Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blink and you’re in trouble

12Jan29stipple Or, Holy crumbcake, Batman! I did my sample of stipple scales this morning for The Free Motion Quilting Project on Leah Day’s blog. She challenged us to do small, medium and large and take notice of how the technique changes. This isn’t my first sample, but it’s my best. Makes sense, getting better as you go along. If I did this again tomorrow, I’d hope for better results – although I’m not too sure.

12Jan29StSmall I began with tiny quarter-inch stippling, then went to medium half-inch, and then to large one-inch. Can you say Oh My God?!Quarter inch is TINY, but I have to admit that the effect is kind of neat (if you don’t look too close). I had to stop every row and a half because my eyes were watering and my nose was running. My back is still aching! And I could point out all sorts of problems with my work, but we’ll leave it at that. Let’s just say, that was a tough slog.

12Jan29StMedium The half inch was easier, but I should have waited a couple of hours. The trauma of quarter-inch stuff was still fresh and I’ll blame that on the crummy points on my stippling. I has having a hard time remembering which way was up. But I didn’t have to stop and rest or wipe my eyes.

12Jan29StLarge The one-inch, of course, was the easiest, but I still managed to mess it up. I’m not usually that bad, but I know I need lots more practice. If I had done this on a quilt, I’d be tempted to pull it out and do it again. Between Leah Day and SewCalGal’s Free Motion Challenge, I’m going to be doing lots of practising this year!

Leah’s next challenge is to FMQ along a line. For February over at Sew Cal Gal, Diane Gaudynski will be teaching us feathers! It’s gonna be fun!

Until next time,

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Green eyed monster

12Jan28Rusty1 Rusty was playing on my sewing table this morning, forcing me to take a break. The green eyes go rather nicely with his red fur. Ever wonder why “pet eye” goes beyond the standard red eye? Animals have a reflective layer in the back of their eyes behind the retina called the tapetum. This layer enhances their night vision. The colour of the tapetum gives you blue, green, yellow, or white eye effect. Ginger has a greenish-blue 12Jan28Rusty2 eyeshine. Rusty was digging around on my already messy table, intensely interested in a quilt sandwich that I’d been practising my Free Motion Quilting on. The backing on it is an old pillowcase. It’s been washed a million times, but I guess it still holds irresistible scents for a cat. I think he was trying to wrap himself up in it. All that movement, combined with his beautiful long fur 12Jan28Rusty3 generated lots of static electricity, so he ended up wearing some loose paper patterns. How undignified!

I’ve been working on FMQ scale – sewing a stipple pattern in different sizes. Two words – not easy! I’m not very happy with my results, so no pictures yet. My quarter-inch scale is very jagged. And my half inch scale is very… jagged. And my one-inch scale isn’t much better. Of course, Rusty’s assistance hasn’t been helping.

12Jan28frame I picked up this frame at our local thrift store last week. It was such a great deal for $1.50. It’s called a tapestry frame, but it can be used for embroidery, too. I have some metal hoops, but they’re pretty rough on my work, tearing through cloth or stretching my stitches out of shape. It’s probably something that I’m doing wrong, but I can’t 12Jan28dragon wait to use my new frame. This is a dragon (Happy Year of the Dragon) that I did as a practice about 15 years ago. I did pretty good with the long/short stitches. But I didn’t finish it.

I’ve also hit a little bump in my Mexican Star - I ran out of the yellow fabric. I know I can get some more online, but I’m going to see first if I can find it in Kamloops next week. I only need about another half meter. I don’t buy much quilting fabric at 12Jan28quilt Fabricland for several reasons, but I know that last year they had some of this Northcott material there. Hoping that they’d still have some is a long shot, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.If not, I’ll have to order it from Toronto. And, of course, whoever orders just half a meter by mail?

Until next time,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year

Gung hay fat choy! May your happiness be without limit. And may all of your quilts fall together easily and be admired the world over!

12Jan23rusty Chinese New Year begins today, and it’s the Year of the Dragon. Dragons are bold and assertive, driven, unafraid of challenges, willing to take risks and are usually successful. Predictions for this Year of the Dragon say that it will be a year of high risks and high returns. This Dragon finds itself in the element of Water, adding a higher than usual flow of communication between people. The addition of Water makes Dragons a little less impulsive and a little more thoughtful, and able to see things from other points of view. It also makes them more social.

It’s also a New Moon today, in Aquarius. Aquarius is a very creative sign and is often known for its eccentricity and genius, it’s willingness to step outside the box in its creativity, using the modern and unusual media to achieve its vision.

So there you go – create while you can! Mars the planet goes Retrograde tomorrow – a term astrologers use to describe a planet whose orbit has reached a stage where it looks like it’s going backwards. And so the energies of that particular planet are thought to be thwarted, going backwards. In Mars’ case, this means that physical energy levels will be low and internalized. But that’s a good time for resting and planning your next work of art. It doesn’t go Direct again until April 14.

I made a mistake in my last post (MOI?) when I said that my polyester Aurifil thread was shedding lint all over my sewing machine. It’s actually cotton Aurifil. I just assumed it was polyester – my bad – because other than the lint, it was sewing so nicely. None of the breaking that a lot of quilters have complained about with cotton thread, no tension issues. Just lint. That’s something I have to say about my lovely Janom12Jan20mugruge Horizon – no nasty snarls, thread nests, eyelashes, centipedes or other ugly thread events. Nothing like my old mechanical Janome. Maybe it’s just me getting better, but I haven’t gotten “that” much better. I think the Horizon has definitely made the difference.

Been working on next year’s Christmas presents along with adding to the Mexican Star and practicing my FMQ. Before you get excited, I often work on Christmas presents months ahead of time. Then I put them away and pull them out just before the gift exchange or whatever, and work like a fool trying to finish them on time. Anyway, in this particular case, I needed some dark greens for the trees. I have a very well stocked green stash. I love my greens. I really, really like this green check too. It was one of the first fabrics I bought when I began quilting three years ago. I have two meters of it and I’ve never cut it, until now. It was hard. Why is it 12Jan20tree hard to cut pretty fabric? Surely I can’t be afraid of running out of it after using just a tiny piece for a little tree? Maybe it’s like breaking a $20 – it just gets spent so fast after that. Well, time to get over it.

I should mention that this pattern came from Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting Jan/Feb 2012 magazine, Feelin’ Frosty by Kelly Mueller. I did a little modifying to make them into mug rugs.

Until next time,

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What was I thinking?

12Jan20stipple First of all, I’ve been practicing my free motion stippling. Quilter, teacher and blogger Leah Day has us stippling in rows this week. I was having trouble with her instructions last week because her stippling has more of a pattern than my random mess, but not enough of a pattern to be able to duplicate it. I tried to copy it on a piece of paper and then sew it, but it looked awful – full of jaggies and uneven stitching that you get when you forget what you’re doing. I didn’t think I was ready for stippling in rows, but I had some time tonight so I did some sewing before I could think myself out of it. And I had fun.

Started off with some sharp corners, but it was coming out much better by the time I was done. Instead of trying to memorize all of her stippling patterns, I remembered two that went together well and displayed enough randomness that most people wouldn’t know that it wasn’t all random. I was having a hard time at first doing the alternating lines “upside down” until I gave up and improvised for the bits that came out “backwards”. Just need to keep practicing on that stitch length, for one thing. I’m still drawing pencil grids so I can be aware of how big my pattern is. A little more practicing this way and I should be able to stop using them.

12Jan20quilt I’ve been using Aurifil 50 wt polyester in the bobbin and as my top thread. It sews nicely, but does it ever leave a lot of fuzz behind! I’ve never used a thread that has left so much lint for me to pull out of my machine. The price you pay, I guess. Just keep your lint brush handy.

Back to my Mexican Star. I decided after the last post that I did indeed like my inner borders after all, and that my plans for the corners were going to fit. I 12Jan20quiltB stitched one together just to make sure… but when I cut the filler triangles, I was thinking that I could cut them a half inch smaller than the Half Square Triangles, because you cut the HSTs bigger to allow for two sets of seam allowances.

D’uh. I left the first square the same size as the HSTs. The second one I trimmed – trimmed the seam allowance off! I’m going to have to that the corner apart – the last two rows of it anyway – and replace those triangles with bigger ones. Hopefully I’ll have enough fabric to do that. I’m getting quite low on the yellow. Such a shame if I had to buy more. :-)

Until next time,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Making up for lost time

12Jan18birds The weather, not me. Winter came storming in at the beginning of the week and it’s still pummelling us with temperatures in the –20- -27C range. And that nasty, bitter north wind is just torture to be out in. I have two bird feeders in the front yard, sheltered a bit by the lilac bushes and the cedars. The birds have been eating more than normal since the cold weather set in. I refill the feeders while the car is warming up in the morning, but I always end up with frozen hands and feet that feel like blocks of ice. The little house sparrows and finches huddle together in the cedars when they aren’t at the feeders. They look COLD! Colder than we were Monday morning when the motor for our furnace quit working around 5 am. Heck of a time to find out that the only furnace repair guy in town moved away a few months ago.Luckily we could go down to the local hardware store (next town over) and buy a replacement motor. We had it up and running again before noon.

12Jan18fabric Does this look like a quilt? I cut them this morning as I plan to get back to work on the Mexican Star. I’d planned to use the blue and purple squiggles as an inner border, and the rest as blocks to square up the inner diamond shape, as so…

12Jan18quilt …but I’m not sure it’s going to work. Looking at it in this picture, I don’t think the blue is working, even though it’s in the same fabric line as the yellows and reds. I need to look at some other colours. And not sure, but I think the new blocks I made are too small. Rusty scattered them several times as I tried straightening them out again, the brat, making it next to impossible to take measurements and get a good visual.

12Jan18cats The frigid air whistling in through the windows and around the door frames must be invigorating to them, because Rusty and Ginger have been playing much more than usual these last few days. Rusty is sitting on pails of rice and four, getting ready to pounce on Ginger who is contentedly sitting on a heat register while the furnace is on. Brat!

Until next time,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Merrily we roll along

Just a quickie before I run off to work – out the door and into the nasty gusting north wind that’s rattling my garbage can outside and bringing more snow…

12Jan15one Still practicing my free motion. Not sure if I’m getting any better, but I’m having fun, which is rarely the case when I’m FMQing. Usually, when I have a top done and it’s time to quilt it, the thought always goes through my head before I can stop it: “Okay, time to ruin it.” Maybe next time that little voice will laugh and say: “Let’s have some fun!”

Still practising my all-over leaves, but Leah Day is hosting a different free motion challenge that compliments the one that SewCalGal is hosting. Leah is also one of the teachers that SewCalGal has lined up. Leah has some great tutorials on stippling. 12Jan15three Stippling is what I’ve done on the few quilts I’ve made so far, but it’s always been random and sort of hit and miss. Leah adds method and somewhat of a pattern. Honestly, it’s harder to follow than the leaves – probably because you aren’t following a pattern. I even drew myself a grid on the fabric so I could be more consistent in height and width of the globs. My attempts are still pretty blocky because I’m not sure which direction I should be going in. More practice.

12Jan15hearts Leah also included a directional chart, which I’ve seen before elsewhere, for FMQing. I tried it with the leaves, using the grid I’d already drawn (1x1-inch squares). Not bad. I have one bare spot where I usually have several, and I managed to begin and end in almost the same spot.

I also went back to the first practice sandwich I did and filled in some of the spaces – just because it looked like it would be fun. Some pebbles, some echoing, some circles because my curves are still looking pretty lumpy. Also, I don’t often have the chance to practice stitching this small, but it sure comes in handy with a lot of the little projects I work on. We’re getting there!

12Jan15play Until next time,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

It looked better on paper

12Jan12leaves I’ve been drawing pages of continuous line “leaves” (that look more like lumpy hearts) for the past week and a half. This is January’s project for SewCalGal’s Free Motion Quilting Challenge . I must say that my leaves were looking better the more I practised them… To a point. And then they started looking awful as I began to forget what I was doing. Practise does make you better, but you need the occasional break. You can’t master a new activity overnight. Leah Day is also offering lots of fantastic free motion help and tips with The Free Motion Quilting Project at her blog.

12Jan12back This morning I decided to give it a whirl on my sewing machine. First I ran a sheet of paper around under the needle, just to get used to the feel of free motion. Then I divided my 24x24-inch quilt sandwich into four by drawing pencil lines. Rusty helped me by holding it down as I started to sew. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t move it around, so I had to shoo him away. First my bobbin thread broke. I took the bobbin out to have a look and it was the ugliest winding job I’ve ever seen. Ginger must have done it while I was at work yesterday. I unwound all the little snags and butterflies and rewound the entire thing. Then the tension was off, so I carefully readjusted that – I thought. Looking at the pictures I took of my finished work tonight, I see that I should have tightened it up a bit more. Then, the needle sounded more like a hammer coming down on the fabric… I recognise that sound now – I changed the needle, and was set to go.

12Jan12close The first quarter square was abysmal. I did the second and third – not bad. I didn’t exactly get into the groove, but my curves were actually curvy and not their usual lumps, and my stitching was waaay more even – even when going around a curve – than it’s ever been. Sure, my leaves looked better on paper, but I’m satisfied that I’m improving. Am I finished practising this particular design? Does it look like I am? Of course not. I did one more block when I got home from work tonight – the one in these pictures – and then loaded my bobbin with some Aurifil 50 wt cotton to try sewing some more with a different thread – tomorrow. This is quite addictive!

Until next time,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Late Christmas present

12Jan10cats I managed to capture Rusty and Ginger at rest. It doesn’t happen very often, and it didn’t last long in this case. This was after a short, half-hearted battle over the “donut”. The donut is a circular cat bed that were here long before Rusty and Ginger showed up, and they took to them instantly. It’s not often that I buy something for the cats that they actually USE! I have two of them, and they’ve each claimed their own, more or less, but this time Rusty was resting contentedly in “her” donut, so she decided to join him. A brief tussle ensued as they rearranged themselves, then quietness.12Jan10red I left them this way and headed off to work, stopping at the Post Office on my way out of town. Oh happy, happy day! A package of new fabric was waiting there for me! I got in on Hamels' after Christmas sale – half off the Christmas fabric and 25 per cent off all other fabric – and I rescued as much fabric as I could. Sadly, I had to leave much beautiful material behind as I just don’t have enough room in the house to keep it all. Sigh. As it is, I think I’m going to have to buy some new storage units now.12Jan10white I was working on those little scrappy paper-pieced Amish Diamonds over Christmas and realized that I didn’t have much of a variety of bright reds. Much of what I have tends to be more brown or puce – not really my idea of fun Christmassy reds. Don’t you hate it when you find colour gaps in your stash? Fabric shopping is just a chore. NOT! The problem is having to decide what to take out of your cart after you exceed your budget.12Jan10black And I still tend to pick out the same colour ranges time after time, so it’s a bit of a struggle to get something different. Some of it is still brownish, but I think it will work out. I managed to avoid my favourite greens – as if I need more. Sigh. Also found some lovely ivory shades and sparkly gold. And they sparkle too! And some beautiful Stof prints that are usually priced beyond my sense of thrift. Not that they aren’t worth it, but if I ignore anything long enough, I can usually forget all about it.

Then I see it on sale and lose my mind. What the heck? It’s a Christmas present, from me to me. Now I have to get cracking and decide what I’ll make with it all.

By the way, the snow from Saturday? It’s all gone. Just a memory and a few photographs.

Until next time,

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It was bound to happen

Everyone’s been wondering where it’s been and when or even whether it will come. Some people/groups are even complaining that they’ll lose their businesses if it doesn’t come soon! To me, it’s just another four-letter word.

But it looks great in pictures, so I walked around town taking a few, here and there, smiling and agreeing with everyone who thought it was “beautiful!” Well, it is that. I just hate having to drive in it, especially at night when you can’t even see the roads for “it”.

12Jan7govbldgAshcroft, the town I work in, at one time wanted all of its businesses to adopt a western “frontier” theme. Actually, at one time, it really looked like that. Some of the newer buildings downtown have added facades to their storefronts, and the old “government building” even built a boardwalk around theirs.






12Jan7irlyA bit of the downtown area with more frontier facades.


Decorative grasses in the park receive a bit more decoration.

12Jan7sumac And a lovely sumac bush, with branches and fruit outlined by the… “it”.


And the old caboose in Legacy Park. I think it was CN (Canadian National) Railroad who donated a pile of old cabooses to the towns along the railroad. Probably because they did away with all of them. Most towns around here have an orange caboose in a park. The kids like to play on them. One couple I took wedding pictures for a few years ago wanted some pictures of them taken on the caboose. It’s a lovely feature, and even more beautiful in the snow.

Next post there’ll be quilty things. Until then, stay warm, stay safe.

Until next time,

Friday, January 6, 2012

Roses are red, violets are blue

12Jan6hearts I actually made a couple of Valentines Day-related items this week even though it’s still early January, but I can’t prove it because I gave them away already and forgot to take a picture first. I saw some cute little felt hearts, layered and embroidered, and I had to make some. After all, I’ve got this huge multi-coloured pile of felt that never got used over Christmas…

And all of the Christmas presents I made have finally reached their destinations. Everyone is so impressed with the hand-made aspect of the gift – of course, they are all women, my age. I’m not so sure it would work with a 10 year old boy. So now that Christmas is out of the way, I should clean off my sewing and get back to work on the Mexican Star quilt I was making.

12Jan6cabin Finally finished – as in, put the last stitch into the binding this morning – my little house in the woods. It started off being a door prize at an event last September, but wasn’t completed in time. I think this is the first completed piece that I haven’t given away. Whatever will I do with it? It’s a funny looking piece, 10.5 x 15 inches. For one thing, it’s backwards – the tree is meant to be leaning over the house, but the house and tree are separate pieces, and I was looking at the pattern backwards (lesson: pay attention when paper piecing), so the colours only matched up when I placed them “backwards”. It is what it is. If you’re interested in the free patterns, the cabin and tree can be found here – it’s at the bottom of the page and is called House in the Woods. The crazy geese flying over the scene can be found here and is called Chasing Geese.

I’ve also signed up for SewCalGal’s Free Motion Quilting Challenge (help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi…) I’ve got my practice sandwiches put together, I’ve been drawing the first shape challenge… I just have to find time to do it. Before the end of the month. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Full Moon on Monday, Jan. 9, exact around 1:30 am Pacific Standard Time at 18 Cancer. Full Moons are notorious for bringing out the crazies, but this one has some beneficial connections that will hopefully make it a more peaceful event than it often is. Use it for some “Me” time and find some quiet, stay-at-home activities on Jan. 8-9. I can think of at least one stay-at-home activity…

Until next time,

Monday, January 2, 2012

Looking forward

As I said to my partner, Mr. ZQ, at 12:01 on Jan. 1, “We made it!” Meaning, we made it to 2012. Not that there was a whole lot of doubt, but really, you never know. Accidents and health conditions can put an unexpected end to life, and each new day is a new blessing. Another chance to make a difference in the world around us.

12Jan2savonaThis past year has taken a big toll on my health. My company rearranged my work schedule for me late in 2010, and that has resulted in many more hours at work for me. My complaints were duly noted and filed. Any my job went from being one where I often left the office and talked to people, and took long walks during lunchtime, to one where I sit at my desk all day in front of the computer, and eat my lunch there as well. I must start walking again or pretty soon I won’t be able to walk anymore. I have to say, if it comes down to a decision between my job and my health, the job is going to have to go.

12Jan2kitty Walking is one of my New Year’s resolutions. The other is to learn more embroidery stitches. I used to embroider as a young teenager, but I only ever knew one stitch. And as far as I knew, that’s all embroidery was. No one ever told me differently. My interest in quilts has rekindled many old hobbies, including embroidery and beadwork. Last year I challenged myself to take up blogging – and I’ve been at it for exactly one year now. I still have lots more to learn about it, but I can do a little embroidery at the same time.

12Jan2squares I’ve been working on these scrappy little three-and-a-half-inch squares for months now. You can find them and more free miniature patterns at this site . (Look under the 1997 Collections – they’re called Amish Diamonds.) I have no idea what I’ll do with them, but they’re fun and a great way to use up scraps. I spent most of Jan. 1 working on them – I guess I’m getting a head start on next Christmas. With luck I’ll have something made out of them by then.

12Jan2panel A few months ago I bought a remnant of Christmas fabric at Fabricland in Kamloops. I didn’t realize it was a series of panels until I got home. I was wondering what I was going to do with the squares yesterday, as they’re so small – I’d have to make a zillion of them for even a lap quilt. Then I remembered the panels. I might use them as a border for one or more of them. I don’t know if I will, but it’s an option. I’ll have to put some sashing between the squares to make them fit.

If you’re looking for some neat little paper piecing projects to work on, you can find some cool free patterns at Regina Grewe and Ula Lenz websites – just look for the free patterns directory.

Well, holidays are over. Time to go back to work.

Until next time,