Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Heat + Humidity = Hibernation

At least for me it does!

This week I should get a lot accomplished as it's hot and humid here in Illinois. I'm not an outdoor girl as most of the things I enjoy and most of the things I need to do are all inside activities.

While I enjoy sitting outside while my little one plays on occasion (usually someone else is out and able to keep an eye on her) what I really enjoy is open window weather...where I can feel the breeze, smell the fresh air, and still accomplish what I'd like to for the day.

Today, though, is not that. Heat and humidity are settling in for a stay and for me that means easy meals and lots of quilting.

I feel like a broken record sometimes as it seems none of my projects are quick ones so I talk about the same ones for a long time. The strip project is coming along now and I'll be working on those blocks some more today. I'm far enough along on them now that I can pin on both sides without it causing difficulties for me. With the longest seams sewn and a rhythm going on how to work these blocks, they should be finished before too long. I may have to make myself set a timer for a while to work on them, though, because the frame quilt is calling me.

I'm to the point on the frame quilt where I can hardly stand to work on anything else. With this one closing in on removal from the frame (the outer row of blocks will need to be finished in a hoop) I can taste the finish line. I try to have one basted and ready to go on the frame as soon as one comes off, so basting the next quilt is also on the agenda for sometime in the next couple of days.

Aside from a quick practice tonight and errands on Thursday, my days are wide open from now until Saturday night, when we hope to get together with friends. This should give me some serious quilting time, unless I get enticed too much by the computer...which is a big danger for me as it's nearly as addicting as quilting!

Happy Stitching, everyone (and happy 'bagging' Bren!)

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Virtual Tour

of my sewing room. I've had a couple of comments on the pictures of my sewing room so I thought I'd show a more detailed look. I tried to go around the room and 'connect the dots' so to speak, I wish there was a way to see it as a whole! Unfortunately it is still more cluttered than I'd like and pictures seem to make it look worse. I am always trying to come up with improvements that will reduce the clutter and organize it even more, but space is an issue. It's one of the reasons I've been focusing on scrap quilts and using my stash....to clear out some space to contain other items.

Here is the view of one wall. We have a cathedral ceiling in this area so it is a high wall. I hang quilts and pictures here.

The cabinet below with the quilt on it has storage, which right now contains some paperwork, etc, that belongs to my husband. He has once again started stacking things on top (this used to
be a pile of magazines and junk mail...it drove me crazy!) but usually when we have company over he clears it off and it stays clear for a bit before he starts in again with the convenience of putting things there when he comes in the door.

Someday I hope to get him to clear the bottom section out as it would be a perfect place to store bolts of fabric, packages of batting and large stencils. For now, I'm glad that for the most part he keeps his stuff downstairs in the little office area I made for him!

Moving clockwise around the room, this is the 2nd wall. It faces our front yard, so has a nice window, you can just see the door on the left. My ironing board stays there most of the time, when we have company I take it down and the dresser in that space has knick knacks and candles on top so it's decorative as well as functional. The small view is a better look at the lower part of that wall. I keep basted quilts in the bottom drawers, along with my stencils and a few other larger things. The small drawers are actually a bit of a catch all at the moment, though soon I'll be going through those to weed out and organize.

Continuing around clockwise, this is the longest wall in the room. It measures about 13 feet and the upper shelf goes all the way across the room. The cabinet to the left holds thread, it was the leg of a very interesting sewing machine cabinet that was mounting on the wall when this room was still used as a living room.

You can see some of my storage boxes and baskets and my combination pressing surface and design wall. It took two pictures to get a good view of this wall, you can see the continuation as
the pressing surface is all the way on the left of this next picture. You can see that I have a lot of storage! The area by the painted boxes is my cutting area, there is a better picture of that next. Ideally I'd like to replace a lot of the miscellaneous storage up top with more of the plastic boxes, but can't afford the expense right now...and really some things don't fit well into those boxes. I mull this over often, trying to come up with a way to neaten up this area. In the meantime, I know where everything is and it's all easily accessible. Here is a better view of the

cutting area, one of my favorite spots in the room. I try to keep this area open so I can easily cut when needed. The only thing that's difficult in this area is cutting large cuts of fabric as I can't lay them out nicely. I have a cutting mat that is a bit smaller and is stored in one of my travel bags, it can be laid out on the sewing table when I need to work with larger cuts.

Just to the left is a couple more storage boxes, the surface of those has some baskets with various items that I want kept at my fingertips.

Moving clockwise again is this little wall that denotes the 'end' of my sewing area and beginning of the dining area. Our open layout means that I can be working in my sewing area and still supervise schoolwork, tend to dinner preparations (the kitchen is around the corner to the left) and really supervise nearly any activity from right in my sewing room. There is more storage, a pegboard and you can just barely see a little end table that sits next to my frame where I store my purse (on the bottom shelf), can put my quilting supplies when I need to move the quilt in the frame, and in the drawer I store a roll of small bags that line my wastebasket.

On the side of the short wall is my bookshelf. This holds most of my quilting books and the cookbooks I use the most. My frame sits in front of the bookshelf and just up and to the right is the computer, where I play DVDs while I hand quilt. I love this frame, it works as easily as a hoop. The visible wooden rectangle is what holds the quilt in place, I just lift that off, move the quilt and replace the piece and I'm ready to go again.

And finally my sewing table, in the middle of the room. My sewing machine is up most of the time, it gets taken down when we have friends for dinner (kids eat in the dining area, grownups in my sewing room), and when I need to baste a quilt or use my pressing board. I spend a lot of time here as it's not only my sewing area, it's really like an office for me, I run my house from this room, do all the planning at the table and can supervise both indoor and outdoor activites from it quite easily.

While initially I told my husband that there was no way I could use this room because I couldn't keep it company ready all the time, I'm so glad he talked me into it, I don't know what I'd do without it!

After spending this time showing off my sewing room, I'm anxious to get to work! The strip project is calling me, I'm at the pinning stage again, and the frame quilt is getting far enough along that I'm really getting excited about finishing it. This week is fairly quiet in our house, so there should be a lot of time for stitching. So far today the weather is nice and I'm planning on a fire in the firepit tonight with some hand quilting. It's supposed to be HOT the rest of the week, though, so I'll be hiding in the a/c, quilting the days away.

Happy quilting!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Back to Quilting!

We've had a busy few days in our house. Yesterday our youngest son turned 7 and his birthday fun started over the weekend. My husband (Mike) works two jobs, one of them second shift so he's not here in the evening during the week. Birthday meals and other fun is often moved to the weekend so we can all be together for it.

Mike took off Monday night from work and the fun began Sunday afternoon. He tries to take the kids camping at least once during the summer (I stay home for this, I'm not a camping type of girl. Mike tells people my idea of roughing it is the Holiday Inn without a pool, LOL) but with a couple of the kids working and his schedule it can be tough to work out.

So we set up our tent in the backyard. We all went to a local state park and hiked the trails. Ruthie fell alseep on the short jaunt from one part of the park to another, so the girls and I visited in the car while the boys all fished for a bit. We ordered a pizza on the way home for a quick snack and then our older kids left for some softball games. Afterwards they all slept in the tent.

Monday, Mike took the available kids fishing, we barbequed hamburgers when they got home, they went to the last softball game and they slept in the tent again.

Yesterday was the actual birthday, we met up with Bren and some of her kids as today is her youngest son's birthday. We took the 6 of them (4 of mine, 2 of hers) to Chuck E Cheese for lunch and games...what fun! Last night our older kids had a few friends over, played games Lucas could play and they had birthday cake with him. He really enjoyed his 3 day birthday bash!

While I was able to quilt a bit the last few days, I'm ready to get back to it full force. The frame quilt has reached the point that I'm getting excited about finishing it. While I'm basting a quilt, I can hardly wait to get the first needle in, to feel how the quilt will go, to see those stitches giving texture to the top. Then the reality sets in of how much quilting there is on it and the fact that there is a long way to go to get it finished. Once I get past the halfway point, though, I start to get excited again. I often have to take the quilt off of the frame to do the last border, so I start focusing on getting it off and getting the next quilt ready to go on the frame. I've gotten to that point on this one and am very excited now, hoping to finish it up in the next couple of weeks.

I'm a tool junkie. I admit it. I love all the tools of the trade that go along with quilting. I have hoops in several sizes each having their own purpose (or just giving me a way to work more than one project without taking off the hoop!) I also have an end hoop, enabling me to get a stable edge to finish up my quilts.

I thought I'd leave a little teaser from the frame quilt, hopefully the finished product will be displayed soon!

I'm headed off to quilt, clean, cook, tend to my kids and make a grocery list. Mostly quilt today, I hope, the busy-ness of the last few days has left me tired and wanted to pop in a movie, rest and quilt.

And so I will.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mixed Bag Day

Today is going to be one of those days. While I would really love to spend the whole day quilting, I have a few other things that really should be done.

One of them is freezing beans from our ample garden. I do NOT have a green thumb and don't particularly like to work in the dirt. My husband, on the other hand, could make rocks grow and has passed that down to our middle son. Jonathan is the one pressing each spring to work on the garden, he does a lot of the planning on what to plant and where it should go (with his Dad's help.) He's right there along side Mike as they turn the soil and plant the seeds. Jonathan waters daily when it doesn't rain and does some of the weeding (this isn't his favorite thing to do, I liken it to basting and binding for quilters.)

He's harvested many green onions, dozens of radishes and a hot pepper. The cherry tomatoes are beginning to ripen and yesterday, he brought me three bowls full of beans.
One I'll leave out for the weekend, the other two will be blanched and frozen and saved for other days. This is only the beginning, I hear, there are many more bowls of beans to come.
Also on the agenda today is baking cookies. I've started baking in triple batches and then I have a chance of my baking getting us through the week.

While the cookies are baking, I'll be making a pillow and then will probably spend some time at the frame and some time at the machine today. I'm sure that I'll get far less quilting done than I'd like with so much else to do, but even a few minutes here and there will make some progress. Perhaps by this evening, the work of the day will be finished and I can sit and relax, a fire in the firpit, some handwork in my lap and maybe I'll even take a few stitches on it. Does anyone else do this? I'll sometimes sit with work in my hands, too tired to stitch but comforted by the feel of the fabric and the idea of sewing.

Here's to a productive, and hopefully not too tiring, day!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Biggest Supporter

is my husband, Mike. He's amazing. He talked me into using our living room as my sewing room because he wanted to take over my sewing room and use it as an office.

I told him "no way I WORK in there every single day and couldn't keep it looking neat enough to be the first room you see entering the house."

He said "it's our house, we should use the rooms how we want to."

Though I liked the idea, I continued to protest. I was afraid that this would, at some point, become a bone of contention. I should have known better. I've always done some sort of needlework, spend a fair amount of time at it, and had spots in the house where my current projects resided.

I told him I needed storage. He built me shelves. We started to buy storage boxes, I collected baskets. As my collection of notions, tools and fabrics grew, the shelves filled up and stacking began. Still he did not complain.

I told him I needed a work table. He scoured the classifieds and found this antique oak table. I told him it was too fancy, too expensive and that I couldn't guarantee it wouldn't get scratched up from pins and scissors and other such tools. He said it's your work table, it's ok, and it will help to have an extra table for when we have friends for dinner. (By the way, the table has held up beautifully in spite of my daily use of scissors, pins and other sharp objects.)

In the time this has been my sewing room, it's seen several changes. I had a large quilting frame along the shelf wall, but it didn't get much use (for various reasons.) I ended up storing boxes, etc, underneath. I used it as a support for a long work surface and that served me well for quite some time. Until I started to feel too crowded and wanted to streamline things a bit. I kept the frame, still hoping someday to have a good place for it, but I'm so happy with my little portable floor frame I'm not sure if the other will ever be used again.

This is the view when you walk through our front door. Straight ahead is the dining area and just to the left is my sewing area. I'm always in the middle of several projects, but try to keep my table cleared off, there was a time when it was always piled high with stuff. My machine is often out, but I try to keep other things put away or in neat, working stacks if I'm in the middle of something.

When I have deadlines and am coming down to the wire, the house is in disarray and I'm rushing to get meals, still my husband does not complain, but compliments me on my work and asks about my progress.

Instead of complaining that I'm always quilting, he brags to people that I never just sit, but that I always have something I'm working on.

He's my hero!

So now I'll go, to figure out what project gets my attention today among the dishes, vacuuming and straightening up. I started a huge project years ago for my husband, I think I need to pull that one back out and finish it. It seemed overwhelming at the time so I put it away, but I think it's time to finish that one. It's made of octagons and squares and has a castle, a moat, and a horse with a knight in shining armor. It seems so appropriate for him as he's certainly mine.

And so I go. Happy quilting!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's Quilting Bee Day!

My sewing room is in tornado mode as I get ready for my quilting bee tonight.

I meet once a month with a fun group of ladies, most of whom I knew from guild years ago. I had quit the guild when our 7 year old was born, for a variety of reasons, and just after our youngest was born I ran into one of the bee ladies in JoAnn's. She invited me to this bee and told me all about a retreat they do once a year. I was so excited!

Some months I bring handwork along, which is much easier than transpoting everything to machine sew. In fact, until I got my machine case recently, I rarely took my machine anywhere as it was too difficult to safely transport.

Last month, my time was limited at the bee as my kids had somewhere they wanted to go, so I just brought handwork along. The month before, I brought my machine, even got there a little early to set up (we meet in a church) and was so excited...until I realized I'd left my power cord at home. ugh. One lady's daughter had come and was going to run out and get her food at a place near my house, she offered to pick it up which was great! But it took 45 minutes :( During that time I got a chance to visit though, so my spirits were still high. My plan for that day was to sew the final seam on a bunch of blocks, then assemble the top. It was set on point with an interesting layout. I sewed my seam, pressed my blocks and got ready to lay it all out (there's a nice big, open are just outside the room we sew) only to realize I'd also left the pattern at home. ugh again.

Thankfully I had brought along a second batch of blocks that were nearly finished, on the outside chance that I finished that top, so I was still able to sew until it was time to leave!

When I bring my machine along, I try to have a bunch of work ready to go. Either the cutting all finished or pinning, if that's next. Both current piecing projects are paper pieced, so I'll spend my day pinning on the next piece so I can set up and dive in. The projects combined have over 300 blocks, so it will take quite a while (perhaps even more time than I'll have) to sew those up, cut them apart, take out the pins and press them. Being my usual overly optimistic self, I'll have my iron and portable ironing surface along with the boxes of pieces and my pins just in case I get to the next piece.

In addition to getting ready for my bee today, I'll be babysitting a friend's kids for the afternoon. It will likely mostly be my daughters job to watch them as she's babysitting to earn money this summer, but if she has other plans, I'll be doing it. This can work for or against me, sometimes it helps to keep my own little ones busy allowing me lots of working time, sometimes it just means chaos and it will be hard to finish my planned tasks.

In any case, I'll have 3 hours, out of the house, with grownups, to sew. I have 5 1/2 hours to ready my blocks, get myself ready, pack up, and make dinner so I'd better skedaddle.

I know I'll be having a happy quilty day, I hope the same for you :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Perfect Summer Sunday

Our two oldest kids play on a church softball league, yesterday was their allstar game. Both of our kids were chosen to play on the allstar team so we packed up the family after church and off we went.

The game was held at a local park, each team set up an area to grill and hang out together. It was a warm, sunny day, with just enough clouds to provide a break from the sun occasionally (though by the end of the day, we were sitting in the shade of our son's truck!) First was the picnic, then a homerun derby and finally the big game.

A wonderful time was had by all, we came home tired and happy. As the oldest 3 went off with their friends, the rest of us settled in for the evening.

Today, I'm still tired. Thankfully there isn't much pressing except for a few loads of towels (our family of 8 goes through towels in no time!) so it will be a puttering day. I'm going to machine piece on the strip quilt for a while, and then maybe this evening will work on the frame while the ballgame is on. Storms are supposed to blow in later, I love to quilt and watch the rain. And I'll bask in the afterglow of our perfect summer Sunday.

Happy quilting!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Houston, I Have a Problem

but it's a good problem. Where in the world do I put all these quilts?

I give a lot of them away, but have found myself in a lull where there aren't any weddings or babies. Usually I make these specifically for the person anyway, though I have found a couple of finished tops in my stack that will make great Christmas gifts this year.

Truth be told, I like that I'm able to stockpile quilts right now. The days will come all too soon when I have married children and then grandchildren and I'll have many more beds to keep covered in quilts.

I have a friend who wistfully tells me that she wishes she had the legacy to leave for her children that I do. Most of the time I feel forgettable, so there is something comforting in thinking that there will be tangible evidence that I existed.

So what do you do with your quilts? I've shown some of mine that are hanging on the wall, I have a table runner on my breakfast bar, a quilt on the table by our door. Generally, though, I make BIG quilts. Everyone in the house has at least two quilts of their own. There are quilts on all of our beds. During the winter months, I have two on the bed and two extra folded at the bottom, one for me and one for my husband should we need extra covers.

Layering on the bed is also a good way to store them. In our case, it doesn't work well because my husband is tall and folding the extras down to the bottom doesn't work because then they are laying on his feet. One day I'll have a bench at the end of our bed so that I can keep more quilts on the bed and fold them down onto the bench. For now, I have this footstool, made to go with my lounging chair. I do sometimes stack up folded quilts on this.

Another great way to store quilts is a quilt rack. My husband bought me a beautiful cherry wood one shortly after I started quilting. It was a long time before I had any quilts to put on it, it mostly held works in progress. It's not accessible at the moment, but soon it will be out again and I'll be able to show it.

I have a second rack as well. This one our son made for a school competition in metals. I'll bet they never saw a quilt rack in that competition before! His friend's father is a plumber and supplied them with the necessary tools, supplies and hints to make their projects. This sits in our family room and holds the quilts that the kids and their friends are able to use. I just might have the only quilt rack made out of plumbers pipe!

Another great way to store quilts is over the back of chairs or couches. I often do this, especially in the winter months. We keep our heat low and our family room gets cold, our quilts get lots of use in the winter and the kids' friends feel free to cover up, too. It's fun to peek downstairs and see them all watching a movie, covered in colorful quilts.

My sewing room is open to the downstairs family room, there is a railing between them. I also store quilts on the railing, they can be seen and enjoyed and are out of the way. There is also a small section of railing upstairs, it is LOADED with quilts at the moment while I work on where to store them all. I'm playing with the idea of a quilt rack built onto the wall that will hold a bunch of quilts.

So while finding places for all my quilts is a dilemma, it's a rather pleasant one. It's sometimes shocking for me to look around and see so many finished quilts when for so long there were very few of my finished works in my own house.

The frame quilt is getting to the place where it's getting more exciting to work on. I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and today I'll be working on bringing that light a little closer. It's a gorgeous summer day here and a beautiful breeze is flowing through the house. It might be too windy to quilt outside (though I may try later, when my swing is shaded) so for now I'll work on the frame quilt while chatting with my kids and waiting for the ballgame to come on TV.

Happy quilting!

Friday, July 13, 2007

How Do You Piece?

I have to be in the mood to piece. I LOVE my sewing machine (I've had this one for a year and a half) but the tedium of making sure pieces are placed correctly and the seam allowance is maintained is sometimes more than I have the patience to do.

Having a few different choices makes this process easier for me. I choose the method for each top that will provide the least amount of aggravation and the surest results.

Hand Piecing is, believe it or not, all I did for the first 4 years that I quilted. The thing I like about it is the precision. Perfect corners and points, even set in seams were sewn with ease. It's portable and only a few supplies are needed to take a hand piecing project along. It's obviously much more time consuming than machine piecing.

I'm sure that a vast majority of piecing is done by machine. There are a few notions that can make the process more accurate and enjoyable for some. For a while, it seemed paper piecing was very popular. Is it still? I really don't know, I do know that quite a few pattern books are out there for this method as well as individual patterns with preprinted paper foundations. There are also kits available like the one shown at right. These cute little kits were made and sold by a friend of mine. She still has an Ebay store where she sells them, the link can be found here. While searching for buttons for my daughter to use, I found these little kits. The fabrics are all cut and ready and perfect for a day when I feel like sewing without all the prepwork. I don't do a lot of paper piecing, but for miniatures it can't be beat. It seems I can't sew those little pieces together without difficulty, paper piecing makes this a much less painful process.

One thing I use a lot of is triangle paper. Whenever there are multiple half square triangle units with the same fabrics I use this and it's a lifesaver for me. While it means a few extra steps, I like the precision and there is no stretching of the piecing like one can sometimes get piecing/pressing triangles.

Triangle paper comes in a few forms, it can be bought in sheets, on rolls, drafted yourself, there are strips called Thangles and a program to print your own in any size called Triangulations.

I piece so I can quilt. Most of my piecing is rather simplistic and I don't use a lot of small pieces as they quickly become tedious to quilt. Finding methods of piecing that make things easier and more precise makes the process more enjoyable for me. I tend to go on piecing binges and will make several tops at once, then I'll mostly hand quilt for a while.

I finished another UFO, for those who are also UFOing, here's the pic of my latest finished project.

Yesterday was a busy, trying day. I ran errands and afterwards our 2 1/2 year old was rather out of sorts. I did finally have a bit of time to settle down to quilt.

Today proves to be about the same. I woke up to my daughter's car having a flat tire, when she wakes up we'll have a lesson in tire changing. I'm doing billing for our business, have to ready my husband's lunch for work and his dinner for while I'm gone as I'm going to visit a dear friend this afternoon. There, I can can sit down and take a breath. We visit, we quilt, we have cake and coffee and for a few hours "Mom, can I" are not a words that grace my ears.

I'll come home to quickly making dinner for the kids as they have a double header softball game tonight. Most of them will leave and just the little ones will be left (perhaps even our almost 7 year old will be going along to watch.) It might just be a good evening for a fire in the firepit, some lazy quilting and snuggling with Ruthie on the swing.

And now I'm off, to finish those things that must be done before I can leave the house. May your day be filled with sunshine, laughter, and quilting!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Enjoying the Process

I often hear people say they don't like to mark, hate to baste, can't stand to bind....it seems to be these steps in the process that trip people up. I've learned to like them all. Granted, I still have to 'be in the mood' for marking and basting, but I've learned to enjoy them for what they are, necessary steps to move on in the process.

Usually I don't have a huge amount of marking. I outline quilt a lot of the elements and long ago learned to 'eyeball' the 1/4 inch. This takes a little practice and you don't have to be perfect! I mark bigger areas as larger areas get motifs quilted in them. Borders usually have to be marked as well. I sometimes will work around design elements in printed borders, but this is rare.

I've tried just about every marking tool out there! It took a lot of trial and error, but I've found my favorites. The two I use the most are at the far right and far left in the picture. They are General's brand washable graphite (right) and white charcoal (left.) Between these two I can mark just about everything that I want to mark. The 2nd from the left is also a wonderful graphite marking tool, it's messier as one has to slide the graphite out (and eventually remove it as it gets smaller) to sharpen it.

The yellow chalk tool is good for marking straight lines as you go. It wears off quickly so I only mark a hoopful at a time when I use this.

Not pictured is the blue washout marker, I also use it on occasion. It's good for marking applique position and quilting lines on light colored fabrics. I've had no issues with residual lines, though I have to be careful not to drip anything on it or the lines go away! (I have a glass of something with me all the time, with lots of ice...so my glasses always drip 'sweat')

Basting is another part of the process that many people don't like. I really don't mind it a majority of the time. I used to only thread baste, but mostly pin baste now. It's quicker and the pins get removed as I go. My frame dirctions said I don't have to baste, but I really need to for my own peace of mind. I prefer thread basting overall, but like the ease and quickness of pin basting.

I think one of the things I hear the most is how much people hate to bind. I've always enjoyed it, because binding meant something else was finished! What I didn't like is fighting the lump where you begin and end until a friend figured out a sure fire way to solve this. She always does hers with bias binding, so the joining process is a bit different and more complicated. I almost always use straight binding, so the joining process is simpler.

When putting on your binding, leave a 'tail' about 18 inches long where you begin (best is several inches off center on any side.) Sew around as usual and when you get back to that first side, leave a gap of several inches. Trim both sides of the binding so they overlap the amount of your seam allowance. Take those two ends and hold them right sides together, and sew them together. Lay your binding back on top and sew the 'gap' closed. Now, where you began and ended is just a regular seam.

When sewing to the back, I use clips to hold the binding in place. This is my binding box. I keep a small scissors, my clips, some needles and a pincushion in this little metal box so all I have to do is pick the right color thread and I'm ready to bind.
For me, it helps to have projects in each stage. When I've been doing a lot of hand quilting, sometimes I just need a break for a day or two and then I will mark or baste a top that is waiting to be quilted. Usually by the end of marking and basting a top or two, I'm ready to quilt again.

Actually, blogging has a been a good motivator, too, by the time I've finished writing about quilting every morning, I'm ready to do some!

And so I will.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Ticket on the UFO Train

So are we tired of talking about UFOs yet? I'm not! I find myself more and more energized by finishing up these old projects. I can think about new ones (and even start them) with a clear conscience because I know I'm also taking care of old business.

I finished the quilting on this one last night and put the binding on this morning. Another mini, but it was still undone and now it's finished.

I dug through my boxes and picked out a few more hoop projects (so I don't have to move things around to get in them too often) and here is my stack of small projects waiting for their turn.

With a few small projects done recently, my frame quilt is getting attention again. I have the next quilt to go in it marked and ready to baste and the next two picked out. After those I'll be finishing two more already done tops for Christmas presents.

I'm really enjoying these "lazy days of summer." I plan each spring to have a summer like this and it usually doesn't end up happening for a variety of reasons. I'm cherishing every day, knowing that all too soon summer will be over and we'll move on to the busy-ness of the school year.

Have a wonderful, quilty summer day!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Close Encounters of the UFO Kind

I'll admit it. I'm obssessed. Finishing UFO's has become my primary purpose in life. Ok, well that's an exaggeration, but at least the primary purpose in my quilting life.

While adjusting my sewing room yet again (I moved the ironing board to a more convenient place, which also made the storage behind my pressing board more accessible) I dug through the UFO boxes and found quite a few more. Some are placemats and small table runners that I'll be able to finish quickly. I also had a few more antique tops than I realized. I added a label to the outside of the box for each UFO inside, telling myself how good it will feel to rip those babies off as I finish each project, and how emptying those boxes means room for more. It made my drive to finish UFO's even stronger and I attacked the hoop project with renewed vigor.

I finished it this weekend. This was a project that didn't inspire me much in the quilting process, but I really like now that it's all finished. Now to get out the coffee stain! I figure this one will be adopted by a grandchild somewhere down the road (unless Miss Ruthie claims this one, too!)

While labeling boxes I found a couple of very small projects that were pretty close to completion so decided those would be next to be finished. I finished one of them late last night (I was on a roll!) and here she is. Just a single block, but finished nonetheless. I might hang this on the wall at the head of Ruthie's bed.

My next UFO is in the hoop, this time a whole cloth mini. It should only be a few days worth of quilting and I'm already thinking about what will be next. I have the frame projects lined up and ready, I might do the same with the hoop projects as well. Something about seeing that little stack and being able to think about the next one has been really helpful in keeping me on track. By the time I'm finishing one I can hardly wait to get started on the next.

I'm so thankful that I have a nice table to set up my machine. This room was the living room, it's adjacent to our (very casual) dining room and so ideal for when we have company for dinner. The antique oak table that I use for sewing has another leaf (though the second one is rarely in) and around the holidays, the leaf that's in often is removed to make room for our Christmas tree (then the table is round.)

My machine is out almost all the time. It's put away when we have friends for dinner or when our teens have friends in for games and cards (which is becoming frequent of late, soon we'll be installing a revolving door!) My machine case is just in front of the pressing board, which can be seen in the upper right, so it's really easy for me to take down and set up my machine. You can see my regular ironing board to the left, I just moved it from in front of the pressing board as moving around the space was difficult with it there.

One thing I love about having my machine always available is if I need a quick break from handwork I just sit down and go. No set up, no tear down, I can machine sew at a moment's notice.

I promised my older kids homemade chocolate chip cookies to bring on their trip to Six Flags Great America tomorrow. I want to make a serious dent in that wholecloth mini today and I just might pick out the next couple of hoop projects. Since I'm making a triple batch of cookies, that means LOTS of 10 minute increments, just perfect for a bit of ....what else??...quilting.

And so I go.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

It Runs In The Family

When I talked about my painting, I said there was a story involved with painting my girls room to be saved for another day. This is the day :)

I had painted their room several years ago, the ceiling lavendar, the walls were also lavendar with a dark purple and a teal sponged on. We did it while my husband was on a hunting trip and I really did most of the work while they helped with odds and ends and kept their younger brother occupied.

Last summer, while Rebekah was on a mission trip, Rachel was wanting to rearrange the furniture in her room. All of her friends were also on the trip, she was too young to go and was bored. I told her we could do that. Then she said "too bad we can't paint." Hmmmm. I thought about that. We considered doing it and started talking about colors.

Ultimately we decided to wait for Rebekah to make sure she also liked the colors and to come up with ideas how to use decorative painting. I told them we could do it, but they'd have to buy the supplies and do the work. My husband was going out of town for a weekend to visit his mom (too expensive a weekend trip for us all to go) so we decided to do it then.

We had made a trip earlier in the week to pick up the paint. They had also done some reorganizing/cleaning out in the room during the week to save time on the weekend. I took my husband to the airport and the car had no sooner cleared our street than the girls were moving the furniture out of their room. When I got back home, they were already priming the walls.

It was a whirlwind weekend. Our town was doing fireworks that Saturday night and we were meeting friends at the park. The painting was actually finished by then, just the decorative painting and moving the furniture back was left.

This isn't the best picture, color wise, but it's close. The orange is less muddy in person and a bright, medium shade of orange. The yellow comes down the wall about a foot, Rebekah freehanded the curve. The speckles are the orange, feather painted on.

The lower part of the walls has some green feather painted on, plus some yellow and orange at the top of the green, the idea being a field of flowers. (The orange is a little more true to color in this picture.)

We had lots of fun with this. We went to the store and bought lace and little flowers to decorate their plain lamps plus flowers to put in the glass base, some orange and yellow flowers and a vase. I found these lone star pieces while looking for fabric that would match in my stash. I had accidentally made extra while making a broken star quilt and I sewed 4 of them together to make this little table cover.

We homeschool and for a few years the kids went to a competition. One of the things Rebekah chose to do was quilt. She already had this quilt made, in fact, we chose colors with this quilt in mind. This quilt is completely hand done, and she did a beautiful job.

I had made the girls purple and white quilts for their beds. Rachels was finished and being used, but Rebekah had already made a quilt with some purple in it and decided she would use that quilt and quilt the top I made herself. It's still in the quilting process, it's what she works on when she feels like quilting but doesn't have something else going.

Rachel needed something new for her bed. Our goal was to be completely finished with the room before my husband got home, so I chose to do this for Rachel. I finished Sunday afternoon and by Sunday night, their room was finished.

All put together with it's little accents, it reminded me of a room you might find in an island resort. They had great fun doing it and kept it a surprise from everyone. They were so excited each time a different friend came over because they got to show off their handiwork and creativity all over again.

It's going to be hot and humid here today, I'm hunkering down for a day of quilting in the a/c. I'm trying my hand at making Jambalaya and am hoping for a relaxing day.

Happy quilting!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Miscellaneous Meanderings

The best laid plans and all that jazz....by the time I picked up a needle yesterday it was late afternoon. After the shopping trip, I put the vinyl over the cloth on the swing table. In the course of these projects, I'd used the last of the staples from my staple gun. I bought the staple gun quite some time ago, it was a very light duty one with plastic casing. I've been having trouble finding staples for it. Last time I needed some I did find some that fit, this time the ones I bought didn't. ugh. So I could go back and try another size staples or replace the gun...which is what I chose to do, knowing I'd have an easier time finding staples in the future.

Also on this shopping trip I picked up a few silk flowers for my porch. In the morning hours, my porch is shaded and a nice place to sit. In the spring and fall, when the air is still cool, I sit out there in the afternoon when it's warmed by the sun. I had this all set up last summer, but with work on the house and various other things, our porch became a drop off spot for various things. That drove me crazy! So I took my porch back and spruced it up. Here is the final result....not fancy, but a comfortable place to sit and sew or read or just watch the world go by.

I have a friend who designs quilt patterns. She needs testers for them to make sure her directions make sense, there are no typos, etc. I often do this for her, it's a nice little diversion from my usual work. She usually either sends me fabric or sends me a fabric allowance to shop for myself.

While I was out, I looked for a focus fabric that might work (this pattern has some fussy cut squares on it) and found one on a clearance table. Also there was a beautiful yellow. I love yellow and nice yellows are sometimes hard to find. I bought what was left on the bolt (5 yards) and happily came home with my purchases. Here are the fabrics pulled so far for this project, I still need to search for a couple more in my stash.

So while I didn't get as much quilting done as I'd planned, I did feel like I accomplished quite a bit. The plan for today is to do a couple of loads of laundry, keep the dishes done so I don't end up with a huge mess tonight, and do general sprucing up...but mostly to quilt. So far only my little ones are up and that seems like a doable plan.

The fragrance from my cup of coffee is wafting toward me, and I can hardly wait to get the needle in my hand so off I go. May your day be as quilty as I hope mine to be!