Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Home Stretch

Here's what's under the needle today:

Yup, I'm on the home stretch of the Big Quilt. It will take a bit of time yet because after I finish sewing the binding on, I have over 470 inches of handwork to do to stitch it to the back. I would have had it sewed on by now, but yesterday I was stuck in indecisiveness about what color to use for the binding. I had the pale gray that you see here, a bluish gray, a print and this Kona Celestial, which is much richer and more teal than you see here. (I also had bits of the rest of the colors in the quilt and could have made a really tedious binding that matched up with patches along the edges, but the angles boggled my mind.) Right from the start, I had been planning to use the Celestial, but I had enough of the other fabrics to consider them as well. I ruled out the pale gray and the print (the backing) right away, but couldn't decide between the blue gray and the blue. My husband liked the blue. He was a little hurt that I didn't immediately take his advice, but I had to also consult with a quilty pal. Bernie liked the blue, too. It's bold and contains the quilt design nicely. The blue gray would have let the design sort of run off the quilt (interesting), but it was just kind of blah and maybe prone to dinginess. Also, the backing has the blue in it but not the gray. So Celestial it is. You'll have to wait until it's all done to see how it looks on the quilt. 

In the meantime, we had some fun this morning taking our first bicycle ride of the year. We couldn't go far because the snow melt and some rain has flooded part of the trail that we take toward town, but it's good to start a little slow after sitting around for the last three months. Last time we rode was Christmas day, which was awesome because we sure don't usually get to ride during December. 
Water under the highway bridge and about 1 1/2 feet over the trail.
No green leaves or flowers yet, but they're definitely on the way.

I'm making some headway on the closet clean-up. I set aside some old books, yarn, and even a stack of magazines (ones I had bought on vacations just to browse--I had never used them for patterns or specific inspiration). I also bundled up some old work clothes (another closet). Let's face it: I'm never going to wear suits or jackets again. I wasn't even wearing them the last years I worked. I was saving them for I don't know what, so out they go. What a relief! We did a little antique browsing on the way to and from our daughter's house during the holiday weekend, and here's a sobering collection I found along the way:

It looks uncannily like my closet, doesn't it? It looks like either someone else decided to do the great cleanout--or her descendants did. The shelf next to this one has a bunch of patterns, homemade templates and handwritten plans all organized in plastic bags. I'm really hoping this quilter is still around and just decided to lighten up. But look: Those big boxes of magazines are $20 a lot. Not worth much. I don't know how much the binders cost. In a moment of weakness, I considered buying the two Quilter's Newsletter binders so that whatever magazines I end up keeping would be in similar looking binders. But I restrained myself. I don't need to sort out someone else's collection, too. 

A little ways from this sad collection, was this cabinet:

I really hope those quilts didn't belong to the quilter who owned the magazines. They should have stayed with family or friends. It is a good thing our car wasn't big enough though, or that cabinet might have gone home with me, and I really don't need it. Back home, I decided to have another go at reducing my magazine collection. I checked my most recent magazines and recalled that I can get digital versions online for the last three years. So I can get rid of them. Then I plan to go backwards through time to weed out the rest of the collection. I think I'll have more success getting rid of more recent magazines than those first few years where I was really relying on them to learn how to quilt. 

Okay, time to get back to the binding, which is sitting in the machine just the way you see it in the first picture. 

I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts. The button is on the right. 

Have a good week! I hope your week brings you close to putting the binding on something.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lightening Up

It all started when we painted our bedroom. I had an inexplicable urge to clean up, throw out and reorganize. Well, I suppose it could be spring cleaning, but I really hate to use that term. For years I was a devotee of a website that sent me emails telling me what to clean every day. (I still get the emails). The whole idea was that I'd never need to do a major cleaning job again because everything would stay clean and beautiful and organized. And it really did work fairly well (or well enough) when I was working at my career. But when I retired, a strange thing happened. I had time to clean things up, but no commitment. I wanted to do all the other things I had missed out on when I was working. Like quilting. And quilting. And quilting.

But this week, I have been purging and cleaning. I've only made a small dent in it all--my dresser drawers are neat, but that wasn't such a satisfying job because I'm the only one who looks in them anyway. BUT, here's something I can share with you. I'VE STARTED ON MY SEWING STUFF!!! I know, I know. Everyone else started that in January when they made their resolutions. (Have you followed through??) But I don't make resolutions. So here I am mid-March starting on a daunting task. And just so I have something to brag about when I'm done (and to keep me accountable to actually completing it) here is my sewing closet. 

And this is after I weeded out some paper mess yesterday. The closet is a mish-mash of reject bookcases and chests. The blue contact paper covered one was my brother's when he was little, then it was passed to me and was my "pantry" when I was in grad school and then it went to my son, whose room was red, white and blue, hence the blue contact paper. How do you like that sponge painted chest? That was my daughter's. We got it at a thrift store and brightened it up.  What you can't see is an ironing board to the left with a bunch of tote bags (full of fabric) and rulers wedged in. Yuck. All those totes to the right are filled with my old dolls and my daughter's dolls and stuffed animals. And up top are some containers of baby clothing I couldn't part with (but would never fly with modern babies). In the half that you can't see of the bookcase on the left are more bins with fabric scraps, and more books and magazines. (The bulk of my fabric is in dresser drawers in another part of the room.) But I digress. See how hard it is for me to stick to the job? I can't even talk about cleaning up without going down Memory Lane.

I have good intentions of getting rid of some things. I woke up in the middle of the night a few nights ago and decided that I didn't need to keep all of the quilting magazines I've kept for years. They are in all the binders you see at the bottom of the bookcase as well as the bookcase you can only partially see. My goal was to page through them and just keep the ones that had held inspiration for quilts I made or had articles about quilters I really admired. The next morning I sat down and started paging. And you know what? I just couldn't do it. I couldn't throw out any of the magazines. They are full of history and are still inspiring. I know a lot of this is available on CDs or online now, but it's so easy to just pull these off the shelf and page through. I'm holding on a bit longer. (My kids have permission to just pitch them when I'm gone.) I think what really bothers me is that they are in all sorts of mismatched binders, also rejects. You know--the ones you get at conferences and workshops. So they're not attractive. We'll see what I can do about that as I continue on my cleaning spree. 

There's another area of the room that needs help, too. Another bookcase. It holds old favorite books and a bunch of leftovers of my Birdhouse Period. More nostalgia. My daughter and I painted a lot of those. But it's time for something different or at least something less. I'm trying to look at the house with fresh eyes, as if I've been away for a very long time. So much stuff just becomes background noise, and I want to pay attention to what's actually on my shelves again. So, to keep myself accountable, here's that bookcase:

It looks extra mussy because I have my treadle set up in front of it right now. But that won't be for much longer, because (I need to shout this) THE BIG QUILT IS ALMOST DONE. Yes, you heard me. I'm on the last block Yippee!!  This is all that's left:

In the meantime, I'm going to pick away at pitching and reorganizing, and if it works out, maybe beautifying my closet. Then I'll be able to start anew with all the other projects that are renting space in my mind these days. 

I'm linking up this week (bravely, because it's hard to expose my mess) with Sew Fresh Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict and My Quilt Infatuation because if you've read all the way to the end of this post, you will see it's a bit about quilting--and I know you can relate to the clean-up problem. Buttons are on the right. 

Have a beautiful weekend, and if you celebrate Easter, a lovely holiday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Progress...and a Store-bought Quilt

I've been working like crazy on the Big Quilt this week. I've decided that I need to get this quilt done before the weather turns warm, and I'm happy to say that I've finished all but two corners. They're big corners (40 inches square each) but should go relatively fast. I've already quilted parts of them, and I won't have to wrestle the quilt as much because there will be very little quilt in the harp space of my machine. Also, I'd like to think I'm getting faster at machine quilting.  Of course, my most important reason for finishing (aside from the fact that it's now a very much overdue gift for my son and daughter-in-law) is that a year is plenty long to have been blogging about my slow progress. 

Here's what I got done in the last few days:

And a little closer:

So anyway, I'm getting there. 

In other news, our bedroom painting project is finished. It is now green instead of off-white--a huge difference for us, but we like it. The whole look is more vintage-y than what I was first aiming for, but this color looked best with our carpet, wood trim, and antique furniture, and it will work well with lots of colors in further decorating. 

If you remember, I blogged awhile back about needing to replace our bedspread as it was literally fading away. Now that our walls are green, I decided to (GASP) buy a quilt in off-white. Then, to add some color without committing a year (or 13) to making a quilt, I plan to make bed runners as the whim hits me (I'll call them quilting practice quilts.) So here's what part of the room looks like now:

The carpet is actually forest green, not gray. It never photographs well. I put the throw quilt from the family room at the end of the bed to add a bit of color for the picture. For future bed runners, I hope to explore some more modern designs and colors. I'm also planning to make some different window treatments--something lighter than the old valances. But they'll do for now. 

About the store-bought quilt. I got it on sale at a big box store. It's not bad for store-bought, but it's not big enough to be a bedspread, so I'm using the bed skirt I used with our old quilt. The size is really odd--118 inches by 102. There's a ton of quilt tucked under our pile of pillows. It would probably fit perfectly if I put it long-way across the bed, but the scallop edge only goes around three sides, so that doesn't work. Maybe once it's washed the size will be a bit less cumbersome. It must be difficult to determine what size commercially made quilts should be nowadays with all the variations in the sizes of mattresses. I had looked at coverlets, but they were way too small for our bed. The quality of the quilting is okay--definitely done by computerized machine. There are some thread ends here and there, but I've come to expect that with big box store merchandise. The border quilting is a little sparse for my tastes; maybe I'll add lines between the lines that are there. 

Here's a close-up of the main quilting:

But here's the thing: a part of me feels really guilty as a quilter having a store-bought quilt as the covering for my bed. I do have several other commercially made quilts that we use as blankets. I bought them several years ago. They are densely quilted and well made, and because they are cotton, there's no static or itchiness that comes with polyester blankets. I don't feel bad about having bought them--maybe because I call them blankets. But buying the covering for my bed just doesn't feel right somehow. I probably need to get over that. Maybe when I make some bed runners, I'll feel better. But I'm curious. How do you feel as a quilter? Do you have a commercially made bed covering? Does it bother you if you do?

Well, now it's time to get back to quilting. Or blog reading. Or looking out the window at the silly Mallard couple who are house hunting by the unused tarp-covered pool next door. They are pretty sure that the snow-melt water on the tarp is the perfect private pond for them. There are two or three perfectly fine lakes a few blocks away. I don't know what they're thinking. 

I'm linking up today with Sew Fresh Quilts. Have fun quilting, whether your progress is fast or slow. And I won't hold it against you if you bought your bed quilt. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Signs of Spring

This week we are guests in our own home. We are (slowly) painting our bedroom, and it's easier to just move into the guest room than try to sleep in the midst of chaos as we move furniture back and forth. We picked a great week for painting. The temperatures reached 70F today, so the windows were open and we could hear the birds singing for the first time in months. Spring fever, for sure! (The downside is that the quality of light is fantastic which means I can see all of the dust from the winter EVERYWHERE, so this is also turning into a major spring cleaning.) We're half done--maybe a little more considering we've got the two more difficult walls (lots of trim and a little alcove) done. Here's how it looks so far:

Paint paraphernalia 
Still life? What an assortment of stuff on the dresser--vases, lotion, paper towel, dust rag, my husband's Carlton Fisk statue. You know how it is when you're painting.

One more quick picture:

Maybe this is a little closer to the true color. I spent a lot of time trying to find a green that was neither too yellow nor too blue and that looked good with our light trim and dark furniture. I think I did pretty well. What sold me on it was a picture of it on one of those websites where you could see it in a virtual room. On the bed were pillows in light turquoise, yellowish green and salmon. Delicious. And now I have a color scheme for a bed runner. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I still have some other quilts to finish first. I did do a tiny bit of quilt work this week. 
If you look closely, you can see three bits of dry sand I added between the wet sand and the beginnings of the dunes. Hey, it took longer than it looks--there was some seam ripping involved. 

I also worked a bit on this pile of quilt:

That's all I could manage. After all, our guest room  my sewing room is in use at the moment.

(By the way, does anyone have any ideas for what to do with left over thread cones? 

I'm going through a lot of thread. I used one to wind some binding that was waiting for a quilt, but what else might I do besides recycle them?)

I got so pumped up for spring today that I did take the little decorative snowman sign out of our yard (the two big snows of the last two weeks miraculously disappeared overnight so the snowman just had to go), and I replaced the little winter quilt on the front door with another one I found in a closet. It used to be in our half-bath--matched the Susan Winget wallpaper border (quilts on a clothesline).. 

I also took down my Poinsettia wall hanging and put up this one:
Sorry, crooked picture--I'll blame it on spring fever.
I know, technically it's a snowball quilt, but it IS in spring colors. And there are flowers in the quilting.

After we finish painting this week, I'm going to concentrate on the Big Quilt and the Lake Michigan Quilt. Then I'll work on something for the bedroom, and if that's not incentive to finish the other projects, I don't know what is. 

I'm linking up with Freemotion by the River, Sew Fresh Quilts and My Quilt Infatuation this week for their linky parties. Buttons are on the right. 

Have a great week, and I hope that you are enjoying whatever the seasonal changes are where you're living.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Throwback Thursday: A Wedding Quilt

These first Thursdays really come around fast don't they? On this cold, snowy day, I'm thinking it might be fun to look back just a little bit to October 2012 and a quilt with a sunny, warm weather theme I made as a wedding present for my niece and her new husband.  

I had no idea of what kind of decor the couple would end up with. They were on the move quite frequently finishing up their schooling. But I knew they'd be in California for awhile. I also knew I wanted to make something "modern," which to me at the time meant lots of white negative space and maybe some wonky blocks. I looked through pictures on Pinterest, and a pillow popped up that attracted my attention. I think it had originally been on an Etsy site that is now closed. Anyway, the designer was Neressa Bennett, and you can see the pillow on this website

I immediately liked the color scheme, and it fit my idea of modern, but I decided to add lime and coral to the teal and yellow. I was going for a beachy (California?) feel. I got to work making lots of wonky square-in-a-square blocks. It was a real challenge for a planner and measurer like me to make sure that my blocks were actually wonky. But I enjoyed it. 

I had shamelessly copied someone else's idea, but I figured that was okay because it was a gift within the family. However, I wanted to add a little something extra of my own that would also make it personal for my niece and nephew. At the time, they were both surfers, so as a symbol of their interest and their beginning marriage I designed a little block with two surf boards in the sand. Here's the pattern I made:

I think I used a combination of foundation paper piecing and freezer paper piecing to construct the block. Those curved seams were a real pain, but I was determined stubborn, and persisted in sewing them together even though in hindsight, applique would have been a much better choice. I also fussy-cut the water at the shore line to kind of resemble waves. 

That corner looks wonkier here than it really was. I think.
I was still a hand quilter when I made the quilt. I liked the way the pillow had been quilted, so I pretty much copied the style and kept the quilting minimal. Here's the back:

Judging from the size of the surfboard block (4 1/2 inches finished before adding a little background edge), I'm guessing that the blocks were about 5 inches and the quilt measured about  31 by 41 inches overall. 

I've forgotten what the colorful fabrics are but I'm pretty sure the background is Kona snow. The batting is probably Cream Rose cotton by Mountain Mist.

My niece no longer surfs, but she still likes the beach; she's a rower now. And her sister is getting married this summer. Time to think about another wedding quilt. 

And Neressa, I don't know if you are still out there in Quilt Land, but if you are, or even if you aren't, thanks for the inspiration when I was just beginning to try "modern."

I'm linking up today with Jenn at A Quarter Inch from the Edge for Throwback Thursday. What are you sharing for Throwback Thursday?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday Randoms

Having just finished a project, I'm getting back into other things, so I have some randoms to share today.

First some cool pictures. We recently took a trip from Chicago to Colorado by train--my favorite way to travel. I didn't take any pictures on the train (much of our travel was during the night), but I have some indelible images in my mind of two breathtaking sunrises--one against the mountains turning the snow pink and a neon orange and gold one over the plains on the way home--and a nighttime view of the landscape in the plains illuminated by a full moon. I did take some pictures at Union Station in Denver while we were waiting for our return trip. The station was restored a few years ago. The lobby, surrounded by restaurants and hotel rooms, is a delightful place to while away an afternoon; my husband found access to the hotel's Wi-Fi and I was content to quilt. 

Here's the station's exterior. (I was too close to get the whole thing in one picture, so imagine these three stacked as one): 

Lots of quilty inspiration here!! And here's the inside:

Delightful! (No other word for it.) It's hard to get good pictures in such an open space. There were little seating areas all around (I should have got pictures of them), but I just wanted to keep looking up at all of the beautiful moldings and light fixtures. 

When I packed for the trip, one of my top priorities was leaving room in my luggage for a small quilt and a collapsible PVC quilt frame so I could do some hand quilting on the train and in our hotel during the evenings.) So here's what I was working on:

Most of my quilting on the background of this quilt is from the back. It's stippling and doesn't really show on the front, so it's much easier to do it from the back where I can see what I'm doing. 

Oh, and while we were on our trip, I got an email from Hawthorne Threads letting me know that I had won a bundle of fabric!! Yea! I have been entering their giveaways for a long time, but this was my first win. By the time I got home, my package had arrived.

Here's my bundle:

Paperie by Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery Fabrics. Silky smooth and delicious! They also sent me three of their digital fabric sample strips (Roam, Forest Fables and Norwegian Wood):

Aren't they great?! I don't think it will be long before they find their way into some special quilts. 

So this week, I'm back working on other projects that are waiting for a finish. Our weather's the same as it was last week. Schools were off yesterday and again today. I didn't take any pictures this time. Just look at my ones from last week. They look the same. The weird thing, though, is that between last week's post and this week's, the snow melted almost completely. (Actually, that's kind of typical for this time of year.) Perfect weather for quilting. And painting. After  days weeks months  years of dithering about paint colors for our bedroom, I finally picked one (and even bought the paint). I forced the issue by painting splotches on the walls to audition them. Good plan, don't you think? So sometime in the next few days there will be more painting than quilting. 

In the meantime, I added some beach bits to my Lake Michigan quilt.

It's a slow process. I think I need to add a little "dry" sand between the wet sand and the dune. (Seam ripper time, but that's okay)

Have a great week. And if you've never taken a train trip before, do consider it. If you're in the US, it's a great way to see America's backyard and to get some perspective of the vastness of our country. There are lots of little stories I could tell you about the microcosm of a coach car, but you just have to experience it for yourself. (And don't forget to take a little quilt project with for some slow stitching.)

I'm linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts today for Let's Bee Social.