Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Big Box Mystery Challenges continues...

It has been so much fun just cutting 2-1/2" strips and making blocks any which way! But I thought the quilt should be bigger, so I cut the all the remaining fabric into strips. Time to chain piece!
The least fussy blocks to make are the "floating square" ones, because the 9-Patches don't have any same-colored squares in them. So I had at it and made two of each color surrounding a black square, and one of black surrounding each color.
I kept the pieces close at hand and just whacked and sewed away at them ...until I was out of two colors! This is all that was left:
So I had a total of 49 blocks to play around with (actually there would have been 50, but one had some sort of glitch that caused it to disapper into the trash). I chose a 6 x 8 block setting, which accounts for that one poor orphan 9-Patch.
Up on the wall went the blocks, and I moved them around a couple times, but held firm to my commitment NOT TO FUSS!
Here they are un-sewn:
And here they are sewn together:
It's always interesting to me how different it looks when the sewing is all done. And these rows practically put themselves together.
Well, what to do now? I still had some fabric left, so I gave the quilt another round of strips & squares...sort of like a border, but what I really like is that it pulls the eye out to the edge and breaks up the block-by-block pattern. That orphan block got a new life, after being taken apart into rows!
Now this is really what's left:
I'd like to say there is enough for a plain black round, but there is not. So I'll toss those strips into the 2-1/2" box (the ones on the right are full width of fabric) for another project.
This quilt has several things I like (besides being super-easy!): it has bright colors with black, and floating effects. All I need now is a nice stripey binding...could there possible be the right piece waiting in my stash?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Big Box Mystery Challenge

You may remember these fabrics from the previous post:

That's 1-1/2 yds of the black-with-bright-dots and the others were a fat quarter bundle. I decided to just start cutting strips and see what would happen. That's why this is a mystery and a challenge!
Sewing in a motel room is fun, especially since I was by myself and wouldn't be in anyone else's way. Many motels have ironing boards now, so that's a real plus! Were they tired of finding iron-shaped burns in the carpeting?

When in doubt, cut a 2-1/2" strip....I believe the quilting industry has proven that's a convenient width!
I was thinking about a block with a square floating in the center. Maybe even some plain 6" squares. I really didn't know, so I cut 4 strips of each fabric, which left me enough to have some plain 6" squares if I wanted them.
This is like a dream come true (at least on a temporary basis). The chair was not comfortable, but when sitting there, I could type on the computer with one hand and open the refrigerator with the other!
I do not have a computer in my studio, so it was fun to cut strips and have email at the same time. I even watched The Quilt Show with Ricky Tims & Alex Anderson!
Oops! A boo-boo cut needs to be redone. This shows making a new clean cut before I continue.
The boo-boo was savable...if not, you know it just would have gone into the Pot Holder Pile when I got home.
See...I really did watch The Quilt Show! It was fun to be quilting and watch quilting...thanks to my good friend who gave me the trial subscription (you know who you are, PT...or should I say, AP?!).         
This is what I call a sweet set up! A comfy chair, a sewing machine, a TV, and an ironing board set at half-height! The iron is on the other side of the chair, where I could just reach over and plug it in after setting the machine down.
This is really the ultimate in lazy, eh? But what fun! I totally enjoyed sitting down to home, I have things set up so I must get out of my chair and stand up to press.
Oh boy..."American Idol" is on! I really wanted to have a picture of sewing with Simon Cowel, but couldn't wait for the shot.
What? You don't care for "American Idol"? Well, you'd probably like it a lot after watching 3 hours of curling!
The Olympics are great for sewing with the TV on. I watched a LOT of curling, and I still don't understand it. But I sure can appreciate that it takes tremendous skill. And I loved the way the guys would slide from one end of the court...alley...lane...whatever it is...on their one Teflon foot, to get up there by The House to confer about what stone to try to bump.
Well, maybe I absorbed more about curling than I thought! I love the sweepers.

By this point I had decided to sew some 9-Patches (both X and O). I tried to make each one with all different colored squares, hence these strip sets. Nope...I did NOT plan it out!
But they all came out great.
I ended up with 15 blocks that had colored corners, 9 with black corners, and 5 each with a black square surrounded by a color or a color surrounded by black:
Here they are back at home, just smacked up on the design wall. I like what I'm seeing....the way the background makes the block edges fade in and out.
I knew I would need both X and O 9-Patches (look at where the black is in the blocks to see why they are called that) if I wanted to put them together for a checkerboard, as you can see at the botton right.
That's as far as this project got (what? can you hear the steady thrumm of a UFO apporoaching????).
But I think I'll just whack up the rest of the fabric into strips and make more of the same blocks, then have some fun arranging them.
With a nice border, they'll make a wonderful kids quilt for the guild's charity project!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fun with the Gwinnett Quilters in Georgia

I'm just back from a lecture and class with the Gwinnett Co.  Quilters' Guild in Georgia.They meet in the Snellville/ Lawrenceville area, outside of Atlanta, not far from Stone Mountain (for those who like to tour around and know the country).
The QuiltMobile was loaded up, gassed up and ready for a drive!
Gosh, I've had lots more in there that on this trip!
The big question was the weather: snow or no snow? Or maybe lots of icy rain.
Heavy clouds began to gather about an hour away from home...
But after a bit of rain the blue sky came through and the rest of the trip was no problem.
COLD...but no problems!

The Gwinnett Co. Quilters are a large group and very active.
The day I was there attendence was at 122, and seven new members!
This was despite the fact that the day's lecture was "Pot Holder Therapy"!
Here's my display...that's for the people who may become bored. It gives them something to look at!
I think the lecture went really well. It is NOT about how to make a Pot Holder (though I do provide a hand-out for that, just in case). It's really about mental health for quilters.
I taught the BLOOMS class the next day, but at the meeting my sample was hanging on the podium:
I was so impressed with this guild. They have a load of great activities. For a group this large, they have a friendly policy of assigning a Quilting Sister to each new member.
They had a Brown Bag Challenge going...I didn't get the rules, but there were a lot of bags! A Block of the Month was set up on another table., 
"Just-4-You" was using a fair amount of space. That is the excellent charity work division of this guild. They give quilts to a local charity (children's hopspital), a state charity (the name escaped me), and a national charity (Quilts of Valor)! You can read all about it on their website, plus see the free patterns passed out each month to encourage members to make quilts (over 400 last year!). They also had bundles of fabric to give out for starting the quilts. The Gwinnett Quilters really know how to do good charity work!
Yes, it was like a carnival for quilters with the Birthday Auction fund raiser, display of a raffle quilt with the center painted by artist Pat Buckley Moss, a silent auction for books and lots of other goings-on.
Way to go, ladies! Long may you quilt!

As usual, I forgot to get my camera out during the class.
It might make for a boring blog, but at least you know when I am teaching, I am focused on the class!
We had a great time making BLOOMS and had many beautiful flowers and leaves. I always enjoy the new ideas that pop up in class, including how the flowers look when made with a print of lots of different flowers! And...this is really lady had fabric she got for free at the guild meeting. It featured BIG orange lilies that were a very nice size to cut for a 6" block...and since the background was very dark, those "plain" squares will fill in any place a pieced flower may have gone!

My husband had loaded my small Janome into the van, although I had not planned to take it along.
But I'm glad he did!
I had some extra time in the evenings, so I went to that Big Box of Fabric store and bought a cutting mat (I did have rulers & cutter) and some fabric so I could make myself The Big Box Mystery Challenge!
There were lots of 5 fat quarter packets, so I went with the bright colors, and then found a bolt of black with bright polka dots...1-1/2 yards of that.
It's a challenge, because I have to use just what I bought. And it's a mystery, because I had no idea what I'd do with it when I bought it!
But I did do'll see what in the next post!

For Shayla Fans:
For the many people (well, one...) who asked for Shayla's latest photo, here she is on her throne.
She is the real cat at the front!
The stuffed cat was made for me by D. DeLuna (I don't remember the pattern...June Colburn? If so, it's no longer in print). The chair belonged to my great grandmother. The dolphin pillow was from a class I taught in Panama City.
What's in the box?
I'm not telling!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Getting Fleeced

This place has a load of names, but you know what it is!
I actually went there to buy fabric:
Please let me explain:
First of all, there are many people who like to buy fabric here and that's fine. We all should do what we decide is best, and there are reasons to buy here besides a low price (buyer beware in terms of quality!).
Also, this is near my house. The next Big Box O' Fabric Store is 12 miles away.
My main reason was I needed sports team fabric, and I was pretty sure I'd find it here.
Boy, did I ever!

Who knew there would be so many choices for each of the three major collefge teams for this area?
And that is just the point: unless you are alumi, you'd better be careful not to take any sides!
If I make a quilt that seems like it is the colors for one school, I'd better have the other, too. In this case, it's Florida State Seminoles and the University of Florida Gators...I can get off the Georgia Bulldogs hook, but just barely!
One of the Mystery Quilts I'm working on is team-oriented, so I have to have one for each team.
It's a smaller lap-size, perfect for a stadium quilt, so I thought it would be nice to skip the batting and the backing....and quilt the tops onto fleece!
This is what I found:
And this:

At first I thought it was a bit pricey at $9.75 a yard, but it's 60" wide, so all I needed was 1-1/4 yds. for each quilt. That's much less than if I had to buy both batting and backing!
I'll take some pics when I can, but in the meantime, I know what you are wondering...
How do you do it????
Just baste the top to the wrong side of the fleece and quilt. And here's the Big News: you can use basting spray! Yes, that top will be totally fastened to the fleece, so you can quilt "as desired", even though the fleece has a nap and could be slippery.
Any quilt you do this way is likely to be a utility quilt and not have loads of fancy details, so it can be done reasonably quickly. I think it's an ideal choice for kids' quilts as the fleece is soft & cuddly and washes very well.
The nice touch is to finish with a binding as usual...though I have not liked handstitching on the fleece (it's not difficult, just different). This would be a great time to do that binding by machine finish!

There is an incredible number of patterns on fleece, something literally for everyone. I had some coffee motif fleece for my sister, and I have seen everything from famous paintings to John Deere tractors! So if you're looking for something faster, less expensive and really effective, you should check out the fleece aisle.

Though now I am wondering what a judge would say if one ended up in a quilt show!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quilt Studio Improvements

While I am thrilled at the amount of quilting I have been doing, it's very frustrating that I can't show you, because they are Mystery Quilts.
On the other hand, I'll have a lot of new stuff to show you next month!

A great help in being productive was the re-do of my sewing machine tape. It had become so bad it was actually catching on the fabric.
Here's my new tape:
The line between the two colors is where the needle is (in center position). I'm getting ready to make a "sew & flip" triangle here, so I'll put the top and bottom corners of that white square right along the tape line and then sew.
Yes, I even do that with really large peices and just sort of eye-ball it until the corner nearest me gets up to the edge of the table!
Chain-piecing this way saves a lot of time. Use your needle-down setting if you have it. That helps to keep the corners under control going from one unit to the next. Our machines seem to like eating the corners. A single-hole throat plate will also help with that.
I have also drawn a line 1/4 inch away from the needle line (you can see it marked there). It's good for just plain old sewing, but also for making half-square triangles two at a time.
For those, you have 2 same-size squares. Line up the corners on the 1/4" line and sew.
Turn the unit around and repeat...that gives you two seams 1/4" away from each side of the diagonal center, without drawing a line first. To finish, cut apart, press open and trim....I'll have to do that with pictures sometime again!
The pictures you see here are just that sew & flip triangle, like for a snowball block, where a triangle is formed in the corner of a larger square.

Another amazing thing in my studio is that I got the cutting table as cleaned off as it ever gets!
The best thing about getting cleaned up is I am inspired to get it all messy again!
It's a thrill to cut fabric immediately without moving 10 things out of the way first....and then having to move those same things back to use the space I moved them into!
Oh, there's that cute little trash container I got at the dollar store. It has a special purpose now. It's collecting small batik scraps for a friend who is going to Africa to help at an orphanage. This trip she'll be teaching the children how to make fabric beads.

I hope your studio is messy beacuse you're into a good project. I'll give you another peek at mine when it's in a more "natural" state.
Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to go to Gwinnett Co. in Georgia next week for "Pot Holder Therapy" and "Blooms for Beginners (& Other Flower Lovers)". 
I also owe you two book reports, which I'd better get done soon, as Cherry-Cherry has been waiting since November to borrow them!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy Groundhog Day!

Things are really busy right now, but I couldn't let a Groundhog Day pass by without posting.
For those who are confused about the way it works, this is the bottom line:
If the Groundhog sees his shadow on a sunny day, he's scared of it and goes back in his hole:
six more weeks of Winter.
If the Groundhog comes out on a cloudy day, he's not scared by his shadow so he stays outside:
Spring will come in about a month and a half.
Yep...that's 6 weeks!

I know PETA thinks that Puxatawney Phil should be replaced by a robot, but that's crazy talk! Phil has a great job that only lasts one day per year and he's treated like a king.
The thing that gets me is they drag him out of the burrow! I don't think you can get a good weather report that way, but they are undoubtedly trying to make the morning news hour. It's all about marketing.

Anyway, here's a link to a post I did about a real groundhog, my beloved Charlie.
I hope you enjoy a Very Fine Holiday that truly harks back to a time when we were closer to Nature.

Next time: back to quilting!