Sewing Days

January is very often taken up with organization of papers, and preparation of taxes, and it usually leaves me little time for sewing. I have a number of projects that I have been working on that I want to finish. (So I can start NEW projects, of course!) To that end, I managed to steal two or three afternoons to work on a tote bag for Frankie, my youngest sis.
I made the mistake of not choosing pre-quilted fabrics for this project. I let Frankie choose three Batiks that are quite beautiful, so I had to layer them with batting, and quilt them before I completed the project. A friend who quilts helped me with a problem I was having with skipped stitches (I needed a lower number needle, a thinner one), and that helped me move through part of the quilting. Once I had the strips for the handle quilted, I decided to finish making the handle. Imagine a strip four inches wide by 110 inches long. I had to turn the long unfinished edges to meet in the center, and then fold the strip in half one more time, to enclose those raw edges. Then I had to sew them together parallel to each edge and down the middle.
Apparently, my machine can stitch through four thicknesses of batting and eight thicknesses of Batik, but I forgot a rule you learn early on in sewing: Do not PULL the fabric through the needle. I changed the foot. I changed the needle, I tried re-threading the machine, to no avail. I had messed up the timing, and it had to go to the sewing machine doctor.
He’s a good kid. Before him, his dad worked on this machine. I sew on a Singer 301A which is almost as old as I am, and I love it. I’ve told them that they have to make this machine last as long as I do, and so far, they have. He had it a day and a half, before the called to tell me it was ready to pick up.
This weekend I have a little more time to work on the tote, so I’ll share a picture when it’s done. Thank goodness for good sewing machine doctors!

Bazaar things

My mother has joined the Empty Nester’s group at church. A group of the ladies who belong to the Empty Nester’s meet here once a month to do charitable sewing. For the past few months, they have devoted their time to making things for the church bazaar. I’ve offered my help with a few of the projects that needed to be quilted.
At the same time, I’ve been working on three bed-sized quilts of my own. When you have finished the quilting the last two steps in your project are sewing on a label and binding the edges. Binding is simply a method of enclosing the raw edges of a quilt. I happen to prefer bias binding, and I make it the old fashioned way, cutting one strip of bias fabric at a time. This is what the project looks like when I start:
Binding for Blog 2.jpg
I made the bindings for four projects one morning, and for three more the following day. This is what the first batch of binding looked like when it was ready to be applied to the quilts:
I’ve finished the bindings on two of the three large quilts. I’ll have to bind four large lap quilts before the end of the month. I took the time to measure the binding I had made, and there is 145 FEET of it! I’ll have to work fast to get those four lap quilts done!

Birds in the Air

No, this isn’t a bird-watching entry. One of my quilting magazines came last month, and one of the patterns called out to me. It’s basically a “Birds in the Air” block, with a variety of red fabrics used in the unpieced half of the square. I already had the fabric in my stash to make it, so I started cutting right away. This quilt will be roughly 60″ x 60.” It takes 64 blocks. Since I’ve chosen to make it with a scrappy look, I have more than enough pieces already cut out to make more blocks. It would be easy to expand the quilt and make it full size.
This is what the basic block looks like:
I have about half the blocks pieced. This is what the quilt will look like as I assemble it:
I don’t too often jump into a quilt like this when I have others ready to go. Actually, I have TWO others ready to piece. I wanted to combine a group of Christmas themed fabrics with some of the “woodsy” fabrics I brought home from Alaska. I thought this might make the kind of quilt I’d like to have on the back of the couch at Christmas. Can’t you see drawing a cover up over you while you read on a snowy day?
I love using my digital camera to take pictures of blocks. As I looked over some of the pictures I took today, I realized that two of the darker “neutral” fabrics were just a bit too dark for this quilt. It’s a wonderful tool to determine value in quilts.
I don’t have a name for this quilt yet. The designer called hers “Red Sky At Night,” but I don’t want Dear Husband to get any ideas about appropriating it for the boat!

Strange colors

I spent a good part of last weekend working on quilt tops. I wanted to finish up several projects. Easily 20 years ago, I took a class on the “Smoothing Iron” Quilt. I chose fabric in tan, red and navy blue for the sample that I wanted to make. I got about half of the blocks pieced and set the project aside.
I’m from the “Waste not, want not” era and it bugs me to have unfinished projects hanging over my head, so I decided to work on the “Smoothing Iron” quilt again. I changed the dimensions in mid-stream, which necessitated adding blocks to the sides of the existing rows. I still have to add borders. I hope that Elegante Mother’s sewing bee will accept this top for the church bazaar.
I’ve had four flower blocks on which EM and I have collaborated, pinned to the quilt wall. I finally decided that they needed to be sashed and bordered. Now that I have the top done, I think I need to trim the outer border. I feels as though it’s overwhelming the center.
And, I thought I had finished all but the last row of the halloween quilt, until I realized that I’d put the last piece of border on upside down. (sigh) That’s an easy problem to fix, and then I get to go to the fabric shop to look for fabric for the final border! YEA!!
I realized that I’d been working on some very unusual colors in one weekend! I took a picture yesterday so you could see what I mean:

All’s Well

My quilt Show and Tell (and Tips) went well, last Thursday night. I packed up the car with bag after bag of quilts, and we headed off to have dinner with My-Sister-The-Nurse. She was standing in for Second-Sister, who was in the hospital with pneumonia. SS will be okay, but she needs some time to heal, and is basically on house arrest this week.
When we arrived I learned that I had a maximum of two hours to fill, but that was the absolute limit. I knew that I could easily fill up 120 minutes. I was more worried that I had too much to share! I started with the tips so I could show how some of them appear in my own quilts. My mouth was on overdrive, because I knew it would be a race to show everything, but the ladies soaked it all up.
When I packed, I took one more group of things than I had originally planned, and it turned out it was a good choice. My-Sister-The-Nurse made a quilt with our hand prints over 25 years ago. I’ve wanted to make a current genealogy quilt ever since, and I’ve blogged about the batik version I’ve started. I took the run of fabrics for that quilt, and several of the completed hand prints, and the quilt my sister made. There’s also a signature quilt that I made for mother more than ten years ago. I didn’t have the time to search for it, or I would have taken that, too.
I substituted the hand print quilts for the wall hanging tops I made last summer with fabric Cop Car gave me, and fabric that I gave to Cop Car, and the ladies were very interested.
It was a VERY long day for Elegante Mother. She was quite tired by the time we came home. I think we pulled into the garage around 10:30 or so, and she announced she had no plans to go to exercise the next morning, thank you very much.
My-Sister-The-Nurse called on Friday and asked if I would do a similar show for her church. It seems that my family will keep me busy for a while.
For those of you who were waiting for pictures, I’m sorry to tell you that you will have to wait a bit longer. The room was set up in a way that wasn’t conducive to good photos. At best you might have seen a closeup of the quilts. Many of the quilts are so large that there wasn’t enough room to back up and get the entire quilt in one picture. Do you know how HEAVY some of those quilts are? An hour into the show I was perspiring from hefting them around! I was just as happy that the quilts and I weren’t being photographed.
Although all but one of the hanging quilts is back in place, I have to unpack all the rest tomorrow. If there’s sunlight, I’ll try to photograph some of them on the floor before they are put away. I need to make a list of just how many quilts need labels. I plan to take one day this summer and make labels for all of them. One other project is to bring my quilt journal up to date. I’ll have to ask family members to take pictures of the quilts I’ve given them, but I’d like to have a journal page for each, along with the photo.
So….a good time was had by all, and I’ve had incentive to get Spring Cleaning started. That’s a win-win situation in my book!

Showing Off

I have been invited to show my quilts to my second sister’s quilt group at church. This is the first time I have ever done a formal Show and Tell of my work. I’m accustomed to having guests ask me to show them what I’m working on (in my bedroom/quilt studio), but I’ve never done a program of this sort for a guild or bee or quilt group.
I have to thank these ladies for getting me started on my Spring cleaning! I’ve pulled quilts from the backs of couches and the walls and the storage cabinets in the great room, from my bed, from the quilt rack in the bedroom, from my closet and my mother’s closet, and from the closet in the guest room! Most of the quilts have been run through the dryer on air fluff to remove dust and lint.
Second Sister also asked for quilt tips, and I’ve posted those in an earlier entry. I’m taking one medium-sized tote bag with things like my favorite pins, needles and thread, and the magazines I consider necessary. I’m also taking the size olfa cutter I prefer and a new turntable mat I’ve fallen in love with for sub-cutting patches. One of the items is a piece of screening, the kind you use for summer screens. If you have a fragile quilt, like a crazy quilt, you lay the quilt on a carpet, and lay the screen over it, and hand vacuum it. It gets the dust off without damaging the fabrics and embroidery.
I counted, and last night I bagged up 31 quilts and tops . I have a crazy quilt and a scrap quilt to bag, and I’m debating whether or not I’ll be taking the family crazy quilt from 1890. My grandmother did six over-sized crazy quilt blocks to which I added a backing for safety. The fabrics are very fragile. Some are starting to disintegrate. I may choose to leave it at home once I’ve inspected it.
These 31 quilts are not every quilt that I have in the house. While my walls are really bare at the moment, I still have several antique quilts, and many wall hangings that I’m not taking. I wish I could take the Sails and Whales quilt that I’m doing for Dear Husband, but it’s pinned to the rollers for the quilt frame, and it’s just too long to pack.
I organized the quilts into categories to decide what to take. Early work, Mystery Quilts, Bee Quilts, Crazy Quilts, Half-Square Triangle Quilts, and One of a Kind Quilts were the divisions that made sense to me. I just realized that I could have borrowed TWO signature or album quilts from Elegante Mother, and the Hand-print Quilt in the hallway, and the box of batik hands that I’m doing for the next generation, to talk about genealogy quilts. But…..enough is enough. I know there’s going to be complaining when we have to carry everything in, and back out.
I’m going to give my digital camera to one of the ladies and ask her to take pictures of the quilts as they are shown. It will be the first time some of these quilts will have been photographed. I need to bring my quilting journal up to date.
I don’t need to have you wish me luck; this is a subject near and dear to my heart. But, you can wish me smooth sailing. The ladies will probably have to tell me that it’s time to go, long before I get to the end of what I want to share. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to share something you love?


I’m addicted to quilting. Not as addicted as most of the ladies in my bee, but addicted nevertheless. You’ve seen pictures of the blocks using Halloween fabrics and shades of orange fabric, in an earlier entry. I decided that I need to get that top put together to take to the Trunk Show I’ll be doing for my sister’s quilting group.
There’s a lot to be said about taking an unquilted top to show. Quilters ALWAYS want to see the back of your work, to see if they measure up to you, or if maybe, just maybe, the back of their work looks even better than yours! *G* It’s the nature of the beast. I’ll be charitable, and tell you that some women look to learn how to do things better. I’m sufficiently confident about my work that it doesn’t bother me that there are women who are better piecers and quilters than I am. If it helps a beginner quilter to know that she measures up to me, I’m glad to give her the boost.
There are things to be learned from the back of a quilt top. You can see if the quilter has given thought to pressing the pieces for flat assembly. You can see if the top was paper pieced, or you can look for markings that would indicate the pieces were cut from templates. You can see if the quilter has cleaned up the back, snipping threads leftover from sewing. And, of course, you can see if the top was pieced by hand or by machine. No doubt my more learned friends can glean even more information than that.
Most of the quilts I make use old-fashioned patterns with today’s amazing variety of fabrics. I tend to like a scrap quilt look, so it’s very rare when I use just five or six fabrics in a quilt. One of the last quilts I’ll show is dark blue and gold, but I think there may be 24 different blue fabrics and 24 different gold fabrics in the top. I need to count them before I pack the quilt for the talk. I saw a blue and gold quilt in a magazine, and thought I had to have one like it. When I was done, I really wished I had a kid at a college that used blue and gold for their colors so I could send it away! It could have been worse. I could have made a blue and orange quilt, and everybody would comment on how great a Bears fan I am! *G*
Today I sewed together the 20 blocks that make up the center of the Halloween quilt. I used a one-inch green and black sashing to connect the blocks. The next step is to surround this rectangle with the same sashing. I may get that finished tonight. The next border is made up of two-inch strips of all the fabrics in the blocks, set at a 45 degree angle, and the last border will be black fabric with stars or pumpkins….whichever I can find at the shop this time of the year.
It’s shaping up. Soon I’ll have another picture to share. *S*

Quilt Tips

I’ve been invited by my second sister to speak to the quilt group that meets at her church. She would like me to do a Show and Tell and Tips presentation on March 10th. I spent some time thinking about the quilts and wallhangings and unfinished work here, and think I could easily take 25 pieces to show. The hard part is limiting it to 25. A few years ago I decided to keep some of my work rather than giving it all away, and I didn’t realize how many quilted items I’d amassed.
The first Friday of every month a quilting bee meets here at Chez Buffy. I was thinking about the “Tips” part of the presentation. I’m able to give tips to beginners and intermediate quilters, but I realized that I had the opportunity to ask my bee what tips they thought were most important for beginners.
Seven women join Elegante Mother and me to make up this bee, and I am the least prolific quilter among them. One of the ladies is a certified quilt appraiser. Another is a member of the local professional art quilter’s association, and another is the most amazing applique artist I know. Another brings her eight year old daughter who is a budding quilter.
We settled in last night with cups of hot tea to tide us against that cold wind, and had our show and tell. Then I asked each of them for the tip they felt was most important. It didn’t work that way. There was silence for a moment as they thought, and then one started and the tips came fast and furious. I was hard-pressed to keep up with them as I took notes. These are the tips they gave me:
1. Use good fabric.
2. Take classes and ASK QUESTIONS!
3. Do what you like. Of course, we mean choose colors and techniques that you enjoy.
4. It’s okay not to finish something.
5. There are some things NOTHING will help.
6. It’s okay to have more than one project at a time but try to keep the number under three
digits. (*G*)
7. Don’t be too “matchy-matchy” when choosing fabric.
8. Colors cycle through the market. If you see a color you need or like, BUY IT! That bolt
won’t be there in 90 days, and that color probably won’t be available next year.
9. Change the needle in your sewing machine with every new project.
10. Look for long-staple 100% cotton thread. If thread feels dusty or “linty” don’t buy it.
11. Learn how to clean your machine, and keep it clean, especially the bobbin casing.
12. Read the machine manual and keep it near the machine!
13. Know your sewing machine’s quarter of an inch measurement. Keep in mind that the
size of the needle, the weight of the thread, and the kind of fabric will all have an affect on
sewing a perfect quarter of an inch.
14. When taking a class, make sure it suits your skill level. If the class level is not posted,
ASK what it is.
15. Keep your rotary cutter closed when not in use.
To those fifteen, I’d add:
1. Don’t change sewing machines in the middle of a project.
2. Periodically refold the fabric in your stash so that the folds don’t weaken the fabric.
3. Store your stash away from light to avoid fading.
4. When displaying quilts in your home, place them where they will not receive direct
sunlight. Even bright indirect light can fade fabrics.
5. Look into acid-free archival storage boxes, especially for older quilts.
6. When making an all-cotton quilt, avoid cotton-covered polyester thread. Buy the best
100% long-staple cotton thread you can afford.
7. One of the bee members and I are fond of saying that we have never walked away from a
class without learning something new. Don’t be afraid to take a class in a new technique.
Even if you decide that technique is not for you, you will have learned something that will
improve your piecing or quilting, so it’s worthwhile.
8. Keep a quilt journal, listing the projects you’ve made, dating the work, showing who owns the pieces and a picture of the finished work.
9. Create labels for your work, with your name, the date completed, and your town. Also list if anyone else worked on the quilt with you, and who the owner is, if it is a gift. At the very least, write the information on the back of the quilt.
Quilting can be a solitary activity, but it’s at it’s best when it’s shared!

Halloween Quilt

A year or so ago, I saw a quilt on the cover of American Patchwork & Quilting that really spoke to me. The designer had used medium to large scale Halloween prints in two different blocks with sashing and two borders. I carried that issue around for the better part of a year until I decided I’d give it a try.
It turns out that I had a lot of orange fabrics, and a fair number of black Halloween fabrics, but not as many of the big print fabrics. So far this quilt is a bit more understated than the one on the cover of the magazine.
Today, I laid out some of the 27 blocks I’d made on the living room floor, to see if what I had would work.
This is what it looks like so far:
These blocks will be put together with a dark green and black sashing, and then surrounded by a border made of strips of all of these fabrics cut at a 45 degree angle. The last border should be black with stars, or possibly black with pumpkins, depending on what I can find at this time of year.
The extra blocks will be used to make a table runner, as soon as I find a background fabric that I like.
My other project for the day was to make muslin bags for dried catnip. I think I may have erred in storing the catnip in a ziplock bag for several months. I think the essential oil may have evaporated. It’s either that, or I have an incredibly lazy cat.