Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goings-on at the House of Quilts

Molly determined that a stack of folded quilts makes a dandy kitty sleeping bag: I fixed the quilting bobbles and completed the binding on the final (FINAL!) backlogged quilt from all those years ago:
I think forgot just how cute it is, or I wouldn't have let it lie in a cupboard for 10 years with those thread knots and bobbin tension loops unfixed. I will never know what happened with these quilts. The lady was a good longarm quilter and did several for me before the five that came back with all these problems. She was also inexpensive, so I was feeling pretty good about letting her have my quilts. And then these come back in a batch with the machine tension all messed up and loopy thread on the front where the bobbin thread pulled up to the surface. It wasn't like the lady to let work like that go without fixing it, so I still think her daughter was helping her quilt and the daughter didn't have the same work ethic.

The quilter lives in Kentucky near my mother so I would drop off my quilts with her when I visited Mom. It was my fault that this time I picked them up, pulled a corner of each out of the bag for a cursory examination and bundled them into the car. I was leaving town and eager to hit the road. Now I spread every quilt out and microscopically go over it before I leave the premises. Paranoid, I guess. But I don't have any problems with my longarm quilter Sherry's work. It's beautiful.

And remember this quilt made of Benartex Meadowbrook fabrics (see linked post for picture)? I never could decide if that quilt was just OK or pretty, but two years ago I hired the quilting at a local shop. It came out positively the worst quilting job I have ever seen. Dreadful. The thread tension was all wonky and the stitch length varied so much that some of the stitches were over 1/4" long. Ruined, absolutely ruined. I whimpered a little and chucked it in the corner. Finally, I machine sewed on a binding and thought I would make it a charity quilt. But it was so terrible I couldn't make myself give it away. It languished in the closet, and I tried to forget all the work that went into it.

This afternoon I picked it up, spread it out and decided I wouldn't go down without a fight. So I trimmed off the binding and picked out the quilting. ALL OF IT. It took hours. And hours. In fact, it's after 1 a.m. and I just finished. It would have been worse if it had been done correctly but it was a complete mess and I could break the bobbin thread with a stitch picker at 12" intervals and whisk it out without even breaking the thread. Plus, it had been done in a moderate sized meander.

So now it's completely disassembled and I trimmed 1/2" off the edges to straighten them after lopping off the binding. Thank heavens for solid unpieced borders. There was no way I was going to pick out all the stitches securing the binding too. Luckily I found more of the Benartex Meadowbrook backing fabric online. Since the binding was trimmed off, the backing is now the same size as the quilt and smaller than my new (dependable) longarm quilter requests. She likes them to be at least 6" larger than the quilt top all around. And I'll have to buy new batting, a major expense nowadays. It's always a financial shock when I pick up a queen size Quilter's Dream batt, but I love the stuff and don't use anything else. I can salvage the removed batting for small quilts. Anyway, we'll see how it goes. Can't be worse.

If it turns out all right, I might do the same to this one from a Suz Guz Designs pattern (last pictures on the linked post). Another miserable quilting job from another bad longarm quilter that I could fix, if I have the nerve to pick out all the quilting on a whole queen size quilt.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A few quilt finishes

After applying the binding on this wall quilt I hung it in the hallway. If pumpkins are here can Halloween be far behind? This is a design from Thimbleberries circa 2002. There were four in all, one for each season. More later when I make some photographs. Also completed is the large, 92" square, Miss Rosie's Quilt Company pattern using the Pat Sloan fabric from 2003. I put on the master bedroom bed while the white bedspread is in the wash. Doesn't match a thing, of course, but aren't the colors rich? We'll use it for a few days because it's so nice and big.
Here's a corner of the quilt showing the colors in detail. It's says "Autumn" to me.
My time this weekend is taken up with completing some quilts begun 10 years ago or so (maybe even more, I can't remember) that have thread tension problems in the quilting that need to be repaired before binding. I've talked about these before. Time to get them done and over with.

It's odd that I don't have any quilts at the longarm quilter right now and don't have anything spread out on the kitchen table in process. Kind of doesn't feel right! However, I've "kitted up" a couple of Miss Rosie's designs and have them ready to work when all the lingering projects are done. In the meantime, you should see the bed in my guest room. It's stacked up with the five quilts for my nephew's family, the other three seasonal wall hangings, two small quilts (the second version of the Quiltville Carolina Christmas mystery and the batik with orange and blue I call "Kentucky Girl Moves to Tennessee") and five other Miss Rosie pattern quilts, two of which I will keep and the other three probably give away to family. It's snowing quilts at my house!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My thrift store jacket find

Here's the $7.00 jacket I scored at the thrift shop, back from the cleaners and ready for action - if it will ever cool down. 92 degrees today - can it be fall, please?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bound and determined. . .

. . .or, they are bound because I was determined.

Remember the nine quilts I had accumulated that needed binding? I'm on the last one! The black and white quilt I am making for my nephew only needs binding on two sides and I will be completely done. It's a miracle.

It also contained a bit of a surprise. I bind quilts working at my desk. I roll up the quilt with the edge in process sticking out and drape it across the desktop. As I was shifting the black and white quilt, I was stuck by something protruding from the rolled up portion. What? I started feeling and prodding and found the end of a pin protruding from the roll. So I started exploring further, unrolling the quilt. About two feet from one side and three feet from the other the end of a very large pin was sticking through the front of the quilt. I could feel a large glass head on the pin through the backing, and it appeared to be inside the quilt, between the front and back. Oh, good grief. I quickly determined that the head was too large to work out of the fabric and I would have to snip a slit in the backing to remove it. With much irritation I made a small slit and worked the pin out. It was entangled in the batting so I had to slit that too. And here it is:

It's absolutely huge, at least three inches long, and looks more like a hatpin instead of a sewing pin. How in heaven's name it became trapped inside my quilt is a mystery. The problem is, now I have a slit about 1/2" long on the backing of the quilt, which has me very, very aggravated. It's at such odd spacing from the edges it would look strange to put the label over it, but I may have to. Or make a block and add it as decoration. I haven't decided yet.

It's always something.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thrift shop score!

No picture because it's at the cleaners, but I stumbled across a wool tweed blazer at the local Goodwill for the scintillating price of $7.00 today! It's a brand name, it fits like it was made for me, and it's gray, which is a very "in" color this fall. In fact, it hardly looks like it was ever worn. I don't think the pocket stay stitching was even snipped open. Why can't I be lucky like this more often?

The new fall wardrobe is assembled and barring some minor hemming jobs, I'm ready for cooler weather. I even bought matching hangers so the closet looks nice. Snazzy!

Brave new world - or, I compute, therefore I am

On the way downtown to deliver a load of donated clothes to the women's shelter a few days ago, I happened to drive through the edge of the local university campus early in the morning, where throngs of students were wending their way from the dorms to the classroom buildings. I noticed that almost every single one had a laptop case tucked under their arm, or carried by a handle, or slung across their shoulder in a messenger bag, or stuck in a backpack. They were everywhere.

Now, I have a laptop myself, but it's a stand-in for a really skinny desktop computer because I'm not willing to delegate any more prime real estate on my desk to a monitor and computer than necessary, and I certainly am not willing to put the keyboard in the center desk drawer that I have to pull out and flip down the hinged fake front in order to be able to type. So I have a laptop that I can close and shove aside when I need room. My laptop isn't well traveled. We have a netbook for that, when it's not being the home theater PC, which is its primary job. And my laptop is a 17" model, which husband picked for me. It's a really nice one and I like having the larger screen but it's a handful to pack around.

But evidently these students go everywhere with their laptops, and I imagine that they use them for note-taking in class too. I recall the scene in the movie "Legally Blond" (OK, it was a slow TV night) where the law class is assembled and everyone has their laptop in front of them except for the heroine, who pulls out a pad and pen, which is kind of shorthand for how out of touch with the law student's life she is. But it's probably accurate that students sit there in class and type notes while listening to the lecture.

Which brings me to my point: how on earth do you do that? And isn't the sound of a full classroom of people pecking away on their keyboards very irritating? When I was in college studying engineering I took notes in class, but they were pretty sketchy, just jottings to remind myself what was discussed. Occasionally, I would write down a whole calculation or derivation or proof, but in the main my note-taking was more like automatic writing, where my hand went off and did its thing without a lot of supervision. I found I got a whole lot more out of the lectures if I paid more attention to the instructor than to taking notes.

But even with the ability to touch type (thank you, high school typing teacher, what would I have done without you with my terrible handwriting?) I can't just type without looking at the screen and I certainly misspell more words typing than writing. I think trying to take notes on the laptop would be quite distracting. If you're 18 and you've never lived without a computer and a cell phone that texts and all the other technological paraphernalia that you practically come out of the womb with nowadays, I suppose the use of these gadgets is more ingrained and this is just the old fogey in me talking. Sometimes I can't get my brain wrapped around how that generation relies on their computers/phones/Ipods/etc. in every aspect of their life.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Make it work! (with apologies to Tim Gunn)

Along with a heavy coat for winter, another piece I shopped for last month was a light jacket, which I will probably be able to wear all the way to Thanksgiving, given our temperate climate. I wanted something casual but stylish that would suit sweaters and khakis. And I found it at LL Bean: I liked the epaulets and the turn-back collar, and the button tabs on the side to give the jacket some shape. Since the customer ratings said it ran large and I'm between sizes, I ordered the smaller size at first, which fit in the hips and chest but was too tight in the shoulders for comfortable driving and such. So I swapped it for the larger size, and the fit is very comfortable. But it was a little boxy. What to do? I tried cinching in the waist using the button tabs but that made a lump of fabric at the sides which wasn't comfortable.

While examining the construction I thought about the inset waistband. Perhaps a little elastic? But did I want to disassemble the jacket to put elastic in the waist? The solution came to me: hand sew a lightweight cotton casing on the inside of the waistband to hold the elastic only in the back between the side seams. It took just a few minutes before I had completed the casing and inserted the elastic. Just enough to nip in the waist:Believe me, it looks better on the body than on the closet door. That bit of elastic made all the difference in the world in the fit of the jacket and didn't hide the fact that I have a waistline. Perfect!

Regarding the Tim Gunn reference: I have become a great fan of "Project Runway", and Mr. Gunn is one of the major reasons why. His gentlemanly manner is a relief among the catty contestants and snobby judges. He's a class act.

I watch the program weekly with the sort of morbid attention you give train wrecks. It's really quite spellbinding, not the least because of the appalling garments they produce. Granted, they are under time and monetary restraints, but really, some of these get-ups look like third graders made them. And can ANYONE fit a pair of pants anymore? It is hard to watch this stuff when you have made clothing since you were in grade school yourself and know tailoring and how clothing should fit, regardless of the compromises I make in my own clothes because I buy instead of custom make the stuff now and altering is a PAIN. The thing that really gets me about the styling of the dresses is the length. There's mini, and there's MINI, as in about a handsbreath below your underwear. We're into seriously tacky here. Unless the girl is going to wear bike shorts underneath everything, I'm at a loss how she will walk and sit without a public indecency charge. The winning dress last week was a good example. Oh, it's probably just me being a 50-something. I was here the first time minis came around but that time, four inches about the knee scandalized the nation.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Quiltville mystery coming!

Those of you out there that are Bonnie Hunter/Quiltville fans probably already know she is going to do another mystery quilt in November. She's dropped a few hints on color suggestions already, and I, being a perennially, pathologically early type of person, have already raided the stash closet and pulled a box full of fabric candidates:Bonnie Hunter said she was using chocolate brown, raspberry pink, deep red, green and a selection of neutrals. I have plenty of browns, greens, reds, and neutrals. In fact, I'm branching out on my definition of neutrals to include small prints (very daring of me!). At the moment I'm planning on using a single deep red for continuity and have several candidates depending on how much we need and what hits me at the time I start cutting out patches. The only thing I may have to augment is the raspberry pink, depending on how you interpret that color. Pink is the one color I am short on at the moment, and although I pulled a bunch from the box, they may not be dark enough. So we'll see. Otherwise, I'm all set because I love to make her quilts very scrappy and I can use up a lot of small leftovers. I don't cut up my small pieces of fabric "a la scrap users system" because I never know what size I will need and don't want to find myself looking at the perfect fabric cut into the wrong size!
I have never made a brown and pink quilt, so this will be fabulous!