Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And, done...

I think I'm going to call it "Race Track" in honor of slot car racers (see my previous post for this reference).

You know you're getting old......

......when all the people you watched on TV as a kid are dying.

I just saw on Yahoo that Davy Jones of the Monkees died of a heart attack.  It is so sad  to think of all these people aging and then gone.

I was in the Monkee's prime audience - a 14 year old girl.  And I was a fan - bought the records and watched the show faithfully.  But Micky Dolenz was my favorite and my friend Judy liked Peter Tork.  I think we considered Davy to be too short but he was oh so cute back then.  I can't look at Richard Hammond on Top Gear now without seeing a resemblance and remembering Davy Jones.  (I also can't watch Top Gear without wanting to swat Jeremy Clarkson upside the head, but that's another post......)

The Monkees were a band but they were "safe".  None of the conniptions that the Doors or the Who pulled.  No psychedelic or drug references.  No puzzling music, like the Beatle's Strawberry Fields.  I remember watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in a short film they made to go along with that song (was that the first music video?) and seeing Dad's expression, partly disbelief and partly confusion about what the heck the song meant.

So the Monkees were safe for impressionable youth and if you were a young teenaged girl, they were beyond adorable.  I think if you saw any of their later live performances they pushed the envelope a bit, and especially they did in their movie "Head", but the early TV shows were just right for a Southern Baptist girl from Kentucky.

New charm pack noodling

Carrie Nelson calls this pattern "Getaway".  I've never seen it before but it's interesting.  Especially in this small scale - the center of this little quilt is 24" square.  It will have a neutral inner border and a HST outer border.

The shape of it reminds me of a slot-car track.  Remember those?  In my younger days they were are popular as toy train sets.  If you were really lucky, your dad humored you and set up a permanent installation for it in the rec room in the basement.  Of course, being a girl I didn't have one.  Or a  rec room.  Or a basement, for that matter.  I always thought it would be sooooo cool to have a TV room in the basement, like I had seen.  We had a cellar with a sump pump.

My steam irons are trying to convince me I'm crazy

I've had ongoing problems finding a good steam iron.  I had a much-beloved T-fal that stopped heating up about a year and a half ago.  I replaced it with a Rowenta that started leaking out of the handle after about a year.  I liked the amount of steam the Rowenta produced so I bought another one to replace it.  Well, that replacement is also leaking and keeps shutting itself off.  It is supposed to have an auto-shutoff, but it will only run about 3 or 4 minutes without being used before it turns off, which is a total pain.  I can hardly sew a seam and turn around to press it before the iron is off again.  Then I have to get up and reset the power strip to turn it on.  Also, it started dribbling water around the "shot of steam/spray" switch on the handle.  The same place the other was leaking.

Fed up, I got on Amazon this morning and ordered another T-fal.  I don't know if they're still as good as my old one was, which lasted for, what, seventeen years?  But I figured they were worth a try.  I ordered a cheaper one since I was through spending good money on irons with no lifespan.

However, I hadn't thrown the old malfunctioning irons away.  I just shoved them in the linen closet.  I was going to clean out the closet this morning and throw them away, but before I did I thought "Let's give them one more shot."

And darned if the T-fal didn't heat right up and start steaming and working!  I put it on the ironing board and I've been using it for several hours.  Perfect.  And it has an auto off, but it doesn't turn off very quickly and if you've left it sitting for quite a while to restart it you don't have to unplug and replug it, just tip it down to horizontal and it clicks on again.  It heats up so fast that it's not an issue anyway.

I filled the old leaky Rowenta, plugged it in and set it on a towel to check for leakage.  And after two hours, not a drop.  NOT A DROP.  This was the iron that if I turned it off and went out of the sewing room for an hour or two to do something, when I returned there was a wet spot on the ironing board cover the size of a dinner plate.  And it wasn't shutting itself off after four minutes like the newer Rowenta.

Speaking of the newest iron, it failed its' test this morning utterly.  It was leaking like a sieve and wouldn't run more than three minutes undisturbed before shutting off.  So it's history.

But what to do about the one I ordered?  I talked to husband who thinks the problem with the old T-fal was that the auto-switch had hung up and wouldn't let the iron turn on .  Why sitting in a closet for 18 months fixed it, no one knows but he assumed that it will mess up again and it's probably a good idea to just replace it now.  It was making some disturbing clicking noises when I first plugged it in this morning;  that was probably the relay on the circuit that had the problem.

Until the day my old faithful T-fal goes to the Big Scrap Heap in the Sky, I will continue to use it, though, and keep the new one in reserve when it arrives.  The leaky, pesky Rowenta is history.  The older one that redeemed itself is on probation.  It makes a lot of steam and is good for pressing backings and steam-shrinking fat quarters and charm packs.  But I've got my eye on it.  Hasn't re-earned my trust yet.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A return trip to Rouen

Ah, French General.  The red fabric that finally made me love red fabric.  And now they have
Rouenneries Deux.

I'll get the rows joined today while I do laundry, and then decide on a border.

This pattern is called "Cindy Lou Who" because it was originally made by Carrie Nelson in Christmas fabric with a very Grinch-y green accent.

Addendum:  I replaced the photo with one where the rows are joined.  I decided that I needed more of the taupe-y gray for the outer border and red for the inner border and binding, and didn't have anything that would work.  I'll have to do some shopping.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Spool(ish) blocks

I'm not sure what the traditional name of the spool-looking blocks is, but this pattern is another Schnibbles by  Carrie Nelson.  The fabric is Eva by Moda.  I'm making this because, well, I did once before.

Except that one was big.  When I bought the first Schnibbles book, which has patterns for making a large or small quilt of the same blocks, I fell in love with the pattern.  I found yardage here and there from the Eva collection and ended up making a full size quilt that looked almost exactly like this.  After it was finished, it didn't have a home designated, so it went in the quilt storage cabinet where I looked at it and wondered what I could do with it.  Then last year my brother-in-law's mother-in-law had cancer surgery.  When he visited last fall I decided that the quilt was perfect for an older lady who needed a little comforting.  I whipped up a label and sent the quilt in its way with him to give to her while she was recuperating.  I'm told that she loves it.

But I missed the quilt.  I liked the colors and the pattern.  However, I didn't need another large quilt - my storage area is becoming stressed by my productivity.  When I stumbled across a couple of charm packs of the Eva collection online, I grabbed them up.  Now I'm halfway to piecing a small version of the quilt I liked so much.  This one will take up much less space!

I want to quilt little cobweb shapes over every spool blocks, if I can figure out how to do it and not ruin the quilt by my ineptitude.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Making curves where there are none

These little blocks aren't joined yet but even so you can start to see the trompe l'oeil curves that the eye seems to find amid the straight line piecing.  You can emphasize this by quilting curved lines in the rectangle shapes that come together at the pinwheel ends, rather like the seams on a football.  The pattern is "Little Red", alternately called "Radio Flyer", by Carrie Nelson, and the fabric line is "Love Letters" by Laundry Basket Quilts.  Oh, I wish I could have gotten a charm pack of the coordinating batiks to use with the prints!  I love this fabric.  You can't see much of the prints when working this small (the blocks finish at just under 4") but the colors are gorgeous and rich.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LIttle spools, done

I'm enjoying making these small quilt tops.  It's nice to finish something without slaving over it.  Nothing against Orca Bay, but at times I thought it would kill me!  By the way, I'm taking Orca Bay to my longarm quilter today.  I finally decided not to add another border on the outside and leave it as designed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Little spools

4 1/2" seems to be the perfect size for spool blocks.  Any larger, they seem to lose their charm;  any smaller, I lose my patience.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Color wrong, color right

Contrast this:
Versus this:
Other than plain 3" squares versus quarter square triangle squares, they are the same pattern.  WHat a difference correct color placement makes!  I should have saved all the red and blue charm squares in the bottom one for the flying geese instead of doing it totally random and scrappy.  Oh, well, live and learn.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A bed for Acme

Acme is my husband's god-kitten.  An online friend found her, abandoned and sick, and he took her in and got her medical attention.  Six hundred dollars of medical attention.  Acme had a tumor which was blocking her windpipe and making it hard for her to breathe, and she required surgery.  If not for Bruce, she might have died.  As it is, he'll have to watch and see how she develops.  We contributed to her medical costs and as a result my hubby was designated her god-father.  He considers himself honored.

Bruce already has a cat, Alice, who is an older lady kitty and probably not crazy about a kitten taking up residence.  But he can't keep Acme anyway because his landlord only allows one pet, so he's trying to find her a home.  If I were kitty-less at the moment, I would jump in the car and drive to Virginia to claim her.    But we wouldn't do that to Molly, who is timid, retiring and easily dominated.  Any other cat we brought in would only bully her, and she wouldn't take up for herself.  I couldn't do that to her.

One thing I could do is make Acme a little cat bed of her very own.  I have small quilts on the backs of furniture all over the house for Molly, and know that's one of the best ways to direct where a cat wants to sleep, in addition to making a cozy warm spot for her.  So I dug out some scraps and whipped up a little cat quilt.  It's not much, and it's only quilted in the ditch, but I hope she likes it.

Grrrr - grackles

My yard has been covered with flocks of grackles today.  I couldn't get a good picture of them because every time I crept to the window with my camera they sensed my presence and flew away.  You can see a few of the braver ones who didn't leave in the the bad photo above.

Evidently, this is a migrating group that stopped for a break in my neighborhood.  I'm not talking a few grackles, or a dozen, or a hundred.  Hundreds of them.  Covering the whole yard.  Eating my feeders clean and making a racket.  What a nuisance.

This is what they look like:
In a way they're kind of attractive, with that irridescent color.  But they're pushy, mean and commandeering birds who take over the food sources and run everything else away.  They seem to have moved on for the evening, which makes me happy.

But however many I have at this house, it's nothing to the autumn migrating flocks which used to drive the residents to distraction in the last town I lived in.  My subdivision was a couple of miles down a road that passed in front of the high school.  There were several subdivisions off this road as well as many houses fronting on it.  Every fall enormous flocks of grackles would descend on Harrison Pike and cover every wire, tree, bush and yard.  It was surreal, like "The Birds" movie come to life.  They made a terrible racket, pooped everywhere and drove the residents nuts.  Then, suddenly, they would be gone.  It happened every year.

The grackle gangs will probably be back tomorrow.  Where are the feral cats when I need them?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Not your typical stars and stripes

No red, white and blue here, just lovely pastels and charming blue stars with rose centers.  Kind of like a banner for spring.

I just made the last star block and couldn't wait to show it off.  The charm squares came from a forgotten corner of my stash closet.  I can't remember where they were purchased - maybe from the Sewing with Nancy store site.  I know they're not Moda or any brand I recognize.  I have a whole ziplock bag full of them, from several groups.  I've sorted out others for different small quilt designs.  Stay tuned.

My aim is to stockpile 6 or 7 small quilt tops and go on a machine quilting binge later this spring.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tiny little star blocks

Little bitty, tiny and cute.  And before you comment, no - the seam isn't supposed to intersect the point of the V between the star points, and yes - there is supposed to be space between the star points and the edge of the blocks.  I read the instructions twice.

These little stars finish out at 4 1/2", so they are fiddly and tedious to make.  But I think they're adorable.

O what a quilt

Playing with some more charm squares today.  These little "O" blocks went together surprisingly quickly.  I have more matching charm squares and can't decide whether to make the quilt larger or leave it at this.  When joined and bordered it will be a 32" square wall quilt.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Playing with charm packs

One thing I found in the stash closet when I cleaned out recently were several pairs of charm packs.  I don't even remember when I bought them, they're that old.  One was "Origins" and the other was "Punctuation", if I remember correctly.  Neither is something that is exactly my style but they were fun to work with because of the variety.

I was working with a pattern in the book "Another Bite of Schnibbles".  I just love Carrie Nelson's small quilts!  I started making a small quilt named "Nash" and, don't you know, I messed it up.
Do you see what I did?  Look at the center blocks.  I was listening to the news on the radio and neglected to make sure that I cut the strippy blocks in half all the same way to made those triangles surrounding the pieced blocks.  I was crushed!  I put it together anyway and I guess it works somewhat, but I could kick myself.  I have the center assembled and I'll add the borders tomorrow.

So I wanted to make one correctly.  I cut out the same pattern in the second charm pack set, and had enough to make it rectangular instead of square.  This time I didn't mess it up.
Outer border will go on in the morning.  Notice that the center strippy blocks are right this time.  Sometimes you just have to smack your forehead and go "Stupid!"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Design dilemma

I fell in love with this design from Kim Brackett's "Scrap Basket Sensations":
 and remembered that I had yardage of a brown monoprint and scraps from the "Buttercup" and "Fresh Cottons" collections from previous projects.  During the first week of the Orca Bay mystery, I made 16 blocks for the center of the quilt and through the weeks added 20 more for a 6 x 6 layout.  Then I ran out of fabric.  I wanted it larger so I bought a jelly roll of "Buttercup" on sale online and made 28 more blocks to finish the designed size:
Here it is with the blocks laid out in order.  Before I start joining the rows I wanted to decide if there was something else I could do to make the quilt larger.  I have more 2 1/2" x 4 1/2" scraps of the colors and plenty of the brown, so I'm thinking about adding a 2" brown border and then a 4" picket-style multicolor border with the brown triangles added to the outer tips to make the pickets.  Perhaps then finish it up with another 2" brown border.  What do you think?

I also thought about a 2" border between the outer and second concentric rows, and made up the difference in the length by adding two 2" brown strips between the 2nd/3rd and 6th/7th blocks, which looked good on paper but not in person.  I scratched that idea.

Or should I let well enough alone?  I would like the quilt to be a little bigger.  My picket border would size it up from 64" square to 80" square.  It would also be a lot of work, making those 128 pickets plus the corner blocks.  I'll have to look at my scraps again and see if I have enough before thinking further

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Working small

Man, I'm getting right crazy in my old age.  The Animas Quilts mystery design, according to their website, is built on a 1 1/4" grid.  I think that even outdoes Bonnie Hunter because the last few mysteries from her only had 1 1/2" finished HSTs.  Furthermore, I'm in the process of making about 300  1 1/4" HSTs  (1 3/4" including seam allowances).  And as I make them, I'm squaring up every one.  Yes, you heard me right.  Every one.  I may only be slivering off a thread or two on each side, but when you have pieces that small, those threads tend to add up, and thus you have to be even more careful about size.
So I sew 20, press 20, de-dog ear 20 and then trim 20.  It's slow going.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sweet mystery of life....

.....or at least of quilting.  Is anyone doing the Animas Quilts mystery?  I waffled because I have done so many mystery quilts recently but at last caved in because I found a lovely green and white toile vine print at the local quilt shop, Chattanooga Quilts, that would be a good background fabric.  Since this pattern evidently has a lot of the background showing based on the amount of yardage specified, it figures that the background should be special. And this one is:
It's from the Contessa line from RJR and it's wonderful.  I'm substituting rust for the reds in the mystery quilt due to stash restrictions but otherwise following the color guidelines from Animas.

So I'm buzzing along making HSTS of toile/gold and toile/rust this morning, catching up on the January clue.  Only 234 to go!  

Monday, February 6, 2012 Superbowl Sunday mystery quilt. . .

.   .   .more or less.  I made a minor change with the sashing and the corner triangles to make those little starry crosses at the sashing intersections.  Pretty cute design.  The brown diamonds are machine appliqued with fusible and a small machine blanket stitch.  I never liked that method because old fusible was so stiff but Steam a Seam 2 is much lighter and more flexible.  All in all, a pretty good lap quilt.