Monday, December 26, 2011

Ohio Stars

Ohio stars!  Do you love them?  I do -- they are my very favorite stars in the quilting world.  These are some that will finish at 6" that I've been working on periodically.  They are all cut (72 I believe) and are pieced with 1.5" scrap strips and real muslin that I have starched within an inch of its life to keep it from raveling.  I think I plan to set them with plain muslin squares -- I need to check before I start working on them again.
These little cuties are from the Orca Bay mystery quilt that Bonnie Hunter is sponsoring.  Same block and will finish at 6".  I have 13 more black stars to go.  I have always made Ohio stars with light background but I have fallen in love with the dark ones!  Aren't they cool?  One more thing to put on my "to do" list at some point. 
When it comes to mysteries -- I don't try to figure them out.  I just do what I'm told and don't spend a lot of energy or valuable piecing time trying to layout the quilt.  I'd be wrong anyway.  There are three components left -- and I am not going to be surprised if we don't see those red strings around the stars before it's all over.   The other two components are stumpers -- particularly the black triangles (that look like a whale's eye to me).  The fabric requirements called for a lot of red and the strips is all we have done thus far -- so I'm curious to see if that's border or if these "whale eyes" end up in the border.  More will be revealed on Friday and in the meantime -- 13 stars are calling my name!

If you're interested in the progress of other quilters on this journey, click on this link and you'll see all kinds of great layouts.....and beautiful star blocks.

As an aside -- our backyard is full of robins. I'm not sure what they are thinking but I'm concerned they are going to have to work pretty hard to find food on frozen ground.  I'm not talking just a few -- I'm talking 20+.  Maybe they're passing through but watching them forage on the frosty lawn is a bit concerning!

I hope you all are finding some time to piece while you clean up the leftover from yesterday's joy!  Jan

Friday, December 23, 2011

Be Joyful....

I wish for each of you....

PEACE, LOVE AND JOY during this special season.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


Think this is bright enough?  I'm happy to report two finishes this week and both are out of the house and delivered or in transit!

 This is the Mahalo quilt listed in my 2011 "to do" list and was made for friends that offered us their condo while we were in Hawaii for our niece's wedding in September.  Obviously this saved us a boatload of money and was very convenient as we were right in the heart of Waikiki Beach.  Since this was my first time to visit Hawaii (but I hope not my last), I have to say that Waikiki is sort of like Michigan Avenue in Chicago, the strip in Las Vegas, and sand -- all rolled up into one!  A quieter locale next time will be great but I am so grateful for the opportunity to have seen Oahu (literally -- we spent a lot of time circling the island) and to have done it with family.
During our sea kayaking adventure we happened upon a quilt shop that had all kinds of great Kona Bay and Hawaiian prints as well as any other fabrics you might need.  They were not on bolts but rather still on the cores that I presume come from the mills.  AND THEY WERE CHEAP.  Most were $4.99 a yard.  How can you pass up fabric at that rate (did I mention the weight of the fabric put our checked bag over the  limit and to avoid an extra fee, we had to distribute it among remaining family members?).

Anyway, we also found some precuts and those were used to make this quilt.  I had trouble getting the color right in the picture -- there were two shades of dark blue, black, purple, and obviously orange.  This is far from the most beautiful quilt I've ever made but I believe it was appreciated.  Each of us took time to sign the back and write about what we loved while we were there and our appreciation for their generosity.  So, there are permanent "thank you notes" on the back.

 The pattern is from Kim Schaeffer's Cozy Modern Quilts which is a lovely book.  My caution to anyone who is considering this book is that she seems to want to boil every quilt down to 3 steps and the cutting instructions are incomplete.  You have to take a few minutes to study the pattern and look at the fabric placement and then make your own notes.  I know a few people who didn't -- and they mis-cut by following the directions.  This is not a good book for a new quilter but it is a great book if you're looking for simple pattern that are striking.

I also finished a small "mug rug" for a friend.  I'm still practicing letting go and doing more free form piecing and this was done "quilt as you go" so as I sewed a strip, I quilted through the batting and backing. These little scraps were 1" x 2" Cherrywoods that she was using while here for our quilting weekend in early November. I could not let them go to waste -- they were too cute so I just randomly pieced them and then started cutting.  It finishes about 4" x 6" which may be a bit small (at least when trying to miter the ends of the binding).  I think there has to be an easier way -- and I'll definitely investigate before I do another one.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Red Letter Days

This particular quilt is entitled "Red Letter Days" and was made for our son and daughter-in-law to commemorate their wedding in 2008.  It is made from "leftover" napkin fabric!
Late in 2007 (with a Derby Day wedding in early May the following year), I was asked if I'd be willing to make napkins for the rehearsal dinner as well as napkins for the reception dinner.  And the answer was "I'd be honored".  That was an uninformed response because I had no idea I would have to quit quilting for three months to order, wash, cut, and sew napkins (unlined!).
From Thanksgiving to Christmas, the bride looked at fabric and I calculated yardage.  By the end of the year, we had ordered enough Kaffe Fassett fabrics to make 96 napkins for the rehearsal dinner as well as various manufacturers (Kona Bay, SSI, Marcus, Kaufman, etc.) to make about 200 napkins for the reception.  In the process, she determined that Hancocks of Paducah had the best selection and created a "wish list" on their site.  If you've ever shopped at Hancock's of Paducah, you know they present pricing in 1/2 yard increments.  She hadn't and didn't notice.  In her mind, she was selecting all half price fabric!  Not so much but this didn't seem to be the time to pinch pennies so I kept that little tidbit to myself, shopped online, and looked for sale prices at various shops where I could find them.  In the end, we had 4 Kaffes in greens/blues and about 20 different reds.

After playing around and making some samples from my stash to get this down right, I cut squares at 21" and did a double roll of about 1/4" all the way around.  I started mitering corners and decided that was nuts.  I referred to the method as "turn and burn" -- my fingertips got singed/steamed plenty of times!  Napkins finished at 20" square -- +/- a bit.
They were beautiful on the tables and the bride and groom were happy.  And I had lots of scraps -- lots and lots of red scraps and intended to use every single one up -- down to the selvage.  Hence, "red letter days" is made from leftover fabric and was intended to be a memory quilt of all of the different fabrics.  The label commemorates various special days in their relationship -- first date, engagement date, wedding date, among others.

I also washed all the napkins after the events.  We wanted to make sure we got them back from the various sites and I surely didn't want them to mildew.  Let's just say it was the right thing to do but was disgusting.  We also found that some napkins disappeared as mementos of the wedding.  Who can blame anyone for that.

The bride and groom were then able to bundle the napkins and give them as gifts to various friends and family members at Christmas that year.  Everyone loved them as you might imagine....and the newlyweds were able to save a bit of money on gifts.
I have used red in just about every quilt I could -- certainly in some Bonnie Hunter mystery quilts.  I am down to just a few 1.5" and 2.0" strips and STRINGS!  Fast forward to Orca Bay at Quiltville where today's clue is 5.5" red string blocks.  I am all in.  I don't have enough strings to make 64 blocks -- but with my 1.5" strips, I'm pretty close and shouldn't have to cut from my stash too much.
It is my hope that I will be able to use every single piece of the creepy bird wing fabric that I used on the back of "red letter days" -- I will be very happy to see it go!
I hope you're finding time to piece!  Jan


They are done!  64 5.5" string blocks -- pieced, trimmed, and un-papered.  I have never ever stayed up with the steps in a mystery (of course I've never been retired when one was being offered either).  I am happy to say the napkin selvages are GONE.  The creepy bird wing fabric is ALMOST gone.  All my red strings are gone.  The basket is empty!  So, as far as I'm concerned -- these are free blocks!    But these are just the tip of the iceberg for reds, I think -- based on yardage.  I hope you all are stringing away -- I love looking at the blocks on Bonnie's mystery link up -- so many red fabrics I'd love to have in my stash!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A week with Bonnie

Orca Bay Mystery by Bonnie Hunter.  Clue 3.  350 half square triangles.  Really?  After Roll Roll Cotton Boll and having to make 600 HSTs one week (month), this sounded manageable.   Not necessarily a walk in the park -- but not too bad.
And it was manageable.  After cutting the black strips, all the neutrals were already in my overflowing 2" tote and we were off and running.  At the end of the day (before sunset even), they were done, pressed, and double counted to make sure I really had them all.
So, what to do with the rest of the week?  I had expected a clue of epic proportion after getting by with the little 3.5" strings the week of Thanksgiving.  So -- maybe I should pull out my other mystery quilts from Bonnie and get them back on the front burner while waiting for the next clue?
The easiest was to get the binding on Carolina Christmas from two years ago.  We've actually been sleeping under it without binding once it got chilly before our furniture got here and one quilt wasn't enough.  I had been to Iowa to quilt this during a summer visit to a friend and hadn't even gotten it trimmed a before we started sleeping under it.  Once our island was installed, I could at least trim off the extra batting and backing. So Saturday was the day to get the binding on and get it washed.  It's back on the bed in proper order and I can mark it as COMPLETE!  Another finish before the end of the year!
Now what?  Oh dear....I know.  Roll Roll Cotton Boll.   Since I was sure I was pretty far along with the various steps, this should be a piece of cake.  Alas.  I am SO wrong.  I have two blocks done, all the strings complete and cut in half and most of the border pieces partially sewn into little strips but not even finished, much less assembled.  Basically, the quilt is cut out and each step has some work done on it.  Without instructions -- what was I thinking? Oh, yeah, I know -- that I was farther along than I was.
Last year at this time I was knee deep in the holiday stuff that we're all involved in but was also managing the acquisition and integration of a competitor and all the "people stuff" associated with it. A 12 hour day was a short day and a 15 hour day (with some weekends included) was more in order.  It was tough and they were cranky about all the changes. I was cranky too! Quilting was not on the front burner and staying up with the clues was impossible.  Apparently printing instructions was something I didn't think I needed..... we'll see about that in a few days.
So, I'll be spending the week with Bonnie after all.  Working on RRCB, sorting out where I am, and seeing what all needs to be done to get this top completed at the same time Orca Bay is looming.  I suspect there is a doozy of a clue coming since we haven't even gotten to touch the "red" or primary fabric and so much is needed.  I should put a new blade in my rotary cutter while I'm thinking about it and change my needle now!

I hope you're getting time to sew and making progress with whatever you're working on!  Jan

Postscript:  After putting 8 of the blocks together, I remain amazed at how well they go together and match -- so long as I pay attention to the 1/4".  Such a pleasure.  If you want to see what's going on with Orca Bay,  you can link to her post today and see everyone's progress.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Done ... and done!

Another finish!  YIPPEE!  This is the wedding quilt that I fussed about in an earlier post.  This was a case of procrastination -- pure and simple.

 I'm thrilled to say the wedding quilt is bound, labeled, wrapped, and delivered.  Out of my house and off my list.  Considering they were married in mid-October, it's not exactly early.  But it's done and hopefully the bride will love it.  Her favorite season is fall and her color palette is autumnal.

This is from American Patchwork and Quilting (one of my absolute favorite quilting magazines!).  When I saw the cover and considered what fabric I had with me in our temporary living apartment, this was just what the doctor ordered.

I was able to get it assembled and made a quick trip to Chicago to visit friends and take advantage of one friend's generosity with her Gammill.  This one (and three others) were quilted in two days and then home I came since Thanksgiving was the following week and there were more boxes in the house to unpack (or hide).

I used a faux Minkee backing since winter is upon us here in the states.  Note to self (and all other quilters out there):  watch for after Christmas sales of "blankets".  About three years ago (or longer) we cleaned out Linen's N Things (about a year prior to their going out of business) when they had "blankets" on sale for about $12-15 dollars.  They were king sized and were two huge pieces of faux Minkee (not fleece) that were bound together. All we had to do was cut the binding off and we had two huge pieces of plush fabric with no seams.  I have two left and always keep my eyes out for sales at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Wal-Mart, K-Mart or any other home store that might be clearing out their bedding section.  They make a huge mess when you cut them apart (best done outdoors if you can) but it's so worth it.

I hope you're finding time to piece and finish any holiday projects looming over your head!  Jan