Saturday, September 30, 2023

End of September

The end of September finds me continuing to quilt. After the current one in progress, I have two more to go to be caught up. 

Since completing Unallocated (see last blog post), I'm nearly finished with the super-scrappy Harvest Moon/Yin-Yan blocks quilt. All the blocks (except for the outside setting triangles) are cut and pieced from "made fabric." I pieced every little scrap and bit from my bins - "scarping my scraps" - to make fabric from which I cut and pieced half-moon convex curves, and half-moon concave curves. 

Quilting thread on top and in the bobbin is 40-weight light gray Presencia. 

Quilting has been mostly ruler work, using the Westalee "Circles on Quilts Template Set 1," as well as "The Low Curve" ruler 10 by Linda of @thequiltedpineapple and Amy of @amyquilts. In between sections of ruler quilting, I did a little wavy free motion quilting, leaving the ruler foot (#72) on the machine to do it.

Though The Low Curve ruler is difficult to photograph, you can surely see the two pieces of tape on the back of the ruler. I added adhesive-backed skate board grip tape to give rough texture so the ruler grips the fabric while being moved. Skate board grip tape is much rougher - grippier - than sandpaper.

When I got a roll of the skateboard grip tape, a few years ago, I split it with a quilting friend, and that still left us both with plenty. I've shared some with other quilting friends.

I'm satisfied with my September making efforts. In spite of spending several weeks quilting, I managed to piece a backing, make three bindings, sew-on a quilt sleeve, and make a zipper pouch. Those amounted to using up a total of 6 yards. I didn't make any fabric purchases - yay! 

Using up and not buying fabric are good things for me. Though, I want to mention a recent discussion at our house that's another reason not to buy fabric. The expense.

The price of raw cotton is on the rise (again). It's still not as high as it was through and post-pandemic that resulted in the latest increase in the price of quilting cotton. It's about $13 to $14 a yard, most places.

The recent climb in raw cotton prices signals that another possible price increase is on the horizon. We could see that reflected in the price of quilting cotton by December. You heard it here first, quilting friends.

It never fails to frustrate me that though us quilters always experience paying higher prices for quilting fabrics, when the price of raw cotton DEcreases, we never experience paying less. Interestingly, 70 percent of the price of quilting fabric comes from the cost of the product (cotton). Wouldn't it make sense then that if the cost of the product goes down, so would the price of cotton yardage?

The chart below shows the rise and fall in the price of raw cotton since the beginning of 2023.

I'm not an economist, but it seems to me that someone's getting the raw end of the deal. ✋

Book Recommendations
The Path to Sunshine Cove
 by RaeAnn Thayne is a Harlequin romance about Jessica, a single woman who travels around the US in her tricked-out Airstream to spend a week or two at a residence, guiding homeowners through the process of getting rid of years of accumulated clutter. The business is called "Transitions."

When Jessica has the chance to go to Sanctuary Cove, where her sister lives, she thinks of it as two weeks where she can work to help Eleanor Whitaker clear out her beautiful familial home perched on the rocky cliff of the ocean, and spend time with her sister - and perhaps overcome the awkwardness of their relationship. Jessica meets Nate, Eleanor's son who intrigues her. When a strong friendship begins to form between Jessica and Eleanor, and then Nate's daughter, Jessica finds it more difficult to face leaving when the job is over  

I thought this book was a bit too predictable, though if you'd like an easy, "summertime" reads that ends happily ever after, this is a good one. 

Linda's score: 3.7/5.0
The It Girl
 by Ruth Ware has been a trending book, and being a Ruth Ware fan, I was on a wait list to get this one. 

Hannah and April were roommate at Pelham College at Oxford (UK) more than a decade ago. Hannah comes from a modest background. April comes from a wealthy family, and enjoys every indulgence - clothes, champagne, and drugs. The two of them are in a group that study and drink together. 

When they've nearly completed their first year at Pelham, Hannah finds April's body in their apartment. Hannah mmediately suspects one of the porters, John Neville, who has acted suspiciously toward her. 

In present day, after being convicted of April's murder, Neville has died in prison. Rather than make Hannah feel better - she's now married and pregnant - his death raises questions. A podcaster wants to talk with Hannah.. She reluctantly meets with him. New information he shares, and Hannah's belated uncertainty that Neville was the murderer, cause her to pursue her own lines of inquiries with her old friends. The murderer is still out there, and her questions could be to her own detriment.

Though I never guessed the "who" behind this crime, I was somewhat disappointed in the book. I thought Ware's characters ruminated too much - reviewing, thinking about, deciding in their heads, then changing their minds... ad nauseum. And again, Ware's use of profanity didn't enhance the story. In my opinion, compared to her earlier works Ware has lost her touch, 

Linda's score 3.9/5.0


Sunday, September 24, 2023

Unallocated Quilt Finish

Now that QuiltCon entries are done and dusted, I'm plunging into quilting four quilts in my backlog!

In six days of quilting and sewing, one more is quilted and bound. Here is Unallocated, the free block design I found on Michelle McKillop's Instagram feed. After lots of scrap-busting - scarping my scraps! (Thank you for naming that fun activity, Char!)I completed the quilt top in April... and set it aside until now. 
Unallocated, 61" X 80"

Quilting was all done on my Bernina 770QE with a walking foot - straight lines at a 3.1 stitch length; and stitch #4, a lengthened serpentine stitch.

More elaborate quilting would have been lost in the busy-ness of the prints. I used Aurifil 50-weight thread in the top and bobbin, in a pale green color #1231.

Also, for the first time, I used Elmer's School Glue to "baste" down the folded binding, and then use my machine's edge foot #10D to machine sew the binding into place. It looks nice enough, but I won't make a regular practice of doing it this way. I just don't think it looks as nice as hand sewing. 

Piecing the quilt back was fun! I used a backing idea from Kelly Young's book Perfectly Pieced Quilt Backs, and happily used-up a fair amount of yardage - not quite 4 yards. 

Special thanks to two quilting friends from Central Florida MQG - Donna P. and Mary T. - for being my quilt-holders outside our CFMQG Sew-In meeting place. Using pockets pinned to the quilt corners, and two adjustable length poles (a method learned from Debbie at A Quilter's Table) they held it high. Thanks friends! 

Now I've moved on to quilting my other scarp my scraps quilt - the one that's a combination of Harvest Moon and Yin-Yan blocks. The 72" X 86" quilt top was completed in April! (Heavens! I'm slow to finish!)

For quilting I'm using a cone of 50-weight Presencia thread in pale gray. I've been using my ruler quilting foot and a Westalee template for quilting concentric circles. This is the "Circles on Quilts Template Set 1." Yes, I do like circles... in piecing, appliqué, and quilting!

Book Recommendations
If Only
 by Kate Eberlin is about two young people - Letty and Alf - who meeting while in Rome, taking Italian language classes. Initially, Letty tries to avoid him, but Alf's continued gentle and persistent attempts to befriend her find them enjoying site-seeing together. 

Deeper into their relationship, each of them flashes back to their separate lives in England - Alf as a competitive ballroom dancer, and sometimes instructor in his mother's dance school, who doesn't pass his A-levels and takes off with his teacher; and Letty as a former ballet dancer who suffered a life-altering injury, and as an Oxford student makes poor decisions that get her into a bad situation. Neither Alf nor Letty shares their histories.

So when they're ready to go away for a weekend together, and Alf's girlfriend and her father show up, Letty runs away. Alf is feeling guilty and bereft; Letty is feeling guilty and bereft. Will they ever find each other and be totally honest?

My favorite aspects of this book are the characters site-seeing in Italy, and the occasions when they're dancing together.

Linda's score: 3.8/5.0

Special thanks to my blogger-friend Nancy at Grace and Peace Quilting for suggesting to me a series of books written by Spencer Quinn. After I recommended in a previous blog post the book The Art of Racing in the Rain (about a dog, written from the dog's perspective), Nancy recommend to me the "Chet and Bernie" series, about Chet, a failed police dog owned by Bernie, a private investigator.

Chet is a happy mongrel with ears that are two different colors. He's owned by Bernie, a man who's divorced with shared custody of his son Charlie. Bernie has been contacted by a mom whose 14 year-old daughter, Madison, has gone missing. Because of endless financial concerns, Bernie accepts the case. Shortly afterward the missing girl returns. In the meantime Bernie is visited by a woman from the local newspaper who's doing a story on private investigators. 

When Madison's mom calls Bernie to tell him that Madison is again missing, Chet and Bernie are on the case. It's very suspicious. No ransom has been demanded. Madison's dad insists she's taken off for Las Vegas. Yet Chet can smell that there's something book. The scent is beets. It's up to Chet and Bernie to find Madison. Such an adventure they share! (If only a dog could talk... or at least keep a train of thought.)

Such a delightful book! I began listening to this when heading out on a power walk. I know that several times a wide grin spread across my face as I chugged along neighboring streets. Ha, ha. So-o very good. Book #2 is Thereby Hangs a Tail. I will be reading it!

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

Hubs is still the #1 cook in our kitchen. He doesn't like me to refer to him as a chef because a chef develops his own recipes; hubs follows those of others. But, I consider him my chef.

With our purchase a few months ago of a Cuisinart counter-top oven (convection, air-fryer, etc.), he's been experimenting with preparing foods in smaller quantities that keep him from having to "fire-up" the big oven during the hot, hot summer days we experienced.

His latest test was to make a half recipe of beer bread which turned out perfectly - and cute too! It was just the right size for the two of us, with a little left over for toasting the next morning. 

I always enjoy his experiments because, inevitably, they're great! Linda

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Improv Quilt Finish

Last Tuesday morning I had the honor of sharing my What is Modern Quilting? program with 80-90 members of the Lake County Quilters' Guild that meets in Tavares, Florida. 

While I always enjoy sharing my love of quilting with others, it was their enthusiastic response to my program that truly made my day. Many women came up front afterward to look at my trunk show quilts; ask questions; let me know that they were interested in modern quiltmaking; and simply to say nice things. It was a very happy day. 

In my sewing room last week, I spent most of my time prepping four quilts to enter into QuiltCon. Entries opened September 1, and will remain open until October 31. But I'm anxious to get quilts photographed, named, written about and submitted.

So, I set up and rearranged my studio for picture-taking, using my Canon point-and-shoot camera to take photos, rather than my cell phone. I think colors are more true with the camera. 

Here are a few of the final pictures of Alternate Route, the 57" X 67" two-color quilt I started in April when I took a virtual, two-session improv workshop with Irene Roderick @hixsonir. 

Before quilting, I randomly added hand-appliqué circles where I thought they were appropriate. 

In addition to domestic machine quilting with a walking foot, and ruler work, I added big stitch hand quilting with lavender-colored Cosmos embroidery floss, and patriot blue-colored size 8 DMC perle cotton. 

For the backing, I pieced a design from Kelly Young's myquiltinfatuation book, Perfectly Pieced Quilt Backs. I'm happy to say I used-up all the leftover parts, including a few un-used circles! The quilt has a faced finish. 

At the moment, the only thing keeping me from entering quilts online is naming two of them. Since watching the MQG video about entering QuiltCon quilts into their proper categories, and also learning that jurors and judges rarely, if ever, read written descriptions, I decided it's more important than ever to thoughtfully give a quilt the "right" name. I have yet to name my maximal quilt, and another quilt made two years ago with 98 hand-appliquéd circles. 

Funnily, I'm noting that three of my four entries have hand appliquéd circles. 

Alternate Route

Maximal category, No Name.

Modern Traditionalism, Jacob's Ladder block, No Name

Book Recommendations
None of This is True
 by Lisa Jewell was captivating.

Josie and Alix, who don't know one another, have a chance encounter at a pub, where they both happen to be celebrating their 45th birthdays. They're birthday twins. When Josie learns they were born in the same hospital, she takes more interest in Alix who is a famous podcaster. 

Intentionally drawing closer to Alix, Josie begins revealing parts of herself, and her odd family situation, including the fact that her husband is 27 years older than she is. He married her when she was a teenager. 

As Alix records Josie's story, she begins to wonder how much of it is true. And when Josie runs to Alix's home to get away from her supposedly abusive husband, both Alix and Alix's husband want her out. 

The audiobook presentation of this story was what made such an entertaining listen. Numerous narrators speak in character, and even the podcast recordings sound like listening to a podcast. For me, the best part was recognizing one of the voices - her pronunciations and inflections. I had to stop and Google one of my favorite PBS shows Unforgotten to identify the voice. It belongs to actress Nicola Walker, who played DCI Cassie Stuart in Unforgotten, and Annika, in Annika. She does a fantastic job as narrator!

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

Rick Mofina is an author one of my friends really likes (👋 Karen 😀). The first Mofina book I read felt "dark," but this one - Her Last Goodby - was less so. 

Jennifer attends a monthly book club and typically returns home to her husband Greg, and their son Jake, by 10:30 pm. Greg awakens in the wee hours of the morning, and Jenn isn't there. Eight year-old Jake is at an overnight with his pal, so after not getting responses to calls and texts to her, Greg spends hours driving along the route Jenn would have taken to return home. Later he calls 911 to report his wife is missing. 

Detectives are called in, and as circumstantial evidence begins to mount, it appears that Greg is the perpetrator (of course). Yet, other suspicions and suspects begin to arise. Jenn's past - 30 years ago, at age eight, Jenn was the only survivor in a house fire that claimed her parents - seems relevant. And what's the significance of the angel chimes candle? 

While listening, I was sure I knew who the perpetrator was. Not surprisingly, an unexpected twist at the end proved me wrong. 

Linda's score: 4.1/5.0


Monday, September 11, 2023

Scrappy, Embroidery, and Improv

I wasn't looking for a new project, but... I'm always on standby for a good scrap quilt design. This little 3½" (unfinished) "Diamonds in the Sky" block was one of several blocks offered in Cassandra Beaver's recent along called Quilt Concert 2023. Though I didn't participate in the along, I downloaded the foundation paper pieced pattern during the four days it was available at no charge. 

For the first time, I printed block designs onto E.E. Schenck 8½" X 11" freezer paper rather than Carol Doak's lightweight, grayish-color paper that must be removed after stitching. I used my Bernina 10D edge stitch foot to sew alongside the edge of the folded freezer paper. It worked a treat!

So now as I go through fabrics, I'll cut up bits for more blocks, and keep a stack ready to go (see upper right) for occasions when I'm going to sewing times with friends. With blocks finishing at 3", I'll be doing this for while!

Picking up embroidery, I've begun adding filler stitches inside the backstitch outlines. So fun to add a variety of stitches - Xs, Colonial knots, French knots, lattice, and chain stitching so far. 
Since I finished my maximalist quilt - pictures to come - it's been nice to not domestic machine quilt. Though I have three more quilt tops awaiting quilting! 

I continue to piece 30 Days of Improv. I'm at one of the most difficult stages which is filling in the corners and sides, to make it rectangle-shaped. 

In between piecing bits of improv, I feed under the presser foot a pair of 1½" leader-ender scraps. Here are the blocks I've made! Each will finish at 6" X 6". 

Book Recommendations

A Curious Beginning
 by Deanna Raybourn is the first book in the series "Veronica Speedwell." 

In this story we meet Veronica, an independent-minded, purposeful woman who has just attended the funeral of her guardian. As Veronica returns home to get her bag and leave the UK to pursue more adventures with her butterfly net (she's a lepidopterist), she finds an intruder. An elderly gentleman, a baron, comes to her aid, and convinces her that she needs protection. So she accompanies him to London where she's put into safekeeping with the baron's trusted friend, Stoker.

When the baron is murdered, and the police want to pin it on Stoker, he and Veronica flee - first to a traveling oddities show, and then to a sanctuary on the grounds of an estate belonging to Stoker's wealthy friends. From there, Stoker and Veronica play detective, searching-out information that will lead them to reveal who murdered the baron, and the truth of Veronica's birth. 

A Perilous Undertaking is book #2 in the Veronica Speedwell series. 

Linda's score: 3.9/5.0

Meet Me at the Lake
 by Carley Fortune is about Fern Brookbank, and time she spends in Toronto, away from her family's lakeside lodge-resort called Brookbank. The sudden death of Fern's mother, who ran Brookbank, forces Fern to return to a place and position she never wanted. 

While at the Brookbank registration desk, she recognizes a man she met ten years ago - Will Baxter. Fern awkwardly reconnects with Will, but it full of anger, and questions, as she remembers the one long day they spent together in Toronto, a decade ago. 

As Fern and Will reestablish their friendship, Fern comes to realize how important Brookbank is to her, and that in spite of dwindling monies for its upkeep and staffing, she wants to bring it back to life, with or without Will. 

The outcome of this story was predictable. Only the author's note at the end gave me understanding of Will's emotional issues - though such a condition in a man was unfamiliar to me.  

Linda's score: 3.7/5.0

Rocket launches at Cape Canaveral have become so commonplace that we seldom step outside to look for them. However, Sunday morning was the launch of the more powerful Atlas V, just before 9 am. Looking into the sun, the contrails were about all we could clearly see.  

I'm giving a presentation and trunk show to a nearby traditional quilt guild, the  Lake County Quilters' Guild. The topic is: What is Modern Quilting?

While I've given this program many times, each occasion means prep time - updating the presentation to reflect changes in the definition of modern, and add more current quilt examples. It's enjoyable to review the changes in modern since the 2009 founding of the MQG, and the first QuiltCon in 2017. I have a dozen large quilts of my own to share, as well as a half-dozen small wall-hangings.

Giving such a presentation to traditional quilt makers always gives me hold-your-breath moments - will anyone like the quilts I'm showing? - and usually ends with a dozen or so quilters avidly interest in modern. I'm hoping this group is typical. Linda

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Improv(s) and Max Update

On Instagram, a follower asked me to share process pictures on my latest improv quilt - the one made in August with Shannon and Amanda's #30daysofimprovqal. 

Since I'm not the sort of creator who has a gift for whipping out a cohesive improv design, it's taking a couple weeks to pull together the 28 blocks I made in August. The block shapes I'm working with are: stripes, "Ls", triangles, and curves. This is the first photo of them all together. 

After seeing them like this, it was obvious that background fabric was needed to open up the design. Painter's Palette Limelight (solid) is background.

Every iteration is a little different. The unit in the center left - the purple and green check with skinny strips between two checkerboards - is giving me angst. It's been moved and taken out several times because I can't work out where it should go. 

This picture is without that unit.

Here, the unit is at the top. But it's becoming more apparent that it need to be be cut up further. I'm also not happy with the cluster of lavender shapes in the bottom center. Though it's been joined, it may still get cut up to add more limelight background. 

So this is how it is on my design wall as of moments ago. No doubt it will change, as I am also striving to make it larger. 

Being the project-hopper everyone knows I am, I've had my hands on two other quilts in the past few days. 

I'm thrilled to share that I finished quilting and hand-appliquéing 58 circles onto my 67" X 83" maximalist quilt! What a relief to have completed the most challenging part of this quilt. I trimmed-off some of the excess backing and batting, gave the quilt a wash in the machine with Orvus paste, and after a brief tumble in the dryer, laid it out on my freshly-scrubbed floor to gently tug and pat into shape. I'm thrilled with how it looks! Maximalist, I think. 

Considering several options for binding, I decided black and white striped would look best, though I did briefly consider other striped colors. What happened as I auditioned black and white stripes is that inspiration struck! If "more is more" in a maximalist quilt, why did I need to stick with ONE black and white stripe? I have varying widths of stripes, so why not use two of them? 

I did a little math to work out how long to cut each striped piece (2¼" X about 8") to make a nice alternating pattern - narrow, wide, narrow, wide, and so on - around the quilt perimeter.

I followed my favorite binding method - No Tails Binding: Mitered Corners by Machine - that can be found as my tutorial here. If you're a member of the Modern Quilt Guild, you can find instructions in the MQG Resources Library. As you can see in this photo, I join strips at the corners of a quilt, with a machine-sewn miter. 

With the binding sewn on, and all four corners miter-stitched, it's ready for trimming. 

I've also had my hands on Alternate Route again - the improv quilt I made during a virtual Dancing With the Wall workshop with Irene Roderick - gosh, back in April! I'm big stitch hand quilting and already used-up a skein of Cosmos six-strand lavender-colored embroidery floss. Now I'm trying to use-up this ball of royal blue-colored size 8 perle cotton. I'm close!

Book Recommendation
Oh my, I have quite a difficult recommendation to write! And I have very mixed feelings about sharing this one. 

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is the first book in a series identified as "The Empyrean #1." It's a fantasy about 20-somethings who live in a dystopian world inhabited by dragons, magic, and special powers. Violet is the daughter of a general (female general), and though Violet would prefer to become a Scribe, her general-mother forces her to attend War College where she will be trained to defend and protect their country as a Rider... of a dragon.

Though tiny and frail, Violet is quick with daggers, so her first year of school is about overcoming her fears, enduring, and trying to strengthen and improv herself as dozens around her die trying. In her squad, she makes a new girlfriend, Rhiannon; is glad to see a family friend from her youth, Dain; and can't help but be attracted to their 23 year-old wing leader, Xayden. 

When the day comes for each student to be dragon-selected - each dragon chooses its rider - Violet is as shocked as everyone when the largest dragon ever seen chooses her. So begins Violet's flight training, learning what special shield (power) has been gifted to her, and war maneuvers. 

Okay... I really enjoyed the story though admittedly it took me a few chapters to get into it. Initially I thought it was too fantastical, but then I found hints of Beatrice (Divergent) and Katniss (Hunger Games), so I got into it a little more. However, my recommendation comes with two warnings:
  1. The "f" word is used conversationally. I don't understand why authors seem to be making that word-use commonplace when it doesn't enhance the story, but I'm old-fashioned like that.
  2. They aren't kidding when the book itself states: "contains mature themes." I haven't read a book with this much lusty detail since the late 1970s when us young mothers thought it was provocative to read books by Kathleen Woodiwiss! Anyone else remember her books? The Flame and the Flower; The Wolf and the Dove; Shanna; Ashes in the Wind. Steamy! Passionate! Romantic! I still remember one Iowa friend (also with small children) who threatened to commit a petty crime so she could be jailed  - and thereby have time alone to read, away from her kids! Ha, ha. 
Anyway, I'm recommending Fourth Wing with a strong caution for sexual content. 

Linda's score: 4.1/5.0



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