Friday, February 26, 2021

Rotary Blade Sharpener Review

This post is about my personal, unsponsored and uncompensated review of the Colonial brand "Turn-Sharp" Rotary Blade Sharpener I purchased from my local quilt shop - Sew Together - for $35.99 plus tax. Polly special-ordered it for me.

After asking blog readers and Instagrammers for rotary blade sharpener opinions last December (see that blog post here), this is my own unbiased review of the product I bought to try.

I have dozens of used 45 mm rotary blades to sharpen.

I followed the instructions. 

The first thing to do is identify the parts. Then, with water on your fingertip wet both sides of the inner ring of the whetstone. The light-colored center is the coarse whetstone. The opposite side has a darker-colored ring that is the fine side of the whetstone. Also note that the sharpener comes only with a whetstone for 45 mm blades. Size 28 mm and 60 mm whetstones are available separately.

The blue part inside the sharpener is the whetstone ring with the coarse side up. The handle assembly is what I'm holding in my hand. It has two parts into which the used blade is nested, and then screwed into place.

The handle assembly is set into the whetstone ring, and the turner/crank is snapped into place. Slowly crank the handle - one second per rotation - 10 to 15 times. Turn over the rotary blade in the handle assembly and repeat to sharpen the other side of the blade. 

Then, turn over the whetstone, to the fine side, and repeat the process, cranking 10-15 rotations on both sides of the rotary blade. At this point, I wanted to handle it carefully, and used needle nose pliers to put the blade in my rotary cutter.

After wiping the metal dust off the blade, I put it in a rotary cutter to... 

... test the blade on an old t-shirt.

I found more than one blade still had a burr. 

So, I repeated the entire blade-sharpening process... mostly with success! 

The whetstone collected metal dust, so I used an old rag to wipe it off.

After sharpening ten blades, repeating the sharpening process on four of them, I saved eight of the ten blades! The refreshed blades are now stored in a specially-marked container, ready to use.

The two rotary blades that are definitely goners are in their own special case.

To me, this Turn-Sharp is worth the money because I expect to return most of my 45mm blades to a reusable condition. And even if I can't save them all, I will have saved enough of them to make the investment in the sharpener worth the price. 

Here's a 2½ minute video I made of the entire blade-sharpening process that I hope you find helpful!

If you use the Turn-Sharp Rotary Blade Sharpener, I'd love to hear about your experience with it. Linda

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


Waiting for more than a week to post to my blog means I have too much stuff to share! So, you'll just have to bear with me. 😀

Wanting to use Quilter's Dream Puff batting to finish my 43" X 47" "Zing" quilt, and not having a batt on hand, I made do with two Puff pieces that worked out to the perfect size. Using a herringbone stitch, I hand-stitched to join the batts, stitching on both sides of the batting since it's so... well... puffy!

For the backing, I pieced many of the rejected bits from the quilt front - discarded because they weren't quite right. This makes me feel so frugal!

By the way, it was at this point that I decided I needed to get my solid scraps under control. In Maria Shell's workshop, I learned that she stores her solid scraps by color. So a quick trip into Target for ten 99-cent plastic shoeboxes was my solution. I made computer labels with the color name, and the matching ink color, to identify each box. They fit perfectly between my fabric stash cabinet and our computer armoire. Next I need to go through two bins of previously-collected solid scraps to sort them by color and add them to these shoeboxes.

Observant friends will notice "brown" at the bottom. That's not because I like using brown in my quilts (I don't!) but I needed a place to store those odd-ish colors like ginger, cumin, and wabi-sabi.

I'm quilting "Zing" with customized patterns that seems to suit all the small bits. 

It's not finished yet, but here's some of what I've done: walking foot quilting and free motion quilting.

From the back it looks like this. 

Doesn't Puff batting give it nice dimension? I prefer this single batt more than layering two battings.

I've quilted circles in each of the quadrants (drew around a ring template and then FMQed it). I think they'll look better when I finish quilting within them. 

This is the Iowa wind farm quadrant, from the front. 

Here is the quilting from the back. 

Using Aurifil 50-weight, I've been changing the top thread color to coordinate with the solid color that's being quilted. Aurifil 50-weight gray is in the bobbin.

I haven't quilted since December, when I finished "Italica," so it's been pleasant to work on "Zing," and slowly watch it come more to life. 

For Central Florida MQG, I spent a couple days joining blocks for the Scrap Snap quilt we're making to donate to the local, annual, St. Jude Children's Hospital Fundraiser. When piecing a block-based quilt, the web technique - see tutorial here - comes in very handy. 

Most evenings I'm continuing to hand stitch. This is Kawandi #5, and the third one I'm making with my grandma's vintage fabric scraps. This is 15" X 15". 

Book Recommendations

The Hunting Party
 by Lucy Foley has a similar flavor to The Guest List (read and reviewed in December) also written by Ms. Foley.

This story is about friends who, a decade ago, attended Oxford University (England) together. Since then, they have met every New Year in a different place. This year, nine of them have traveled by train from London to a remote Scotland hunting lodge. Several people in the group, as well the young female hostess and male caretaker/hunting guide, have past behaviors they're trying to hide. When an unexpected winter storm confines everyone to the grounds, suspicions are aroused when one of them goes missing. When that person is found dead, secrets are slowly uncovered. 

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

Though I've already read a book about the pack horse librarians from Kentucky (The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes), The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, garnered extra interest because of a second, underlying theme - a genetic condition called methemoglobinemia that causes a person's skin to appear blue. Cussy Mary and her father have this condition that makes them "colored," by 1936 Appalachian standards. Cussy, who locals call "Bluet," becomes the beloved "book woman," riding Junia (a protective mule) on daily routes that take her into the most remote, impoverished areas to deliver reading materials, read to her patrons, and provide help. Against the dictates of men who profess to look out for her best interests, Cussy finds her own way, managing to work and thrive.

I admire Cussy's pluckiness. It was also very interesting to learn about this rare medical condition. I highly recommend this book.

Linda's score: 4.9/5.0

I love ice cream. So much so that I never allow it in the house because I'll eat it every night. Last week I succumbed, and now have French vanilla in the freezer. I am being disciplined about eating it, but when I saw this cartoon on Cindy's blog, I immediately recognized myself. 

Last week I made a trial effort to play cards with Dan again. Gin rummy. It went well! A pleasant evening, outdoors on the lanai, enjoying drinks and hors d'oeuvres, and I won! 


Monday, February 15, 2021

Process: Piecin' Crazy

Since posting last Tuesday, a lot of piecing has been happening in the she-cave. Last week I set upon my quadrant quilt project to make it a completed top by the suggested due date of February 14, and I made it!

What I'm talking about is the quilt I started on January 28 in the first of four three-hour virtual classes with Maria Shell talesofastitcher. The workshop I took, along with 21 other students, is "Asymmetrical Symmetry." Each student were to choose four different ideas or inspirations, and translate them (not literally), into four pieced units that made a cohesive design measuring 40" X 40" up to 40" X 50.

In my last post, I was at this stage, still working on the quadrants. 

By Thursday evening, February 11, each quadrant was finished. I used all 30 of the solid colors I chose in the beginning. These quadrants represent:

my ukulele with it's tuning pegs, frets, fret marks, and happy sounds;

an Iowa wind farm with its long poles and blades;

the Bismarck palm in our front yard with overlapped trunk, finger-like fronds, and occasional seed pods;

and, I'll Fly Away based on a favorite song - "flying" and "...from these prison walls."

On Friday, I emailed this picture to Maria, asking if this rearrangement would be acceptable. Her affirmation set me on a course to figure out what in-between bits would turn this into a cohesive design. 

This is when I really got to work, beginning with another rough design.

Maria is keen on drawing, but it isn't my thing. For me it's ineffective because the bits (units) I draw never come out exactly as I imagine, or if I make and use the bit, I end up not putting it where I originally thought it would look right. Color placement plays such a big part in design. 

Though my process works - and it is very much "work!" - is also very tedious because I'm always making and remaking; and it's painful because I cut up (waste) so much fabric.

For example, I was at this point Saturday night. Then, Sunday morning, as I stood across the room and studied the quilt top on my design wall, that vertical pink strip at the bottom jumped out and said "I don't look good! There's too much of me here."  

On the left is the Saturday night strip; on the right is the remade Sunday combination of strips to replace it.

Like I said. Lots of making and remaking.

This is the debris/fall-out from making this patterned improv quilt. Maria shared her methods for dealing with all the leftovers, so I'm doing the same: sorting cut pieces by color, and organizing pieced bits by blocks and ribbons. 

I'm naming this 43" X 47" quilt "Zing" because it's certainly lively-looking! It actually turned out better than I thought it would, which is a surprise to me given how burdensome it felt to make. (I could never have drawn this entire design on paper!)

After piecing a backing, inevitably using some of those rejected bits, I'll sandwich the top with Quilter's Dream Puff. Then, I'll domestic machine quilt with using rulers, and maybe a little free motion quilting in some blank spaces... if I can find any! Ha!

Because I felt so "free" after finishing the quilt top, I started another Kawandi. Ahh. It's delicious to sit in my aqua chair and do mindless handwork. This Kawandi is 15" X 15" and I'm making it with more of my grandma's vintage fabric scraps.

While working on "Zing," I couldn't always listen to an audiobook because I needed to focus on design decisions, but time spent exercising and doing housework has still given me plenty of listening time. 

Book Recommendations
The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate is the best book I've read in 2021. The more books I read, the more I'm understanding different plot layouts. This one is familiar.

It's 1987, and Benny is a middle school/high school English teacher new to a small Louisiana town where few people talk about the history of nearby Goswood Grove plantation, though the Gossett family runs everything in town. Alongside Benny's story is the 1875 story of Hannie Gossett, a young slave who's sold and separated from her mother, siblings and everyone who's important in her life. Years later, she's returned to Goswood Grove plantation. When she disguises herself to follow the young mistress, Missy Lavinia, on a secret mission, Hannie finds herself on an adventure that takes her to Texas, and the possibility of finding family.

As each chapter ended with either Benny's or Hannie's story, I wanted to know more! At the book's conclusion, author Lisa Wingate shared that this fictional story is based on the Southwestern newspaper's column called "Lost Friends," where, following the emancipation, former slaves could ask for information about family members. Also, the book taught me about "pooparoos," and prompted me to bake cookies!

Linda's score: 4.9/5.0

The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher is unique!

Juno is a 68 year-old, gray-haired woman living in a classic old house with a family - Nigel and Winnie Crouch, and their teenage son Samuel. To observers, including Juno, the couple appears to have the perfect marriage. When Juno, a former therapist, overhears an argument, she begins to question what she knows, does some research, and uncovers a secret she wants revealed. 

I don't like categorizing this book as a psychological thriller (which it is) because the story unwinds very gently. I especially like that this book strung me along to a conclusion I couldn't have guessed.

Linda's score: 4.4/5.0

Devotions, reading, exercising, and creating continue to be regular pastimes. No going anywhere except for necessities. Sigh. Though we followed a neighbor's suggestion and visited a COVID vaccination site the day after we were told about it (no appointment needed/no waiting), the site was already shut down/out of vaccines. Except for the state database, we haven't had success getting our names on any COVID vaccine websites. The state list is so long it will be many more weeks until we hear anything. In good news, my 90 year-old dad has received both his vaccinations. Fantastic! Linda

Tuesday, February 9, 2021


The past week, plus, has been a time of intense slogging, as I've diligently worked, nearly every day, on the quilt that is my four-quadrant design resulting from the Asymmetrical Symmetry series of virtual workshop with Maria Shell TalesofaStitcher.

The last of four workshops was Sunday evening (no Super Bowl interest or watching for me). The workshop was more than challenging. But, I affirmed what I know about myself; I don't have the personality or insightful understanding to move an idea or inspiration into a tangible visual design. When I attempting to do so, the effort and process is emotionally taxing and unpleasant. 

That's not to say that the workshop itself, nor Maria's ability to teach are at fault! Not at all! Asymmetrical Symmetry is a great workshop for drawing out a quilter's creative abilities, and Maria's guidance is helpful, thorough, thoughtful, and non-judgmental. The responsibility for my difficulties are entirely my own. 

My four quadrants continue to evolve, by trial and error... with the "error" being frequent unsewing and resewing, and generating many more scraps. (Sigh.) In the second session, Maria suggested it was okay to change ideas and/or reduce the number of ideas.

Since the lower right "staircases" quadrant wasn't coming together

I switched my idea from staircases to my ukulele. 

This is where I'm right now. 
ukulele quadrant

Iowa wind farm quadrant

Bismarck palm quadrant

I'll Fly Away (song) quadrant

Quadrants are not sewn together, and have been rearranged - not for the last time - and it now looks like this. How to fill the plus-shaped space between the quadrants is the most critical part of making this a cohesive design. I'll keep my nose down so as to try to meet Maria's February 14 deadline for a completed quilt top. My quilt top should measure about 40" X 50". 

Though my focus has been on the workshop piece, it's been a refreshing relief to pick up hand-piecing  (as when talking on the phone) to make more Glitter blocks. When I see the blocks together, I can immediately pick out which ones will not make the final cut in the quilt top. Such as: middle row, fourth from the right. Too mushy.

An update on the competition between Dan and me... 

Whist: 7/0 (since Christmas)
Gin Rummy: 3/0 (since before Christmas)
Rummikub: 2/0 (in 2021)

Those zeros are all mine. Suffice it to say that game-playing has completely ceased.

Life is challenging these days, isn't it? 

Book Recommendation
Anxious People is the latest book from Fredrik Backman who also wrote A Man Called Ove... a popular book you may have read a couple years ago that's also being made into a movie with Tom Hanks. 

Anxious People takes place in Sweden, among a group of eight people who are attending an apartment viewing the day before New Year's Eve. When a would-be bank robber bursts into the apartment, each of their lives is exposed to review, scrutiny and revelation. The father-son police team, Jim and Jack, interviewing the witnesses have their own dynamics, and an early-on description of Jim's approach to technology and use of Google had me laughing out loud.

The book contains many insightful nuggets worth quoting, such as:
You can't live long with the ones who are only beautiful. But the funny ones - oh, they last a lifetime
Backman writes with humor and insightfulness, so the reader comes to know every character, beginning with the real estate agent, and (cashless) bank teller. (What kind of bank robber, robs a cashless bank?) As well, the narrator, Marin Ireland, deserves kudos for delivering an outstanding vocal performance of each character. 

Linda's score: 4.8/5.0



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