Monday, February 28, 2011

Why I Hoard My UFO's

Times are really scary here in Michigan. Unemployment is up, housing is unstable, businesses are closing or moving out. It breaks my heart that my lovely state is in such despair. It's really hitting home as hours are being cut and positions are be re-evaluated. I take comfort in the closeness of my family, the support of my friends, and my endless pile of UFO's. No matter how tough times are and spending is cut, there's always something to work on!

Take care!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Moment Now Will Save Many Later!

Ok, so you're in the shop, and they're about to cut a nice yard or so off the bolt for you.  As you look down, you see a spot (a hole, a misprint, a mark, a stain, a blemish) on the fabric.  Buy it at a discount?  SURE!  I'm a scrap quilter.  But this is only a deal if you're smart about it later!

This is not sale fabric!

When I get home, before I forget, I always mark the defect on the fabric.  Whether it's a piece of masking tape or a garage-sale dot, I cover the blemish.  That way, when I go to cut it that night, next week, next year, I don't forget about it. 

Hard lesson learned?  You betcha!  Once upon a time, in my early quilting days, I cut up an entire cut of fabric only to find I was one block short because... I had forgotten about that hole.  Fabric is too expensive to take chances.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Uh... 48 yards?!?

You are now reading the post of the proud owner of 48 yards of interfacing!  (Do I sound convincingly proud or just feeling a little stupid?)

Over the next few months I'm participating in two wonderful embroidery BOM groups - Stitch-Along and Birdie Stitches. SOOO.... I decided today to trek out into the two (not five-to-seven inches) of snow that appeared overnight and go shopping. 

If you've read my earlier posts (and if you did you deserve a trophy or an award or pity or something...) you may remember that I don't like using hoops when I embroider (they leave marks, they stretch out the fabric, it gets dirty where you hold it, etc).  So I decided to replenish my interfacing.  Off to JoAnn's I went.  They were out. Onto the next JoAnn's.  They were out, too.  Ok, try another.  Still Out. (Don't these people appreciate the price of gas?!?!)

Landed at the junkiest one (right near home).  They had it, of course.  WELL!  I have a coupon! So, deciding that I don't want to repeat this search again I declare to the poor cutting counter girl, "Wrap it up!  I'll take the whole thing!"  I was a little shocked to realize at the register that it's 48 yards to a bolt!

Ok, 48 yards @ 99cents/yard minus 40% off coupon minus $5 merch credit plus tax = 3 lunches at Chipotle!  Suh-weet!

Have I mentioned that one of my favorite aspects of quilting is the math?  Yes, I'm sick that way.

So, 48 yards minus .5 yard for the Stitch-along minus 1.5 yards for Birdie Stitches = 46 yards leftover this year.  Average 2 yards a year means I'll use it up in 23 years which brings me to 64 years old (my birthday is next week).  Hmmm... hope I can still see to embroider!

Oh well!  Gotta prep my fabric!
Happy Friday everyone!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

5 Days to Stitch-Along!

I feel like I've been waiting forever for the Stitch-Along to start. Just 5 more days - it's an early birthday present to myself!

I've been reading the instructions - the pattern calls for backstitching. Realizing now that I stink at the backstitch! All my embroideries have been "stem-stitched", but the details of this pattern are too small. Tried my hand for the first time at a backstitch on my Birdie Stitches block -hmmm... needs work.

I've been drooling over all the fabric selections of my counterparts - check them out on the SAL blog. I'm now reconsidering my sashing fabrics and my floss! Sounds like it is time to go shopping!

Hope I can get out in tomorrow's snow! 5-7 inches expected.

Waiting for the snow and the stitching ahead,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Birdie Stitches BOM - January

Ok, I know.  I'm a little behind.  Tonight I finished my Birdie Stitches January Block-of-the Month.  Isn't it adorable?

I'm planning on framing it with Moda's new Dilly Dally fabric line!

Monthly patterns are free on Little Miss Shabby's blog!  You can see other completed blocks on Flickr

Take care and stay warm!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gadget Time - Tip Top!

It seems like "quilt tools" are everywhere!  Here is another of my favorites:

I bought these "scissor tip protectors" at a local quilt show from a dealer for WAY too much money apiece!

Had to laugh at myself when I found them later (and many dollars cheaper) on the JoAnn's knitting notions wall as knitting needle protectors!

They're great because:
  • They're a soft, flexible rubber (very tantalizing to any cat in the vicinity).
  • They come in various sizes (each a different color).
  • They fit any size scissors.
  • They not only protect your valuable scissors but also the project you're working on as well as the storage bag while at rest.
Pick up a set for yourself!  Buy extras because the cats love them!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Holiday Redwork - Santa

As promised, here is block 12 of 37 in my Holiday Redwork.  This one took me months to complete because I only worked on it in between other holiday projects.  Those solid areas are teeny, tiny French knots!

Can't wait to see the finished quilt!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Feeling a Need for Spring!

Sunlight poring into the window has motivated me to change out my wallhangings and pull out my Spring table cloth (no, it's not Spring.  The sun is lying to me).

It's when I make a final sweep of the room that I realize that I've left 2 holiday pieces up too long.  I thought I'd share them before putting them away for the season.

The first is my snowman - this was my embroidery project tiding me over until my new Stitch-Along group starts in March. 

I absolutely LOVE this little guy (12" square), but I am looking forward to making something new to hang in this quiltrack in his place.  Here's a close-up:

There's also my Christmas bells.  Found this pattern in a little shop in Tecumseh, MI.  It reminds me of the old steam train sitting outside the shop doors and the German pretzels at the bakery across the street.  It was fun to make something so quick and simple for a change.  I'm particulary proud of the blue bell - I didn't have another metallic-y Christmas fabric late one night so I took this blue and decorated it with gold specialty stitches programmed on my sewing machine.

I hope all of you are enjoying a little slice of Spring today!

Holiday Redwork - Snowman

Just completed my snowman!  Block 11 of my Holiday Redwork quilt by Stitch Connection!

And, if all goes well, I will be finishing block 12 later today!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quilt Shop Watch: Lake St Mercantile

**no affiliation**no affiliation**no affiliation**

Warning: this is a rather long post about a fabulous quilt shop in Southern Michigan.  This might not be of interest to those who do not live in Michigan, have no plans to visit Michigan, does not like reading stories about unknown quilt shops or does not know me.  If you are an RV’ing quilter – you might be interested as this shop is near beautiful Kensington Metropark and conveniently located between Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit

*post reprinted from a recent email per a friends request*

I recently came back from a wonderful daytrip and really, really had to share!  Now, being a former military wife, I’ve visited a lot of quilt shops around the country – North Carolina, Cape Cod/Boston, Western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Texas, Ohio, some beautiful ones in Western Missouri, etc…. and some have made me say “WOW”.  I visited one just like that in Michigan

Lake St. Mercantile was featured in an issue of Quilt Sampler Magazine with their quilt featured on the cover.  Having a day off and some $$ in my pocket, I decided to go for an adventure.  The shop is a pretty drive about a half hour west of Detroit – very easy to get to via I-696 in a small hamlet of South Lyon. (I liked South Lyon – reminded me greatly of the towns along Route 1 in Maine – all these old buildings converted into business without losing its charm).

Lake St. Mercantile is a 120+ year old bank converted into a quilt shop.  The owner, Cindy Jones, and her husband completely restored the building with brick walls, hardwood floors, and very rustic counters & displays.  This is the old bank vault filled with the loveliest sale fabrics!

When I walked in, I knew my pocketbook was in trouble.  All the fabrics sung to me, and, I must admit, I was wondering if I sold my car if I could afford a cut of every piece of fabric in the place J

These fabrics were “my fabrics” – my favorite colors and fabric lines.  In the entrance were deep, rich colors from fabric lines like Andover, Windham, Thimbleberries, Moda, etc.  Each room had it own theme.  Upstairs was an entire room of Repros & wools, etc.  SO MUCH GORGEOUS STUFF!  And when they stock their shelves, they normally buy everything in a fabric line. 

As I stood there with my mouth watering, I heard a “hello” from the brightly-lit and very inviting backroom/classroom.  Out steps Cindy who greeted me like we’ve been friends forever.  Now, I teach customer service reps, and my first thought is that they could really learn a few things from her.  Not only was she engaging, she was really interested in who you were, where you were from, etc.  It was nice not only being acknowledged (had some problems in that area lately) but also being listened to.  She was such a “people person” – reminded me a lot of my late mother who could talk to anyone and enjoyed the experience! 

I eventually moseyed up to the “repro room” where a super-friendly lady (wish I had caught her name) cut some fat quarters for me while listening to me babble interminably.  (Have you had that problem with fat quarters lately?  I’ve been in a few shops lately that will no longer cut fat quarters for you – how frustrating!)   

One thing I forgot to mention were the sample quilts everywhere – each sample hanging on the wall or draped on the counter suited the fabrics in the immediate area.  Now, I’ve always considered myself pretty good (sorry if I sound arrogant – don’t mean to be) at putting fabrics together, but some of these samples really made me think – hmmm…. Wouldn’t have thought to put THOSE together… looks wonderful…..  It really motivated me to go home and get quilting!

It was really hard to pull my self away from the shop, but I know I’ll definitely be heading back.  Normally when I plan these adventures, I pick a few shops in the area and “make a day of it”, but I decided not to go anywhere else  – knew that my experience there spoiled me!

I did, however, have to stop at the restaurant they recommended in Quilt Sampler: The South Lyon Hotel which was an easy walk around the block.  (Remember if you go to this quilt shop there’s parking behind the building – you don’t have to parallel park out front). 

Now, I’m normally not a fan of eating at hotels because when I fabric shop I’m normally dressed quite casually.  Didn’t have to worry here – this 140-year old hotel was very rustic and very comfortable.  The restaurant was similar to the quilt shop: wood floors, original details, and everything on the wall meant something.  The food was good, inexpensive, quite hot & served by the friendliest little waitress.  I realize now that I’ll need to drag my Dad out to South Lyon – the atmosphere was very reminiscent to the little diners and such in middle Massachusetts.

Thanks for listening and “sharing” my day with me!

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Heart For You!

Happy Valentine's Day!

While cleaning my quilt room the other day (remember those precious 15 minutes!) I came across one of my first paper-pieced projects.  Thought it was fitting to share today:

It measures about 12"x15" and contains over 400 pieces - all from my scrap basket!

Hope your day is as sweet as the richest chocolate but not as fattening!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Patchwork Princess isn't Perfect!

Yep, even under the watchful gaze of the Patchwork Princess, still blew it.

Here's Ginger watching me sew the last strip upside down!  Some supervisor!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Quilting is Comfort

Last night we had to rush a family member to the hospital.  It was scary times, but luckily I come from a close family.  While sitting in the waiting room I pulled out my embroidery passing the hours waiting for the blood tests to come back.  I started to think of all the times I've turned to my quilts and quilting for comfort.

This quilt is full of friendship blocks made by ladies of the three quilt guilds I belonged to in Maine.  My dear friend, Lisa, knew moving away would be tough and she wanted to ensure I'd always be surrounded by their love.  She pieced both the front and back (the back is a large pine tree for the Pine Tree Quilt Guild - the state guild).  I spend many nights wrapped in this quilt with Oscar and Ginger on my lap.  You can tell it's already starting to fade.

I made this quilt while going through my divorce.  I wanted something bright and fun - something to preoccupy my time so, just for a little while, I could escape and not hurt so much.  I guess I got a little carried away - the back is pieced too!

Then several years ago I underwent a surgery.  Nothing like getting stuck on a couch for 6 weeks in recovery.  I remember it was particularly sunny - a beautiful September in Michigan - and I couldn't enjoy it.  I made this sunny quilt while staring hopefully out my living room window.

And last night I worked on this.  Luckily, my family member was sent home in the wee hours of the morning and I can put this friend away for another day.

I guess it's no surprise that, in times of trouble and comfort, I turn to bright colors.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bag Lady Inspiration

Future project inspiration: Tote Quilt

Wow! Had a heck of a time getting into my quilt room today - all those dang totes fell off the hook behind the door. Are all quilters "bag ladies"? We're addicted, right?

I was thinking that when you have an over abundance of t-shirts you make a t-shirt quilt. What about tote bags? Seems like that tote fabric would be awesome as a picnic quilt, eh? Lay it out next to that denim rag quilt? Nice little keepsake from all those quilt shows, shop hops, etc.

Just thinking...

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Pressing Buddy

Have you used this?  I love Mary Ellen’s Best Press, the “clear starch alternative”! 

The piece of fabric in this photo is the final piece to the final block of a scrap quilt I’m... finalizing.  However, although it’s beautiful, it is a tad flimsy for the flip-n-sew method I’m using.  SQUIRT!  Little spray – little ironing and now it has a little body.

I also LOVE it when I’m prepping fabric for embroidery (see my embroidery tutorial).  So crisp and it gives just enough stiffness (along with the interfacing) so no need for a hoop.

I love the scents (citrus grove and cherry blossoms are my favorites!). It’s clean, doesn’t flake, very light yet effective, and one bottle goes far.

Gold star for this goodie!

*I’m not affiliated with “Mary Ellen’s”…. just my personal opinion.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gadget Time - Time On Our Hands!

What a difference!  Awoke this morning to many more inches of snow, here in Michigan.  It’s lovely and cold and a little back-breaking.  It reminds me of a very small but important addition to my quilt room.
I admit it – I’m getting older.  Just 3 more weeks to my 41st birthday.  And one thing I’ve noticed is that I’m not as flexible and resilient as I used to be!  (Don’t get me wrong – I move pretty fabulously for a big girl, but…. time is making itself known!)
Several years ago I read in a magazine about the importance of ergonomics in the quilt room.  It is the ultimate repetitive movement location – chain piecing and machine stippling over and over again.  Sometimes, when we get caught in the thrill of a project, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.  The magazine suggested setting a timer near your machine, reminding you to get up and move!
I have an inexpensive clip-on timer attached to a little basket set right behind my machine (yes, just slightly out of reach so I HAVE to get up to turn it off).  When I know I’ll be working on something for awhile, I’ll press the button and 45 minutes later – voila!  A reminder to get up, stretch, flex those back muscles, change that load of laundry, etc.
No need to shorten our years of quilting because we forgot to move once in awhile!
Thanks for listening!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday Stitching (a.k.a. Embroidery Tutorial 101)

I'm just about all set for some stitching (in between commercials) today!  It's early 2011, and I'm already behind in my Birdie Stitches BOM. So much to do and so little time!  A friend asked how do I prep my fabric for embroidery because I don't use a hoop so I thought this would be a good time to share.  The below instructions work for me, and I hope you find them useful for yourself!

Embroidery 101: Prepping the Fabric

1. I love Kona Cotton (though I will use others if it suits the project). I always buy more than I need, wash it, label it, and set it somewhere safe. Note, not all white fabrics are equal so always ensure you have enough for a project because matching it later will be impossible.

2. When cutting, always cut slightly larger than needed. For Birdie, my finished block is 8.5" square so I cut it into 10.5" square.

3. When pressing, I like to use Mary Ellen's Best Press to give the piece a little stiffness and a very smooth surface.

4. I cut a piece of Pellon's lightest fusible interfacing about a half inch smaller than my fabric and fuse it to the wrong side. Several good tips to keep in mind:
  • Make sure your fabric has no lint or pet hair on it prior to fusing - it will show!
  • After I fuse, I let my fabric rest for a moment or two giving the interfacing time to cool/adhere.
  • JoAnn Fabrics sends out regular 40% off coupons so I buy my interfacing by the bolt.

If you are participating in a Block of the Month (BOM), prepare all your squares (plus one or two extra) ahead of time.  That way, when you are ready to transfer your new pattern, the squares are all ready to go!  I like to prep 1 or 2 extra squares in case something happens when I'm transferring the pattern.  If I don't need them, then I can use them afterwards for a quick project to give as a gift (like the Mug Rugs I made last month).

5. Using my fabulous light box (also purchased with my 40% off coupon), I will transfer my design to my fabric.
  • Print pattern and cut any extra paper away from the design.
  • Tape pattern to the light box. To prevent the tape from permanently adhering to the box, I will apply the tape to my jeans first and then use it to tape the pattern down (fuzz on the tape prevents it from permanently sticking to my light box which causes a bumpy transfer surface later).
  • Tape the fabric to the light box (centering it using a ruler) and tape down with more "fuzzy" tape.
  • Trace pattern using color Pigma pens. I always trace the lines in the same color I will use to stitch because it guides me to color placement later and is covered by the floss.  Here is my February block: 

6. After transferring the pattern, I will carefully remove the fabric from the box and peel off all the tape. Then I will press the fabric (no steam) to set the ink. 

All set to go!  I'll share again when I'm done stitching.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tis the Season Stitch-Along

I'm SO geeked! I joined the Tis the Season Stitch-Along group today!

Oh joy! Why am I so excited! Honestly, because I miss my quilt guilds. When I lived in Maine, I belonged to 3 local and 1 state guild. These ladies were the best friends I've ever had. The laughter, the inspiration, the gossip, the support, and, oh my, the food. I loved every aspect of being in the guilds. I miss my meetings, the workshops, the shopping, the getaway <sigh>.

But since I've returned to Michigan, I can't find a "guild" home. The two I joined were HUGE! You couldn't make friends because you never saw the same two quilters twice. The room so packed you couldn't hear the meetings, see show-n-tell, or play games. I've searched for other guilds but they're either full or meet on nights I work. I don't have the resources to start my own.

So, the Stitch-Along. This is a group of about 100 women from all over the world, who work on 1 project together. They're just finishing up Anni Down's
Gardener's Journal (a delightful set of embroidery blocks from Australia). I enjoyed checking in every morning for the past 2 months checking on their progress.

This round, starting in March, is Natalie Bird's
Tis the Season embroideries (I have such a weakness for these wonderfully-executed Australian embroideries!). I'm doing mine on a tea-dyed muslin and darker reds.

I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stash Therapy

Funny how I turn to my stash in times of chaos. My car broke down today, and the garage hasn't fixed it yet. Dag-nabbit.  So, off to my little island of sanity.

This past summer I donated 10 boxes of rather "dated" fabric to a group of local quilters that make quilts for Doctors Without Borders. You know the ones... paisleys, printed plaids, LOTS of calicos.  They were thrilled to death, and I can finally reach the fabrics I actually love.

I didn't touch my 2 big boxes of scraps... DUM-dum-DAH! Until tonight. I had thought about giving them away or "scrapping" them because there were some really old & ugly fabrics in there and I'll never use them up. However, a recent UFO changed my mind - if I had donated this box then I couldn't finish that quilt. So, to plan B (as in Bonnie).

I've been reading a wonderful quilt book by Bonnie Hunter called Adventures with Leaders & Enders. I don't want to give her best tips away (you need to buy her book!) but tonight I started changing this:

To this:

Finally! A little control in this crazy world! It's not overwhelming if you commit 15 minutes a day.

Happy Quilting!  (And wish me luck with my car!)


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Quilt and Bee Happy!


Wading through the snow - my package came from 1StitchOff. Isn't it beautiful?

I'm wearing it while making warm chocolate chip cookies and finishing my Friendship Star tops!

Now THIS is a snow day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gadget Time - Need For Power!

One of my favorite “gotta haves” is this little beauty:

No kidding.  Every quilter should have a retractable extension cord reel for classrooms, for getaways, for “girls weekends”.  Because there are NEVER enough outlets!  This one is cool because you can plug in your machine, your iron, your Ott-lite and even have a spare outlet for a buddy. 
Notice that this smart girl learned (the hard way) to add her name to it!  I’ve “donated” my fair share to other quilters!
Thanks for listening!