Friday, December 28, 2012

A humbling post

I decided to do one of those photo collections I see on other blogs of the projects I have completed this year.

Wow. And this doesn't include dozens of smaller projects - an unfinished table runner, lots of towels, and bags - I didn't even include my mini messenger bag that was pretty time consuming. I'm not sure whether to be impressed, or embarrassed. I work nearly full-time and have a young daughter. I think if I'm going to be honest with myself, what this reflects is misplaced priorities.

I've never been much of one to make New Year's resolutions, recognizing that it's usually just setting yourself up for failure, but nevertheless, I do resolve that next year will be very different from this. I will relegate my sewing to the position it belongs, that of a hobby. A hobby that fills my FREE time, not stealing time from other obligations.

The past few days have found us quite removed from life as normal. I have gotten a first in over 2 years week off work, and my husband is using the last of his vacation days as my daughter recovers from having her tonsils removed. Despite her pain, it's been very nice to take a break from life. To just snuggle on the couch for hours watching movies and have daytime naps. We're smelling the roses, so to speak, and we need to remember to do that after she recovers as well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tetris, anyone?

I knew when I started quilting that my step-daughter would be someone I would make a quilt for, but it seemed to take forever to get a good idea. I saw a Tetris quilt (not for the first time, ironically) and knew that to be the one. She worked through college testing Tetris on cell phones. She and her husband are still in the gaming industry.

Aside from her, virtually no one in my family is a gamer. I would try to explain this quilt to them, but would just get blank squares. And questions like "why so much gray" or "sure is colorful." Oh well.

This is the back, just using whatever size strips of color I had left, plus some snow and the gray, which is coal.

I used a tutorial from quiltergeek. I was determined to have every Tetris shape whole, so as to make the design more readily apparent, and of course the only way to do that was to include at least one square of gray on each line, otherwise the line would go away. So it's basically the worst played game of Tetris ever.

I don't remember all the names for the solids - sorry. The finished size is 84" x 92", and of course I used warm & natural batting. I quilted on each side of the seam, plus one line down the middle of each block. It's pretty heavily quilted - I tend to prefer that.

It was a very fun quilt to make.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. I did get my Christmas project done and will probably post pictures on Christmas evening. I'm so excited to finally share it!

I have 2 gifts left to wrap and then I am completely done with all Christmas preparations. I got an earlier start than usual this year, and stayed on task better than usual. Even when I do get an early start, I usually end up fighting the crowds on the 23rd for those last few things that I've procrastinated about. I'm looking forward to a much more relaxing holiday as a result.

Now if I could just get this house clean...

In the meantime, my husband's birthday is today and I'm just telling you it's no fun having a birthday a couple of days before Christmas. I can't count the number of years I've forgotten until the last minute & had to steal out one of his Christmas gifts for a birthday gift. His cousin called me yesterday saying we never did anything for his birthday and could we do something this year. So, with 2 days notice, I'm planning a small birthday party for him. It's a good thing is very favorite food in the world is hamburgers - I'm not sure I could do much else on such short notice. It's also pretty amazing that everyone we want to be there is free for the evening. Including a very dear to him old friend that he hasn't been in touch with lately. He doesn't know anything about the party yet, but I'm not sure I can manage keeping the whole thing under wraps - how do I hide 5 pounds of ground beef with all the trimmings, and keep him from noticing my preparations when there's no one available to get him out of the house? So I'm sure I'll tell him, but I'm keeping the old friend a secret. I'm looking forward to the look on his face when he sees him again.

I'm trying not to let recent events dampen our celebrations, but I have to admit to having my mind on that more than Christmas lately. I tend to internalize my thoughts & feelings somewhat, but even if I did want to voice them, there seem to be no words. What do you say? That it's unbearably sad? That it's scary? While true, those words are so incredibly inadequate. I wonder if that's why the gun control debate has taken center stage so quickly. It's so much easier to think about and talk about that. I just keep reminding myself that I'm not doing that community any good by not enjoying my own celebrations. In fact, enjoying my daughter more is probably the best thing I can do. That and pray for those families. They will certainly need God's grace to achieve any semblance of normality, really at any point in the future. I imagine the loss will be as great in 5 years as it is now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A different take on simplify

I'm making steady progress on my Christmas projects and still hope to have them done in time. One was particularly ambitious, more for its size than it's complexity, but I just always seem to get my best ideas at the 11th hour.

I actually wanted to write about a different subject entirely today. Recently, Trish at Notes of Sincerity started a series entitled Simple Life Saturday. If you remember my recent whine fest, you can appreciate that I was a little excited when she started this. And, honestly, was a tad disappointed to see that her intentions were for subjects like kindness and flexibility. Now, I'm not saying those subjects are not pertinent - they absolutely are - but it was just not the practical, how to juggle a million responsibilities at once type advice I was hoping for.

So, I decided to share my own tidbits in this area, and encourage you to join along. Aren't we all looking for ways to shave a couple minutes off each day's responsibilities? I'm not going to give this a name, or set up a certain day of the week for it, because then it might become a chore, but as I think of time-saving things I do, I'll write about them here and you can join in the comments, or e-mail me your tips & I'll write about them, giving you credit of course. Or you can write your own blog post & I'll just post a link. Whatever. No rules.

My first tip involves the crock pot.

Now, I've had many a person suggest the crock pot to me over the years as a time-saving device, but the problem with the crock pot is that it requires you to put stuff in it during the worst time of the day for me - the morning. Never once, in all my years of working in an office, did I remember or have the time to assemble a roast or beef stew or anything in my crock pot before going to work. Even the times I was determined to use it and did the assembling the night before - I'd forget to take it out of the fridge and plug it in. Just not a morning person.

Coincidentally, one thing I've always done in an effort to save time was make large batches of soups and stews, freezing the leftovers in family meal sized containers. While I loved having the leftovers, I still found the process of going from a giant brick of frozen soup to hot, edible soup a time consuming process. In my microwave, it usually amounted to 20-25 minutes of cooking, stopping to stir about every 5 minutes. Not my idea of a time saver.

When I mentioned this to a friend a couple of years ago, she said "oh, I never do that - I just pop it in the crockpot & re-heat it that way." Wow. A real "duh" moment if I've ever had one. Especially since, for the last 10 or so years, I've had these meal-sized freezer containers the exact size and shape as my crock pot.

So, that's my un-original tip for today. Have freezer containers that will fit in your crock pot so you can just pop the food out of the container like an ice cube & let your crock pot do the re-heating. This is particularly relevant to me now that I'm working from home, because I can even choose this option as late as 1pm and it still be ready for dinner. Nothing better than my own cooking, for free, that I don't even have to work for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quilts in Use V

My little girl is home from school today as her Thanksgiving holiday starts. She came out to snuggle with me on the couch pretty early this morning & ended up falling asleep there for another little while.

Despite appearances, this quilt is technically still a WIP. I made the decision to hand quilt it last year, when I was apparently under delusions about my actual free time for such things. The blocks are supposed to look like this:

with the quilting going in both directions. The quilt laid there on a dresser in my living room for about a year with me only getting around to a line or two every few weeks. At that rate, I would be able to use the quilt in 2015. I got sick of looking at it in its unfinished state and decided to go ahead & bind it. It's mostly done, but some of the blocks in 2 corners still look like this:

with the quilting only going in one direction. I *can* finish the hand quilting even though it's bound, but time will tell if that actually happens.

I ended up liking this quilt much better than I thought I would. The fabric was crazy cheap at Joann's and I basically just bought it for the price. Once I got it all together though, I love how bright & cheerful it is. It was my first attempt at a double hourglass, and I was blown away by how very well they came together. The entire quilt just has perfectly matched seams - it makes me look like some kind of expert quilter, when in fact, it's just an easy block to line up.

I'm off to rush through some work in the hopes of having some time to spend with this little girl this afternoon. Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sometimes, we just have to let go

I hope you aren't wanting to see any pictures of quilting. We went to the zoo this weekend, and now I can't find my camera.

But, there isn't much to show anyway. Foolish me thought my schedule would improve once my daughter got in school. I wouldn't call 30 minutes in the drop-off line, 30 minutes in the pick up line, and 30-60 minutes of homework a night an improvement. (Only because she hates doing it & drags it out - we're working on that.)

What little there is to show can't be shown. Ho Ho Ho and all that.

My main purpose in writing today is to try to organize some thoughts I've had lately. And accept some things. You know those mothers that have it all together, the ones who can manage a full-time job, keep the house running smoothly, and take good care of their children? I'm not one of those. I'm the one chronically late, a tad messy, and with stuff - even important stuff - always slipping through the cracks. I will admit to being disorganized, but even more than that is that I just don't seem to have the stamina of some women. I need down time, regularly.

I would consider my job to be the biggest obstacle to me having down time. For the last 2 years, I've worked for a company with a weekly deadline. That weekly deadline means that every week of the year, I have to accomplish the same amount of work regardless of what else is going on. Whether I'm sick, whether my daughter is sick, whether I have car trouble and have to spend the day at the repair shop, whether it's Christmas - it doesn't matter. Their exact words last year "the magazine cannot suffer because it's Christmas." If I sound a bit whiny, I am a bit whiny. The upside to this job is that I can do it from home, and it's not quite 40 hours. I generally drop the little one off at school and work straight through, eating at my desk, until time to pick her up, and that's usually sufficient (plus Saturdays). And when something requires my attention during the day, I can attend to it and just work after dinner. So, flexibility and the fact that I can keep my daughter out of any kind of daycare are huge benefits that usually overcome the lack of time off. Usually. Until life gets in the way, and then I get a little angry.

My second obstacle to down time is the running of the house. My husband works a crazy amount of overtime himself, so other than paying the bills and the yard work, all the house is on me. My current schedule is to get up at 6, get me and the little one ready and her off to school, work until time to pick her up, homework after, then cleaning the kitchen and dinner, then bath and then bed. In that amount of time, I might have 30-60 minutes of downtime, and I tend to try to squeeze in some sewing then. But by the time she goes to bed, housework is out of the question as I have no more energy. So my off days are spent on that. Sometimes. The housework is the ball I drop the most often.

For most of last year, I was adamant I would not give up my hobby. I have always loved making beautiful things, and when I began quilting, I loved it even more for the fact that these things were also so practical. My doilies were beautiful - stunning - but they just sit there and look good. I love my quilts, and purse, and pillows, the things we use every day. But over the course of the last month, I've had to do some hard thinking about my limitations, and the sewing is the only thing that can give.

Oh, don't worry, I won't give it up entirely:) But I've decided I need to be more focused with my time and make sure each project is worth my time. Since it's obvious I'm going to have less time than I did last year, I want to use it more wisely. The quick and easy projects don't satisfy me. They didn't in crochet, and they don't in quilting. So next year is going to look very different. I've decided I would rather produce one stunning quilt a year than 100 smaller, easier projects. So, this is my trade off for having to cut way back on my sewing - I'll get to sew fancier stuff. I'm not sure that makes sense to anyone outside of my brain, but it's helping me accept my current way-too-tight schedule.

Sorry for the rambling, not at all lighthearted post, but I just needed to process these thoughts myself, and provide anyone who cared with an explanation not only to my silence over the last month, but probably my comparative silence over the next year or more.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Patchwork bathmat

This is my bathmat:

Pretty imperfect - I didn't yet have a walking foot when I made it, and it shows, but cute anyway. My friend has been admiring this for a year and finally requested one of her own. She wanted dark fabric and lots of brown due to her 4 kids and blue color husband. I don't blame her. She chose Metropolitan Fair from Moda and I got to work.

The top uses a single charm pack, cut into 2 1/2" squares. I decided to try a method I had only read about - that of using an interfacing to iron the pieces onto and then folding & stitching. I took no pictures, but there are lots of good tutorials out there. Another benefit of this is that it allowed me to do a better job of being scrappy than I've ever accomplished before, since you're laying it all out at one time. Unfortunately, I must not have kept my seam allowances consistent, or else my interfacing stretched, because it had some severe waffling issues when I got the top completed. I had to redo a few seams and fuss with it a bit. I finally got it to lay flat, but it was a fussy fix.

The benefit to this method is undeniable though, as each seam meets more perfectly than seems humanly possible:

I could show you each seam in the entire thing & they would all be just that perfect. It adds some body, so I wouldn't do it for a quilt, but future bathmats & table toppers will probably get this treatment. I'll just have to perfect that seam allowance thing so that my seams don't shrink towards the middle.

The backing is the non-skid stuff you buy in rolls for shelf liner. It's nice & thin, so you can sew over it and is a fabulous idea for this project. I got it from a Moda Bakeshop recipe. Unfortunately, I thought I was being smart and added a layer of tissue paper underneath because the non-skid stuff wasn't wanting to glide thru my machine very well. So now I have the tedious task of picking out all that paper & it really doesn't let go that easily. If you make a rug, don't do that! No tissue underneath.

Like most projects I guess, a learning process and partial success. Perfection is forever that carrot dangling in front of me:)

Linking to Crazy Mom Quilts for her Finish it Friday.

Friday, October 5, 2012

That took longer than it should

The owl quilt is finally done:

I think the reason it took so long was the way I quilted each block in 2 concentric rectangles. Not fun. So even when I had some time to work on, I wouldn't always. And then I had 14,000 ends to darn. Not an exact count.

But it's done now and I think it makes a handsome quilt.

It's pretty large for a baby quilt - 44" x 57", so I'm calling it a youth quilt.

I'm also really tickled with how well the back coordinates:

Those dots were from a different store, and I knew they were older, but during quilting I noticed the date of 2009 on the selvedge, so 3 years older and just a perfect match. Crazy, huh?

Anyway, my shop has been updated, and I will be linking this to Crazy Mom Quilts for her Finish it up Friday series. So glad that's back! I love seeing what everyone else is doing.

Moving on, I've started a log cabin quilt with my Aster Manor leftover fat quarters:

Do you cut each piece to size, or just lay them out on strips like this?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My last!

Most new quilters document their firsts. Today, I'm documenting a last.

This is the last time I will quilt in concentric squares. I will not squeeze, push, pull, tug a quilt of any size thru the throat of my machine 2 complete turn per square EVER AGAIN.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go research free motion quilting feet for my machine since there just has to be a better way.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I'm working on

I haven't gotten as much sewing done as usual this week, mainly because my friend and I went fabric shopping on Monday, which is normally my biggest sewing day. We met at Panera for breakfast after dropping our kids off at school and hit several stores. I was mostly there for fun, as I do not need to be buying any more fabric, but I did score some Denise Schmidt at Joann's - in the clearance rack no less!

The one on the left is actually a Legacy Studios Joann print. Yeah, no obvious color copying there...

Speaking of color matching, though, I pieced the back for the owl quilt yesterday:

I bought the owl fabrics for the top a couple of months ago when they first came out at Joanns. I got the dots for the backing at Hobby Lobby and I know for sure they have been there since before I started quilting, so over a year & a half ago. Crazy how well they match, isn't it? I don't even consider that a common color combination.

My biggest accomplishment this week was getting Aster Manor to a flimsy. I'm on the fence about borders, mainly because the prints are no longer available, so it would have to either be some type patchwork, scrappy border, or I'd have to find solids that matched. I just don't know - I may leave it like it is.

I also haven't decided whether I'm keeping or selling this one. I love the pattern, but I liked it so much better in Tracy's quilt, with more solids and lots of contrast in the colors. I can always make it again, right?

Go see what everyone else is doing this week at Freshly Pieced.

Edited to add: Also linking to Quilt Story, another great source of current project inspiration.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fresh from the dryer

I finished my Granny Squares quilt on Monday:

I quilted straight lines in both directions, 3 in each block. So, it's pretty loosely quilted. Nice and soft.

I used a re-purposed sheet for the back:

Also nice and soft. And I bound it with Kona navy.

This was my first quilt using pre-washed fabrics, so I decided to pre-wash the batting as well. That worked beautifully. I soaked it in the washer, put it thru the spin cycle and just put it in the dryer. I don't mind telling you that it made me nervous. But it held up great, seemed softer for the pre-wash, and I sure didn't mind smelling it the whole time I was quilting & binding:)

I'm still really loving this pattern, but next time I will make the center square a 3rd fabric instead of just using 2 fabrics per block. Give it more dimension. The only regret I have on this quilt is that I didn't use setting blocks in the sashing. Some blocks are slightly off as a result, luckily only one bad enough to really notice. Setting blocks would have insured better alignment.

This quilt is for a friend undergoing radiation - I understand that makes you very tired. I'll be calling his wife today to see when I can deliver it. I hope it brings him some comfort in the upcoming weeks.

Monday, September 10, 2012

This is what I'm talking about!

I have pretty strong perfectionistic tendencies, so usually at the end of a project I'm focused on one seam, or one corner, but not this time! I'm not sure I've ever been happier with a finished project.

It's not because it's perfect - turning the corner with the gusset just wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done. Maybe it's just so darn cute that it doesn't have to be perfect.

My very favorite image in all the line. Exactly what is she planning to do with that hammer - you just have to ask yourself.

And despite the doll, this one just doesn't look too playful, does she?

I love the way the strap turned out.

Joanna from Fig Tree described the starch applique method that I used for all my recent projects with straps, and I have to say they turned out nice and crisp.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? This just has to have a matching wallet!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What's under my machine

I bet you forgot about my granny squares quilt, didn't you? I haven't done anything with it in a very long time. Quilters ADD strikes again.

But I got some bad news about a friend last week. He has prostrate cancer and is undergoing 7 weeks of radiation. His wife tells me the radiation wipes him out and he needs a lot of naps. I figured he needed something to nap under, so I got busy.

I assembled the top & basted it Sunday, and this week I'm trying to get it quilted in my snippets of free time after work each day.

Here's a pic of the top, prior to basting.

 I do love the top, and since I have plenty of the fabrics left, I can totally see me doing another. 

Linking up to Freshly Pieced. Lots of good stuff on there already today - go check it out.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Infant towels

My friend Tracy wanted 3 infant towels to give as a gift to her babysitter, who is having a girl.

I used the tutorial from A Crafty Mommy and embellished them a little. I also used the leftover chunk of towel and made an hourglass shaped burp cloth to match each one.

The first one I completed is a deep purple with the sweetest fabric trim:

Simple petal shapes arranged with a circle in the center:

Then I found another type flower with instructions by Quilted Fish, but now I can't seem to find them online. Maybe you're a more persistent googler than I am.

I can just picture that poofy flower on top of a baby's head, can't you?

The last towel took some thought. Even though my flowers were different from each other, flowers were done. This one had to be something else. I thought about an E, since the baby's name will start with an E, but I even struggled to find an E I liked. I wanted soft, feminine, and delicate, but needed something sturdy enough to hold its shape during the applique process. And then I found some printable fabric, right in my local Walmart. I designed a quick little applique piece on the computer, printed it right off & had on the towels in minutes.

Tracy loves anything remotely romantic, so I think this will be her favorite of the 3.

I shipped them out today, with no time to spare for the baby shower that is next weekend.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Too good to limit to Halloween

Speaking of the Ghastlies, of course. You either love them or hate them and I fall squarely in the former category.

I saw a messenger bag on ETSY using this fabric that I really liked, but I have no use for a large messenger bag. Coincidentally, the very next week I was somewhere with my daughter wishing I didn't have a big, heavy purse on my shoulder that I had to keep up with while I tried to play with her, so the idea of a mini messenger bag was born. I've seen a few on the internet, but I'm basically making this one up as I go - sized to fit my favorite images from the fabric of course.

This is the front flap that will cover the front of the bag:

And these little cuties will adorn the side pockets:

And I will be using this bag at times other than Halloween!

Linking up to Freshly Pieced for her WIP Wednesday.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I bought a book

When I saw the quilts in it, I just had to have it. Not owning it was not an option.

Here, I'll show you my 2 favorites:

See what I mean? The kind of quilt you could just sit and look at for hours. I should know because I've already spent about that just looking at the photographs.

The thing is, these are not easy quilts. Imagine something in a quilt pattern that would make you afraid to even try - templates, odd shapes, odd sizes - sizes measuring into the 16ths, y seams, partial seams - if there's any sewing technique you're afraid of, these bad boys are full of them. So what am I going to do with these patterns? Am I going to spend the better part of a year making one? Trying to make one? And what would I do with it if I got it completed? Straight line quilt it on my domestic machine? Send it off to a longarm quilter to be custom quilted - on my budget?

I think I bought the book for the privilege of looking at it. That's what I think.

I have a hundred things waiting in the hopper for my few scant hours of sewing time, but I'm considering, maybe, trying to make it a goal of doing one of these in 2013. Not caring how long it takes, or if I get anything else done - relieving myself of all other sewing pressure for the goal of one great masterpiece. Sometimes I think a quilt is worth that, and these patterns seem to fit that bill.

In other news, a weird turn of events involving a 4 or 5 year old e-mail address gave me the opportunity to speak to the buyer of the quilt I sold this week. She was an extremely pleasant person, so I'm not only glad to speak to her in general, but I was also glad to see what was going to be the life of the quilt I made. She purchased it, and one other, to go on beds in her guest room. I know that information is not of any value to anyone but me, but I enjoy having it, knowing my little quilt is going to be gracing the room that her nieces use when they come to visit. That's so much better than just shipping it off, never to hear from it again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

WIP Wednesday - the one in which I get good and mad

Remember the flying goslings? Still working on those.

They're now part of a comedy of errors otherwise known as a table runner.

And in that first shot, you probably noticed the first thing wrong. After weeks of micro-work, I trimmed the dang thing wrong.

Luckily, the only thing affected is 2 setting triangles, which shouldn't be too hard to replace. After I forgive it for everything it's done to me. Still working on that.

Before I lamblast it any further, I would like to take a minute just adoring the fabric:

It's Angel Cakes by Alexander Henry. I bought it last year not having a clue what I'd do with it, and it was already out of print by the time I found it, so no coordinating fabrics were available. When I saw this table runner pattern, with it's large 6 1/2" squares, I figured it would showcase the fabrics beautifully, which it does.

The most minor problem is my choice of brown. The swatch looked good with all the gingerbread men, but now that I have it all together, I'm really wishing I'd used light, cheerful colors instead. The red doesn't bother me as much, but I really wish I'd pulled the pink & blue out instead. I have more fabric, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that I'll do the whole thing over.

The second issue is that while I cut on the diagonal for the inside squares, my setting triangles did not end up on the diagonal.

It's not a huge problem due to the overall 'tossed' feel of the fabric, but I would have preferred them going in the same direction as the inner squares.

While I'm super proud of most of my flying goslings (remember, they are only 1" tall):

most of the corner ones are cut off a bit:

This bugs me perhaps more than it should.

And finally, the entire thing is spattered with what I assume is apple juice.

Are you kidding me! I think that was the straw right there. The thing that made me just fold it up & set it aside until I can work through my forgiveness issues with it. I should be glad I didn't serve grape juice that day, but I'm just too unhappy right now to really get into that. At some point, I'll replace the setting triangles, see if I can re-do the seams a bit so that the points are not cut off in those few places, own my brown color choice, and wash it, obviously. Someday, it will be a very pretty table runner. I hope that day occurs in 2012.

In the meantime, I still have Aster Manor - I'm up to 10 blocks with only 3 more to go.

The blocks are kinda running together at this point, but I think this is the one I did last night:

Linking up to Freshly Pieced for her WIP Wednesday. I love clicking through all those links and seeing what everyone is working on.