Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving stitches...

I am very excited to get back to the sewing machine and my scrappy blocks this week, but we went to Swarthmore, PA for Thanksgiving (near Philadelphia) to spend time with Steve's family so I was separated from my project.

I took this little wall hanging quilt along in hopes that I would get to work on it.  The hand-quilting of Boxer Rebellion is going well and I am very close to being finished...I hope to finish it this week!  This old threadbare underwear needles like butter!  My Steve is a really good sport...
I am quilting little details...like the "6-pack" abs, etc...ha-ha-ha!
It was a little awkward, explaining this quilt to my husband's mother...there I was, chatting with her while putting stitches through her son's underwear.  I'm sure it's not the first time I have seemed strange to his family...
Then I remember that my daughter is an only child...what will she think of this some day when we are gone and she is faced with a mountain of quilts, with this one on top??  It is a part of my quilt legacy.  I suppose I should put some thought into the label for this quilt...I should make sure I explain the story of how the quilt came to be.  Every quilt deserves that, but especially one with such a 'tongue in cheek' origin...

I hope you got some stitching done over the long holiday weekend!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Strippy, scrappy, flippy, happy, happy, HAPPY...


Welcome to "part 2" of the current scrapbusting project.  I started this while sick, thinking that the mindless chain-piecing of the scraps would distract my cough.  Well, it worked!  (It also succeeded in keeping me from packing and getting ready for our trip to the Philadelphia area...)  This initial portion reminds me of the fret board on the neck of a guitar.


The initial pieced strip of short, stubby chunks constitutes the central, diagonal portion of the 8.5 inch square.  Then I "contained" this strip set with black strips on either side.  Now, the fun continues as I just fill out the square on either side.


Each added strip needs to be shorter than the last, and I just roughly center the strip as I sew it on.  As I work, I have my 8.5 inch square ruler close so that I can check myself to make sure I am covering enough real estate with each strip.


I really do have a 100% cotton addiction...as I grab strips and chain-piece, I am like a kid in a candy store, trying to decide which piece to try next!  Yum-YUM!


I keep checking myself with my ruler as I go merrily along...


Eventually, I end up with these funky blobs of strippy, colorful eye candy.  I have been looking forward to playing around with all these scrappy, bright strips and chunks for so long! 


I like working with the bold bright scraps...I feel like there are no rules as to how they should go together.  It is very liberating to work with no rules, no pattern, no paper, etc.  I am usually trying to be so perfect, so precise.  I guess my only "rule" is that I insist on pressing well as I go so these wild and crazy beauties will lie absolutely flat and true.


As I work and handle each piece, I remember the project the scrap came from or the person that gave me the scrap...isn't that wacky??  Mary J and Barb F...do you see some of your fabrics??


Initially, I did try this as a paper-piecing project, but I quickly got lazy and realized that I could do this just as well without the paper, as long as I keep rulers close and check myself from time to time to make sure I am completely covering enough area to cleanly cut out my block when I've finished adding all the strips.  I only had to remove the paper from one blob to realize that I didn't want to do THAT over and over!


Next, using my Brooklyn Revolver (one of my favorite tools!), I carefully trimmed the fabric blobs down to perfect little 8.5 inch squares.  This is a rotary mat with a "lazy Susan" base.  It allows me to trim one side, carefully turn 90 degrees and trim, then continue turning and trimming until a square appears. 

Ta da!

So far I have 24 blocks ready to lay out and see how things will look.


Me likey!

When chain-piecing the "blobs" and adding the last small corner chunks, I did try and not use too skinny a strip.  That way when I start piecing all the squares together, I won't have seam allowances too close to the intersection of four blocks.


I'm going to play with the setting some...I wasn't real careful here, just wanting to see how all the blocks play together.


After our Thanksgiving trip, I can't wait to dive into this box of strips and chunks and make more blocks!  They are so quick and fun to make!  I was definitely tempted to play hookie from Thanksgiving and stay home and make more blocks.  I am looking forward to seeing Steve's parents and sister, and even looking forward to doing all the cooking in a strange kitchen, but this project is so FUN!!  It makes my heart sing!


(**added later**)  Here are 2 finished quilts using these fabulous blocks...



Happy Thanksgiving and I hope your heart is getting to sing a little bit on this long, holiday weekend!  I am so thankful for family and friends, and I am totally grateful to have a hobby that challenges and delights me, and occasionally torments me!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adventures in fabric therapy...


When I was on my anti-cough campaign a few days ago, I did some mindless chain-piecing of bright and novelty scrappy strips and chunks.  REAL fabric therapy!  I've had an idea for a scrappy string-like quilt for a long time.  I was looking at a guitar a few weeks ago and noticed the fretboard structure of the guitar neck.


When I look at these scrappy strip sets, I see each strip as a fret board on a guitar neck (once a musician, always a musician...).


Instead of just doing the basic "piecing strings on the diagonal" block idea, I knew I could come up with some way to make and use these "fabric fret boards" in a bigger block.  These little stubby strips were really piling up in the quilt cave, and it seemed like a good way to use them up without too much handling and re-processing of them.


I didn't take time to trim them...just kept grabbing pieces that were approximately the same length.  With some of the novelty pieces, I tried sort of "fussy-piecing" them so that I would end up with the desired little picture in place once I trimmed the strip set down to the final width (this will give the finished project the additional whimsical surprise of an "I spy" quilt that I love...).


I settled on a a final block design that would feature this strip set centered on the diagonal of a finished 8 inch block, and the strip set would be about 3 inches wide.  I'm sure someone else has done something like this before...



I decided to set this diagonal strip apart from the remaining block components with scrappy black strips on each side.  This will be the one unifying feature for the top, and help contain all that scrappy, crazy loveliness.  The first strip was easy...I just lined it up and sewed it down.  When I was chain-piecing the initial skinny scrap strips, I pressed all seams in one direction.  As I sew on the black scrappy strips, I sew in the direction of those pressed seams so that everything will press nice and flat as I go.  Since there will be so many pieces in each block, it is important to do neat seam pressing maintenance as I go so that the top will lie really flat and nice for either hand or machine quilting.


After sewing the strip down, I trimmed away the leftover edge of the strip set.  If that strip was wide enough (and it usually was after sewing down the SECOND black strip), I actually SAVED IT thinking I could do something funky with the leftovers later...am I a nut, or WHAT?!?  I just trimmed with scissors instead of the rotary cutter.


Then I pressed the strip to the outside.  As I work, I have a 8.5 x 8.5 square ruler handy to make sure that what I am doing will "cover" enough fabric real estate to be able to trim the resulting mess down to an 8.5 x 8.5 block.  I'm paper-piecing without the paper!


Then, I "eyeball" where the second black strip should be placed in order to end up with the skinny strip sets  between the black strips measuring about 3 inches.  I was intentionally a little loosey-goosey with this 3 inch measurement.  I want the finished product to look a little accidental, or liberated.


I use my ruler just as a guide only, since I'm not looking for accuracy here.  This is really a liberated, or pattern-less project.  "Wonky" and "inconsistent" are key elements of liberated quiltmaking.


As I prepare to sew down this next black strip, look at that nice, FAT leftover strip I will cut off...I will definitely save THAT for later consideration...



(some of THIS leftover pieced strip is too skinny to keep...bummer!)

So I end up with a nice diagonal piece for my final block puzzle.


I'll show the next step of this adventure on Friday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to suppress (or at least distract) a cough...


"Take 12 bobbins and call me in the morning..."  I love filling bobbins on my new machine, and I filled a dozen in anticipation of doing some serious, mindless chain-piecing.  And look what I got done...another 83 scrappy green and neutral log cabin blocks to go with the 37 I finished a few months ago.  Now I have 120, and I can play with them and decide how I want to arrange them.

They will finish 9 inches and each log finishes at 0.75 inches wide.  I'm thinking a barn raising setting, but maybe I will change my mind when I start playing with them.

Even though I have been sick for almost a week, I have managed to get a little sewing done between the coughing and the moaning and groaning.  My husband was out of town, so the moaning and groaning has been mostly for my own benefit (and further research on the topic "do cats and/or teenagers show sympathy toward the pain and suffering of mankind" - hmmm...I'll let you know when I see some...).

I ended up in urgent care over the weekend for a chest x-ray and a breathing treatment.  These things always tend to turn ugly for me and now I am on antibiotics, etc.

It's a good project to work on while sick, especially since I choose to cut all my "logs" to the proper size rather than sew, trim, sew, trim, etc...then I just mindlessly feed pieces through the machine, while moaning and groaning.  Too bad I didn't cut ALL the logs before starting the piecing a few months ago.

I would be finished with this project if I had practiced patience and cut ALL the logs first, BEFORE starting the orgasmic chain-piecing sessions.  But no, I had a weak moment, and jumped in without thinking only to be hit by "piecus interruptus" when I had pieced through the last full set of log cabin logs.  Then the project "slept" until I had time to drag all the scraps out again (a couple of days ago) to cut the remaining strips needed.  Another nice thing about cutting them all out first?  I can use BumbleBeans' concept of "15 minutes of play" to get something done.  I realize that this takes all the spontaneity out of the process, but I have made this log cabin quilt before in another color, so the process becomes just that...a process.  So now I am playing catch-up.  It is amazing just how much chain-piecing you can do in only 15 minutes!  (It reminds me of the question, "how can you possibly eat a huge elephant?  one bite at a time.")
So, I have found that mindless piecing is a great way to suppress a cough because, 1) it keeps me quiet/keeps me from talking (the machine is hard to talk above when your voice is weak), 2) I make a game of it ("ok...you can cough after THIS piece," then of course, I don't give in and say the same thing a micro-second later), and 3) I am concentrating so hard on the perfect, consistent quarter inch seam...it's easy to ignore the urges to cough.

Now I have to make a decision about the setting...then there's a part of me that would love a little border of scrappy, red, crazy-pieced hearts, since it is a quilt for our bed.  It's already going to be 90 x 108 with just the 120 nine inch blocks, but I think the red scrap tub needs a little pruning...

My friend Mary J. recently shared her quilts at a local craft show.  Look how pretty her booth was 5 minutes before the show opened.  (Machine quilting by Rhonda Loy, Marilyn Lange, and Mary Jones).









I wish there had been time to take more close-ups, but the doors were opened and TONS of people appeared out of nowhere, ready to shop for the holidays.  I didn't want to discourage THAT!

While I was mindlessly chain-piecing, moaning, groaning, and trying not to cough, I was thinking about everything I was doing 3 months ago before the concert took over my life.  I am very excited about something I started designing.  I can't wait until I can share some of it with you.  Thanks to everyone who suggested books, software, etc. to help me "launch" a pattern designing adventure.  Then there are all the quilts, started or not, that I want to make.  I have been making a few more of my appliqued baskets...I need to round them up and see where I stand with that project.  Ahhh...it is good to have my mind in the cotton once again.

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)