Monday, April 27, 2020

Distracted Sewing

This has been my she-cave situation for more than a week now. I had to move out my Bernina 440 and replace it with my Featherweight. The 440 foot control at intervals would stop working. I think there's a bad connection between the machine's foot control plug and the cord.

Anyway... I keep finding projects I want to make, and add them to a growing list of WIPs (works in progress). (Shh... don't remind me that I want to make a ScrapSnap quilt.

Based on comments from other quilters and sewists, I realize that I'm not alone in my inability to focus on one thing. Apparently that's an outcome of the Coronavirus quarantine. While I've always envied those who can start a project, and see it through to the end before beginning another, that's never been the case for me. So apparently my distracted sewing is a way to cope with quarantine.

Nonetheless, I'm justifying every one of my various projects because most of them involve using scraps. It's been a good feeling to sort through scrap bins, cut up pieces and make use of leftovers. Don't we all like to do that? Other than a finished quilt, I don't think any other activity in my sewing room is more satisfying. 

On BluPrint, I watched Christina Cameli's "The Scrappy Market Tote" video to see how she mades fabric from scraps. She calls it crumb piecing. My Featherweight is set up to piece more scrap strips whenever the mood strikes. None of these strips are joined because I don't know what I'm making!

Also, with another new purpose in mind, I dug into this container of seldom-used strips. These are the last long cuts: 1) from yardage; 2) excess cut-away from quilt backs; and, 3) lengths of leftover quilt binding. If the strips were wide enough, I cut them into 2" widths, though I kept the 2-1/4"-wide binding leftovers as is.

Then, beginning with a diagram, I started making a braided rag rug.

As you can see, it's a four-strand braid.

Once you turn the first corner, the fourth strip is used to weave new braid through previously-braided strips.

To add-on strips, Wikihow instructions say to either knot ends together, or cut a slit through both strip ends to create a woven join. I tried both methods, but thought they were bulky. So, since I'm braiding while sitting at my sewing machine chair, I have been using a short sewing machine stitch length to machine-piece strips to one another as I go.

Dan walked into the room and said, "That's not a very big rug." Ha, ha! It's about 8" by 14" so far. I have a way to go, and will run out of strips before it's finished. 

But that's okay by me. It's an ongoing project that is achieving it's purpose: 1) to use-up; and, 2) decrease my strip scraps.

Though the Boulder MQG improv challenge prompt was four days later than usual (okay by me!)  I've made the blocks following their "X block" prompt. Since scraps in my scrap bin are getting smaller - I haven't cut into stashed yardage - I improvised. Ha! Improvised improvisation. Two blocks are about 10" X 10". The two smaller blocks will be worked into the overall finished quilt. As my self-challenge, I'm still cutting fabrics only using scissors.

I'm sticking to my daily goal of quilting six blocks (at least) a day on my temperature quilt, aiming for a May 8 finish.

It's extremely satisfying to look at my progress and notice the lovely texture. Wool batting is the best! 

Hours of sewing room time means hours of audiobook listening. Two more finishes brings my year total to 23 books.
Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist is what I would call a summer, beach time read. It's a charming story that takes place in Texas in the early 1900s, about a young and single telephone switchboard operator, and a Texas ranger who comes to town posing as a telephone lineman who is trying to infiltrate and capture a notorious train-robber. As predictable as the storyline was, it was informative too. The narrative included telling about nesting and mating habits of several Texas birds, and explained what a pigeon-shooting tournament looked like, in the days before clay pigeons. This was a light and satisfying read.

Linda's score: 3.9/5.0

Since I enjoyed Diane Chamberlain's book Big Lies in a Small Town, I looked for another of her books and listened to The Midwife's Confession. It's narrated by five women who take the roles of the five main characters. I recognized the voices of two of them from previous books I've listened to.

The story begins with Noelle's suicide, and follows her two close friends and their two daughters. What comes from going through Noelle's effects - finding a partial letter and a name - is that they begin to realize that they didn't know Noelle at all! Noelle was the midwife with secrets, each one nearly as unbelievable as the previous one. I felt smug to have anticipated what was coming, even as I decided the story was a bit far-fetched. But I definitely didn't see the ending! This is a well-written, great read.

Linda's score: 4.3/5.0

Today Dan went to the grocery store and saw that quite a few items are still out of stock: yeast, toilet paper, paper towels. Thank goodness we don't need any of these things. Other items in low supply are tuna and flour. I'm grateful that Dan cooks, and only two of us are in our household. Truly, thank heaven for these blessings. And that I memorized Psalm 91! That's a real achievement for someone my age! 😊 Linda

Thursday, April 23, 2020

April Quilt Finish: Vintage-Style

Doing our part to flatten the curve, we're continuing to stay at home. Our only grocery store run was after 25 days of quarantine, and now we're on day 10 since the last grocery store visit. Ten days ago, Dan went to the grocery with a list of more than 40 items. The only thing he couldn't get was yeast. Our pizza-eating days are limited.

Last week I spent 1:36 on FaceTime with Tay, guiding him through making apple spice cake. On Monday, our daughter Jill's birthday, Dan guided Tay through making chicken tetrazzini... with said birthday girl's help. Celina baked a birthday carrot cake.

Knowing Celina would be baking that cake, and also knowing I couldn't stand at a card counter endlessly picking up and putting down greeting cards to find just the right one, I made Jill's birthday card with scraps of fabric and a little free motion quilting.

After four months, and long hours spent sitting in my aqua chair under my Slimline floor lamp, I finished hand quilting my Grandmother's quilt top.

In this flat shot you can see precisely where I modified the borders. The quilt top had only three borders and no extra fabric could be found in Grandma's stash. That's probably why it was left as it was. So I removed a border, and redistributed it with a new reproduction fabric. 

Though my hand quilting isn't visible - small X's stitched at one-inch intervals - the combination of random stitches and the puffiness of Quilter's Dream wool batting worked perfectly to mask the imperfections in the hand-piecing. The quilt top did not lay flat! The quilt's poof-iness hides that.

All the backing fabrics are from my stash, and I pretty much used up every blue-blue print I own! You might guess, I'm not a "blue person." Aqua, yes; blue, no.

By my reckoning, between my Grandma's hand-piecing (though we will never know for sure if she's the person who pieced this) and my backing and hand-stitching, we made a pretty good team.

I'll make and add a label that tells this quilt's story. It measures 68" X 84".

Oh boy! I had a fun read with Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain. It's been a few months since a book engaged me like this one.

The story opens with 20-something Morgan who is in a North Carolina prison. When she's unexpectedly given parole, she can't quite believe her good fortune, nor fully grasp the conditions of her release - in only a couple months, restore an old post office mural by an artist named Anna Dale. We learn more about Morgan's past, her boyfriend and reason for her incarceration, and Anna's story. Her life is about a young woman alone, living her dream of painting, yet coping with a small town's prejudices about a female artist, and race. If you like a book about uncovering secrets, you will thoroughly enjoy this one.

Linda's score 4.5/5.0

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson was an engaging book based on a completely improbable premise: twins who degenerate into flames whenever they're upset or stressed. The author makes that fact totally believable while telling the story of Lillian who's living a dead-end life, and Lillian's best friend, Madison, who lives in wealth as the wife of a Kentucky senator. When Madison finds herself responsible for the twins, she hires Lillian as governess. Over several months of caring for the twins, Lillian discovers herself, and is surprised by what she finds.

The only reason I didn't give this book a higher score is because of language. Call me a prude, but I find vulgarity completely unnecessary. Lillian's foul language added nothing to my perception of her character.   

Linda's score 3.8.0/5.0

If you noted that I listened to two books this past week, and you suspect it's because I've returned to machine quilting, you'd be correct! I most often listen to books while quilting. Though I'm "over" working on this temperature quilt, I must finish!

On Tuesday, April 21, I made an assessment of it:
  • The quilt has 378 blocks that are each 4" X 4".
  • I have quilted 268 blocks; it's 70 percent finished.
  • 110 blocks remain to be quilted.
  • Each block takes approximately 15 minutes to quilt.
  • If I quilt 6 blocks a day (1-1/2 hours), I'll finish quilting Friday, May 8.
  • I'm going for it. 
  • 💪

Saturday, April 18, 2020

These Corona Days

We're engaging with grandchildren whenever possible, and recently it was my turn to cook with Tay. He wanted to make Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies, but after discussing it with him, we agreed it would be easier to bake the dough as bars, in a jelly roll pan. He's serious about learning to cook, and has expressed that it's a lot of work! Following our successful baking effort, he made guacamole that was a hit with his family too. We followed the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe for that one. This afternoon Tay and I are making Apple Spice Cake 

Quilt-y Activities

Early in the new year, anticipating a year's worth of monthly opportunities to attend Sew-Ins with modern quilty-friends, I prepped pieces to make "Village," a pattern by Miss Rosie's Quilts. Moda Fabrics made the "Village" pattern available for free when self-isolation began.

Expecting that I wouldn't be with quilty friends any time soon, I went ahead and pieced the 132 houses I'd planned for my quilt. I'm not exactly following the pattern that calls for borders; no borders for me. 

I added a row of houses, so the top is 78" long. However, this is only 55" wide, so I'll be adding spacers between some of the houses - present-day social distancing - to make the quilt wider. 

Needing my design wall for something else, I took all the houses down, pinning each column, marked with an alphabet letter, to maintain the layout. This is my favorite piecing system called "the web." It's a method that follows the layout of an Excel spreadsheet, and is a technique I teach in my beginner quiltmaking classes. See my blog tutorial here. 

I feel comfortable knowing that the blocks will remain in the arrangement I had on the design wall, and are ready for piecing into a quilt top whenever the urge strikes. 

Are your making urges all over the map right now? Are you feeling as distracted as I am?

It seems I cannot focus for long on one project. Well, I couldn't do that before Coronavirus either, but it's worse now. And I'm more frequently making mistakes! I swear that everything I touch has to be redone - the Kit Supply Tote because of the wrong type of zipper; house blocks with scant quarter-inch seam allowances; labels not sewn-in straight and needing resewing... Please tell me I'm not alone in having that "mistakes issue" either! 

The time has been right to dig into the latest box of vintage fabrics that were found last September at our grandparent's empty farmhouse. My sister saved this boxful for me, and I received it in November. Fabrics are more of the same era of fabrics as found in June... and blogged about here.

Thanks to guidance from Monica @buttoncounter, a friend in Austin, Texas, I know what to do first. That's handwash fabric with the powdered Oxi Clean Versatile, Odor and Stain Remover.  As before, after soaking fabrics the water looked like coffee. I rinsed and soaked them two more times.

Then, hung them out to dry. The fabric pieces dry as stiff as board. At first I thought that was because I'd left soap in the fabric, but I realized it's just the nature of these old fibers. 

All these pieces, and more, have been washed, pressed, and cut into usable pieces for special projects. 

The 67" X 88" vintage quilt top I kept, to finish into a quilt for our granddaughter is done being quilted! I'm thrilled about that, and the binding is ready to go. 

I spent dozens of hours in my aqua chair under my Slimline floor lamp, stitching these small, practically invisible X's across the quilt. With the wool batt, the texture is just what I hoped it would be. Can't wait to call this quilt done!

This is my next small handwork project. Fabric on the right was given to me by a friend. I'm using size 8 DMC pearl cotton to randomly stitch across a piece of linen. The two pieces will join to make one side of a pencil pouch. I'll repeat the design for the opposite side.

The free Noodlehead pencil pouch pattern is here.

I'm continuing to keep up with the Boulder MQG's improv challenge. On Instagram, it's #bouldermqgathome A different improv prompt is given each Sunday. I shared the first two weeks here.

Week 3: the April 5 prompt was log cabins. Ugh. I don't like - never have - log cabin blocks, so it felt good to cut up a few of them.

Week 4: the April 12 prompt was squares.

I couldn't resist seeing what they all look like together. 

I'm still using only scrap bin pieces, and cutting only with scissors. Even the trimmed-down edges of these approximately 9-1/2" X 9-1/2" squares are scissor-cut. At times it's a little frustrating to work this way, but it's a good exercise. 

Non-Quilt-y Activities

Speaking of exercise... are you getting out for yours? Or staying inside to do it? I am keeping up regularly with outdoor and indoor exercise. One day it's power-walking three to four miles (at about a 16 minute per mile pace), and another day it's using weights and following a 45-50 minute Leslie Sansone video like this one on YouTube or DailyMotion. I love a good, sweaty workout that makes me feel like I've earned every bit of my she-cave time. 💪 

Daily I'm spending time memorizing Psalm 91 and am up to verse 11. Are you memorizing it? Here's the link to the Living Proof Ministries print-out that looks nice hanging on a wall. 

Did you watch any of the BluPrint online classes during their free viewing days? After viewing Jacqui Gering walking foot classes, I watched Rigid Heddle Loom Weaving with Deborah Jarchow. I thought it would satisfy my curiosity about weaving, but instead it gave me an avid interest in doing it! I've been Googling where to buy a loom and started following #rigidheddleloom on Instagram. Oh dear! 😧 I don't have space or time for another hobby! And what in the world would I do with scarves or wraps?! Stop me!

Oh, and in between times, I'm trying to learn WordPress. My thinking is to move our Central Florida MQG blog (I'm responsible for it) from Blogger to WordPress. Then, when I felt comfortable with the platform, I'll move my blog from Blogger to WordPress too. For a long time I've thought that Blogger (owned by Google) isn't being support by Google, as I've experienced several unresolved problems with Blogger. The worst is being unable to write comments from my MacBook computer to a Blogger blog. Many of us are experiencing that unresolved problem. Blogger has even locked questions and discussions about it!

I'm concerned that one day Blogger will be so inoperable that those of us using Blogger will be forced to move to WordPress. So, I'm trying to be proactive. But am finding it very challenging to learn WordPress which isn't intuitive to me. 

A few Netflix programs have caught my attention: the series Virgin River; and the movie Faith, Hope, and Love. I'm still listening to books too. Recently that was A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende. I've read a couple of her books in the past - I liked Zorro - so I know she's Chilean and her books are translated into English. 

It was difficult to engage in this book because it's about an unfamiliar (to me) war - the 1930's civil war in Spain; the flight of refugees from Spain to France, and France to Chile; and subsequent civil war and oppression in Chile. Certainly, exposure to the history in these countries was educational for me.

The story follows army doctor Victor Dalmau who helps his brother's pregnant friend to flee from war-torn Spain into France where they're each detained in a camp. They later board the SS Winnipeg with 2200 emigrants sailing to Chile to begin a new life. Politics, military coups, and unrest follow the couple throughout the story. No doubt the historical perspective is factual - good information for readers who like that sort of thing.  

Linda's score: 3.0/5.0

The three counties in our area are seeing a good slow in new cases of COVID-19, causing our counties to drop lower on the list of Florida counties with cases. We're speculating that it's because seniors are following stay-at-home orders. Counties with younger adults may not be as diligent about that. In any case, we're anticipating more stay-at-home weeks. I continue to be grateful that I have a stay-at-home hobby that keeps me engaged.  Linda

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

MidCentury Modern Artist Challenge

Due to the cancellation of our trip to Kansas City to celebrate our Dad's 90th birthday on April 7, I had extra time on my hands and participated in our Central Florida MQG's "MidCentury Modern Artist Challenge."

Our challenge was to select one of ten MidCentury modern artists (list is here) and choose a piece of art as inspiration for a quilt. No other rules were made except my own: to make a quilt large enough to be used. Finished quilts were to be shown at our April 6 meeting, which of course didn't happen. So, @centralfloridamqg had an Instagram show. See our Instagram hashtag #modartchallenge. Though only 7 of our 58 members participated 😒 the quilts are wonderful!

The artist who inspired my quilt is Victor Vasarely. I adore many of his pieces which often include depth and dimension.

Specifically, this art - "Homage a l'Hexagon" - captured my attention. 

I started my quilt Sunday, March 15 and finished Sunday, April 5. Three weeks in the making.

I've been calling this VV for lack of a name.

It measures 48" X 64".

The backing is pieced because I don't have yardage in my stash; I'm using-up; and, I'm not shopping during Coronavirus isolation. "Make do," is my mantra these days. 

I happily used this 2009 fabric in the backing. It's been stashed since my days working at Creekside Quilting in Clive, Iowa. I remember how much I loved this print from a Patrick Losé collection called "Mixmasters Satinesque." It came in a dozen colorways. 

I'm quite pleased with the quilting which is clearly visible because: 1) the batting is wool - Quilter's Dream; and 2) the thread is 28-weight - Aurifil.  

I used a walking foot to quilt the lines; and a ruler foot with the .75 echo guide to quilt in the orange convex curves.

If you'd like to learn more about walking foot quilting, I highly recommend taking advantage of BluPrint's free access to all their classes. Jacqui Gering's "Creative Quilting With a Walking Foot" lessons are great! Perhaps I picked up so much from the walking foot classes because she quilts on, and therefore features, Bernina. All BluPrint classes are being offered free until April 16. 

Sunday is Easter! Hallelujah! 
Friend Nancy, who commented on my last blog post, stated that she remembers when women wore gloves to church. Though glove-wearing was a fashion statement then, perhaps it will become a safety trend in our post-Coronavirus world.

Nancy's comment made me recall wearing gloves when I was young. This 1961 Easter Sunday picture is of our mother holding my baby brother, next to my sister, and me (on the right). All three of us girls are wearing gloves. And what about those hats?

Mother always sewed, our clothes and hers, and even made our bucket purses fashioned around the base of a Quaker oatmeal box. She was creative like that. 

I saw this chalked on a driveway during yesterday's power walk: April distance brings May existence. 

I hope each of you are doing more than just existing!

This is last evening's pink moon. I used the "vivid" setting on my Canon SX620 to take the picture. Though the moon isn't defined, I can't believe how the pink shows up! I didn't adjust the image at all. 

Though we aren't able to worship in a church during this Holy Week, opportunities abound to take advantage of technology, and fill your soul. Worship with Lutheran Church of Hope here.

Happy Easter! He is risen! Linda

Monday, April 6, 2020

Abnormal Activities

Sunday was Palm Sunday. In his sermon, Pastor Mike explained that we're not living in a "new normal," rather we're living in abnormal times.
Social distancing on my street
He said our new normal will happen when the threat of Coronavirus is over. Then we'll begin living a new way. I bet we don't handshake or hug acquaintances anymore.

He also likened these days to Bill Murray's character, Phil, in the movie Groundhog Day. Phil's various attitudes to his situation being similar to how some of us are handling each day. Go here to hear the message.

Living Proof Ministries, a Beth Moore organization, offers Bible verses to help us through these uncertain times. Go here.

When I begin to feel concerned or anxious, I read Psalm 91. Even better - Living Proof has challenged us to memorize the 16 verses of Psalms 91. Go here to print a pretty version of Psalm 91. I printed mine on card stock and have it hanging on my sewing room wall. I'm challenging myself to memorize four verses a week. Will you join me?

Utilizing Technology
Dan continues to engage with two of our grandsons. Over the weekend, he and Tay made Beer Bread.  Our daughter says beer bread is the same as camp bread, in Australia. The family loved it.

On Saturday, which would have been the occasion of our family and friends celebration of our Dad's 90th birthday (he'll be 90 on Tuesday, April 7), we had a Zoom party. It was my first Zoom event, and it was great! Dad was there, along with my two siblings, our two kids, our five nieces and nephews, spouses, and Dad's 13 great-grandchildren... though a few were camera-shy. 

Toward the end of our visit, we joined to sing Happy Birthday!. Though with the audio delay, it was more of a jumble... but still lots of fun. I hope we do this again. 

Uhm... are you doing this more frequently?

We haven't gone to the grocery store for 18 days, and counting. We've got enough stock in the pantry for meals, but we're nearly out of milk. No fresh produce, so we haven't made fresh-pressed veggie juice since March 17. My body misses it; hot flashes have returned. My yogurt and coffee creamer will be gone by Wednesday. Still, we plan to hold off. First, because we've been told this is the week not to go, and second, I really don't want to go.

Face Masks
It seems now that even the face masks that are made from quilting cotton are acceptable. This is part of an article in the New York Times on April 5. 

Not a single batik at my house, but I've made face masks from "quilter's cotton." You might guess who's is who's.

At Elizabeth's @OccasionalPiece recommendation, I followed the free pattern from Orange Dot Quilts. I like it for the way it wraps around the chin, and there's a definite outside/inside. I didn't use quilt batting, but a fusible, non-woven interfacing.

One important note: If you make this mask using a directional print, instructions don't indicate which way to cut out the fabric. 
Cut the 10” X 16-1/2” piece as though the 10” side is the top (or bottom) - the nose or chin. When the 10” X 16-1/2 piece is folded in half, to measure 10” X 8”, the 10” side is the nose/chin, and the 8” measurement is the sides, toward each ear. 
Usual Activities
Daily, I'm in my she-cave, and am very grateful for that! I've come across quite a few makers - quilters, sewists - who have been tossed into an emotional, Coronavirus tail-spin that leaves them unable to find direction.

My thinking is: I'm not helping anyone by not doing something I love. So, I sew.

I've joined the Boulder MQG Improv Challenge to make three blocks a week following their chapter prompts. Since they suggest making the challenge personal, I've given myself the following rules.

Three blocks for each prompt that are:
1) pieced from solid scraps
2) yellow or gold in each block
3) at least 9" X 9", to make a large quilt (to achieve my 2020 goal to make large, useable-size quilts)
4) cut only with scissors - don't use a rotary cutter or rulers

Week 1 - Half-Square Triangles

Week 2 - Stripes

Yesterday began Week 3 - Log Cabin

In March, when I gave the ruler quilting demo to members of the Orlando MQG, I shopped at The Sewing Studio where the group meets. I bought supplies to make two of a new pattern from Aneela Hoey: Kit Supply Tote.

It's large, and with a separating zipper and side gussets, opens wide to hold a lot.

I filled mine with 12 skeins of yarn. This is my in-progress, crocheted Moorland afghan.

I listened to one audiobook last week. It's so thought-provoking that I kept thinking about it days after finishing it. My cousin Barb made the recommendation, and I'm glad she did!
The book is The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn, who is also the narrator. I checked it out from RBDigital. The book is categorized as fiction/syfi, which I find hard to accept.

Cahn is a Messianic Jew who explains that Isaiah 9:10-11 is a warning. Through nine omens - harbingers - beginning with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, the scripture is a foretelling of what has happened in America as our defiant country follows ungodly ways. Conversations between a modern day prophet, and Nouriel, explain how even from the founding of the United States, when George Washington gave his first speech in St. Peter's Chapel (not coincidentally, on the corner of Ground Zero) Isaiah 9:10-11 should lead us to recognize how our country has removed itself from God. This may be a fictional story, but it has many real-life connections that will make you pause and wonder if Coronavirus is another sign. God wants us to change our ways.

Linda's score: 5.0/5.0



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