Saturday, December 14, 2013

Baby it's COLD outside!

The chill of winter is making a daily fire a necessity. If it isn’t too cold I can build a fire and begin to work.  If the temperature is hovering around 5° outside, I need to build the fire and walk away for an hour or two.  My machine is happy working in cold air, but she grumbles loudly if I accidently start her up before my wall thermometer reaches 52°. I did this one fine day thinking the thermometer was reading in the low 50’s (because I actually was trying to read it in the dark) and it was not that warm.  I started quilting and the groaning and griping from my sturdy Gammill surprised me. After a time she ran more smoothly and I quilted merrily for an hour.  When I stopped for a short break, and it was more daylight than dark, I glanced at the thermometer on my way out of the studio and saw it had reached 42°!  Oh my! No wonder I was hearing noises I had never heard before.

My latest project is already a quilt top waiting for time on the machine, but here is a picture of two of the columns before I assembled it.

Here is another column quilt that I finished in November. I like how the open spaces provide a place to have pretty quilting.

And then we have Toby, resigned to the stool because it is the only warm place in the house large enough to accommodate a cat. Hmph! Small cat lesson, ‘you take what you can get when you live in a house that stays at 59° until the family arrives after 4 pm and the furnace gets turned up to 66°’

I remember a winter that was so cold I was grateful to go to my horrible job at the factory because it was so much warmer there than at home. I’m so grateful now for the fireplace and all the effort that goes into the gathering, splitting, stacking and hauling of wood into the house when needed.  It is a comfort to be able to stay home and work and be warm.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Working at home

A little knock on the front door yesterday at 9 am and a man introduces himself as Mike when I answer.  He asks if I am the quilter and I wave him into the studio.  He works locally and sees my sign every day and has this idea about a gift for his girlfriend for Christmas. (Yesterday was November 20th) He wants me to construct a blanket for her kind of like something one of his sisters created for their grandparents that had a tree of life with branches going off with the names of each family member and a zipper at each name.  When you unzip the zipper there was something inside about that person (honestly, I had quit listening at “tree of life”).  I tell him I don’t sew for people, I quilt for people.  That making something like that is not possible in my schedule.  Oh, he did not really understand exactly what my process involved; he obviously stopped listening at “I’m a quilter.”
I tell him if someone assembled the “blanket” he wanted, I could schedule it for quilting but there was no possibility I could do it for this Christmas as I am scheduled out into March of 2014 already.  Ah, he was unaware how busy I could be. Ok, he decides he will think up another idea for his girlfriend’s Christmas present and he goes on his merry way.

Today the cat is bored.  I wish I could video the sound he makes running back and forth through the studio as he races from window to window.  There must be some pretty interesting stuff going on outside he has to keep track of.  He is fortunate we have so many windows!  The dog on the other hand is scared witless over the cat’s antics.  The cat swats the dog at every opportunity and is just a little bully.  The dog stays on her bed waiting for biscuits and meal time.  Oh and the occasional walk.

It is cold out.  The fire is blazing merrily in the Franklin stove at the back of the room.  A candle burns to eliminate the smoke. I am finishing up a custom quilt a day early so I am dreaming of quilting another of my own tops tomorrow.  I plan also to sew a little between bouts of quilting; it is how I get stuff done.

It is almost lunch time so when I go make my lunch I will put ingredients into the bread machine for a loaf of bread to go with the soup I will make for dinner. 
I really do love working at home.  I am blessed.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Weekend Warrior of Sewing!

Leaders and Enders

I learned a wonderful trick years ago reading Bonnie Hunter’s web site, Quiltville, about using prepared cut fabrics to use as sew offs between blocks instead of using one scrap piece of fabric over and over. She dubbed these leaders/enders and set aside her slowly accumulating sewn together bits until she had enough to make a quilt with.  Those lovely little bits become blocks and become the current project to sew into a quilt top and another set of prepared scraps becomes the leader/ender project.

Over the years I have netted many “free” quilts which result in that little bit of stitching that is done after one block is done and I don’t want threads hanging from my sewing machine that I would have to hang onto to sew the next block together.

My current leader and ender project was not one I had been attracted to, but my friend, Pattie, wanted to do a project together and she fell in love with the Bow-Dacious! bow tie quilt in Bonnie’s Adventures with Leaders & Enders book.  I looked at this quilt many times before and rejected it out of hand because so many 1” squares are used and I don’t really want to sew stuff from squares that tiny.  When Pattie desired to make it, I had to think of a way that would seem easier for me to tackle it.  I do have bags and bags of sorted strips of fabric that are 1 ½” wide which I use in scrappy strip piecing blocks.  With my thinking cap on, I figured out a way to make using them work without having to cut a gazillion squares.

So the sorting and prepping begins. I have to take a break while I’m qulting and instead of sitting at the computer playing games or reading blogs, I can choose to go to my sewing machine and sew for the 10 minutes I need to sit.  I learned years ago when I had to wait for Emily’s bus to show morning and afternoon, that I could get an unbelievable amount of sewing done in 15/20 minute increments twice a day.  Sometimes back then those were the only minutes I had to spare to sew.  I got a lot of quilts done those two years the kids lived here in the early part of this decade.  They live here permanently now and I utilize their free time to my advantage doing various sorting and prepping when possible!
Laura sorting for the next step
Just for inspiration I have sewn ONE red bow tie together to encourage me to keep at this project.  Sewing the red as leaders/enders between setting triangles on the sides of a column quilt, I have completed almost all of the red four patch blocks in a weekend for the first part of my Bowdacious Bow Tie quilt. 
4" sets sewn and pressed

4" pressed sets ready to be trimmed

sets trimmed into pairs of 2 block units

green units to be sewn into 4 patch units

I will keep you updated on its progress over the next however many months it takes to complete. If you want to learn how to utilize your scraps to their fullest potential I recommend you take a look at Bonnie’s website for her ideas.  She provides a lot of free patterns as well as an opportunity to purchase her many books.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Somebody LOVES purple!

Where did all the purple go?

A child perusing my stash of fabric early this summer claimed we were out of purple. Where did it all go?

Where indeed!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Another lovely quilt show

Streetsboro Quilt Show 2013

Pattie got up early today to get us to the Streetsboro quilt show early enough to shop in Rosemary’s booth of vintage quilt tops before anybody else had a chance to paw through them.

Rosemary is a retired teacher who spends a lot of time perusing flea markets and antique shops for quilt tops that need someone to love them.  I make it a point every time I go to this show to stop in her booth and find a treasure to add to my collection.  Many I have quilted, but some are just treasures I wanted to bring home and have under my watchful eye for some future use.

Rosemary's booth of treasures!

Pattie thinks I always find the best thing in there and she only gets seconds, so I let her have at it in the booth before I made my choice today.  There were many lovely quilt tops to choose from and I was sorely tempted by more than one or two.  I only purchased one top, though, and that is a good thing.  I do have quite a collection already.  Pattie bought a lovely antique with fabric dating to the late 1880’s  I did not think to take pictures of our two finds.

This quilt show fills the church to bursting every year and is always a joy to attend.  I see many friends I haven’t seen in ages and I get to see lots of quilts I have done for my customers.  It is like a walk through memory lane.  I do so many quilts each year it is hard for me to remember all of them.  Often I will be standing in front of one, loving what I am looking at, feeling a familiar pull and when I read the tag I see I have quilted it.  I can’t explain it, and sometimes it is just plain weird but I don’t remember every face I see, so I guess it is normal to not remember a quilt.

I believe Pattie and I may have been very close to the first people through the door this morning, as not long afterwards I heard someone exclaim that “they are lined up out in the parking lot waiting to get in.”  I was happy we had arrived early enough for a parking spot.  Many were parking on the grass.

Emily and Laura each entered two quilts and received participation ribbons.  I was hoping they might place; they both did a lovely job on their quilts.

Emily and Laura's quilts, 2 each!

I won a ribbon with my recent quilting project that Pattie fondly calls “Argyle.”  I call it "A Pathway to No Where Can Still Be Interesting."  I got a blue ribbon for my efforts and a ribbon for Best Use of Color. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Quilt Show!

Western Reserve Quilters Anonymous

Over the weekend I went to a small local quilt show with my friend, Pattie. I had never heard of this small guild and I am glad someone sent me an email to tell me about the show. I saw a lot of people there that I know and I saw several quilts in the show that I had quilted for customers. It’s always nice to see my name as the quilter.

The show was in the basement of a church. There was little room to hang quilts so many of them were draped over pews and chairs and other creative displays. There was enough room for several vendors and they had a stage with demonstrations of quilting and other quilt related quilting procedures people always want to have more knowledge of.

My favorite quilt was a wonderful old quilt that is a Trip around the World, or maybe Boston Commons since it was set rectangle style instead of diamond style. I love looking at the old patterns in the vintage fabric.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

September 12, 2013

Just another day…or IS it?

I have been mulling for two years now about the year my mother turned 59.  I heard about it for two years.  The year I turned 58 I started thinking about that year of her life.  I wanted to think about it the year I turned 58 because the year she turned 58 she thought she was turning 59.  She went on all year about being 59.  It must have been a big deal, the last year of that decade for her. I am pretty sure I was not the only person who listened to her rant over that 365 day period.

The next birthday when she actually turned 59 was a very exciting one for her.  She had another year to be 59.  Imagine getting a whole year back in your life. I swear; she was so excited I heard about it frequently over the next 365 days.

Not much rattled my mother.  She was always prepared for any outcome.  Plan A was not good enough to bank on, you had to have at least a plan B as well. Imagine how silly she must have felt when she counted backwards to 1918 in 1977 and realized she had not counted backwards on her last birthday to verify her actual age. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for probably not actually feeling silly.  1976 was not the best year for my family.

Turning 60 is not a big deal anymore.  Back in the day living past 49 was an achievement.  I don’t feel attached to the numbers my years on earth represent.  I still feel inside like I am 18.  Maybe it’s the pain pills I get to take every day to keep the arthritis at bay. Maybe it’s just the way it is.  I don’t move as fast, I don’t squat or kneel since my knee surgery and I don’t work as hard as I did 20 years ago.  But then 20 years ago I was only 40 and my mother was still here to ask me "how old was (he/she?)", the aged person I was griping about who had been driving the car ahead of me and had annoyed me with the fact they were old.

Age is relative.  I’m looking forward to this next decade.  It’s just another day...or IS it?

Here’s looking at ya Ma!  I sure miss you on days like today. ;-D

Monday, August 12, 2013

More lazy summer days

Coshocton quilt show

The girls and I went to see a very nice guild run show in the charming town of Coschocton, Ohio over the weekend.  There were lots of things going on so the trip didn’t have to be 4 hours in the car for just looking at quilts.  Not that I would mind that.  I have traveled further in a day for the very same thing. 

The show is always a delight.  It always revolves around a theme and this year’s theme was Red and White.  The quilts are always lovely to look at, but the reason I love the show so much is because of the ribbons. They are hand- made each year and depict the theme.  I should have taken more photos specifically of the ribbons, but I did not think of that.

I handed my camera over to Laura for her own pleasure as she was bugging her sister immediately upon entering the doors to take pictures of things.  I figured the better part of valor was to just let Emily enjoy the show without indulging her little sister’s whims.

Right next door to Coshocton is a place called Roscoe Village.  They were having their Canal Days celebration this weekend as well.  We drove through their little main street but the shop keepers were not open yet, they were sweeping the sidewalks and vendors were readying their canopy tops to set up their little stores on the road.

The town square of Coshocton had a Civil War thing going on . We did see Abe Lincoln posing and quite a few young ladies in their beautiful gowns texting in their boredom waiting for the last day of their misery to be over.  By the time we reached Abe, he had escaped to the shadow of the huge town hall for a brief respite from the heat. There were only 6 vendors set up on the lawn of the courthouse so we were quickly back in the car and on our way home.

We did find a restaurant in the Buehler’s grocery store and that was where we ate our lunch.  It was reminiscent of an old fashioned diner like the old Denny’s.

A good day was had by all.  Laura spent the rest of her day after we got home editing the many pictures she took of all the beautiful quilts.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Quilt retreat in Amish country

Recharge, relax, revisit:

Recently I went on a rare for me quilt retreat.  Sometimes the cost of the outing makes me pause, but the cost is small for the amount of fun in return. 
The retreat was planned by several of my longarm friends for us to get to spend some time together and the idea was to replace the days of Quilting with Machines that we had gone to for the last 6 years.  I don’t miss QwM but I sure miss the evenings there when all the work for the day was done and I got to spend a few minutes with these splendid comrades who were retired in the bar as I staggered back to my room, tired from my day in the registration booth.  I must say, retreat in Amish country was far more fun for me.
Going shopping in the rain

I talked my dear friend, Pattie, into going.  It has been 4 years of cajoling her but I finally got her to tamp down the panic long enough to get her into the car and to the amazing house in Charm where 9 of us spent 4 very busy days sewing. I will admit there was booze and food and fabric intermingled with the rotary cutting, stitching and stepping back to admire our progress we hung on the design wall.
my project on design wall

An interesting pass time for me is seeing how others organize their getaway stuff and how they work.  I sat for hours sewing.  This alone is worth the price of admission. When I go I prepare by planning several quilts, figuring out the instructions for each, cutting all the fabric I need and putting each project into a container for ease of transport and keeping it all organized.  I must be organized. I won’t go into the other peoples prep.  Pattie did like the idea of “quilt in a box” and prepared several for herself. She even surprised me with strips of fabric for a black and white project for us to do together.
result of one of Pattie's shopping forays (she tried to hide it in the car)

I did not get any particular project done but I got many parts of many projects to some stage of doneness.  I was satisfied. I brought a bag of blocks along and sewed them into rows then into a quilt top so I did seem to have ‘finished’ something.
The best fun of the retreat is the shopping.  There are quite a few shops in the area we stayed but I only visited two. Pine Tree quilt shop in Kidron and Mrs. Millers dry goods, which was next door to the house where we stayed.
Gayla and the poor little homeless kitten

The cat on the back porch was somebodies pet and such an opportunistic little devil.  He came right up on the porch of the house and crawled into any lap that would not reject him.  He looked so much like Toby and he acted like him as well.  He was very much at home sleeping on the porch furniture.  When new people arrived to stay in the house behind ours, he deserted us for them. Gayla was so certain he was an abandoned kitty but he knew exactly what he was doing.  Apparently Amish cats like retreats too!
Perfect end to day of storms that missed us

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Did you ever ask yourself why you waited so long?

Test driving the new wheels!

I got Edge Rider wheels on my Gammill.  They are amazingly silent and glide so smoothly on the rails.  I am sorry I waited so long to make the quilting experience even more delightful.

Yesterday my husband and I argued our way through getting them on and making the adjustments that had to be made.  Figuring out which side of the machine is the front and which side is the front right was our biggest challenge until we got to the vertical hold problem! The magnet on the front rail dragged after the wider wheels went on and the adjustment was difficult to accomplish.  Because I LIKE having the vertical hold when I need it I wanted it adjusted right.  That happened.  It took a while, but it happened. The machine glides like butter.  I am so pleased.

Today I put on a little quilt and I’m sitting on the stool trying out the movement and now I can happily say AGAIN, bring on those customs.  The machine is no longer fighting me.  YIPPEE!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Time

Hazy crazy lazy days of summer…

There are no lazy days at this house.  Watching the hustle and bustle of children working on quilts without prompting makes my heart go pitter-pat.  Laura and Emily are my latest protégés in my quilting world and I have teased more than one customer that since they won’t let me quit quilting for people, it is never too early to groom my replacement.  I get great joy teaching someone how to cut fabric apart and sew it back together again and I have been blessed with many instances of sharing something I love so much with the next generation.

 Laura got to quilt her first quilt this year using my Gammill.  One of the prerequisites is you have to be tall enough.  I have my machine set up pretty high to make it easier on my back and my neck and I don’t really care if other people think it is awkward to use my machine. I quilt 5 days a week and my comfort is most important.  I cringe a little when the kids do use the machine since it is my daily job to get your quilts done when promised.  If the machine goes down due to negligence or an unforeseen mishap, I get behind schedule and that is never a good thing.

Before the quilting though, comes the construction. I have had quite the sweat shop going here lately and thought I’d share a few pictures.

Laura and Emily are busy doing what they need to do. Emily pins sitting on the floor and Laura does an excellent rendition of our friend, Pattie, crawling around getting all the blocks in the perfect spot.

I got blocks done for one of my own.  My friend, Pattie, lays out the blocks for me.  She surely loves me.  I cannot get on the floor to do this anymore and she is so gracious to do the crawling around for me.  She has some help, though.  Kiwi and Ducky supervised this job.

The finished layout job gets stacked back into rows and I take them home to sew together.  The finished quilt will be a future post! <GRIN>

Friday, June 7, 2013

In the mean time

Over at the barn...

Over at the barn there is little assembly line of bird house parts being manufactured by my husband and my great niece, Laura.
Our old cedar picnic table had seen better days and the holes for the lag bolts were getting too loose to tighten up anymore, so when Tony and Hazel visited from England in early May, Tom and Tony disassembled the picnic table and burned all the short wood and stacked all the long pieces for bird house construction at a later date.

Many nights after school, Laura helped Uncle Tom mill the wood to the proper thickness and I found two bird house patterns for the little carpenter crew to make.
Tom is easily confused when you have to measure and cut and when there are multiple pieces for a project, stand aside.  Laura was a huge help making a list of all the pieces needed for a bird house and how many to cut, etc.  She is an excellent list maker.

Before anything at all could be done, two boards would have to be glued together.  That was the first step.  Then milling to the proper thickness, Then measure, mark and cut out the pieces.
One afternoon Laura came and asked how big a hole was needed for wrens and I looked it up on the internet.  1 1/8” is how big the hole can go and that keeps the sparrows from using the bird house.  Down the basement and searching the drawers netted a drill bit that was the proper size.  I think this is the very first time a project got started and no tool had to be purchased…well wood glue, they ran out of that.  It doesn’t freeze well apparently!

I went to the barn today to see how things were progressing and found Laura painting designs on the bird houses so they look pretty.

Recycle, reuse and build a skill.

And they planted the beans and tomatoes in between the sunny days and the rainy days.  Perfect timing.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Quilting as an Art Form

The Art of Quilting

Quilting is an art form.  From designing the piece to the final stitch that finishes it.

I sometimes follow a pattern when piecing, but a lot of times I follow my instinct from choosing the colors to making the choice for the block.  There is no rhyme or reason in my thinking process; I just do what pleases me.

If I admit to having 12 unfinished projects sitting in boxes under my ironing table, you would know that I am human.  I start things and don’t finish them.  Well, eventually I will finish them!  I pull out a box of pieces and have to remember what my original plan was.  I have made a habit of putting all my notes I have made for assembling, pressing direction, etc. in the box of a project so I don’t have to swear at myself when I do go back to it.

Some of the most magnificent tops I have quilted are not pieced by me, and I am satisfied with the finished top after quilting as if I had made the whole thing.  It is an honor to be able to put the design in stitches on the top someone else pieced, and I take great satisfaction thinking of how to place design and color of thread to enhance it as well.  My favorite client is one who lets me do what I chose; especially if they have specific instruction on basics.  A guideline always helps me be more creative.

Paper piecing is not my forte.  I fumble with the paper, I can’t chose fabric colors, I feel like it takes too long…you name it, I’ve made the excuse for not ever paper piecing my projects.  My sister is not adverse to sewing fabric to paper and she has done the blocks for several projects for me that I really wanted but would not suffer the paper part of achieving it.

Recently I have had the pleasure of quilting three different paper pieced tops for a teacher who teaches classes and is a certified instructor for Judy Niemeyer patterns.  The quilts are amazing.  There are no other words to describe the piecing.  Her color choices are phenomenal and her finished top is always flat and square.  I don’t think there is anything else I can say about the beauty of her work.  I will let the pictures speak for me.

I can only say that the quilting of these tops just proves that simple title: The Art of Quilting!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sewing for Scraps

Why Scrappy?

There seems to be a never ending supply of scraps in this studio. Whether from the trimmings of my quilts as I prepare a finished top for binding or just from trimming fabrics as I cut out projects and even from mystery bags that are left behind by my lovely customers, scraps never seem to go away.

What to do; what to do! I had such a hard time at the beginning matching my fabrics for a regular quilt project. That hard time multiplied when it was scraps I could not throw away because they were still pretty big and there were so many colors I could not decide how to make it work.

I decided one day that there was no reason why the colors could not work together; I just had to find something to make them all play nice. What followed was an 18 month foray into “sewing for scraps”. I experimented with all the colors I had in my cupboard.  

Starting with a rather light medium color of green, I made a sampler style of block using half square triangles made by sewing a square of scraps sewn on telephone book pages and cut into 6 ½” square and sewing that on the diagonal with a whole piece of green.  I cut these apart to make half square triangles that were strips on one side and green fabric on the other.  I experimented with different style settings to create six blocks.  The resulting quilt pleased me enough to have me move on to another color.

The next set of half squares that were strips on one side and whole fabric on the other became a very striking purple quilt that actually read as black.  I gifted that quilt to a friend who helped serve the food at a party I hosted for my longarm quilt group.

I learned from the first two quilts that I liked pairing the scrappy halves with dark rich jewel tone colors.  It seems to make the scraps pop better than middle range tones.  I’m not sure I created a monster, but I did start ripping through the scrap buckets.  Actually, my sister was ripping through the scrap buckets because she was the one sewing the scrap colors to the telephone book pages after her famous “any idiot can sew fabric to paper” statement.

One thing we found out, even after sorting scraps into color categories to make her brain happier working with them, one quilt or a dozen, the scraps never seemed to go away, the tubs (yes it went from one tub to tubs) just got fuller.  In self- defense Joanne started sewing strings of scraps (all the blacks, all the reds, etc) and she took them all to our friend Linda to weave bags with.  Linda reported back after the first group of scrap strings got woven into product that she had created over $600 in inventory.  The scraps still did not go away.  They are handled now in one tub again, still sorted into color category.

I make scrappy strip quilts still but have moved on from the half square triangle brain teasers.  Someone said once in a class I took that you paid the same price per yard for that scrap fabric so don’t waste it.  It appeals to my “use it up” upbringing as well.