Monday, September 29, 2008

A surprising spell of good productive sewing

This afternoon was nearly amazing. I camped out in my sewing room, as usual, so I didn't have to hear my 4 year old NOT nap (more like listening to a freaking construction zone, honestly). I have SO many projects in varying stages of completion, and deadlines fast approaching. I thought I was only going to work on Sophie's dress for a short while, but I kept doing things right, so I kept on moving! Yea :-)

I finished the smocking and beading last night. I admit, this is my first experience smocking a printed material that is not a check or plaid. I was not expecting the "pink blob", but don't really see how these are avoided unless very small prints are used. I have given up being concerned about it, honestly. The shirring threads are still in the bodice in this picture.
After about an hour, I successfully added the self piping, the top of the bodice above the smocking, AND got it assembled with the back (which I had assembled and installed the zipper a couple days ago). Shock of all shocks for me to get this far that fast. Tonight I will pull gather threads & pin the rose colored (actually a medium rose Moda Marble) ruffle that goes on the under-lining. After that point, the dress and lining will be ready for joining, and sleeves and collar will be all that remains.
I used my new narrow hem foot that arrived last week to hem the ruffle and this wide bow. It is a little awkward to get started with, but makes a very nice tiny hem, and FAST.
Stay tuned later this week for (knock on wood) more finished dress pictures.

On Saturday I went to a Project Linus Make a Blanket Event. I was able to get two quilts nearly completed. One of the tops was already sewn prior to Saturday. Thanks to my mother, I only had to sew one of the bindings too! I got top assembled too that is made of some of my better-sized bday swap blocks. It got lots of OOhhs and AAhhss at the event. Too bad I had to tell them I did not actually make them! They were impressed royally though with my Polar bear quilt that is for their Book-Blanket challenge. It was hard to give that one away, but I know it will be loved. The red & yellow bday block quilt was basted and I had begun the quilting on machine on Saturday. Yesterday I was able to finish the machine quilting. Sadly I chose to use some batting that I really thought looked thin enough (it was a freebee on Saturday) - I had intended to FMQ that quilt. Turns out though i had to straight line (or sort of!) ditch stitch the quilt. Because these blocks were done by 15 different people, pressing was different, there were issues with some not alligning exactly, a nutshell, straight line ditch sewing was not really all that straight. It looks fairly well, but I had hoped for a nicer end look. It has binding on now, awaiting my hand finishing. This makes #17 for me to turn in on October 12.
Here's one that was finished - Laurel Burch snakes and other bold colors. The next one is cuter than the picture. The elephant fabric is adorable with the black and white prints I also used. Both of these are only tied because I chose to use red fleece as the backing.
Now...I have a wedding gift to make before Nov 1. I just got my King Tut Superior threads order. Hard to believe three spools of this stuff ought to run nearly $30...hope I really love it! I have varaigated ones for the wedding quilt, which will only be about 20" square and for the one I will be assembling from my November bday blocks from Kate's, purple and orange New York Beauty blocks. Those, I can hardly wait for!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Release...

of pent up energy and frustration. I gave a test this morning in my class, so this week was hectic with many hours of prep and grading, and stressing that my students really weren't taking the course seriously. It is, afterall, Thermodynamics...a major weed-out class in the curriculum. I passed only about 60% last fall in this class. Usually during tests, I sit and sew, but today I did prep work for Monday so I can have the next 2 days ALL to myself. YEA!.

While the kiddies were upstairs this afternoon (one napping, the other pretending to be a not-so-quiet monkey), I worked feverishly (thanks to my newly acquired cold) in the basement on my many projects. My sewing space is a mess on acount of too many unfinished projects so I need to complete some things asap or I will be in need of another 6' work table. I just bought one 2 weeks ago (to which my husband raised his eyebrows and said "you need this?"... "Yes, dear, unless you want threads and fabric in the dining room indefinitely!")

The last few days I have been piecing the last border for my summer quilt. The piecings are fairly simple, but I am such a stickler for NO CUT OFF POINTS that I am being quite careful. I have managed to make this entire quilt of many hundred triangles and if there is a cut off point, I have not found it yet. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but it is pretty good.

So here is one border piece staged beside the quilt. I have about 80% of the triangles assembled for the other borders. Now they just need to get strung together in a nice, random way. I really love how the border brings out the simplicity of the wider, more neutral border, as well as tying into the very busyness of the central part of the quilt.
I have no idea how this will be quilted. I fear that the Amish would not really want to quilt it how I would want (patterned and not just all stitch in ditch), but I think I will send them a photo to comment on. It has always been my image that this be hand quilted.
Here's a little Unicorn, paper-piecing from Hell. Ha! If I never do anything with this much PPing again, it will be too soon. I am not happy with how the unquilted horse looks, but I can't really decide what to do there. Any ideas??
Tomorrow is my day of sewing for Project Linus. I have three quilts in parts to take. Two just have fleece backs so they should be easy to complete (just tied). The third is made up of 15 of my birthday block swap blocks, and I plan to MQ...just not sure if I will get to it tomorrow. At any rate, it will be a pleasant day away from the noise of my house. We have a weekend of rain in the forecast so the kids will be too energetic inside for my taste. THey also say that we may have Hurricane WhoseIt heading our way too. Batten down the hatches!...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On My Soapbox quilty content here, just attitude (and bad at that!)

Few things really get me going to the point of confrontation, but I was damn near that point today.

I had to make a dreaded trip to Wally World (AKA Walmart). I despise that place. The workers are either mentally disabled or just plain incompetent. Why? You wonder...thread is cheap there. Much to my frustration though, checking out I discovered I had forgotten one of my fabric scraps and was missing one of my key thread colors. Doggone it! Gotta go back out this weekend. Anyway, I digress for a moment over my hatred of Walmart. Approaching the car in the parking lot, with my 4 year old trying to get into the van, a lady comes out of nowhere and into the vacant parking spot beside us. She parked about a foot from the car, yacking the entire time on the cell phone so that she had to turn her car with one hand. I was dumbfounded - If you can't put your phone down while you are driving, at least (1) get a ear piece or (2) look at the road enough to see that there is a KID getting into the car. I swear if he had reached out his hand, he'd have touched her car (or lost his arm). Dumb Bitch.

Just about that same time, I saw a pick-up truck pull into a spot 2 spaces down from us. I probably wouldn't have paid it any attention but I saw the infant carrier in the center front seat. In Maine, children under age 8 and under 80 pounds must ride in the back. Have these people no concern for their baby?? I think that once you learn you are pregnant, you MUST do the moral right thing and ditch your freakin' huge Republican (Oh, I didn't slip that slam in, did I??) honky-tonk truck for something safer, legal and respectable for a new family. Just unbelievable, I say! And then, it only got worse. In Maine, as of September 1, we have a new law that bans any smoking in a vehicle that is carrying children. It's a wise legal change. Afterall, children have no voice in protecting their own health. Cigarette smoke is just plain disgusting. Anyhow, as we are pulling away, the two adults are standing at the bed of their truck, just where the cab ends, both smoking. I notice that the back window is WIDE open, and the baby must still be inside. Again, have they no good sense or respect? I should have recorded the license tag and reported them.

Whew... Idiots make me really type fast! I took my kids to a local dairy farm which has ducks and geese and small animals, as well as nice wooden outdoor toys to play on after the Walmart escapade (and other errands). There was another little girl there a month older than Sophie (26 months). I noticed she looked a lot older than 2 and was most definitely a chunky little thing. Now I have nothing against a darling chubby kiddo, but OK, she was borderline FAT (I give her 35lb), which is just plain sad to see on a 2 year old. To me, unfortunately, this means she is not fed or exercised correctly (or both). She and her gramma were having a picnic. Gramma pulls out a bottle of juice, a bag of BBQ chips and a peanut butter & fluff sandwich. I roll my eyes. OMG, do any parents feed their kids properly?? Or is this just another area that I am high brow about?? Mine have milk with all 3 meals, a protein, starch and fruit/veg at lunch and dinner. Breakfast is the only meal that we on occasion have a low-sugared cereal, although usually my crew fusses if they don't get oatmeal! They are expensive to feed this way, but these habits are so critical! It is just no wonder that this society is not healthy when they are taught that chips and pure sugar sandwiches are lunch at age two!

OK, my conscience is clean now...naptime is approaching and I can retire to my sewing space and make some progress on something that people are actually interested in coming to this blog to see!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baby Steps

Progress this week has been mostly in unshowwable items or ones of little to no interest. I have been puttering on the smocking of Sophie's dress in the evenings. Partly I am like a large captainless is just guiding itself (translation: I try something, dislike it, and take it out). I did find my 1-2mm seed pearls leftover from making a wedding dress and have been casually adding them to the bodice. I really love the look of the bullion flowers, but am being cautious not to embroider it just like last year's dress.
I have also done a little leg-work on this dress like making a tester of the bodice to be sure it fit her before hacking into the smocking and having it not fit. I modified two dress patterns to combine their better features so this step was a must. Today I have cut out the under-dress (cotton lining), it's ruffle, and the sleeves which are a deeper peach so that the entire dress looks more like 2 dresses (under-dress and peach-colored pinnafore). I have drawn all of the gathering threads, but came to a screaching halt when I realized I forgot to get matching thread and a zipper. DOH! Tomorrow's my day off so we will visit Walmart.

Here's a pic of some of my birthday blocks. I say some, because I am still awaiting a few. And 4 of the ones in the picture are not useable as they are the wrong size. Sadly I have also discovered that the instructions I drafted for those that don't like to paper piece had a flaw in a dimension so another 3 of the blocks I received have the wrong size corner triangles. Not a happy moment!...I can certainly replace these corner triangles, but the fabrics will not entirely match. Oh well...

I am going to a Project Linus Blanket day this weekend and will bring some of these squares and border fabrics in hopes of getting this quilt knocked out. I have also pieced another top for finishing Saturday while there, as well as yet another that is cut out in pieces. I am fairly speedy when I don't have three kids driving me NUTS so I stand a good chance of completing much of this. BTW...are you sure it is NOT legal to strangle one's kid if he is truly being a pain in the ass?? ...middle children ()

The binding is on my unicorn quilt. Maybe I will sew it down this evening.

I am trying to wrap up some of my projects because I have been a very bad girl (perhaps not as bad as Emma...who buys WAY more than I...what does one do with nearly a kilometer of material??!! ). I have a few yards of some very pretty batiks coming my way to make a wedding quilt hanging for a friend of my husband. I have a month to complete this, which ought to be enough time. I am doing a heart design in the storm at sea pattern. I have also ordered some Superior thread, which has come very well recommended (to which I say it ought to be like gold - three 500yd spools for nearly $30) - Yikes!!

I started machine quilting my ALQS mini this morning. I really like the top, but there are definitely some things bugging me about it. I have a love-hate relationship with it. Part of me really wants to keep it as it is my colors, style and despite it's flaws, I'd love to display at Christmas since I don't have such a thing. The other part of me is slightly bothered by places where there should have been an orthogonal edge, that wasn't, or places where the fabric looks a little "thick", and should have been trimmed more if this was really possible. I am something of a perfectionist, so the little things bother me. I think that the recipient is somewhat this way too, so these things bother me that much more. I hope she is understanding, sympathetic and well-spirited. Afterall, it only has to be displayed 1 month of the year! Joking aside, it is really a nice piece, unique and well-conceived (kind of like my three wild things); I am sure she will like it. Soon enough I will post a picture or two.

And good (promising) news, I am told my Miniature Booty quilt is "in the mail". It could arrive anyday. I'll disregard that Toni violated the cardinal rule of swap ettiquite and actually told me who mailed it! I hope to post a picture later this week (because it will not force me to actually create something of my own to show too!)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Another Endeavor

Last Summer and Fall, I made these smocked dresses for my daughter (then 1) and my nieces. The older one loved it (other one has a mind of her own and if it aint a horse, forget it!). Shortly after finishing the dresses, a former colleague of mine loaned me a smocking pleater that belonged to her mother. I had only smocked on checked fabrics, hand shirring the material (which took about 3 hours per dress!).
I kept swearing I was going to make another dress and try out the pleater. Summer came and I made Sophie's birthday dress without smocking. I was feeling lazy, and was innundated with quilty sewing and swaps. Times have changed now and I have a renewed interest.

I ordered some lovely Rhapsody of Grace (Michael Miller I think) fabric. It has the delicate ballerinas which I love, and Sophie looks splendid in peach too. Yesterday, all in about 30 minutes, I figured out the pleater instructions, did one mis-pleating, undid it, rethreaded 12 needles, and then shirred up this. I can hardly believe how easy it was. Those are the colors I am using for the smocking. This will be done as a dress, but made to look like a pinnafore - the sleeves are a soft rose Moda Marble, as are the very full ruffle of the under skirt (to look like dress is actually 2 pieces).

The picture does not convey the delicateness of the white on the ballerina's dresses. It makes me want to work in some very tiny pearl beads on the smocking somehow now that Sophie is beyond the age that I'd fear she'd eat them.
And here's one last try for a better picture of this Kaffe-Fasset and Kona Project Linus quilt. Lighting is a constant battle. The binding is on and it joins my shelf of what is currently 14 quilts ready for delivery in 3 weeks at a blanket event at a Marden's store. This store is a salvage store, but they get first quality quilt material (all name brands), and it all sells for $3/yard. On top of that they are immensely generous - a quarter yard is usually 12", a yard is usually a yard and a quarter, etc. For every PL quilt brought to this event, I will get three fat quarters of material. I can hardly wait!!
I an also doing another PL blanket day next week. I have been readying packets of precut pieces to sew hopefully into 2 or 3 quilts next Saturday. And if those last 4 birthday blocks arrive, I will make those up into a quilt as well. I selected this pattern, in red and yellow.

I also have 400" of binding to assemble in the next couple weeks. I've opted to let the Amish add the binding to the blue heart quilt for me (seems like the logical choice!!).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Be Normal?

This past weekend, we went to a neighborhood party. It was an "Around the Block" party, where we went to 4 houses, done with different themed events. The first house was the Frat-Toga party. There was a keg in the back of a pick-up and a quarters match in the dining room. Mind you - we are all 15-20 years out of college so this was quite amusing to see. The second stop was the start of the "trailor park trash" theme. Their entire house and garage and yard was decorated to the hilt - pop-up trailor set up, all lawn decorations out, three pick up trucks on lawn and all kinds of good redneck paraphanalia in the house. Very amusing. SHe did squirrel stew (really pulled pork), and had drinks from mason jars. I'm a little embarassed that this hick is my real-life husband, but then, look at me??! I went as Daisy Mae the unwed and pregnant Walmart worker, dolled up with very bright blue eyes, extra-long red nails, large earrings, ciggie & PBR, and the lovely curler in front. Oh, and the back of my maternity shirt had "hottie" in rhinestones! The front (which is hard to read) said "Who's Yur Daddy?...Billy Rae, Bobby? Clinton?". Fortunately, my shoes (which God only knows why Goodwill does not own yet) really hurt so I got to go around as the barefoot and pregnant gal too! The gang quickly decided that I was fit for the head roll at the next house - It was the redneck wedding! So Rosco and I got hitched (again), complete with wedding dress, great redneck vows, jello shooters (to tuck into my nearly-nonexistant cleavage during the ceremony, and staged out rolls like Big Sexy, the angry ex-boyfriend. It was all a riot, really!

Dare I digress for a minute...Back to the real world. I have pieced and quilted this as a present. It still needs binding. If I ever contemplate doing a paper pieced like this again, someone just shoot me.
I also completed this as another Linus quilt. It uses some of my Kona scraps and Kaffe Fassett squares I got on ebay some time ago. It has nice crispness and vibrant colors. Wish I could get that to show in a picture :-((

The quilting is done in the ditch and on the KF squares in a variagated red-mauve thread, flower pattern.

And lastly, if anyone is seeking a sneek peek of my ALQS quilt...the top is nearly completed and I hope to get it sandwiched this week. I must admit, I violated the rule and decided to make a holiday-esqe quilt. At least I do know that my partner is not Jewish!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September Birthday Blocks

Here are my September birthday blocks (Julie's house), Becca's Brasstown star and the basket is for Faye. Hope they like them OK. BTW...Julie-this was my attempt at adding a lemon tree to your house. I am less than thrilled with how the mullions on the windows turned out, but overall it is pieced pretty well.
Here's a little infant double flanned blanket made for Project Linus. It has nice bordered animal print on one side and an ABC coordinating print on the other side. Simple and soft.

Now I am off to cut some cloth for other blankets!...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Weekly Ramblings

I have been puttering along with this and that, a little slower than usual because of going back to work 3 mornings a week, and having to prep for class, grade homework, etc. But none the less, there are still some sewings going on. And plenty of plans in the works (naturally!).

My youngest turned two a week or so ago. Here's (sadly) our best picture in the birthday dress I made for her (Damn her affinity for that silly hydrant!). She just loves the little red enameled ladybug buttons on it too-

I have finished up three Project Linus tops in I had lying around this past month. Last year I must have had lots of UGLY fabric donated because this is definitely not a beauty. It's well made, and machine quilted, but far from lovely. Someone will still be warm.
Here's a closeup of the quilting. I am obviouslt still working on machine quilting and various shapes, etc. I did flowers in each square.
I have started on this Unicorn quilt. I must have fallen and hit my head, and am losing my mind. I found this on the internet. It is massive paper piecing. I think it has 50 sections to paper piece. PPing is far from my favorite thing to do, being that it is slow, wasteful and I frequently mis cut and have to take out those awful tiny stitches. UGH! Luckily, I have all but one section pieced and will start to see the sections come together later today. I'll hold onto this for Christmas.I am also going to make my daughter a smocked dress for the holidays. The fabrics I have ordered are not "holiday-ish" but will look fancy and will be great for all of spring. I thought the ribbons and ballerinas were so girly. Plus she looks great in peach. I am anxious to try out the smocking pleater a former colleague of mine lent me last year once this fabric arrives.

Other notes...
~I am still awaiting my Miniature Booty quilt. Don't know if it's lost in the mail or if I have another no-show this session. Looks like it's time to quit swapping!
~My ALQS quilt top is getting closer to being pieced. I have been hand sewing bias strips the last 4-5 days (no hints for what they are!!). Maybe a sneak peek in a week or so.
~I have finished up a couple more blocks for the birthday block swap and will post pictures of September's next time. Julie - Your house is not a shed!! And no it's not a double wide either (though that'd be funny!). I think it looks good. But remember, every neighborhood has that one house that raises an eyebrow and makes you think to your self "What were they thinking??!"

Friday, September 05, 2008

Border added to Summer Quilt

It only took me about a week and a half once I set my mind to actually doing this! Here's what this looked like previously...

I had put this quilt on my back burner since May because I knew it involved careful piecing, 45 degree angles, and some set-in seams. In the end, I am rather surprise that I only made one mistake and it had nothing to do with the set-ins. The 12 stars around the border are tone-on-tone subtle. In hindsight, I wish I had done them using more of the deeper sage, but I selected a scrappier approach since I was literally working with scraps!

I plan to add another narrower border on next to make it large enough for the bed. This border will likely utilize smaller triangles from all of the more colorful fabrics. I want more of the turquoise and teal accents showing.

Also this week, I have returned to that dreadded place: work! I only had two classes thankfully, and no real prepping or grading, so there was still good sewing time! I am finishing up Julie's Fabulous house for the Forum block swap. I hope like hell it is somewhat fabulous, but somehow I think she might be getting something you might see on the other side of the tracks :-) Not everyone gets to live in mansions! This week I have also puttered with my ALQS piece, but I'm not showing sneak peeks for a while.

With great trepidation, I have sent both of my quilt tops away to be completed. One went to the Amish last week. I am a tad upset that the lady there told me that some of my suggestions for heart-feathers were not feasible because of the many seams. I think that's just a lazy answer. I have hand quilted for 20 years, and seams are just a part of quilting. I am sure that it will turn out nice, but it has me feeling sad that I know that they will not be happy about doing my summer quilt (above) - It has ten times as many pieces! I also sent the Simplicity quilt to be machine quilted. Ginger suggested her mother who is a long-armer, and after viewing her blog, I decided she was much more creative than what I have seen my local quilter do. We chatted about my ideas, and I mailed the quilt off yesterday. My December is going to be a frantic month of sewing bindings (65 feet to be exact!), so I'd better get all other things "off the burners"! I have ordered some fabric too to make my daughter a nice holiday dress. It will likely be smocked if I can muster the energy.

(ta ta for now, in the proverbial words of Sir Christopher Robin)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Another Linus Completion - Ugly Brown Betty

With my impending return to the workforce, I have been feverishly trying to wrap up some of my half-started Project Linus (and other) projects. Since coming back from vacation, I have been a tad pokey, but my table is clearing somewhat.

This top was affectionately named Ugly Brown Betty. Last week it was a bag full of brown assorted pieced squares. I added a few other strips and fillers to get it pieced into a 4' x 5' top. I despise the brown polka dots. They are a pain in the rump to sew...material is thin. But thankfully much of it is out of my stash now.
I played with my machine quilting a little bit (within reason as thread is not free and I did go through nearly 700 yards).
Here's my first feeble attempt at feathers. Not too bad, but I see much practice in order.
And my ruffle-y flowers. I kind of like these.
The fabrics are whacky and ugly and interesting. The rust and red tones keep it from all looking like mud. Anyway, binding is on and it is ready to go to the charity.

Other things...
~I am puttering away on 6" stars for my Summer Quilt's border. Hopefully this will be added by the end of next week (unless teaching Thermo keeps me from this task).
~My ALQS top is done in concept. I have several of the top's larger pieces sewn together. It's very interesting and unique; I think any partner would appreciate it.
~I free-motioned quilted another Linus top. It's binding is ready for hand sewing.
~I have dug out the last of my Legacy quilts (top one in the link) to work on the hand quilting. This is just filler for my evenings.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Heavy Hearts

Three years later, it is sad to hear of another potential disaster hitting the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi coastline in 2005. The town I went to high school in was half wiped off the map: Long Beach, MS. I know that New Orleans got much of the publicity after the storm and flooding, as it should, but many days I felt like little Long Beach was forgotten. Long Beach sits between Gulfport (just west of Biloxi) and Pass Christian. It had many nice homes on the beach or a tenth of a quarter of a mile from the beach. A couple months ago, I came across this. Believe it or not, this is my high school boyfriend's mother standing on the site of her home that was wiped away completely. It is still ominous to see, as I spent many years in and out of that house. The pictures of these coastal homes are haunting to the average viewer; they are heart-breaking to those of us that have lived there and still have connections there. Though I believe it appears that Mississippi may be spared more by Gustav, the people of New Orleans are definitely in my thoughts today. Many still trying to reclaim their lives after Katrina, many not yet there.