Saturday, July 9, 2011

If It Ain't Broke...

Have you ever made a tree skirt? Pieced a pretty quilt top and quilted it? Only to cut a hole for the trunk right in the middle of the quilt? I have made several tree skirts. Some of them can actually be used under the tree! The others are now table toppers for I couldn't bear to cut that hole in the middle of a pretty quilt. Why cut up a perfectly good quilt?

A friend was on a quilting weekend retreat with me earlier this year. Because she had little chance to prepare for it, I volunteered to provide her with projects to do. (I have way too many UFOs, as you well know!) One of them was this sweet and simple black and white quilt made out of one fabric. I cut it up and she took it from me to sew. Afterwards, she commented if I could only cut it in half, we could each have a piece of the quilt.

All through the remaining weekend, I thought about that. I really wanted to share this quilt with her. How do I make that happen? When I got home, I found another black and white fabric and figured out a way to cut the quilt top in half. Just like making a tree skirt, I had to cut that quilt top even though it was perfect the way it was. Why couldn't I just buy more yardage and make another one? I waffled for a bit – well, it took me 6 months but a few days ago, I finally cut that quilt top! And, sewed it quickly just in time to make it my Week 4 UFO completed!

Washed Up Jelly Fish!
Maybe it helped that we were on a semi-vacation at a beautiful beach in the southernmost part of North Carolina at that time. We got to walk on the beach and saw several jelly fish washed up on the shore. I got to visit a quilt shop (Quilting in the Carolinas) in Myrtle Beach where I bought prints suitable for binding. And, I also was able to work on several quilt projects. It was a fun, relaxing and fulfilling time.

Sunset Beach early in the morning.

We came home to a flurry of activities over the 4th of July weekend. In the midst of which, my home computer crashed. (Sigh.) And so, the Week 5 UFO did not get done until the 5th of July. It is a cute Munchies quilt that needed a single border. How simple could that be? I made 3 cutting mistakes and 1 sewing mistake. Some days, things just don't go your way.

I am going to attempt a last-minute binding on my Week 6 UFO that is due today. (It may not get done in time since I have a far more urgent project on the table.) But, guess where I got the binding? Yes, from last week's trip down to the Carolinas!

Ending on a sweet note --
Homemade cupcakes for a 4th of July picnic:
Blueberries, Strawberries and Lemon!  YUM!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Playing Hooky

Years ago, as a new quilter, I took a class at the LQS to learn how to make a Stack and Whack quilt based on the book by Bethany Reynolds. The pattern was for a lap size – I can't remember if it was for 12 or 20 blocks. Well, my over-enthusiastic (and ambitious) self decided to modify the pattern and aimed for a queen-size quilt that would use about 30 blocks. That Stack and Whack quilt is currently a UFO!

I do find making Stack and Whack blocks quite enjoyable and so, most, if not all, blocks were completed soon after.  Over the years, the quilt has grown and is now sewn together using 20 blocks. If I simply wanted it done and out of the way, the next steps would be borders, quilting, and binding. However, in my heart, I really, truly want to make that queen-size quilt. I hate giving up. The main obstacle to finishing this quilt, whatever size it turns out to be, is that I changed my mind about the borders and now intend to use the dark background fabric. Of course, I thought that was next to impossible because not only did I not purchase enough of that fabric years ago, it is a very distinct, very hard-to-find shade of dark teal.

Late last week, the partially completed quilt finally went on a fabric road trip with me, quite resolved to find a substitute fabric that could work in the border. Naturally, I was also on a fabric-buying expedition for another project! Multi-tasking you might say. As I was looking at the blues for this other project, to my delight and surprise, the exact dark teal fabric I had used in my Stack and Whack quilt literally fell off the shelf and right into my arms!!! WOW! More than five years later, the fabric was still available?! YES! Thanks to Jinny Beyer's wonderful idea of creating a lasting palette of tonal quilting fabrics. Even better, the new fabric matches the original so much they could have come from the same dye lot. How truly awesome is that? Now, I'm hoping to finish that Stack and Whack quilt top this summer – fingers crossed!
Week 3 UFO - quilt top done!

When I got home from that miraculous fabric road trip, that week's UFO called to me and, with a burst of energy, I finished a bright and cheery quilt top of my own design. It was just a fun quilt to make. 

Spiral Mandala design
 The following day was my class with Ranae Merrill on learning how to make a Spiral Mandala quilt. What do you think – does my design show promise? The colors are just for contrast and not representative of the fabrics. Here's the actual first sewn unit that would go right in the center.
First Sewn Unit
shown with the Magic Mirrors!

 It's the first of about 40 units, not including the background! If it weren't for the many things crowding my scheduling this week, I would have been sewing away on that quilt. Looking forward to the next couple of days when I can do so. I will admit to being hooked!

Speaking of hooking, I confess that I played hooky with this week's UFO. Ugh! I promise that in the next couple of days, before I play with the spiral mandala project, I will finish this week's UFO. It's got a fun story that I'll write about when I get it done.

Quick updates:
Roxy – she was such a trooper, donating a pint of blood last week. She led everyone into the room and was very relaxed and cooperative, as though she had done it a thousand times. I'm sure the treats being given left and right didn't hurt!

Sue with the one-seam sundress – apparently not quite as easy since the sundress needed to be hemmed and the shoulder straps need to be made. Oh, well...


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Meeting with friends over strawberries and cream on pound cake and angel food cake - what more could you want?  At last evening's guild meeting, we got to enjoy the strawberries first and afterwards, Mary and Robin organized some awesome demos by members including yours truly.  I got to share the joys of needle felting and, today, read all about the good times on Nancy's blog!    Woo-hoo!

I'm working on an upcoming pattern this week but I'm truly looking forward to Saturday when some friends and I are going to a Ranae Merrill class in Maryland.  She does those AMAZING spiral quilts and I've always wanted to do one.  The stars aligned just right for this class and we're all just so excited about this road trip.  This means that there won't be any last-minute Saturday night heroics trying to finish my UFO of the week!  I actually will have to squeeze that in between writing patterns and walking the dog.

Speaking of the dog, I figure it's time to share some doggie pics.  Here's a couple of our social butterfly, Roxy:
Roxy looking dignified.
Forget about dignity here...
She has volunteered and is scheduled to give at the doggie blood bank tomorrow.  Each donation could be used to help up to 4 sick dogs.  This doesn't lessen the butterflies in my stomach.  Roxy will be fine, I'm sure but I do believe I will need some good wishes out there!

The latest issue of Quilter's World just came out.  It includes my pattern for the Alphabet Animals Flash Cards Quilt using the fabric line of the same name by Lisa DeJohn for Red Rooster Fabrics.  So far, I have received 2 phone calls from quilters looking for the adorable alphabet panel.  And, they're getting increasingly hard to find!  Unfortunately, I didn't stock up on these panels and can only wish those searching the best of luck!  I just know they will be in a quilt shop somewhere.
Alphabet Animal Flash Cards Quilt
Photo courtesy of Quilter's World Magazine.

Monday, June 13, 2011

In the Nick of Time

Well, almost...

When I first started quilting over a decade ago, all the quilts I made had somebody's name on it. It wasn't long before I started working and teaching at the local quilt shop (LQS). It didn't matter – my projects were still always getting made for family and friends. The ones I kept tended to be those I made as shop samples and they were frequently unfinished quilt tops. Isn't that just par for the course?

As some of you may remember, the LQS held an annual student exhibit on a glorious (usually!) late Spring Saturday that quilters and their families and friends would attend. One year, teachers' quilts were to be featured. I was quite excited about that – until I realized that I didn't have any that I wanted to feature! (Luckily, dear friends came through and lent me the quilts I had made for them – including the quilt with the barely noticeable baby spit.)

That event made me realize that I had to make quilts to keep for myself. Well, let's just say that I seem to have gone a wee bit overboard! The unfinished quilt tops now need to completed and some need a new home. One of these was the soft and subtle Sweet Tea designed by Nancy Murty of Bee Creative Studio. For a year, it hung in the LQS machine quilted but unbound. This last week, I so dearly wanted to finish its binding so it could go home with my brother-in-law and his wife. Unfortunately, binding isn't my favorite part of quilting (ehem, understatement!) and so, even more unfortunately, I found myself procrastinating.

Wading through my stash, I surfaced with at least a half dozen quilt tops which needed backing. Aha! All of a sudden, finding and preparing the backing for these quilt tops seemed to be the most important thing. (Great idea for procrastinating, wasn't it?) Next week, preparing the batting for these projects could be the excuse for not getting back to my Finishing School. Then, the week after that, it would be the machine quilting. Then, the week after that, I would have to look for more quilt tops (YES, I HAVE MORE!!!) because otherwise I would be faced with even more binding to do!

So Saturday night found me with a queen sized quilt that needed its binding done and, by gosh, I was going to finish it! Yes, I was – by midnight I said...until I fell asleep in the middle of things and woke up in the early hours of Sunday morning thanks to the infomercial blaring from the TV.

Still, I got my second wind, changed TV stations, and did finally finish the binding before dawn on Sunday! Phew! So it was done very nearly in the nick of much for planning the title of this post ahead of time.

By the way, I appreciate your comments on my summer project. Some are joining me including Sue who has tweaked the rules for herself to include projects in general. This apparently includes finishing a one-seam sundress for her daughter. I wonder how long that has been a UFO and how hard it truly would be to finish! Can't wait to find out.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My 2011 Summer Project

County Line Quilters Guild has a quilt show every 2 years. A major part of this show is the raffle quilt that members help to make. For the second show in a row, I volunteered to design the quilt (FUN!) Along with designing it, I have gotten the job of organizing the making of the quilt (NOT so much fun!) This leads me to these last couple of weeks and, especially the last couple of days, when the quilt has become one of my finish-it-by-yesterday projects. You know what I mean – it's those projects that need to get done yesterday because the wedding/shower/birthday/anniversary/deadline is today!

Pieces of the unfinished raffle quilt.
As I sat there sewing those sashing strips and blocks together, this idea that I've been thinking about finally jelled into a summer project. (Unfortunately, it's not a cruise or an airplane-to-somewhere-exotic vacation though those are on the to-do list!)

My summer project is Finishing School! If I spend a few hours a week just finishing a project, there would be a good sized pile of quilts by the end of summer. That's the theory anyway.

Here's how I imagine it working. First, machine quilting does not count. So, quilt tops cannot be an Unfinished Project (UFO). However, quilts that just need binding (I'm calling those qubies) do count. Have you timed yourself binding a quilt? They take a good 4 hours at the very least! I know I have at least 3-4 of those just waiting to get done. They're bed-size quilts, too.

Second, PIGS don't count. Those are Projects In a Grocery Sack – ie, fabrics (and maybe the pattern) still in the bag that they were placed when you bought them at the quilt shop. The thing is, I don't want to set up for failure because these PIGS may take too long to finish or may simply not work out the way they're intended. At some point, if these PIGS become UFO's (like leave them half-done for at least a day or two while you work on something else – whether intentionally or not), then sure, they qualify.

Which brings us to what exactly are UFOs? These are the collection of blocks that need to get sewn together or the quilt that really just needs its borders or the semi-finished blocks and pieces that are still in the same project bin. Don't you just hate the project that is missing one itty-bitty 2” square? So, we won't include those unless you have a substitute fabric you can use.

Now, just because I've enrolled in Finishing School does not mean I cannot work on my other projects. I will have projects that I need to work on but not necessarily finish in a week. Those don't count. Let's just consider them WIPS (works in progress) or, if starting from PIGS, part of the Possible UFO Replacement Program. After all, for every UFO you finish, you will have space for a future UFO!

Bottom line, it's finishing a quilt top or binding a quilt every week this summer – say now until early September – about 14 weeks.

So, are you ready to enroll in Finishing School with me? There's no tuition – just finished quilt tops and quilts along the way!

Here I go (deep breath!) – my first project – the Guild Raffle quilt:  Quilt top finished June 4.  I'll post a picture soon....