Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blocks that celebrate

I don't have much in the way of pictures yet. I always have a bit of a lag after I finish a project, trying to decide what to work on next. Not that I have a long list to choose from - sometimes it just takes a while to choose. That, and my sewing area is usually so messy after a finish that clean up becomes a big job, and a big roadblock to getting started on something else. So, I've been cleaning. And doing a lot of doodling lately, practicing some freemotion designs. Next step is to transfer them to paper and run them through the sewing machine. Normally I just stipple, but I'd like to do something different. I have a laptop sandwich that has been waiting for months for some attention. I think I've found just the freemotion design I want to use to quilt it - just have to practice it a bit more.
Of course, there is always the danger of getting sidetracked on other projects. While cleaning up earlier this week, I decided I needed to practice my embroidery stitches. I used to do this when I was a teenager, but those days have passed out of memory - except that I still have an old cigar box full of cotton and silk skeins. You can guess how long it's been just by the 12 cent sticker on the labels.
So I found a suitable design from Homeberries which has lots of beautiful free patterns, and I added my own little house in the background. I got the idea from "calendar" quilts (one block per month) to make up a single 6x6 block per year to represent something in my life. This is the year we pay off our mortgage, so my house is in it. In 12 years I ought to have enough blocks to make a quilt! It's going to be part applique, part embroidery.
Rusty the quilt assistant, keeping a close eye on those stitches
Double checking every detail
Unlike Ginger, who keeps trying to eat my patterns and steal my pencils
But then, Rusty learned at the feet of Master Miao Yin for the few weeks they were together
Until next time,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Feels good to Finish

Finally! At the end of March I finished a small project that I began in May 2009 not long after I took the plunge and joined my local quilting guild. Felt like I'd been working on it forever! One of my oldest (in the sense of time, not age) and dearest friends is a school teacher back in Ontario - four provinces away. I haven't seen her in years, but we keep in touch through email and the occasional letter.

After discovering a new love for quilting, I wanted to do something super special for Judith, so I designed a simple little wall hanging with a school house, some stars and apples. I threw in some geese just because they looked folksy, and that little harlequin border at the bottom just for some bright colour. Did I say simple? That's me. My brain was the simple factor, not the wallhanging.

I committed every newbie mistake in the book, and I could probably add a chapter or two. The best one was that I made up the label right away attached it - for Christmas 2009. May to December, I figured I was giving myself lots of time to finish. The piecing went together rather quickly as I raced to get it finished for Christmas. It was the quilting that did me in. I sewed it, then ripped it out. Sewed it and ripped it out. I think I've mentioned that part of the project on this blog in the past. Yep, I became ruthless at removing bad stitching.

The good part is, I learned a lot while making it. As I told Judith, it has my worst stitching and my best stitching in it. Some of it I just couldn't remove without taking the entire thing apart. We just have to learn to live with our mistakes, sometimes.

I was so elated in finally finishing it that I made a couple of little mug rugs to go with it. (Maybe to rationalize why it had taken me so long...) A couple of leftover stars that didn't get used (because they were too wonky - but I've since learned that wonky can be fun) and some leftover material. Now those only took me a couple of days to do. Go figure.

So now she has them. And she says she likes them. But Judith has the rare ability to see past the imperfect surface and see the love and the effort that went into a gift, which was my intention when I made it, because she is the sister I never had.

Ginger says, that ear is just too tempting not to bite
Rusty says, $**^#*%!!

Until next time,

Friday, April 8, 2011

Now where was I?

Mercury in Aries slipped unoticed into Retrograde at the end of March and has been doing a tapdance all over my Libra Sun. Librans aren't having a good month of it as many of the planets are passing through Aries, which is in the opposite sign to Libra. The Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus are currently in Aries, most of them in the later degrees where my Sun lives. Saturn is in Libra, but that can be just an added kick in the pants. No wonder I'm having a hard time getting out of bed these mornings.

Last week I finished a project for a friend that I've been working on forever. It left me wondering what I should do next. I have more projects that need finishing and dozens more I'd like to start, but I still couldn't decide. I'll blame it on Mercury Ret. When planets are retrograde, they come to a part of their orbit that makes them look like they're going backwards. Of course, they aren't, but astrologers have observed that during that time, the planet's energies also get backed up. In the case of Mercury, that means decision-making, any sort of communication (especially electronic) and short distance travel. It goes Direct on Apr. 23.

Now, where was I?

Right. I was wondering what to do next, so I found a paper-pieced star I've wanted to try for a long time. One of the things I thought I liked about paper piecing was that you get to use up those mountains of oddly shaped scraps you've accumulated. I gathered my scraps and struggled with the pattern for about a week before I gave up and admitted that I would have to sort and trim all of the pieces I needed because using scraps took a billion years and I often came up short of the seam allowance after sewing it on. So, a few minutes of trimming, a couple of days of sewing and my star was finished.

The star pattern is free, along with dozens of other great blocks, over at

Until next time,