation. I believe God talks to us in ways we understand, and I believe He really does heal our hearts, not so we can please Him but because He loves us and is really, really kind. Am I blind? Maybe. But I'm not deaf, mute or insensible, and I believe He is kind because I've experienced His kindness, and I'm willing to be opened up and cleaned up because He's been patient in winning my trust.

May you find yourselves in relationships as open and trusting and life-giving as I find myself in. And may you make your snack bags with sew-in velcro, not self-adhesive!

Trees Update

Nine more seams and this baby'll be pieced!

I had a hard time getting a clear photo from above. This is the best I can do! I have one more small vertical seam, then I'll stitch the horizontal bars together and have the top done! Unless, of course, I choose to add a border. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There are hours and hours of meetings ahead of me this school year. Plenty of time to decide!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Finger Fidgets

... Because a week of inservices at my school means thirty women sitting in a circle "discussing" for four days straight, and my only two cents is to remind us that we're all human and no, technology isn't sending the Western world to hell in a handbasket (she says as she blogs on her favorite Apple product). So I have to do something with my time. Here's a teaser:

Something's cooking for sure. More as it develops, but for now, my mouth is shut and my fingers are fidgeting--both here and at work :-)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lessons Learned--String Blocks

Good thing Anna has a birthday in January, 'cause I think this will end up being a pillow to go with her Throwing Stars quilt. She is getting all my experimental pieces, but she's got such a kind, open heart that I know she'll love 'em.

I followed Film in the Fridge's tutorial for paper-pieced string blocks. Very easy to understand!

I experimented with 8 inch squares of junk mail.

Most of the fabric was leftover from binding Anna's Throwing Stars. As such, it was bias-cut. The black was cut straight, leftover from my checkerboard (which, by the way, got some play this week with a five-year-old and his three-year-old sister. LOVE!) According to the tutorial, you glue down your center diagonal strip with glue stick.

I think I overdid it. I had to spray down the blocks with water and scrape off gluey paper goop with my fingernail.

But it came off!

So ta-da! Toss pillow it is!

Lessons learned:
  1. Go easy on the glue!
  2. Use straight-cut strips, not bias. The bias stretches and puckers.
  3. Have a TON of strips on hand! I just used leftovers and was surprised how many it took for each block.
  4. If you're using junk mail, newsprint is the easiest to sew but hard to peel off. Glossy is harder to sew because it slips around and has difficulty catching the feed dogs. Semi-glossy is probably the best, but next time I'll fish through the recycle bin beside the copier instead.
Altogether a great experience and I'm glad to have that trick under my belt. Happy early birthday, Anna!

Friday, August 6, 2010

T-Shirt Yarn Coasters

Once upon a time I made some t-shirt yarn. Yesterday I played with it. "Play" went something like this:
  • Coil
  • Pin
  • Coil
  • Pin
  • Coil
  • Pin
  • Iron on Heat N Bond
  • Machine stitch
  • Clip
  • Thread embroidery needle
  • Blanket stitch
  • Blanket stitch
  • Repeat

Coasters! Easily mistaken for yarmulkes (why yes, Mr. Handsome Messianic Jewish Hippy Man, I do make kippot, but no, this is something else). Too labor-intensive to be mass-produced. But they're a happy in the living room!


I'm not usually one to blog about fabric, but...

Are you reading that price tag right?

Three yards. THREE. Unwashed. Fabulous. Alexander. Henry. Yards. For $2.98. Yup. Jealous? There's more...

A little something for my best friend...

Can't beat silver dragonflies on black satin. Naturalistic--not stylized--to boot!

Thank you, thank you local thrift store! You have won my heart!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Philosophy, Projects, Play, Progress

Alliteration, anyone? Soapbox rants? If you're more for pics, skip the following paragraphs. Just sayin'.

Let's start with Philosophy! As I was sewing on quilt binding last week, I re-watched The Future of Food. I'd seen the documentary before but this time was struck as they listed commonly genetically engineered plants. Corn I knew. Soybeans, yes. Cotton. Wait a second... Really? Even though cotton is not ingested, I can understand how genetically engineering the plant can have just as many negative effects on the species as on other crops. (Let's not even get into the controversy over patenting living seeds.)

Now, I'm not one to follow trends. I usually balk at bandwagons, and there seems to be an increasing trend among the gentrified to live organically, adore all things vintage, pillage thrift stores, etc. Granted, I love my local thrift store, but mainstream commercialism is not criminal. Nevertheless, something resonated with me when I realized that cotton is being genetically modified.

In order to keep from inadvertently supporting the use of GM cotton, I decided two things: first, I have waaaay too much fabric already. I have projects undone, bits and pieces squirreled away that I'll get to "one day". Why am I amassing more when I've not used what I already have? That doesn't make sense. Second, there is waaaaay too much fabric in existence already. When the time comes to get more, why don't I hit up Goodwill instead of a fabric retailer? In both instances, I can keep from supporting GM cotton production as well as be sensibly ecological. I don't think the generation growing up in the Depression considered themselves ecological. It was more about economy. But in this day in age, there's a need to be both. By using what I have and replenishing from donated sources, I can be both economical and ecological. The icing on the cake is the creativity that comes out from limitations and constraints. I'm excited about the prospect!

In the spirit of this philosophy, I've been playing with materials I already had and working on existing pieces:

I'd had this one cut and tucked away for months. It took me minutes to assemble. Literally!

Repurposed T-shirt apron, front

Repurposed T-shirt apron, back

What to do with a remnant of monk's cloth and that $1 bag of garage sale embroidery floss? Why, take inspiration from paint chips and PLAY!

Monk's cloth embroidered table runner

Color inspiration

Embroidery doodles

Playing with embroidery stitches

Progress. Progress means ironing, ripping and cutting lengths of sashing for my antique pinwheel/yoyo quilt. It means being satisfied to piece some lengths rather than cutting into more yardage. It means I'm ready to finish assembling this baby!

That's a lot for one post. Thoughts? Comments? Are you ecological or economical? When the two are mutually exclusive, how do you choose?