Thursday, December 15, 2016

Change is good

It has been a busy year. I had put my sewing on the shelf, so to speak, to get through each day. Yesterday I put the sewing machine to work again and picked up a long forgotten project and sewed a few rows together.

Tom and I have moved into a very small apartment. My quilting business has been moved into a very small studio space about a mile from the apartment. The sewing room was the last thing to get organized in the move. The house has sold and our lives go on.

Today as I drove to the gym before through the blowing snow spits I was very thankful that getting up and lighting a fire was no longer the first thing I do every morning.  My priorities have changed! I go to the gym first thing. Next on the list of things to do is to go to the studio and quilt.

I don’t have internet at the studio so my quilting routine has also changed. I sit and read on my kindle for a few minutes when I am ready to take a break. I feel guilty when I’m reading and not quilting so I don’t read for long before I am back at the machine.

The biggest change of all is when I leave to go home the quilting on customer quilts is done for the day. No going back into the other room after supper to do another pass. I have to be more determined when a project stretches into longer than I wanted it to. I have not fallen behind and I am not too old to learn a new trick or two.
I have had the good fortune to have such excellent customers they were willing to find me in my new place and keep on keeping me busy.

My new studio is cozy, only 400 square feet. ¼ of that area is an enclosed space where i can keep my “to do” quilts on a shelf.

Finding clever ways to hang the pantographs and to store all my tools required a very good lot of thinking. I have many of my studio quilts that were displayed still in a storage locker. I am not sure yet how to utilize them.

Looking out the window as the fine snow was blowing made me feel like I was inside of a snow globe. The world goes by outside. I see the cars waiting at the traffic light each morning during rush hour. I hear sirens as the ambulances go down the street on the rare occasion one rushes by. I see an occasional walker and once in a while someone walks into the studio and asks something of me.

The first day a man stopped in and asked if I would consider hemming pants for him. No. Yesterday a young fellow stopped in and asked what tree quilting was. His dad cut down trees and they had a lot of wood that they needed to find someone to sell to. I explained that I quilt for people and it has nothing to do with trees. Well thanks anyway for stopping in. He didn’t have a clue.

Life goes on.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

June musings

My front yard looks like a Walt Disney movie. There are 10 turtledoves, a squirrel, 3 blue jays, and a red winged blackbird. At least 5 chip monks, a sparrow, a purple house finch, a cow bird and enough bird seed on the ground for them all to gorge themselves.

The chip monks run right through the turtledoves and make them jump up in the air and put their wings up like hackles because they are being disturbed. The blue jays think the red winged blackbird needs to share whatever white bug he has in his mouth and chase him around the yard. The squirrel does not move. His belly is so white it gleams and I try to remember if squirrels really have white underbellies or just this one. There is one that I see often in the winter with bright white tufts of hair behind his ears. He reminds me of an old man with hair in his ears.

The bird song is amazing and the silence from the now dead cicadas is welcome. The cacophony of just a week ago was deafening and getting quite old. Not being able to speak to someone beside you because bugs are singing out loud is pretty incredible to say the least and truly indescribable for the decibel level. The noise they made would start at 3 am on hot nights and 5 am on cooler nights. If it rained they were silent until their wings dried. Thankfully the good lord saw fit to make that cycle be every 17 years. I’m not sure I would want to live in the woods if it was every year.
June slipped by so quickly this year I almost missed the lightening bugs. I would see them out the bathroom window at night when I got up to use the toilet and would remember that it was June already. Too fast this glorious weather slips by.

The house is being sold and whenever we have a showing Tom and I go to the park to wait it out. This recent sunset was captured only because I had the foresight to bring my iPad with me. Too bad I was not quick enough to catch mama duck and her 10 incredibly tiny ducklings walking in a line to the water’s edge and all hopping in one after another and trailing slime behind them through the scummy water.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring has arrived...

..., or has it?
For many years I have had a wren build a nest in the window which houses my air conditioner for the studio. I listen to the fluttering wings as the nest gets built each year and I hear the peeps of the babes as they eagerly eat the meals brought to them by their devoted parents.  I watch the wren swell with pride and hear him announce to anyone or anything that cares to listen, what a great dad he is, what magnificent babies are in the nest. It is a rite of passage; the building of the nest before the weather really changes and the ongoing noise.  Wrens are incredibly loud for such a small bird.
Tom and Laura build bird nests one spring and we hung a few in the yard for the sparrows and other small birds who grace our trees and bushes.  They eat my sister out of house and home as she is the person of interest who gets the feeders filled.  I stopped feeding birds years ago when I realized I just was fattening them up for the greedy cats that lived here, too.
The wren, I have been told, courts many women and has more than one wife.  I can’t prove this, but I have no reason to disbelieve it. Mr. Wren spends a lot of time after the nest is ready convincing Mrs. Wren to choose the nest.
This year the fluttering started in early January.  With this bizarre winter not really arriving, all things outside were confused.  By mid-February when the sub- zero weather actually arrived, all activity stopped at the air conditioner window and silence ensued for several weeks.
Suddenly today there is a flurry of activity, but it isn’t wrens!  I think a sparrow has gotten a real estate license and has evicted the wrens.  I hear arguing and loud chattering and stamping feet on the air conditioner and when I peek out, it is sparrows; dozens of them. I’m sure sparrows have a right to nest as do wrens, they just aren’t as amusing to me.
It seems rather odd that so many sparrows are out there arguing. Maybe sparrows court more than one woman or maybe this one just brought all his friends around to check out his most excellent nest he confiscated from the wren.

Hopefully Mr. Wren will find one of sweet little bird houses and take up residence.  I will miss his boisterous announcement of the wee ones he is always so proud of.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


(Not what you want to see your quilt doing)
I did something today I have never done before.  I decided I would fix a customer quilt instead of dealing with her errors as I quilted. I am glad I did.  The unfortunate part, because it took 3 hours of my life at no charge, is there is a second quilt exactly like the first and I have to fix it, too.

I am a quilter.  I am not a fixer of  bad seams, a picker of untrimmed threads on the back side of a quilt and I don’t press for you.  That’s your job when you make your quilt.  I just quilt it.  I do deal with seams that come apart, and I whip stitch them together as I find them while quilting. I don’t trim threads, but can give you advice about how to fish them out of the quilt after the fact if they annoy you. I spritz the backing with water when I am loading if it is terribly wrinkled, as I hate having to whip stitch pleats that happen because of super set in folds of fabric that haven’t been pressed out before I get it.

Extra fabric from long sides

I have dealt with some pretty intense ripples in borders that surprised me as I went along in the quilting, and I sure wished I didn’t have to figure out ways to suck up all that extra fabric that shouldn’t be in the border in the first place. I don’t criticize anyone for technique.  We all learn things somewhere. I deal with it.  It’s my job.

Extra fabric from borders of Quilt #1

When I took these two quilts in, I could see the extra - large borders and I talked with the piecer about how that happened.  She asked me how to keep that from happening again. I suspected she did not pin her borders onto her top and she said she hadn’t.  She had used straight of grain fabric for the two borders, but she said as she sewed them on they just got longer and longer. She does not have a big table like I have that would make pinning so easy.  She watched videos on the internet to learn all she did learn about making a quilt top.

Before fix of Quilt #2

I told her I would deal with them as I quilted. My usual way is to take tucks and whip stitch them down after I am done quilting.  She said the last quilter had to do that, too.

The alarm bells were ringing pretty loud in my head over how big these two quilts smiled at me.  Today I took a second look.  I had said I could quilt them, so I had two choices.  I could quilt and deal with tucks, or I could take the borders off and put them back on by PINNING. I chose the lesser of two evils.  As I thought about those two quilts all day today I kept thinking about how the ones I have had surprise me as I quilted surprised me because I did not SEE the extra fabric in the borders as I was checking in the quilt with the owner standing on the other side of the table.  All rippled borders I have dealt with in the past have shown up beyond half way along in the quilting. These two quilts weren’t surprising me; they announced right up front they had issues.

After fix of Quilt #1

Studying the blocks after the borders were off,  I figured out why the problem happened in the first place.  She used a technique to make half square triangles that probably involved sewing all four sides of pairs of big squares and cutting them on the diagonal twice.  This is an easy way to make half square triangles, but it makes the straight edges of each triangle be on the bias and you have to handle your quilt top with care to keep it from stretching out of control in any subsequent steps in the quilt making process. When she held the borders in her hand and just sewed them to the top, those bias edges were out of control.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Brain on Quilts

Another custom done…

The other day when my customer and her friend dropped off a fabulous Judy Niemeyer designed quilt, Paradise in Bloom, for me to quilt, I was asked would I leave it out to study it so I could decide what to do?

I’m not always comfortable answering this question.  I don’t leave them out to look at them for even a minute.  I have found I do my best with my back to the wall.  I think what actually happens doing it this way is I don’t overthink something of such magnitude.   I learned from my friend, Shirley Stutz, that to eat an elephant you do it one bite at a time.  I know I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.  These huge projects would intimidate the heck out of me if I let myself agonize over it for days before it is ever in front of me to get done.  The one bite at a time is the trick.  Each area is not intimidating when I don’t think about the whole thing and what is left to do. 

Swirls are my favorite fill

I paid more attention to my inner self as I quilted this one, since I had been asked if I thought about what goes on the quilt for a period of time beforehand.  I know how I operate and I’ve told customers that I let the quilt speak to me, I thought I would listen to me in my head as I went through this one. I really do think some quilts speak.  The words are really in my head.  I’m not putting the thought in my brain consciously, but I hear the words.

The little flying geese were my starting point

One of the words that kept being in my head was the background fill of McTavishing for the flower petals.  I resisted that word for days.  To the second I started those petals I resisted McTavishing.  I have not felt comfortable doing it before.  I have to think really hard and make arcs that are equidistant and look like they are random.  It has been hard before. But the word would not go away so I just started doing it! It looked fabulous.  It was the perfect background for that petal.  I’m glad I listened.

McTavished petals

The place where I did stones was a no brainer.  I wanted the little triangles to pop.  I saved the little triangles till the very end and found my choice again to listen was perfect for what I wanted to happen.

The long purple spikes did not speak until the last day

The parts I save until the end are usually the parts that aren’t speaking loudly. The Judy quilts are challenging with so many points and spikes to deal with.

The straight pin marks the inevitable spot I missed

Another quilt is in the bag waiting for its owner to come claim it.  I’m glad I am done. Tomorrow starts another custom that is not so difficult to think about. No spikes! 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Seven Shirts

I have a friend in Pinterest.  

One day my friend, Pattie, asked me how many pins I have on my Pinterest account.  I didn’t know. How do you find that out? She said it is right under my name when I open Pinterest.  Well I’ll be.  I have around 450 pins. She had over 4000! Me thinks she has too many days with headaches.

I bought a Go fabric cutter.  I get an urge to find a pattern to use shapes I have bought and I start looking at quilt patterns.  I am a quilt builder more than a pattern follower.  I find inspiration in things and go from there. Most of my Pinterest folders are different types of quilts for the different shapes I have for my Go cutter.

I have a plethora of men’s shirts that I blame solely on Bonnie Hunter.  She came to talk at our guild one year and show us her quilts.  I left with an urgent need to buy men’s shirts at the thrift store.  I have two huge Rubbermaid tubs of 100% cotton shirts. 

I was perusing Pinterest one night and I found a pattern for a quilt that uses 7 shirts to make a quilt. A link led me to Thrifty Quilter blog and she gives wonderful instructions on how to use 7 shirts to make a quilt.  I’m hooked! I just happen to have 100 % cotton shirts! I started digging around in one of the tubs and pulled a few shirts and then decided that I needed one more color so I got in the other tub.  Well guess what? The other tub is filled with fabric pieces of shirts that have been cut apart.  My friend Pattie did me a huge kindness and cut many of my shirts apart for me. I started feeling guilty having all those perfectly good shirts that I was just cutting up and there are people who could probably use them to keep warm and I stopped after cutting apart a dozen or so.

Out came 7 shirts in usable parts and I cut them according to the directions in the Thrifty Quilter blog. I did not read all the way through and sub cut the light strips into 2 ½” squares.  I wasn’t supposed to do that.  So I didn’t make my quilt exactly like hers.  I had a lot of pieces to use up.  Fortunately I stopped before I cut everything into squares and started doing the sewing according to the directions.  Because I had cut so many strips into squares I could not make the piano key borders, so I am making 9 patch blocks instead for the outside border.  It’s fun in a way, finding enough squares of each color to do what I have planned to finish up my thrifty 7 shirt quilt. 

my layout, different a little from Thrifty Quilter

I have told myself all along this was the experimental shirt quilt.  I think I will go pull 7 more shirt parts and start anew.

I bordered my quilt with 9 patches instead of piano key strips