Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas!

A friend gave us this beautiful Christmas cactus!
We had a quiet Christmas at home this year. Back to work tomorrow, too soon.

I have been working on a couple of quilts this fall using a 60-degree triangle ruler. I like the zigzag rows. During the Christmas break, I got these two quilted.

Sometimes it is difficult to quilt on the kitty nap quilt. I had to kick him off. After all, I'm the alpha kitty here.

Next step, binding.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hibernation Time

It's that time of year again. The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are dropping, and all I want to do is curl up with a quilt and take a nap. Anything more ambitious than reading a book or surfing the internet just seems like too much effort.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed To Clean My Sewing Room

My husband made me an ironing cabinet/table a few years ago (the large surface, about 2 feet by 4 feet is especially convenient for ironing large pieces of fabric). I covered the ironing surface with batting and muslin. Over the past few years, the cats decided they liked to sleep on it. And leave dirt on it. So it was time to recover it. One good-as-new ironing surface done.

The problem with re-covering my ironing table is that it requires clearing out the cabinet beneath it. And in the cabinet, there are, inevitably, unfinished projects. Projects that were started but never went anywhere. Leftover bits and blocks from projects that have been completed for years. And when I find these bits, I cannot help but try to use them. So, rather than working on any of my existing projects, here are 5 more quiltlets to be donated to the neonatal intensive care unit. 5 more unfinished projects! This is why I always have approximately 27 UFOs. And why I should never be allowed to clean out my sewing room.

And of course, there was extra fabric leftover after recovering the ironing surface, so here is a portable ironing pad that is just waiting for binding.

It is also getting close to the holidays, so I cut some bits of leftover fabric into 2 1/2 inch strips and made my own jellyrolls as gifts for fellow quilters.

That was the projects from last weekend. The reason why I didn't get any quilting done this week is that I was walking through the swamps of central Florida. Here I am in a bay swamp near Horse Creek. Nice boots, eh?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Many Finishes

Some quality quilting time over the past several weeks has resulted in multiple finishes. Yay! I did two diamond quilts in different colorways.

This one in blues, greens, and purples is a comfort quilt and has already been given to the recipient.

I had to do an autumn version. It's just that time of year. After the heat of August, we've been anticipating the cool weather. This diamond pattern is easy to piece and picking fabrics was so fun, I couldn't do just one.

I also finished a couple of wallhangings that I started a couple of years ago. They spent some time aging in the closet because I couldn't decide how to quilt them.

I started a scrap quilt because the scrap bins have been multiplying in my quilting room. No pictures yet, because it is still in the (very) early stages. It is 1/4 log cabin blocks. We'll see how crazy it gets, and if I need to put in more background fabric to calm it down and tie it together. Currently I have a slightly marbled yellow-orange fabric for the corner square in all the blocks to tie it together.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Marathon Quilter (with gratuitous bug shot)

I finished my summer term bug class and turned in my insect collection, though I do happen to have some extra dead bugs around. And maybe I've done a little collecting on the side since. This cicada-killer wasp was collected by one of my coworkers (after it's demise). Impressive, eh? I signed up for a class on insects and wildlife this fall (bugs and things that eat them; it looks like we'll also be covering bugs and the revolting diseases we can get from them and bugs and how we kill them).

I had some time between summer and fall term. So, I have been quilting lots and lots. I finished several projects, including some wall-hangings that had been gathering dust for a couple of years (pictures of them coming soon).

I call this one the Charlie Brown Quilt because of the pattern. It is a gift quilt and is now finished (including the label and a pillowcase to carry it in)! This quilt is kitty approved.

This unfinished project is one of the "Block of the Month" patterns for my guild this year. I liked it and wanted to try it. It reminds me of fractal shapes--the more you look, the more you see the same pattern repeating at smaller and smaller scales. I've been doing a lot of work on other quilts (and especially a lot of machine quilting and binding), so this one got put on the back burner.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Absentee blogger

Okay, I admit it, I've been a lazy blogger. I got distracted by other things and didn't get around to posting. I registered for an entomology class, and it's been taking up some of my quilty time. Here is my design wall, transformed into the killing field.

I also have been getting into microscopy a bit. I got two used 'scopes, one is a stereo microscope and the other a compound microscope. The compound one needs a lobotomy; the transformer went bad. I am hoping my adventurous husband will convert it to LED for me. The stereo microscope is working and is good for examining the bugs I've been catching for my insect collection. Yes, I have geeky hobbies, but I'm learning lots.

I finally took decent outdoor photos of some quilts I've worked on over the past couple of years. I sometimes don't blog because I don't have good project pictures, so I'll try to save up some of these to put up as eye candy when there isn't much to show on current projects. This is a Christmas quilt I started in a class taught by Pat Speth, of "nickel quilts" fame...

And here is the back, because I like reversible quilts. The diagonal stripes take more time than horizontal or vertical stripes, but sometimes, it's worth it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

B-day and other Stuff

I had a birthday last week and took the day off to go hiking in St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge. Beautiful! We had lovely spring weather, sunny and temps in the 60s.

And here is some birthday loot. Two friends brought me fabric and I bought some cotton and merino wool yarns. Pretty!

Almost to the finish line! This one is a gift. It is my variation on the traditional "Rocky Road to Kansas" pattern. Three friends helped stitch it and I finally got the background quilted and the binding sewn to the front of it. The machine quilting pattern turned out well and was smooth sailing. I couldn't believe I put it off for so long, when it was so easy to finish.

I am reading ecology textbooks and researching microscopes and stewing over new quilty projects. I prepared bindings for three small quilts yesterday and have selected and ironed several backing fabrics today. I'd like to get several wallhangings and a quilt or two basted this weekend.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

February Book Club

The February book club pick was "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger:

"A time-traveling romance; I didn't finish it, but maybe in the future I will."

It was alright, and I did finish it a couple of days after book club. The book club discussion wasn't very good this time, though. Sometimes even books that are very enjoyable don't make good blook club books, because they don't spark a lot of discussion. And we've actually had some lively discussion over books that weren't especially well-written and that most of the members didn't like.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Binding Tutorial

I like to bind my quilts with double-fold binding that is cut on the straight grain. In order to distribute the seam allowance (so you don't get lumps in your binding where the seams are) you use diagonal seams when you piece the strips to make the binding. Making those diagonal seams is easy when you piece the binding together, but that last bias seam, where the beginning and end of the binding meet, can be a bit tricky. You have to sew most of the binding to the quilt before you make the final bias seam. I cut the binding at least 20" longer than the circumference of my quilt and leave a tail at least 10-12" long at the beginning and end of the binding (ie, start sewing about 10" from the beginning of the binding). I stop sewing when I have a gap of about 2' between the beginning of my binding seam and the end.

I want the final bias seam to look like this:

I fold the two binding tails back and make a crease, leaving about 1/4" gap between them.

Then I open the binding and mark a line on a 45 degree angle. Mark the same line on both binding tails and make sure that both lines go the same direction.

This is the tricky part: aligning the two binding tails so you sew them together correctly. I drew this picture to help me remember how to do it.

Align the two tails, right side together and at right angles to each other. Pin them so the diagonal lines you drew on each tail line up exactly (ie, a pin through the center of the line on one tail should come out at the center point of the drawn line on the other tail). Here it is in real life, pinned and ready to sew:

And here is the sewing:

After the diagonal seam is sewn, flip it right side out to see if you have done it correctly. It should look like this:

If it doesn't, rip it out and try again. If it does, trim your tails so the seam allowance is 1/4", finger press them open, and finish sewing the binding onto your quilt.

On a much less technical note, this is the Block of the Month pattern for my guild for July. I started it today so I would have a nice handwork project to work on during sit-and-stitch groups (somehow I find that I belong to 3 of them, one meets weekly, one monthly, and one whenever we get around to it). This is an old applique pattern I've seen on antique quilts before. It's called Weeping Willow. I'm using needleturn hand applique to do it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why I Have 27 UFOs

Two or three years ago, I counted how many UFOs (Unfinished Objects) I had in my quilting room. I found 27. About 6 months ago, when I counted again, I still had about 27. The number doesn't seem to change, despite the fact that these are not the exact same 27 projects. This past weekend, I made the mistake of opening the ironing board cabinet. This is the place where bits and pieces that aren't even real projects go to hide. These are mostly orphan blocks leftover from quilts I finished years ago. They don't even count as UFOs, because their project was finished.

But when I see them, can I leave them be? Of course not. With just a few borders, they make great neonatal quilts that I can practice machine quilting on. So now, I have 5 more UFOs.

I've been machine quilting, so I actually just finished the 4 projects shown below. And I am working on the binding of one more quilt, so I will then officially still have 27 UFOs. Maybe there is some sort of universal conservation law behind this.

This is a small wallhanging. It is based on a Fibonacci spiral, but I cheated on the last quarter of the spiral so it wouldn't get too big. The blocks were leftover from another project.

Two more neonatal quilts made from leftover blocks or ones I tried making and decided I didn't want to make a quilt from.

I call this my Monkey Bars quilt. It is made from rectangles I swapped with a couple of quilty friends. I tried a bamboo-cotton blend for batting, and it shed a lot of fibers from the edges during the quilting process and when I pulled the quilt out of the dryer after the first wash it had little batting pills all over it. The batting is very thin and drapey.

This is the back of the Monkey Bars quilt. I hate buying large cuts of fabric (I like to maximize the variety in my stash), so I piece most backings from fabric I already have. That way, the quilt is reversible and I don't have to make an extra trip to the fabric store to get a backing for a specific quilt.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January Book Club

The January Book Club pick for Nene Reads is Old Man's War, by John Scalzi:

"Boldly going where no old person has gone before, to seek out new life and new civilizations and exterminate them."

This was my pick, because I thought it was fun, readable, and had some interesting ideas. It's about a 75-year old man who joins the Colonial Defense Force so he can get a new body and become young again. It's less idealistic and peaceful than Star Trek, and probably more realistic. In it, humanity takes pre-emptive strikes to a whole new level.

I hosted book club this time, which means cleaning the house and rearranging the furniture, borrowing chairs from the neighbors and preparing a spread of snacks. And quite a few of my neighbors are Foodies, so a bag of chips and a jar of salsa just isn't going to do it. We had pasta salad, nuts, 3 cheeses with crackers, fresh veggies with yogurt dip and hummus, peanut butter cookies, blackberry cobbler, spinach-feta puffs (photo above), and apple-raisin pastry with brie (photo below). Oh, and yummy lentil soup that my friend Patty made. This was my first adventure with puff pastry. I should have probably taken a picture of what the braided pastry looked like when it got out of the oven, but I didn't. So this is a process photo mid-way through the braiding process.

It turned out fine. But I'm tired.