June 30, 2008

Thanks For The Memories

Years ago, my niece and nephew would come each summer and spend 2 weeks with us. We'd have great fun, and I appreciate my little sister sharing them with me. Not having kids has a gazillion benefits, but there are drawbacks. Like not having kids. I could never get Miranda too excited about sewing, although over the course of 3 summers she did finish a cross-stitch cat piece which I have framed and hanging by my sewing machine.

Kyle on the other hand liked to visit with me in the quilt room, and was quite taken with my Featherweight. So one day I helped him make his own little quilt. Paper pieced, his pick of fabrics and entirely stitched by him. We covered it with some kind of plastic and bound it with sticky copper tape used in stained glass window making.
He is a great big guy now, looking for his first job for a paycheck, (as opposed to mow the lawn because I said so work) soon to graduate from high school. Kyle, when I'm long gone to that great quilt room in the sky, you can have my featherweights...and thanks for the memories.

Monday Blessings:
A hug and a kiss from a friend
Excellent Chinese lunch w/leftovers for later
A call from and good shared laughter with a friend in Missouri.

June 26, 2008

Bah Humbug? No Way!

What does image 1 have to do with image 2?

If you need some 'make them smile' low dollar gifts for guild exchanges, mini-groups, or just a friend who enjoys sewing now is the time to start on this idea. Keep a shoe box behind your sewing machine and every time you use up or break or decide to fling some little sewing notion or quilty bit throw it in the box rather than the trash. In a short time you will have a great selection of items. Include some of the trimmings from the cutting table and Shazam, you have the ingredients for a great gift.

Divide the bits into smallish jars, (or a gallon jar if you are only making one and go for a really big smile!) tie on a couple of selvage edges for ribbons and then all you need is the gift card. These two jars are pint sized.

Print up what you'd like to say on paper, fuse it to an appropriate fabric scrap, trim and you have a unique and lovely Scrap Buster gift card. This card says...
Enclosed: One Heirloom Quilt
Some assembly required

June 25, 2008

ScrapBusters, Flat Biscuit Blocks and Neckties That Wouldn't Die

I've made a tutorial in my KalamaQuilts Webshots album for this updated version of an 1800's stuffed quilt block technique. (click here to be taken there in a new page) When there scroll down below each picture to see additional instructions.

This is Ode To Gus and was made in the 1990's from ties donated by my customers. It is 40 X 36 inch with 3 inch finished blocks, bordered by bow-ties and framed on stretcher bars. It is one of my favorites because no matter where it is hung it looks like it is drawing in the light. Embellished with buttons of course. An additional bonus is if framed like this once it's pieced you are done, no need for backing or batting or binding...Finished!

Some tips for making quilts with neckties:
1. I had hundreds and hundreds, in all states of being, so I washed them by hand in color lots and hung them in the tub shower to dry. Wet silk doesn't smell very good...see if you can find a dry cleaner who will still do jobs by the pound, you'll be happier. Washed ties are difficult to press nicely too.

2. Don't bother with painstakingly ripping out the stitching in the back, that seam line will never in a million years press out so you lose no fabric and save a ton of time if you refold the tie with the seam to the side and just rotary cut it off. A few seconds you are finished, discard that weird inner stabilizer, and you are on to the next one.

3. You'll probably have a mix of polyester, silk, and some cotton. Silk is a rotary mat and blade killer. Cut the seam off your ties on the back side of your mat, and when finished scrub the fibers out, flip the mat over and you are good as new.

4. One of the reasons I decided to use this flat biscuit idea for the tie quilt is because once you cut neckties (and ladies vintage hankies by the way) you have the equivalent of trying to put socks on an octopus...there is no such thing as grain and your neat square block loses it shape as you look at it! So pinning to a support fabric takes care of that issue. Your support fabric is square so as long as you use that for your seam allowance guide, no problems.

5. I did a -1/8 inch basting edge around each tie biscuit block because I find working with a lot of pins is a nuisance, but you can do them either way.

6. Depending on era they are from, 16-20 ties will give you about a yard of fabric.

7. This is a great Scrap-Buster quilt in that you can use up lots of those 4"ish scraps you have left for the pretty side, and lots of ugly/cheap/worn fabric for the bases at 3-1/2 inch. And you thought there was no good use for cheap thin cottons! In this technique it is a plus as you have less bulk in the seams.

This is Watered Down Bisque January 1995, 38 X 38 inches, using the same technique, doing a watercolor fan using strictly stash. It's harder than it looks, without buying 'feelies and touchies' to make things blend. By the time I was finished with this I had made enough flat biscuits leftover to make an over-sized twin utility quilt; on the plus side that quilt has been washed a gazillion times and has worn like iron.

June 24, 2008

Remember These?

I'm surprised I didn't become a fabric store clerk. I've always been a nut for cool and unusual tools for the job, and I remember as a little kid watching the woman behind the counter at J.C. Penny sliding the folded edge of a length of fabric through this machine bolted to the cutting table. Clunk the machine would go, out she'd whip the fabric and rrriiippppp... Neato job, and I'm sure the bean counters loved those fabric meters, no giving away the store when they were watch-dogging the yardage sold.

I suspect we quilters are the ones that killed the measuregraph...we abhor that bruised and ruffled inch of fabric left where it was ripped. Somewhere they are probably still being used because my state requires a yearly licensing for them just like for any other commercially used weight and measure machine.

They occasionally turn up on auction sites but you know what, now that I think about it I've never seen one in a quilt shop although I've seen just about every other vintage sewing tool or product. Perhaps because the very idea still give us the shudders.

June 22, 2008

Character Cuts

I'm old but I'm slow, don't mind me. It's only taken me 2 years to figure out how you all got those great personalized logo images on your blogs. This weekend I've added a row from one of my quilts to the background of KalamaQuilts. I love succeeding at a challenge, particularly a computer challenge. It's always so easy...after you've done it once.

The quilt I used is from May 1996 called Character Cuts (13 X 17.5 inches) and is the only quilt I've ever entered in a national competition. This was when paper-piecing was taking the craft by storm and I just loved doing it. Finally, a practical and painless way to do small blocks with intricate piecing.

The title Character Cuts comes from something most of you will recognize...the inability to take that first cut off a particularly precious fabric. Every time we go to our stash to pull fabrics for a project we lovingly fondle that particular group...but chose them? No way! Cut into my special fabrics???

This quilt is made up of my own hand dyed fabrics and my collection of Hoffman's with the gold prints. Those were the first on the market to have that ultra luxurious gilding and I bought a 1/2 or 1/4 yard of every one of them I ran across. And my hand dyes...well they were really neat but after I had dyed a bolt I realized I never use solids in my quilts, what was I going to do with it all? So Character Cuts was my 'let freedom ring' quilt and break that self-imposed taboo of cutting into off-limits fabric.

The contest was sponsored by Chitra Publications, now out of business but they published several quilt magazines like Miniature Quilts. I wrote up a explanation of the name, sent it off and imagine my surprise when it came back a non-winner. *g* I can't remember who the judges were, but they were all names we'd recognize and they said something to the effect that the quilt fabrics weren't cohesive. Well of course my hand-dyed muslin and elegant Hoffman's were not twins separated at birth, but didn't they read my back-story of the quilt and why those fabrics were together? Oh well, the exercise accomplished what I'd set out to do, break that 'I can't possibly cut into this fabric' mental block. And I love this little quilt, it hangs on the fireplace by my reading nook and makes me smile every day.

June 19, 2008

Driving my Janome to the coast

My beloved Janome likes to drive with it's window open. So it and I were driving along Thread Boulevard one day and I asked if it would mind if I changed the scenery to something besides the embroidery stitch chart. Janome was pleased with the idea so now we have gorgeous interchangeable sights while we stitch. This one is the view south from Cape Meres Lighthouse near Tillamook Oregon using the panorama setting on my Canon Elph 35mm camera.

Speaking of the embroidery chart, when I first got the machine I stitched out all the stitches
on muslin and I have the piece hanging above my machine sewing area. I starched the bejabbers out of the fabric first to stabilize it; it was fun to do, and has saved me a lot of time testing to see what the stitches really look like for projects.
The piece below it is from a class on Crazy Quilt stitches done on cross-stitch fabric. I thought it was so pretty it has had pride of place for 20 or more years. It is also the only embroidery I've ever done worth showing. I am, without doubt, the world's worst embroiderer, bar none. I inherited a complete selection of all the DMC floss, neatly carded and living in a commercial DMC box. I look at it wistfully, but I know better than to try, I am really hopeless.

June 16, 2008

Here a chick, there a chick

I have chickens! My father-in-law bought them at the farmers market for me. He is a crusty 90 year old long-time farmer and surely thinks I'm daft because I always have a whip-round to see and visit with the 'girls', his four laying hens.

Here they are in their little brooder apartment, eye to the escape hatch. They are Sex-Links and I'm so excited to see what they will look like as they mature. Feathersite shows some great pictures of the feather pattern and color possibilities.

What do chickens and quilting have to do with one another? Because fabric that could stand in for feathers was my obsession a few years back when I was doing Maggie Walker's Country Garden quilt. It finished at such an odd size I bound each section individually, quilted each one with a different technique, and of course added button embellishment to some of them. They make me smile each day when I sit down to this computer to play or work.
When my girls mature into their full plumage I'll pop an update photo in here. Just picture me as Eva Gabor in Green Acres, cadging a couple of eggs to go with the hotscakes.

June 12, 2008

Button Button, who's got the button?

This was a popular party game when I was a kid. Long before Velcro closures and soft knits that pull over the head with ease...everything had buttons back when I was young and dirt was new.

My favorite memory of buttons is making button necklaces drawn from mother's or grandmother's button baskets. Mother's was an open oval that had buttons in the bottom topped by a round piece of wood with nails driven through it for holding spool thread, then a big pair of scissors on top of that. I don't remember a pin cushion but there had to be one, or maybe one of those paper packets of needles. Grandma Pearl's buttons were in a small round lidded basket container which looks ancient.

When I had my beauty salon I hung wall quilts there, often embellished with buttons. Many of my older customers brought me their button jars, happy to give them to someone who would enjoy them. And I do! I have them sorted by color in pint to half-gallon jars so I can quickly find shade and size needed for a project.

The days of a button jar in every home are long past. We no longer wear our clothes until they wear out, removing buttons before the cloth goes into the rag bag. Clothes are worn for a short time and then donated or thrown away, delicious buttons and all. Too bad, there is much to be enjoyed in spreading out a container of buttons on the floor, taking needle and thread in hand, and making a button necklace for grandma.

June 10, 2008

Swiss Cheese

This is another of Rob's Great Grandmother Alloway's quilts, The Mill Wheel or Millstone, I'm not sure which is the correct pattern name. One of his aunts brought it to a family gathering, in a big black garbage bag, shoved it in my arms and said maybe I'd want it, or burn it, whatever. Was I thrilled?? Duh!

The main problem was apparent upon laying out the quilt. It had been tied far too far apart, and whoever did it had used two super heavy old flannel sheets for the batting. In the course of many years use as a utility quilt all that shifting had done it's damage; there were so many tears where there had once been ties. Secondary problem was, as you can see in the first photo a lot of the fabric had simply disintegrated.

The first thing I did was clip the ties and get rid of the weight. Then I spent several months unpicking all that fine hand sewing. If anyone thinks hand stitching isn't as strong as machine stitching, they've never unpicked hand sewn seams. Then I sorted and pressed what pieces were salvageable. Even those were very thin, so in desperation to save something I ironed each of those pieces to a light fusible interfacing. At the original seams there was nothing left except a few threads so I squared up the blocks at the old seam lines and repieced everything I could salvage.

As you can see, the re-squaring threw off the wheels a bit, but no harm done. I just love this little quilt, and I hope my sharing it will inspire someone else to save a family heirloom that might appear unsalvageable at first sight.

The back side is a Fish block made from a set of templates I purchases in Cowbridge Wales many years go; I like double sided quilts. Swiss Cheese can usually be found hanging over our bed, firmly tucked back in the family bosom. 29" square, 1998.

June 4, 2008


Yesterday I was pretty much confined to bed. Not so good because I have things to do places to go, but as long as I was there I made it a play day. I'm appliquéing and stuffing basket handles as part of my current project so all I had to do was grab my bags of bits and my appliqué tray and I was set to go.

This is the handiest item whether you are at a table, sitting in a chair, or like me yesterday, in bed. All you need to make your own is a mid-sized luncheon tray, 2 layers of cotton batting like Warm & Natural cut to the size of the bottom of the tray. Plus a roll of batt the length of the tray covered in a nice plain fabric. Plain fabric so you can easily see the pins and needles, cotton batt because it lasts a long time and you can use the lint roller on it occasionally. Baste the needle roll to the edge of the batting and use a few dots of glue to hold the batting to the tray. My needle roll is probably about the circumference of a quarter coin. I marked sections with a Pigma pen for quilt needles and appliqué needles. The only other thing you need is your project, thread and scissors. I've been using this about 4 years and wouldn't know what to do without it. (1 week later..I made another one on a 9X13 inch tray to keep in our RV. This time I just covered the needle roll with some bridal netting. Warm and Natural is hard to write on!)

The quilt top below the tray was made by my husband's great grandmother and passed to me by his mom about 25 years ago as a gift for saving her life! Sounds grand, all I did was find her bee sting kit and give her a shot, but it changed our relationship so I'll always be grateful for having been given the opportunity to be of service. I used very thin batt and it was so easy to quilt because most of the fabrics had been pre-softened by wear prior to their insertion into the quilt.

I have two other of Great Grandma Alloway's tops. I'll share the story of how I came to have those another day.

June 1, 2008

Quilt Room, FlyLady, and where's the article?

I've been looking off and on since my last post for that magazine picture that set off my quilting passion 38 years ago. If I still have it, it should be in my quilt room, wouldn't you think? So far no joy...and I know what many of you are thinking. Chances of finding one piece of paper in many quilt rooms would be a hopeless task. But it shouldn't be for me. You see, I met (in the internet sense) FlyLady in 2000. This was my quilt room pre-FlyLady on any typical day. Didn't bother me, I seldom gave it a thought. I knew a lot of quilters who worked in the same environment.

But someone mentioned FlyLady on the DJRetreats list and it caught my imagination and a few days later I started the FlyLadyQuilters list. A bunch of us worked for a year, and became life-long buddies through the agonies we went through cleaning out cleaning up our homes. I gave away the list when I was properly FlyLadied and I've never looked back. I gave up a lot in that year, nothing of which I missed. But coming back to the magazine page that set off my quilting passion...a small snide voice in my mind says "you just think you didn't miss anything". Maybe I did throw it out. Time will tell, I'll keep looking, maybe it is tucked in one of my quilt journals.

But since seeing JJ's work areas triggered this blog I'll show you the same stitching area post-FlyLady. This photo is from late 2001, but the space looks much the same today. There is a container of rice by the machine because I was making rice bags today, the ironing board cover is now a celestial fabric rather than flamingos, one of the featherweights under the table has been moved to our farm, and we put in new grey carpet last year, I've worn out a couple of irons...but this is it. I can walk in, sit down and sew anytime, any day. So where did I put that magazine page??

We live in an A-frame house which has a whole slew of storage and decorating problems. Because all the outer walls look like this / \ . Believe me, I've had to be quite creative about storage and display. I'll share some of those pictures later. Are you willing to share before and after pictures? Leave me a comment so I can come see your blog :-) Right now I need to find a magazine page for my own blog premier post.