Friday, December 31, 2010

In With the New

Back in 1998, when my own true love’s back was good enough for him to be  a runner, he ran the Ascent, a half-marathon running up Pike’s Peak.  It was a wonderful achievement for him.   (My achievement was driving to the upper parking lot despite my fear of drop-offs.  I think my heart may have been working harder than his!)  Of course , while we were down in Colorado Springs we dropped by a quilt shop.  I picked up this quilt kit while we were there, one that we have for years referred to as The Ascent Quilt.  (As in my poor beleaguered beloved asking, “Are you ever going to finish The Ascent Quilt?”)

And now, a nice even dozen years later, I have finished it.  I can’t say that I enjoyed the sewing of the last two days, but it has been very satisfying.  Binding on and pillows made.

Surely it’s a good omen that as we move into the New Year, we’ll be sleeping under a new (old) quilt. 

Not only that, I see a whole sequence lining up like dominoes.  Consider how the bright colors on the quilt really emphasize that it’s time to repaint the bedroom.  And now the curtains no longer match either.  Once I’ve got the walls done and new curtains up, I’m sure I’ll be looking at the dingy carpet.  And you can’t just replace carpet in one room, so there’s the entire upstairs getting redone.  And if the carpet is done, then that just highlights how I need new flooring in the kitchen, which will certainly point a neon sign at those kitchen cabinets that are in sore need of a complete redo.  So . . .  I’d like to see this as all very auspicious. 

Though, less tongue in cheek, what I really want for the New Year is simply what I always wish for, a healthy, happy family.  (Don’t we all?)  It’s been over three years that Jeff has been coming back squeaky clean on his cancer checks.  What I really want a year from now is to be saying that it’s over four years. 

But, back to the quilt for a moment, because there is nothing like a great gadget, this gift from a quiltie buddie really helped make that binding job easier.  Have you ever seen one of these?

You wrap the binding around the center and then wear it around your neck.  The binding is always right there as you sew and just rolls right off.  This was a big quilt so I had a lot of binding.

Well, I had a fair amount left over, too.  It’s been a long, long time since I finished a big project like this.  I was paranoid I’d run short.  I so didn’t. 

Finally, because I can’t resist, a couple quotes from two of my favorite writers, one the eternal optimist, the other not:

Benjamin Franklin:  “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”  

Mark Twain:  “New Year's Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” 

Optimist or pessimist, may you all have a great start on your new year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Yes, there’s been some of that ever so lovely sewing going on that I was looking forward to.  Mostly little bits so far.  First, there’s the swap blocks.  This Bee Obsessed block needed to be an X pattern made up in red and gold (ketchup and mustard).  I will admit: this block was a serious pain to make.  It shouldn’t have been, but it was.  I do love how it came out though.

Then there was the black, grey, and white with splashes of yellow in a modern aesthetic.  Now, I love, really love, the modern quilts I’m seeing all over the internet.  I hadn’t actually tried to make one though and discovered I am not, let us say, a natural.  My first effort is in the “not-in-this-lifetime-bin”  (otherwise known as the trash).  These two took me far longer than they look like they should have but, you know, I’m really  happy with them.  And I love the color combination.

Finally, there were the very simple but bright and happy strip blocks.

Luckily, my sister and I snuck in a sew day before the snow hit.  Well, it was mostly a shopping day with just enough time for us to each sew up a pretty zipper bag.  Have you seen the zippers from Atkinson Designs?  The colors are perfect with today’s fabrics and they only cost a dollar!

I did, as hoped, finish up the AccuQuilt Xmas Trees tablerunner, though I didn’t get the binding on until today.  I’ll have more on that tomorrow.  But here a (lousy) photo of it meanwhile.  I really love how it came out – far brighter than it looks here.

And, because we read a lot of books in my family, I decided I needed to make up another set of bookmarks.  This year I used the Double Diamond Ruler and the free pattern on their website.  I actually bought this ruler several months ago and just finally got around to using it.  Addictive. 

First, you cut two contrasting fabrics 3" by 8" and fuse them together.

Then you fold them back side together and press.

Take the small Double Diamond Ruler

and lay it so that the slotted edges line up against the folded edge.  Using your rotary cutter, cut into all of the slots.

Open your piece back up and flatten.   Where you cut into the slots now folds back.

With a little glue to keep the flaps in place, iron them down so that each flap tucks under the fabric below it. 

Here’s where I slightly deviated from the pattern as given (because when do we ever follow all the directions?).  The pattern had you choose a fabric that is good on both sides, like a batik or hand-dye, lay it across the back, and then finish off the edges.  I decided I wanted a different fabric for the final backing.  So first, I cut my fabric 2 1/2" by 8" and added a half inch strip of fusible webbing to each long side on the right side of the fabric.

I then fused this onto the backing of the bookmark in process.  Here it is from the back side,

and here it is from the front.  Isn’t that a gorgeous effect?

At this stage, you just stitch down the flaps.  You can just sew right down the center.  I did that and also outlined the edges.  You can see it best from the back side. 

After that, I fused on yet another fabric to the back side of the unit.  I then trimmed down the side edges and trimmed off the top and bottom as well.  Like this.

After that, it’s just a matter of finishing off the edges.  On a few of the bookmarks, I used a loose satin stitch.  A few I stitched a quarter inch in from the edge and then used my wavy rotary cutter blade to finish the edges.  So fast and so easy.  (Two of my favorite words, I’ll admit).  Here’s a sampling. 

Which leaves me ready to write up some lightish directions on the tablerunner and plodding along on binding a bed size quilt (which never makes my heart go pitter patter).  But, after that chore is done (I do look forward to the finished quilt being on my bed), I can get back to the AccuQuilt Round Flower wall quilt.  And a mini-quilt design that I have the squares cut and ready to go.

Yes, indeed.  When the students are away, teacher gets to play!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Little Trees Revisited

Well, it’s true that I lost the pictures for making the little trees using the Pyramid Triangle foundation from Miniatures in Minutes when my computer crashed, but I think I may have enough photos that I put up on the blog while I was in process to make some useable directions. 

To begin, here is the Quilt Layout Diagram (correct this time).  Unlike every other quilt layout diagram I’ve done, this one is numbered.  The foundation will make 12 little trees.  You will need forty-eight patches (sizing provided in Miniatures in Minutes).

[Pyramid Triangle Little Xmas Trees[4].jpg]

Usually, I draw seam allowance lines before adding the lettering (numbering in this case).  This time I added the numbers first, remembering to put the numbers to the far right of the patch.

[mini trees 1[3].jpg]

This allowed me to add seam allowance lines to only those patches that needed them, which is to say, to the right of patches 1, 2, and 4.  (I forgot to draw the lines for the number fours on the right side of the foundation, but you can imagine they’re there, right?).

[mini trees 2[3].jpg]

Now add the first patch set: the number 1 patches on the left side of the foundation, right side up as always.  This is the first place where we’re running into my having lost those photos – I’m pulling in a photo from my first take on this pattern, back when I lettered the foundation as usual.  So, there are letters in the photo instead of numbers but the placement is correct. 

[mini tree 1[3].jpg]

Place the second patch set (#2)  face down over the first set of patches.  Flip the foundation over and sew on the seam line between patches 1 and 2, using Sew and Skip (described in Miniatures in Minutes).  As usual, flip back over and glue and iron them open.

[mini tree 2[3].jpg]

Add patch set number 3 using the same method, sewing on the seam line between patches 2 and 3.  Do not worry about adding the number 4’s at this time.  Just move over to the middle column and start adding patches 1 thru 3. (We’re switching over to my second take on this project now, so the foundation is numbered and the fabric has changed).

[mini trees 6[3].jpg]

Keep going and add patches 1 thru 3 for the third column as well.  After all of those patches have been sewn, glue all of the patch set #4 to the foundation. 

[mini trees 7[3].jpg]

At this point, I cut apart the foundation so that I don’t mistakenly join rows that I shouldn’t, so cut apart between rows 2 and 3, 4 and 5, and 6 and 7.

[mini tree 7[3].jpg]

Join the rows and then trim to individual triangle units.

[mini tree 8[3].jpg]

I leave the paper on until after I have completed the tree unit, so now add the triangle pieces. 

From the white background fabric, cut twelve 2 1/2" squares.  Place two of them wrong sides together (or right sides together, for that matter – just so they are not oriented both sides facing the same way).  Using the Fons and Porter Pyramid Ruler, cut a triangle set.  Be sure that you are lining up the ruler as shown below so that you get the seam allowance you need.

[mini tree triangle ruler[3].jpg]

Now pivot the fabric and cut another triangle set.  You will have just a little strip of fabric as waste.

[mini tree 12[3].jpg]

The two squares will give you the triangles for two trees.

[mini tree 10[3].jpg]

I’m sadly lacking on pictures from here on out, but I think you can figure it out.  When I added the triangles to the trees, I used the method described in the book for the Square in a Square foundations – that is, I had the seam flap folded towards me as I sewed up to the point where the pyramid triangles joined on the foundation; then I lifted the needle and presser foot and folded the flap back; I came back down in at the point where the triangles intersect and finished out the seam line.  After sewing, I cut the thread that had skipped over the foundation.  This gave me two advantages: one, I didn’t have any paper pieces sewn down into an intersection where they would be hard to get off and out, and two, I was able to press the seam open which meant the trees laid a little flatter.  And, well, yes, I wish I did have a photo of that particular process!

Cut 12 tree trunks, 1" by 1 1/8".  Cut 24 background pieces 1" by 1 3/8".  Sew a background piece to each side of the trunk.  Add to the upper tree unit.  And, finally, remove the paper. 

[little tree block[3].jpg]

Twelve little trees.  Obviously things got a little wonky here and there; I just trimmed them up.

[little trees quilt blocks[3].jpg]

Sharon, who originally asked me for a way to make little trees using the Pyramid Triangle foundation, wanted to make pincushions.  I decided to sew up a little wall quilt instead.  My sashing strips finish at 1/2" wide. 

Well, those certainly aren’t the directions I originally intended on creating, but I hope you can follow them!

I just poked my head out the back door.  No snow but cold and damp.  It’s not bothering Mr. Cooper who has his own fur coat, but me?  It’s bundle up time for that morning walk.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Would you believe?

I’ll be getting to this:

But first, would you believe I have had to do another operating system reinstall, the second time in less than a month?  Grrrr . . .  so, there it is, the advantages of my literature degree: I know exactly in which circle of hell Dante would put the pond scum that create computer viruses.  (Circle 8).  I like to imagine every once in a while, given the world we live in, what Dante might do if he added a circle or two. 

I must admit though, these reflections are hardly in the Christmas spirit.  Which is as good a reason as any to remind myself that most of the people I deal with in my life are really quite lovely, thank you very much.

And family will be here to celebrate Christmas in just a few days.  Oh, yes.  Much better to think about that.  Also think about the fact that (YE-ESSS!) grades are in.  Whew!  I was a little too brain dead to do much with my tree table runner today.  I kept trying out sashing fabrics.  This?  Or how about this?  Or perhaps this?   

By the time I’m done with grading, I don’t really have much mind left, to speak of.  I do know that this will be the case, though every semester I try to pretend that this time it will be different (it never is).  Hope springs eternal.

Still.  Grades were in.  The sewing room was singing its siren lure.  I had to do something.  Particularly I had to so something with that AccuQuilt Go that has been begging me to play with it.  (Really.  It was very distracting while I was finishing up grading, listening to that little voice calling me, singing, “Come play with me . . .  you know you want to!”  And “Yes,” I’d say.  “I do.  I do.”)

So.  Here it is.  The Quilting Arts gifts issue had ideas for making an ornament using the Holiday die.  I decided to use the Snippets technique I used making bookmarks a year ago.  (See here for the tutorial).  I still had a bunch of little cut up fused pieces so I just pulled them out.  I wasn’t sure how this would work with the Accuquilt, so I just worked up enough for a single ornament.  I cut out a 5 1/2" square of batiste.

It’s super easy: just start adding little pieces.

Keep adding until the background piece is completely covered.  Fuse in place.  (It’s a good idea to use a pressing sheet or cloth, just in case you got it wrong and some of those snippets are fused side up rather than down).

I fused that to some stiff fusible interfacing I had lying about.  D├ęcor Bond, I think. 

And then I randomly stitched with some pretty decorative thread. 

Then I fused some Lite Steam-a-Seam 2 to a backing piece.

And fused those onto the back of the snippets piece.  Time to run it through the AccuQuilt Go.  It went through like a dream.  Add an eyelet and some cord and it’s good to go.  Cute, cute, cute.

And tomorrow I should be back to myself enough to make some decisions with that table runner and get it all put together.  I’m hoping  1) to have it done in time for Christmas and to show all you all and 2) to have working on something so sweet and pretty put me right into the holiday spirit.  Meanwhile, wishing all of you and yours the very best. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

In Process

Well, because of this ever growing rambunctious guy,

my own true love and I decided that it would be better if we didn’t put up a Christmas tree this year.  We are taking it as a given that said ever growing rambunctious guy would consider it a positive cornucopia of chew toys.  Doesn’t that dog chew look rather like an ornament?

Not to mention, our sweet little guy seems to have a multiple personality disorder.  There are times he is Mr. Mellow.  There are times he is Mr. Out Of His Mind.  Like when other dogs are around.  Like when my son’s dogs are around.  Like they would be Christmas Day.  So, Mr. Cooper, Madeline, and Munin and a tree with breakable ornaments all in my living room at the same time? 


So, as I sneak away from grading for a wee bit of sewing here and there, it is time for a little more AccuQuilt Go time.  Here are some trees Mr. We Love You But Wow You’re A Handful won’t be knocking over this year.

A table runner in process.  I’m thinking of that dotted fabric for the sashing.  Not sure yet.

Once grades go in, I’ll be able to finish that right up.  Lousy photo but it’s actually looking very pretty.  Lots of lovely Kaffe Fasset fabric. 

And now, back to grading.  Hope all of your holiday preparations are going well!