Monday, May 31, 2010

The Quilting Bucket List

My buddy, P, from over at The Way I Sew It, and I were discussing quilting one day (like what else?), and she asked me a very pertinent question: "What's on your quilting bucket list?" I had to laugh since I'd never heard the "some day" list referred to as a "bucket list". Yet upon further pondering I realized there is a subtle difference between the quilting "some day" list and a quilting "bucket list". The bucket list brings those quilts into sharp focus. These are the quilts you will try to make before you die. The "some day" list implies wishing and hoping that you'll take the time to make the quilts on the list, whereas the bucket list implies if you're really serious about making these quilts, you'd better quit wishing and hoping, and actually do something about it.

So I'm adding a new sidebar to my blog, called My Quilting Bucket List. The list will grow as I blog about the quilts I want to make. Today, I will add The Double String Pinwheel, designed by P at The Way I Sew It. (Seems only fitting that her quilt should be the first entry since she started this whole thinking process.)

This quilt appeals to me on so many levels. First, it is scrappy. I love scrappy quilts--all bright, cheerful, and fascinating. Simply, they make me happy. Secondly, it will be so cool to make a quilt designed by my dear friend. Lastly, the quilt incorporates string piecing, which I've always wanted to try.

As stunning as P's quilt is in red and blue, my curiosity about what it will look like using other color combinations is driving me to choose other colors. I haven't yet decided on which two. I've considered a cool combination like purple and green, and yet, I find the idea of purple and orange fascinating. Green and yellow might give it a spring feel. Ah, so many possibilities! However, my scrap box doth grow, so before long, I'll really need to get serious.

If you're interested, you can find the four parts of P's Double String Pinwheel tutorial here, here, here, and here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Quilty Realization on Binding

Call me crazy, but I just realized that unlike so many quilters, I actually do like doing the quilt binding. It's not that I don't understand why others don't:

1. The quilt is really done at this point (no more creating), and so the binding is just a chore.
2. Prefer the look of a whip-stitched binding, but don't like hand work.
3. It's boring.
4. It takes so long.
5. Ready to move on to the next project.

(I'm sure that there are other reasons I've missed.)

So why do I like it? It's like the cool down after an athletic endeavor. One last time to savor the work I've put into the quilt before it goes on its way in full quiltness. Finally, after looking at the raw seams of the blocks as I've made them, and the ragged edge of the quilt sandwich as I've worked on it--for what seems like forever--it's just so satisfying to button it all up and hide those raw edges.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Hays House Dresser for VTT

Being primarily a quilting blog, I don't often stray into other territory, but I just have to join Vintage Thingie Thursday and discuss some of the antique and vintage furniture that my grandparents passed along to me when they downsized their living arrangements. This week, I'm going to showcase the Hays House dresser:

My family refers to this dresser as the "Hays House dresser" because it came from the Hays House in Council Grove, Kansas. The Hays House was built in 1857 by Seth Hayes, a grandson of Daniel Boone. It was a last-stop place for supplies for westward travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. It has been used as gathering place for church services, court trials, bawdy theatricals, politicians' speeches, a general store, a restaurant and hotel. Among its early patrons were George A. Custer and Jesse James. Seth Hays was a business man making a fortune off the trail traffic. Hays also had a huge stone barn east of town (still there) and adjoining a wooded area in a bow in the Neosho River where travelers camped. In the barn he kept and traded horses with the travelers whose teams were travel-weary. He had about all the bases covered.
I love the detailing on this dresser. Like the hand-crafted quilts I adore, it's obvious this furniture was built not only to last, but to be pretty. From the scalloped top above the mirror and at the sides behind the candle holders....
to the inscribed designs in the drawers, this piece of furniture was someone's work of art.
However, when my grandparents got the dresser, it didn't look this way. The current beautiful appearance is due to the work my grandfather put into refinishing it. Here is that story in his own words:

When Helen Judd inherited the place from her grandmother, she got an architect and converted the place to its current use which is a restaurant. In the process, she took out all the upstairs bedrooms and added a bar and extra restaurant space. In disposing of the old furniture, I asked about the oak dresser and made a deal with her to reconstruct another dresser for her and let me have the one I wanted. The oak dresser looked terrible-painted green, drawers coming apart, one candle shelf completely missing, some of the casters missing, part of the drawer pulls mashed and some completely missing, and the top badly warped. Underneath it all, I knew it was solid and beautiful oak wood. I also loved the mirror frame with its filigree. So I stripped the green paint, took it all apart and re-glued everything, made a new candle shelf, repaired the mashed brass drawer pulls and found a new one which matched closely enough to use, and put in new mirror glass. Then I took the warped top and laid it in the sun on a rich patch of green grass. After several hours, the concave side next to the grass absorbed enough moisture from the grass to make it expand and bend the wood back into its present fairly flat surface. I have no idea of the dresser's origins or when it was placed in the upstairs room of the tavern, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the piece.

Many thanks to my grandfather providing both the history of the Hays House (which I used nearly word for word) and his personal experience in refurbishing the dresser.

I hope you've enjoyed the story of the Hays House dresser. I'll be linking up for Vintage Thingie Thursday. So head on over to the Colorado Lady's site, and check on the other Vintage Thingie Thursday entrants.


Monday, May 24, 2010

The Gift

Every once in awhile we are lucky enough to receive a gift that is so thoughtful, generous, and perfect, it just blows you away. Saturday, I was the recipient of such a gift. P, over at The Way I Sew It, has been participating in the The Dresden Plate Party over at So Happy. She made three lovely Dresden plates and blogged about them. On her blog she noted that two of them had been made into pillows for her daughter. I made the comment that if her daughter didn't want them, I certainly did. Although my comment was very true, I never expected anything. I've made that beg quite frequently to various quilters, but it's never worked. Until now. P surprised me when she wrote that she was sending the third plate to me. It came with the instructions to do with it whatever I'd like. WOW!

Not only did P, share her beautiful work with me, she shared it in such a way that I can add my own bit of creativeness to the project. I must say, it really got my creative juices flowing--which was sorely needed as my temperamental shoulder has had me in a quilting funk. So far, I've decided the Dresden will become the center medallion to a wall-hanging. My mind is all a swirl with what borders to add to best do her lovely work justice. It just doesn't get any better than that!

For those of you participating in the Blogger's Quilt Festival, I now return to your regularly scheduled viewing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival

Even though I'm not the most prolific quilter, making many of my quilts by hand, I still had a hard time choosing which quilt to enter in the Blogger's Quilt Festival. I finally decided on this one, Lady Liberty, as I never tire of looking at its many fabrics.

This is my 2nd quilt. I began work on it somewhere around 1997, and didn't finish it until 2002. It was intended to be paper-pieced. I received the kit for Christmas, complete with paper-piecing patterns. Paper-piecing was a really new concept for me, and although I read and re-read the instructions, I never was able to make heads or tails about how to use the patterns. Instead, I made my own templates, and started cutting this scrappy wonder.

The blocks are hand-pieced, and the quilt is tied. Originally, I'd intended to hand-quilt it too, but 3 moves within a year and nine months, put a dent in my quilting for quite awhile. I was only able to steal snatches of time to work on quilting, so opted to finish Lady Liberty in the most speedy way possible.

I still have those templates. I love this quilt so much that I'm currently working on another. This one will be full-sized. You can see the beginnings of the new quilt here.

This is my first Blogger's Quilt Festival. I'm eager to see everyone's entries. As soon as I link up at Amy's Creative Side I'm going to start enjoying all the beautiful quilts. Go take a look!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Drunkard's Path, Past and Future

I am very partial to quilts with curved lines (or even the illusion of curved lines as in Storm at Sea). Drunkard's Path not only has curved lines, it's very versatile with many possible design layouts. A few of the many variations with their names are shown here.

The blue Drunkard's Path shown above, is hand-pieced and tied. I finished it back in 2005, although I'd started it several years before. It was one of those projects that got derailed by a major move--actually three moves in a year and nine months. The partially completed quilt spent a several years in a box before I was able to get organized and again turn my attention to quilting.

When I'd started the quilt, I'd intended to hand-quilt it, but by the time I was actually able to work on it again, it had spent so long unfinished that I used the quickest method, tying, to finish it. This left me feeling a bit dissatisfied. I vowed to make another.

I used Electric Quilt 5 to design the bed-sized Drunkard's Path below:

I imagine that this Drunkard's Path design layout has a name, but I've been unable to locate it. Hard to believe, however, that I would be the first to come up with this one. The design measures 92" square, and will require 484 units. The units are 4" square. I'm hoping that 92" will be large enough. If not, I'll need to make some modifications. I've bought the off-white background fabric, and have begun cutting the scrappy pieces.

This is going to be so much fun!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Quilting Gods are Laughing

"While you're making plans, God is laughing." I ran across this quote a few weeks ago. Tried to locate it on the Internet this morning so I could quote it accurately and give the proper credit, and darn if I can't find it. (More Quilting Gods mischief? You do know the Quilting Gods walk among as cats, don't you?) I believe the quote was attributed to a Jewish proverb.

My plight, which I will get to momentarily, reminds me of that old quilter's joke:

A quilter dies and when she re-awakens, she finds herself in a huge room full of thousands of bolts of the most beautiful fabric she's ever seen. She turns to a woman sitting at a table nearby, and says, "Oh my, this must be heaven!" However, the woman just glumly shakes her head, and replies, "No, this is hell. There are no scissors."

My problem? Well, it's like this: I've injured my left shoulder somehow. It's a mystery. I'm at that age where one can sustain injuries and have no clue as to what caused them. Yes, that's annoying enough in of itself. However to tie my situation back with the joke above, I have a new Juki TL-98Q--and I can't use it! Machine quilting is the one thing that notches up the pain on the injured shoulder big time.

I've tried to ignore the sore shoulder since I'm finally getting to the place with my free motion quilting where, although I'm still very much a novice, I'm gaining a bit of confidence, and finding it mostly fun rather than terrifying. Heck, the darn shoulder got injured on its own, why should I pay attention to it? Ten days later, and it still feels as bad as on the day the problem first cropped up; that's why.

So now my time in the sewing room is spent machine-piecing on the little Kenmore, and stealing surreptitious glances at the Juki. I swear when I pause to press a seam, I can hear giggling.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Similarities of Tiling and Quilting

What? Tiling and quilting have similarities? It does seem a rather odd comparison, doesn't it? However, ever since my family and I began tiling nearly the entire house almost two years ago, I've been repeatedly struck about how the two endeavors require many of the same skills.

There are three basic skills in tiling: measuring, cutting, and fitting it altogether. Sound familiar? It seriously is not rocket surgery. Yes, a tile saw is used instead of scissors, and cement and grout are used instead of thread, but the concepts used in tiling are the very same ones we use in quilting.

As I mentioned above, we began this project nearly two years ago. We needed to replace our worn carpet, and discovered that tile was significantly cheaper than carpet, especially if we installed it ourselves. Once installed, it lasts virtually forever. Big pluses. The downside is that you're always working on the floor and the endeavor is labor intensive. We've taken extended breaks after getting each section done.

We began in the sewing room in September 2008.
We were working on the living room by Spring 2009. When we bought the house the fireplace already had some tile around it. We didn't want to remove it, couldn't match it, (and while the tile color is okay, it would not be our first choice for doing the entire house anyway), and so we had to find some way to boot the tile we were installing up next to the tile around the fireplace and have it look like a plan. Guess what? The answer was tile borders (okay do I need to refer to my quilting analogy again?). How cool is that? The border made having the two color and sizes of tile in the same room not only acceptable, but decorative too.
This week, we finally began tiling in the utility room. I estimate we are about 3/4 done with the house. We'll keep at it slow and steady, and it'll be done whenever it's done.

I kind of feel like I'm cheating talking about tile instead of purely crafty endeavors, so just to make this article more appropriate for Sew & Tell Friday, here is this week's installment of the New York Beauty blocks. This brings the total to 62.

I'll be linking up at Amylouwho's. Swing over and see what everyone else has been up to this week.

Oh and if I could draw your attention to the polls on the side? Please take the time to vote. P, over at The Way I Sew It pointed out that I'd hadn't offered a choice for UFO's that were only a year old on the poll about UFO age. Personally, I think she's just showing off, not having any UFO's older than a year. ;-) I totally admire that. A year old? Hmmm, does that qualify as a UFO? Since I'm sitting here with a UFO that's nearly 15 years old, it just never occurred to me that someone could have a UFO that was only a mere year old. But what to you think? How long must a project be neglected before it is considered a UFO?

Note: I tried to edit the poll to offer a choice for UFO's only a year old, but unfortunately, I can't change it without wiping out all the votes. So my apologies, P!

Late note: Just found Hodgepodge Friday, a place for creative people to share their creative endeavors. I'll be linking up shortly. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

UFO's, WIP's and a Poll or Two

In 2010, I decided to get my UFO's and WIP's whittled down to a more manageable size. To that end, I joined the Yahoo Group, Quilting and Finishing in 2010 and I've posted a list of my UFO's and WIP's on my blog so that I am frequently reminded. As of now, my list consists of 9 projects. I've managed to get two off my list this year--a quilt I gave a friend for her birthday in April (I'd been working on it for nearly 2 years), and a baby quilt for my cousin and his wife who are expecting in July. The last one was a project I welcomed, but was added last and finished first. After all, when a baby is on the way, the baby quilt is a priority. So my list went from 11 to 9 in the first 4 months of the year, and I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Why 2010? It's not that I haven't considered taming the project list before. The turning point came when I got my Juki TL-98Q in December. I love to hand-quilt, but obviously the process is slow and I can only hand-quilt about 6 months out of the year when the temperature is cool enough. I tried machine quilting on my little Kenmore sewing machine. It's a great little machine, but pushing a quilt of any size through its standard harp is a major chore, and I could never get the tension right for FMQ because it's difficult to set the bobbin tension. The Juki's larger harp makes a world of difference, and I didn't need to make any tension adjustments on it for FMQ--although I easily could if I needed to.

That said, I have two true UFO's, the Sister's Choice quilt pictured above, and the Black, White and Red quilt. I'm embarrassed about the age of the Sister's Choice. The result of wonderful block exchange, it's nearly 15 years old. Why didn't I finish it? A major move, no longer having any of the off-white background fabric, and not being able to decide what I wanted to add as far as borders to make it big enough to go on my bed. Luckily, my quilter buddy, P, (see her blog, The Way I Sew It, here) has discussed the project with me, and I can see light at the end of the tunnel on this one, although I haven't yet started. The Black, White, and Red quilt is ready to sandwich and quilt, as soon as I'm done quilting Matt's quilt.

The other projects are WIPs, although 2 on the list, the Drunkard's Path and the Storm at Sea, are in the collecting fabric and cutting phase. That leaves 5 projects that are getting my attention, however, the Scrappy Star is being hand-quilted and I have had to put it away for the season. (How does that count? Still a WIP or is it again a UFO?)

I'm asking myself, what is the perfect number of projects? I know that 9 (or more) feels like too many. I do both hand and machine quilting projects. With the hand projects I'll probably need two of those; one for hand-quilting in the winter and one for hand-piecing in the summer. I could probably get by with just one machine quilt project though. And perhaps, I need one project waiting in the wings, one for which I'm collecting and cutting fabric. So, I'm thinking 4 would be ideal. I intend to whittle this list down enough to try it and find out. However, I admit that I do love starting projects more than finishing them, and so I'm having to flog myself into submission to keep from starting something new, despite that I've got too many projects now. Crazy huh?

So what do you think? What is the perfect number of projects to have on hand? Oh, and don't forget to answer the new polls about your UFOs and WIPs!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Accidental Quilt

My mom and I are making a quilt that we'd never planned, wished for, or much less imagined--but we're happy about it. How did this happen? It was due to a fabric mix-up. I'd ordered the fabric pictured on the left, but received the fabric pictured on the right. Oops!
A quick call to the online fabric shop,, immediately corrected the situation. They not only sent the correct fabric out to me ASAP, they also told me to keep the fabric they'd sent by mistake. It was 2 1/2 yards worth. Wow! Okay, time to make another quilt.

The fabric is part of Kaufman's Intergalactic line. Given the astronomical theme of the fabric, we decided to make a star sampler. Every block in the quilt will be a different star block, with the themed fabric serving as the background. We also decided to do something a little novel (at least for us) and use only the colors that are present in the Intergalactic fabric. This does limit us to a narrow range on colors and tones, but that's part of the fun. The blocks will be sashed, (we're thinking with some shade of teal), and the quilt will be tailored, like the quilt shown here.

Here is the block I made this week:This particular block pattern came from The Quilter's Cache.

Eventually, we'll need 47 blocks to complete the king-size quilt. However, at the moment, it is a low priority project. We make a block when we need a diversion from our primary project(s)--which are going along nicely and hopefully will soon be the subject of another Sew & Tell Friday. In the meantime, I'll be linking up this post over at Amylouwho's tomorrow.

New York Beauty update. Here are this week's blocks, which brings my total up to 56. Just 140 more to go.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Confessions of a Dual Duty User

No matter how ashamed I am to say it, it's confession time. (Deep breath.) I use Coats & Clark Dual-Duty thread and I like it. Both the sewing machine thread and the hand-quilting thread.

Whew! That was a big one to get off my chest.

How did this happen, you ask? How could a so-called experienced quilter use Dual Duty? Well, it's like this, I'm a self-taught quilter. No classes; and although I've read many books, I don't recall much about thread in any of them.

When I first began my adventures in quilting, I bought many of my supplies at Wal-mart (back when they had a pretty decent sewing department), and Wal-mart carried Dual Duty. Truth be told, I thought thread was thread and didn't even realize there were any other manufacturers much less types of thread. My LQS did carry some thread, but it was specialized stuff, like metallics and other unusual types.

It wasn't until I started interacting with quilters on the internet, mostly through the newsgroup, rec.crafts.textiles.quilting, that I began to realize that thread was not always just thread, and that most quilters use 100% cotton thread. Names like Aurifil, Essential, Sulky, and Gutermann were bandied about. Hmmm. And I could read the unsaid disdain about Dual Duty in between the lines. Yessir.

So I bought some 100% cotton thread just to try. Eke! The thread frayed and broke. It was linty. My sewing machines just didn't like it one bit. Not impressed at all. And I'll tell you as one who bows down to my new Juki on a regular basis, and asks the sewing machine gods to smile on us, I'll do darn near anything to keep the sewing machines happy. They like Dual Duty. Okay, I'll admit, I don't even remember what brand the 100% cotton thread was, and it probably wasn't top of the line.

So there you have it. My confession. I still don't know what is wrong with Dual Duty.

Now, I'm trusting you all to set me straight. Please leave comments telling me what thread you like and why. I really am interested in learning.