Thursday, June 30, 2011

Slow Poke Quilter

The truth is I am normally a slow poke at EVERYTHING! So it's funny I should find this site, Slow Poke Quilter, just now when I seem to be whipping out quilts left and right! I saw the badge on my friend Minka's BLOG and after checking it out I had to add it.

You see, I've challenged myself to create a quilt for each of my friends (
The Girls) for their birthdays.  Of the seven quilts on the list I've completed 3, have one in process, and three percolating between fabric/color choices and pattern choices.  Mind you, I started this project the year BEFORE I turned 50 and suffice it to say that, while I'm the oldest in the group, we are all now PAST 50! So I promised myself that this is the year I will finish all of these quilts.  Meanwhile, I've got a whole list of other quilts that are ideas just waiting to materialize.

I truly enjoy the process of quilting from start to finish.  Starting with picking the patterns and fabrics.  I pour over magazines, read BLOGS, visit fabric stores, check with my quilting friends, and go to quilt shows.  This activity alone can entertain me for weeks and months on end. 

My sister Dutchy and I have taken many quilting classes together. She shows up to the class with all the fabrics for the project washed, pressed, and neatly cut so she can sit down and get right to sewing.  I on the other hand show up still missing a key fabric or two which leads to shopping when I should be sewing.  She ends up with a finished bed size quilt while I've created a potholder!   But never mind, she's an over-achiever and I love her for it.  She encourages me and helps me out when I'm stuck or a deadline is looming.  She's definitely NOT a slow poke.

Twiggy has

Actually, she's just one of the over-achievers in my monthly quilting group.  Each one of the ladies in the sewing group is talented and creative.  They produce beautiful work!  I am always anxious to see what they've come up with and hear the stories that go along with each quilt or wall hanging or other crafty project they're doing.

We all had a good laugh at our last get together over how many items I'd brought for Show and Tell.  I'm notorious for not having anything new to share.  This month I had 2 finished quilts and a very creative label for the one I had just dropped off at the long arm quilter.  

Appliqued bikini

I've learned so much from them over the past 10 years it's been wonderful.  Most recently they taught me to hand applique.  Here are a couple of examples of my applique efforts on Audrey's beach quilt and on the "Twiggy" quilt. 

Three of the group members are expert hand quilters so the next thing I want to learn from them is hand quilting. 

From the beginnings of the group they have tried to entice me to join them in a true  "group" project.  You know the kind, where someone has a really great idea for a quilt or a cute pattern to share with everyone?  Sometimes a person will show her work and others in the group will just decide to make the same thing.  I've liked some of the ideas and didn't care for others but I really loved that they wanted me to join in.  

Unfortunately, I am never able to participate in these activities because the pressure to perform becomes too stressful for me.  There's no pressure (or should I say very little pressure!) from them but I'm just such a slow poke I know I won't be able to finish when they do so I just don't join in.  Besides, the last thing I want is a stressful hobby!   

Here's a beautiful example of a group project the "just happened".  Two of the girls in our group are cousins, Carol and Deb.  Both are from my hometown, where Carol and I went to school together.  They had started this quilt at the same time and brought it to our monthly sewing group.  It was so much fun to watch the progress.

Deb, Dutchy, and Carol with their "People" quilts
at the 2009 Capital Quilters Guild Show in Concord NH

I just love these "People" quilts!  The girls shared fabrics and even a few blocks but you can see that there are differences.  Deb and Carol used the angled borders and corners while Dutchy adapted hers to be square on the out side corners.  Each of the figures developed it's own personality as the girls added the clothes and hair styles.

These are Carol's "People" - look at the braids!

Dutchy decided that she's like to make one too. She spent many enjoyable hours creating the little folk around the edges.  In the end, she gave the quilt to the Rector and his wife when she retired from St. Paul's School in Concord NH where she had worked for over 25 years.

These are some of Dutchy's "People" - Check out the baseball cap
and the pockets on the pants!
While the three girls worked diligently and entertained us with the creative process, rest of us in the group chickened out.  Or should I say I chickened out.  For a slow poke like me this looks like a life's work!  I could never have managed to get it completed in time for our semi-annual Capital Quilters Guild show like they did.

For a very long time I believed I was alone in my languid approach to quilting but finally I've found some kindred spirits on-line.  So I will continue to indulge my slow-pokieness to my hearts content. 

By the way, I've saved all those patterns and tucked away the ideas in hopes that someday I may just surprise my quilting friends with my entry for the "Group" project . . .  just a bit later than planned.

Would you attempt a project like the "People" quilt?  How long would it take you?  Are you a slow poke quilter or a slow poke in general?  Maybe you have a friend or family member who makes you wait all the time.  Admit it, you're still happy to see us when we finally show up right?  ;o) 

Leave me a comment below, I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Watermelons for Miles and Courtney

Ah, weddings!  We have three of them lined up this summer.

My sister Dutchy and her daughter Sharon who
 is mother of the groom at this wedding.

My sister's two grandchildren, David and and his sister Lindsay.  Their poor parents, two kids getting married in the same year!  So, that makes me the grandmothers sister!  

OMG, I'll never forget attending a family event years ago when I was in my 20's and introducing my Aunt Dot to my boyfriend.  I said "This is my grandmothers sister".  I remember thinking at the time that she was sooo old because she was my grandmothers sister!  

Those words are ringing in my ears now and I'll bet the kids are thinking the same thing of me; that's my grandmothers sister, she's sooo old!  Well, I don't feel old!  I always admired how young in spirit Aunt Dot was.  She had snow white hair but there was certainly plenty of sass to go around!


Wedding number three is in July and this one is the son of my friends Kim and Jim.  We all grew up together in a small NH town.  Funny story about how Kim and I are related which I'll have to write some time but for now just know that Kim and I have been friends since grade school and Jim is my second cousin on my fathers side.  Miles, their son, is marrying a lovey girl named Courtney.


So why am I babbling on about weddings instead of quilts?  Well, weddings are the perfect time for making a quilt!  Although the Big Guy can't seem to appreciate it.  His comment on the last wedding quilt I made was "yeah just what every guy wants for a wedding gift - a blanket".  Maybe he's right but that hasn't stopped me from getting excited about making another "blanket" for a wedding gift.  Or maybe he's just disappointed because he's still waiting for his quilt to be finished! 

Anyway!  Back to the wedding quilts.  My sister's grandchildren both wanted quilts from her for their weddings so she was happy to oblige.  That meant I wouldn't be making quilts for them but there's still Miles and Courtney!  These two are young, fun, athletic, outdoors kind of people.  I wanted a quilt that they could throw in the car and pull out anytime they want a clean, dry place to sit whether it's after a hike in the mountains or a day at the beach.

In keeping with the philosophy of "sharing the process", here's the story of the "Watermelon" quilt for Miles and Courtney.  Several of the girls in my quilting group have made the watermelon log cabin quilt. In fact one of the girls ended up making 7 of them! I loved the design and thought it would be perfect for the kids.

Since I'm "scrappy" challenged I usually shy away for traditional scrappy quilts.  I often get stressed out with the whole idea of combining very different fabric patterns and colors into a finished quilt.  I'm much better at two color or three color designs.  But I have found that log cabin blocks are a great way to get a scrappy look without the stress.  That being said here's what happened.
I started with these green and cream blocks. 

Can you spot the problem?  The logs are in the wrong order! LOL!  I didn't notice until I put the finished blocks up on the design wall. 
This is the danger of scrappy for me, the coloration in the fabrics is subtle so to get the right look you really have to pay close attention.  And, power sewing all the blocks at the same time means all the blocks are the same kind of wrong.

This is supposed to be the rind of the watermelon but if they're wrong you lose that effect.

You can see in the close up on this block that all the outer logs needed to be rotated to the left one log.  So I had all the pieces, just not in the right places.

The fix for this is you have to take them apart.  No two ways around it, just get out the seam ripper and start "unsewing" . . . all 30 blocks  :-(   Here are the pieces all apart, ready for sewing round 2.  

I used a seam ripper to take them apart.  My sister was watching me and reminded me that we learned to take out seams with a double edged razor blade!  Have you ever done that or see it done?  That's how Mom taught us.

Guppy was very disappointed in all this re-work business.  He was ready for bed and hates it when I'm up late sewing.  I thought he'd move when the pieces started to pile up on top of him but he wasn't budging.

Once the green blocks were sewn back together I laid them out again to check the orientation and get a feel for the size of the final quilt.

Now that's more like it!  Just like the layout in the pattern.  This is important because in the end these are supposed to be watermelon rinds.

With my lesson learned on the green blocks, the red blocks went together much easier, no re-sewing.

The pinks and reds just made this quilt jump off the wall.  What a huge impact that burst of color made.  Now it's starting to look more like watermelon.

Next came the seeds.  With all the work and re-work on the green blocks I had forgotten about this little detail.  I was undecided as to how to attach them.  The directions say to use fusible web and machine applique.  There were over 80 seeds to be applied and I'm not a fan of machine applique.  I know it's easy and with bigger pieces it might even have been fast but 80 seeds the size of a quarter?  Besides, I wasn't sure I had enough time. 

So I opted for fusible web and ironed them on with the intent of having the long arm quilting stitches go over them to keep them attached. 

They are really cute!

Once the seeds were on the pink/red blocks I sewed all the blocks together in the standard method of sewing blocks together into rows then sewing the rows together into the finished top.

Next came the backing.  I had purchased the recommended yardage of this perfect fabric according to the pattern directions.  One small problem, did I mention that the perfect watermelon fabric is directional?  Lesson 2 on this quilt, make sure you know if the fabric is directional or not before having it cut at the store.  I didn't have enough of it.  Now what!  

I can tell you this is not the first time I've run into this problem but I am getting better at buying the right yardage as I continue to make more quilts.  I knew I just HAD to use this fabric!  It's perfect!  It's watermelons for Pete sake!  The label on the salvage said it was made specifically for Joanne's but there wasn't any at my local store.  Time was getting even shorter at this point.  I was supposed to be dropping the quilt off at the long arm quilter in two days.  No time to find it on line and get it shipped.  I just had to come up with a solution and QUICKLY.

Taking a cue from my first quilt and decided to buy some green fabric to use as border around the watermelons. 

It turned out great and as soon as the bindings on I"ll post the final pictures.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Caroline's Mermaid Quilt

The Mermaid Quilt - Day 1
Wait till you see how this
beautiful panel gets center stage.
 A few of weeks ago I had a rare opportunity to spend 2 days quilting at a friend’s house.  Now, my friend Jean doesn’t quilt – although I know she would love it if there was time in her hectic days – but her daughter, Caroline, took to the sewing machine like a fish to water! 

Another rare event was to be joined by our friend Sully who drove 3 hours just to get in some quality quilting time.  I can't thank you all enough for such a fun couple of days!  I rarely get to share my love of quilting with interested parties.  I'm usually boring some poor soul to tears as I babble on about fabrics, patterns, blocks, applique’, borders, and backings . . . . hence the BLOG   ;o)

Years ago, when Caroline was just a baby,  Jean got a new sewing machine.  She asked me if I would come by some weekend and help her with making some baby clothes.  As life would have it our schedules kept us both so busy that our sewing date (and the baby cloths) never happened.  We often talked about it and as Caroline got older we agreed it would be fun to teach her to sew.

Jean's dining room became
the sewing room
 Well, 11 years later, the stars finally aligned.  I showed up at Jean’s with sewing machine in hand.  And let’s not forget all the other paraphernalia like the cutting mat, rotary cutter, fabric, thread and 3 more bags of stuff that were all packed tightly into my car, just in case.  Oh and PJs and a pillow.  After all it was a sleepover!

I don’t know who was more excited to get started Caroline or me.  I had picked out a selection of fabrics from my stash that had pretty spring daisy pallet.  I also had a kit that had the fun mermaid panel.  Once she spotted the mermaid there was no going back.

The block I wanted to teach Caroline is the Disappearing Nine Patch.  I had used it on Betty's quilt and loved the way it turned out.  It's such a simple block but it looks much more complicated when it's all done.

Caroline had never used a sewing machine before and I had never seen Jean's machine.  Using a sewing machine is kind of like driving a car.  If it's your own you're able to jump in and hit the road, if it's a rental you need to take a few minutes to see where all the buttons are and what they do.  I had Caroline use the owners manual to look up anything that wasn't obvious.  In short order we managed to get the stitches set up, the machine threaded and eventually even wind a few bobbins.
Next we tackled cutting.  I showed Caroline how to use the rotary cutter but after a few closely supervised tries I decided she wasn't quite strong enough to use it and my nerves weren't strong enough to watch! 

On to Plan B.  I did the rotary cutting and she did the fussy cutting.  Using a 4 1/2 inch square ruler she traced around the pretty mermaids, then cut them out.

A few quick instructions on how to sew the squares into rows and the rows into block
and she was off.

I was amazed at how quickly she picked up on all the directions I was giving her.  I was trying to keep it simple but as you can tell by my writing "short" is not something I do well. 

Even to me it seemed that I was just talking and talking and talking.  I kept thinking she's going to get sick of hearing my voice!  

But she was very focused and absorbed everything I said.  It wasn't long before she was just cruzin' along.
We worked as a team:  Caroline sewed the 9-patches together; I cut them up to make them "disappear" and she sewed them back together to form the new block. 

Isn't this one beautiful!!!  Once she had the hang of it she managed to get 6 blocks done before we stopped for dinner. 

In the span of just 4 hours she had learned how to use the sewing machine and created 6 beautiful blocks.   I know it must have taken me a lot longer than that for my first blocks!  Along the way there were a couple of opportunties for "reverse sewing" so she did get to use the seam ripper! 

After dinner Sully arrived.  We set up her sewing machine and mine on the table as well.  She had seen my pictures of Betty's quilt and wanted to try the Disappearing Nine Patch block for a quilt for her daughter. Fortunately, Sully is a quilter so she was set up and sewing in no time. She was also able to lend a hand with helping Caroline as well.  The dining room was now fully transformed into quite the classroom. 

Since we were working in the kitchen/dining room we had to improvize.  The kitchen counter became our cutting surface and the dining room table became the sewing table.  The big advantage to not having Mom around was we could use the curtains as a design wall.  Hey, she said do whatever you want right? LOL! 

Jean arrived home late after a long day at work to be greeted by a very excited daughter, two good friends, and a kitchen turned up-side-down!  Caroline caught her mom up on all the activities of the day and did a  show and tell with the blocks she had finished.  She also included a vocabulary lesson on all the new sewing terms she'd learned.  Once again I was amazed at how much she learned!

It took another hour before Caroline finally went off to bed but not before she had finished the last stitch of the block she was working on. 

There is definately more to this story so check back again soon for Day 2 of The Mermaid quilt!

In the mean time I've got a couple of other projects I want post in the next few days.  Both the Baby Quilt for Trevor and the birthday quilt for Betty are back from the long arm quilter and ready for bindings.