Learning to say no….or maybe not.

For the first six months of this year, I didn’t spend more than a handful of hours working on any quilts that I wanted to make for my own selfish reasons.  Instead, I made quilts for fundraisers or for other people.  This, along with my usual life responsibilities, has kept me so busy, I haven’t even had much time to blog, which I really have missed.  So alert the presses…this is my second blog in less than a week’s time.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the major joys in my life is making quilts to minister to other people by sharing the gifts God has blessed me with, but I do tend to get in over my head.  I guess balance is something I need to continue to work on.  To paraphrase, sometimes you just need to stop and pet the fabric.  I have a lot of blogging catch up to do.  Here goes…deep breath.

The quilt at the beginning of this post was for the winner of last year’s custom quilt raffle that I do every year to support my church’s youth group going to snow camp.  We don’t want any child to not be able to go due to lack of finances.  Usually the raffle brings in around $2,000 and the lucky winner gets to pick any style, size, and general colors that they want, (assuming it’s within my skill level).  The winner of this quilt,  which I named Dancing Leaves, is a good friend and a member of my quilt guild, Valley Heritage Quilt Guild, which I affectionately call Quilter’s Anonymous.  Instead of having me start a quilt from scratch, she asked me if I would be willing to do a log cabin quilt for her, so of course, I said, “I can do that.  Log cabins are a breeze.  I’ll whip it out in no time.”  Silly me.  She then handed me a pack of fabric, and a pattern (Fall Foliage Spectacular by Judy Martin).  The pattern stitched out into a square, but did she want a square?  Of course not!  She wanted it to be a wall hanging to go in a specific spot and wanted it to be about 70 by 42 as I recall.  Then I noticed that instead of just being simple half-square triangles, the leaves were made from different length and width trapezoids, which I had never done before.  Of course, there were directions on how to make the trapezoids in the pattern book, but I couldn’t make them come out right after a dozen tries with scrap fabric, so being a puzzle-solver, I developed my own technique, which I’m sure someone else had already thought of, but was new to me.  Once that puzzle was solved, I got the blocks made, adding many of my own fabrics to give a better variety to the overall look.  I got a little carried away, putting in multiple shades of white and light yellow background fabric, realizing belatedly that Debbie had included a large piece of white that she had intended for me to use for all the background pieces.  Oops.

The next issue that I ran into was the two rows of leaves on the sides of the center medallion were supposed to be repeated on the top and the bottom as well, but then I would have to make the quilt way bigger than she had requested in order to make it the rectangular shape she wanted.  So I pulled out a bunch of quilt pattern books that I have, and I saw a border on one of the quilts that was very similar to the chevron shape I ended up using.  I thought to myself, “I have a tool for that!”  I got out my Strip Tube ruler and went to town, taking a lot of time figuring out the puzzle of how to transition around the corners.  It was rewarding to finally come up with the solution to the puzzle.  I would definitely make this pattern again.  It is really an unusual take on the log cabin.

Continuing on the theme of the yearly custom quilt raffle for my church’s youth group, I got a phone call from a lady that lives about 60 miles north of me who had somehow come across a flyer advertising the raffle.  She had started a log cabin quilt for her son’s dorm room just before he entered college, but she was really unhappy with the way it was coming out.  She wondered if I would be willing to fix and finish it for her…and, by the way…increase it from the twin size that she already had the blocks mostly done for to a queen size and she would pay me.  I told her I wouldn’t accept payment for myself, but she could make a donation to our church’s youth group, and I would help her out.  I now think I should have told her I would advise her on how to improve the quilt, but I wouldn’t finish it for her, but….So we met at the town half-way between where we both live, and I came home with her blocks and a lot of fabric and permission to do what I thought best to breathe some life into it and to take my time.  Which is a good thing.  That was in February, and I just finished the quilt this past Sunday afternoon.  The basic problem is she had almost no wow factor in her block and there wasn’t really a dark and a light side.  Looking at it, I decided it needed a little pop of color because it was sort of blah.  Here is a photo of her block on the left, and how I changed it on the right.

I only changed out two fabrics, but got the color that it needed.  I’ve found the hardest part when working on someone else’s quilt, is that not everyone is very accurate with the quarter inch seam, and most of hers were 3/8ths.   So I ended up having to adjust mine to match rather than taking all the blocks totally.  The photo doesn’t do justice to the color, even in a close up.  I entitled it “Sunshine and Shadows”

And the close up.

I found a receipt in the bag of batting she gave me to use which was dated 1998.  I confirmed that that was when she had started it!  No wonder she wasn’t in a hurry.  I will deliver it to her on Monday of next week.  Sure hope she approves.

Somewhere in between completing these two quilts, my friend Delani and I also made this comfort quilt for one of the elders of our church who nearly died because he lives on a remote ranch, and the ambulance couldn’t reach him and they couldn’t get a helicopter in, so he had to walk out to meet them.  Turns out he needed triple bypass and his gallbladder removed on top of a lung condition that he suffers from.  It’s a miracle he’s up and on the mend.  By the time we got the quilt made for him, he was able to come back to church.

He always wears cowboy boots, so we thought the boot border was appropriate. The pattern is Labyrinth by Calico Carriage Quilts.  I entitled this one “It’s a Bootiful Life”.

Back in May, it was time again for the Dutch Oven Cookoff, which raises money for a rural living and history museum just down the road a piece from us which is still in the development stage with one building up.  The movers and shakers want to put facades on the buildings to replicate the original little country town that used to be here in pioneer days.  For the second year, they asked if I would be willing to host a quilting demonstration set up, and of course, I said yes.

With my friends Delani and Grace helping do sewing demos on machines and Kate doing hand quilting, I got the “brilliant” notion to prepare some strip sets to make nine patches, and let people sit at one of the machines, with supervision if needed, and sew a nine patch or two.  For every block they sewed, they got a chance to win the quilt that I would finish after the Dutch Oven was over.  It was a real hit.

You can see the beginnings of the quilt on the design wall.

Grace, who had brought a hand operated Featherweight machine, was running back and forth between our set up and her husband’s blacksmith demonstration, so Delani and I were kept so busy helping folks make their blocks that we barely had time to run to the restroom and get something to eat when the wonderful Dutch Oven cooked food was ready.   That night, I had my husband draw a name to win the quilt.  The winner was our pastor’s mother who is a fine quilter and told me to give the quilt to someone else because she really didn’t need another quilt and would rather someone who really wanted it to have it.  Very generous of her.  So Delani and I picked a young girl about 12 years old who had come back to our booth over and over again because she loved making blocks.  She had wanted to learn to quilt so badly and didn’t have a machine at home that she taught herself to handpiece from watching YouTube videos.  Here is the quilt she was thrilled to win.

As you can see, I used the same “Strip Tube” border on this one, which is named “Everything But the Kitchen Sink.”  The pattern is Confused Nine Patch from the Big Book of Scrappy Quilts. When I took this to show and tell at Quilter’s Anonymous and told the story of the winner, one of our members, who it turned out only lived a couple miles away from the girl’s family, volunteered to give the young girl an older machine that she no longer needed.  Aren’t quilters wonderful people?

Then, of course, the ladies at the Hall, including myself, taught the kids’ summer quilting class again this year.  We want to make sure the younger generation has exposure to quilting and we have both boys and girls attending, ages 9 to 18.  We had a lot of new kids this year, and a fairly large total number with 9 students and 4 teachers.  Fortunately, because we prefer a one-on-one ratio, a couple of the ladies who have joined our group within the last year and are new quilters themselves, stepped in and helped with some of the returning, more advanced students.  The kids make a communal quilt that is then donated to a charity.  This year’s will go to a kid’s cancer camp.  This is my favorite quilt of all the ones that have been done in the 11 years I’ve been participating as a teacher.

The kids learned not only how to sew together fabric and make half square triangles for the ears, but how to sew on buttons for the eyes, noses, and tags for the collars and to hand embroider the mouths.  By the way, I wonder if any of you know the answer to the question I asked all the students during the button sewing portion of the class.  Why do we sew the buttons on before we embroider the mouth?  The answer:  If the mouth was embroidered first, the animals would bite you when you stuck the needle in to sew on the eyes or the nose. One of our advanced students did machine applique around all the balls and birds that were fused onto the background fabric.  She did it under my supervision, which wasn’t much supervision after I showed her how to do the first one.  She did a beautiful job.  I brought the quilt home to do the quilting on my long arm and did the binding as well.  I  am obsessed with the fabric we used for the back.

The cat fabric was donated to our group.  The dog fabric was left over from the back of the dog quilt I made last year, (see my post “It’s Ruff Making a Dog from Scratch”), and the paw print fabric surrounding them was purchased.

The August meeting of Quilter’s Anonymous was the deadline for finishing the yearly quilting challenge.  This year’s challenge was to make a quilted project with as many fabrics as you could, using at least two of the 5 scraps given to you earlier in the year, which were hidden in brown paper bags.  As an ironic aside, one of the “scraps” I got in my bag was a completed hexagon for a one block wonder.  Made me laugh, but I didn’t use it.  There were two prizes, one for people’s choice and the other for the most scraps used.  As serendipity would have it, in July I took a class to make a “Color Dance” wonky log cabin sponsored by the guild.  It was great.  We each brought piles of pieces of fabric and got to go around shopping in everyone else’s piles.  A really fun exchange.  Anyway, I decided this would be the perfect challenge quilt for me since I didn’t have anything else even started, and this one was small enough I thought I could finish it by the August meeting.  I was able to, by the skin of my teeth, hand sewing the label on 20 minutes before I left home for the meeting.  Here is a photo of my efforts.

I call it “Quirky, Quakey Cabin” the quakey because I live in California about 40 miles from the earthquake capital of the world.  Well, I won hands down for most fabric used, 337 unique pieces counting the border and the two piece Suzy’s Magic Binding, but not including the back.  You could say I had the competition sewn up.  Another funny thing about this quilt is I thought, “Oh, good.  I can use up a lot of my scraps.”  But in my zeal to maximize the number of fabrics used, plus wanting to have the perfect fabrics to transition between the color changes, I ended up buying about 40 fat quarters, so now I have more scraps than I started with.  The best laid plans….

The Hall Quilt Show is coming up on the 15th of September, with all quilts that are being displayed being gathered this Wednesday.  Normally, I have at least six or seven quilts in the show, but this year, the only quilt that I had kept that was finished was the wonky log cabin I just talked about.  So, I scrambled around looking for things that I hadn’t put in the show previously, and found one lap quilt that I had planned to give to the guild as a comfort quilt.  Then I remembered that I had gotten some of the components made for a mystery quilt sponsored by Carole at https://frommycarolinahome.wordpress.com/ called Scrap Dance Two Step.  So I decided I could get on the ball and finish it in a couple of weeks and luckily the mystery reveal had happened in July.   Here is the result called “Super Nova”:

Once again, the colors don’t come out well with my camera lately, so here is a better photo with the quilt on my longarm machine, Rosie.  

Carole comes up with the coolest designs and she says she will be starting another mystery quilt in her Scrap Dance Series soon, so if you’ve never been to her blog, I highly recommend it.  She gives one clue a month, so you can work on it a little at a time, or wait till the end like I did and rush.   I was also able to borrow back one of the quilts that had been auctioned off for a fundraiser, so there will be 4 of my quilts in the quilt show.

So now that most of the rush is over and deadlines passed, I’ve started playing with my Mariner’s Compass ruler that I talked about in my last post.  It is going really well, and will post more about it later.  Also, it is almost time to get raffle tickets and flyers ready for sales for the custom quilt raffle.   So many quilts I want to make, so little time in a day.

Do you have a hard time saying no?

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I Have A Tool For That!

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People who know me well are used to hearing this from me on a frequent basis. And as it turns out I usually do have a tool for almost anything I want to do.  My favorite thing to do is to visit the vendors at any quilt shows I go to in order to see what these clever people have come up with to make my quilting easier and more productive.  Another thing that anyone who knows me well will tell you is that I detest paper piecing and will do almost anything to avoid it.  I absolutely love the Mariner’s Compass pattern, and have always longed to make one, but alas, it is paper pieced.  But wait…in the August edition of American Quilter, I saw an ad for a Mariner’s Compass tool that avoids paper piecing.  Of course, I immediately went to the website of the inventor and watched her tutorial to find out if it was for real.  Then I purchased the tool, the companion booklet, and another tool that looks very handy for cutting angles.  Here is a photo of the package I promptly received.

compass labeled

The tool was developed by Robin Ruth Design, found at robinruthdesign.com.  I have been chomping at the bit to try it out, but have been sewing my fingers to the bone trying to get ready for our local quilt show at the Hall where I quilt with a great bunch of ladies on a bi-monthly basis.  We also just finished our summer quilting class for the local young people.  But I will address those things in another post.  There is a lot of blogging that hasn’t been getting done.  I will let you know once I have a chance to try out the tool how it all come out.

Speaking of tools, I also found a handy tool to make it easy to change out the needle on my longarm machine, which has been a dreaded task for the last three years since I got my longarm.  For those of you unfamiliar with longarms, the needles don’t have a flat spot on the shaft like regular machine needles do, and of course it is critical to get it inserted properly, which is very difficult when you really are using the Braille method.  So I avoid changing my needle very often, which has caused problems when it gets dull or slightly bent from deflection caused by the speed of the machine.  Here is a photo of the tool.

needle inserter labeled

As you can see, you just insert the needle into the hole going in the direction that you want it inserted into the machine.  The needle stops at the bottom of the shaft, then you can just push it up into the hole in the machine, and it pushes the shaft all the way up so that it is fully inserted.  Then tightened the set screw on the machine.  There is also a slot in the opposite end of the tool that can be used to make adjustments to the needle so that it is in straight if you aren’t happy with the position once it’s inserted.  What used to take me at least 20 or 30 frustrating minutes took me about 2 minutes yesterday the first time I used it.  Since it is recommended by many expert longarmers that you change out the needle after every one or two projects, this is going to be a tremendous time saver.  I also discovered it works for regular machine needles.  It is manufactured by Creative Notions and I found it at Nancy’s Notions.

Since we are on the subject of tools, I am going to share a few more of my favorite “I have a tool for that” tools.  The first one, or two, are the Tucker Trimmer and Tucker Trimmer II by Deb Tucker at studio180design.net.

trimmer labeled

These tools make squaring up half-square triangles and quarter-square triangles especially a breeze.  Just slap your tool on top of the component you want to square up with the tool’s diagonal line lined up on the diagonal on the component, making sure you have room to trim to size all the way around, trim, turn component 180 degrees and line up the bottom left corner of the size you want to trim to along the corner of the component and trim.  The Tucker Trimmer shown on the half-square triangle is even inch and half inch increments and the Tucker Trimmer II is in quarter and three-quarter inch increments.  These two tools allow me to trim up piles of components without really having to think about it.  They are also great for cutting out squares of fabric from corners of yardage or fat quarters.

These next two are also from Deb Tucker.  This first one is the V-Block Trimmer (also known as a triangle in a square), which is the first of Deb’s tools that I purchased.  Many people feel they need to paper piece these components, but not using Deb’s method.

V block labled

The tool and the instruction book are very easy to use, with all the measurements you will need written right on the tool.  Everything is cut from strips and is slightly oversized so that there is room to trim down with the markings on the tool.  I made this queen sized quilt with dozens of these components in nothing flat using this tool.

The last tool I’m going to talk about is the Corner Beam tool.

corner beam labled

Just like all the other Deb Tucker specialty rulers, the booklet and ruler are easy to use, with everything made from basic strips and squares.  I’ve found these components are great to use in the corners of borders to make a nice transition around the corner.

I want to make it clear that I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in any of these tools or companies.  Just wanted to share some of the things that make life easier for me and hope you find them helpful as well.

Happy Stitching!

 

 

Dog Bites Quilt Show

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Friday was our annual quilt show at the circa 1890s Hall.  Our quilt show is not judged and there is no voting on favorite quilts, but just is an opportunity to showcase local talent and vintage quilts from local residents.  It also encourages people to buy raffle tickets for the handquilted queen sized quilt that you can get a glimpse of just to the right of the doorway.  One hundred percent of the proceeds from the raffle goes toward scholarships for our local young people.

As you can see, my Fannie Mae von Nubbinwagger was front and center and generated interested from everyone who came by.  There was the best turn out for this event since I became involved ten years ago in the quilting group that meets at the hall to work on the scholarship quilt and various charity quilts.  The event was to open at 2 PM, but our first group came at 1 o’clock.  They were folks from out of the area who were driving by to check out the fire damage from the recent Chimney Fire that I posted about a couple of weeks ago.  They happened to see our signs out on the road, and came out of curiosity.  Of course, we welcomed them in early, and the folks continued to come on a constant stream until 7 o’clock, when we took a break for a potluck dinner and to draw for the donated door prizes for those who purchased quilt raffle tickets that day.  My assignment was to welcome people at the door, hand out programs and “white gloves” for those who wanted to pet the pretty quilts and answer any questions.  I was kept hopping the entire day.

Here is a better photo of our scholarship raffle quilt.  It is done in the Carolina Lily pattern. 007

The rest of the photos are of the quilts on display.  I hope you enjoy the photo tour.005

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The handquilting on this last one was finished while the quilter was evacuated from her home because of the fire.