Busy Bee and New Quilting Gadget Discovery

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Since I last posted, the fire that I posted photos of spread, well, like wildfire, causing our neighbors in the two communities immediately south of us to be evacuated.  Fortunately there were no homes lost in those two areas, but the fire burned right up to many of the homes.  The community even further south, on the other side of Lake Nacimiento where the fire started, lost 49 homes.  My prayers go out to those poor people.  My pastor, who is a volunteer firefighter with our local department, his wife and 15 year old daughter opted to not evacuate their home, but brought their youngest daughter and horses to my community to stay at a friend’s ranch.  The friend, Delani, was looking for ways to entertain her daughter, Cheyene, on the left, and the pastor’s daughter, Abigail, on the right, so I invited them all over to make a project at my house.  The pillows the girls are holding are the results of the day’s efforts.  It goes to show, when the going get’s tough, the quilters get quilting.  Both girls picked out their own fabric, and you can probably tell that they are both horse crazed.  Cheyene even competes in local rodeos.

I had been messing around with Jodi Barrows Square-in-a-Square system, which I recently purchased since I am the Queen of Quilting Gadgets, and I stumbled across Jodi’s easy way to basically make a frame around a feature fabric.  I did all the cutting, but the girls did the rest.  I think they came out really cute.  Definitely a great project to do for a gift.

I am really loving Jodi’s ruler system.  It is incredibly versatile.  I wish I had looked into it more previously.  I could have saved a lot of money on buying specialty rulers that only do one quilting component like triangle in a square, diamond in a square, flying geese and of course square in a square.  I have separate rulers for each of these, plus more!

Following my three- month adventure with my doggie art quilt which I posted about previously, I decided I wanted to do something simple.  So I made this baby quilt totally out of leftovers in my stash.

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Once again, I used the Square-in-a-Square ruler to make the pinwheels which come out already trimmed and squared up when you finish sewing them.  Love it!

I also completed this snail trail quilt using the system.  It’s been on my UFO list since I got my new ruler back in May. It was the first project I started using my new ruler for, so I was ready to be done with it.

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The four patches are made from a fall themed strip exchange that we did at last November’s quilt guild retreat.  I really wanted to make it bigger, but I ran out of the brown fabric.  I thought I had found some more of it on line and ordered it, but when it came, it was 4 shades darker than the original, so I just gave up and made the border with the green that was in my stash.  It now awaits quilting and binding.  The quilt guild meeting where it is due as my UFO for this month isn’t until Monday night, so no sweat.  Hahaha.

This coming Friday is our local quilt show at the 120 year old Hall in one of the communities that was evacuated.  It too survived the fire unscathed.  The quilt show is just a showcase for local quilters and vintage quilts made by people associated with this area.

As an ending note, the wildfire I spoke of is over and the evacuees went home last weekend.  It’s wonderful to be able to breathe smoke free air again and not have ash covering every outdoor surface.  The firefighters are heros for saving so many homes!

Stitching Outside the Lines

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At my local quilt guild retreat last fall, we had a strip exchange of 2 1/2 inch strips in fall colors.  I have been working on a quilt utilizing those strips that is a simple four-patch and half-square triangle design.  The above photo is some of the paired strips I had  left over after making all the four patches.  Originally, I just tossed them in my little bin that holds all 2 1/2 inch pieces to be used in future projects….then I got to thinking…what if????

What if I cut the paired strips so that they formed 4 1/2 inch squares and then stack two squares on top of each other right sides together and make a half-square triangle out of them.  Since I evidently can never have enough half square triangles in my quilting life, I decided to try it.  Here is the result:

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Very interesting.  Then I squared them up to 3 1/2 inches and started cutting up more paired strips and making HSTs out of them.  I tried putting them together in a few directions, but really liked this one the best.
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If you look carefully, you can see the outer pieces  give a mitered corner effect.

Here is what happens when I put another set of four next to the original set:

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I can imagine if you used fewer patterns with maybe a little more contrast that this might make an interesting quilt top.  In the above photo, if I had used a different fabric in the middle, then the tiny HSTs would have formed a more distinct windmill look.  Food for thought for future messing around with this technique.

As a disclaimer, I’m sure someone else must have tried this before, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  It’s a great way to use up leftovers or even to try a more planned look.  Have fun playing.

 

Learning new skills

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Well, I now have my first medallion quilt under my belt and am loving the way it has turned out.  I bought the peacock fabric and companion stripes that appear in the 6th and 9th border four years ago on a trip to Pennsylvania’s Amish country.  I also got the peacock feathers and the teal and gold fabrics at the same time, and I’ve been waiting for just the right pattern to come along to inspire me to cut into the peacock, which was a print rather than a panel.  I finally found the pattern that you see above that is by Marie Bostwick and Deb Tucker (the designer of the set of specialty rulers that I’m always touting because they make my life so much simpler and productive).

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go on my local quilt guild’s 4-day retreat, and I was excited to get the peacock quilt done.  My first problem with it was the peacock and accompanying flower design was much larger than the fabric used in the original pattern, so the oval template provided simply wouldn’t work with my print.  The Monday before the retreat was our monthly guild meeting, and as things worked out, our speaker showcased several of her award winning quilts with ovals included in them, so I asked her if she had a formula for figuring out how to cut a perfect oval.  She did not have an answer for me.  Evidently she does hers by the seat of her pants and is much more skilled than I am.  Next I asked the person that I was convinced knows absolutely everything about quilting, but alas, for the first time since I’ve known her, she couldn’t tell me the answer.  So Super-Hubby to the rescue.  I was explaining my issue to him, and he went to the computer and  found two how-to videos on how to make a perfect oval that both used the same easy technique!  What a wonderful quilter’s husband I have.  I’m attaching the links to both videos.  The first one I thought was a little easier to understand, but the second one has a better visual, so if you’re interested you might want to watch both of them.  The second one, I just moved the bar past the goofiness until they actually started showing the technique.  They are both about a minute or so long.

So on Tuesday, we went outside and I made my oval on freezer paper, which I ironed to the back of the peacock design I wanted to use, and then used my usual applique technique to finish the edges, and by the time I left for retreat on Thursday, I had a little over a third of it hand stitched onto the gold background.  I figured, how long could it possibly take to throw a few borders on it, so I packed 4 other projects that I wanted to try to get done.  Evidently it takes a long time to put 9 borders on when 3 of them are pieced borders and two of them are mitered, because I finally finished getting border number 7 on just in time to pack up and head home on Sunday afternoon.  I never even touched my other projects.  And I wasn’t goofing off, but hardly left my work area to check in with what others were doing.  But when you think about it, with 3 pieced borders, I probably made enough pieces to make up a twin sized quilt.  And the pieced borders created another issue.  Since my center medallion was larger than the pattern, when I made the pieces for the borders to the pattern specifications they didn’t fit perfectly.  So my friends Holly and Debby came to the rescue and helped me figure out how to position coping strips to make the borders look good.  I especially love that Debby came up with the idea on the 7th border to use Deb Tucker’s “Corner Beam” ruler to make the corner pieces in that border along with coping strips to make them fit perfectly.  I think it adds an unexpected element, but turns the corners nicely yet doesn’t draw too much attention to themselves.  I also want to thank Holly for the refresher course on how to do the mitered borders.

Saturday night, we had a show & tell.  I had two of the border #7 s on the quilt and it was hanging on the design wall in the main workroom where I was assigned.  There was another small group of quilters in a more remote building who brought their projects down to the dining room next to my workroom for show and tell.  Just as we were finishing up show and tell, the fire alarm went off and we smelled something like toast burning.  Against all rules that you hear about from fire marshals, I ran into the workroom and grabbed my peacock off the wall and the box with the rest of the fabric in it and slept with it in my room that night.  As it turns out a member of the staff was cooking a tortilla over an open flame and it caught fire, so it was much ado about nothing, but I was NOT going to let all my hard work go up in flames.  Don’t try this at home.  Okay, I’m a bad, bad girl.

Even though I didn’t get my other projects done, I had a great time with a great bunch of ladies.  If you’ve always been afraid to try an oval, I encourage you to watch the videos and give it a try.  The worse thing that can happen is you mess up a few pieces of paper.  I am simply terrible at math, and had to do the oval twice because the first one I made didn’t turn out big enough.  It’s worth the time and trouble when you get great results.  I’m glad I didn’t cut up the peacock fabric into a one block wonder as I was tempted to do several times over the years.

Happy Quilting.

Easy Pineapple Block with no Paper Piecing

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As promised, I’m sharing what I learned in a recent class on making Pineapple blocks without the dreaded paper piecing.  The dimensions used in the class make a 14 inch block.

To make the feathered portions, you will need to first make four Triangle-in-a-Square or V-blocks using your favorite method, either the Tri-Recs rulers or Deb Tucker’s V-block Trimmer.  These should be squared up to 6 inches.  After they are squared, place the V towards your left on the cutting mat.

006 Cut this piece in half as shown so that you end up with two 3 inch pieces

 

007 Cut each half into half again so that you end up with four 1 1/2 inch pieces

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To make the feather, flip each of the pieces 180 degrees.  I used pieces that I had already cut from other V-block units because I am going for a scrappy look.  The top of the photo shows the cut pieces before they are flipped and the bottom of the photo shows the pieces after they are flipped.009 Sew the four pieces together, being careful to not make the mistake I made several times of sewing the wrong two edges together.  You will end up with four feather units like in the photo below.010 Next, you will want to make your centers, which are just quarter square triangles.  Make two half-square triangle units using four different fabrics (if you are going for a scrappy look).  Square up the HSTs to 6 1/2 inches, then cut them in half diagonally.004Using one piece from each of the HSTs, sew them together making a 6 inch quarter square triangle. 005 Now all you need is four 4 1/2 inch squares to complete your block.011 If you like you can use a 6 inch square of feature fabric in the center instead of the quarter square triangle or just one piece of coordinating fabric, which makes this block even more simple. 012 Some of the quilters in the class used a limited palette of colors.  For instance, one used teals and grays, and her quilt promised to be stunning.  I hope you have fun trying out this easy method.  If you are intimated by the idea of making a V-block or don’t know how to do it, I recommend you go to Deb Tucker’s website at this link: http://www.studio180design.net/videos/?id=5 and watch her video on the tool that she developed.  I used to be intimated too, but found her tool extremely easy to use, and now I make V-blocks (or triangle-in-a-square) like a pro.  Just so you know, I am in no way affliated with Deb Tucker nor do I receive any compensation of any type for talking about her products.  I just happen to really like them and want to help make challenging units easier for my loyal readers.

1280 Half square triangles on the mat…

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…put one down, square it up 1279 half square triangles on the mat.  My apologies to those of you who like 199 bottles of beer on the wall, but I think I’m going to need 199 bottles of beer to finish this quilt.  I had promised myself last year when I made another quilt that needed a huge number of HSTs that I was done with HSTs for all time, but then I fell in love with the quilt that I posted about in “After a forced hiatus…”  So here I have been for the last two weeks diligently making half square triangles.  Each block in the quilt calls for 20 HSTs, and I’m making a queen-sized quilt.  So far I have half of them actually made, but half of those are waiting to be squared up…the most tedious part of the whole thing.

But do let me share with you one nifty shortcut that I discovered some time back to make things go faster.  Instead of marking the stitch lines on the HST, I use the Angler 2 guide.  Following the directions for positioning the guide on my machine, which is easy, I tape it down with painter’s tape, and I mark a corner of it with blue painter’s tape because I have to take the guide off every time I change the bobbin.  You just line up the left “shoulder” of your square with the dotted line, the right “shoulder” with the line on the right, and the bottom point with the 1/4 inch line on the bottom and sew away.

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Then you just flip your piece around 180 degrees and do the second line of stitching.  What a timesaver!  I do a lot of multiiple HSTs using larger squares (refer to the March 6 post entitled Lazy Quilter’s Quick Half Square Triangle Method for how to do this), and the squares tend to hang off the end of the machine so that you can’t line the point up with the 1/4 inch line on the guide.  I solved that problem by putting yet another piece of painter’s tape on the appropriate spot, although I’ve found if you have your two “shoulders” lined up properly, the point is going to end up in the right place, but the tape is a helpful guide to make sure you stay on target once you start sewing.

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One caveat regarding the Angler 2 and its availability.  I heard last year that the woman who created it was tragically killed and her children did not wish to continue with the production and sale of the item, so they may be very hard to get ahold of.  So if you think you’d like to try it and you find one available, you should grab it while you can.

I’d like to say this will be my last quilt with so many HSTs in it, but I’m not making any more promises to myself.  These are just such versatile little shapes that I just know I won’t be able to help myself.

Learning about color and other random thoughts

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I took a class on Tuesday at my local quilt guild taught by a wonderful fabric/pattern designer named Nancy Rink. She taught us how to use Joen Wolfrom’s 3-in-One Color Tool. Since I am the Queen of Quilting Gadgets, of course I happened to have one in my tool inventory, purchased when I was a brand new quilter, but I had really never even looked at it closely. I was surprised early on that I was blessed with a pretty good sense of color, so it just gathered dust in my cupboard, but I reasoned that we can all learn to improve our skills.  I’m really glad that I decided to take the class, because I learned a lot about color that I only understood in my “gut”, but now understand why things work the way they do together.  We were instructed to bring a black or other neutral background fabric, a focus fabric, and a variety of tone-on-tone or solids, a design wall, and a camera, but not our sewing machines!

Using the tool, Nancy taught us how to use the color wheel, and the individual cards to make different blocks, all of which had the neutral background and at least one piece of the focus fabric.  Here is how mine came out.

The first one is Monochromatic, using our focus fabric, and picking from the card that our focus fabric was found on, pick other fabrics that were on that card.  This was really fun because we all were free to dig through everyone else’s fabric to find just the right thing.  (She had told us to expect to share in advance.)  My focus fabric is the medium green surrounding the center.

003Block 2 is Complementary, which is the focus fabric and the color directly across the color wheel, using lights and darks of either of the two colors.

004Block 3 is Analogous Counter-clockwise, moving counter-clockwise from the focus fabric, using 3-5 of the adjacent colors without skipping any of the colors.

005Block 4, Analogous Clockwise, using the focus fabric, moving clockwise around the color wheel, using the next 3 to 5 colors without skipping any.

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Block 5, Split complementary, starting with the focus fabric, go to the complementary fabric and then add at least two colors next to the complementary fabric.
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Block 6, Triad, starting again with the focus fabric, pick the two other colors that are equally spaced around the color wheel, and make one of the three colors your dominant color.
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Block 7, Tetrad, which is four colors equidistant around the color wheel, one of which is your focus fabric.
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Block 8, Polychromatic, which of course just means many colors, so including my focus fabric, I put in as many of the other colors I had already selected into the block as I found appealing.
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The class was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.  It was interesting how each block looks different, but still plays nicely with the others.  The one I struggled with the most is the Triad because of the orange-red that was called for, but now that I look at the photos, it does work.  I probably will use the pieces in a scrap quilt I’m working on and won’t sew these blocks together into a quilt like was intended.  But when I’m struggling with picking just the right border or sashing or third color to bring into a quilt in the future, I have another great tool to help guide me along the way.
I’ve also been away from blogging for so long because I have a foot injury, and have spent much of my time going from the podiatrist, to getting tests, back to podiatrist, more tests, and on and on.  Keep in mind, the closest town to where we live is 30 miles one way, so every trip in is a least two hours.  Then I came down with the stomach flu and spent two days on the couch with trips only to the bathroom or the bedroom to lay on the bed. This is my second day of not having to lay down most of the day. You know how sick I was because I didn’t even walk into my sewing room from the time I dropped my stuff off from class on Tuesday, until yesterday afternoon when my quilting buddy came to sew. I managed to then sit in a chair all afternoon and ripped out four log cabin blocks that I was unhappy with. That’s absolutely pitiful for me, usually spending a least three hours a day working on a quilting project.  I can hardly wait to get my energy back.

“Name This Quilt” Contest

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This is my latest “nearly finished” project (just one side of the binding left to be handsewn) which I started about a year and a half ago. It is done in a “Radiant Star” pattern by Eleanor Burns which I started in a class at a local quilt shop. It has become my most favorite quilt that I have ever made, replacing even a one-block wonder made several years ago which is now a close second. I love to name my quilts, but can’t decide on what I should call this one, so I thought I would encourage feedback from readers of this blog. The prize for the winning entry is a still-in-the-package “Splash” rotary cutter by Olfa. If you’re not familiar with this type of cutter, the blade is changed with just a flick of the thumb…no more struggling with trying to figure out which way to put the parts back together. A real time and frustration saver.
The rules for the contest are simple. Just post your name for this quilt in the reply section of this blog on or before June 1st, 2015. The winner will be chosen purely subjectively by me, oneblockwonderwoman. A hint, I love humorous names and plays on words. For instance, I once named a flowery strip quilt that I made for a great-niece “Rows Garden” because the name just made me laugh. I like more serious names as well that really fit the quilt. You may enter more than one name. And that’s all there is to it. Time permitting, I will post the winning name the week of June 1st and get your rotary cutter off in the mail as soon as I get a mailing address from the winner.
I’m looking forward to seeing all of the creativity I know quilters possess. Thank you in advance for participating, and feel free to share this contest with your fellow quilters.

Adventures in Quilting Using Tracing Paper

On the blog from https://stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com a couple of weeks ago, I read about a technique for quilting a complicated design onto a quilt top using tracing paper, so I thought I would try it on the Radiant Star quilt that’s on my longarm machine at the moment because the large background squares and triangles just cried out for something special. So I meticulously adjusted the pattern I wanted to use to fit the background areas and traced them onto a separate piece of tracing paper for each section. Here’s a photo of the first triangle section that I stitched. By the way, you’re supposed to just stitch right through the paper.
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So I traced one square and one triangle, using an ink pen, stitched them, and went to trace the rest. But I thought perhaps it might be a better idea to use pencil so that ink didn’t bleed through onto the light background squares. I traced the rest of the pieces in pencil. That was a big mistake. I’m not sure how well one can see in these next two photographs, but the pencil lead transferred to the light thread I had so carefully picked out to match the background (it is variegated thread) and gave the thread a grayish tint.
The first photo is traced with ink and the second is traced with pencil.
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Sadly, I didn’t notice this problem until I only had the last triangle to stitch, and I’m not going to spend the time it would take to tear out all that stitching to redo it, plus the star medallion in the middle is all finished, so that would mean I would have to reload the quilt. What a pain! So I guess I’m just going to have to live with grayish looking thread on most of the background area. It’s a good thing that my quilts will never be in a judged quilt show.

The other thing I learned using this technique is to make sure any of the tracing paper that is used only overlaps the minimum amount absolutely necessary because otherwise it’s a lot more work to tear off two layers in that doubled section. When tearing off the paper, I learned to just rip the part that was outside the stitching area off as aggressively as you can, then start at a spot where there is a loose edge, lifting gently with a fingernail all along the loose edge, then pick up that edge and tear towards and along the stitching. Continue this way till it’s done. It’s a lot faster in the long run and leaves fewer little bits that need to be picked out with tweezers. It took me three times as long to pull off the paper than it did to do the lining up and stitching. I don’t know if I’ll try this technique again because it seems easier for most things to just use the laser light I have on the back of my long-arm to follow along the pattern from the back of the machine. But for those of you using a domestic machine for quilting, this technique might be worth a try.

Lazy Quilter’s Quick Half Square Triangle Method

This post is inspired by a post by my sister-in-law, https://stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com/ in which she was kvetching about making large numbers of half square triangles. I’m sure a lot of people use this same method, so I’m certainly not claiming any credit for it, but just trying to be helpful. Using this method, you can make 8 identical HST at one time, only having to draw two lines.
Let’s get started. Let’s say you want to make HSTs that are squared up to 2 1/2 inches (2 inch finished piece). Cut a 7 inch piece of each of your two fabrics, marking the lighter of the two on the wrong side as illustrated in this first photo 1/4 inch from each side of the center, corner to corner:
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Stack the two pieces of fabric, right sides together, and sew along the lines. I always like to press at this point to flatten things out after stitching.
Next, I like to place my sewn piece on my spinning mat. Cut the fabric in half from top to bottom as shown in this photo:
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This is where the spinning mat comes in handy because you don’t have to move the fabric. Spin the mat so that the first cut is going side to side and cut the fabric in half again from top to bottom (or side to side if you don’t have a spinning mat). You will end up with pieces that look like this:
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Then spin your mat or move your ruler and cut between two of the lines of the stitching (just like you normally do when making 2 HSTs).
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Spin the mat (or move ruler) one last time and cut between the two lines of stitching that remain uncut.
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Voila! You have 8 HSTs. I like to square up the pieces using Eleanor Burn’s Quilt-in-a-day HST square up ruler. Just place the HST on your mat, before it is ironed open. In this case, because we’re squaring up to 2 1/2 inches, place the 2 1/2 inch line on the stitch line with the point more or less in line with the point on the HST, trim both sides that are beyond the ruler, and they always come out perfectly.
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If you want to make larger HSTs, for each 1/2 inch larger, add 1 inch to the initial size of the square you cut. So for a 3 inch squared up HST, cut your fabric 8 inches square. To make smaller HSTs, subtract 1 inch for every 1/2 inch smaller. So for a 2 inch squared up HST, cut your fabric 6 inches.
Hope this helps at least someone out there. Happy Quilting!

How I celebrated my birthday

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Well, it all relates to quilting of course! I recently joined a group of fellow One Block Wonder fanatics on Facebook. Not being terribly tech saavy, I decided to post some still shots and a description of how I am able to quickly chain piece the hundreds of triangles needed in a OBW without getting any of the pieces scrambled. Of course a picture is worth a thousand words, and my instructions were unclear to many of the quilters, so they requested I do a video. So first thing this morning, I asked my incredible hubby to film my technique. This meant he had to put off leaving for his fishing trip to a local lake (he’s as obsessed with fishing as I am with quilting) for about ten or fifteen minutes, but he did it. Much to my horror, I realized at the very end that he had focused on my face, which I’d asked him not to do. Who is that fat old woman? The camera must have added 20 years as well as 50 pounds to me! But I don’t have the ability or time to figure out how to edit the video, so I decided to instead just grimace and bear it. It only took another two hours to figure out how to post a video on YouTube, since I had evidently at sometime in the ancient past created a YouTube account with my current email address and have no idea of the password. So I tried another email account that I had created a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t sign onto that one either, resulting in signing up for a third email account. That finally worked, and the video successfully uploaded. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Here is a link in case anyone is interested in either checking out this chain piecing technique or just laughing at that fat old woman at the end of the video.

With all the morning now gone, I buckled down and got the finished blocks for the raffle quilt mentioned in the last post placed on the design wall in a potential design that still needs a bit more tweaking.
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Then I got the borders on a Double Wedding Ring quilt that I made several months ago and that remains on my UFO list.
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So, it’s been a wonderful day. And the incredible husband, who was supposed to be back from fishing and hour ago, is going to take me to dinner.