Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt

After several years owning "The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt" book but not making the blocks, I have been seduced into joining Izazette's group   by the thought of a lovely quilt made all of such small parts.  The EQ BOM this year was 6" blocks and showed me that I can sew accurately enough to do them.  I'll be starting the quilt in January.  In preparation I've been thumbing through the book looking at the blocks.  One, I have to admit, stopped me cold:

Look at it.  Heavens, just look at it!  Those pieced chevron bars, the triangles, the diagonal seams.  All in a 6", YES 6 INCH, block.  Yipes, there are 57 patches in that block.  This looks like a job for foundation paper piecing.

I have found several other instances that give me pause.  The author is fond of 5 x 5 blocks, which are difficult to parse out of a 6" square, and require cutting on 1/16" intervals that is often not very accurate.  And she really seems to love those bias diagonal seams.  This is going to be an accuracy workout.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

And the mystery quilt looks like this....

It's supposed to look like the bow on a package, and it's cute.  I may add another outer border of the red print before I quilt it but for now, in the "Later" drawer it goes!  

Mysterious times

Oh, I'm living in mysterious times here.  There's the Quiltville mystery, of course, and then there's Quiltbug's Christmas Eve mystery, a New Year's Eve mystery on the quilt-talk group and a New Year's Day mystery on Planet Patchwork.  Not to mention Barbara Brackman's Civil War sampler, with a surprise every Saturday.   How, oh how do I get myself committed to this many mysteries?

I used to be leery of them because I did a few and didn't much like the results.  But Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville mysteries are always wonderful, and I have enjoyed the last few mysteries I did in the quilt magazines, so I thought it would be entertaining to jump right in and do the two over the New Year's weekend since we're not going anywhere and won't have company.  Plus, now that I have a sewing room my stitchery doesn't interfere with my cooking space in the kitchen.  I can close the door and block off all the mess.  It's all good.

I stumbled on the Christmas Eve mystery in an advertising email from Quiltbug.  I have done their simple mysteries before and used them for charity quilts, and this one was a small table topper in Christmas colors, so why not?  I can always use another decoration quilt for next year.  They started posting instructions yesterday for cutting and color selection, and put up the first instruction for making oodles of HSTs (which had to be trimmed to size, yuck - I even did that on the kitchen table while monitoring supper cooking).  Now the first instruction of the day has been posted and I'm finished, along with my Civil War block.

Time for breakfast.  And then, making a pumpkin pie, sugar-free pumpkin custard for me, and haystacks.  Do you make haystacks?  They're simplicity itself, with just butterscotch pieces, pecans and those crunchy chow mein noodles.  But they're addictive.  Husband asked for some this year, and it will be hard to mix them up without sampling the goods. Dratted diabetes!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Quiltville mystery step 6

...and a day early.  Thank you, Bonnie Hunter, for posting the next step of the mystery quilt on Thursday so we could get our sewing done before the Christmas Eve crazies hit.  And here it is the result of my work today:
I've got some ideas where those red string block triangles and gold/shirting triangles made in previous steps are going to go, but I mostly hope that the next step incorporates some of the third color, which is green in my case.  The red and gold are beautiful, but I was initially thinking about a red/green quilt and would like a bit more green in the mix.  In the meantime a comment from my step 5 photo that the golds reminded the viewer of butterscotch has given me a name for this quilt, with its buttery golds, reds and light greens:  Butterscotch and Peppermints.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Orca catch-up

I forgot to post my picture of Step 5 of the Quiltville mystery when I finished on Saturday.  Here it is:

Still haven't got a clue what the design could be.  You did good, Bonnie!  No guessing this one!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Don't try this at home

After producing untold dozens of cookies this week for everyone else that I couldn't eat, I decided to do an experiment this morning and bake some spritz cookies with Splenda that I could actually have.  Admittedly, I would have to count the carb grams in my diabetic diet, and each spritz cookie would have 3 grams of carbs so it wasn't inconsequential, but it seemed a worthwhile experiment to have some Christmas goodies that were diabetic-friendly.

I settled on spritz cookies because almost every other recipe that I had called for at least some brown sugar, and you can't easily swap white sugar/white sugar substitute for brown sugar.  It's a moisture thing.

In case you don't make them, a spritz cookie is a formed cookie made by extruding a dough through a cookie press which consists of sugar, shortening, egg, flour, a bit of salt and baking powder, and whatever flavoring you want - vanilla, orange extract, peppermint extract, etc.  They are simplicity itself, and are a lovely sandy textured butter cookie.  I have eaten them since I was a wee small child because Mom always made them at Christmas.  I remember tossing them for our dog to catch in midair when I was tiny.

Anyway, I got out all the ingredients and fired up the mixer, cringing all the while at making more mess in the kitchen considering all the washing-up I had done on Wednesday and Thursday.  As I mixed the dough, substituting Splenda for sugar one-to-one as the package directed, it seemed that the dough was a bit dry, but with a little mixing it fluffed up and formed up nicely, and went through the press just fine.  I popped the first sheet of cookies in the oven and waited.

After ten minutes they came out delicately browned and looking exactly right.  I let them cool a minute and carefully moved them to a cooling rack.  After a few more minute of waiting, I popped one in my mouth.


First off, they didn't taste sweet at all.  What happened to - you can bake with Splenda?  I have made pumpkin custard with Splenda throughout the year and it turns out fine - not sugar-sweet, but recognizably dessert-like.  These cookies tasted like baked flour balls.  There was not a hint of the vanilla, no sweetness, no butteriness.  Just crumbly flour.  The cookies were so dry that they immediately broke apart into a lumpy powder in your mouth that was extremely unpleasant.

In short, they were a complete failure.

What did I do wrong?  I am convinced that I didn't do anything, that it was the Splenda.  Sugar has characteristics that make it absorb and hold moisture in food.  If you watch "Good Eats" with Alton Brown, you know that in baking he classifies sugar with the wet ingredients in the recipe.  Evidently Splenda doesn't do that effectively.  And it didn't provide enough sweetness in the recipe to counteract the starchy flour.  So, you got flour balls, not cookies.  Not going to try that again.

If anyone has baked with Splenda and had good results, I would love to know what I could have done differently.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What's Christmas without a Bumble?

My latest Christmas tree ornament acquisition:

I have a pretty traditional looking tree until you start looking closely. Witness this post from a past December.    How many other people have an ornament that looks like a circular saw?  Or a sock monkey?  Or a radio that actually plays?  I had to get Bumble to complement my Rudolph the red nosed reindeer with a nose that lights up.

Count your blessings

A member of one of my Yahoo quilting groups is going through some very tough medical issues.  Some of the group have banded together to make a quilt for her, and I continue to marvel at the love and selflessness manifested by a group of people who have probably never met face to face, and how readily they commit to  supporting one of their own.  It proves again what I have seen many times - quilters are some of the most generous and thoughtful people you would ever want to meet.

This also prompts me to sit down and evaluate just how lucky I am.  Sure, I have health issues (and my husband has some that are more difficult to live with) but we are sitting here warm, dry, well fed, safe and relatively financially secure.   And that's a lot of blessings to be grateful for.

As Christmas approaches, those of us that are on the lucky side of the coin toss should give thanks that we are OK.  These sorts of things get buried in the back of our thoughts during the holiday hubbub, but we should never lose sight of all the good in our lives and be cognizant of how fleeting our good fortune can be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Oh, it's that time of year again when I bake myself into a stupor assembling cookie boxes for neighbors and such.  Not family because they don't live close to me, although I am going to make a batch of peanut butter fudge to mail to my brother-in-law tomorrow.  But the people on my street get cookies, my hairdresser and her partner, the mailman, the trashmen, the lawn guy, etc, etc.  Lots of cookies.

I have blogged about this before so I won't retread that ground, except to say that this year, like last, was different because with the diabetes I can't partake of the cookies.  However, I want to know how they turned out, so I passed on lunch and blew my carb allotment on tasting.  They're all pretty good.

Some, not all, of them

Just how many cookies did I bake?  Lord, I have no idea.  I lost count.  But there are chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, snickerdoodles (I would make them just for the name, but they are SO GOOD), spritz, orange, and coconut.  Multiple batches of each - the dining table is covered.  The only drawback is the smell of sugar and baked goods is about to make me barf.  I'm making a pizza for dinner because I need spicy to counteract all this sweet. 

After dinner I will spread out large pieces of waxed paper and portion out bags of each kind, then load the cookie boxes and write the cards.  I can do this while "White Christmas" is on TV.  Isn't that just the quintessential holiday evening?

Monday, December 12, 2011

What not to buy for your wife for Christmas?

This article cracked me up.  It said that household appliances were not a good gift for Christmas because no woman wants to be reminded that you think of her as the person who does the chores around the house.  Well, not every woman is a looking for gold and diamonds under the Christmas tree.

I once got a really nice Kitchenaid mixer for Christmas.  I was tickled beyond belief because I had lusted after this expensive mixer for ages and was happy to receive it.  However, the reaction from the women at work was universally "Yuck!  What a miserable gift!"  I was mystified.  I loved my mixer.  It wasn't a gift that said "Gee, here's something to make you work even harder around the house."  It said "Here's a Kitchenaid mixer because you wanted one and you love to bake."

I refuse to believe that most women are so mercenary that they wouldn't appreciate a practical gift.  On the other hand, I spent my working life as an engineer surrounded by 99% men and maybe their opinions have rubbed off!  Or maybe I'm just naturally practical myself.

If anyone is looking for a person to give a carpet cleaner for Christmas, I promise I would appreciate it!      

More Orca Bay

I forgot to post a picture of the step 3 and 4 blocks for Quiltville's Orca Bay Mystery quilt when they were done, so here they are:

Aren't those red string triangles for step 4 awfully cute?

And there are more gold and shirting bits too, from step 3: 
We also had these parts from steps 1 and 2:

I still haven't a clue where this design is going!  This is fun!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No surprises here

An ironic side effect of using EQ to design your quilts:  Remember when you didn't have a way to visualize your designs other than perhaps graph paper sketches?  Remember when you started to join your blocks together and got your first glimpse of the completed quilt design, and what a kick it was, watching your quilt come to life.

Well, with EQ, it can be a case of "been there, done that".  Unfortunately.  Here's an example:

An EQ generated image of the quilt I made for a Christmas present:
An actual photo of the quilt: 
See what I mean?  Definitely no surprises there.  Of course, the possibility of making a complete dog of a quilt has been vastly diminished, but after you draw and visualize the quilt, actually making it may become anti-climactic.

In some ways, the thrill is gone.

This is a little sad.

Monday, December 5, 2011

There's a Christmas in there somewhere......

I have evaded, I have avoided, but now there is no escape.  First I had to unpack my suitcase from my trip last week and do the laundry.  Then I was catching up on the Quiltville mystery, the Civil War block of the week, the EQ block of the month.  Then I was putting borders on a nearly completed project.  Then I was making a pot roast for dinner and couldn't leave the kitchen.  

Then I ran out of excuses.  It's time to decorate for Christmas.  

Up on the ladder I went in the garage storage closet, dragging boxes down on my head, packing them into the kitchen and piling them on the table, until I had this:
 Oh good grief.

I don't know why I dread this so much every year.  Putting up the tree is easier, in some ways, than the Christmas village I did last weekend before I left to visit Mom.  Here's a photo, although I don't know why I bothered to take a new picture since it looks the same every year:
Now, THAT takes a while.  If you blow up the photo you can see all the little stuff that takes so long to unpack and place in the scenes - the people, the trees, the animals, the miscellaneous stuff like the lighthouse sign and the bird bath.  It simply takes FOREVER to get all that stuff off the shelves and unbox the parts, to put away my husband's antique radios from the shelves in the living room and put out the bases on which the display is arranged, to string the lighting power cords.  Of course, it's lovely when it's done and I would miss it dreadfully if it wasn't installed each Christmas, but the work, oh my, the work....

Compared to this, how hard is an artificial tree?  Why do I cringe so at the job?  Maybe it's the breakability factor.  We have blown glass ornaments, which is a deadly combination when put in the hands of a perennial klutz.  Or the going around and around and around to string the tinsel until you are dizzy.  Or - who knows?  I only am sure that I put it off until I can't any more.

All my quilt projects are caught up (except that I saw a great tessellated design done in blue and neutrals in the last quilt magazine I received, one that got me pulling blue fabrics and dreaming about it this morning - but I digress).  I have leftover pot roast for dinner, I have no other tasks at hand, it's time to trim the tree.

Watch my back.  I'm going in.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Another Orca Bay step completed

Bonnie Hunter must program her mystery steps on a timer to appear automatically early on Friday.  I never expected step 2 to be up and ready at 7 this morning.  I was up at 7 only because a hungry cat had camped out on my chest, and it's really hard to breathe with a 12 lb weight pressing down on your lungs.  So since I was up to feed Molly, I decided to go ahead and check for step 2 of the mystery quilt.  Lo and behold, there it was.  A quick trip to the printer and I had the instructions in my hot little hands.  Then I started reading.
Oh.  Oh. String blocks.  Not my favorite but I decided that I WOULD make them and WOULD use them this time, unlike the last mystery where I spent all that time assembling them and then designed an alternate block instead.  Those string blocks are still sitting in a stack in my sewing room, waiting for a home. 

But these were only 3.5" square, and just 72 of them, and they were so cute,  I decided to jump on it.  I've got a busy week coming up.  Tomorrow and Sunday I have to put up the Christmas decorations, then finish shopping and wrap gifts Monday and Tuesday, make sure there are groceries and such laid in for my husband for the rest of the week, and go out of town Wednesday through Friday to see my Mom.  The best thing to do would be to knock out these blocks this morning. 

So that's what I did.  I grabbed a little breakfast, dressed in my comfy knit pants and started sewing.  I don't have a string bin like many of Bonnie's fans because I don't use string blocks, so I had to first cut strips.  Then, foundation papers from the leftover doodle pads from the last mystery.  Finally I was ready to go. 

I was amazed how quickly they went together.  Even pulling the papers off the backs wasn't much of a job on the small blocks.  And here they are:
So who's afraid of string blocks?  Not me. 

But.......there are more red string blocks coming.  How many, I wonder?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just can't take a break

Like a good little obsessive-compulsive, as soon as I finished step one of the Quiltville mystery, I went casting about for a project that I could work on between steps.  Although I had several groups of blocks completed and packed away, I didn't want to get into joining rows and assembling a quilt top because I didn't want to clutter up the floor with a block layout.  I needed a project piecing blocks that I could pack away easily when the next mystery step was released on Friday.  So, I decided to start making the blocks for a Blue Ridge Beauty from Bonnie Hunter's "Leaders and Enders" book.  This quilt uses 6" blocks made from two HSTs and two four patches. 

Arranged and colored in different ways it makes several traditional patterns, including Jacob's Ladder.  This quilt will need about 200 6" blocks.  This was a quilt that I had planned to make for some time since I found a beautiful blue paisley at Joann's.  The paisley and a single neutral would be used for the HSTs and the four patch colors and neutrals would be scrappy.  Joann's also had a matching striped fabric that will be the border. 

 So I jumped into piecing and already have made 400 four patches.  After dinner I made 40 HSTs and assembled 20 blocks to test out the pattern.  Here is the sample: 

I think it's going to be gorgeous (of course, I'm a little biased!).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Zoom zoom!

Step 1 of Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville mystery, Orca Bay, is up and I'm finished!  224 little quarter square triangle blocks in gold and shirtings.  And I mean LITTLE - 2 1/2", they finish at 2".  The lady likes to work small!

It sounded daunting but once I got started it went quickly.  I even made a few extra because I have done stupid things before like losing pieces and accidentally throwing them away.  So I have spares.

One thing I did this morning that I should have gotten out of the way earlier was to cut fat quarters of all the golds I used today so in the future I don't have to drag out a bunch of yardage at every step to cut just a few pieces of each.  I had 21 golds and even more shirtings.  The shirtings were in fat quarters already but most of the golds were in pieces of a yard or more. A fat quarter of each was more than adequate, and so much easier to handle.  Before the next step I need to do that for my reds and greens.   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New blocks using "Lately Arrived from London"

I can't remember if I've posted about these blocks before.  Several months ago I picked up some charm packs of Barbara Brackman's collection for Moda, "Lately Arrived from London" when I visited the rebuilt quilt shop in Georgia that had been destroyed by the spring tornadoes.  I wanted to be sure they had enough business to keep going.  Anyway, I loved the colors in the collection and designed a block I could make from those 5" squares. 

It's not my favorite kind of quilt sewing because, using the charm squares as a basis, you end up trimming every subunit to size so it's going slowly.  You've probably done blocks from charm squares before.  The small HSTs are made by drawing diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines on pairs of charm squares, sewing on either side of the diagonal lines, cutting them apart on all the lines  and trimming them to 2" square. You get eight HSTs from a pair of charm squares.  Then you make the hourglass blocks with two pairs of charm squares, 2 dark, 1 background and 1 light.  You make two sets of HSTs, pair them up, sew on either side of a diagonal line and cut them apart.  You get four hourglass blocks that can be trimmed to 3.5" square.

I have 24 blocks so far and need 41.  Anyway, here are some of  the blocks:
 and here is a EQ mock-up of the design.  I had to go back and buy some yardage for the background, border and star points after I decided on the design.  You wouldn't believe how many possible settings I came up with in EQ before deciding on this one! 
Playing on the name of the collection, I'm calling the quilt "When My Ship Comes In".  In construction, this was a Carrie Nelson type project.  Ms. Nelson has published many patterns that start with charm packs or layer cakes, and I've made quite a few of them, but usually employing yardage or fat quarters so I could cut the patches exactly to size and avoid all this trimming.  The trimming makes me crazy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Counting down the days

I'm all a-quiver in anticipation of the new Quiltville mystery.  Am I ready?
Clean cutting table?
Specialty rulers?
Fresh cutting blade?
Plenty of bobbins and big ol' spool of thread?
Storage boxes and trays for pieces?
Favorite sewing machine repaired and rarin' to go?
New Rowenta iron?

I'm all ready!  I can't wait until Friday!

Clearing the decks for the Quiltville mystery

Friday is Q day - the day Quiltville's Bonnie Hunter launches her fall mystery quilt. In preparation I've been sewing like a demon, finishing sets of blocks that will be assembled later when their designs are finalized. There's the set of 25 pinwheel blocks:
and the 36 album blocks:
now all done and neatly boxed and labeled for completion after the mystery quilt is finished.  I've even straightened my sewing room and cleaned off my work table, and emptied storage boxes to hold pieces during the mystery quilt's progress.  I still have to load a stack of bobbins and fish my Easy Angle and Companion Angle rulers out of the storage cabinet.  Then, I'll be ready.

I'm thinking of not sewing any more until Friday to be able to start fresh.  Can I do that?  Doubt it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Morning visitor

At 9 o'clock this morning I measured out a cup of dry cat food and went outside to fill hobo kitty's dish.  The food has been disappearing at a regular rate but we haven't seen the little black cat for almost a week.  I had to assume that it was visiting the food dish so stealthily that we never saw it eat.  Usually, I only caught a glimpse of it by accident, entering or leaving the back yard, crossing the street or lounging on the front porch of my neighbor's empty house.  Sometimes I would glance out the back door on the way through the den and find her speedily having a meal.  As soon as she had finished eating she was off again.  But it had been a week since either my husband or myself had seen her.  We are a bit concerned but in the end know that we can't control the stray cat's fate.  Hobo kitty belongs only to itself. 

Anyway, as I cleaned and filled the food and water dishes I heard "MEOW!", loud and quite near.  Startled, I looked around.  Hobo kitty had never meowed at me.  It had had lengthy conversations with my cat at the sliding door, but had never to my knowledge made a noise to a human. 

"MEOW!"  There it was again.  I scanned the yard, and stepped over to look behind the azalea border around the patio.  There, in the grass behind the nandina bush, was the tuxedo cat I had seen several days before.  He (and I verified that it was a he) saw me and plunged into a meow-fest, snaking through the yard and across the patio in a sinuous path that never got quite up to my location.  "Hey!" he was saying, "I notice you have cat food there.  I could use a little cat food!"

At one point he got himself so wound up he worked his way over to me and gave me a head butt and rub on my leg.  Just as quickly, he skittered away as if he had scared himself with his temerity.  He continued to beg but wouldn't approach the food dish so I scooped up a palm full of kibble and laid it on the sidewalk by my feet.  Tuxedo was on it in a flash and wolfed it down.  Then he flew away again to the middle of the back yard to meow at me plaintively.  I retrieved another handful of food and put it on the sidewalk again.  Again Tuxedo came right up to me and ate it all.  I repeated the action another time, but afterward he turned down a fourth handful and headed across the backyard.  He meowed at me a few more times and then jumped the back fence and was gone.

This seemed like a cat that had been around people in his life.  Had to have been around people, in fact, because cats only meow at humans, not at other cats.  (That's an interesting fact my husband came across in his reading.  Cats have a vocabulary of many sounds they use among their own kind, but the classic meow only happens to humans, like a special dialect they have devised to communicate with us.)  He's terribly skittish, probably from living a tough life outside, but could definitely be tamed. 

So now I may have two cats to help.  I'm not sure if Tuxedo is the one that's been eating Hobo kitty's food for the last week or so.  I'm not sure if Hobo is still around, or in fact if it's still alive.  I have to admit that I went across the street to the empty house and searched under all the bushes, half afraid I would find a little black kitty's body.  But there wasn't any sign of it.  It may have left or may just be eating at night when we can't see its visits.  In any case, I will continue to put out cat food, now that I may have two mouths to feed through the winter.  And maybe Tuxedo will like the kitty house I made.  Nothing has set foot in it yet, not even an opossum.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My baby's back

Hooray!  My Juki TL98E is back from the repair shop!  It's humming along like nothing ever happened.  The timing had gotten out of adjustment, so it was an easy fix.  And it got a thorough cleaning and oiling, so it's good as new.  Not cheap - they're minimum charge for a fix is $98 - ouch - but great to have it home.  I used it this afternoon putting together the backing for my QCA mystery quilt, the large one.  And I mean LARGE.  100" x 100".  I tried to photograph it and had to push back the furniture in the living room and lay it out on the floor.  And then couldn't get a good picture.  Here is the best one:
And an enlargement showing a portion of the sashing and border. 

I'm very happy with it.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Can't work on my Album blocks until my ordered background fabric arrives.  Don't want to work on my QCA mystery quilt  borders.  Don't have the patience to fiddle with the small blocks on my quilt using Moda's "Lately Arrived from London".  What to do?  Start something new, of course.  Don't know where I'm going with this, just making pinwheel blocks.  They come from a book that I looked at over at Chattanooga Quilts, the new local shop, and I can't remember the author.  Apologies to the creator of the pattern.  Love the blocks.

The bottom three blocks might be rejects because the contrast in the center pinwheel pieces is wonky.  The fabric is from a jelly roll of Moda "Etchings".  I tried to use it all regardless of how well I thought it would work, and some strips just didn't have enough color/contrast from the backgrounds.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Family resemblance

These blocks were in the planning stage when the QCA mystery started.  If you look at the blocks in the previous posts from those mystery quilts I think you'll see a family resemblance.  That's why I was able to guess the mystery quilt pattern just a couple of steps into the process.  The diagonal blocks were already imprinted in my brain.  I have 11 total made and 9 more to go before I start considering settings.  Sashing?  Borders?  I don't know yet.  I've been digging through the stash closet but haven't found anything I love yet.

I should have been finishing my other mystery quilt today.  I only have one long seam through the center to sew and the borders to attach, but simply didn't feel like dragging a huge quilt back and forth from the sewing table to the ironing board so I worked on blocks instead.  Tomorrow I must knuckle down and get it done.

Monday, November 7, 2011

QCA mystery quilt completed

Terrible picture, I had to thumbtack the quilt top to the wall!  But aren't those colors yummy?
And then there is this one - made from the leftover blocks of my large quilt that is still under construction (picture coming later). 
I think I got my money's worth out of this pattern.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

This sewing machine is making me crazy

I swear, if I weren't in a time crunch, I would put my quilt projects away and wait for my Juki to get back from the repair shop.  But I'm trying to make a quilt for Mom for Christmas and I need to get the top put together pronto so I can wheedle my longarm quilter into doing it soon.

By the way, don't worry about Mom seeing this post and spoiling her Christmas surprise.  Mom is resolutely anti-computer, has no interest in learning how to use one and frankly can't see why anyone would.  I once tried to explain about my blog to her and could watch her eyes glaze over as I spoke.  So no one in my family is gonna see this!

Anyway, I'm trying to use my alternate sewing machine to put this quilt together.  I wrote about it yesterday.  It's a nice machine if you were making clothes or drapes or something, but for quilting -pfffft.  Not so much.  There's the strangely shaped 1/4" foot, first of all.
See that strange angle on the left side?  It catches your seam allowances ever time.  EVERY TIME.  And pulls the fabric sideways so your seam's not accurate.  You have to slow to a crawl and use a stylus to flatten every seam as you inch over it.  And see the shape of the foot?  It's 1/4" wide at the front, all right, but not the whole length, so you can't use a seam guide.

The needle adjusts from left position to center position, but not further to the right.  You have to manually reposition it by hitting a button after you turn the machine on.  And when you turn it off, it defaults back to the left position.  Which is really not good if you're using a foot that requires a center needle.  Do you have any idea how easy it is to turn the machine on, forget to hit that darned button and bring your needle down on the side of the presser foot?  Far too easy.

The machine has the world's smallest bobbin.  I can't tell you how many times I've stopped to fill it.  And though it's a front drop-in kind it doesn't fill in the machine.  You have to take it out and fill it on top of the machine like other sorts.  If so, why make it a drop-in?  Who knows?

And the machine stops in the needle down position.  Which you can't change.  You have to push a button to raise the needle.  And you have to push the button before you raise the presser foot, because the button doesn't work when the presser foot is up.  Why?  Who knows?

It has a variable speed control built in (also can't be overridden) so that when you step on the pedal it starts VEEERRRRRY SLOOOOOWLY and then speeds up suddenly.  The machine is insane.

And I cannot find any oiling ports on the whole sewing machine.  The manual (which is in six languages, all mixed in together, how's that for irritating) doesn't talk about lubricating the machine.  I have never heard of a sewing machine you don't oil.  Is that something new?  I figure this model has metal parts moving on metal parts like every other sewing machine in the world, why doesn't it need oiling?  It SOUNDS like it wants to be oiled. 

Finally, it has the world's dimmest built in light.  I had to drag my OTT lamp over to the sewing table and position it about 6" above the sewing surface to be able to see anything.

I want my Juki back!   

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who are YOU? (and other miscellany)

Someone new strolled through my back garden this morning.  And who are you, tuxedo cat?  There must be a cat network, and I'm on it!

Also, I wanted to show the inspiration for my color selections for the Quiltville mystery coming up this month.  I have had this fabric for a while and didn't find a use until now.  It will be in the reds in the quilt and probably the backing:
See the greens and golds in the print?  I just love it.  That became this fabric collection:
I ordered a few more dark golds from Thousands of Bolts this morning so I can pull some of the more yellow pieces.  I'm still wavering about making the greens light or dark.  I will wait until they first show up in the instructions to decide.

Finally, a photo to show why I'm having a hard time with an accurate 1/4" using my dressmaking Juki machine.  Here is the 1/4" foot:
Notice that the foot is only 1/4" wide at the very front and is larger back at the needle position, behind the narrow front of the foot.  So it's harder to align the fabric seam allowance right at the needle.  And see that angled part on the left side?  It catches seam allowances and pulls the fabric off-kilter.  Plus, since the feed dogs are so wide and it's a front load bobbin, there is nowhere to put a seam guide on the plate.  The Juki HZL-E70  is very nice, but it wasn't built for quilters. 

Bereft (don't worry, it's not too bad)

I walk into the room and nothing is there.  The table is empty.  There are no cords snaking behind the drapes, tripping up my attempts to close them every night.  There is no cover sitting askew where little kitty feet tried to move it. 

My Juki is in the shop.


Yesterday, it starting skipping stitches and making funny noises when it sewed.  I tried changing the bobbin, cleaning it, oiling it, changing the needle, changing the thread spool, adjusting the tension.  Nothing worked.  Stitch-stitch-stitch-stitch-stitch-SKIP-clunk-stitch.

So, knowing that the Quiltville mystery is coming up on the 18th and I have to finish my QCA mystery quilts by then to get them into contention for Viewer's Choice, I packed up the sewing machine and lugged it down to the local repair shop,.  I've never used them before - never HAD to - so with some trepidation I handed my baby over to the lady and winced.  Then I took the lonely, empty carrier home.

I felt as if I had taken my cat to the vet!

Husband says not to worry, it's probably just out of adjustment.  It's ten years old, after all, and I sew every day.  He thinks there's no other Juki out there that age that has logged as many hours as mine.  (Oh, but honey, you don't know quilters.....)  He's probably right.  It's probably not anything major.  It was still sewing a beautiful stitch except for that occasional SKIP which broke my heart.  The clunk came after the stitch didn't connect, so probably the shuttle timing is off.  We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm using my fancy Juki dressmaking machine with all the stitches.  It's harder to get a good accurate 1/4" seam and the small throat is more crowded to deal with when wrestling long pieces.  I don't like the  shape of the 1/4" foot and the light on it is not very bright so it was more difficult to sew last night.  I started on a small quilt using the leftover QCA mystery blocks to get my footing, but it just didn't feel the same. 

I miss you, TL98E.  The room's so empty without you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More on the mystery quilt

Just a little more info.  I would really like your input.
Here are fabrics I pulled that match Bonnie Hunter's color scheme:
And here are my choices:
 The neutrals would be the same shirtings.  Is this going to work, or do they need to be darker?

New Quiltville mystery quilt

Oh boy, it's that time again - when Bonnie Hunter starts a fall mystery quilt.  I scampered to the computer this morning like a kid to the Christmas tree to see her post about color selections, and while I love what she picked, I may change them for my quilt. 

The design is called Orca Bay and is based on a beautiful picture she took while in Alaska.  Her colors are red, blue, black and neutrals.  While I think her selections are lovely, I am ambivalent about making another dark colored quilt because my husband likes brighter, lighter selections.  He doesn't appreciate all the brown I use and I fear that he will feel the same way about black.  Truth told, I'm not a person who makes many quilts with black either.  But Mom and I have been discussing the large number of red and green antique quilts you see and I started leaning toward making a red and green quilt this time.  So, I substituted the green for the blue and bright golds for the black and came up with this:

I have no idea if it will work, I just have to trust and believe.  And remember that Bonnie says "No whining allowed!".

On other fronts, I made a house for the feral cat we have been feeding.  Since the weather started getting colder my husband has been worrying that it doesn't have a warm place to sleep.  We actually have no idea where it goes most of the day and night.  It will appear in the back yard several times a day to eat, and we will spot it around the neighborhood, but it keeps to itself.  That is probably what has kept it safe all summer, that it doesn't trust people and is scared of cars.  I don't want it to be too cosy with people, that's how stray kitties come to harm. 

Anyway, we decided to make little Hobo (that's what I call it) a house.  It had to be waterproof and warm and be able to shelter on the patio under the eaves.  I decided to use a plastic storage box with a locking lid.  I cut out a doorway with a saber saw - badly, it turned out because the plastic splinters easily.  I had to cover the edges of the cutout with layers of packing tape to shield the cat from the rough edges and it looks really tacky, but it was all I could do.  Then, I made a pad for the bottom and a liner for the sides and bottom to keep it warmer.  I had heavy fusible interfacing and leftover fabric, fleece and batting, so this was easy.

She may love it, or she may never set foot in it.  I may have made the world's fanciest opossum house.  I don't know, but at least we have offered a warm spot for her to make it through the winter.  We can't control her choices but I feel good that we made them better.

So, without further ado, I give you - Hobo House: 

Please note the color coordinated box, fabric and fleece.  I went overboard, but what the heck - it was fun.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Man, I wish I were in college again (even if I would never want to start over nowadays)

Have you ever read something that is so outside of your life experience that your mouth practically falls open in amazement?  I'm in the middle of that situation and it's disquieting, to say the least.  I picked up a free Kindle excerpt from a book recently, a chapter from "Change.edu" by Andrew Rosen, which is talking about the current higher education system.  The chapter I got for free is entitled "Club College:  Why So Many Colleges Look Like Resorts"

Now, some time ago, I blogged about a Yahoo article on the changes in college dormitories since my college days.  See HERE for that blog.  Well, in the last several years, things seem to have gotten even more out of hand.  The author takes High Point University in North Carolina as an example.  Let's just say that his description of that university's facilities makes me want to go back to school again - and live on campus.  What the money is being spent on seems to be all cosmetic - and has little to do with the academic program.  Rather, it is applied toward spiffing up the luxe aesthetics of the campus and turning the on-campus housing into something that you couldn't even get at a Bahamas resort. 

The thrust of his argument is that the expenditure of money at these schools - and it's a lot of money - is going very wrong, a proposition that I agree with.  But I thought of another side effect of these cushy resort-style campuses.

Say you're 21 or 22 years old and have just spent 4 or 5 years getting a degree at one of these high-concept, luxurious resort campuses.  Mommy and Daddy have spared no expense (and we're talking about $30,000 to $40,000 a year) to make your college years just swell.  You've lived in a dormitory which rivals a Sandals resort and have been pampered within an inch of your life.  Then you graduate, and settle down into the real world with a thump.

Maybe you're lucky enough to get a job in these tough times.  Or maybe you graduated a few years ago and have managed to hang on to your employment.  So now you want to find somewhere to live.  You might rent, or you might buy a home.  You start looking at what's available for the money you have (or the banks were until recently willing to loan you) - and that's when you hit the reality wall.

I happen to be a fan of watching HGTV, at least some of the programs.  Three of them that I catch occasionally are "Property Virgins", "My First Place" and "For Rent".  The first two follow first time home buyers and the third deals with negotiating a tough rental market in an expensive city.  The common thread in all three is the ridiculously unattainable level of amenities that these newbies expect in their accommodations, right out of the gate.  You watch them pronounce an 1800 sq. ft. house "just too small" for two people.  REALLY?  You see them pout and whine when there aren't hardwood floors, granite countertops, posh baths with jetted soaking tubs (I almost dropped my Diet Coke when one sweetie declaimed than she couldn't live without a bathtub - a shower was just too declasse I guess) and the ubiquitous stainless steel appliances.  The last one always puts me on the floor laughing because I bought appliances several years ago and most stainless steel ones are black ones with a thin stainless skin on the door fronts, for which you pay major dollars.  Just 'cause it's shiny doesn't make it better.

The point being, these precious coddled youngsters have no concept of working for the luxuries, they want them NOW.  Have these colleges contributed to that?  Have their egos been stroked to such an extent that it has never occurred to them you can't have everything in the world when you're a spoiled 24 year old?  Is it the colleges, the parents, the culture, what? 

Most of the residents at this college would be appalled at the dorm rooms and residence halls where I spent several years of my college days, astounded at the apartment in the 100 year old house (antique, but not in a good way) where I froze my butt off for one nasty winter (no insulation and windows that leaked like a sieve) and probably faint dead away at the idea that I finished college living in a mobile home (set in a trailer park and everything) because Dad and I decided it was a cheaper way to live and bought a used 1965 model 10'x52' trailer - avocado carpet and all.  Pretty it wasn't, but it housed me and got me through school.  Said trailer followed us to our first job and after a bit of remodeling and painting worked for hubby and me through a year of employment so we could save for a house.

I just have to ask:  Is this why an astonishing percentage of young people are so bloomin' spoiled anymore?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Quilter's Club of America mystery quilt

Just finished step 3 of the Quilter's Club of America website mystery quilt.  Steps 1 and 2 were fabric selection and cutting so these are the first stitches sewn.  The quilt is built on jelly roll strips and background fabric and so far we've just joined rectangles and squares.  No guesses so far.  No big challenges.

I'm eager for the new Quiltville mystery in November.  Bonnie Hunter designs a mystery quilt you can sink your teeth into.  She challenges you every step of the way to get outside of your comfort zone and the results are wonderful.  Having said that, though.........please, Bonnie, no string blocks this time.  I don't much like them, and still haven't figured out what to do with the ones I made for Roll Roll Cotton Boll and didn't use.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Things just aren't made like they used to be

In the mid 1990's, I bought a T-fal steam iron.  I loved that iron.  It was cheap, it steamed like a demon and was nice and light and maneuverable.  Alas, last fall it quit heating up.  I assume that the thermostat burned out.  However, I had gotten over 15 years from it, a nice long run, and used it every single day, so I consigned it to the trash with thanks and went out in search of a new iron.

Rowenta irons seemed to be the best made (and, gulp, the most expensive) that I found in town.  I didn't want to order an iron because I wanted to pick it up and assess the grip and the weight.  I decided on a Rowenta Focus that I bought at the local Bed Bath and Beyond.  I brought it home, started using it and loved it.

However ------- a couple of days ago it started spitting water droplets when you turned it from vertical to horizontal.  It had never done that before.  The droplets came out of the holes in the sole plate so I was at a loss to fix the problem.  I had had a lot of cheap irons in the past which did this, but the Rowenta never did.  Then, I picked it up two days ago and found a soggy spot on the ironing board cover.  I couldn't figure out where the water was seeping out so I put a wash cloth under it to absorb the water while I pondered the problem. 

Yesterday I went over to press some quilt blocks and when I picked up the iron, water poured out of the base around the electric cord.  EEEEEK!  I quickly unplugged the iron.  I found that when you tipped the iron just a little past vertical with the sole plate pointing upward instead of downward the water in the tank all ran out.  Evidently the water tank cracked and finally let go completely.  Rats.  I was back in the iron shopping business.  After only one year.

I knew that the selection in town was poor, so I went back to Bed Bath and Beyond to look at the Rowentas.  I know, I know - once burned twice shy.  But really, there wasn't a lot to choose from.  I ended up buying another Focus.  This was as much as I was willing to pay for an iron, but I wanted one that really steamed and heated up quickly, so Rowenta was the best choice.  Maybe I just got a lemon before;  Let's see if this one lasts longer.

I did love the model names for the Rowenta irons, though.  I could have bought a "Steamium".  Isn't that a great name for an iron?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Let's twist again. . .

This is a pattern called "Strip Twist" from Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville website.  At least, these are the blocks for the pattern - not joined together yet.  I just cut these strips out yesterday morning.  The blocks went together like wildfire.  Joining the rows always takes longer for me.  The colors are dark red, pink/rose, gray, grayed green and tan, with shirtings for the neutrals.  I like the muted look of the palette.  It was inspired by a photo on the Quiltville group of this quilt made using a collection called Azalea Trails.

I'm waiting on a brain burst for border ideas.