Thursday, June 4, 2020

Tropical Rainy Days

As Tropical Storm Crisobal begins to creep into Central Florida I'm still spending my days she-caving.

I made more than 100 Scrap Snap Quilt Along blocks, though I didn't participate in the quilt along that began in January. From only scraps, I made every 6-1/2" X 6-1/2" unfinished block and could still make lots more.

Choosing a layout for these blocks was the most difficult part of this quilt top. I set the blocks on point to make the quilt larger, and these are the layouts I tried.  
I settled on this using a black and white stripe fabric to cut and piece triangles for the sides. The top measures 60" X 78". 

So it goes... just as soon as I finish quilting a quilt (I completed my Linda Nova quilt, and will share it in my next blog post) I've made another quilt top that needs quilting. Again I find myself with two quilt tops in the to-be-quilted queue - the Village houses quilt top, and this Scrap Snap quilt top. 

When I tire of machine quilting and feel like doing handwork, I picked up EPP. My Prudence quilt is slowly coming along as I count 18 main blocks (60 needed) and 17 setting X's (61 needed) done. These are pinned to my design wall, since all of them still have papers on the back.

I've learned that choosing fabrics, and fussy-cutting some of them for the main blocks is the most time-consuming aspect of making these blocks. I always begin with a print from my scrap bin, and then go to stash for the rest.

English Paper Piecing Tip
I also recently made an observation about EPP, and want to share it with you. Though I have made several EPP quilts, I've always used a whip stitch to join patches. (I tried flat-back stitching and didn't care for it.) In all my EPP projects, I use pale gray-colored (#623) 60-weight polyester thread: The Bottom Line by Libby Lehman for Superior Threads. If you've ever used it yourself, you know it can be somewhat "wirey," but I like how it blends with every color.

So when @paperpiecesepp shared an Instagram video of EPP with a different stitch, I gave it a go and discovered I love it! I'm now stitching as the video shows - using a blanket stitch to join patches. Just a small loop under the needle before pulling the needle through, makes a much more secure stitch. 

A bonus is that my stitches are now less visible! I'm really happy to have discovered this little difference that makes a big improvement.

On Tuesday I picked up my Bernina 440 from local servicing. Turns out that the problem I was having with the foot control sometimes working and sometimes not working (pushing down the foot and nothing happening) had everything to do with the foot itself. I have a new Bernina foot control. I'll continue to use this machine for scrap-piecing.

Dan continues to keep us well-fed during this still-mostly-quarantine time. His homemade pizza is to die for. Ingredients in this one were sausage, onion, green pepper, anise seeds, mushrooms, bacon, mozzarella cheese and cilantro. 

He's also spent time trying different key lime pie recipes, and after numerous trials has settled on the recipe from the Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Juice bottle. Searching for the best key lime pie has involved focused pie-sampling. 

This week's book recommendation is My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman.  Elsa is an unusually precocious almost-eight year-old living in an apartment building with her pregnant mum, mum's boyfriend, and Elsa's precious - though wildly eccentric - grandmother. Granny has a past. Granny makes up fairy tales about the Land of Almost-Awake, it's six countries of Miamas, and it's inhabitants and creatures. When Granny dies, Elsa is left to follow Granny's treasure hunt to deliver apology letters to all the people Granny has wronged. This leads to Elsa's understanding of the fairy tales, and new relationships with misunderstood people. In itself, the story is mostly charming, but as a book club selection for discussion, it holds lots of potential and analogies about life. 
Linda's score: 4.1/5.0


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Still the Usual

Still Quilting
Quilting has been my main gig this week, as I continue working on my English paper-pieced Linda Nova (Tula Nova) quilt. I had put off working on it because I was completely burned out after quilting my temperature quilt.

However, the process for quilting has been enjoyable and immensely satisfying.

After stabilizing the overall quilt with walking foot quilting at intervals, I then worked from the center outward, using rulers to create straight-line and arc sections that I filled-in with free motion quilting.

A couple days ago I completed quilting the center medallion.

Outside the medallion, on the background fabric, I used rulers to quilt lines that mimic the medallion shape.

In the space between the lines, I free motion quilted circles. After drawing a 2" circle around an acrylic ring using a purple, air-erasable ink marker, I quilted the circles. 

Three different sewing machine feet have been used for quilting.

I plan to finish the background with free motion-quilted swirl hooks.

Still Worshipping
I am grateful I can worship online each Sunday, with Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa. Pastor Mike's Sunday message came from John 4:7-24, about the Samaritan woman at the well.  He focused on worship - not where we are when we worship, but who we're worshipping. I always appreciate the humor he also brings into his messages. I highly recommend watching.

Still Admiring
On Memorial Day, one of the bands that performs on our three "squares" (the squares are all closed), presented a show from the garage of a house on our street. More than 70 people attended. We kept social distance and watched/listened from a neighboring driveway. Returning home, our Bismarck palm looked especially beautiful with the waning sun shining across the fronds. Just lovely. That Bismarck has become my daily morning view during prayer time.

Still Reading
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman was another great read! For the first time in a long while, I found myself looking forward to exercising and quilting so I could pop in my AirPods and keep listening!

Erin and Mark are a happy couple living in the UK. Their lives are idyllic until Mark's work situation changes. Determined to look to the future, they move forward with their wedding, spending a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora, leisurely snorkeling and boating. Their lives are changed when they find "something in the water" - an innocuous-looking black bag. Locked. Returning home to pick up their normal lives, they find themselves plotting, and  embroiled in something more sinister than they can imagine. Erin is determining their steps. The resolution to their problems is unexpected, and hair-raising. I'm telling you... this is a must-read.

Linda's score: 4.7/5.0

You Are Not Alone by Greer Henricks and Sarah Pekkanen was great! I previously read The Wife Between Us by these two authors who have perfected the art of collaborative writing. I gave them high scores for that book too.

Shay Miller is a young woman sharing an apartment with a male friend and his girlfriend in New York City. Feeling like a third wheel, and having lost her job, she feels alone and unsure about her future. When she witnesses a subway incident, her life abruptly changes. While attempting to deal with the impact of what she's witnessed, she coincidentally makes new friends, finds a new apartment, and gets a new job. Coincidence? Maybe life isn't as wonderful as Shay imagines.

Linda's score: 4.7/5.0

Still Smiling
I leave you with this picture from the Miami New Times. The Jacobs family from Georgia stayed at an Air BnB in South Miami and found this alligator in their pool... on an alligator-shaped float.

There's a word for this... not ironic; not coincidence. Obvious? Linda

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Mod Beginner Finish

While I'm currently continuing to quilt on my Bernina 770QE using the walking foot, rulers, and free motion quilting foot to quilt my EPPed LindaNova quilt (TulaNova pattern)...

...last week I quilted and finished this 36" X 47" quilt that I plan to use to teach beginner quiltmaking.
36" X 47"
The reason for designing and making this unusual-looking quilt is that I needed to come up with a more modern quilt pattern, in addition to these traditional patterns I offer when teaching beginners.

Basic is important when teaching. It's not as much about the design, but techniques. These are all "formula" quilts because each uses fabrics cut into: 6-1/2" squares; and/or 3-1/2" squares; and/or 3-1/2" X 6-1/2" squares. Knowing that some students may come to classes with a little quiltmaking experience, I used EQ8 and feedback from my valued modern quiltmaking friend, Karen E., to come up with this design that also includes half-square triangle squares.

As a stand-alone quilt it's unremarkable, but as a teaching tool it's perfect. Students will learn to: cut squares; piece strips and subcut into rectangle blocks; measure and piece half-square triangle squares;  use the web method to join blocks; and measure, cut and sew borders. It's all there in one quilt.

When it came to quilting, I wanted to make it do-able for beginners. So, it was walking foot quilting all the way, with a section of the quilt using the serpentine stitch - #4 on a Bernina machine. 

Thread is 50-weight aqua-colored Aurifil on top and in the bobbin.

I used a long-stashed tropical print for the back. Binding is a stripe that I cut on the bias for the diagonal design, but would look just as good cut on the cross-grain.

I was scheduled to teach the first beginner quiltmaking class April 15, and continue monthly for five lessons. (See "Programs and Workshops" tab above.) COVID-19 changed all that. The class has been indefinitely tabled.  

But yay for another quarantine-finish, ready-to-go when it's needed!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Organizing, Donating, Quilting, Reading

It's the usual. 

Last Friday was when my she-cave closet was too much of a mess to continue to ignore. I'm not one who enjoys organizing, but sometimes it just has to be done. 

The mess got worse before it got better. 

I found a box of quilting books and patterns I thought I'd already donated, an empty tin, a partial skein of yarn, and several other small items like an old plastic tack basting gun. Remember those?! When our weekly Big Cypress Quilters group starts meeting again, I'll donate it all.

When reorganizing fabrics, I even noted which piles are where - multi-brights, stripes, novelty prints, ombrés, and wide backs. The rest of my stash is in another cabinet.
It was good to revisit what I have, and count only six WIPs. Four are long-term projects that I will pick up again - a failed original design; hand-piecing; embroidery; and English paper-piecing. Two are small items that only need to be sewn into their final form - a pillow and a wall hanging. Neither have a home... so why bother finishing? 

These blocks were in a set-aside pile - another failed attempt to create an original design. When I looked at them, I couldn't help but notice that these blocks are mostly the same colors as the blocks I recently made for the Boulder MQG improv challenge! Aquas with yellow, and a strip of tiny pieced rainbow colors inside. 

So I tossed a few of them on the design wall with the improv blocks. Maybe I'll be able to do something with them. These are by no means arranged,  but will do for visual contemplation until I decide how to begin joining them. 

This Canvas Pencil Pouch, a free pattern and tutorial from Anna at Noodlehead is a recent finish. 

That turtle batik-looking fabric was given to me. I paired it with a piece of linen that I hand-embroidered, and will gift the pouch to the person who gave me the fabric.

I chose linen fabric for the inside, but covered it with adhesive-backed, iron-on vinyl before sewing it together. Now, whether it's used for pencils or cosmetics, the inside can be wiped out.

This week our Big Cypress Quilters group hosted a "shower" for Children's Home Society of Florida. We've done this before, and had hoped to do it in person again this year. However, given the pandemic, donations were collected to be delivered.

I unearthed a couple quilts that were made at least 12 years ago. Yes, it is terrible that I still have them and haven't already given them away!

I hung onto them in case I'd need them as teaching examples in a beginner quiltmaking class. This quilt is about "how to sew half-square triangles." It's high time to give it away. Very traditional, isn't it? Those borders! Well, once upon a time, this is the only kind of quilt I made.
47" X 59"
I began honing my free motion quilting skills by quilting lots and lots of donation quilts. I can't emphasize enough how valuable it was for me to keep making, quilting, and giving quilts away. This quilt was stipple-quilted in the center, with loop-de-loos for the border. Thread is rainbow variegated.

This "angel" quilt - and I do use that term loosely - was meant to teach how a combination of 3-1/2" X 3-1/2", 3-1/2" X 6-1/2", and 6-1/2" X 6-1/2" fabric cuts could be combined to create a shape.
42" X 48"
It was intended as an example of using a minimal amount of machine quilting, and ties. Many of my beginner quiltmaking students owned only a basic sewing machine, so it was important for them to learn how to tie a quilt, which I think is especially appropriate for a child's quilt. 

On Monday I began quilting my long-waiting Linda Nova (Tula Nova) quilt. 

I began with walking foot quilting, working from the center outward to stabilize the quilt sandwich. I've learned that the puffiness of wool batting may cause some shifting between safety pins. This walking foot quilting should eliminate that. 

Custom quilting is next, though not as much as on my temperature quilt! I'm not up for that again!

For weeks, I've been no good at choosing good books! Remembering that decades ago I enjoyed Danielle Steel book, I read Beauchamp Hall (pronounced Beecham). It's about Winnie, a middle-aged woman living in small-town Michigan, sharing her house with her 11 year-long boyfriend, and working a dead-end job. After Winnie watches a British TV series called Beauchamp Hall, she begins to question her life, and dream of more. When everything she knows turns upside down determines to pursues her dream, travels to England, and through a series of being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time moments, she begins to find happiness. If you're a fan of Downton Abbey, you'll figure out that that Beauchamp Hall is Downton Abbey.  Really, this is a fairy-tale story. Predictable. Happily ever after.

Linda's score: 2.8/5.0 

I did a whole lot better choosing this book! The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler that kept me enthralled. I listen to it in two days!

College student Sienna Scott literally stumbles across the body of a dead young woman. When the killer isn't found, Sienna is sent to London to live with her grandmother. After 11 years away, she returns home to live with and care for her psychotic mother... just as the murder investigation is reopened. Sienna questions her mother's certainty that their house is being watched; relives the murder scene and conversations; and pursues her own hunches. Jonathan, a handsome home-flipper working at the house across the street, attracts her attention. Does she now have another suspect?

This story kept me guessing, though I was certain I knew who did it. I sure like this kind of engaging story. Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

I'm wondering how everyone is holding up through these days of slowly being released (phase 1 to phase 2) to activities. I got a haircut! Who knew that would feel so good?! I also visited my cardio-vascular doc for a put-off blood test (more extensive than routine blood work). Even these small steps away from home have felt good. Hopeful. Are you feeling a small amount of hope too?

Pastor Mike shared this during last Sunday's sermon.  The man knows how to preach! Go here to watch. 


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Scrap-Handling and Such

Since finishing my temperature quilt, I've only been sewing scraps.

I've completed 80 6-1/2" square blocks in eight colors. I'm not sure how many blocks I'll make, but definitely want a large quilt. I'll make some neutral-colored blocks, and will repeat colors for which I have lots more scraps - orange and yellow for sure.

Improv Challenge Blocks 
On my design wall are blocks made from weekly prompts given by the Boulder MQG.
This is week 8: Triangle. It's the last prompt. 

All the blocks on the design wall make quite a mish-mash! Given that every single block came from a bin containing solid scraps from other projects, I'm pretty pleased that I could use-up like this. You'll probably notice that pieces within the blocks are pretty small. By the time I got to those triangles (above), I was really scrounging to come up with scraps that were of a useable size!  

Certainly, in order to make this mash look like something, I'm gonna have to cut into yardage to give some visual distance between blocks. I need to add "resting places." Hopefully this approach will also make for a larger quilt. It''s about 50" X 50" now.

In the evenings I've been adding to my strip-braided rug. The larger it gets, the more slowly it comes along. It's 18" X 22" so far, and this is as far as I can go for now. I've used up all my saved strips from which I could extract 2"-widths! No! Please don't offer me any of yours! 😂

Last Friday I made my first venture into a retail store since mid-March. Sew Together is nearby. While the shop was closed for quarantine, they added online shopping to their website. I'd been admiring these modern fabrics: Moongate by Christina Cameli for Maywood Studio. I first saw these fabric designs last September when Christina A Few Scraps came for a Central Florida MQG program and workshop, and stayed with me. She showed me Moongate designs on her computer, and then swore me to secrecy until their release!
Ombré fabrics in the Moongate collection are prints!
Anticipating the arrival of our federal incentive check (it hasn't yet), last Friday I "gave back to my community" by supporting Sew Together. I might have indulge myself a little bit too, adding to my stash 15 pieces, for a total of 15 yards. Ooo.

During lots of scrappy-piecing time, I listened to three books.

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen is about a young married couple, Ellis and Maddy from Philadelphia who are indulgent and self-centered. They travel to the UK with a friend where they encounter wartime anxiety and drama. The story evolves after their arrival in Scotland where Ellis and his friend set to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster. Maddy faces discovery and sadness - pretty-much a hodgepodge of emotions. The author seemed to try too hard to touch on every type of intriguing storyline. 

Linda's score: 2.8/5.0

Somehow I was on the "edge" with this title too: The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris. A young orphan boy in Ireland, Shan Keagan, is struggling to survive with his drunken uncle. Upon learning about his real father, he's determined to go to the US find him. The ocean crossing proves tragic, and Shan is forced to find a new life for himself in New York City. His talent and natural ability to sing and mimic others gets him on the stage. When he inadvertently engages with a crime mob, he ends up in San Francisco, and again creates another life for himself. This is an admirable story about resiliency in the face of loss.

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

I've always liked books by Kate Wilhelm. Fullness of Time was a surprise because it's a novella. I listened to it one day while power-walking and piecing scraps.

It's about two women, Cat and Mercy, who have been friends since college. Cat produces video documentaries and enlists Mercy to help her research and collect information about a recently-deceased recluse, Hiram Granville, credited with thousands of patents. With the help of a technology geek, the women slowly begin to uncover Granville secrets: suicides, madness, and genetic narcolepsy. Or is it? The Granvilles are hiding something.

Linda's score: 3.8/4.0

As much as I continue to enjoy sewing, quilting, book-listening, and occasional chats with friends, I'm just about ready to break out. Aren't you? We haven't been engaging with the grandsons as much as we had been. The novelty of that has worn off. They're as tired of routine - Groundhog Day - as we are.

After reading rules for playing Gin Rummy, Dan and I have been playing many evenings. We learned the terminology: gin, knock, dead wood. I'm not much of a card-player, but I like it... probably because it's one of the few card games where I have half a chance of beating Dan!

On Monday I'm getting my haircut. So excited!

I usually get it cut every five weeks.

My last haircut was February 14 (before QuiltCon!), so it will have been 13-1/2 weeks!

My hair is still curly.

It looks like a bush! Linda


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