Thursday, April 17, 2014

New and improved design wall...WAY overdue...


Well, the second college tour trip of the year is over...another 2000 miles on the car and the future still uncertain.  It is a good thing Riley is a junior...we have about 6 months before the application deadlines start emerging.

I finally got fed up with my old design wall.  Before our college trip, I picked the windiest day of the week and took off to Lowe's to buy two 4' x 8' sheets of insulating foam board.  

The price?  $12.50 a sheet.  The stupid, wacky drive home with a virtual kite/sail poorly strapped to to top of my Subaru Forester? PRICELESS!  

I'm surprised I wasn't pulled over and arrested for stupidity, really.

It's a good thing my car has a sunroof...toward the end I had my arm through the roof, holding onto the front edge of the foam sheets.  It was a little nuts trying to change gears (of course having a 5-speed manual transmission made this all even more absurd...).



I used my 50% off one cut coupon at Joann's to buy some wide oatmeal-colored felt.  Then I used my Mod Podge and a wide craft brush to "paint" the back edge of each foam board.  I stretched the felt to the backside and stuck pins in to hold things until the glue dried.  Voila!

I had to use my electric foam craft cutter to melt/slice one of the pieces that was too wide before gluing.  I also had to make a little cut for the bottom corner of the steps...I wanted the area as wide as possible.

Here is the first, slender panel in place over the poured basement wall.  I just used a level to make sure it was plum and tacked it into place.  Then I prepared the second, full sheet and got it into place right up against the first piece.  



There is a seam between the two covered panels, but I don't care. It is such an improvement over the (formerly) hot pink thermal blanket from college, received 35 years ago before entering Auburn University in the fall of 1978.


This is what my design wall USED to look like...a very tacky color peeking through my projects in progress.  I'm not even a pink person...I think the thermal blanket was a gift from someone for high school graduation.



I like the foam board and the ability to just poke pins in the thing, just like a bulletin board.

The beauty of having so many projects in progress makes it possible to hop, skip and jump around when momentarily stumped by the design progress. 

I am slightly stumped by the outer borders of the "Belles and Blossoms" project, so I designed an outer border for Lori Smith's "Songs of Spring"  6-inch blocks I had finished hand appliqueing.  I have the finished wall hanging basted and, now, mostly hand quilted.  I will show it soon!



Guess what we got on tax day...MORE SNOW!  My poor, late, shivering daffodils, who finally had the courage to stick their heads up last week...


Even though it was below freezing, the roads, driveways and sidewalks retained enough warmth to melt the snow.  Good riddance, polar vortex and the long hard winter of 2013-14!  The snow shovels were already up in the attic!


Wacky, wacky, but I did hear that the 2 inches or so was enough to push Detroit and our area into the record books for the snowiest winter ever recorded.  Then, Wednesday night the low temp of 16 degrees set a new record as well.


I shouldn't complain...other places in the Midwest received a lot more snow than that this week.  Weasley took the snow as a sign that his winter hibernation should be extended a little longer...


I hope you are getting some spring where you are (or maybe some fall colors "down under").

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Playing with tiny thimbles...


OK...it's is not news that I am addicted to fabric and quilting.  Well, the sneaky secret is that I am really addicted to reproduction fabrics (like there are degrees of addiction...).  I have a few containers of them...they are just so beautiful. 

I have a few scrappy reproduction works in progress.  I just think the fabrics are deep, rich, and gorgeous.  Since I can't throw any scraps away, I cut out these tiny little thimbles.  (I also get the repro scraps that my friends throw away...)


Anyway, my Dad's birthday was in March (83 years young...), and I made him a little mug rug to put by his computer to mind his mug and snacks while he works away.  

(and look who woke up long enough to sneak into the picture...he is looking indignant and refusing to smile for the camera because I just peeled him off the quilt where he had plopped down...)


I machine pieced the tiny thimbles and hand quilted the finished rug, first quilting in the ditch around all pieces and the stop border, then coming up with a simple swag with hearts for the outer border.


I love the way it looks with the antique bobbins (I "lightened" the picture a bit to show the hand quilting around the outer border).  

Some day I want to make a larger quilt with those tiny thimbles...they are really fun to work with!  Maybe I should make a larger mat to put on the table I made from the treadle pedestal, since this piece looks so nice on the floor under it!  The sewing machine and cabinet had been ruined by water in an old barn and were beyond saving when I bought the old base.  My Dad cut and routed a simple but beautiful hard wood table top for me to stain, finish, and attach to the base.

My daughter and I are off for a few days to check out Oberlin, Rhodes, Vanderbilt, and U of Alabama a little closer.

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Belles and Blossoms" has sashing and cornerstones...


My original project, "Belles and Blossoms," now has sashing!  I decided to try something a little different for me...appliqued sashing with pieced cornerstones.


So I glue-prepped my little skinny vines, put them in a baggie, and managed to hand applique them while waiting in the car for my daughter at various places.

What will I do when the snow all melts and she is no longer tentative about driving?!?  Maybe I will have to start hand appliqueing during the sermon at church to keep up my level of production, LOL.

I really do listen better when my hands are busy...you knitters out there can back me up on this.  There's not a lot to "see" during the sermon...so why not?

(Sometimes there is not much to HEAR...oh my, did I say that?!?)


At first I thought this treatment might be a little busy, but it is growing on me.  It may change my plans for the outer border...I might need a plain border in between this and the outer border, for instance, to break of the insanity.

Hmmm...got to think about this for a little while...good thing I have another BAZILLION things started that I can work on...


Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wonky mug rug mania...



Now that I've distributed these mug rugs, I can share them!  You know it's a brutal winter when you don't get out to see and visit with your quilt friends...some of us (me) have been hibernating, waiting for it all to just stop...the snow, the below-freezing-temps, the isolation, the depressed mood.  I think we are 3 inches shy of the snowiest winter on record (since the mid 1850's), and it may not be over yet...dang it...


When I need to do "fabric therapy," one avenue of stress release is playing with scraps and making wonky stars (aka Bonnie Hunt's Maverick Stars from here).  Making them is fun and fruitful...I keep them, and some scrappy ingredients, in a box until I think of something fun to do with them.



It is a great way to use those brights tidbits and left over neutral scraps that I just can't bring myself to throw away.


I decided to sprinkle a few of those stars with my feeble attempts at Tonya Ricucci's free pieced letters (aka Lazy Gal Quilting's book "Word Play Quilts").


Ta da!  Wonky mug rugs!  I mean, don't we all need a little mat by our sewing machines to put our beverage/snack on to catch the moisture and crumbs?!?  I even subjected my friends to my BAD machine quilting, LOL...

I finally had a day out with these ladies last week, and THAT was some fabulous fabric therapy.  We hit Jennifer's Quilt Shop in Pinckney, MI (see pictures of this FABULOUS SHOP in this old post), Wood N Things in Brighton, MI (GREAT shop for small home decor items), and lunch.  

I was reminded that hibernation is STUPID...connecting with friends is PRICELESS!  Thank you, Ola, Mary and Beth, for a great day...

Have fun with YOUR favorite fabric therapy!

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quilt photography...deconstructing the family room...


Above is my family room BEFORE I had to destroy it to take a quilt photo...

The chaos below is after moving EVERYTHING in the room to expose the only wall in my house where I could take a picture of a 96 x 96 inch quilt...




Furniture is shoved out of the way...



I wasn't willing to take down the existing, hanging quilt, so we ended up hanging this quilt, a little higglety-pigglety, in front of the wall quilt...we employed a cardboard box on the CD/DVD shelf on one side and a 2' by 4' clamped to a step ladder on the other side...CLASSY, huh?  The quilt is pinned to the longest pole of my quilting frame...



The sofa is standing on end...lamps, chairs, end tables, and stuff is piled everywhere...Weasley the cat was COMPLETELY mental during all the chaos...



I wish we could have had this quilt flat against the wall...it was kind of fluttering, gently, in some undiscovered breeze in the room...so it doesn't look completely flat, square, and straight at the bottom of the quilt.

Oh well...we did the best we could...it was an afternoon of "marital enrichment," if you know what I mean...

Before cropping the picture...



After cropping...



Now I have the pictures needed to enter it in some upcoming shows.  

The quilt police suggest taking pictures outside, but it is still too snowy, cold, dirty, windy, and disagreeable out there.  It was a rare sunny day, so we went for it inside.  Thank goodness for the ability to crop pictures, LOL!


In stitches,
Teresa   :o)


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Six Belles - ready for spring...and sashing!


Well, the Belles are all finished and ready for some interesting sashing.  Hold on gals, the sashing is in progress!

They are all stitched on the same Moda Bella white background, but you wouldn't know it from my quilt cave photography.


The blocks have been trimmed to 8.5 x 8.5 inches in anticipation of my sashing pieces, which will be appliqued and finish to 3 x 8 inches.  I have 5 of 17 sashing pieces appliqued, so it won't be long.







I spent 2 hours shoveling new snow from Winter Storm Vulcan...time I could have spent stitching, grumble-grumble.  I'm not sure how much Steve shoveled before trying to get to work, but I just shoveled a good 6 inches, much more in the drifted areas. 

Now the sun is out and the wind is whipping through the neighborhood.  We'll probably be shoveling some of this AGAIN when the wind dies down (it's bad enough the first time...).

Stay warm!

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)

Friday, March 7, 2014

The prepped anatomy of a "Belle"...


The "belles" are beginning to materialize to go with the finished "blossoms" for my the most recent brain leakage called "Belles and Blossoms."

There will be only six blocks and they will finish 8 x 8.

I do applique in a sort of unconventional way, and Judy S (no blog) recently emailed me and asked me to do a "really detailed post explaining how...and why...I do what I do, with lots of pictures."

I am not the best photographer, but here we go...

First, here is HOW I PREP MY APPLIQUE PIECES...

I work over my pattern (or a copy of my pattern - sometimes I lay a sheet of blank vellum/tracing paper over the pattern to protect it from glue bleed through the fabric).  



I trace the individual pieces on freezer paper.  For pieces that tuck behind other pieces, I draw little dash lines along that edge(s).  That will remind me later to cut that edge of the motif out with a little extra fabric allowance. 



I cut all these little freezer paper traced pieces out with paper scissors RIGHT ON THE TRACED PENCIL LINE.  If I am pausing at this step, I put all the pieces in a labeled envelope or a clear sheet pocket protector for safe keeping until I start working again.



I then press my freezer paper patterns on THE RIGHT SIDE of my little fabric scraps.  This is where I differ from people that reverse their patterns when tracing then press the pattern to the wrong side of the fabric.  

My freezer paper patterns/guides are always EXPOSED and EASY TO PEEL AWAY TO REMOVE when ready...no difficult and fussy surgical removal of paper here!



You can see the dashed lines on my little pieces in the picture below.  For example, THE LONG EDGES of the arm pieces are cut out with a smaller turn under allowance...about 1/8 inch.  Then the ENDS OF THE ARM PIECES, where the dashed lines are drawn, are trimmed more generously...at least 1/4 inch.  This more generous allowance is where other pieces will overlap.  The rest of the pieces are cut out paying similar attention to the dashed line edges.



I like to handle these pieces (and my little scraps) with my forceps. My fingers tips are clumsy and my nails short, and the forceps allow me to pick up, move, and manipulate things quickly and crisply.

I am holding the arm piece with my forceps in the picture below...in the exact position where I will clip with my sharp little scissors before gluing the edges under.  I only clip on inside corners and inside rounded areas.  For this elbow corner, I clip right to the edge of my paper.  (For more gentle curves, I don't clip all the way to the paper.)



I always apply my Elmer's Disappearing Purple Glue Stick while working on a washable surface.  This is a great place to use those specialty rulers you don't use very often.  Using the edge of the glue stick, I apply glue to the wrong side of the turnover allowance.

I don't run the glue stick parallel along the edge...that will make things unravel and that makes me nuts.  Rather, I make little glue strokes perpendicular to the edge of the piece.  This is not as quick, but will keep you happier as you work.



After applying the glue to an edge, I have recently been pulling the piece off the sticky work surface to turn the edges, working on another ruler or right on my table surface.  I find that once I have applied the glue, the piece is not messy and will not get glue on my clean surface.  (If you can find a clean space on your ruler, feel free to continue working on it.)


Using a left hand finger (I am right-handed) and my stiletto in my right hand (or a toothpick, a seam ripper...anything sharp, as long as you feel comfortable), I fold the edge over using my sharp implement, and press the glued area with my finger tip (the tip of my stiletto is not in the picture because I put it down to pick up the camera...). 

I use my paper pattern, adhered to the right side of the fabric as my guide.  I find it helpful to work on a dark surface, or slip dark fabric or paper under the ruler I am working on so that the edge of the paper is easily seen.

I will often take the rolled shaft of my stiletto to roll the clipped corner toward the wrong side to make sure no stray little threads are poking out.

I first worked up to where I clipped at the "elbow," then turned under the longer section on the same side.  Especially when just learning this technique, ONLY GLUE AS YOU GO so the glue won't dry out while you are working.



Here is the first side, all glued under...easy-peasy.




After gluing the outside edge of the arm, I turned that under too, rounding at the elbow with tiny little pleats.  I have tried to blow up the wrong side of some of the pieces so you can see how I pleated the outer gentle corners or notched inner ones...


The smaller the turn under allowance, the easier to ease and pleat those outer curves.  A scant 1/8 inch works best for me.



I get the most questions about tiny little pieces.  Admittedly, the little hand piece that represents the curled fingers holding onto the blossom is harder.  I just use the ends of my forceps or my "purple thang" to press instead of my fingertip as I glue the edges under.  It does seem fussy at first, but gets MUCH easier with experience...I promise!  Sometimes I trim this a little smaller that 1/8 inch. 

This is also what I do when making grapes or other tiny circles.



Here is the finished piece, front and back.  notice that I did nothing with the ends of the piece...yet.




Here are all my pieces, all prepped and ready to assemble.  Designs with overlapping pieces may be more difficult than just one free-standing motif, BUT notice that you don't have to glue under every edge, which I think makes the prep seem easier and some of the pieces seem larger. 


See the piece above labeled "chest?"  Notice that only the shoulder edges are glued under.  To ease those graceful curves, I again made little clips with my scissors, but stopped halfway between the outer edge and the adhered paper pattern.  This will help you make beautiful, smooth curves that don't look hurky-jerky.

(The "R" on the pattern pieces indicates that they are "reversed." Two of the six blocks are reversed, with the blossoms on the opposite side of the belles' bodies.)


Now we start ASSEMBLY, glue basting the prepped pieces together WITHOUT THE BACKGROUND, working over the pattern.  

You can work on the background if you want, but I can work without the light table if I build motifs first.  Sometimes I even hand stitch these larger, glue basted motifs BEFORE putting them on the background...that enables me to trim the background away later in preparation for heavy hand quilting.

It also makes the stitching step a little more portable (motifs are smaller and easier to stitch WITHOUT the bulk of the background  (and means I only have to stitch around the outside after glue basting the motif to the background).  

I like glue basting with Roxanne's Glue Baste, but lately I have been experimenting with plain old white Elmer's Washable School Glue.  Even though Roxanne's is advertised as "washable," it sometimes takes a while to soak out the little dry glue dots.  When my finished block is soaking in water, I can turn the piece to the wrong side and see the glue dots through the wet background.  The Elmer's glue tiny dots melt away faster.

I transferred the Elmer's glue into a little bottle fitted with a needle tip applicator so that I could make tiny little dots of glue.  When gluing, it is always best to remember, "dot-dot-not-a-lot."  Tiny dots of glue can really hold well and will be easier to remove later.

Using my forceps, I place the neck piece over the neck in the pattern, trying to line things up as carefully as possible.


I am going to glue the face and hat first, so I carefully place a pattern weight on the bottom of the piece, out of my way.  This keeps things from shifting.




Now I apply TINY dots of glue, not near my paper pattern, because the squashed out glue dot will hinder my hand stitching later.

I pick up the face piece with my forceps and lower it into place, I then press down with my finger.  You can set a pattern weight on it, or continue on, carefully.


Now I apply tiny dots to the part of the face piece that is under the edge of the hat.


Using my forceps, I pick up the hat piece and put it in place.


I press down with my forceps or finger, then place a pattern weight.



Now it is time to apply glue dots and place the dress.



I press together well and keep going, applying glue to the tuck under allowance on the right arm...


...then I slide it under the edge of the dress in the right place.  Then I set the position of the other arm and hold it in place with a pattern weight.



Now I am ready to apply glue in four places and place the dress sleeve puffs.








Now I am ready to attach the iris stem to her arm, then put her hand/fingers on top.  I already have the iris all glued together, so it should be easy.  First I glue on the stem...



Then I glue on the hand piece...




Ta da!!

Once the glue is good and dry, I gently peel the papers off, again, using my forceps and the tip of my stiletto to help.  I save the freezer paper pattern pieces in a sheet pocket protector in case I want to make the block again.  Freezer paper can be used over and over until the unexplainable "stickiness" ceases to stick.  

Freezer paper is such a useful quilting tool!


Then, I used my light table, my slightly over-sized/pressed background, my pattern as a guide, and glue basted everything in anticipation of stitching.


You don't have to leave the freezer paper on during the glue basting, but it doesn't hurt and keeps me from confusing similarly shaped pieces (like the blue oval sleeves).

I really love this method.  It may seem tedious at first, but speed and joy come with practice.  Practice with something simple like a simple heart on a small square or rectangle...you can always use it later as a label for the back of your quilt!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)