Sunday, July 26, 2009

Creating more WIPs

My favorite LQS was having buy two get one free special on classes this summer, so I signed myself up for a little quilting camaraderie that I miss so much from my days in Texas.

Friday was day 1 of 3 for the 'Advanced Mystery' and this is the result of this portion of the class. I would have had another block but screwed up cutting it. I'm assured my mistake will be put to use later in the quilt. I need to make nine more this size and then cut more fabric for the next session.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a total mystery to me. If it's "highly recommended" that you have two tools for a mystery class, you investigate the tools, don't you?? One of them was this Tucker Trimmer...

which is basically a half- and quarter-square triangle block trimmer. The black dot and solid lines at the top end of the ruler indicate trimming for whole-inch sizes; when flipped around to the half dot side, the dotted lines indicate trimming for half-inch sizes. Below shows a QST made from two HST, which was then trimmed to 4". Line up the crosswise center seam on the solid line marked 4, and trim two sides. Flip the block around, line it up and trim again.

At $13.50, I don't make enough QSTs to justify this, but at least I didn't buy the Magic Wand. I already have a Quick Quarter for that, even if I don't know where it is.

This pretty thing is the result of Saturday's class using Terry Atkinson's Winner's Bouquet pattern. This will be a lapsize quilt when done.

The background fabric (light blue floral) for this is my challenge fabric for a project due Labor Day weekend and the fuchsias and pinks were from the stash.

Here is all the fabric left from cutting blocks for the Winner's Bouquet. I only cut enough for 16 blocks to begin with, and I'm not sure how many blocks the other lady cut for. She was going to throw all those batik leftovers in the trash, but I convinced her I would put them to work in Heartstrings quilts. I think this is what I like least about cutting with templates.

What I've been reading: David Baldacci's First Family: an excellent page-turner featuring Sean & Michelle, the former Secret Service agents from his previous novels.

I slept from 6-11pm last night and have been up since... so I'm off to breakfast with the boys and then a nap!

Until next time,

Monday, July 13, 2009

I missed the ferry on the "first quilt" thingy going around. Just as well, since my first ever quilt attempt is still in pieces. In a container. In storage in Texas. It was The Rambler pattern with muslin and a green floral from the big box fabric store. No directions, just something I'd seen at a show. I'd always sewn clothes since I was 10 or so, but knew nothing about quilting angles and triangles. Very humbling, and someday it will be finished.

My second quilt was an I Spy for my then-significant other's daughter, and I'll have to ask for a picture of it. Snowballs with a schoolbus border. Lots and lots of snowball blocks. At the time, I swore I would never make another snowball as long as I quilted.

So, here is the 3rd started/2nd finished quilt I made the year I began quilting (1999). Little flange and all. I need to photograph this outdoors to get the true colors.

It was for my Grandfather for Christmas in 1999, and it lives with me now. It was from the book Four Blocks Say More, which I believe is out of print.

Several years ago I started another that will eventually go to QOV:

Take care,
I had a novel idea yesterday. Turn off the computer and work on quilts. I feel like know I spend a lot of time on the computer, and one great blog or news article often leads to another and another... Or I'll sit down to check my bank balance or the status of an order and manage to get sidetracked before I even make it to where I was headed (much like this post, eh?).

I had several quilts in mind to work on yesterday, but only worked on this one and, other than a nap, worked on it the whole day. I ran into or created all kinds of issues when putting this together . It's in rows now; a little further along than the picture. Thought about making five more blocks to make it a bit longer, but we'll see (this is actually a sideways view).

And for your enjoyment, here's me making deals with myself all weekend to get to this point:

Friday Me: I want to call in sick and stay home and quilt.
My Conscience: Another unpaid day? After an unpaid holiday and another day off watching GMan while O.P. had surgery? Not today.

Saturday Me: I want to quilt.
My Conscience: Noooooo... The house is a mess. If you clean first, then you can quilt. And while you're at it, the fridge is empty and we are out of silly little stuff like TP & body wash & shampoo.

Sunday Me: I want to cut out a new hexagon quilt.
My Conscience: Noooooooo! You already have that Stack 'n' Whack from umpteen years ago that you haven't finished; when you finish that, you can cut out a new quilt.

Sunday evening Me: I want to work on my other sock.
My Conscience: NO! You can get the binding done on all those quilts over there long before you'll finish that sock.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Food for thought

When I say FTC, do you think of bloggers? The original article:

And some interesting thoughts in the comment section of this post:

We all know of blogs whose pages are filled with product/site icons & advertisements. Should they be required to state whether or not they are compensated for the products they endorse (and freebies are compensation), whether or not there is a prominent advertisement on their site? If there is compensation involved, do you question the objectivity of the endorsement?

And along the same lines, are you as suspicious as me of blogs where you are forced to read a post outside of a blog reader? Do you find that more often than not those blogs have lots of advertising? I always wonder who is tracking what about my visit there.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thursday is fruit day

Week 1 leftovers

Last summer was my first experience with shopping a farmers' market for fruits, veggies, meats, cheese, honey, and all sorts of other great organic food. I was in heaven. I bought all kinds of produce I'd never tried and had blast. Although my mother was not an adventurous cook, it very much reminded me of my childhood when we shopped at farm stands throughout the summer and bought our eggs from a farm early every Sunday morning before church. They had an egg refrigerator on the back porch and a little bowl for the money; it was a small town honor system.

One of the things I wanted to try this year was making jams/jellies and salsa. I asked for and received a canning set for Christmas, and committed to a 20-week fruit CSA for this summer. I signed up for a 4-person share so that I would have enough to preserve and some for me and the kids to enjoy through the week. For three weeks we received strawberries, and boy were they delicious.

The first week I followed one of the recipes for strawberry jam in the the Ball Blue Book "bible" and added 7 cups!! of sugar to two quarts of strawberries. The thought of eight 8-oz jars of jam with 7 cups of sugar divided among them made my pancreas squirm, but I did it anyhow. If nothing else, it was a good reference point for future sessions. I have a few jars left from the first batches (it's like your first quilt, you know?), but gave the rest away to the kids and my daughter-in-law's parents & sister.

I researched and found a different type of pectin that doesn't rely on sugar to gel. I bought it at Whole Foods Market, where it was about $2 less than the manufacturer if you can believe that. Each box makes 2-4 batches of jam or jelly, so it ends up being less expensive than the common varieties of pectin. And I'm much happier with the results (2 cups sugar v. 7 cups).

This week we received three different types of cherries, but I have no clue what types. Does anyone have good tips for distinguishing cherries? I'll make a pie for the weekend, and Susan told me I must try her Cherry Bounce recipe. I've never heard of it, but it sounds interesting.

Cherry Bounce

2 cups whole, unpitted sour cherries, gently washed
1/3 cup sugar
peel of one lemon
3 cups bourbon

Put the cherries in a quart jar. Add sugar and lemon peel, then fill with bourbon. Set in sun for at least two weeks, then store in a dark cupboard for two months or longer. Strain/filter to drink in small shot-type glasses, or repackage for great holiday gifts.

The process sounds a lot like limoncello and all I can think of is me imitating Carly Simon singing Anticipation.

Take care,

The pursuit of hand-knit sock happiness

I first started knitting socks about two years ago. I'm not good at it, easily frustrated by it, and certainly not fast. But it's entertaining on those nights where I just 'have' to watch TV or when it's too warm to hold a quilt for binding.

Several weeks ago I finished these socks. They are very thick; way too thick for my taste to wear in shoes, so maybe house socks in winter or to wear in boots. As soon as those socks were done, I couldn't wait to start another pair. In fact, I wouldn't let myself start another pair until I'd finished them.

I've struggled with understanding short-row heels and have several sets of directions to try in the pursuit of happiness. Tried a heel and it came out perfectly (I was in love!) but the sock was too short and the heel too shallow. Knit, rip back. Knit, rip back. Knit, rip back. I wasn't willing to waste all my time finishing a sock that wouldn't be worn, so I perservered. I honestly ripped this sock out probably six times (from the heel to the arch) before I had something that fit and something I was happy with. Not only that, I finally understood what was going on with sock shaping! You are seeing it now it its half-a-sock glory because it's taken me 6 weeks to get this far and I don't see a 'pair' anytime in the near future. [Although 'near' is relative... can you believe it's July already? In 2009?]

Do you remember that I once said I was a tight knitter? My gauge on this is ~12spi and 13rpi on #0; that's a whole lot of knitting to do over and over on a 10.25" foot. But I don't want a sock that my foot is going to be sliding around in or one that the light shines through. The cramps in my hands tell me I may have to relax those specs a little if I want to continue knitting socks, but for now it is what it is.

And can I just say that all that ripping is a testament to this yarn (ONline Supersocke; thank you, Miss Howdy for the recommendation); for the number of times it has been ripped and re-knit, it doesn't look one bit different than it did when first pulled from the skein. I know it will wear like iron. And yes, I know it's not a particularly attractive color scheme (cough), but it was cheap on sale and expensive plain yarn would not have been nearly as entertaining to practice with.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Can you stand another binding tip?

The other day Carrie posted about her method for binding and Mary asked about our favorite tips, so I thought I’d combine the two.

I start with 2.5” strips and lay them in a single layer, right side up. However many layers you feel comfortable cutting is good; I have four strips here.

Since this is a plain pink fabric, I marked the right side with chalk so I wouldn’t get them flip-flopped while sewing.

Next I take my Easy Angle and position the flat-tipped end near the selvage and lop off the fabric through all the layers.

After the first ends are cut, grab all (four) layers at the other end of the strips (selvages again) and line them up… single layers, right sides up… and make the exact same cut. That bulge? I only line up as much fabric as is needed to fit under the Easy Angle; I don’t worry about the rest of the length. Repeat with the rest of your strips.

This is how two strips line up for sewing (but of course you turn it 45deg). Those flat-tipped edges make a nice little ¼” margin and it doesn’t take much time to feed through all the strips by chain-piecing.

I love my Easy Angle!! I will admit it took me a couple of years to figure out how to use it correctly, but once I did it’s been my tool of choice for everything from HSTs to those nasty little corner connectors to binding. All the cutting is done beforehand, so there are no rabbit ears to worry about or guessing about where ¼” is when lining up opposing angles.

Here I'm ready to clip the threads & press in half. I don’t bother with pressing open the seams until I get to each one.

One other tip. You know that ugly mess of slithering binding when you’re done pressing? I roll up the pressed binding around my outstretched hand and toss it on a flashlight (or something sturdy that won’t tip as it’s unraveled), set it beside my sewing machine and take off with applying it. I took this picture before it was fixed, but I feel the binding doesn’t get tangled as much when applying to the quilt if the raw edges are facing upward. Make the center hole big enough that the binding will just unroll from the flashlight as you apply it. Otherwise you spend all your time picking up the flashlight.

This picture shows the beginning and end of the binding; they’ve been measured, trimmed and I’m ready to sew these two ends together before the final stitches to the quilt. Since this final seam is so awkward, I use pins to keep it lined up.

I hope you enjoy these little tips. I’ve been doing my bindings this way for years and, to me, it saves so much time. After the binding strips are cut, it probably takes less than ½ hour to trim, sew, and press the strips and apply the binding.

Back tomorrow with more of the sweet stuff that's been filling my days.

Take care,