Friday, March 30, 2007

Free Fabric!

Last year Su and I were sitting with our Quilt Guild's Opportunity quilt, trying to sell tickets in the 100+ degree summer day. Business was slow when a woman and her husband came up all excited about our organization and asked if she could *give* me fabric for community relief quilting. Did I have to think about it?? I scrawled my name and phone number on the back of a snack box top and we parted ways, both happier for having found one another. She'd been part of a Katrina Quilt Relief project that had ended and she was looking for a home for the fabric that had been donated.

I was so surprised when she called last week. I'd forgotten all about it. We met on my lunch break the next day and she passed four copier paper boxes and a LARGE suitcase my way. I have spent *hours* going through the fabric, sorting out *bleechy* poly blend solids and pairing yards and yards of prints and calicos for community quick quilts. I love this sort of thing! Making do with some of the color combinations and getting really *jazzed* when there are pairs that look like they belong together.

Some of these chunks are 4 and 5 yards each! As you can see, this is only part of it. I hadn't dug into the two boxes in the foreground 'cause I was getting tired. *phew*

I can't wait to see the look on the Community Quilt Committee Chair's face when I present her with all this yardage! Wanna come over and sew baby quilts?

Felt Applique'

So easy, so fun! There's no seam allowance to mark or turn under and the needle just glides right through. Bliss.

I've been working on this banner off and on since October. Why do I always *start* a seasonal project in the season it should be for?? ~ I saw a banner very similar to this at my Quilt Guild's annual show, but the leaves and flowers were stitched to a cotton, pieced background. Didn't like that very much... and the kit was $35.00!! I came home and pulled out my felt remnants from the days of making puppets and flannel graphs for the kids and cut my own shapes. It's been so freeing to just stitch and add as I want to, no pattern but the idea in my head. The threaded needle to the left is a crewel embroidery needle from something else; it's just there for a size reference.

Close-up of the middle flower.

Close-up of the Lady beetle.

I think I'll back it with leaf green and button-hole stitch the off-white to the green. Then button-hole stitch the edge of the green to finish. I want to hang it on my kitchen door come this September; add it to my Sunflower collection!

Friday, March 23, 2007

As the Needle Turns

I too have a hand applique' project in the works. I started this one when I got home from our Kaui vacation in 2004. Wow... has it been that long already?! I loved the colors and patterns of the traditional Hawaiian quilt blocks; so I found a great book for beginners and jumped in.

Being a lefty I applique' clockwise... as well as stitch from left to right. Who says lefties do things backwards? Not with a needle! I wear an open thimble on my left middle finger and a latex cot on my index finger for better gripping power on the needle. It really helps reduce hand-sewing fatigue.

This is what the block looks like when it's not all scrunched up in my palm during stitching.

I started at the lower left and have completed half the applique', the needle is just passed 12 o'clock. That's why the right half of the block looks larger than the left.

These are the other two blocks I've done for this project. I was a little disappointed to see that my first teal block -upper left- is smaller than my second. I must've turned under a strong 1/8" rather than a scant. It looks like a completely different motif. But I've recently decided it doesn't make that much difference. The overall effect will be nice and there are no Quilt Police at my house - except me.

And I've decided "Done is better than perfect."

Dye Day

Our mini-group, The Sew What's have been meeting monthly for about four years. We take turns hosting the group and meetings average about 6-7 of us. Last September Evette invited us to her home for a Dye day; dying silk scarves. Evette is a fourth grade teacher at the local school and enjoys showing her students how to take a plain strip of white cloth, apply some color, microwave it to set the dye and produce a *beautiful* scarf. So she volunteered to do the same for all of us.

We all crowded into the kitchen to look at color samples, try on the different colored scarves and watch while the dye batches were set up.

Then we went to the dye workroom, aka: the garage and Evette did a demo. The latex gloves were a big hit!

Everyone in the group has their signature color it seems, so the day's results were a shimmering rainbow of different hues. So much color play, so much fun! Thank you Evette!

After we'd dyed just about every blank she had in the box, we were treated to a lovely refreshing Chicken Caesar salad with all the ecoutrements. It's often *hot* in her valley in September and the coolness of her dining room was a welcome change from the glare outside

From there some of the ladies went to the County fair to look at the Home Arts exhibit. But I went home and draped my aqua and blue scarf over my bedroom mirror. I wear it often.

And a good time was had by one and all. =D

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dances With Wool

Don't cha just love that name? I can't claim ownership of it. I borrowed it from Lene.

This is a wool car blanket that's been a UFO for two years. The bricks were cut from family garments. The solid brown were DH's dress pants, the Black Watch tartan plaid was a maternity jumper from pregnancy #2 (can you *imagine* a wool maternity ANYthing??), the red tartan plaid was a Pendleton shirt DS1 wore for a year, then passed down to his brother who said it was too itchy, the solid green is from a pair of ladies dress pants, etc. etc...

It's simple but pleasing. I just need to add a few more rows to the width and I think it'll be done. Then I plan to back it with this yummy wool challis I have yards and yards of. I plan to reverse tie it at the intersections with red embroidery floss.

I worked on this at quilt retreat in '05. While many ladies were working on mile-a-minute patterns or Quilt-Smart quilts, I was cutting and piecing individual rows. Without a design wall I had to lay it out one row at a time - up and down from the floor to the sewing machine. Once I got several rows sewn together and laid it out, the near-by sewers came over to see what was going on in that corner of the room.

"How pretty!"

"That's really neat. What a great idea!"

"I never thought of making a quilt from recycled clothes. I'm going to have to try that."

One never knows what doors they open just by being. I guess I need to finish this one. =D

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I've been quilting for 25 years and sewing for more years than that. I don't remember when I first became interested in owning a Singer Featherweight, but they always seemed out of my price park. I clearly remember seeing one in an Antique Collective in Santa Rosa, CA circa 1989 and the asking price was $195.00. (!) At the time I'd heard of quilt friends getting them at garage sales for 50.00 or 75.00 dollars, so I thought one-ninety-five was highway robbery!

Well time went on, I never fell out of love with quilting and my interest in acquiring a Featherweight didn't slack. In 1998 I was working in our local sewing machine sales and service shop. The owner/manager had a *stack* of old, used machines of all makes and models in the back room that we called the boneyard, mostly because they were back there to pull parts from for repairs. I was digging around one day looking for a model to match the machine I was servicing and I happened across the familiar 'black box'. I went to the manager and asked her, "Did you know that was back there? Do you *want* it??" Yes, she knew and - well yes, she wanted it. The next day I noticed it was no longer in the bone yard.

Fast forward to last year, almost ten years later. I found out there are *lots* of Featherweights being offered for sale on e-bay. So I found a few that were in my price park, set bids and waited. I was THRILLED when I won the fourth machine I bid on, complete with oil can, manual and attachements. And guess what? The price was $195.00! Well that was a bargin because now Featherweights sell for 400.00 or 500.00 in my area. I figured I better get one now!

Isn't she adorable? She has all the art noveau decals on the metal and that nifty scroll-work plate that covers the left end. I call her Adella. :D That's because the last time I took her to Rosy's for a sew day we all decided to name our Featherweights. The names were very last generation, like Iva, Beatrice and Miriam. I settled on Adella. Don't ask me why.

The only down side to buying Adella from e-bay was not being able to see her before hand. The only thing less than perfect about her is really just the carrying case. The handle seemed to be made out of cardboard and was slipped into a metal band. The cardboard disintegrated and I was left holding the box so to speak. I talked it over with DH and after a trip to the local hardware store, this is what I have now.

It's a drawer handle out of burnished silver; very nice. Thank you DH!

But look at Patti's case! WoW! If her case looks like *that* what must the machine look like? Hey Patti, what's the name of your Featherweight??

Friday, March 16, 2007

Valley Views

So after the sewing lesson on Sunday, we all got out and stretched our legs. The four of us hiked up the road past Gabrielli winery and into the west hills. There in front of the wine tasting room the field is *full* of daffodils. No one tends these except the wind and the rain and look at how much more abudant they are then the ones in my yard!

DH had brought his camera, so while DS1 and 2 and I hiked, he trailed along to photograph the views, then he'd jog to catch up. I think he got the best work out. This is Hollin, DS2 on the left and Nathan, DS1 in the middle and of course me; grinning like the proud mother I am.

The road winds higher and higher into the hills behind the winery. This is the view looking east when we got to our turn around point. The blue roof in the middle left is the wine tasting room. With another week of fine, warm weather the hills will be emerald green. But in another week or two of that same warm weather they will pass into brown and then velvety tan; hence the phrase "the golden hills of California". =)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Sewing Lesson Continued

While I was putting DS1's sewing machine through its' paces, I grabbed pieces out of my pre-cut bin of squares and made four-patches. There wasn't a plan, I was just test sewing. Once the machine was operating better, DS pieced four-patches and from there decided to put them together into a checkerboard setting, or sixteen patch.
Is there a *wrong* way to sew a four-patch? You wouldn't think so at first glance since it's not a left or right handed block and it can be rotated into position. But when DS went to sew my four-patches together with his four-patches, butting the seams at intersections as he'd been taught, he came up with a block that looked more like Puss in the Corner than a checkerboard.

He decided to go ahead and use this layout even though he'd been aiming for something else. We talked about creative accidents and letting the project talk to you. =)

But we also got into a lengthy, almost philosophical discussion about the right and wrong way to sew a block. He asked really good questions and I knew he was observing the steps at a level most beginning students don't bring to the process. I explained that when piecing a four-patch, the side you choose to sew doesn't really matter because you can just rotate the finished block into position. But later, when you piece more complex blocks, it will matter. If you've sewn very many four-patches, you know what I mean.

Seaming the pre-pieced two patch with the dark patch at the top or at the bottom will yield the same block if you rotate the one pieced with the dark patch at the top a quarter turn.

From there we discussed (at length) why my four-patches hadn't meshed with his. I'm left handed... had I inadvertantly done something in lefty mode and not realize it? I've taught patchwork and quilting, I usually remember that my audience is almost always righties and have adapted my teaching methods for my audience, so that wasn't it. We took a closer look at my four-patches and his and this is what they looked like from the back.

It was then that I had the "ah-ha" moment. From the front these four-patches look the same. But if you notice the one on the left has the long seam running top to bottom. The one on the right has the long seam running left to right. It wouldn't matter except that when he tried to sew two four-patches together he concentrated on making sure he had opposing seams at the intersection, without noticing where in the block the dark patches landed. DS decided now that he understood the process, he'd sew the four-patches by color placement and let the seams land where they may. Sometimes you have to do that. You can press to the dark most of the time, but once in awhile when you go to assemble the top, the seams just don't land where you want them.

He said the way he learns complex concepts is to thoroughly understand simple, preliminary ones. What a wonderful way to approach not just patchwork, but all learning. It was delightful to talk to such an enthusiastic student, one who wanted to understand the *why* of things.

He eventually completed the block and then we had another fun time talking about border options. He was so interested in bring his project to a stage of completion that once the borders were on he asked if we could layer and baste it. What had started out as a test sew for his machine turned into a start to finish lesson in patchwork and quilting! What a wonderful way to spend the day together!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Details of Machine Piecing

This last weekend was so fun! My DS1 and 2 came for a visit and to celebrate a family birthday. While here, DS1 brought his sewing machine to be checked out by mom. "I want to know if the performance problems I'm having are mechanical or 'operator error'." Too cute.

So I put the previously owned Kenmore on the table and sewed some squares together. The width of the seam was too strong and it was*wonky* First I adjusted the spring loaded pressure gauge on the pressure foot. It was cranked all the way down, inhibiting the fabric from advancing under the pressure foot. That solved the tightness of the stitches and the bunching.

When I'd first set up the machine for him to use, I'd put a piece of mole foam on the throat plate to give him a quarter inch seam guide; the pressure foot is multi-purpose and creates a deep seam. So I got out my ruler and checked the distance from the needle to the mole foam. I adjusted, sewed, adjusted, sewed again, until I finally got it right. That helped a lot. But not with the half square triangles he wanted to sew! I suggested he invest in a 1/4" wide pressure foot, it would make sewing down either side of his diagonal line so much easier.

He also said the seams puckered. I found that the machine was threaded with Aureofil weight on top and Star cotton in the bobbin. I pulled them both out of the machine and laid them side by side so he could see the difference in weight. "Either will work, you just need to have the same in both the top and the bobbin." Easily solved, we wound an Aurefil bobbin. Voila! No more puckers.

You don't have to have a top of the line sewing machine to sew a nice seam. But knowing the ins and outs of how to set up a machine for nice seaming helps a lot. Sometimes we don't know what we don't know. And conversely, sometimes we forget what we do know because we know it so well it's become second nature.

The Difference Six Months Makes

Many blog ladies are sharing what Spring looks like in their area. This bush is along the path during my walk at work.

I don't know what it is, but the blossoms are so fragile looking. This is the same bush last September.

Does anyone know what it's called?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Miss Lila

It seems there are an awful lot of us quilter-blog ladies that also own cats. I am no exception.

This is Lila. She came to us 12 years ago; she literally 'followed' us home one day when DH and I were out walking. It took her a year or two to settle down and trust her humans, but now she's just as bratty and demanding as most of your cats!

But being a Calico, she seem to really enjoy the energy in my sewing room. Whenever I'm in there stash diving in my bins (sorted by color, naturally), she has the funniest way of appearing out of no-where to join in the fun. She gets totally affectionate, rubbing and purring and pushing against me with her full body 'kitty hugs'. She doesn't care about the fabric per se, or getting into the bins, but she always shows up! I'd like to think it's because she likes the good vibes. =) I wish I could get a picture of her joining me in the fun, but she seems to be camera shy. No sooner do I get the camera than she's disappeared from the scene.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Orphan Blocks Revisited

I told you I found a Ziplock bag of orphan blocks on the Freebee table at guild? Well I set the Ninepatch Pinwheel block into a blue background. That looked pretty good...

Then I laid Su's brown piano key border pieces around it, just to see...

Ummm... not so much. *shrug*
So there it sits.

The Irony of it All

I've talked to friends and co-workers that live in my valley and most of them don't seem very alarmed about the bulldozing of all those pear trees.

"Oh yeah... I know whatcha mean. I used to live in Walnut Creek in the (San Fransico) bay area. But there aren't any walnut trees there anymore."
"Why do you think they called it 'Hopland'? Nowaday all you see are vineyards. There haven't been hops there in 50 years."
"Sebastopol used to be known as one of the few regions that grew Gravenstein apples. In the last 15 years they've all been torn out and replaced by vineyards. But ya know? Before the Gravensteins it was Prune orchards and before that it was Hops... so it doesn't seem to matter which crop it is..."

The sign on the left hand says Pear Tree Center - on Orchard Street.

I guess this is the evolution of a community, but it still seems like a huge irony to me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What Were They Thinking?

I've lived in my little rural valley for 14 years, having moved here from a much, much larger city some miles south. We came here for the space, the fresh air, the small town feel and the slower pace. When you go to the bank, you rarely have to stand in a line of more than 3 people, the clerks at the grocery store know your name and the staff at our corner video store know our viewing preferences *and* our account number, so they don't even ask.

Along one section of the road as I drive to and from my home there are pear orchards on both sides of the highway. The near-by shopping center is called Pear Tree shopping center; and the locally owned and operated gift shop in that shopping center features a number of pear related jewelry, home decor items and gifts. This view is similar to what I see in the spring.

If you walk among the rows of trees blossoming they're active with the buzzing of bees. It sounds like the orchard is alive.

Today on my drive home from work I was *shocked* to see all the trees on *both* sides of the road flattened, uprooted, bulldozed into burn piles. I was *sick* I have no idea who or why... probably to make room for another #$% vineyard. But whatever it is, the death of those trees hit me like the loss of a friend.

I came home and described it to DH. I recalled the scene in The Two Towers by Tolkien where Treebeard is not interested in getting involved in the battle between the wizards... until he sees that the forest has been devastated.

"Many of these trees where my friends. Why I knew them when they were just acorns. They had thoughts of their own. There is no curse among elvish, entish or the tongues of man for this treachery."

I usually restrict my blog posts to cheerful or quilty topics, but I am moved.

Border Color Changes It All

I did get borders on the Sawtooth Star orphan blocks I wrote about in Sashed. But the color of the first round of intended borders, as planned in the EQ version of the project, just made it go flat. And suddenly it was too 'Christmas-y', which I didn't want. It just goes to show you can't assume an EQ render will make all decisions final.

So of course it *sat* for two or three weeks. I reverse engineered the border and finally sewed the new border color on this last weekend. I think it's done. The other version was going to have an inner border of green and an outer border of navy.

Of course Su is totally tickled. She thinks she's converted (corrupted?) me from my blue-green tendencies. I figure this will make a good place to practice free-motion block outline quilting. Then I'll donate it to the children's ward at the local hospital.

Friday, March 02, 2007

More Color Among the Grey

My daffies have been struggling to come up and open. If I drive ten minutes south to town I can see yard borders *full* of daffies in bloom. The recent snow, sleet and cold winds probably aren't helping.

But every year the little blossoms cheer me. Hope of Spring!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Color Among the Grey

The days have been really long, rainy and grey. When DH and I got out to photograph the Snail's Trail top and backing, I made sure we got a shot of this UFT as well. It's sat longer than I care to admit without even being photographed. That's not like me!

This pattern came from Bonnie, a variation on Delectable Mountains. I loved the ease with which these came together. I presented the pattern to my mini group and nine of us made quilts based on the Mountain Majesties pattern. We worked together; using the same pale Fairy Frost background and our choice of batiks in a pre-determined color pallet, we all pieced enough blocks for this 8x8 setting. Then we got together for a Sew-day. We each laid out our blocks and had a swap. When we were done each of us ended up with enough blocks to make the 8x8 layout, but with alot of variety among the fabrics.

This close-up shows the colors better than the full-length image. This project was last year and most of the ladies have finished their tops. Some have even finished their quilt (!). I was hoping for a group photo, but already the completed quilts have scattered; one moved to Kauai, another was given to a Mom in Utah, another to a son leaving for college. And so it goes... Maybe I'll plan a reunion!