Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My First Tree of Life Blocks

You know me, always jumping around from quilt to quilt. I've been sewing a bit here and there on the half square triangles and finally decided to put a couple trees up on the wall. I drew my own pattern for the trunk of the trees as I couldn't find one I liked well enough to make eighteen of.
Tree of Life on the wall
Each tree will have leaves in at least two colors, so I will have to play with the layout each time to try and get a good balance. The background is very busy {I was so afraid of that!}, but I'm trying not to freak out too much. Yet. It's always best to wait and panic later after I see them all together in their unbridled busyness.*wink
Do you see it?
This lovely tree had a snafu. I almost left it just the way it was, but when it went up on the wall with the others, I didn't like the way it looked at all. Much too lopsided. Plus, It's one of the very first I've put together. Better learn how to make it properly first huh?
It was an easy fix although I don't like my new Clover seam ripper at all. Guess I'll have to upgrade once again. Yippee skippee. So very exciting to buy new seam rippers.... Anyway, Now I have my first three Tree of Life blocks done and up on the wall! Not as vibrant as I thought they might be, but I might just like them anyway. Maybe. Reserving judgement on that until I see more of them together. lol  It's actually quite difficult for me to work with 'white' background fabrics vs. say a cream or a tan as the blocks don't 'blend' like I'm accustomed to. I'm working hard to overcome this instinctive aversion and break out of my box a little.
My first 3 Tree of Life blocks
More half square triangles to sew together with this easy peasy method. I'm not squaring them up at all, just letting the chips tips fall where they may. If I get a little bit of imperfection out of it, then all will be good.
Sewing the hst's
Now it's time to do a little grocery shopping and stock up for another busy weekend with family! Hopefully I'll have enough time to get a post up for the Bloggers Quilt Festival as well. It's only the best online quilt show around!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Little Bits of My Weekend

I had a lot of company and busy things all weekend long. Family in from out of town helping out on mom and dad's house etc. I meant to get started on the handwork part of the binding for Worry Baskets this weekend, but kept passing it by. Binding is enjoyable, but I need to be in the right mood.
Worry Baskets still waiting for the stitching on the binding...
Apparently, it seemed easier to pick up my hand quilting late in the evenings instead of the binding. I'm right up to the borders on most of the quilt now which feels amazing. I almost can't make myself quit sometimes, but sleep is kind of important too.That's the hard part of doing my hand quilting at night. I always run out of time....
Big Stitch quilting on Scrap Basket #2
We had a big family dinner at our house once again. This is getting to be a regular event these days. We now have the biggest dining room [and table} of all our local family, seating 10 people--or rather 10 adults--as we always shuffle the kids off to the smaller kitchen table or wherever else they can catch a bite. It works for the way my siblings have been coming to visit mom and dad, in smaller groups for once instead of like the Holidays where they usually come en masse. Plus, we don't always have all of the local siblings to dinner at the same time or we have no choice except to eat buffet style. Which we have done and will do again. Anyone familiar with large families know that you don't always get to cozy up to the dinner table together! But... perhaps we were just spoiled because my mom and dads house had a dinner table that could seat about 14-15 people comfortably. Then during the holidays, my dad could arrange things so it would seat 20. Lots of good memories at that table....
Carrot Cake Cheesecake
Anyway, for once I wasn't trying to figure out the main part of the meal and got relegated to desserts. Of course, being me, I panicked anyway. My initial reaction was just to buy icecream and call it good, but that seems so lazy! Finally, I settled on some of the desserts that I know and love and can depend on to turn out for me almost every time without fail.
Banana Crunch Cake
They got devoured and then some of us went back for seconds later. Who can resist the fall baking?
Pumpkin Roll
And then I finally made it back over to mom's to check out her latest haul. Still having envelopes/packages arrive! I wish I could convey how happy this outpouring of love and kindness has meant to her {and to me}. Thank you so very much to everyone who has taken the time to be a part of this. It's been a beautiful thing to see.
The latest Happy Mail!
These latest parcels are from California, Oregon, Louisiana, Texas, Idaho, Florida, New York, New Brunswick Canada and Australia. Wowsers. Makes me happy to call myself a quilter too!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Something Sweet and Something Not

I've been happily working on my Cactus Basket quilt, sewing the sashing onto the blocks this weekend. Things are going well and I am SO happy with the results. It's got a really great vibe going on that makes me practically hum. My mind, however, keeps wandering off on a different tangent, making it terribly hard to concentrate. You remember the 'I survived the fire' quilt idea?
Starting to put the Cactus Basket quilt together
Well, originally, I was going to use the Cactus Basket blocks and jump from there--throw some words, applique pictures etc. on the borders. But it's too sweet and spunky for that. I love it exactly as it is unfolding for me and I don't want to ruin it by forcing something on it that doesn't feel right. But darn it, I really like the idea of my fire quilt too! And the idea won't go away. It keeps coming back, and coming back again--nagging at me to do something about it. So, I fished out this partially completed improv. quilt top that I had played around with last fall. Would it work for the background? Do the colors work for what I need? Always better to have an interesting background for a story quilt you know.

Hmmm.... Four improv. log cabin blocks could definitely represent the cul de sac where we live (only four residences here). And only one house was even sort of touched by the fire (ours) so that little scrap of red is absolutely perfect. I found some texty fabric and quickly added our street address and also a funky bird I stumbled across. The scrapbooky look to the quilt is so already so very satisfying. Love that look. And before I knew it, I was off and running with ideas. Gotta make the most every drop of inspiration when it comes knocking or it tends to get lost in the busyness of life, right?
My new background for the 2014 Fire in Pateros quilt
So... Next thing I came up with was a mock-up of the city sign we (used to) see just as we're coming into our little town. I went back to a sort of haunting picture my daughter put up on the blog earlier this summer. {Well, if you're a hometown girl it would haunt you too.} It all feels sort of silly, but incredibly compelling at the same time. I wish I was better about jumping right in the middle of ideas like this all the time, then I might know what I'm actually doing here.....
It's starting to come together. I can feel it...
I haven't made a story quilt in a long time so this is really fun and energizing all at the same time, to try and get it just right. Simplicity is the key of course and a strong visual message. Of which I'm not usually very good at. Once again though, one of my kids bluntly criticized the 'accuracy' of my quilty picture. I have to keep reminding them that 'representational' is perfectly okay in quilting. When I remind them, they get it. It's just something they tend to forget. I always ask, 'What does it make you THINK of?'

Then another kid just went on and on about how different this quilt was and not my normal colors etc. With the kids I can just laugh it off, but adults do this too, which kind of burns in my gut. Why does everyone insist on trying to keep people in a box? Do you know how many times I've heard that 'Audrey makes fall colored quilts. That's her style.'  No, I'm still trying to find my style, but the sum total of it is NOT just using fall colored fabrics. Okay, you can relax--getting off of my soap box right now....
Hopefully the fire will be less blobby after I stitch it down....
So here I am. It's different. Brighter? Bolder. Complex in numerous ways that won't make sense to very many people. I'll probably have to keep explaining to the unquilty. But I'm well on my way to a 2014 Fire in Pateros quilt, project tote fixed up and everything. It seems like a wonderful thing to follow the ideas until they fizzle away, cuz you know they always do. For now I need to start the work of stitching down the letters and number onto the quilt so it will be ready for the next step. I've got lots of ideas for other parts in the quilt. Maybe if I scribble them down I'll be able to hang on to them till it's time to implement them.....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

More Work On the Partial St. Paul Quilt

I've been wanting to work on this particular quilt all fall. And then I really haven't. It's one of those things where the next step is pretty much figured out and yet I keep waffling about it. So pathetic. I even annoy myself.
Partial St. Paul quilt progress
I finally bit the bullet and started cutting the tumblers out. It's a long process that always leaves me feeling somewhat stunned to see the rotary cutter in my hand and being all busy cutting the fabric out. As an aside, I'm always grateful for the soothing qualities of working with cream printed fabrics. I know there are people who just gag at the traditional look to them, but they just melt something inside of me. Using these fabrics, I'm almost guaranteed to like what I'm doing eventually.
Cutting out cream tumblers
So this is how I boiled it down in my mind this time, trying to clear out all those sticky cobwebs created by that nasty balking syndrome I like to call simmering PROCRASTINATION. Lets just call it what it is! You know I always try to start on an upbeat note:

Worst case scenario I'll have enough tumblers to make a little cream and blue tumbler quilt. {Okay, that does sound kinda interesting.} Nothing ventured, nothing gained. {Really? How original.} Just do something. Anything is better than nothing. {Um... Are you sure about that 'cuz  sometimes 'anything' can turn out to be sort of ugly. Or embarrassing. Or even embarrassingly ugly.} Huh. Who's in charge of this quilting endeavor anyway?*wink  Seriously, what's the worst that can possibly happen? I won't like it? Wow. Like that's never happened around here. Lemons to lemonade and all that....

I bought the 5" tumbler templates over at Diane's and they work wonderfully. Totally getting me over the hump of diving into something I'm feeling a bit ambivalent about. Love to work with these acrylic templates, especially in this particular size. No tracing shapes onto fabric and cutting out with scissors involved at all! I did switch over to my smaller rotary cutter to cut the tumblers out as the larger rotary cutter kept shifting on me. Not sure what size this one is (maybe 18mm?), but it's the little guy. Really great for cutting nice and tight against the template. Don't buy a cheap rotary cutter though, as I know from experience they don't hold up well with constant use.
Cutting out the blue tumblers
I also got a bit of fun mail from Dorothy over at Dorothy's Threads of Life. She does stunning applique and embroidery work. Always lots of eye candy over there!
A win!
And just because I thought this was pretty fun, here's a picture of my two youngest practicing for honor band. Isn't that saxophone humongous? Especially compared to that little skinny flute!
An impromptu concert...
Even though my son is in 8th grade and my daughter is a junior, they both somehow managed to make it into the same honor band event! Always, always, always something interesting going on around here....

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Scrappy Tulips From the Scrap Bin & More Happy Mail For Mom

Well, I had to change the angle of the side pieces on my tulips to make the next three flowers work for me. Those side pieces were requiring scraps that were waaay too long to be finding even in my  overflowing scrap bins.
The first 4 Scrappy Tulips
I'm not going to actually sew the tulips together until I get all the individual units sewn. The thing is, I've been moving the pieces around and changing things up as I make each new unit, trying to pretty it all up. Hopefully I can make the most out of my scraps to make {strong looking} scrappy tulips without looking like I'm taking the fussing to a whole new level of insane. Perfect scrap attack quilts would be just be boring!
Getting my papers cut out and ready to go
For now I'm planning on making 16 tulips in all, string piecing with my foundation papers as I go. I prefer to work without the paper, but I'm afraid I'll have too much stretch with these shapes. Whether or not I put 4 tulips in a single block like the original pattern remains to be seen. And of course, if I don't have enough scraps in the right colors--things could could interesting on that front too. For now, I'm just enjoying playing with my scraps again. They really need to be taken down a notch or two and quit trying to intimidate me from over there in that corner.
The scrap monster over in the corner
I've tried different methods over the years to control the monster scrap problem, giving away {it kills me}, throwing others away {cut off my arm now}, cutting and sorting into precise strips widths {what a colossal waste of time-- will never have the right one anyway}, sorting by color etc. etc. Nothing really works for me except for a simple method of pre-sorting specific color ranges into smaller totes for an individual project. I have to say 'ranges' because maybe I want to work with cherry red this time instead of tomato red? And I always push the color clear into another area anyway, such as throwing a few purples in with my browns. Or whatever. Basically I've found this smaller-tote-system to be my personal way of controlling the chaos prior to diving into a scrap quilt. It gives me the necessary order and boundaries {I need} to make it possible to just grab and sew. No agonizing, time-sucking color decisions to make during the actual making.

After I'm done with said project, the scraps either stay in the small totes till the next time, or I just dump the leftovers right back on top of the big cascading pile. I've made about five scrap attack quilts with this particular method so I hereby declare it to be SUCCESSFUL! Honestly, if they all turned out like the current quilt in the hoop, I'd give up my regular methods of quilting altogether and just go play with my scraps full time.*wink
A little bit of scrappy goodness
And for those of you who were wondering? 'Cuz I know you are. My mom is still getting an envelope and/or package in the mail. Every. Single. Day! Pretty cool huh? Quilters everywhere are just so incredibly generous!
Still getting some Happy Mail Delivered!
This latest bunch (16 in all) is from Alabama, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, several from Georgia and California plus these countries as well: Saskatchewan Canada, BC Canada and a handful all the way from Australia. Seriously! Postage from out of the country isn't cheap! One of these boxes is from a few ladies in a guild. A little special something for a fellow quilter in need. All along there have been many notes that expressed sympathy and experience with dealing with the aftermath of a fire, whether from personal experience or by way of family, friends and neighbors. So very touching.

A happy story: That funky chicken fabric (you know who you are!) was extra special sweet because my mom is a chicken farmer at heart. Yes really! She's been raising her crazy chickens since before I was born. Anyway, the day after the fire, the grandkids managed to catch the very few chickens that survived and fix up a place to put them. Within one week, my mom had collected 8 hardy chickens, some half dead from dehydration, that she could tend to and fuss over to her hearts content. She actually hauled water in from another town until the water situation was fixed! Would you believe that those tough little hens have been keeping her well stocked in eggs ever since!True survivors to be getting right back to business like that. lol

I'm linking this post with Scraptastic Tuesday over at She Can Quilt. Maybe I'll stay motivated to clear out my scrap bins a little?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Slow Stitching Sunday

Still working on the Pickle Dish/Wedding Ring quilt! I stitched the background squares in until I had the quilt top altogether. Whew! Pretty unbelievable to see it all in one big piece like this!
Getting the quilt top together
Then I added the long border strips, pinning like a crazy woman until everything seemed to lay flat and exactly where it was supposed to be. Fingers crossed that I really did get it 'straight'. I had to check out my handiwork after the first border was stitched into place. Okay. Looking good!
Finally getting the side part stitched on...
Then I worked on the other side. It took me about an hour and a half just to do the (applique) stitching on each side. Not counting the time for pinning! That might have took longer, but who's counting?
And now 2 sides stitched on. Love that progress!
So..., Now I'm ready to put the background triangles in place at the top and bottom of the quilt--four in all. This quilt is going together so very slowly, I sometimes wonder what in the world I was thinking to even start it. Then I see it laying over my lap while I'm stitching away and I know. I totally get it. This quilt is one of those 'I wish I could make that quilt' statements I used to make ALL OF THE TIME. Now I'm doing it. I'm actually sewing one of those wonderful quilts together! Just gotta shake my head at the thrill of it all.

Linking up to Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching because I somehow managed to squeeze in a post on a Sunday instead of just doing the stitching part....

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Having More Fun Than Should Probably Be Allowed

I am having so much fun hand quilting this particular quilt! All of the thread is #8 Perle Cotton and I am not having any issues at all with the thread like I do with the #5 (thicker) thread. It is sliding easily through the bulk of the quilt which makes for much faster quilting. MUCH faster! I am loving it!
Big Stitch quilting
Also, I finally found the Fons & Porters Big Stitch needles that I having been looking absolutely everywhere for. Would you believe they had them at JoAnnes? I had read about them on a blog somewhere (can't remember where of course) and they referred to them as 'big stitch' needles. Well.... the package actually says Utility Quilting Needles, something I normally just dismiss as not very useful. For some reason {desperation maybe?} I picked up the package and turned it over to read what it says on the back. Guess what it says? 'Recommended for 'big stitch' utility quilting. Use size 8 pearl cotton.'

Aha! I found my needles! And they work like a dream. A little lot on the longish side for complete comfort while quilting, but really big eye for easy threading. I know I'm sold. Go buy them now if you hate threading your Perle Cotton onto a needle like I do. And who cares about long needles when quilting with Perle Cotton. The stitches are supposed to be longer and chunkier anyway!
Scrap Attack #2
I made a super fancy template out of the cardboard that comes in a case of Pepsi. Basically I am using that to mark out the first hill shape that I want to stitch. Then I go back and stitch two more lines inside about 3/4 of an inch just eyeballing the distance, changing up the thread colors for each row. The only thing I'm consistent with is that I'm using red on the inside 'hill' every single time. Did I mention that I'm loving this quilt? lol  It just feels like a quilt that I can play with.
A homemade template
I also finished up the last four flowers of the red and green applique blocks. These are intended to be joined with my Basket Galore BOM blocks. I don't think these last four are quite as interesting as the other sixteen I stitched, but I find that my enthusiasm does flag occasionally depending on what is going on in our busy, busy lives. I'm sure they'll blend in nicely with the others. Or else.*wink
Red and Green applique flower blocks
On a different note, my mom received one parcel on Tuesday and another on Wednesday. Still trickling in! But as it looks like things are slowing down, I went ahead and cut out my brown fabric into nice little fat quarters for those that had the Hi Audrey! slips of paper inserted into envelopes/packages sent to my mom.
Giveaway fat quarters
My return fat quarters went into the mail yesterday so should arrive within a week depending on where you live. I'm guessing it takes awhile for the mail to get to Australia! Anyway, if, after a week or so goes by, you do not receive the expected fat quarter, please email me and let me know! I am keeping a list here at my house with all the pertinent details, but there is no guarantee that we haven't overlooked someone. Thank you again to everyone who has helped make my mom's last couple weeks so much brighter!
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