Sunday, January 25, 2015

Slow Stitching Sunday 1/25/15

You know how they say a new resolution may take a couple of attempts before it becomes a "habit"?  It looks like Slow Sunday Stitching will be that way for me.  I thought I was all set up to stitch two weeks ago with plans to do it during the "Downton Abbey" hour.   However, I sat down that night and found the I wasn't getting much light from the little neck light I like to wear when hand stitching.

Darn it, it needed batteries!  It takes those flat batteries and of course they are not something I keep a stock of in the house and not something I wanted to run out and get at nine o'clock at night!  I thought I'd push on any way but trying to do the work in regular incandescent light brought me back to a problem I had talked about the first week:  the tracings I had made with a pink quilt marking pencil were just too light to follow in anything but bright day light and even then it's a challenge given the amount of detail of the design I'm stitching.  So I had to give up trying and just watch the show!

So for last week's SSS, I got new batteries for the neck light and worked on re-tracing the design with a darker pen.  As mentioned in my previous SSS post, I had seen a tip on using a red Pigma Micron pen to trace designs.  I already had a very fine point Sharpie marker so tested that out and found it worked pretty good. 

Unfortunately now the problem is that the glass side table I usually use as a "light box" is at the moment piled high with my mother's old photo albums that I need to go through and organize/empty.  It was pretty cloudy throughout most of that week so my alternate "light box" (aka my terrace door) was only somewhat useful.  I was able to trace a small part of the design but would need some sunnier days to get the whole thing re-traced and it being winter, that didn't happen.  So last week, although a little more got done, it didn't actually happen until Monday:

Are you starting to see the theme of this piece?  This week, despite some snow yesterday, today was the first really sunny day so I was able to retrace all the rest of the the design and THIS TIME, I actually got to sit down on Sunday to do it (but NOT during the Downton hour!) and even post about it the same day!

Hopefully from here on in I can keep plugging away since I know that eventually, steady work will make it to the finish.  Head on over to Kathy's to see what others accomplished with their Slow Stitching Sunday.  Hopefully, I'll see you there next week!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Catching Up On Things

Didn't get to post last week at all --- DH was on vacation and I admit I get distracted when he's home.  Partly it's because I start making lists of all the things I figure we can try to tackle while he's off from work.  Next I think about places I want to go since I have unfettered access to the car (he usually takes it to work). Of course, all that has to be balanced against DH's desire to spend his ideal vacation week -- doing absolutely nothing, vegging out on the couch in front of the TV.  Always a challenge to reach a "Honey Do" d├ętente agreement!

So to catch up on the quilty doings:

First:  a Win!

I had participated in the last (for now) NewFo link up at Barbara's Cat Patches blog at the end of December and lo and behold I won (thanks again Barbara)!  I received these lovely fat quarter cuts of Moda's Half Moon Modern Zig Zag fabric.  I have some great polka dot fabrics and batiks cuts in the same colors so I'm thinking a modern quilt project might be in my future. 

Second: a Flimsie!

I FINALLY got the top finished on my "High Strung +2" quilt top!  This was an easy top but a slow finish because I underestimated the time it takes to blanket stitch around all those little applique pieces and make all the thread changes.  It's done now and I looking forward to quilting it and permanently adding the button embellishments and the reindeer's bell harness.  However, since Christmas is literally a year away right now, it will have to wait.  Why?  Because there are other holidays 'a brewin'....
Third: a new project!

This is the start of "Vintage Cherries For Valentines".  The original design is also from the same book -- "'Tis the Season" book by Jeanne Large and Shelly Wicks -- that the "High Strung" quilt is from.

When I saw the quilt in the book I was immediately struck by the color palette but it reminded me of a chocolate candy assortment and that reminded me more of Valentines Day than of Christmas.  Raiding the stash, I found I had a lot of starter for it and since I don't already have a Valentines Day quilt and last year had bought a wool table topper pattern also for that holiday, it seemed the perfect time to get it started.

And throw in some Slow Sunday Stitching (that didn't get done until Monday so I'll post about it with next week's report) and Sunday's Downton Abbey installment (did the Dowager Countess have a fling in Russia back in the day?!?!?) and it all adds up to this being a bit of a busy week.

Hope you've been able to stay inside and combat the cold with the warmth of quilting.  I know I have!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Word of the Year: Purposeful

It's that time of the year when a lot of quilters instead of (or in addition to) making resolutions choose the word they want guide their projects for the year.  My words for the last three years (Focus, Practice and Fearless) all related to my desire to keep my goals in sight and on track as I moved through my projects for the year.  That mission has not changed so I was hard pressed to come up with another word that would succinctly express what my motivation should be. 

When I thought about my "body of work" over the now thirteen years that I have been quilting, the one thing that I would say has always guided my choice of projects were that they served some PURPOSE.  Most often that started with wanting a chance to learn a new technique or try a new tool or popular experience currently engaging the quilting world.  In order for me to stay motivated to finish the project, I also preferred that whatever I was making had a person or place to go to when done.  The need to meet a gifting deadline (upcoming or long overdue) or to fill an empty bed, wall or table space was often the push needed to force me to tackle a difficult or tedious construction passage. 

Then there were those times when it was only AFTER finishing the project, I realized that there was some big lesson that had been learned that had not been sought or apparent at the outset of the project.  Like being surprised at just how good or improved my quilt skills were showcased in the finished work.  Sometimes I wound up encouraged by the (up until that point, uncharacteristic) amount of determination or perseverance or patience I showed in working through a difficult or complex project.  Sometimes it has been when a new technique or tool manages to live up to or exceed the promise of simplifying or streamlining some task.  The best was when I was pleased that something that I seemed to hate all the way through making it just astounded me when it was done and became a favorite project!

But in all of these cases, I can honestly say that there has never been a project that JUST got made for the heck of it and I don't have a problem with that.  In fact, when I look at the pile of UFOs, PIGS and HSYs* laying around, in pretty much every case there lurks an intended purpose and the hope for some unintended benefit when it is all done.  What does get in the way is forgetting the initial PURPOSE as I work through the project, especially when the stitching gets tough or something new and exciting comes into view.  I'm always tempted to immediately drop what I'm doing or worse, get impatient with it because I now can't seem to finish fast enough so I can move on to the new shiny or seemingly easier thing calling for my attention. 

But this year I want to be mindful of keeping the focus (there's that word again) on what I am working on right now.  To embrace the work I am doing and watch for and really appreciate what I am experiencing as I work on and through each project.  This also relates to being more mindful about Rossi's "Process Pledge" that I adopted a few years ago (and you can click on the button on the sidebar to read about why she started that movement) and documenting the journey.  I can entertain the new and interesting but I don't want it to be at the expense of what I am working on now.  My hope, as always, is that doing so will lead to a smoother, more direct course to finishing all of my projects and result in even more satisfying finishes as the year progresses.

So, what is YOUR word for the year?

* Unfinished Objects, Projects in a Grocery Sack and "Hussies" - Haven't Started Yet

Monday, January 5, 2015

Slow Stitching Sunday 1/4/15

I plan to try something new this year.  I had viewed a recent post over at Sharon's Vrooman's Quilts blog where she showed a cross stitch project she worked on and mentioned Kathy's "Slow Sunday Stitching" link up.  I thought this sounded interesting and promptly headed over to Kathy's blog to check it out.
When I started quilting, I intended to only be a machine quilter.  However, over the years I have become more and more interested and involved with the idea of doing handwork.  I've taken online classes in hand applique and quilting and have done a few projects using both.  In the last couple of years, I've become enamored of embroidery on quilts in general and with Redwork in particular.  So one of the things I'd like to focus on for the "Slow Sunday Stitching" is that.

I have a little project that I came up with two years ago to add to a quilt I made early on that is displayed in my home.  I won't reveal the details of it just yet, but I will say that the theme of the piece works with the theme of the room.  I had traced out the designs a while ago but had never made the time to work on it until now.  Participating in the link up will give me just the push I need to schedule some time to make it happen.  It's been years, no DECADES, since I've done hand embroidery so it will take some doing to get back into the swing of things.  I didn't start on this until the evening so as you can see I didn't get too far but I'm looking forward to doing more work on it. 
There are a few hurdles to over come right now:  When I traced out the design, I used a pink quilt marking pencil which was the only thing I had close to red at the time.  However, I'm finding the marking to be a little light, particularly since I'm working on small designs.  Fortunately, I recently got two good tips for doing Redwork.  This year, I signed up for a paid membership to "The Quilt Show" website (I've had the more limited free membership for a few years now) and saw a great episode with Rosie de Leon-McCrady (#1509). 
She traces her designs with a red #01 Pigma Micron pen.  This is one of the finest points of those pens so the stitches will hide the markings.  I do have a fine point Sharpie that I might also try using to retrace the markings until I can pick up a Pigma pen.  I think the Pigma will be less likely to bleed through the backing fabric but I will test the Sharpie and see what happens.  I was also dreading pulling strands for the embroidery until I learned from her that Perle cotton can substitute for embroidery floss.  On her "Scarlet Today" website, she lists the equivalent weight of Perle that can substitute for various strands of embroidery floss (scroll down to the bottom of this page).  I like the idea of being able to work with Perle cotton because it comes on spools that I can also use in the sewing machine for machine applique, quilting or embellishment and for "big stitch" hand quilting.   
 I do have another handwork project that I hope to get to do in these sessions although I didn't get to work on it last night so hopefully that will be another post for another week!  So if you've got some hand work and would like to show what you've been up to, head on over to  Kathy's and link up your latest work!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Getting It Done in 2015

A very Happy New Year to all!! 

Since about 2009, I been trying to finish up my UFOs by participating in finishing challenges.  I "participated" in Judy Laquidara's 2012 UFO Challenge on her Patchwork Times blog.  In that challenge, you made a list of twelve projects at the beginning of the year and each month she'd choose a number and that was your UFO project for that month.  I put participated in quotes because while I made my lists and checked them twice, I was naughty and got only one project done and not until about six months after it was scheduled to be completed! 

I've continued to participate in various finishing challenges (most recently last year's Quarterly Finish Alongs) and particularly in the last two years have managed to get quite a few "oldies but goodies" finished up.  For 2013, Judy changed her UFO approach to the monthly "Get It Done" challenges.  This time, she asked quilters to make a list of things they wanted to get done in a given month and post it on the last day of the prior month.  Then the next month they recapped what got done and set out their list for the next month. I didn't discover this new twist until half way through 2013 so didn't try it then and since she didn't renew it in 2014 didn't get to try it last year either.

I'm committed to keeping the finishing momentum going this year so I think I will try her system this year on my own.  Having found out that Barbara over at Cat Patches was ending her "NewFO" linky parties after hosting them for three years, I spent yesterday posting my own last NewFO for the year (and also linking it on Sharon's "Let's Book It" linky too) so I didn't get to make an end-of-month list.  But since I'm going my own way anyway, I figure I can change it up a little and try making my lists on the first day of the month instead! 

So here's what I hope to work on this month:

1.  Get "High Strung Plus 2" to the flimsie stage

2.  Quilt the two Kaye England civil war lap quilts:

3.  Quilt the Civil War Minis


4.  Get the first "block" done for a new (personal) BOM:  making up the Warm Hands/Warm Feet ornaments

5.  I also want to work on the blocks for another BOM:  continuing the Heart & Home Wool BOM from a few years  ago:

6.  This year I also have a number of hand work projects lined up as well a hand quilting UFO that could use a finish.  Hoping to encourage myself to make time for that, I want to try participating in Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching linkys:

7.  I'm also overdue for making up a baby quilt gift so that needs to get done too.  Have stash, need a plan!
While I can think of other things to add, I'm known for making my lists a little too ambitious so I'm going to stop here.  So let's see how 2015 will go.  It's a New Year so a good time for a new start!  Happy quilting!!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last Post of the Year: The End of Final Clearance and a Linky Era

It turned out my "Final Clearance" push did not go as well as planned.  I had hoped to be able to focus on at least four quilt projects once Thanksgiving ended but only managed two between all the holiday doings and both were new projects for Christmas.  I had been stressing about trying to get the last one to a flimsy before the year ended until I took a "motivation break" to do some catching up on Bloglovin'.  One of the first posts I read was Barbara's Cat Patches blog post for the December NewFO link up.

However, reading further I got the bad news: after three years of hosting this fun monthly get together she will be ending the run of the NewFo link ups!  I have enjoyed adding a link to her lineups on more than a few occasions because this is the one place where starting is more important than finishing!  While I hate to say good-bye to this tradition, this is also an opportunity to take some of the pressure off this last project.  I'm joining in to honor it's start since I know I can't nudge it to a finish for now. 

This is "High Strung (Plus 2)" the cover quilt from the book "Tis the Season" by Jeanne Large and Shelly Wicks, a Martingale book
I call it "High Strung (Plus 2)" because for my version, I've added elements from two other projects in the book: in the lower part of the top, the stars and circles are from "Holiday Stars Runner" and the Reindeer is from "To All A Good Night".  Right now the Reindeer looks more like a dog but he'll improve when I decide on the fabric to use to add his bell harness.  All the background fabrics are cottons from Connecting Threads and all the appliques are made from flannel scraps in my stash.

The other completed NewFo this month was a holiday runner from the book "Skinny Quilts and Tablerunners II" edited by Eleanor Levie:

A funny story about how I got this book:  I had added it to my Amazon Wishlist after seeing one of the runners from it in a recent Martingale blog post.  About two weeks later, I got a package which according to the note attached, someone had chosen to make a random selection from all the Amazon wishlists to gift me the book!  They asked that I not contact them to thank them but view it as a "pay it forward" opportunity.  I got to do that a few days later when I manned the evening order pickup table for the frozen baked goods fundraiser for my son's school.  One of the parents who had participated (and who was pregnant and at a midtown meeting) had forgotten to come pick up her order even though I had confirmed the date and time with her a few days before so I personally delivered the two boxes of items to her home after finishing that night. 
The inspiration for the project I did was Linda Lum DeBono's "Birds of a Feather":

I was looking for a quickie runner project to decorate the dresser we use as a sideboard in the dining room.  I realized that I could substitute the bird appliques with a focus fabric, in this case a lovely poinsettia print in my stash of holiday prints. The stash also provided enough coordinates for the frames around the poinsettia panels, the striped panels next to them, the shirred center strip, and the pleated ends. 

For the back, my intention was to just cover it with what I had left of the poinsettia print since it would make an nice reversible mat that way.  However, I didn't have enough to cover the whole back with what I had left of the print so needed to add something to fill it out.  I liked the idea of doing a paper-pieced candle but all the block patterns I found weren't big enough. I wound up drafting up my own pattern to fit the space. 

In the end, I wound up preferring the "back" when I put it out for display!

And as has often happened in the past, these NewFOs also make perfect "Let's Book It" entries too so I will end the year by also linking up with Sharon over at Vrooman's Quilts (and look to do so again in 2015)!
Remember, even though you won't be able to link up NewFOs,  you can still visit Barbara and her cats Smitty and Gracie over at her Cat Patches blog.  I and my family wish you and yours a very Happy New Year full of fun, friends, family and of course Quilts!!

See You In 2015!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Final Clearance! Week 1

In my last post, I showed some of the things I want to tackle as part of my personal Year-End Finish Challenge.  Yet the first project completed has been a non-sewing but quilt related project I've wanted to tackle for a long time --- a couple of quilt ladders! 

I was initially inspired after reading Rose Marie's Applique 'N Patch Quilting blog post on the ladders her husband makes for her.  Later I found Blair's design and instructions on her Wise Craft blog and just knew this was a doable project.  I purchased all the wood and dowels for these last year.  Then just like with a quilt project, although it seemed like a simple enough endeavor, in my mind it morphed into a daunting enough prospect that I let it sit.  However, with the reminder about what I had chosen as my "Word of Year" hanging in my quilt space... only made sense to finish the year as I started.  So I decided it was time to make the donuts!!!

The plan was to make two ladders.  Over the weekend I had checked the measurements of the corner in my bedroom where I wanted to put them and confirm how I would need to cut up the wood to fit.  Fortunately, I only needed to cut down the lengths of one set of the wood supports I had bought and could cut all the dowels into two pieces which would accommodate both ladders.  On Monday after getting the laundry done and while my sewing cabinets were still closed up,  I took the time (and available space) to start cutting everything up.  Tuesday, I finished up the cutting and then sewed up muslin fabric guards for all the dowels -- basically a tube of muslin to slide onto the dowels to protect the quilts from any snags or oils in the wood.  Those done and applied, I could then put the ladders together.  I was able to load some of the quilts on to them that night and finished adding the rest yesterday.

Here they are in place!  I will have to move the bed and my nightstand to the right just a little to give the back ladder a little more breathing room.  For now I'm just glad to have them done and all the wood out of the way.  In 2015, I plan to work on fixing up all the upstairs bedrooms (and hopefully also adding a long desired laundry area) so when I'm ready to paint my bedroom, I'll give some thought to what kind and color finish I want to apply to the ladders.  But for now, I can go back to sewing!