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.