Monday, May 2, 2016

I think and draw faster than I stitch...


I have had the applique done on these 6-inch LITTLE TREASURE blocks for a while, but I finally got around to getting the embroidery done.  They are destined for my Repro Madness quilt made up of swap blocks in reproduction fabrics.

I was tempted to ink the writing instead with a Pigma pen, but went with embroidery at the last minute.  The writing is so small, but I have not played much with inking stuff, so I decided to play it safe.

Do any of you ink details on your applique blocks?  Is there something better to use than a Pigma pen?  I have several classic Baltimore Applique books (I love Elly Sienkiewicz!) where wonderful flower details, shading and writing are added to blocks by inking.  I need to be brave and try it!  I have only done this on quilt labels...

(The patterns for these two blocks are available in the LITTLE TREASURES - Misc (1) bundle offered in my web store.  I almost have a second Misc bundle and a group of Dog and Cat designs almost ready to go!)

I can't believe Riley is finishing up her first year of college this week.  It seems like only yesterday that the stork delivered her!



I got more practice last night in making French knots as I finished this next block.  I also had a freak eyeglasses incident.  I was just sitting there, stitching and watching a little TV, when PWOING...a loose screw must have fallen out of the right side of my glasses, the frame popped open, and out plopped my lens!

We search in vain for the screw in the carpet, found another pair of glasses to scavenge, and managed to cobble things back together.  I cannot see the side of a barn without them, I am so near-sighted.  I am glad I wasn't driving or somewhere on the property by myself when it happened!

Good thing I go to the eye doctor this afternoon!



Anyway, it is good to have these two important blocks finished for my quilt.



I counted up my blocks last night, and I have really boogered myself...I am going to have to make some pieced 6-inch blocks for the balance to come out correctly on this quilt setting.  I am not the speedy, perfect piecer that many of you are, so it will be a challenge.  

It will be good for me, but I am not as fast with the piecing as I am with the hand applique.  It will also not be as portable, and I am really needing portable projects for the next month or so.

I also glue-prepped a little stack of more 6-inch blocks this weekend so I have lots of stitching to do!

We are having a thoughtful week.  Today marks a year since my dear mother-in-law passed away, and tomorrow is the 2-year anniversary of my parents' fatal car accident.  

I am still sifting their belongings as I continue to blend our households.  It is a blessing to live in this house they built and care for the treasure forest legacy that I share with six siblings.  It is a constant reminder of their love and care, both for us and the earth, but some days it is still a bit heavy.




Their roses are blooming now, just as they were when I drove all night from Michigan to get here after the accident.  I miss them so much.

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Gardening Buddy...


This is a new 6-inch LITTLE TREASURES block for my Repro Madness swap quilt project.  I wish I had this little doggie's help as I try and tame the verge around the house on this 800 acre treasure forest!

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Some blocks from upcoming new pattern bundles...and for my swap quilt!


I am trying to finalize two new LITTLE TREASURES bundles of 6-inch finished block patterns...Dogs and Cats (1) and Misc (2)
I hope to have them in the web store by Sunday afternoon.

This block is called "Penny Chew."  There were so many things available for pennies, nickels, and dimes in these kinds of machines when I was a kid...I was fascinated (then usually disappointed) in the contents.



This next one is called "Still Life With Cat."  I miss how Weasley used to squeeze his bulk into any available container...whether it already had stuff in it or not.  Then, he would just sit there until I noticed him...it must be nice to have that kind of time in your day. 



I like to imagine what kind of goofy things I could come up with, time permitting, to try and catch my husband unaware throughout his day, since he now works from home...like hiding in a closet that I know he is about to visit or striking some weird pose and "freezing" until he passes.

I think my days of squeezing into available containers are over...sigh.  I also think I used to be more fun than I am now...something to think about.  I am still young...at heart.  

I have to quote my friend Don Schoolmaster, "You're only young once, but you can be immature forever!"

I call this next one "Tennis Anyone?"  I found another interesting spotty fabric in my stash with which to experiment for fussy-cutting for his eye pupils...



And finally, since this project did start out as providing 6-inch applique blocks to punctuate my life in Michigan in a swap quilt, I had to represent music.  I am looking forward to adding something like this to my BALTIMORE RHAPSODY project, as a 15-inch block with a few more flowers.



Oh, how nice it would be to not have so many other things competing with my time and attention.  There are so many quilty ideas in my head!  

I'm off to get something done outside before it gets too hot and sunny for this pale, pasty Midwestern/Alabama girl (I don't know what I am anymore...I still feel like a Midwesterner, but am thawing/giving-in to the Alabama roots).  Mostly, I am just confused.  

Then tonight, we will drive to Tuscaloosa and back to catch the play that Riley has been working on, "Glengarry Glen Ross," at the University of Alabama.  Then, bring on the finals and let's get this first year of college finished up!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Vintage pattern weights...


This is the little box of vintage pattern weights I found on Ebay recently.  I spent about $30 to get them, but I love them and will definitely use them...unlike a few gadgets I have bought for quilting in the past.

The modern pattern weights I have seen are little bean bags, which are fine (made by Dritz), but I already had six of the white plastic ones, which I love.  This is what the Dritz variety look like.


With my larger blocks, six pattern weights were just not enough.


I received my first set of white, plastic, "vintage" pattern weights in the early nineties as a wedding gift from someone who thought I would use them in garment construction (as if I make garments anymore...).  

They didn't grab me at the time...I even lost one of them in our reclining chair when I opened the package. I put the remaining five away and the sixth one remained buried somewhere in that chair for over 20 years.  



Then, I realized how great they were for applique prep! 

I finally turned the recliner over last spring before selling the recliner in our moving sale, pulled the Velcro'd fabric panel away from the back of the chair frame, and dug around in there until I found the weight...it was like hunting Easter eggs! 

What's lurking in your furniture? 

I found the missing pattern weight, $1.28 in change, and 8 cat toys. I still had my sweet Weasley then, and he was thrilled with "new" toys, as was I.


If I had been at a garage sale, I would have looked over this little box of "gems" just thinking it a travel box for a bar of soap.  My original set of six came in a baggie, not a box.

I have a few that my friend Bruce made for me that work pretty well, but something a little heavier is needed for some blocks.  I don't know what is inside to make them so heavy for their small size...BB's, lead fishing weights, pieces of Jimmy Hoffa.

If you are looking around on eBay, Etsy, or your favorite online used stuff site for this same sort of thing, I had luck searching for "vintage pattern weights."  One day they are there, then not, then another set there...it is kind of weird!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


Sunday, April 24, 2016

You get what you pay for in fabric...



"You get what you pay for" is one old saying.  A better one may be "quality in - quality out."

I have been quilting for almost 35 years, so I've seen a huge improvement in the quality of quilting cottons.  Those first calico's I bought in the 1970's weren't great and there were so few from which to choose! 

I recently pulled out the first quilting project I started in 1982 to take as a humorous "ice breaker" for the guild talk I was giving.  It is a hand-pieced Grandmother's Flower Garden partial top...Y seams (no English Paper Piecing)...pretty ambitious project for a beginner.  I will share a picture...no judgin'...LOL!






My grandmother had just given me her last quilt, finished with hand-quilting help from community ladies before she passed away from cancer.  That quilt consists of flowery scraps from my dress sewing (I thought she wanted my scraps for her community quilting bee!).  Apparently, she started hand-piecing it about the time she got the diagnosis.  

Here's a photo of that quilt...Weasley thought I was staging a photo session for him and he was looking for his "spot"...



After that, of course, my first quilt was going to be a Grandmother's Flower Garden!  Doh! (head slap)

Like my Grandmother, I used mostly scraps I had that were leftover from sewing clothes and craft projects.  The electric blue was a remnant cotton/poly blend that was left over from making my dorm room curtain at Auburn University.

Ahhh...the shiny sheen of an overly-processed, seemingly artificial poly/cotton blend...that takes me back to college (War Eagle!!)...



I've kept that old top for years, thinking I would finish it some day for fun.  But now, I find that I am a FABRIC SNOB...and proud of it!  Let me explain...

There are two reasons I want to work with the best fabric possible. First, I want almost everything I make, especially things I hand applique and hand quilt, to be heirloom quality.  I want them to be around in a hundred years.  I take weird pleasure imagining a quilt of mine on a bed or wall in the year 2116!

I spend a lot of time making them and it makes sense to use the best materials possible to ensure their durability and beauty.

Secondly, and maybe more important to me, I want to enjoy the process.  Poorly milled fabrics with low thread count unravel easily and are the least colorfast.

I chose a black repro fabric recently to make this small, hand-appliqued music clef for one of my 6-inch finished blocks.




It is hard to photograph with my crappy camera, but in corners where I've clipped my turn-under allowance, I get these stray, unraveling, fuzzy, fat threads that make me nuts.  This makes me use more glue than I like to use to tame the beasts, then I am taking extra stitches through excess glue, which makes me cranky.

And when I make really tiny pieces with turned under edges...like a kitty cat nose...



...I don't want my scant turn-under allowance to unravel like a bad knitting project.

Fabric companies choose the greige goods (gray) that their fabric designers work with to make gorgeous fabric.  "Greige goods" is what fabric is called when it comes off the loom, before it is bleached, screen-dyed and given a finish.

Two things determine the quality of the greige goods...the thread count and the length and number of cotton filaments in the yarn (thread) used to weave the fabric.

You are probably most familiar with thread count concerning bed sheets.  Thread count is determined from looking at one square inch of fabric.  Most muslins have a thread count of 150, 75 threads going side-to-side and 75 threads going up-and-down.

The industry minimum standard for the thread count of good sheets is 180 (90 threads in each direction), but we can all tell the luxurious difference when we are sleeping on 400-count bed sheets.  

Higher thread count gives the fabric a silkier, softer hand or feel.  It is also preferred by fabric designers who draw more intricate, sophisticated designs.  When multiple screens are used to dye the fabric, the design is crisper with a higher thread count greige good.

Some lower end, cheaper fabrics only have a thread count of 120 (60 fabrics in each direction).  They can feel course and when cut, the edges ravel badly.

And don't be fooled by someone claiming 600 or higher thread count bed sheets.  Consumer Reports has "unraveled" this mystery and determined that there is some funny math going on in the industry.  There are only so many threads you can cram into a square inch of fabric.  C.R. thinks the claimed higher number is determined by the number of strands or fibers going into the yarn. 

Typical.

The courser yarns are also harder to remover excess dye, etc. from in the finishing process, therefore they run like crazy!!



I certainly don't want fabrics to run at this point in my process...when I am soaking out the glue, pressing and trimming my background to my desired size.  I wash or at least soak and spin all my new fabric...and dry on high heat.  I want to give them a chance to bleed and shrink before I start fooling with them.

There are some reds I've treated with some vinegar...and I do like those color catchers, but for the most part I've been pleased with washing before using.  I also seem to be sensitive to the chemicals used in the finishing process of making fabric.

It is also true that batiks have a high thread count, which is why a lot of people who do raw edge applique in traditional and art quilts like to work with them.  When doing the tiny keys and rods in my music blocks, I employed some batiks...especially on the woodwinds.  They are a little harder to needle when stitching, either applique or quilting (due to the tight weave), but worth it to me in some cases.



On my last post, I used a new kitty block to demonstrate some of the finer points of the applique method I use (now all stitched except for some embroidery details...).  I had named the new block "Strange Fruit," totally ignorant to the fact that name also belongs to a Billie Holiday song concerning lynching and other horrors of our past.  I appreciate being alerted by a couple of you, and I am terribly sorry about this.  I did not mean to offend anyone and I have changed the name of the block to "Still Life With Cat."

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More 6-inch block prep..."Still Life With Cat"


I feel like I have been cutting up some fruit for fruit salad...with a little cat added.


This little block will be part of the LITTLE TREASURES - Dog and Cat (1) bundle of patterns, very soon to be added to my web store.  It is called "Still Life With Cat."  I don't know what is more fun...coming up with new blocks or naming them.

I am having so much enjoyment trying to utilize some of my dotted fabrics in making eyes.  (Stash justification!)  For this cat head, I reverse appliqued the eye sockets, then "fussy cut" the dotted fabric so that the eye pupils would be in the right place. 

This way, the eyes look like they are recessed in the head, which, I guess, is normal, huh.  Sometimes I put the eyes on top, employing regular applique, so they "pop" and look prominent.  It is nice to have options!



Here is what they look like from behind...kind of owl-like...hmm...



...and this is what I "fussy cut" the eyes from...



These pictures may be redundant to the point of nausea for some of you, but I am still trying to convince some people that applique is fun and easy to do, even on a tiny 6-inch block!



I love my vintage pattern weights...I just found a few more on Ebay...so pleased!  They hold the apple and the cat head in place while I glue other pieces on top.  

To make the basket unit, I am working right on top of my pattern.  I will move to my light box when I am gluing the unit to the background (this is easier for taking pictures...).  

If I use TINY dots of glue for basting, my work shouldn't stick to the pattern.  If it sticks, shame on me!



First, the banana...see my tiny drops of glue baste in the next picture?  They will spread when the two fabrics meet and mash the glue dot, so I do not glue too close to where I will actually be stitching later.  

I pick up the banana piece with my long tweezers instead of my clumsy fingers...so easy and quick!



Then, I put my weights down over the glued area after placing the banana.  I leave them there for a minimum of about 20 seconds, then move on to the next piece to glue.



Now, the green pear. 



(The hash marks on some edges of my freezer paper patterns tell me to leave a wider margin when I am cutting out my pieces.  That way, the overlapping piece will have plenty of fabric to "catch" as I applique later.  I allow 1/8-3/16 inches when I trim to turn under and about 1/4-5/16 inches when that edge tucks under another piece.)



Now there is a hole where the purple plum should go...



Before placing the basket piece, I am gluing the two cherries together while I can see the pattern so well.



Now I set my cherry duet aside, apply my glue baste dots,  place the basket, and add the weights.




Spare parts awaiting their turn in the glue-basting process...
stems, leaves, a cat nose, and a pair of cherries.



I remove my freezer paper pattern using my stiletto.  After I loosen a corner, I slide the shaft of the stiletto between the fabric and paper to gently separate.  I don't just grab the paper and peel...that might pull the glue loose and it makes the freezer paper too curly to store in a sheet pocket protector neatly (spoken like a true nut with obsessive/compulsive disorder).

Since the freezer paper is reusable for a few pressings, I save the patterns if I think I might make the block again.  I DEFINITELY want to break out of the reproduction fabrics at some point!



Sometimes I remove the paper before gluing...it just depends on the complexity of the pattern.

Here is the tiny pink cat nose.  Thank God for tweezers!



I often put an arrow on pattern pieces to remind me of the orientation within the block...usually indicating the top of the block. Since my patterns are hand drawn instead of computer drawn, leaves and such are rarely symmetrical, so orientation is important.



All glue-prepped!  I am really missing the cat mouth, cat whiskers and cherry stems.  Once I have placed all the hand stitches, I will transfer the embroidery lines and do the final stitching.  

This Moda "Crackle" is one of my favorite backgrounds...EVER!



One new pattern prepped for stitching...several more to go!  I ran out of prepped blocks, so I must get several prepped so I have something to do in town tomorrow when I wait while getting the oil changed!  

I hate siting and waiting somewhere without something on which to stitch, and these little blocks are so portable!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Have you seen THIS?



This is a drawstring bag that opens up to a 44 inches diameter containment system.  I think it is designed for Legos and toys, but wouldn't it be an awesome "play area" for LITTLE SCRAPS????

For those of us who use every last snippet of scraps, we struggle with organization so that little pieces of fabrics aren't migrating around the house, stuck to socks, shoes or the cat/dog/husband/kids.  But the scraps also need to be accessible.  I like the little "rim" that helps contain the madness.



(Full disclosure, these are called "Scoop Bags" and can be found here.)


I have to say I am intrigued.  I am really more excited about the smaller versions, also pictured above, which I didn't find on the same website.  I think 44 inches would be a little large, although I could spread it out on the ping pong table. But if I go to a class or retreat it might prove a little clumsy if working space is an issue.

I wonder how may quilters it would hold at one time, LOL?

Hmm...

There are tutorials online for making something like this.  Here is one that looked pretty good.

I have worked pretty hard to tame my little scraps, opting to put some of them in little flat containers...they take up little space when pressed and ready to go.  




I pick through them with long beading tweezers rather than my fumbly, clumsy fingers.  Really easy, fast and convenient when I know what I want to use.  I set up and maintained several of these for making the music quilt, where I used brighter fabrics than I am currently using on the LITTLE TREASURE blocks made from reproduction fabrics.  I wish I had taken the time to make some little boxes for my repro scraps, but I had no idea at the onset that I would me making so many little blocks!

(These little containers are made by Iris, are really made for storing 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 photos, and can be gotten from Joann's and Amazon.  At my old Michigan Joann's I found them in the scrapbooking area, not the little containers near the fabrics. At the Joann's website, the 5 x 7 are here, and the 4 x 6 are here.  At Amazon, the 5 x 7 are here, and the 4 x 6 are here.)

But then I still have some larger scrap boxes like this...sorted into warm (red/pink, orange, yellow), cool (blue, green, purple), and brown/black colors.  Oh, and a fourth one for the neutral giblets.




These boxes fit well on shelves, but it might be fun to have a drawstring bag to dump them into while "fishing" for what I want, or when going to a class or retreat.  It is hard to "fish" through these without stuff spilling everywhere because they are basically at capacity.

Hmmm...may have to order a bag...no time to make one right now...

Stash and scrap maintenance is definitely on ongoing, ever-changing thing in my quilt cave.  I do very little permanent labeling for that reason (insert index cards that "peek through" the see-through containers and use easy-to-peel-off label tape in my label makers for drawers).







Anything to make the prepping of applique blocks and scrappy quilts easier, more organized, and streamlined is groovy to me.  I am always looking for ways to reduce the amount of time when I "sit and spin" or "wring my hands" or "tear hair and gnash teeth." Those activities waste time!

Happy stitching!