Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Wishes

Here on the last day of 2007 I am thinking about New Years Wishes.
Not the dreaded resolutions, and not a re-hash of the past, either.
I'm thinking about the wonderful things that will happen in 2008....and most of them I have no clue about right now. They will be surprizes as the year advances.

I generally "break" those resolutions within a few weeks. I think the statistics even say 85% of resolutions are abandoned within 2 weeks.

Maybe a wish has more staying when I wanted a horse. I spent my childhood years wishing for that horse, and along the way got many horseback rides, model horses and such.
When I was 21, I married a wonderful man who had two horses, so I got the horses I had wished for, plus a husband, which I had not been looking for!
The husband has lasted longer, and been much more rewarding (for 32 years!)(and still counting).

So maybe wishes have a way of lasting longer and aren't done in by the first disappointment or unexpected results. Wishes could have a way of changing into what we really need.
You might not be able to go to the moon.... but you can have some adventures!
You might not have a movie-star for a lover.... but the one you do find could last forever.
You might not live in a castle, have piles of gold & diamonds, and closets full of designer clothes....but money to buy fabric and a house to stash it in are all that's really needed!

For 2008 I am wishing all of us our hearts' desires...even if they turn out to be Really Surprizing Things We Didin't Know We Needed!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ten Ways to Deal With UFO's

I am declaring 2008 the Year of the UFO's!
I don't think of them as bad, but when they have piled up over several years (OK, lots of years!) it's a good time to take stock of the situation and give them some attention then move on to new things.
Here are some ways to deal with UFO's...

1. Random grab: Deciding which one to work on first tends to be a real roadblock for most of us. I used the "random grab" method in November to get some floor space cleared up in my studio. Whatever I picked up was what I had to deal time to dither over choices!

2. Make a list: Knowing the extent of the "problem" can be helpful, so this tip shows up in many self-help lists.
In my quilt guild we're making a list of just eight UFO's, then randomly drawing a number each month to help select the one to "attack" next. For those with lengthy lists, you may have to put it up on your dresign wall and throw a dart at it to make your choice!
Don't become a slave to doing the projects in the order listed!

3. Change the project to be smaller: Just because it started off to be a King Size Quilt doesn't mean it can't end up as a baby quilt...or even pot holders. If the size is holding you back, change it to a more reasonable item. I guarentee you will feel better!

4. Or larger: Sometimes you realize that small piece would be sooooo beautiful if it were large enough for the bed. This is challenging, as you will have to do a bit of designing and choose additional fabric, but creating something you really want (or can use) will make for a happier exprience.
Don't despare over not-enough-fabric. Solving that challenge makes a better quilt almost every time.

5. Trade with a friend: One quilter's headache is another's brainstorm. Exchange UFO's with a friend and get a fresh perspective. Besides, it's easier to "fix" somethig you didn't "mess up" in the first place.

6. Sell in a yard sale: That set of "antique blocks" your friend is showing off was really some UFO from a previous generation. Continue this tradition!
Many quilt fund raisers/ boutiques feature lovely UFO' yourself and the guild by donating.

7. Wrap for a gift: A bit tricky, but you might get away with it! Be sure to include all the fabric, pattern, and anything else that goes with it.

8. Throw it away: Yes, it may come down to that. But do consider the other suggestions first!

9. Return the fabrics to your stash: It could be a fabric choice issue, and putting away the ones you picked out might cause you to see a new way. UFO's are often the result of just feeling stumped.

10.Call in the troops: Ask for help from your quilting friends. They can feel your frustration, then help get you going with new ideas and even hands-on assistance. There is nothing like it when you need a lot of tops to be basted!

My number one rule is: Don't feel guilty!
However you deal with a UFO is progress...feel proud of yourself, and feel good about the next project!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ten UFO's You May Have Sighted

We've all seen these UFO' many are hovering around your own house?

1.Beginner's class: In six weeks you became a New Person (see nos. 6 through 10). That beginner's sampler has done it's job. Don't feel guilty if you never finished! See tomorrow's post for 10 Ways to Get Rid of UFO's. It's time to move on.

2. Project class:This UFO is probably lurking in a tote bag somewhere. While some people do take a class because they want to make an item exactly like the sample, the best value in any class is learning a new technique, plus the other bits of information exchanged between classmates and teachers.

Gift advice: never ask someone what their colors are...just make the quilt!

3. Baby quilt: Now that the baby is 6 years old...or even 15 or 20, it may be time to choose a new (larger) design! Generally the Quilters' Rule-of-Thumb would be you have a year to make the baby quilt as a gift (see below).

4. Wedding quilt: Weddings gifts may be given any time within the first year of marriage, according to etiquette books. In fact, it may be reccommended that you wait a bit to see how things are working out for the Happy Couple.
Sad but True:A quilter was not pleased with her son's choice, kept her mouth shut about it, but held on the the quilt she was making for him. Later he was presented with a divorce quilt.
Happy & True: When the bride opened the package, she did not realize the quilt was painstaking handmade by her new mother-in-law, and she causually put it aside. A few tears and phone calls later, the bride and her new mom were united in a bond of love and understanding.

5. Graduation: Another popular UFO gift for people who have been doctors, lawyers, and even Indian Chiefs for 5 years. Used school colors? You're in luck if the person marries someone they went to school with.

6. Poor fabric choice : It seemed like a good idea at the time. You really tried to make it work. Whatever went wrong (color, type of fabric, etc.) now you have learned something, so the item has done it's job.
Tip for newer quilters:This also happens to people who have been quilting for years.

7. Out of date: Ooops! This one has aged too long to be contemporary, yet not long enough to be vintage! Often happens when you're making a kid's quilt with popular cartoon characters. Or a bed quilt is about finished just as the person announces her Total Bedroom Make-Over! (see Gift Tip above).

8. Waited too long: Your skills have become so much better, you just can't see finishing that piece. I have a set of hand-pieced blocks for a king-size quilt (ouch!). Will I ever hand-piece it together? Hand-quilt the whole thing?

9. Ran out of fabric: So, so could search for the rest of your life to find that last bit you need. Try e-Bay or anyplace else quilters get rid of things. Be prepared to bite a really big bullet. See tomorrow's post!

10. Quilt gone wrong: Sometimes a lovely project just turns on you. The fabrics are fine, the pattern looked pretty easy...but the whole thing is a trial at every step. It's happened to everyone, and most of us have one hiding in a drawer or box somewhere!

I am declaring 2008 the Year of the UFO!
My friend C.C. is making up a list of UFO's and was up to 27 when I last heard from her. I, myself, am afraid to even start a list.
If you have some of these UnFinished Objects hanging around, check out tomorrow's post and start to unload that guilt!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ten Things to Take to the Quilt Show

Quilt Show Season starts in January!
Fabric enthusiasts everywhere are looking over a list of show schedules within driving distance...or booking plane tickets!
Here are a few items to consider taking along for a great day at any show, large or small.

1. Comfy shoes: Quilters dress from the ankles up...when they are smart! Wear your quilted art clothing or decorated T-shirt, but good shoes are the #1 key to a good quilt show experience.

2. Cash or Credit: You have to pay to get in, and you'll probably need some lunch money. After that, it's up to you to deal with personal spending habits!
Once in Paducah, friend Rita and I came upon two women laughing hysterically. When asked why, they inquired back if we had started to use our credit cards yet. We said no, and they said, "Well, when you do, then you'll know!" Later that day, having used up all available cash, when we pulled out the cards our eyes met...and we started laughing hysterically!

3. Small bag: This is for your money or anything else you need quickly. Do not bring your "I -haul-everything-for -the-whole-family" style purse. A fanny pack is popular, and now many quilters are wearing the pouch that hangs around your neck.

4. Large bag: not too large! This is for your shopping. It's easier to carry a good tote than 26 plastic bags. I love shows that have a bag drop off area (also good for class supplies and stashing the rolling tote that is not allowed inside the show).
A favorite bag of mine is the European sytle string shopping bag (it rolls up very small, but expands incredibly!)

5. Personal needs: You might get away with a small water bottle. I also like to bring a chapstick...I must be licking my lips at all the beautiful quilts!
If you need your meds, please bring them, and we'll all feel better!

6. Camera: Ask about the picture policy, as it's different everywhere. Ask merchants before taking photos in their booth. It is not nice to take a picture and then reproduce the quilt without asking permission (and that's for your own protection).
Hmmm, I think this topic needs a whole post of it's own!

7. Cell phone to find friends: Yes, it is true I called 800 miles back home to get the cell number of a friend who was at the same show, in the same building.
But if you need to have a long conversation, please take it outside or, even better, don't answer the phone! You are at the quilt show, for heaven's sake!

8. Small notebook & pen: There's no telling how many ways this comes in handy.

9. Return address labels: I forget them every time, and at every show I am in awe of those who can buy raffle quilt tickets with such ease.

10. Shopping list: If you're looking for something, don't let the over-stimulation cloud your mind. Write it down (especially the amount of yardage if it's fabric) and you won't go home only to have your friend let you know she saw it there.

BONUS: Take a friend to the show. Or a carload. It's more fun, and you'll have someone to stop for pie with on the way home.
Even better, take a new quilter and enjoy sharing ideas together.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ten Quilters You May Know

I'm sure there are more than 10 quilter-types, and often we are combinations of several.
As will all human traits, it is often the way they are expressed that makes the difference between someone you enjoy and someone to avoid!
It's really fun to find these all at the quilt show (you already know who they are in your own guild!).

1. Grandma: Everyone used to have a Grandma who quilted, but now that quilting has been popular since the 1970's, everyone has a great-grandma who quilted! Generally, this is a person who makes quilts that are meant to be used and to be given away.

this is my great-grandmother Nettie Brookover Eichhorn

2 . The Traditionalist: There are still people who will tell you "It's not a quilt unless it's made all by hand". The proper response is, "Oh, I'd love to see your work sometime!" That weeds out the ones who are not actually quilters!
The non-snob traditionalist knows what she likes and is not ashamed to say so.
The best thing about quilting is that you do not have to make every style, only whatever you like.

3. The One-Timer: Easily recognized as saying, "I made a quilt once." Attitude check: Ask her what type it was. Mention there are many varieties of quilts. Find out what she is doing now!

4. The Rabbit: I like this term better than "over-achiever" as it refers to speed as well as high productivity! How does she do it? (or he...yes, I know of one guild that has a male rabbit....and guys, please accept my apologies for using "she" all the time, but that's how it works best here).

5. The No-show: Present at every meeting, never gets up to share a item. Might suffer from low-self-esteem, but a supportive guild can help change that. Or maybe she really does give things away the minute they're done!
There are also people who do not actually make quilts, but very much enjoy being in a group of quilters!

6. The Fabriholic: Or should I say collector? I am not sure I like the qualification for "She who dies with the most fabric wins". You cannot take it with you...but you can get it at some one else's estate sale! (see the post on Dec. 22). A generous fabriholic friend is beyond measure.

7. The Artist: Another "How does she do that?!?" sort of quilter. Often this person is not bogged down by having been taught a lot of rules.
Learn from her how to think out-of-the-box...then show her a construction technique that could improve the stability of her project.

8. The Know-It-All/ Quilt Police: OK, so I'm a Know-It-All! Really, though, I do try to keep my mouth shut. Most of the time. And I try not to be a know-better-than-you type!
If we do not admit that they exist, the Quilt Police will have no power. They are all self-appointed. Do not be afraid of them.
However, you'd better listen to the White Glove Ladies/Hostesses at the quilt show!

9. The Alien: This quilter walks among us unnoticed. She looks just like us. She may even be us! But someday, that fleet of UFO's is going to come in....and then watch out!

10. The Award Winner: Whether it's the AQS show in Paducah or the local event, there's always somebody who you can be assured will win a prize. Get to know this person before making any assumptions! Sit next to her and have a chat. Just like Famous Quilt Teachers, winners are mostly really nice people.
My friend has a Quilt Show Mantra to repeat while going up and down the aisles: Admire...not envy.

There are plenty of other types of quilters, and sub-catagories there-in.
I hope you found yourself here at least once....on the positive side. Quilters are really wonderful people. I am lucky to have so many as friends!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ten Things You May Have Missed in Quilt Class

I really do the time you've got all your stuff set up and checked out the great fabric your table-mate brought, you may have missed something thing!
But, just in case you were chatting with the person behind you (again?), here's what you may have missed in Quilt Class:
  1. Value is more important than color. It's the lights vs. darks that create the pattern.
  2. You can choose fabric by starting with a multi-colored print you like, and pick colors from that. Look on the selvedge edge and there may be a series of colored dots that show what's in the print.
  3. When you fold the fabric twice to rotary cut, check that the second fold feels like one layer. If you feel two edges, you'll be cutting a strip with the infamous "dog-leg" shape.
  4. If you're just making the edge straight, look on the ruler where you can see the most fabric, not at the solid inch line.
  5. Take care of your rotary cutter: a new one may have a too tight screw; keep the parts in order as you take it apart to clean or change the blade; watch out that there aren't 2 blades stuck together.
  6. The rotary cutting seam allowance is a scant 1/4", meaning about 2 thread-widths less than 1/4".
  7. Clean out the bobbin area whenever you are in there for any reason. Keeping it clean with a little brush will save you time & money on repair shop trips!
  8. Most things look bad when they're half done. Try to push on and finish. Read my past & future posts on UFO's!
  9. Quilt in the ditch first, then free motion.
  10. Read the class supply list more than once!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ten Tips on Colors

Admit're in this for the colors. I certainly am!

Sure, at first we justified it by saying we wanted to make a baby gift, or maybe a couple pillows for the sofa. Then it was a wall hanging, but you really couldn't use it because it didn't match the colors in your house!

We didn't stop, though...did we? No, it was one quilt after another, not to mention the ever-growing stash.

We're just in this for the colors!

You can never know everything about color, but here are some good things to think about:

1. White: Remember when you wanted to touch-up paint that white wall or woodwork? Yes, there are more whites than you can believe! Here's a guiding thought: Cool whites are good with bright or clear colors, warm (creamy) whites are good for an "antique" look. OK, it's not a rule, so you can't break it!

2. Black: There is deep black, and then there is almost grey. Blacks are often dyed on top of another color (as all the wonderful bleach-discharge artists are demonstrating!). Although white and black are actually values (light & dark, not true colors) they are telling us the most important thing about's all in the relationships. You just have to put the fabrics together and see if they work!

The next colors are from the Color Wheel, which will not tell you what to buy...but can suggest what sort of thing to look for. Remember, it's all in the relationships!

3. Red: Because every color changes as it gets closer to it's neighbors on the Color Wheel, red can be warmer when it moves toward yellow, and then feels a bit cooler as it moves toward blue. One of my favorite color quotes is from Mary Ellen Hopkins ("It's OK If You Sit On MY Quilt" series), "All reds clash well together".

4. Orange: Where red & yellow meet in harmony...and then changes according to how dark or light it gets (just as every other color does). This often shows up lists of "contemporary favorite colors!" but take a look at some antique quilts for the color known as "cheddar".

5. Yellow: The brightest color goes a long way in any scheme, so you don't need a lot. On the other hand, do not underestimate yellow as a great background color to really liven things up! It was great day in my understanding of color when it was pointed out that "dark yellow" (yellow + black) is really what we call olive green.

6. Green: There are more kinds of green than any other color we recognise. It's cooler and like teal as it moves toward blue, warmer and lime-like as it gets with yellow. Sometimes I like a deep dark green instead of black.

7. Blue: This is a favorite color for lots of people, and certainly for many men. If you are making a bed quilt to raffle or sell, blue & white is the most popular color scheme. All blues work well together.

8. Purple: Called the royal color, because the dye was so expensive to make in ancient times. Today, this is the Fun color! Get some samples of purple together and see how it changes toward blue (indigo) and then towards red. You'll like purple even better when you learn to see "which way it is going."

9. Pink: Add white (making a tint) of red and it gets it's own name! Well, OK, there are many tints & shades (add black) colors that have their own names, but pink goes on to turn so many other color-names, too.

10: Chameleon colors: These colors change according to what color they are next to...really change! Most notable is that gray/green combo, which does not look especially exciting at the fabric store, but often is the exact thing you need for a quilt.
The other one is a blue/purple (which I just love!). I first became aware of this color when a bolt of it was constantly in motion at a quilt shop. Each person who saw it would move it over to the other color section!

Keep enjoying and learning about are the only person who needs pleasing, don't worry about what others say!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ten Important Notions

It's Christmas Eve, but I am keeping up with my lists!
Here are 10 Important Notions, and I mean for a quilter's use, of course. I'm pretty sure at this point nobody has 10 ideas left!

1. Big eye needles: Yes, at some time we must do a few stitches by hand. Make life easier with a package of Big Eye needles. There are several brands, like John James Golden Eye ones. Don't confuse these with the beading big-eye needles that have a long split opening...I am not sure those have a point for sewing!

2. Metallica needles: Both Sullivan's and Schmetz make these for your sewing machine. They have a highly polished eye that helps avoid the thread breaking problem when you use any decorative thread (not just metallic ones).

3. Sharp & thin seam ripper: If you have only ever used the 59 cent bargain bin ripper, this will change your life. It's the best 3 bucks you'll spend. I like to give them for gifts...look for one that has a plastic cap. That thin "finger" is dangerous! But it gets in those machine stitches and rips like crazy. I have seen some new rippers with ergomatic handles!
Sometime I may tell you about my fast way to rip.

4. Cheap scissors: Lots and lots of them! Then you can cut anything you want and when they get a nick or go dull, they can go in the kitchen junk drawer for the family to use.
I finally found out where my scissors are. They are on the other side of the room. No matter where I am, that's where they are! (another reason to have lots!)

5. Rotary cutter: The best invention ever from Japan! The item that saved quilting from becoming a dead art! These things are getting fancier all the time. I like the Olfa ergomatic one, but there are many...always take an opportunity to try a new one (before you buy!).
And a new blade is wonderful, too.

6. Acrylic rulers for rotary cutting: There are too many specialty rulers to count, and some of them are really good for doing particular types of quilts. But if I could only have two, it would be my 8" x 12" and a 6.5" square. Maybe the 8" is really 8.5...but at any rate, you can do almost anything with those. These tend to wander off with the scissors, so having several is a good idea.

7. Rotary cutting mat: I love the new colors! My very good friend Cherry-cherry gave me one that is pink & light purple, so now I can see all my blue or green fabrics as I cut.
A "self-healing" mat is much better than a hard plastic one.

8.Thin pins: They used to be called "Flower head pins" but now somebody is making some flower head ones that are NOT thin! Watch what you're buying, and then enjoy them!
Yes, you can sew through the flat head. An interesting problem to solve, depending on where it was...but it will break and come out. Really!

9. Chalk marker: Clover has two is like a lipstick, one is thinner. Fabulous! They mark inside stencils. The chalk disappears as you quilt (so don't mark too much at one time!). I do not trust the yellow chalk, but all other colrs are fine.

10. Freezer paper: I've got to have it all the time. It is great for any pattern making and will also work well to protect your ironing board or any other work surface. Look for parchment paper while you're in that section of the won't stick to anything, so it's great for working with fusibles.

These are my opinions. I'm sure you feel strongly about the notions you use. That's why it's good there lots to choose from!
I have tools in my studio and also in a box for traveling when I teach. That way I have what I need where I need it...usually!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ten Places to Store Your Fabric

Let's face it, once that second bag of fabric comes into your house you are working on a stash.
I have been working on my stash for over 25 years now.
No, it's not done's a work in progress!

But still, it has to go somewhere, sometime.

1. On the floor in the bag it came home in: (ask me how I know!) This is not the recommended place for storage, as soon you will not be able to get into your room to do any quilting. You may think you know what's in those bags, but you don't!

2. Baskets: this is the organizer/home decor way to store fabric, and it might even be possible to keep some in various rooms, if the baskets have lids. But what I am really talking about is laundry baskets! They're great for large collections...any day now I will need a second one for my Black & Whites!

3. Plastic containers: I like big ones that are only about 4--6" deep. They can hold yardage and /or fat quarters. Fold each piece and put them in with the folded edge's like a lovely file of fabric. (OK, I admit I have several that I just crack the lid open and stuff the fabric in).

A pause for a good tip: Label those containers 5 times (once on each side/end and on the top). You never know how they will get stacked or put away, so one of the labels will show. It's easiest to do this when you put the first fabric in the box. I use masking tape & a Sharpie pen. Make them long or double, so you can note anything that ever ends up in there!

4. Tote Bag by project: After a class is over, I tend to leave everything together in the bag I had for class. This may be the best way to ensure the same fabric is available when I go back to finish the project, even if it takes awhile...possibly years! This is also a good way to collect fabric for a project, as it provides a place to put fabric as it is acquired, and the pattern, notes or book can go in there, too.

5. Shelf: Yes, some people do manage to get their fabric onto a shelf! If you have the opportunity for choice, a wire-covered shelf, like all those biuld-your-closet things, is a good for allowing some air circulation. Even more important, you do not want big deep shelves (unless you want all your fabric in containers). To have it open to view, you want a narrow shelf so the folded fabric is about the same width as the shelf.

6. Closet: My friend Joan had a walk-in closet completely full of fabric. It was well protected from light and dust. It was a beautiful thing.

7. Under the bed or other furniture: Before you go this route, ask yourself how you will get it out and how heavy a box do you want to be lifting? However, once it's on the bed, you have a nice large area to spread things out and play with color!
By the way, under the bed is a great place to store a large rotary cutting mat so it stays flat and unwarped. Under an area rug is another good place!

8. Shoeboxes: This is my original favorite way to organize strips and other pieces that are left over from one project, and now are "pre-cut" for the next project! Depending on your space, you can have lots of shoeboxes labeled with 1.5" dark; 1.5" light; 2" dark; 2" light; etc! Don't forget to write the size on both ends of the box.

9. Small trash can for scraps: I have a small plastic trash can with a dome top and flap-door opening. All the scraps go in there. When I need to root through them, the top makes a nice place to put scraps as I look.

10. In your car/ attic/ friend's house/ etc etc: NO! Don't even think about this option, which constantly gets mentioned in magazines. If your fabric is hidden, you will never use it. Don't apologize for your stash. You really do need it. I often find the perfect fabric is one I have had for 10 or 13 years or's good I bought it then, as it would not be available today!

bonus! 11. Ziplock bags! The Quilter's Friend. We couldn't live without them. Just be careful about trapping any moisture. Fabric needs to breathe, so I would not store a quilt in one of those wonderful huge new bags...but I would sure use one to temporarily carry a quilt somewhere.

Do you know where your fabric is?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ten Places to Find Fabric

I am constantly on the look-out for fabric!
In no particular order, here are some of my favorite places to find it:

1. Quilt Shop: maybe an obvious choice, but new bolts are coming in....perhaps while you are there! And when you are travelling, nothing makes a better souvenir than fabric you haven't seen at home.

2. Sewing machine shop: They may not have a huge selection, but are likely to have some types of fabric that the quilt shop doesn't carry. Could also be a good place for thread, interfacings, and other sewing needs.

3. Home-Decor shop: Head straight for the remnant bin! Many home-dec fabrics are not too heavy for quilting. If you're making a piece for the wall, anything goes! Be sure to snoop around for remnants of trims, too.

4. Yard sale/ Estate sale: You can't take it with you, and this is where it will end up someday. Enjoy what a fellow fabri-holic has left behind...what was once just stuff may have become "vintage"!

5. Friend's house: Nothing is more fun than a good look through somebody's stash. If you're lucky, you might even convince her she doesn't need that...and that...and how about this one.... (please remember to return the favor!)

6. On-line/websites: Oh, my...fabric shopping 24/7, and you don't even have to get dressed! Keep a list of your favorite places, or sign up for their e-mail notices so you can take advantage of free shipping and other offers.
In order to support your too-easy-shopping habit, remember that e-Bay is a place to sell your excess inventory!

7. Discount store: The Big Box stores don't carry much fabric any more, but some "WLMTs" still carry fabric. It's definately the place to go for that cartoon character fabric your child needs. You may also find a low price on other sewing needs...but beware of getting what you pay for, quality-wise!

8. Fabric store: There are still a few around...the big chains will have some sort of coupon system you can get in on. That 40% off works really well when you buy yards of batting from a roll (if they carry what you want!).

9. Quilt show: Probably the best place to find something unusual, especially the bigger the merchants' area.

10. Thrift shop: It never hurts to look! And here you can afford to buy clothing to take apart for the fabric. Make friends with the staff, and you could get a call if some great windfall comes in. Besides, most of these places are supporting good causes, so everybody wins.

I once found the most beautiful celestial-print fabric in a drug store! They carried fabric on bolts. It was in a very small town.
So be sure to keep your fabric-sensors out, wherever & whenever you go!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ten Easy Blocks List

Today's list is Ten Easy Blocks.
I've made a quick picture in EQ6... excuse the not-so-interesting color sceme. We can talk about that another time!
Those two blocks in the center that are all one color will be mentioned at the end of this post. Otherwise, just look at the blocks from left to right!
REMEMBER to add 1/2" to each measurement for the squares and rectangles (equals 1/4" on each side for seam allowance for the unfinished or cut size needed). Triangle formulas are below.
I like to figure the finished (sewn) sizes first and then add the seam allowance.

1. Rail Fence: What could be easier than 3 strips? In a quilt they are arranged alternating horizontally then vertically.
2. Four Patch: Nice with a fussy-cut in 2 of the squares....combine several blocks to make a checkerboard border.
3. Nine-patch: The arrangement here is called an "X". Switch the lights and darks to have the "O" style. If you want to make a checkerboard with these, you must use both X's and O's.
4. Broken Dishes: This block has four Half-Square Triangle units (bias on the long side). Quick piece these by cutting two squares (one light, one dark) the finished size of the unit plus 1". Put them RS together, then draw a diagonal line (corner to corner). Sew 1/4" away from each side of the line. Cut on the line, press the units open, then trim to make them squares the unfinished size you need.
The mathematically correct formula is finshed size plus 7/8", but trimming ensures you get 2 usable units!
5. Snowball: This is good for a connecting block, between 2 others with more pieces. Cut a square the size of the block, then cut 4 smaller squares. Draw a diagonal line on WS of the smaller ones, and place one in a corner of the large square so the line goes from one side to another across the corner. Sew on that line, then press the small square up to the corner to form a triangle shape. Repeat for all the coners. Some people like to trim out the extra layers, and some just leave them alone.
6. Square-in-a-Square: The triangles are made by cutting HSTs...use the formula in #4 to cut the correct size squares, then cut on the diagonal. The important part of sewing this block is to add the traingles to opposite sides, instead of going around the square.
7. Hourglass: This block has Quarter-Square Triangles (bias on the two short sides). Quick piece it by cutting two squares 1.25" larger than the finished size. Make sewn Half-Square Triangles (HST) as in #4 above, then place those units RS together with the seams matching. Draw a diagonal line going the other way from the seam, and sew again as for a HST. Cut on the line, press open and you will have two 2-color triangles.
8. Ohio Star: Oh, look! It's four little Hourglass units and four plain squares! You will need to make two sets of different colored Hourglass units to get this coloring.
9. Flying Geese/ Wild Geese: The main thing here is the wide triangle unit (imagine a line drawn through the Hourglass block and you will see that means the big triangle is a Quarter-Square Triangle). There are eight in this block, but two will equal a square. Make it with a rectangle (for the big triangle Goose) and two squares (for the sides or "sky"). Decide on the size for the Goose rectangle, then cut two squares that are half that size. Sew them onto the rectangle like the squares for the Snowball.
10. Variable Star: The points for the star are Flying Geese (or Goose units, as I like to say!). In this block, the Goose units are half the size of the center square, and the corner squares are the same as the small squares for the Goose units.
Now you can see how knowing one things builds on to another, and by combining them you can end up with blocks that look complicated, but the parts are easy.
That's what the two un-colored blocks in the center are all can decide how to color them, and how to make them now!
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Fast Gift Items

Here are some ideas about my favorite gift items that are quick to make.

Two things will be great helpers: start with a pre-made item (pot holder, towel, etc.) and hopefully your stash has some Fabulous Fabric that will do most of the owrk for you (that's a fabric that is beautiful or is a theme print that matches to "giftee's" interests or favorite colors).

1. Tissue holder: buy the purse size pack first then wrap the fabric around it to find the size to cut a rectangle. Add an inch on each size for the seams and some ease. Finish the edges that will wrap to the center of the pack, then WS (wrong side) out sew the two ends. Turn RS (right side) out, and insert the tissues!

2. Eye/ Sun glasses holder and...

3. Rotary cutter holder: Start with a pot holder. Fold it in half WS out and stitch along two sides, then turn. If it has a nice binding, just sew it RS out along the edge of the binding.

4. Scissors holder: same as above, but sew a slanted line to match the scissors, then trim off the excess fabric before turning.

5. Kitchen towels and...

6. Bath towels or Guest towels: Time to use the Fab. Fabric! Buy a set of towels and personalize them with a strip of fabric across one end as the acent (often towels have a different weave right where you can sew this). Just cut the strip, press the long edges in and top stitch it (tuck in the short ends as you begin and end).

7. My Favorite Apron: this is perfect for the serious cook, and also great for GUYS! Start with a bath towel, then add a waist tie by making a long doubled over strip of fabric (or even purchased binding!) to top stitch to one long side. Add a pocket if you have time. This is perfect for people who like to wipe their hands often.

8. Clutch purse: Shop the housewares department for some wonderful placemats! Don't be afraid to try some non-fabric ones, as long as it seems something you can sew through. Sew it RS out if it already has a nice binding. Fold one short end to 2--3" more than the middle, stitch the sides and fold the rest down over the opening.

9. Applique on any pre-made item: For the truly desperate, use a Heavy-Duty paper-backed fusible web to attach shapes or motifs cut from fabric. Do NOT try to sew through this stuff...but it will stay on perfectly. Hint: cookie cutters and other shapes can be found all over the kitchen!

10. Pillowcases: OK, these take a bit more sewing, but are so much fun and can be made with Fab. Fabric to reflect anyone's person interest. If you Google "pillowcase tutorial" you'll find loads of how-to's with pictures. It still falls in thehalf-hour range to make.

And then I'll add to my list "how to put links in my blog"!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ten Lists To End the Year

When the end of the year comes in sight, it seems like every writer has a Top Ten List.

Why should I be any different?

But to set myself a nice challenge, and encourage daily blogging, I'm going to have ten lists. That's one each day, starting tomorrow.

Since this has been a rather strange holiday season for me (and I've noticed some others out there who just have not made that "holiday connection") I will start off with a list of Fast Gift Items. That will leave you about 72 hours to make something!

If I happen to be on your list, don't worry about it. We'll just have lunch together sometime.

What makes a good pattern?

This is my Folded Pockets Purse, a pattern I sell and teach. It looks hard, but turns out to be very easy, has loads of "fudge factors" (hard to make a mistake), and many options.

Each side has two pockets: a large pocket with a secret pocket inside, perfect for keeping things secure & safe.

You may have purchased a similar pattern (folding a square to make a container). Many have come out since I first made this in 1999. That's OK, because it's based on an old Japanese sort of design, and you can hold a copyright for instructions but not really for an idea.

Originally I taught it as a class for two years, and then designed the pattern because there were so many requests for one. It was an interesting process that helped me clarify what makes a good pattern:

1. Complete instructions so the item can be finished. Skipped steps are frustrating and not fair to the person who bought the pattern.

2. Just the facts! It's better to give more information that to add some chatty humor or non-helpful suggestions.

3. Diagrams are the saving grace of many patterns...if they are good ones. People learn in different ways. I know several people who try using patterns by only looking at the diagrams. Though a pattern cannot meet every single need, it is good to consider the various ways people take in information.

4. Information on the cover needs to include a good picture, the size(s) of the item, and a very good supplies list.

I'm glad to say I did OK on most of those points...though I think in the picture it's hard to see that there are flaps covering the outside pockets!
There are two things I am very pleased about: that I was able to write the folding instructions without using the terms "left" and "right"; and that several people have taught this as a class using my pattern.

There are patterns on the market made by people who just toss something together and assume it's OK because that's the way they did it, so everyone should be happy. It's very disappointing to buy a pattern and still have to figure everything out on your own...if you can!
Most patterns are designed for sale by people who have put a lot of work into them, including many trials and working with "beta testers" to make the best product possible. Those are worth every penny you pay.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Begin at the Beginning!

At last! My first photo on Patchwork Pie!
I have decided to begin at the beginning, as Alice was told in Wonderland*. So here is the quilt that I designed for the Beginners Class I have been teaching for many years.
Instead of it being the usual sampler of block patterns, it is a sampler of machine/ quick piecing techniques. Ths is a 6-week class that includes everything through quilting and binding.
I also have other tops that show different colors, but this the only quilted one. There are pumpkins quilted into those plain-looking corner squares, and the general color is more, orange!

I'll get to the part of the program where I can improve the photos, but right now I am very happy about this!
Thanks to Melody Johnson, who suggested Google's Picasa software (it's free, and seems to be easy....).

Now to learn to take better pictures!

*“"Begin at the beginning,", the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop” (Lewis Carroll).....very good advice for blog postings!

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Murphy's Law for December

Today is the day the Postal Service set for it's last "guarenteed" delivery by Christmas.
Even at that, the box going to California has a 7--10 day delivery time (sorry, Dave & Kim).
Although the people behind me in line might have been dismayed over my 6 boxes, I know they were all wishing that they, too, had thought to use their luggage wheels to roll 'em in!
Originally purchased for my sewing machine, that contraption has really paid off over the years. (tip: buy one with the largest wheels possible...they roll up over a curb or down steps much better than the tiny wheels!)

So here's Murphy's Law for December: Shopping for gifts and packing boxes to mail by the deadline will make you too busy to finish sewing many of the gifts that need to go into the boxes!
My sister is getting a nice card that says to expect another package in awhile. The gift I'm making is just too nice to do a rush job...not to mention I only found the perfect fabric last week!

There are many Murphy-type Laws that apply to sewing & quilting.
The original Law is that if something can go wrong, it will.
That's especially true of projects involving the last 19" you have of a wonderful fabric.
Another Law I'm found of is that any project will take the amount of time you have available. In other words, if you have two days it can be done....but if you have two months, you will still be sewing the last part of it within an hour of it having to be presented to someone, somewhere.
OK, lets see this one operate in the Real World!
I set the goal of learning to get digital pictures on my website & blog by the end of this year. There are now about 17 days left.
When are you going to see some pictures?
Well, let's hope my sister's Christmas gift is not the first one!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

UFO's Again! Oh, no!

When exactly does a UFO become finished?

I think is is a really important question for me, as I am managing to complete several far as the top. Then I am off to another project.

I noticed my stack of tops getting pretty high, and have decided that 2008 will be The Year of in actually stitching 3 layers together.

My studio is very small, and doing one thing generally requires moving a lot of stuff. Of course, that also means it ends up on top of some other get the picture. So when I want to quilt, I need to clear the decks.

My plan for next year will be to set up for machine quilting and then have at the pile of tops!

Hmmmm.....I'd better start thinking of how to get them all basted.

I have a friend who loves the spray basting. It does work well, but I am still not completely trusting. I always put in a few pins (also because I know it may not be quilted as soon as I hope!). Even with the spray, it still helps to have a friend when all that fabric needs to be handled.

Maybe the biggest UFO I have is not a quilt!

It's learning to get pictures on my website & blog! Yes, there are pictures on my website, but I need to take more....and then learn to get them online. I have set the end of this year as my deadline, so I have just 29 days to get to it!

I promise one of the first photos will be of my studio...and then you really will get the picture what I've been talking about!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Close Encounters with UFO's

No, I wasn't abducted by aliens!
I have just been away teaching and busy with holiday happenings.
But I am still working away at my huge stash of UFO's...those UnFinished
Objects. How they seem to multiply!

I got thinking about other reasons these things are called UFO's. The one I am working on today is a great qualifier: it seems to have come from Light Years away!
The fabrics are are quite old now (yet not nearly "vintage"!) and have a grey shading to them. At some point I used this quilted wall hanging for a demo, as it had some of the edges trimmed and binding applied, but not finished, on only one side!
Oh, yes, I remember that binding. But I'll be darned if I can find where the rest of it might be. Not even in my big plastic box of bindings that I have thoughtfully made and are awaiting the day their own UFO's come home to land.

This is, by the way, a piece that has four snowmen with top hats and scarves (a Debbie Mumm design, if I recall...yes, this thing is very old!). Now it has a new black & white binding....too bad it does not match the black & white border it was supposed to! Well, I guess UFO's are full of surprises!

All it needs now are some black button eyes. Then it can find a home in one of the many boxes I'll be mailing across the country soon.
That's another reason why they're called UFO's...they will travel far, far away to shock and amaze people who are not expecting them, and will probably leave those people speechless!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Quilt Mobile: On the Road Again!

The Quilt Mobile is ready to roll!

That's my mini-van. It's been the Quilt Mobile now for many fact, this is the third vehicle I've had by that name.
The first was a light blue Dodge Caravan. Then there was the dark blue Nissan Quest. Now it's a dark grey Toyota Sienna (not much brand loyalty, eh?).
When it was time to trade in the Quest, I debated about my choice. I don't need the "Mom Mobile" aspect of a mini-van now, so maybe it was time for a car?
But I like the idea that I can load up to seven other quilters and take off on adventures, so another van it had to be.

Then there times like this, when I am getting ready to go give a lecture and teach. It sure is good to have enough space for the huge design walls and over-flowing scrap basket (the main prop for my "Taming the Scrap Basket" lecture, although it has never been tamed!), not to mention the tote bags of supplies and suitcase.

But time is wastin' and I must be ready to go early tomorrow....stay tuned for adventures away from home!

Friday, November 9, 2007

World's Greatest Project!

Yes! I have the World's Greatest Project!

But you're going to have to figure out what it is.
That is, you're going to have to figure out what your greatest project is.

I've been thinking about what makes a great project and why people keep a trend going. What is it that everyone is looking for?

I came up with three qualities for a Great Project:
  1. Most materials are something you have on hand.
  2. It won't take a very long time to complete.
  3. It has lots of creative potential.

We all enjoy a reason to go shopping, but if you have anything remotely resembling a stash, then you like to make something using that fabric. It's much easier to buy special notions, patterns and supplies if you have the fabric already(or some to start with!).

There's nothing like an heirloom know, the one with thousands of pieces, an applique border and all hand quilted every 1/4".
There's nothing like it in my house!
We all want to do a project that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. The heirloom quilt is a wonderful thing to do, but it won't be under the Christmas tree until the next decade!

My favorite projects are simple ones. They are basic and uncomplicated. Once I can see how the parts go together, then my mind starts thinking about "What if...?" That's when the fun really begins and the creativity starts to flow!
I am very good at taking a simple project and making it unbelievably complex...but at least they're my own complications, not somebody's poor design or dense instructions.
(and a small tip-o-the-hat here for all the great quilt designers who do have their patterns tested by real people before going to print!)

Purses and aprons seem to be the going trend right now and I believe that's because they tend to meet the three qualities I mentioned. Easy block patterns, "jelly roll" strips and small quilts are also popular for the same reasons.

My most recent World's Greatest Project was a nine-patch quilt with an unusual setting.
What is yours?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Who needs a quilt?

If we each made a quilt everyday for the rest of our lives, we still could not meet the need that exists for charity quilts.
Almost every guild I've ever heard of has at least one charity project, and many independent quilters give away some potion of their work. Maybe quilters just happen to be people who think of others, even if that only includes people in their own families.

The range of projects is amazing. My guild makes quilts for children who are entering the foster care system (and placemats for Meals On Wheels and several other groups who ask for quilts). It seems like everyone likes making the smaller size kids quilts.
One member has just decided to severely reduce her stash, and asked that we use her donations to make some larger size quilts. So we're going to work on some for the older teens who are leaving the foster care system and have to live on their own.

The Veterans Hospital not far from here always needs do many medical places. Remember the last time you had to wait for a doctor, wearing just a paper gown? Or maybe you've been involved with chemo-therapy. They keep those clinics really cold! A lap quilt can mean a lot to somebody, both physically and mentally.

Other great ideas I've heard are making doll quilts to go with beds that a local woodworkers group makes to give during the holidays, or making small quilts for the policemen to carry along for a person in need.

I remember talking with a lady who worked at a nursing home. She was lamenting that they had a closet full of knitted afghans! The problem was the laundry couldn't handle those, so the clients never got them...but a lot of effort had gone into the mading. It's always a good idea to ask before you start a charity project, and be sure what you can give will be what is needed & used. Just because another same-type organization loved getting quilts does not mean the place you might think of can use them.

One of the bravest projects my guild did one year was make utility style quilts to be given to homeless people. We gave them to a shelter, to be given to the people who were turned away for lack of room. Who knows how long those quilts lasted out on the streets...maybe a week, a month...maybe not that long. But they did give comfort for at least one night.

People in the guild are always begging for machine quilting classes, and the truth is that you just have to practise. The best thing to practice on is a charity quilt. It will give you the experience you need with handling a bulky item through your home sewing machine. And in the process you'll be creating something of use.

Any time I can find a "win- win" situation I am all for it!
Who needs a quilt?
Everybody does...for all kinds of reasons!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Using It All Up

I have staggered from my studio, covered in tiny little threads (or badges of honor, as I like to call them). The blue & white Nine-patch top is finished!

It has strange scrappy sashings. I cut strips from the collection of blue fabrics I found with the blocks. The strips between the blocks are all the same size as the blocks, but I did the sashing between the rows with odd lengths that were intended not to be the same size as the blocks!

Well, that was an interesting experiment...I'll have to look at it later and see if I like it!

I sewed the long strips of blue squares into 3 rows to make borders all around, and ended up with a top about 55" x 58".
This is why, when asked how big my quilt is going to be, I answer, "As big as it is when I'm through working on it."

By the way, I did locate the original blue & white top made from the same collection of blocks. It has a blue & white striped sashing, and the same triple-strip squares border as I made for the top today.

There were a few strips of squares left over, so I put them together to end up with 4 nine-patch blocks (all dark & medium, no real pattern) and then sewed those togther in a strip.

My goal: to use up every bit of this stuff!

I looked at the remaining blue fabric and found a piece big enough to fill in for the rest of a pillowcase hem, but no piece big enough for the bag part.

That had me rooting in the stash where I found a fabulous sateen type yard that has dark & medium blue little cresent moons! What could be better?

Now I have my own beautiful new pillowcase.
Best of all, I have entirely used up or scrap-bagged everything that had been hiding in a tote for several years!

I think I am finally getting somewhere.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Lots o' Little Nine-patches

I have belonged to a quilt guild for many years...almost since it started in 1989. I have even served two different 2-year terms as president.
In this guild, at the end of the first year the president receives blocks from the members. If you go for the second year, the gift is a quilt top (some presidents have even received finished quilts).

One time I requested blue & white nine-patch blocks because I thought it would be fun to have loads of blocks to play with. And I knew everyone would make a lot of blocks, because the pattern was easy. Somewhere in my stack of un-quilted tops is the lovely peice I made with many of the blocks.

In my process of re-discovering the floor in my studio, I found the remaining 52 blocks. I think I have also found the reaon why they weren't used.
These blocks ranged from the requested 6.5" (unfinished) size to less than 6"! Some of the edges seem to have been inspired by the Cubist school of art. One even had a pinked edge. Two or three were also questionable about being blue.
This is one thing I know from guild membership: your personal projects bear no relationship to Group Projects!

Group Projects (including large batches of blocks made by a variety of people) are an entirely different animal. They almost always involve "somebody" doing a major amount of work to bring all the items to a similar, workable size!
Since these blocks varied by less than one inch, I decided to trim them all down to 5.5". This made them the same size and balanced, though slightly off of a traditional 9-patch (I doubt anyone will notice).

Now it's just some sashing and borders and I'll have another top to add to my stack! Appearently when I made the original top, I made long strips of scrappy blue squares (now I really need to find that top because I can't remember what I designed!). There are loads of those left, that's got to go in the border, since I'm trying to use up all this stuff! I would have used those for sashing, but after trimming down the blocks the squares will not match.
Design tip: if things don't match, they have to be really different. Close just looks bad!

Now I actually have enough floor space exposed to make it worthwhile to get the broom out and sweep up!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Getting Off the Floor

Just in case you have never heard Sunnie's Rule of Storage, here it is:
"Any horizontal surface becomes a storage area, until gravity takes over."
This includes the floor.

My studio is small, maybe 10' x10' in a strange old-house sort of configuration. It has a floor made from heart-of-pine, but you wouldn't notice, because the entire floor has become a storage area (where it isn't covered by furnture). It's a one-woman, one-cat operation, and right now the cat doesn't have enough room!

My goal until the end of the year is to try and uncover some of the floor. I guess that means I am concentrating on UFO's that have landed! So far, so good... I have emptied tote bags that held old class projects (finished the items and returned the remaining fabric to the shelf or box where it belongs) and managed to corral fabric back into containers.
This morning I took all the pieces from a Diane Hire class (3 years ago!) and finished a small wall hanging. Then I grabbed a red tote bag from under the ironing board and discovered a collection of blue & white nine-patches. Not only have I got a start on another new quilt, but a sizable area of floor was exposed!
I feel like I am really accomplishing something!

Please don't ask about the batik stack, is not in an actual walk-way, and will be saved for later!

Now, if I could only figure out getting digital pictures posted here, you could really appreciate my work!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween & Holiday Quilts

Fun...spooky...or both?
Marketing surveys show that Halloween is catching up to Christmas as a money-spending celebration. This has been happening over the last 20 years, and there are many theories why.
I say it's because of quilts.

Back many years ago when the Local Quilt Show was young, they had a category called Holiday. They showed Christmas tree skirts and table runners. It was called Holiday as an attempt to be politically correct about religion (a tricky proposition, I'd say).
I just thought I should enter a holiday quilt, but for a different holiday...Halloween!
That orange & black really made a statement beside the reds & greens.
The second year I did it, there were a couple other people celebrating Halloween along with me!

Then they took out the Holiday category, undoubtedly to up-scale the show (it now has 400+ quilts and no home decor!). But I always had a suspicion it was because they really didn't like those Jack O'Lanterns among the Santas. Too bad it was right beofre I started the Groundhog's Day quilt.

It's great to celebrate your favorite holiday with a quilt, no matter the time of year or the colors that are inspired.
I hope to be celebrating the first year of this blog next Halloween....maybe with a new quilt picture!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Welcome to Patchwork Pie!

This is my special treat for Halloween 2007...a nice piece of Patchwork Pie to share with all my friends.
You may be an "old" friend...or a new friend...or a friend I just don't know yet!
If you already know me, then you know I was born to blog!
It was only a matter of time until I ended up online.

Patchwork Pie is made from my rambling through the world of quilting, fabric and closely related topics. It has lots of ingredients, and I've been making it for over 25 years, so it should be worth trying.

I hope you enjoy a good slice of pie every time you visit. Please feel free to bring your own ice cream.
I will, as usual, supply plenty of exclaimation marks!!!