Thursday, March 17, 2016

Quilt Planning Challenge - have the fabrics, now to decide on the design so I can cut them up and sew them back together again!

This quilt is destined for my nephew... he is smart, funny, sweet and deserves something special.  This one has been in the PIM (Project in my Mind) stage since last summer. I did the "Waves and Flips" quilt first.  

I wanted to capture his area of study at University - which is related to Network Security and whatever else is related to computer networking - as well as his school. We went to a local quilt shop together and he selected the first 2 fabrics, I picked out the others. So now we have 2 sets of green and gold, and a few novelty prints related to the internet. 

I have been particularly taken by modern geometric designs, interwoven pathways. I am being inspired by "mother boards", computer chips, workflow diagrams. Now I have to make the math work. 

It would be simpler to pick a pattern on offer but somehow, for this guy, I want to do it all. 

This is the design planning flow so far...

There are a few interesting ways to play with these 2 colours.. I can view it as a monochromatic quilt and leverage the contrast seen through the shading... or I can plan it as a 2 colour quilt... how should I alternate the colours?

The next question is size. The end result should be suitable for a double bed so around 66" to 72" wide by about 72" long.. or so

The pathways should be  2 1/2 or 3" wide...Too bad for me that my version of EQ6 seems to max out at 24 blocks wide and long. I tried to colour this as 3" blocks. 

Watch this space for my progress!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Waves and Flips - A quilt for the beach*

A quilt on the beach???
Quilts are wonderful gifts to memorialize special occasions, like heading off to college. I have beautiful nieces (well- stunningly gorgeous, smart and sweet nieces) and I wanted to acknowledge Morgan's graduation (Valedictorian no less!) from high school with a quilt to take away to college - for anytime hugs, being warm and generally reminding her of how much she is loved. I had expected her to choose her school colours but she loves the beach, and beach colours.

Off to shop for fabric (what a hardship) in beach blues and whites... with some hot pink flamingo's thrown in for fun. DH even went to a quilt shop to pick a few FQ's for me.

I had decided that a Turning Twenty (Tricia Gibbs Turning Twenty - "Twisting Turning Twenty" would be an easy way to play with multiple fabrics and the light/dark angled rows could resemble rolling waves.

I am very happy with the results.

Machine quilted on my Brother 1500s - swirls (click for a closer look)
 I wanted to simulate the essence of the waves as they roll, fall and crash to shore as well as the flips and swirls of Morgan's amazing talent in flips and somersaults in Cheer.  I can barely keep my eyes on her she moves so fast - up, down, over her head, under and over again. I found a variegated thread with the same colour feel.

Turning Twenty: beach colours with a few Flamingos for fun

I was able to send it to her in October so it is happily covering her bed.
Home away from home.

The next project is a quilt for an equally amazing nephew! He has finished college and starting University at the end of January. I have to get a rush on it!

* Quilts should not be used on the beach....pretty well...never...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Living, quilting and best intentions....

In 2015 I really intended to post regularly... and living stuff got in the way. I suppose that not posting because I am busy with the living, quilting and stuff is somewhat appropriate.

So 2016 is here, my annual motto has been refreshed. Every year I choose a new motto to guide my year. I gave up on New Year's Resolutions, keeping them is too complicated. I started selecting a motto instead about 12 years ago.  It has been a better solution for me. ☺

Last year's motto was "calmly, peacefully, mindfully..."
2016: "When there is a choice, why not choose what I really want?"

I want to enjoy my family, read, listen to music I love, complete more projects and also to create blog posts more often.

 Happy 2016!

Motto (according to Merriam Webster)


noun  mot·to  \ˈmä-(ˌ)tō\

Simple Definition of motto

  • : a short sentence or phrase that expresses a rule guiding the behavior of a particul!ar
  •  person or group 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Lakeside Mini-Farm (or "I started as a kid in NYC and now I am planting garlic") Week 1

I am not an amazing and experienced gardener, and I do not really have a farm. What I do have are a few plots of soil that I am learning how to grow vegetables in - some that will just be delicious because they are fresh and from my own garden - and some that are worth learning "how to preserve". I am ready to have dirty hands, blisters and learn what works and what I can do with it.

Welcome to a series of posts about learning how to grow food - while you are still busy being a quilter, going to work, enjoying time with your Mister, playing with your grandson and having fun with friends. There is not too much time left for gardening,... so it is sort of good that the gardening season only lasts half the year.

Based on the post title you may have some expectations - the size of my "mini farm"... which in reality is only about 600 sq.ft (two 16' x 16' plots, three apple trees and a small spot for blueberries. )
May 3, 2015
I am not beside a lake either, but I was born in NYC and I do have some garlic growing now - Garden 2015 Edition.
The first thing that I learned about serious gardening (AKA: farming to a New Yorker) is that you have to plan ahead and prepare your soil.
We spent 5 years thinking about how we could start these gardens. The first summer here I was quite enthusiastic about this project. I headed out to the backyard with a shovel, rake and a hoe. After 8 hours I had cleared a swath 2' wide by 6' long. It was packed solid with rock and gravel. Beaten,  I decided that the next year I would have raised beds and start above the packed gravel.
4 years later we built 2 - 16' x 16' raised beds. The Mister dug out all the grass/weeds and rocks. We learned that the particular spot that I had chosen to start the garden those few years earlier was the only spot packed with rocks and gravel. I had really forgotten that we built our home on a decommissioned rail line and it was just random that I had  chosen the old rail bed as the ideal spot to try and start the vegetable garden.
Last summer we brought in multiple trailer loads of soil from a landscape supplier. We shoveled and raked and weeded and planted and weeded and mulched and watered and weeded. There was a blight - no tomatoes. There were bunnies - hollowed out carrots - and snakes for fun.
We did however enjoy countless amazing and delicious meals of freshly picked beets, carrots, green and yellow beans, cucumber and squash. Maybe there was too much squash, too many gourds and  surprisingly  few zucchini but there were lots of beautiful pumpkins, and fresh dill, fresh basil, fresh sage. But I was ready to do it again and so here we are now: Garden 2015 Edition.
Half of the "West Garden" is turned and weeded (May 3);
this past weekend though, the "East Garden" was finished up too (May 17)
Buds on the Apple trees (May 3)

We need to bring in a few more loads of soil before I can plant these garden babies and my seeds. I kept copious notes last year on when I planted, what I planted, what grew and how much I harvested. I ambitiously purchased about 30+ packs of seeds for this year (not all vegetables though). I am looking for helpful tips to get me through season 2 so all comments will be welcome, thanks.
Learnings so far: Rent a tiller for Garden 2016 edition.

My garden babies want to move outside but tonight is another frost night so they will need to wait a few more days.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Random past projects

Some of the past two year's projects include these:

These and another 20-odd similar looking  friends were a fun way to use up stash and scraps. There are quite a few pattern variations on the internet. These cuties are a creative blend of a few other's little owls ideas with my own twist - not enough of any specific pattern for me to attribute the design though. Sorry.
Owie Owls (rice packs for the freezer or microwave)
 Amy Butler's Weekender Bag: It took two weekends to finish though! My poor sewing machine had to go to the sewing machine hospital for TLC. I used an upholstery fabric. The bag was smaller than I expected but it holds more than I expected too! I added extra pockets inside to help keep me organized.
A going away gift - one of our Tuesday Night Bag Ladies sewing group moved away. We sent her off with a group hug. We made these Friendship Star blocks in her favourite design colours. We do miss her and hope things are wonderful in Quebec, her new home.

For Rejeanne - June 2013


I am making good use of my embroidery machine. Towels, tea towels, bibs, bags are just a dew examples of  personalized gifts that I am happy to give.


 My January 2015 score so far: I showed up at Yoga class, posted some random projects to the blog, started a new quilt (special project - wait a few more weeks), slowly working on the hand quilting project (it is coming along), enjoyed a Jill Barber concert - a wonderful night of beautiful music.

And I baked this cake tonight:

Red Velvet Cake - Southern Style

See you soon. I am trying to be a better blogger by posting at least once a week. Happy 2015,

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Exercise for the brain and body

Because the body is getting stiff - enroll in Yoga - starts on Thursday
Because the brain is getting soft - more sewing, writing, reading - started last week

Let's see how we do, eh?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Surprising serendipity from my stash

My niece was married a year ago, quite far from home (Canada). She now lives in Peru so I may never actually be able to give her a hug. But she is such a gentle and sweet soul that I wanted to celebrate her wedding with a special quilt. I found a great geometric pattern in a magazine that would use a wide variety of prints - so I thought that would be fun and fresh.  The directions called for making 10" blocks - so I thought it would be a great size. The cutting instructions asked for cutting in strips of various widths - so I thought it would be a quick project.
So I started to pull some fabrics from the stash. It is exhilarating to be able to find what you need from what you already have. lots. of.  No need to shop.
The colours are perfect for Peru (in my head at least). I found 7 prints that played well together and a great coordinating fabric (enough of it too)! I was ecstatic that I had such great prints in my stash. I probably would not have found such a great set had I headed out to the quilt shop (but I never need an excuse anyway).
I started cutting my various strips Width of Fabric (WoF), the next instruction was to cut 10" lengths and assemble them. Why couldn't I sew the strips together and save time? Oh well, back to the pattern. So I assemble 49 blocks individually. 
Wait a minute now I have to assemble rows of six  8 1/2 blocks. Where was that instruction? I reread the cutting instructions again, yep 10" pieces. I am still perturbed by cutting them apart instead of sewing the strips together but I a getting over it because I really love my colours and how they came together.
I reread the step that says to assemble the 8 1/2" blocks so they must be there somewhere but what happened to my 10" blocks... reread again.. oh yes there is a step that says to cut each 10" block down to 8 1/2" WTF! Yep, waste all that beautiful fabric was supposed to be cut into scrap bits... but I want all of my fabric and I do not want to cut any of it off.
What a crazy idea! Make large blocks and then cut them into smaller blocks! I threw away the silly pattern and worked out my own, using the full 10" blocks.

The blocks laid out on my design wall.
I really love it. I am hand quilting it in a Lily motif, similar to a flower in one of the prints. It is a slow go though because none of my fabric markers show against all the colours, except the chaco liner. It however wears off by the time I finish a flower. I am so slow - 90 minutes per flower if I am also watching TV. I won't have it done by Anniversary #1.

PS. I know it has been a long time but a lot of living, quilting and stuff has been going on.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Chocolate Quilt, a retirement gift for a special friend, in neutrals (and some basting tips)


A few years ago I joined a block swap of neutrals, to make Friendship Blocks (24 of them). I have a special friend that I wanted to make a quilt for, I knew her retirement would be in a few years... These would be perfect so I chose Chocolate Fabric as my focus fabric.  Fast Forward to this spring and my friend gave the word that she would be retiring.. very shortly.

I was so very glad that I had these blocks all safely stashed away for her quilt. These and a few more were enough to make a quilt 70' by 80" for her.

sub sets

Friendship Stars is a traditional pattern, and one of my favourite. Simple blocks let me play with colour values. Using these neutrals in various lights and darks was challenging for me as I love colour. I love to play with colour, bright, deep, dark, wild, fun....

So this was not only made as a special project, it was "outside of my box", and since the theme colour was brown I quite easily thought of chocolate.

Thinking of chocolate makes me smile, and so does my special friend; this is why this quilt was made especially for her.

assembly of sub sets

Some work notes: I like to use painters tape to mark my sewing lines. I also used the Angler 2
A finished block ( 1 of 28)

I prefer to baste with thread and needle.
 I find it much easier when quilting because catching the pins locked together annoys me.
 Threads are also much quicker to pull out.

I like to use tools. Especially if I  have invested in them. If they do not make my sewing life easier, faster, more fun then I do not keep them.          
Basting  - some people like to pin baste because it goes so fast. It is also easy for multiple people to baste at the same time.
 I will do this if I have a small quilt that I will be finishing up on the machine very soon.    
What I prefer however is thread basting. I use basting needles (which are long and flexible) and long lengths of thread. Usually I put a single knot in the end and take long stitches (about 3 to 4') either in a horizontal grid, or radiating lines from the center.   For larger quilts the radiating lines from the center can be done with a long single length of thread. Smaller quilts work well with a grid, lines about 6" apart. I also run a line of stitching along the perimeter. I leave the trailing  back end un-knotted.
It is so easy to pull the length or smaller sections of basting out while you are quilting.    Sometimes good friends will be patient enough to help thread baste with you. It can take an hour or two  to properly  baste a full size quilt. Working with friends, six of us can baste it in 20 minutes; especially if one person is the designated needle threader!
Tip: Whether you are basting with thread or pins there are some details that need to be looked after.
  1. Press the backing fabric (and the top) so there are no puckers and it will stretch evenly
  2. Lay the backing, good side down, flatten and tape (painters tape works well)  to the floor or a  table or clip (bulldog clip) to a table top edge. I like to use two six foot banquet tables butted together in a square (or if needed I can use blocks of wood to spread them evenly). Be aware however that whether you are using pins or a needle and thread that there WILL BE needle marks on your surface - so DO NOT USE A DINING TABLE OR YOUR HARDWOOD FLOOR
  3. The backing should extend a few inches larger on all sides than your top
  4. Layer the batting, evenly to the edges of the backing, then either tape or clip in place
  5. Lay the top, right side up. Smooth evenly from the center outwards in all directions. I tug the bottom backing layer to make sure there are no folds in the fabric.
  6. When these layers are all evenly stretched in each direction ( but not under tension) then tape or pin in place so that you can baste.
  7. Basting is a very satisfying step, this signals that the sewing part of the project is done and now it is time to quilt!