Friday, November 7, 2014

Biding our Time

It's been so long since I've posted, we'll see if I can still remember how to add some photos.  Thanks to the several brand new followers who added this blog despite the absence of any current posts!

We arrived safely in Western New York, to be greeted by the most gorgeous fall colors we'd seen in years, almost from the time we arrived in late September to this week.  Being retired is a wonderful thing when the weather is prime and you can drop everything and get out to enjoy scenery like this! 

Not so much this - taken about an hour ago ...
Thankfully the latest "color" in the landscape is melting about as quickly as it falls, though a couple hundred feet above us on the hillsides there are 2-3 inches sticking to the ground.  The local ski operations are smiling today!

We're currently 'biding our time' in a tiny townhouse apartment, most of the boxes remain packed and at least half the furniture is in the basement awaiting another move into our next home.  We found a small house on 15 acres near the Pennsylvania border, with a creek running through the property.   Lots of level land for gardens and a small orchard, and even a pond if we decide to add one.  Just about perfect in our list of desires for this new home.   Right now we are just waiting to close on the property, scheduled for mid-December.  We'll take our time moving everything there and will try to schedule trips between snowstorms! 

In the meantime, despite the lack of space I finally just had to unpack one sewing machine.  "Casey Jones" my favorite vintage Singer 301 is now doing duty stitching a huge batch of string blocks, about all I can accomplish right now, but should keep me busy for a couple weeks, at least. Without further ado, my current 'sewing room':
I've also been attempting a bit of hand quilting, mostly in the very early morning while DH is still asleep.  This is a vintage 1980-1990s(?) quilt I picked up awhile back in an online auction.  Though it was nicely hand quilted, there were huge gaps between quilting motifs and the quilt sagged when hung on a rack, so this is a nice easy project, filling in the blank areas with additional quilting.  The original quilter created a lovely scalloped border on this lap quilt, which I'll show you later when the quilting is completed.
So that, my friends, is our current status.  I hope to have some photos of the new sewing room in a few weeks after we've repainted it and moved everything in.  In the meantime, the holidays are fast approaching, there are grandchildren to play with and Christmas preparations to be started.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving if I don't get another chance to post before the holidays.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Last Finish in Oregon and taking a break from blogging

Yesterday I finished stitching down the binding on the light blue utility quilt I've been using for free motion quilting practice.  This top was acquired online from a contact in Ohio who purchased it at a Mennonite estate sale.  I think the fabrics in the top are 1980s or 1990s vintage.  The top was machine pieced and seemed perfect to accomplish some FMQ practice and have something useful to show for it.  Here is the complete finished quilt.  This one was very difficult to photograph, both inside and out on the deck, owing to the pale tiny calico prints and my general lack of expertise in the photography department!

The quilt was backed with a luscious French General print I found on sale recently, and I have to say that I almost prefer the back to the front!  The batting is Hobbs Tuscany 100% premium polyester, which is more dense and thicker than their polydown batting.  After using both, my personal preference is the polydown, although this quilt has a nice soft feel and great loft for the feather borders.
The feathers in the wide outer border were completely free-form, and much fun, although the tiny print calico made seeing where the backtracking needed to go more difficult.  I experimented with several colors of thread while doing the feathers, although the darker shades were more visible, I much preferred the lighter pastels.

The sale of our home is progressing well, and we will be going into full packing mode very shortly, so I'll be taking a break from blogging for the duration until we're settled again in western New York.  Finding a temporary rental property that will accept pets is proving more difficult than we had hoped, but I'm sure the right place will present itself when the time comes. 

One last photo with the big blue pot.
Blessings to you all this summer!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On the Value of Soaking, and a Win!

Yesterday's mail brought this delightful fat quarter bundle of AMB Solids, courtesy of Clothworks!  AMB stands for American Made Brand cotton solid fabrics celebrating the Farm to Fabric Movement.  These gorgeous fabrics are completely created right here in the United States from domestically grown cotton!  They were featured in the recent AMB Blog Tour, and I was the lucky commenter on New Mexico's entry, created by Dora of Dora Quilts blog.  This particular bundle reminds me of the many hues of the skies and canyons of the American southwest.
Many thanks to Clothworks and to Dora for this bundle of gorgeous fabrics!

After posting the photos yesterday of the completed bow tie vintage quilt, I put it in the bathtub for a hot soak in a bubblebath of Biz and original blue Dawn.  I knew it needed a bath and had a few slight stains, but really ...
This is after a 2-hour soak:
And after 8 hours, even more soil had been released into the water:
After snapping the second photo, I drained the water and gave the quilt an overnight soak in clean cool water.  The initial soak appeared to have removed at least 90 percent of the worst stain.

This morning I moved the quilt to my front loading washer, ran a cold water rinse and spin cycle, then ran it through a complete wash cycle using the delicate setting and with only a small amount of liquid Biz.  Then into the dryer on low setting.  Although the photo probably won't show the vast difference from the photos in yesterday's post, I'm amazed at the snowy whiteness of the background and backing fabrics, and how all of the prints have brightened.  The stain mentioned above is only slightly visible now, if you know where to look for it.   And, it has crinkled up just the way a vintage quilt should.  Very pleased!

Monday, June 30, 2014

June Finish

My one and only June finish, and just under the wire at that.  Last binding stitches put in this morning, then out the door onto the deck we went for some photography on this fine and quite hot day.   Without further ado, here is the vintage bowtie quilt I found partially completed at a small local estate sale last summer.
The quilt finished at about 52x71 inches, large enough for a throw or to cover a young grandchild visiting at our next home in western New York State.  We have accepted an offer on our property here and pending closing date and a host of retirement date details, will be making our move about mid-September.  Current plans call for renting a small house for a few months while searching for an ideal retirement home.

Anyway, back to the quilt.  This was a bit difficult to hand quilt, owing to the very thick and dense poly batting the original quilter chose.  Equally tough hand stitching the binding owing to the closely woven slightly heavy plaid that I chose to blend with the vintage fabrics!  Broke one needle this morning while stitching one of the binding corners. 

Having worked on this quilt off and on for several months now, my thinking is that this was a first quilting project of a fairly young and inexperienced girl.  The hand pieced blocks are uneven and the stitch size varies quite a bit, and her set-in seams are often rounded or puckered.  Her quilting stitches often did not penetrate through to the backing muslin and she generally left the quilting thread hanging and unknotted.  I mended the worst of these areas but chose to leave the vast majority of the piecing just as she completed it, to reflect her efforts.  Since it is not intended for daily use and most of the fabrics appear fairly sturdy, it should be just fine (I hope!).

I really love the vintage 1940s and early 1950s fabrics used for most of the quilt top.  Many of them remind me of my mom's cotton housedresses and dad's pajamas.  A few of the great variety of fabrics found in this top:

Probably one of the last finishes to be photographed with this fabulous huge pot.  The buyers wrote the pot right into their contract offer!
The photoshoot over, the quilt is now happily soaking in a hot tub of Biz and Dawn, and hopefully 50 or so years of accumulated dust, dirt and a few small stains will soak out overnight and she can be fluffed and puffed tomorrow morning.

Wishing you all a happy and safe 4th of July weekend!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Some Progress

We've had several showery cool days and today is promising more of the same, so painting of the big front deck is put on hold until the weather dries up.  I was more than ready for a break, though we're looking forward to having this last big project completed, and the house sold.  We've had an encouraging number of showings in the past couple of weeks and some serious interest, so fingers-crossed that we'll soon be on to the next stage of this big life change.

I've been able to spend a few hours working on the free motion practice quilt mentioned in an earlier post a month or two back.  The nine central blocks are now completed, along with the inner border and sashings.  A few of the most recently completed blocks:

The 10 inch wide outer border is being devoted to freeform feather practice - my favorite kind of FMQ!  Up to this point I had used white thread to quilt the entire top, but the teeny tiny calico print of this outer border made this totally impractical - impossible to see my stitches to backtrack or even see where to head next.  So, after having to mark the outer borders of the first already completed feather with blue washout marker to avoid quilting over it, I pulled several colors of wildly contrasting colors, even a spool of variegated thread, and plan to finish by alternating colors of the feathers.  For the most part, I think this will work out ok since there are several other shades of pinks, greens and even light yellows in some of the other calicoes used in the top.  A section of the completed area, with the variegated thread.  I think the variegated will be used sparingly on the rest of the borders as the color changes are often occurring at the point where backtracking is needed, and looks a bit muddy.
Happily, my Janome is performing beautifully and the tension is staying even for the most part.  There are only a very few tiny dots of thread where the darker top thread shows through to the back on the feathers.  I'm really loving the backing fabric on this quilt.
So, that's our latest progress!  Wishing you a happy, sunny, quilt-filled week, and looking forward to seeing what you've been up to lately.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mail Call

Not much happening in the sewing room this week as we've been working on a major re-do of our deck, and of course the garden is calling for nearly constant attention these days.  In the odd evening moments if I'm still awake enough to see, I've been plodding along with the hand quilting of the vintage bow-tie quilt.  Hopefully there will be a finished quilt to show you in a couple more weeks.

Monday's mail delivery brought packages!  Last month Sharon at Vroomans Quilts held a special "May for Me" celebration with several giveaways, and I was the very lucky winner of this gorgeous quilt kit, photographed just before I opened up the jelly roll to drool over all the sweet fabrics.  Of course that jelly roll didn't roll back up quite as neatly!   This will make up into a great lap quilt for my little granddaughter when she eventually gets to move into her own bedroom (currently serving as a nursery for her baby brother).  Thanks so much Sharon - I'm going to love making this one!    Since the quilt pattern only uses a portion of the jelly roll, I'm thinking the remainder may go into a matching throw pillow for her bed or a floor cushion.  Fun sewing days ahead.

The second package came from Amy Ellis at Amy's Creative Side, who recently hosted the Bloggers Quilt Festival.  I won one of the general prize drawings for participating in the Festival, and this group of books, courtesy of Lark Crafts was my prize.
It has been many years since I sewed big stuffed rabbits for my son and a little friend of his, but with a couple of granddaughters nearing the 'learn to sew' stage, there could be some fun projects we can work on together.  I'll be looking at the Stitched Blooms book with an eye to adapting some of the designs for free motion quilting.  Thank you Amy!

Looking forward to a couple rainy days ahead when I can put away the paintbrushes and find the sewing room again.  I hope you're enjoying some warm sunny days, as we have been in western Oregon!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

AMB Fabrics - Whole Cloth Hand Quilting - and the May NewFO

May has come and gone in a blur.  The Bloggers Quilt Festival is always such fun, seeing lots of new-to-me bloggers' creations, and the fun of friendly competition and the chance of winning some fab giveaways.  I know many folks are also following the AMB Farm to Fabric Blog Tour, featuring the new all-American made solid fabrics recently introduced by Clothworks.  I was immediately intrigued, both with the blog tour, and once again being able to buy cotton quilting fabric totally produced in the USA.  I've been wanting to try my hand at whole cloth hand quilting, and what better time than now.

The AMB solids will soon be available at my LQS, but in the meantime I ordered a couple yards from Pacific Fabrics & Crafts.  I've always loved yellow and have wanted to create a light yellow whole cloth quilt since seeing so many gorgeous whole cloth quilts on the Celebrate Hand Quilting Facebook group.  Also, being new to commercial stencils, I decided to start small with a pillow or sham sized piece. 

So, without further ado, here is my progress to date on said sample pillow/sham in AMB's light yellow - my NewFO for May:
The actual color of the fabric is much prettier than my amateurish efforts with the camera would show.  I tried photographing this piece in various rooms under different lighting conditions, and even outside on the deck, all with dismal results.  You'll just have to use your imagination and envision a gorgeous soft yellow here.
I've been hearing the praises of Aurifil 28 wt. cotton thread for hand quilting, and thought this would be a good project to give that a go.  I had one small spool of a light blue-green in that weight, and with the addition of some Thread Heaven, it is quilting beautifully.  
Batting for this project is a polyester remnant I had in the stash, and it is giving this some nice loft.  I think I would plan to use a Hobbs Polydown batting for a large bed-size whole cloth quilt. 
All in all, I am very pleased with the performance of the AMB Brand solids.  They have a nice hand, with a bit more texture and perhaps a little less sheen than some of the other solids currently available.  They needle beautifully for hand quilting, which is a big plus!  And, they come in 50 gorgeous colors.   One caveat for anyone planning to use these fabrics - there is a shrinkage factor to take into consideration!  My yellow fabric piece measured 44 1/2" wide by 37" long before washing.  I used cold water and the hand wash cycle in my front loading machine, and then dried the fabric on low heat.  The after-wash measurements were 44" wide by 35" long.  A fairly significant lengthwise shrinkage, which would affect the symmetry of a whole cloth design if the fabric were not prewashed.  But, the good news is, the fabric launders beautifully and any wrinkles iron right out without a problem. 
So, there you have it, my May NewFO.  Linking up with Barbara at Cat Patches for the May NewFO Linky Party where you can see lots of other newly started projects, and link up with one of your own new creations!

P.S.  I have absolutely no affiliation with AMB Brand or Clothworks - just a love of hand quilting and a desire to support Made in the USA products!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Scrappy Handquilted Second Entry - Bloggers Quilt Festival!

My second entry in this spring's Bloggers Quilt Festival is in the Scrappy category since I've already entered little Zachary's quilt in the Hand Quilted category. 

I first saw this pattern in a post on Barbara Brackman's blog early in 2013, a small quilt she called Checkered Past 1862, and had accumulated several charm packs and a layer cake of Civil War and various other era reproduction prints that looked like they would make up into a nice rendition of this pattern.  Over the course of last summer I stitched the blocks between working on other projects.
I had help with the layout.
Paws of approval on the final(?) layout.  Now for a border fabric.
Where was my helper with those corner blocks when I stitched this together???  Hmm - too late since the borders were cut a bit too narrow to add the corner blocks back in.
Fast forward to early this year - the finished project:
The Stats:
Machine pieced and hand quilted by me
Finished size after washing:  51" x 67-1/2"  - perfect for snuggling or napping on the couch
Batting:  my favorite Hobbs 80/20 cotton (pre-rinsed and gently dried in the dryer before quilting)
Quilting threads:  Coats Dual Duty cotton/poly hand quilting thread (green spool) for grid quilting in the blocks in natural color 8030; Baptist Fan border quilted in Gutermann red color 2453.

Linking up with The Bloggers Quilt Festival Scrappy Category here, and you can visit all the quilts entered in each of the other categories by clicking on the Main Festival post here.   Please join the fun!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bloggers Quilt Festival 2014!

One of my favorite weeks of the year - the Bloggers Quilt Festival!  Hosted by Amy at Amy's Creative Side each spring during Quilt Market, this is our chance to visit hundreds of quilters blogs and see some gorgeous creations from the comfort of our own home.

When this year's Festival was first announced, the Hand Quilting category had been dropped for lack of entries in the most recent Festivals.  Members of the Facebook group Celebrate Hand Quilting successfully persuaded Amy to add the category back, and with over 6,000 members, we hope to have LOTS of entries this spring!

The quilt I've chosen to enter this time is one I completed for my youngest grandson who was born last fall.  Each of my grandchildren receives a hand quilted "heirloom" baby quilt,  and when they are ready to graduate to a big bed they get a child-friendly, rough and tumble twin size quilt that I generally machine quilt on my domestic sewing machine.    So, here is Zachary's baby quilt, a traditional single wedding ring pieced pattern inspired by a vintage quilt I found in Eleanor Levie's book Great Little Quilts.  The original quilt measured only 27 3/8 inches by 35 1/2 inches, so I up-sized mine a bit and added an extra border to make it a full crib size.

I free-hand quilted Zachary's full name and date of birth on one of the inner borders, a portion of which is visible in the close-up below. 
Quilt Stats:
Machine pieced and hand quilted by me
Finished size approximately 45 x 60 inches
Batting is an 80/20 cotton from JoAnn's (I neglected to write down the brand before discarding the wrapper)
Quilted with Coats 100% cotton glace thread

I'll be linking up with The Bloggers Quilt Festival Hand Quilting Category here, and you can see quilts in each of the other categories by clicking the main Festival post here.

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you'll enter one or two of your quilts in this Festival!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April NewFO

Inside now after a couple hours in the 86 degree sunshine(!) working in the garden.  Have to say, it's a mighty fine way to end the month of April!   We now have spinach ready to harvest, along with broccoli and lettuce starts, the peas were planted yesterday, and the potatoes will no doubt be planted tomorrow morning.  Early, well before it hits the mid 80s again.

As I began quilting the little purple baby quilt for our church school benefit auction, I was made sadly aware that you (or I, at least) can't go five months with no FMQ practice and expect to get away with it! That little quilt ended up all straight-line quilted, partially FMQ and partly with the dual feed foot.  All in all, it didn't turn out badly, and I'm rather fond of the way the intersecting lines add another dimension to the quilt.

I'm excited to see what "The Little Ballerina" as this was dubbed in the auction bidder guide will bring on Saturday.  I may even buy it myself, to save for a grandbaby visit.  Here's a shot of the back, so you'll see why it is aptly named.

Sew, on to April's NewFO.   I had purchased several vintage (1960s-1990s range) Mennonite quilt tops last year, and one of them was a sampler of sorts of pieced blocks with some wide sashings and a huge border.  A rather nondescript and not well executed top with lopped off points, etc.  This lady, bless her heart, was not cut out for machine piecing, but her hand appliqued and embroidered kit quilts are fabulous.  Anyway, this 73x73 inch pieced top looked like a great opportunity to bone up on some FMQ and have a finished quilt to show for it.  As of this morning I have five of the nine blocks quilted.  Determined to have fun with this one, and not stressing about imperfections, I've been averaging about one block every day or two.  A couple of the completed blocks - the dark areas were wet, as I've been sponging off the blue washout marker as soon as each block is complete.
Our LQS had a big "after-remodeling" sale during April and had moved a lot of fabric bolts to their bargain basement.  I wasn't able to find yardage for the backing in a print of the era of the quilt top, so instead the backing is this gorgeous French General print that just happened to be in the sale room.  I think I'm going to love flipping this quilt over and displaying it as a comforter!

So, that's it for April.  At 5:30 the A/C kicked on - it was 77 in the house and 86 degrees outside.  What a way to end the month in (normally soggy) Oregon!

Linking up with Barbara at Cat Patches for her monthly NewFO linky party.  All you need to do to join in is post about a project you've started this month, and link up!  It's fun!  It's free! And, there's lots of eye-candy for the viewing.