Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Quilting

Except for making the two Australia tree blocks last week, the only activity in my sewing room has been quilting. Depending on my mood, I'm hopping between the same two projects: hand quilting grandma's vintage quilt; and ruler and free motion quilting my 2019 temperature quilt.

It's been slow-going, stitching little pearl cotton X's on the vintage quilt. This picture shows what's been quilted - the space between the lines.

I thought I was making good progress on the temp quilt, until I decided to count how many blocks I've quilted, and how many remain. I'm only 30 percent done. Sigh.

I'm customizing each block by quilting lines in all the concave curves - that's the ruler work - and different designs in each convex curve. Most of the curves are quilted with the use of an echo foot attached to the ruler quilting foot. 

Whenever convex curves connect, I treat them as one design. 

This is taking a long time, which may also be due to changing thread colors often - on both the top and bottom.


This is the quilt back You can see why I'm changing bobbin colors too. This Hoffman wideback rainbow ombré is perfect for a temperature quilt. In case you need to know, I bought it at PineappleFabrics.com.

I was surprised to see this picture pop up on Instagram last week. The Broward Quilt Expo (Pembroke Pines, Florida) has contracted me to teach walking foot and free motion quilting... on Saturday, April 10, 2021, and they've begun their publicity already!  

Another instructor who'll be at the Broward Expo is Alaskan quilter Maria Shell of Tales of a Stitcher. She is extremely talented in her use of color and graphic design in quilts and is teaching a Linear Blocks workshop on Friday, April 9. I hope to squeeze in her workshop for myself!

I've also recently agreed to teach Beginner Quiltmaking again (for the first time since the Lifelong Learning College closed in 2016), through Quilting Guild of The Villages. Classes are April 15, May 20, June 17, July 15, and September 16. I'm updating beginner patterns to reflect a more modern look. 

Today I went to the weekly Big Cypress Quilters group and had to stop to take a picture. How often do you see such pretty blooms on January 21?! Though the high today was only 52, the sun was shining. I'll take it! 

My sewing room arrangement changed last September after Hogan died. He was always a companion, laying on a covered bench in the window. I moved out the bench because I didn't want that reminder that he isn't here anymore.
With that spot empty, and such a pretty view from the bay window, it seemed to need to be filled by a comfy chair. In November I ordered a Four Seasons swivel-glider called "Sarah," and it arrived Monday. It's exactly what I wanted. The entire chair is slip-covered, so fabrics can be dry cleaned, or switched out. I can't tell you how comfortable it is - cushy-soft with reversible seat and back cushions. And check out that fabric color! "Spa Pool" is perfect in this room. 

Last evening I found myself not wanting to move from my Sarah chair as I hand quilted and listened to an audiobook. Watching cable TV, with a dearth of entertaining programs, holds no interest.  

Now I have a couple more audiobook reviews for you.

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts takes place in Pennsylvania, in the 1940s, at the Riverside Home, an asylum for crazy people and others deemed insane by their parents. A patient gives birth to a daughter, Brighton, who is raised and cared-for by a nurse. When an albino child comes into the asylum too - Brighton names him Angel - Brighton realizes she has a friend with whom she can face the challenges of growing up in such a place. Escape becomes paramount, yet even with escape, the perils of the outside world seem worse for these protected children. I appreciate the story, and though barbaric, a glimpse into formerly acceptable treatments for mental illness.

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0
The Dream Daughter begins in 1970, when Caroline Sears finds herself widowed and pregnant with a baby with a heart defect. The future looks grim. However, a possible solution to her problem comes from an unexpected source - her brother-in-law - and in an unimaginable way. I don't want to give away more, but the supernatural is involved. This is the kind of story I enjoy, though I usually have a difficulties wrapping my mind around such logistics. Caroline's experiences are definitely poignant. Regretful. Sad. I was completely engaged. 

Linda's score: 4.5/5.0

Linda

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Australia Tree Block Tutorial

Australia tree block, 13" X 13"
Australia has been suffering through months of devastating bush fires. Fire-fighters (called firies) have lost their lives, residents have lost homes and livelihoods, and wildlife have died and lost their habitat. It will take decades to recover.

I have a special place in my heart for all things Australia because between 2008 and 2010. I visited four times and spent a cumulative total of four months there. Our daughter lived in Sydney (Five Dock) for several years, and gave birth there to our first grandson. During one visit, I taught beginner quiltmaking at St. Mark's Anglican Church in Darling Point, and on another trip traveled around the country. The countryside is beyond beautiful! Whenever I'm in a situation where I want to take my mind away, I make a mental return visit to the Twelve Apostles along the south coast. There's just no place like it.

Anyway... When I learned that the Wollongong Modern Quilt Guild is collecting blocks to make into quilts for families who suffered through fires, I wanted to help. Again.

When I lived in Iowa, a group of us made two quilts for families who experienced bush fires in the Ballarat area. In 2009 I delivered those quilts to Ballarat, and saw the destruction first-hand. I also wrote a "Bush Fire Quilt Relief" article for the October 20009 issue of Quilter's Newsletter magazine (a now defunct publication).

Tree Quilt Blocks
Tree blocks have been requested. Quilters are free to interpret a tree as they wish, including colors, but the block background must be white or gray. An unfinished block must be a generous 12-1/2" X 12-1/2" to allow for trimming.

These are some of the blocks I've seen on Instagram. Appliquéd leaves is by @lorena_in_syd

Foundation paper pieced block is by @centerstreetquilts. This is a purchase pattern.

The patchwork tree block is by @sewbrainy

This one, by @bonjour_quilts, is the same as the patchwork block, but made with only four fabrics for the leaves.

Check out #bushfireblocks if you'd like to see more.

For my own design I decided to use an outline of the country as the "leafy" part of a tree.

Australia Tree Block Tutorial

First, an outline of Australia is needed, and a mirror image of it for appliqué.

Download both images here.

Australia not mirror imaged (for later reference for placement on the background) and a mirror image of Australia and tree trunk.

Trace mirror images of Australia, Tasmania and the tree trunk onto Steam-a-Seam 2.

Cut out each shape, leaving a small margin around the drawn outline.

Using scraps, create a piece of fabric approximately 8" X 9".

Remove the paper from Steam-a-Seam2 and place the sticky side to the wrong side of the created fabric. 

Use fine scissors to cut along each drawn outline. Don't forget Tasmania! Repeat with the tree trunk.

Prepare the Background

Either cut a single piece of fabric 13" X 13", or piece a background.

For this nine-patch block, cut each patch 4-3/4" X 4-3/4". The unfinished background square is 13-1/4" X 13-1/4".

With monofilament thread in the sewing machine top, and cotton in the bobbin (I used Mettler monofilament and 50-weight Aurifil), adjust your sewing machine settings for a short, narrow zig-zag stitch. This is the setting on my Bernina 770QE. Choose stitch #2 and set at a 9.0 stitch length and 2.1 stitch width.

Use an appliqué foot (Bernina #20C) to stitch around Australia, the tree trunk, and Tasmania.

Press well. Do not trim!

Several more blocks are in my future. They'll be delivered to QuiltCon in Austin, where they are being collected to send to Australia. Linda

Friday, January 10, 2020

Vintage Quilt Top and Quilting

Last June, after my siblings and cousins worked to clean out our grandparent's farmhouse in Ohio, I was the recipient of lots of vintage fabric, and four vintage quilt tops. Pictures here.

The fabric and three quilt tops were given away, to Monica @buttoncounter. This is the quilt top I kept after telling our 21 year-old granddaughter that I would finish a top for her, if she wanted.

As you can see, the top had only three borders, and no more border fabric was available. We don't know if it was actually made by our grandmother, or someone else.

Upon a closer look, two of the "borders" are actually pieced sashing. So, my only option was to remove the one border that was one long piece and cut it apart. Then, to make two borders, I redistribute the old fabric and added new reproduction fabric.

The quilt top is mostly hand-piece - very poorly, if I must say so. Lots of twisted seams. I just couldn't bring myself to take it apart and remake it. Where's the "charm" in that? 😊

I soaked the quilt top in our utility sink using a powder detergent recommended by Monica. It's Oxi-Clean Odor Blasters.

The water was filthy!

So much so that after rinsing the top, I gave it another soak and rinse. Better.

I wore disposable gloves to periodically slosh around the quilt. See the fabric's blue dye that came off onto the gloves?!

After a brief dryer tumble, I let it air dry, then pressed and made the changes to the borders.

This is the completed quilt top with light blue reproduction fabric added. Originally I had thought I would machine quilt. However, after seeing how un-flat and "poochy" the quilt top was, I decided I would only be machine-quilting tucks and puckers into it.

I pieced a backing from all the large pieces of blue fabrics I could find in my stash. I'm just not a "blue" person, so I had to use some creativity to pull this together. 


Knowing I would be hand quilting, I thread-basted (that took extra time!) the quilt sandwich. It includes a layer of pre-washed muslin behind the quilt top. Monica suggested that muslin would give stability to hand stitches, and the fabrics which are thin. I also used Quilter's Dream Wool to give the quilt loft and warmth.

I say that I'm hand quilting with a certain amount of my own disbelief, as this is a large quilt  - 67" X 88" - and I've never finished hand-quilting a large quilt!

But, I'm big stitch quilting. I am following Jen Kingwell's method of quilting random cross-stitches according to this YouTube video. My X's are about two inches apart, which should take care of any issues with flatness. It will only take me an eternity to complete.


I'm using size 8 Eleganza pearl cotton in the color "Heavy Skies" - a dusty blue. It's looking nice, but the color blends so well with the prints that it's difficult to see.

On the back, only a single stitch is visible. I've been quilting mostly in the daylight. There's no telling when I'll finish.

I've also begun quilting my 2019 temperature quilt on my Bernina 770QE. Though I really hoped to come up with an allover quilting pattern so as to get it finished, after two days of looking through Instagram, Pinterest, and my quilting books for design inspiration, I pulled out my trusty acrylic sheet to draw a few designs, and realized that I needed to spend time doing custom quilting. And so I am.

My ruler quilting foot is on my machine. I'm using a Fine Line ruler (the brand with two posts to hang onto) to quilt lines and arcs, and filling in with free motion quilting like circles, ribbon candy, wishbones, and zig-zags in whatever combinations I can think of.

I've continued to listen to audiobooks while hand and machine quilting. Here are three book reviews to start the new year!

When you become an audiobook fan - is that a bibliophile? or an audiophile? maybe a biblioaudiophile? -  you begin to recognize narrators' voices. I knew I'd heard Imogene Church before, and I had! She narrated some of my favorites: The Woman in Cabin 10; In a Dark, Dark Wood; The Lying Game; and The Death of Mrs. Westaway, so I was happy to listen to Ms. Church again in The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick.

The story is about Martha Storm, a dowdy middle-aged woman who volunteers at the library. She seems content with her "I'm a nobody; I do everything for everyone else" life until an old book comes into her hands. She reads a hand-written dedication to... herself! Where did the book come from? Who wrote it? Martha recognizes the book's stories as told to her by her grandmother, and stories she told her grandmother who is now deceased. She must revisit her past. Of course, in the process of pursuing information, she learns that not all is as it seems, and she isn't the person she, or others, think she is.

Linda's score: 4.6/5.0

I picked up this book after The Library.... When an author is good, she's good! The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, also by Phaedra Patrick was even better! Seldom does a book actually make me laugh out loud (this one did), and even more rare is a book that brings tears to my eyes (this one did). Narrator James Langton is excellent, but then I always enjoy listening to books that take place in the UK and are narrated in British accents.

We meet Arthur on the first anniversary of his wife's death, when he finally decides to go through her belongings and clean out. He unexpectedly discovers a charm bracelet he's never seen, and after finding a phone number engraved on the elephant charm, is curious enough to pursue learning more. He finds out about his wife's past - things he never knew - and in the process gets out of his routine and the confines of his house to discover more about himself, along with improving his relationships with son and daughter.

Linda's score: 4.8/5.0

I have previously enjoyed books written by Sally Hepworth, and The Mother-In-Law was no exception. The story takes place in Australia, uses a number of Australian idioms, and is narrated in an Australian accent. Win-win-win!

Whether you've had a mother-in-law or been a mother-in-law, you will likely relate to Lucy who marries Diana's son. From the start, though Lucy longs for a close relationship with Diana, there's an edge. However the author writes chapters in first person from Lucy's point of view and Diana's point of view, and both views seem perfectly reasonable.  But the rest of the story - family dynamics with Tom, Diana's husband (the couple is extremely wealthy) and their daughter and her husband (their desire for a baby) make for an intriguing story. When Diana dies from what appears to be suicide, and further investigation turns up different truths, you'll be wondering as I did, who could have done it?

Linda's score: 4.6/5.0

For me, 2020 is off to a great start! Linda

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020, with Vision

Isn't it ironic that the year 2020 also implies perfect vision? It would be so nice to see ahead, clearly, and know what 2020 has in store. But maybe not, if it's new challenges that lie ahead.

As much as it's within my control to plan a year's worth of sewing and quilting, here's an overview, not a list, of my intentions. I've never been a list sort of person because the burden of the list, and the guilt when I don't accomplish things, is too great.

Primarily I want and need to slow down quiltmaking! As many of you know, I have way too many quilts. Though I've never kept a life-long list of quilts made, through 40 years of quiltmaking the number is surely into the 400s-plus, especially as I made many quilts while giving free beginner quiltmaking lessons (called Stitchin' Mission), and donating those quilts. I know for a fact I made 94 quilts in the past seven years. Since moving to Florida where a quilt isn't even needed for 10 months of the year, I must stop "quilt production." So, my intent is to make more slowly.

If I focus on what's already been started, I'll have plenty to do. Three quilts are ready for quilting.

LindaNova (TulaNova pattern), 60" X 60"

My 2019 temperature quilt top is done! It's 74" X 86". The far right column of blocks is the color key for the quilt, and that one white/gray block in the right middle is the label.

Grandma's vintage quilt top, 67" X 88", requested by granddaughter Celina, has been thread-basted and I've begun big stitch hand quilting.

I'll continue to English paper piece blocks for my Prudence Quilt.

I still have the Spinning Wheels English paper piecing going.

I'll continue to make blocks for my Color Block Postage Stamp Quilt (to donate). Blocks are 8" X 8".

I'll continue to make blocks for my Sunny Lanes Quilt (to donate). Blocks are 8" X 8". My free tutorial is here.

I'll continue to make house blocks for my Village Houses Quilt (to donate). Blocks are 5" X 6-1/2".

I'll finally settle on a layout for my Triangles in a Square quilt (to donate). Blocks are 4" X 4".
 

Still, I will allow myself to start new quilts. Whether it's a "Squirrel" quilt that attracts my attention, or a challenge announced by Central Florida MQG (the first challenge will be revealed at our January 13 meeting) or the Modern Quilt Guild, I will participate by making a quilt large to use stash, be useable, and be donated.

So my three key words, related to quiltmaking in 2020 are:
  1. Slow - make quilts at slower pace
  2. Large - make quilts big enough to use stash and cover people (not pad walls)
  3. Donate - give them away
This might be the year I finish crocheting my Moorland afghan, a 2017 crochet-along by Attic 24. I'm awaiting the February delivery of a comfy, aqua-colored, swivel-glider chair for my sewing room, and this will look great on it.

A short stack of clothing fabrics are in my stash, so a few shorts, tops, and a dress are in my future.

A good teaching schedule is set for the first half of 2020 (See "Schedule" tab above.) so between those and regular Central Florida MQG meetings and Sew-Ins, and weekly Big Cypress Quilters meetings, I'll be centered on quiltmaking. And line dancing. And ukulele-playing and singing. And Bible study (Our Friday group will start "Seamless" in a few weeks). And walking or Walk at Home videos on YouTube.

Don't I have plenty to keep me occupied? No list to tick off. No pressure. Only good intentions.

As for "the rest," I'll face everything with God's help, appreciating and giving thanks for whatever pleasures, and whatever challenges arise.

Happy new year, my friends! Linda

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