Friday, December 30, 2011

Not Just Quilts

I didn't tell you yet, but I actually broke my open-toed free motion quilting foot on that 9-patch beauty. My closed-toe backup foot was put to use in order to finish the last two borders. I need to wait until I can get another open toe foot before I can finish, say, my Dark Side quilt. This means that quilting is a no-go for just a teeny while.

Today the Pixie and I wrapped up some loose ends on a project that's been cut out for a while.

The pattern is from Jennifer Paganelli's book "Girl's World." We gave him purple corduroy ears and overstuffed him. He is exactly the right size to tuck under a small arm and tote around the house.

After his initial play session, it was declared that he needed a collar and leash. You need to walk a dog so that he can poop, right?

Our real dog wasn't terribly impressed, but he didn't seem to be intimidated, either. Maybe he was wishing that the new dog would take some of the girls' attention from chasing/pulling/teasing him.

Now that Christmas is over I'm going to be switching gears for a week or so and focus on making children's clothing. My girls are rapidly stretching in the leg and arm area, and quickly wearing through the clothing that I made for them this fall.

I plan to make some twill and corduroy trousers for both. I'm going to make each a new shirred peasant blouse (or two). The Punk could use a hoodie and a new dress.

I'm going to trace patterns and cut fabric for a couple of days and then start sewing on January 2. How much can I get done before school starts again on January 9?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wing It! 9 Patch

This quilt started back in October when I had a cold and found there was a need for a cuddle blanket on the couch. Something cheerful and colourful to wrap around a sick human.

I had a vague plan for a 9 patch when I started sewing random scraps to strips of bleached muslin. I gave each tiny 9 patch huge borders of white and then trimmed each one down to 9 1/2" (because that's how big my square ruler is). This shot was taken during [spray] basting: you can see the size disparity more clearly here.

None of the seams match, and the squares certainly are not lined up according to fabric grainlines. I broke quite a few "rules" with this top. Please notify the quilt police that it turned out beautiful anyways.

 I gave it a loopy meander over the center blocks, using a washed out variegated 40 wt Egyptian cotton thread. I double zig-zagged the scrap border to look like X's in each patch. Then I put my experience to good use and free handed an oak leaf border. I am astonished that it turned out so well. I amaze myself! Somebody praise me for this.... Somebody else (Husband) buy me a new camera so I can get better shots of my work. I'm not apologizing, but I wish upon a star that you could see just how perfectly even the stitches turned out.

Then I turned a lovely stripe into a fun bias binding, and finished just before 3 o'clock. Not too shabby for two days of hard work.

Of course, my Pixie claimed this the second it was out from under the presser foot. She thinks that every new quilt is hers. They tested it out on the couch in front of Dora the Explorer. Another passing grade.

Do you see this binding fabric? I ruthlessly chopped off the selvedge. There is 1 1/4" worth. I feel no guilt about tossing selvedges into the round file.

Among the things you will never see in this blog are the following:
- apologies for poor quality photos, bad staging, and a messy house. (Now accepting donations for a new camera.)
- terminology like "wonky," "pastel," and "stay-at-home mom." I prefer the terms "skewed" (like my view of the world), "washed out," and "housewife."
- Show-Quality Perfection. That's just not how I roll. All of my items are perfect according to the steps in my learning journey.
And lastly, you will never see
- selvedge-edge construction of anything. Too unpredictable and unstable for useage.

That said, Who wants this selvedge? In celebration of my momentous breakthrough into the FMQ club, I am willing to slip this entire selvedge into an envelope and ship it to the first human who wants to make good use of it. I might even splurge on a high-postage stamp if an American takes the bait.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


In the time-warped and cluttered space surrounding the holidays, the earth turned a momentous corner. I know of a few people who celebrated it. Did you notice it, too? I look forward to it every year: the return of Light. In more ways then one, I celebrate Light during the darkest part of the year. My blood starts moving a little faster knowing that I have a few more minutes of sunshine every day. I eagerly watch my clock. Did the sun rise 10 minutes earlier than last week? This excites me.

Here is another corner that excites me: My mom helped me (spray ) baste this last evening.

Here is the future binding (love those stripes!) and the vintage sheet backing.

From this point, my goal is completion in two days.

I am excited about the new fabrics that joined my stash family yesterday. Also, two spools of King Tut Mummy thread; unfortunately it is pretty pale and my pathetic camera refuses to make any attempt at a good photo. No new camera appeared in my stocking. :(

This is awesome to me: brought home by my sweet Punk just before school break.

Cookie Tree! The gummy bears were the first victims.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Spray Baste!

Just when I thought there were no more gifts on Christmas Day, Husband whips out a little package that he "forgot" to give me. It contained a new 45mm rotary blade, a safety pin fastener (new gadget, drool), and my very first can of 505.

I'm talking Spray Baste, People! Can I get an amen?? Spray Baste!! I'm stoked.

So I found something to try it out on: last month's Christmas Rebellion top. I threw together some frankenbatting and quickly pieced a backing.

I ran some random straight quilting all over this little baby. I enjoy the focal point that emerged. The spray baste behaved well. I got a tiny pleat in the top, along one of the seams, but I could also blame the fact that I wasn't guiding the layers through with my hands. I just let the feed dogs eat at leisure. I'm loving the spray baste. But I also really love pins because they give me more control over how the quilting plays out over the top. I have another experiment with spray baste lined up for tomorrow. A BIG one.

Then I whipped up some Kona Candy Pink bias binding and located a convenient sunbeam. Contrary to this photo, no grain lines were trapped in the making of this wall hanging. Only one animal was harmed, but it's because his tail got pulled when my eyes were averted.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a couple of hours this morning. There is nothing an excited quilter cannot quilt. This is going on the wall in the girls' room.

And this afternoon will be bliss when I make my way to my LQS for fabric shopping - on sale. Were there ever two sweeter words to a fabric collector? On sale. I'm in love.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Faces of Happy

It just so happens that today is Grandparent Eye Candy Day, and there was something else....

Christmas! Double whammy!

My new greeting for the holidays is Happy Hannakwanzaamas. My favorite greeting is Merry Christmas. My kids are on a sugar high, and my husband hauled in a bigger stash than all previous married Christmases combined. Also, I got some very unusual jewelry. I may even take a picture of it later - a golden thimble with the Captain and Winnie on it. He bought it in Ontario because he thinks of me while he's on the road. Also, he gave me the gift of shopping (he hates me), but since it was a $100 GC to my favorite LQS (he loves me) I'll accept and forgive graciously.

Pre-Christmas incident: The Pixie got herself into a compromising position involving a footboard.

Daddy rescued. Daddy is the Pixie's Rock Star. (Almost) better than Chuck Norris to a toddler.

Christmas morning was just one round of surprises after another. The first round was crowns, quilts, and guitars - found under the tree.

Then came stockings. Daddy and his clone got matching drumsticks.

They spent equal amounts of time tapping out the beats.....and rapier fighting.

The Punk chose a subtle approach to trying out the new quilt - using Nanny's method of pillows behind the back, quilt across the legs for warmth. This was the best Punk-ish smile caught all day.

The Pixie decided to take her quilt for a test run in Mom's arms. She fell asleep shortly thereafter (sweet!) and then woke up cranky when Daddy tried to lay her down in bed (humbug!).

The carnage:

Husband was the happy recipient of many Pixie-wrapped packages.

It was a great day. Next is roast beast.

Tomorrow I'm planning to baste my Wing-It 9 Patch - I want this cuddle quilt ready to cuddle by New Year's Eve. The day after that? There's a sale at my favorite LQS and I do have a large-demonination GC to spend.

Yes, I've been blessed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

High Five!

Because I have a two year old and a six year old (who thinks she's a two year old), we do a lot of high-fiving around here. It makes an excellent celebration dance for short people.

So show me some high fives, People! Today I pushed past sick kids, piles of neglected laundry, and frequent dog walking in order to complete the Target Quilt!!

I feel much more free to celebrate the holidays knowing that the kids I care for the most have awesome homemade gifts.

It is a custom designed twin sized quilt, made entirely of solids....not shown in the next photo is the dark green backing - the Boy's favorite colour. I dig the way these photobombers seek the front of the camera every time I pull it out.

I also love the way their sense of quality control ensures that no quilt shall leave our possession without first being tested for cuddle-ability, hide-ability, and durability. This one passes.

Although I absolutely will not be making any more full-sized quilts before Christmas, stay tuned for a possible purple mug rug....and anything else that takes my pre-Christmas fancy.

Baking To-Do list up next.... 4 days left!! I'm going to a Kindergarten concert tomorrow, and maybe a drive around Candy Cane Lane. I heart Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Did You See It?

Did you see it? Did you notice how every blogger on the planet is posting less frequently as we get closer to Christmas? It's almost as if there is life to be found outside of the internet.

Of course, I am maybe not the rule to follow when doing stuff for Christmas. My to-do list will not be completed until four years from now. But there are a few ideas that cannot be compromised for this Christmas:
- the Target quilt for the Boy
- one doll's nightgown (to clothe the perpetually nekked baby doll)
- one repair to this Christmas dress, which I made for the Punk last year (Mommy slacked off on the dresses this year)

Things that may get done before the end of January and still be considered Christmas gifts:
- Husband's Irish Chain
- stuffed twill suiting puppy (been cut out for a couple of months, now)

Stuff that's gotta be done in January or the kids go nekked:
- awesome brushed cotton twill trousers
- multicoloured corduroy pants
- longer and cuter shirts for the Punk (I might risk working with knits again!)
- pants made from this pattern scored from Value Village earlier today

A little thrill for me this week was watching this little tree grow: we found it at the Dollar(and-a-quarter)ama. It's just some kind of salt growing crystals on a paper base, but it sure is pretty.

And, Grandparents, I swear to you that these babies got cuter this week!

Here's my Punk all tucked in:

And here's the Pixie ready for bedtime:

 Daddy got home very early this morning, so for a special bedtime treat he sang lullabys in a way that only Daddy can. That Pixie always falls asleep with her blanky over her head; and for some weird quirk she prefers to enjoy her blanky during the daytime by holding up the corners under her nose. I'll see if I can capture it this week. If nothing else, it'll be prime footage for showing at her future wedding.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Running Out of Time

Christmas cheer all around! At this time of year I love wishing everybody a Merry Christmas. I'm getting more excited as each day goes by. But it also means that the deadline is getting closer.

Here lies one of my very first FMQ projects, back when I decided that I was not learning anything by dreading the dropping of my feed dogs.

I made two half-log-cabin tree skirts that year using a free pattern I found online. The purple version went to my mom's ongoing collection of me-made quilty things. It's traditional for me to gift her with pieces of an ongoing set each year. This year, though, she won't get her quilty thing until Valentine's Day....I've been too busy making children's quilts.

I did not meet my goals of finishing the Boy's target quilt by Monday evening because I have been dealing with a couple of sick kids. We lean more towards homeopathic remedies than medication when anyone is ill: My last few days have been seemingly endless rounds of making pots of tea, washing sheets, feeding honey on spoons (for coughs), and monitoring fever heights. The Pixie's fever spiked at just over 103F but both girls' fevers broke during the night and they are feeling almost giddy with energy today. However, they still have Sniffilis....

And I did get some quilting started.

I can't wait to reveal the finished project. I still amaze myself with my machine quilting ability. Years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of quilting a spiral on anything - I had no idea how to keep the layers from shifting, how to avoid accidental pleats, how to keep everything straight.

But I've been doing just that and I'm tooting my own horn! I can learn! She can be taught!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I had a fine post organized for yesterday.

But after spending three hours on the phone with tech support from Shaw, I just didn't feel like being on the computer one. second. longer.

So today, I'll show off the completed strip sets for Husband's Christmas quilt. I've been living in black, green and gold all week:

Funny story: I walked into Fabricland looking for polyester thread and when I asked the salesperson what weight all purpose thread is, she said, "This one is 500 meters, this is 250 meters, and this one is 100 meters." Really!! Was my illiteracy showing that day??

Of course, my hookup at Johnson's informed me that all-purpose thread is generally 50 weight. They are so smart.

I also had a jaunt into the local Goodwill for corduroy because the Punk needs new trousers for school. I scored this sky blue and butter yellow (2m each), and as a bonus - 4.5m of this red flowered cotton for less than five bucks.

I made a date to shop with my best friend one more time before the craziness of the holidays settles is. And then I thought, "This will be the last opportunity to bring her kids some presents!" I've already blogged about her daughter's quilt, so you know that I love how it turned out.

But the boy's quilt was a pile of white, red, and grey fabric and a concept sketch in my design book.

Until this afternoon.

My goal is to finish the applique and baste the quilt sandwich on Sunday, then quilt and bind on Monday. Green thrifted sheet for a backing; black binding.

It looks good with the photobomber. It will look even better after crosshairs are added. (I approved the design with the boy's mommy before attempting such a controversial piece for a pre-teen.) Not bad for the four hours of work I squeezed in today.

Today's Random Secret Confession: I hate pre-frozen brussels sprouts (too bitter!), but cooked from fresh or even raw, they're one of my favorite veggies.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Block A

After last week's rebellion it felt good to jump into regimented quilting again. I spent a bit of time slicing up last week's strip sets and made eight of these "Block A's."

Husband is thrilled with the colours. This is the first time I've seen him so excited over a homemade Christmas gift....score one point for the Wife. We've only been married for three years - I was bound to get it right sooner or later. I have 24 more Block A to put together.

Block B is waiting to be created out of these strip sets. Did you know that in Ireland, they call this pattern a Double American Chain? I guess nobody really knows where it came from.

I'm heading back to the trenches to finish the cutting. I need a total of 32 A's and 31 B's for a quilt about 70x90. It'll be the perfect size to wrap around my Very Tall Husband while he's on the road for work.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Quiet Sunday

For a day of rest, we sure did a lot of work today (so no sewing - except I bound one more ratty towel as a relaxation exercise). My mom came home after a few months abroad and we spent a good proportion of the day unpacking and getting her dog and my cats used to each other again. The kids need a little while to readjust to having Nanny back, but I'm sure by the end of the week we will have sleep schedules sorted out.

This pile of fabric has been gathering dust on the bin under my ironing board for a couple of months. It is mostly poly/cotton broadcloth, but I love the way the stack grew just so. I can see the quilt in it. It'll be a wall hanging, or maybe a series of wall hangings....either way I am inspired. I want to reach for my rotary cutter right now, but it is bedtime - and that's fun, too.

For some grandparent eye candy today, my girls are snuggled into Nanny's temporary bed (just until we can get her room ready).

Did I post yesterday? I know my brain was not entirely on the subject because I did not include Saturday's Random Secret Confession. So here it is:

Sometimes my reality does not run parallel to the actual truth, but they're still both correct.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Take 2

Who knew that someone as technologically inept as myself could erase an entire post just seconds prior to posting and never know how she did it? It was a tiny slip of the fingers on my keyboard...and another 1/2 hour of added frustration while trying to pull the post back out of my brain.

This past week I've lost momentum on my rapid Christmas quilting spree. I'm rebelling against measured lines and matched seams. I spent hours online searching for the right project to amp up my mojo again.

I found these cute origami dresses and folded a few for when we finally set up the tree. I also threaded a needle and strung these petals that I made two months ago. They turned into quite the pretty chrysanthemum. Now the question becomes: Do I hand sew pearls into the center, as I did for the kanzashi flowers on the Pixie's summer dress, or just hot glue a bunch of beads on and call it done?

Since I'm genetically programmed to be a seamstress, I knew that my rebellion could not extend towards being unfaithful to my loyal sewing machine. Last night I pulled some fabrics and went nuts with the improv piecing. This is what I came up with: After it is quilted and bound I will hang it on the bare walls in the girls' bedroom.

I have been on an enormous cleaning spree to get my home ready for this evening's expected guests. So far today, I:
- did dishes twice
- swept and washed kitchen floor and entry hall
- caught up on all the laundry
- baked three loaves of bread
- cleared and vacuumed the living room
This list still contains:
- wash children's bathroom
- shovel walk and driveway

The biggest, most dreaded job of the day was Cleaning The Kids' Room. (It was so bad, I had to capitalize it.)

Here are a couple of before shots: not showing is the stuff I threw away already because the f&%@ing cat keeps peeing on toys.

I dreaded this job so much that I procrastinated by folding laundry. Folding Laundry, People! Anyone who knows me is gasping because I'd rather do ANYTHING than fold laundry.

But I did it all in an hour!

Here's my system, in case anyone else dreads cleaning the kids' room.

1. Make beds.
2. Grab a broom and sweep everything into one big pile near the toybox. Then wash whatever floor you've just exposed. (I also swept and washed under and behind beds and dressers and select portions of wall.)
3. Sit down and work your way quickly through the pile, sorting into proper places. Today my piles were: garbage bag, book stacks, basket of small animals, shopping cart full of play food, and everything else went straight back into the toybox. I also kept out some Little People to populate the doll house.
4. Finish sweeping the leftovers into the garbage and wash the floor.
5. Put all furniture back into place.

And this the the result: They are unbelievably happy! The Pixie started cooking as soon as I let them back into the room.

The beds did not stay made for longer than an hour, but here is proof that they were made once this month. I also wanted to show off the baby quilts I made for them. They really need the new quilts I made them for Christmas. The Punk's quilt is called "A Star is Born," and the Pixie's quilt is called "Pink Baby." The afghans were crocheted by me, as well.

Now that I am more confident in my machine quilting, I probably won't hand quilt anymore. I do think that baby's first quilt should be quilted by hand. But unless I have another baby, or I get dropped on my head and forget where the foot pedal is, or I insanely start an antique reproduction project; all quilts from here on out will be an equal partnership between my sewing machine and I.

I should consider naming my sewing machine. I should consider naming all of my sewing machines.