Monday, January 31, 2011

Skirt Reduction

Last August I used my favorite Route 66 skirt pattern to upcycle six pair of my husband's jeans into this 12 gore skirt. Other than the skirt being heavy - that denim weighs a lot! - I have really liked it.

Fast forward to January, and I'm happy to say I've lost 16 pounds. I did so intentionally, pretty much by removing carbohydrates from my diet. No-nos include bread, muffins, pasta, rice, cookies, bars, and popcorn. This regimen worked well enough that two weeks ago, when I had my annual check-up, I learned I'd shaved 31 points off my overall cholesterol total. I'd previously been told to "watch it," and this report was "excellent." What an unexpected health bonus!

On the down side, a weight loss means my clothes don't fit as well. and "alterations" is an eleven-letter word I detest! But refitting this skirt was easier than I expected. A 12 gore skirt can be made into an 11 gore skirt!

Unstitch the seam with the invisible zipper, and the next seam over. Remove the gore. Then resew the seam and one side of the zipper. A few inches of the facing had to be unstitched, cut away, and resewn too, but the whole thing took much less time than I expected.
I'm sure a fashionista would say an 11 gore skirt is a bit odd, but I think this one's gonna work for me.

As for several other Route 66 skirts that have gores with different fabric prints... well, those will need a little more attention because each gore will need trimming. I dare not climb up from this weight. This is the year for my 40th high school reunion!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Featherweight Woes

Last week, when it was exceptionally cold in my basement sewing room, I decided to set up my Featherweight (purchased at an estate sale in 1998) at the dining room table. I had lots of Roll Roll Cotton Boll piecing to do in Part 5: sewing 600 half-square triangles in red and neutral.

It was toasty warm sitting in a shaft of sunlight coming into the dining room. I happily sewed on and off for several days and managed to accomplish this... cutting and piecing all the parts for making RRCB blocks. 

I was progressing swimmingly, anticipating sewing those neutral-colored string blocks (above, on right) together, when this began happening.
skipped stitches
I got out my book Featherweight 221: The Perfect Portable by Nancy Johnson-Srebro, and commenced trying everything it suggested to keep the machine from skipping stitches. I changed needles, trying several different sizes; changed sewing thread; adjusted the pressure on the presser foot; made sure I threaded the machine properly; removed the bobbin case and bobbin case base to check for lint, then oiled and put it together again; and even went so far as to take apart and reassemble the tensioner! After several hours, much frustration, and no success whatsoever, I put the machine back in its case until I can find a Featherweight repair person.

A Featherweight is a nice machine that I'm glad to own, but I like better when it's making lovely stitches.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lotsa Binding

After FMQ three quilts, it naturally follows that I have a lot of binding to make and apply. Whenever possible, I like to prepare my binding (cut 2-1/4" wide) long before quilting a quilt. Otherwise, I'm inclined to accidentally use designated-for-binding fabric in some other quilt top. 

I really like to sew binding to a quilt with a walking foot. With a regular sewing foot, binding tends to snug-up as it's sewn around the quilt sandwich perimeter.

Besides using a walking foot, I prefer to sew binding to a quilt in a way that's not your usual "sew-around-the-perimeter." I like to sew binding to a quilt in four separate strips, just like sewing a border to a quilt center. This way nothing snugs-up. Instead, each binding strip is cut to fit the quilt, and sewn to each side separately. Your finished quilt lays flat.

I also like the fact that I can machine-sew the four mitered corners, instead of hand-sewing them.
If you've never tried this method of sewing binding to a quilt, you should! Long-time readers of this blog know that I advocate using this method. I've never been successful at sewing to join a binding's beginning and ending tails off the quilt, hoping they'll be flat when they're sewn on the quilt.

This binding method avoids all that because joinings occur only at each corner.

After you've machine-sewn each of a quilts four binding corners, all you need to do is flip over the corner and use a stiletto to pull out the point. Presto! A finished corner, front and back.

My binding tutorial is available here, and I've been told it's understandable. I hope you'll give it a try.

These are the bindings that await my hand sewing. Looks like some nice, warm TV time for me!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Val, of Queensland, Australia, sent me this funny.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Whole Lot of Quiltin' Goin' On

In between bouts of frigid temperatures - so cold I can't bring myself to spend much time in my basement sewing room - I've been FMQ (Free Motion Quilting).

I've been quilting two identical "Jungle Friends" quilts, but only one of them is completely finished. 
Jungle Friends 32" X 49"
They're both quilted with "invisible" thread on top.

The bobbin thread is white, Aurifil 50-weight, my favorite piecing and machine-quilting thread.
For backing, this abacus print at half price couldn't be passed up.

Two mission quilts are quilted. These are for children in a South African orphanage.

One of my favorite quilting designs is all over snail-trail circles. It's a good FMQ warm-up after being away from it for a while.

Again, there's invisible thread on top and cotton thread in the bobbin.

Patches are 6" X 6" (finished) squares of assorted left over fabrics from other kids' quilts I've made.
Quarry Stone quilt, 48" X 60"
 This quilt is the Stitchin' Mission Noah's Ark pattern, but made larger by the addition of a border.
Noah's Ark quilt, 48" X 60"

The border was fun to play around with. Below is a picture of the back.

I'm looking forward to the day our temperatures get above freezing. The only good thing about FMQ in a chilly basement is that the garden gloves I put on for quilting also help keep my hands warm!

It's been too long since I offered a laugh. Here's a one-liner from my good friend Di, at Snippets 'n Scraps.
A dyslexic man walks into a bra...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Donated Bolts

When a box arrives looking like this, it's certainly cause for celebration and thanks!
After I mailed a letter of inquiry to Michael Miller Fabrics, asking if they would be willing to donate fabric to my Stitchin' Mission ministry, I was extremely grateful for the response I received. Yes!
These are the fabrics I requested to make Noah's Ark quilts. Isn't that "Messy Hands" print a great focus print?

I have enough yardage to make approximately six Noah's Ark quilts. I'll need that many in various stages of completion for recording the Stitchin' Mission beginner quiltmaking video. That happens in late March. This video will be made with the $1,000 grant many of you helped Stitchin' Mission win when you voted in the Dream Big Grow Here contest last August.

Now that I've found a willing videographer, and received this fabric gift from Michael Miller Fabrics, I have no excuses for putting off the next step: preparing the script that the videographer and I will use on the day of recording. I think we're headed the right direction.

Thank you, Christine in marketing at Michael Miller Fabrics. You're the best!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hand Piecing

Do you hand piece?

Hand piecing sure isn't often (ever?) mentioned in blog posts. So when the February/March issue (No. 420) of Quilters Newsletter magazine arrived, with an article about hand piecing, I was tickled. The opening paragraph reflects my own thoughts about this somewhat neglected technique:
"Many hand piecers find the pastime relaxing and some say they're able to make more quilts because it's easier to find a few minutes here and there to hand stitch, even when they're on the go. Hand piecing is easy to learn and ideal for quilters of all skill levels with little or no dedicated studio space for a machine."
Let me add, "Hoorah for hand piecing!" When I thought about it, I realized I have three quilts that I've hand pieced, and I have enjoyed every moment of doing so... mostly while a passenger on long road trips, or while away from home. With a little pre-planning (less effort than applique), you take a hand-pieced project anywhere.

My first hand pieced quilt top is this Winding Ways. It isn't finish, but the hand piecing is! The quilt top is 51" X 69", (each block is 8-1/2" finished) and my plan is to add an appliqued border. I don't get around to hand applique as easily as hand piecing. 
These are the homemade templates I used to trace the pieces onto fabric. 
Don't the seams look good?

Are you noticing all the curved pieces? My philosophy about hand piecing is that if you're going to make the effort to hand piece, you might as well piece something that's a bit more challenging than just straight lines. Straight line piecing is much easier to accomplish on a sewing machine. So when I decide what I want to hand piece, I intentionally select a pattern with curves or set-in seams. That's why my second hand pieced quilt is this Periwinkle Star. 

Most often, when I've seen this as a finished quilt, the octagon shapes are pieced into quarters (straight seams). Again, my thought was make it a whole octagon with set-in seams. Gosh, I got so carried away piecing scraps (only the octagons are the same muslin fabric) that this quilt center is 80" X 80". I'm currently hand-appliqueing four borders for it. I'm on border #3. 

Get a load of that piecing! Come on, look closely! Check out those points! 
This kind of precision is very achievable when it's done by hand. 

My third hand pieced quilt, Candied Hexagons, is also unfinished. While this one involved quite a bit of straight seam piecing, some of the hexies have set-in seams. This quilt center also still needs hand appliqued borders. (sigh)

But the two points I want to make about hand piecing is that: 1) it's easy to do; 2) and, it's a great travel project.

Hand piecing stitches can be done in a couple different ways. Some make a simple running stitch. I prefer to load my needle with three to four stitches, pull those through, and then backstitch through the last stitch when I reload the needle. The thought behind this concept is that should a thread ever break, the entire seam won't pull out.

When you hand piece, you know exactly where to stitch because the line that's drawn around a template is the stitching line. I prefer to cut out a shape with a 3/16th inch seam allowance. The hand piecing stitches themselves are about 1/16th of an inch apart.

In the QN article, four different hand pieced blocks are featured including templates for tracing. Blocks are Orange Peel; Rainbow Flower; The Painted Daisy; and The Gay Cosmos. The latter two have the additional element of hand applique. You know how well I don't get along with that!

It's the Orange Peel that got my attention. Here are my homemade templates, ready to be traced onto fabric.

The book from which these four QN designs were taken is The Quilters Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer. It's a hardbound, full color book that contains 4,050 pieced blocks! Now wouldn't that keep a hand piecer busy for a while!

For those who want to know... our two month-old grandson, Aesa, is back at home after a two night hospital stay. He's recovering from bronchiolitis, a viral inflammation of the small ends of the bronchial tubes. We've learned that it's congestion and wheezing that most often strikes infants who are one to nine months old. We're extremely thankful he's improving, and we're grateful for your prayers.

After three weeks, I'm still trying to get over sinusitis and unhappily trying to get used to a plugged right ear. Let me tell you, it really is tedious to listen to myself so much! But I'm grateful to have energy again, and feel like getting back to my quilting. My next hand piecing project has my attention. Will you be hand piecing too?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


When I go to the trouble of rearranging my sewing area to put my hollowcore doors across sawhorses for pin-basting, it makes sense to sandwich and pin-baste all my quilt tops. Four of them are ready for FMQing. 

So many safety pins were needed for four quilts that I had to borrow some from a friend!
I'm ready to quilt this 32" X 49" Jungle Friends.

Snowflake Medallion was basted a while back (Eeks, I just checked, and it's been in this ready-to-FMQ state since June!) but is on the soon-to-start-quilting list. It's 80" X 80" with wool batting.

Two basted quilts are 48" X 60", one with flannel as batting and the other with Mountain Mist White Rose (my favorite) batting. In March, these Stitchin' Mission quilts will go to an orphanage in South Africa.

Have you been shoveling snow? If you live in the US, you probably are. Yesterday and today, 49 US states had snow on the ground. Only Florida is without snow. Here in our region of Iowa, on Monday we received 7.7 inches (19.5 cm).

In Australia, citizens of flood-stricken Queensland are mourning their dead, and suffering through tragic losses of homes, cars, and possessions. A Youtube video of a fast-rising river in Toowoomba makes one realize how quickly the water changed peoples' lives. My soul weeps for them, and the terrain of that beautiful country. I can offer only my earnest prayers for their relief. May God pour His perfect love into every place of sadness.

If you're inclined to help, my friend Jenny at Elephanz is auctioning two of her stitchery quilts to raise funds for flood relief.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blog Book

I've been under the weather for the past week. After a visit to the doctor to learn that sinusitis and an ear infection are the reason, I expected the doctor-prescribed amoxicillin to make me quickly feel better. But after six days, I'm not much improved. My blocked right ear makes my head feel as though it's wrapped in batting. I have various cracklings and reverberations in my head when I speak. It's aggrevating, and not at all conducive to feeling like sitting at a sewing machine. But enough whingeing.

Let me share with you my satisfaction over a recent book purchase. Blog2Print is a company that puts your blog posts in a print book. You can choose whether you want comments included, whether to have a table of contents, and whether you want soft or hard cover. You also get to write your own title, choose your book cover, and select photos for the covers.

I'm happy that I decided to spend the extra money for a hard cover book. It looks so impressive!
You can see that I plan to have more than one volume printed. 

This book contains all my 2009 blog posts.
When reading it, I was struck by the realization that it's almost like a dairy. A real chronology of my life and activities. It includes my trips to Australia, and New Zealand (see left page), and the many quilting projects I've had my hands on.

Volume 1 totaled 175 pages. I will soon be ordering Volume 2, for all of 2010.

On the dedication page I had the opportunity to express what this book represents.

I have no affiliation with Blog2Print, though I tried to get the company to allow me to host a giveaway for them. No responses to my inquiries. But, this book is definitely something to consider if you want to preserve all the hours you've spent writing your thoughts and taking photos. 

After all, who wouldn't want her 2011 Flourishing Palms - Volume 3 blog book to include a page of whingeing about sinusitis and an ear infection?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Australian Homespun - See page 7!

An unexpected, but very happy surprise came in the mail. It's the latest issue of Australian Homespun magazine sent directly from the publisher. I received it because they printed a bit about me in their "Reader's Showcase."

 See page seven!

I'm so tickled to have my slippers - AKA "Sassy Slip-ons" -  included, let alone find myself mentioned in the company of two very good friends who are both as talented as can be, Di Jobbins and Jenny Reynolds! Wow!

Back in June, I blogged about these slippers. Since then, besides making occasional appearances on my feet, these slippers were also shown at the 2010 Iowa State Fair (alas, no ribbon was won). Now Australian Homespun. My goodness.

Who woulda thunk it!?


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