Friday, July 31, 2015

Quilts and Crafts-To Gift or Not To Gift

I've followed numerous quilting and crafting blogs over the years.  Some inspire.  Some teach.  Some just make me smile.  All are bright and happy snapshots of a creative life well lived.  There is a sad side, a bad side, a dark side, if you will, to crafting that no one ever talks about though.  Gifting.  

What can possibly be bad about giving a gift?  As the artist, you dream, plan and create a little (or big!) something that you are sure the recipient will adore.  It's worth oh so much more because it didn't come from a store.  It came from the heart.  It will be met with hugs and smiles which are worth more than a thank you any day.  

But what happens when it's not?
What happens when you give a gift and it is met with a blank stare?

Are you ready for the heartbreak of: 
  • Seeing the tote bag you made as a thank you gift for your child's teacher on the arm of a stranger?
  • Finding the quilt you made for your newest family member tossed in the corner, filthy from having been stepped on numerous times.
  • Being told that one of the two afghans you made for your in-laws has been packed away in a chest, to be given back to you upon their deaths.
  • Receiving months of compliments on your work from an old friend, sending them a quilt and never hearing from them again. 
  • Giving friends numerous handmade gifts only to learn that they aren't true friends after all.  
Small examples of the the perils of gifting, all of them, but each is a personal experience that I now own as part of my history.  

The tote bag was picked up by the new owner at a yard sale for $3.00.  It still looked brand new.

The baby quilt was stained, ripped and ruined inside of three months.  I haven't seen it since.

The second afghan was intentionally picked apart by my MIL and thrown in the trash after a family argument.  The other afghan, made for my FIL, is still new and will be returned to us along with items from my husband's childhood.  I've been told that a detailed letter of all of my personal failings will accompany the chest.  

I've lost two friends after sending them quilts and/or supplies to learn how to quilt.  I don't think I will ever learn why.

Surely I'm not the only one who has been discouraged or upset after giving a handmade gift.  Some people are cruel and thoughtless.  It seems to be the norm in society these days.  Do I have regrets?  Yes and no, but it is my nature to care and to share although I'm not so anxious to give personalized gifts anymore.  

My solution?  A two-prong approach.

Crafting for animals in need - Shelter animals barely receive the essentials much less something to call their own.  As I enjoy the company of animals more so than humans any day, it's definitely the perfect solution.  

School Raffles/Fundraisers - My oldest is in high school now and they hold several fundraisers each year.  This coming Fall, they plan to sell real pumpkins and scarecrows crafted by the student body.  

I've made 25 handcrafted fabric pumpkins to add to their sale table.  They can sell them for any price they choose with 100% profit.  The kids don't have to go door-to-door or peddle merchandise no one really wants.  Plus, they were fun to make and I learned a new craft to boot!  

There are several different sizes made from three different prints.  Each one is unique, having an original leaf style or color and either yarn, twine or perle cotton decoration for the segmenting.  

It's gift crafting with a purpose and without the heartbreak of giving art that is unappreciated. Win for all!    

On a happier note, I started a Facebook page about a 18 months ago, which is where I've been posting instead of here.  Look for the new page at Sugar Tree Stitching Handmade!  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Paper Pieced Puppy

My youngest son loves his Build-A-Bear critters!  They have their own "closet" full of fancy (expensive) clothes, cute little names and now, one of them even has his own quilt.  Using scraps from the mountain of fabric in the stash, I made a couple of "wonky" log cabin blocks just for fun.  I can't remember if I shared that photo with the blogging world but it doesn't matter.  What does matter is that the morning after I finished that quilt top, my box of paper piecing supplies from Connecting Threads arrived and I just had to try a few of the patterns from the new book. Sure, I've seen paper piecing videos and tutorials but never tried it for myself.  I'm hooked!  These are my first two paper pieces blocks along with two more wonky log cabins.   Ol' Jack the Black Belt puppy has been recreated onto his own quilt block.   :)  My son loves it and I'm sure Jack will, too.  

Happy Stitching! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Crooked Little Houses

Yesterday was exciting!  Not only did Bullseye go out in the mail to California, but so did Miss Kay's Puppy Dog baby quilt!  It's measured out to be 39" square when it was all done and the pieced binding turned out well.  As always, my photography skills need a lot of work but you get the idea. 
Hand quilting in perle cotton floss is always fun, but this time, I made the stitches a little bigger to match the bigger blocks.  I took a chance on using brown floss instead of the blue I really wanted to use and I'm pleased with the results.  Actually, I was so excited about being done with it that I forgot to wipe away the yellow and white chalk marks before I took the photos.  LOL    There are no labels for this quilt, which is how Kay wanted it.  The family hasn't picked a name for their new little one yet, so I offered to add a patch to the back later on if they decide they want one.
My paper piecing rulers and other supplies will be here tomorrow!  Christmas in August!  Not really.  Our 16th wedding anniversary is coming up and after 16 years, you run out of things to buy for each other.  So, I told Eagle1 that I would rather save the money he would normally spend on a gift for something I could use in the craft room later on and he was cool with that, which is how I didn't get yelled at for buying paper piecing stuff!  ;-) 

While scrolling through my FB feed for a quilting group I belong to, I saw a link to a scrappy log cabin quilt that was just stunning.  I've never made a log cabin block before even though I do think they are pretty.  They just seem to "organized" and planned out to me.  I like a bit more chaos in my piecing and if I can use up scraps without cutting or waste, I'm there!  I have a whole WM bag full of strip scraps just begging to be used, so round and round in log cabin fashion, the first of many Crooked Little Houses was born.  I think it would be fun to make a few blocks that don't sit quite square, maybe cant one way or another, or to just truly use the strips as they lay without squaring them up.  Maybe for another quilt.  One bit of chaos at a time. 

Happy Stitching!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Bullseye SOLD and an Autumn Quilt

SOLD!! to a lady in California  :)   The Etsy order came in yesterday morning.  I don't have much in my little shop and this one has been listed at least 3 times.  The fabric for this quilt is from a Connecting Threads collection called "Golden Afternoon".  I really didn't care for the color palette when the order arrived but it has grown on me over time.  I struggled a bit with block placement because I needed to get the right mix of light/dark scattered throughout the top.  All in all, it is still one of my favorite quilts and taking this to the post office will be a bittersweet moment.

Bullseye is 100% cotton with Warm and Natural cotton batting.  It was hand quilted using perle cotton floss in many coordinating colors to match the blocks.  The binding is pieced and matches the blocks, machine stitched to the front and finished by hand on the back.  I did make a label for the back, but I don't think I have a photo of it. 
I finished hand quilting Miss Kay's puppy dog quilt for the baby shower!  Hopefully, today will find me in the sewing room making the binding.  I'm motivated to get it done before my new box of paper piecing goodies arrives in a few days!  No, I don't have a clue how to paper piece, other than what I've seen on YouTube videos, but my baby sister would like a Mariner's Star, so I'm going to learn.  I'm always up for learning a new technique. 
On Wednesday, I woke up in a "mood".  You know, the one where you just have to create, create, create and you know you won't sleep another wink until you get it out of your system.  Yep, one of those moods.  So, I set aside the puppy dog quilt, (my back needed the break anyhow) and started pulling colors from the stash.  I had no idea what I wanted to create, but I was motivated by my subconscious yearning for Fall.  It's a little more pink than I normally work with, especially for a Fall palette, but it works (I think!).  I'm not sure yet how to quilt it, so it's going to hang in the sewing room window until I figure it out. 
There are two times of year when I get the urge to start "nesting" for Christmas;  Just after Christmas, in preparation for next year and every single summer.  Maybe I'm reminded to start prepping by all of the Christmas in July sales that keep popping up or maybe it's just my own desire not to enter the holiday season unprepared.  Either way, I'm in that mindset again and searching for new and creative ideas for my nieces and nephews for Christmas.  This year, my goal is to work with only what is already in my stash.  Ha Ha Ha  Yep, we'll see  how that goes. 
Happy Stitching to all! 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ribbons! Ribbons! Ribbons! at the County Fair

The little "Simply Woven" quilt took second place at the County Fair this year!  For someone who rarely wins anything, to say that I'm super happy is an understatement.  I really need to come up with a new name for it though, as "Simply Woven" is really the name of the pattern.  No matter what I end up calling it, I really do like how this one turned out so I think I'll keep it to brighten up the sewing room wall. 
I also entered "Ribbon Candy" in the Christmas category, which took second and my oldest son's patriotic bed quilt in the Red, White and Blue category.  His quilt took first place!  We were really happy with that win until we got his quilt home and found two holes in it that weren't there when I turned it in to the fair coordinators.  :-( The damage really stole the happiness away.  I don't have much experience mending quilts, but he loves it so much that not fixing it is really not an option.   

The remodeling of the two largest bedrooms is now complete after 6 weeks of work.  Eagle1 helped me with our son's room but I had to work on the master bedroom alone due to his work schedule.  To be finished with them is such a relief, not only because of the stress of having the house in disarray, but because I really missed having time to work on fun things. 

This week I'm working on a stroller quilt for a baby shower in Illinois.  I think I mentioned in an earlier post that my friend Kay bought a quilt for a pregnant friend a few months ago. 

The new mommy was very happy with her gift and Kay asked me to make another quilt for her other friend who is going to have a baby boy in a few months.  For me, the biggest compliment for my work is when someone offers to buy one of them.  :-)

I can pick fabric for little girls all day long, but when it comes to boys, my brain goes numb.  Trying to balance the need for masculinity while savoring the fun of a new baby is a challenge.  Hopefully, I did okay with the puppy dog fabric and coordinates I chose for this one.  I used the Double Slice Layer Cake Quilt pattern from Missouri Star Quilt Co. for this quilt.  The little blue "star" in the middle of the quilt is just me being quirky.  I'm about halfway done with hand quilting it with brown perle cotton thread in large stitches. 
My friend Beth celebrated a birthday recently.  It just so happened that she invited our family to join hers for their annual trip to the water park in Old Forge this year, right around the same time as her birthday, so I thought it would be fun to make her a big beach bag!  Her Mom told me she really likes all shades of blue, so I used that as a starting point.  The bottom of the bag is upcycled denim from a pair of jeans that my son outgrew after one wearing.  Some of the patches are denim, too.  I tried to find something in my stash that was bright and cheery and found the pretty yellow print in the bottom of a box packed for the move.  From there, it was easy to pick colors to go along and in less than a day, a new bag was born.  I never could find the right lighting for a good picture of this one, (I never take good photos!), but this will have to do. 

That's about it for now.  Until next time...Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Simply Woven Quilt-Finished

 It's only 24" x 24", but it took almost 3 weeks to get it all done.  It's my Simply Woven quilt that I will be entering into the county fair this year. 
All cotton, machine pieced and hand quilted with Gutermann thread.  Warm and Natural batting (I really love the weight of this batting!). 

Keeping my fingers crossed that it's bright enough to attract attention from the judges. 

Happy Stitching!

Friday, June 21, 2013

School is out...finally!  This year, we had a really great experience with my youngest son's 3rd grade teacher.  The whole year was just a series of really good days.  As a thank you, we wanted to do something extra special for her, a bit above and beyond the traditional gift card or coffee mug.  After a bit of online reading, I learned that most teachers hate the gifts they receive and just wind up selling them or giving them away.  Candles, coffee mugs, candy, plants, flowers.  Year after year, it's the same old thing.  What they really want is gift cards to spas, liquor stores or coffee shops for those who feel entitled.  Cold, hard cash for school supplies or a little card or letter of thanks from the child, for those who don't.  Seeing as how we already bought $50 worth of Yankee Candle stuff (my son's idea) before we read that candles were a bad idea, we decided to take the more expensive one back and buy school supplies with the money instead.

We printed the school supply list from her website and bought two of each thing.  Into a little plastic tote it all went with the Yankee Candle that we didn't take back.  But it all didn't seem "personal" enough, even with cards of thanks from both of us.  My son wanted to make a little mug rug to put under the candle, but the design morphed into this wall quilt.  The colors are all of his choosing and he helped me to create the pattern, as well. 

My son said she seemed pleased with the entire package, which made him very happy.  It may not be a gift card to the spa, but it came from the heart. 

I'm knee deep into the lattice quilt for Sarah and elbow deep into my entry for the county fair, but sometimes I just have to take a break and do something quick and fun. 

My boys have discovered the fun of having a penpal.  Their penpal is the autistic son of Eagle1's boss at his new job.  Each time Little E gets a letter or postcard from NY, it just makes his day.  His father tells Eagle1 that he reads them over and over again and sometimes takes the cards to bed at night. 
I thought it would be a fun surprise to send him a little present along with the next letter the boys write.  According to his letters and his Dad, he likes the ocean, surfing, fishing, hiking and just about all things outdoors.  His favorite colors are blue and green, in particular the ocean shades of blue and green.  So, a few strips of pretty color and some applique later, we have a 18" sq wall hanging that Little E can hang next to his surfer poster in his room.  Now, we are just waiting for another letter from Little E so that we can "reply" to him.  I wish we could be there to see his smile.  :) 

I'm off to find a pattern for Build-A-Bear boxer shorts so that our new "children" don't get us arrested for indecent exposure.  Happy Stitching to all!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Is it Spring or Summer?  Today, it's really hard to tell.  The calendar says 31 May but the thermometer says 90 degrees.  For Northern NY, this is most definitely unusual weather.  Not quite two weeks ago it was still snowing!  It's pointless to question Mother Nature, but sometimes I just have to wonder about her mood swings. 

So, today, despite the heat, I'm going to pretend it's still Springtime and share a photo of the pretty flowers my boys gave me for Mother's Day. 

                                  The great thing about these is that the boys thought to get them all on their own!  My oldest boy even arranged to have one of his school friends, whose mother makes jewelry, bring in a few of her pieces so that he could pick out a secret present.  Normally, my Eagle1 hauls the boys to the store to pick out a little something, but he isn't here this year and I think the thought that the boys put into their selections means just as much, if not more, to me than the actual gift.
On warm days, like today, it's hard for me to find the motivation to break out the big quilting projects, so I normally dig around in my bin of "take alongs" and find something small to play with.  The other day, while Eagle1 was home on a weekend pass, he picked up a stomach bug that landed him in the ER.  Knowing that our ER is slow as molasses, I made sure to pack a little take along to keep me busy while we waited.  While digging through the Ziploc bags of this and that, mostly cross stitch and embroidery, I found these two little kitchen towels that I finished a while ago.  I don't recall where or when I finished them, but there they were in the baggie, folded so neat. 
The April Bunny iron-on stayed under the iron just a bit too long, leaving a heat mark on the fabric.  I doubt it will wash out, but it's really okay.  These are just for drying the dishes in our own little home so not to worry about making a good impression.  I think I only have 4 more towels to go before all 12 months are complete.  Good thing too, because my old dish towels need to be replaced soon. 
Something that brought a big sunny smile to my face yesterday was an email from my friend Kay from Illinois. She works in the medical field and one of her nursing friends is expecting a baby girl soon.                                                            Kay was looking for a shower gift

and remembered all of the little quilts I make.  She wrote yesterday to say that the quilt she bought for the baby was a hit with all of her nursing friends and that she shared my Facebook page with them to help bring in a little business for me!  What an awesome friend I have!
One last thing to share that reminds me of Spring is the "Simply Woven" quilt I am making for another friend, Sarah in Massachusetts.  I found this pattern at the Moda Bake Shop website, here-  .  My version is done all in scrappy fashion with plenty of lime green variations (Sarah's favorite color). 
These are the first 12 blocks of 42 total.  They measure out to 12.5" each and I think I've completed 14 or 15 so far.  Still a long ways to go, not just with the piecing, but the quilting too, because this one will be done by hand with perle cotton in all the colors of the rainbow.  I'll have more photos later as progress is made. 
In the meantime, the Stone Soup Charm Quilt project is still alive, although I had to jump start it a time or two the past 6 months to keep it ticking.  I've made it to #184 of the 2" squares being sewn into 4" blocks.  A few more folks contributed to the quilt which gave me a reason to buy a few new charm packs to work with.  (Do we ever really need a reason to buy fabric? An excuse is more like it!)  I don't have any recent pics to share of this project, but maybe soon...

Until then, Happy Stitching everyone! 

P.S.-If you are taking a break between blocks, check out my FB page:  for the other tidbits that aren't posted here!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Yes, it's been more than a year since I last wrote to this lonesome little blog.  There is a draft entry from May 2012 saved under some cobwebs in the corner but it seems pointless to drag it out now.  I don't know if I can remember so far back to December 2011 or all of the things that have come and gone since then, but I'll dig up what I can and hope for the best.

Eagle1 is home safe and sound from across the pond.  Our plans to retire went "Poof!" when the Obama Admin started cutting jobs in the civilian sector with the sequester.   We're 23 years into the camoflauge life and still holding on. 

The new blog background is a photo of a quilt I finished 1 October 2012.  I replaced an old wedding ring quilt that we had on the couch with bright pretty colors that totally clash with everything else we have in the house.  Do I care?  Not a bit!  A few of my friends suggested names for this quilt because I couldn't think of anything that day.  We settled on "Countrytime".  Very fitting if I do say so myself. 

 Eagle1 did drive me all the way to Binghamton (I think that's the name) to buy a Grace quilting frame from a lady who posted on Craigslist.  She advertised it as being "new", but when we got there, well, we were a bit disappointed.  All in all, it was in very good condition and we drove too far to go back empty handed.  It took us quite a few hours to get it put together.  I put my little Brother machine on it just to get the feel of it all and realized two things immediately.  Number one was that I was going to love quilting on this monster of a frame and number two was that I needed a bigger, more powerful machine to go with the frame.  Now, at the time, I didn't realize that all of these new toys that Eagle1 was buying for me were really his sneaky way of buttering me up for when he dropped the bomb that he wanted to buy a Harley, but hindsight is 20/20.  I had a quilt top setting in a tote made of leftovers from a friends present, so when I got the new machine up and running, on the rollers it went.  If you ever liked to doodle on paper with a pencil when you were a kid, this is right up your alley.  Sure, I could have been more creative with it, but to be really honest, it was just too much fun to "scribble" all over that quilt with needle and thread.  It didn't turn out too bad for being my first one. 

I broke out the jellyroll of pretty pastels I'd been hoarding for a while and made another top to doodle on.  I'm not sure what happened during the quilting part of the deal, but the top stretched or distorted while being rolled on the frame bars, so when it came time to trim the edges, nothing lined up straight. 

Seeing as how I'm a little cockeyed myself, you can bet this one came out very not-square by almost an inch despite my best efforts. 
It was still fun to play with, but I learned a very valuable lesson.  (Don't ask me what it is right now.  I can't remember!)  My notes claim that I completed this one on 23 December 2012.  The last one of the year!

Going back in time just a bit to February 2012, I found the "Lattice Quilt" photo. This one, like most of my projects lately, is very scrappy. I don't know if it's because I love the look of scrappy quilts or that I just can't match fabric to save my soul, but scrappy is where I always find happiness so I'm going to stick with it.

The lattice quilt went to my friend Steve in Colorado.  He's always the first to give such sweet compliments on my work when I share photos with friends.  I like knowing that my work goes to people who really enjoy it.
Well, I'll save the rest for another day.  Happy Stitching to all!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Gifts, Baby Gifts, Birthday Gifts

It's been a little while since I've been here, but there is good reason for that.  The biggest news of course is that Eagle1 is coming home for Christmas pretty soon, so the boys and I have been full throttle getting everything decorated just so and planning all of the things we would like to do while he is home.  Of course, there is also Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, school, chores, school concerts and now wrestling.  I'm one tired puppy!  Not so tired that I don't make time for little handmade goodies for my darling nieces in Houston. 

The two oldest are building up their beauty supply arsenal in preparation for the teen years.  Nothing wrong with helping them out a little, right?  Especially when there is a free pattern out there to make this super easy and adorable little cosmetic bagTheir pattern calls for 1.5" strips, but I had a jelly roll from JoAnn Fabrics with all of these bright colored flowers so I substituted 5-2.5" strips for the 10 the recipe called for.  My youngest helped to pick out the matching buttons for his favorite cousins presents.  :) 
Let's see...I've finished up a couple of other things, too. There was the Americana baby afghan and little bitty matching hat for the family of a soldier under Eagle1's command.  They had a beautiful baby girl right before Thanksgiving.  Sadly, Dad didn't make it home in time for the birth, but he did get to come a few days later for the Thanksgiving holiday. 
Can't forget the new kitchen curtains!  Three valances and a pair of panels to match.  Yes, the Christmas bug bit me early and hard this year.  I love plaid, especially Christmas plaid!  The great thing about these though, is that they go so well with everything we already have in the house during the rest of the year that if I don't feel like taking them down after winter, I don't have to! 
Then, there are the hexi's.  They are fun to mess with but I'm not very good at them.  I do okay up until the part where I have to sew them all together.  I don't care for the look of the thread showing on the front.  Sorry if that sounds snobbish, but I'm just kind of particular that way.  I found a tutorial showing how to sew them together without placing them right sides together and whipstitching the edges but my silly hands cramp up really bad trying to hold them that way.  When that failed, I bought a spool of translucent nylon thread and went back to the old way of piecing them.  This is my first time sewing with "fishing line" and it's kind of a pain in the butt.  It doesn't show through to the front though, so I'll make do with it...for now. 

This set...well, it's for me.  :)  Eagle1 picked out a beautiful new coat for my birthday a few weeks ago.  Before it even arrived at the door,  I had these made!  Tomorrow I get to try them all on.  Today is my last day of being able to officially claim being a "30-something".  It will be a bittersweet day because the one person  I wanted to spend it with is protecting our freedom overseas...again.  There is much more to share, but it can wait for another day.  This week will be a busy one, but if I can sneak off to the sewing room in between "Hey Mom's", you betcha I'll be there. 

Merry Christmas to all and the very best of New Year's wishes.  If you can talk Old Man Winter into sending us some snow for Christmas, please do!   We're running late on the white stuff this year. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bite The Bullet

So, today I bit the bullet. 

I listed not just one, but 4 of my handmade items on Etsy.  My stomach is in a knot.  I don't know if I've priced them too high or not high enough.  I don't even know if I've done this right, because two of my items aren't even viewable, whether you search for them by name or just in general.   Maybe the Etsy staff has to review each submission before it's actually posted?  I know that sooner or later I'll be an old hand at all of this and laugh at this blog entry, but right now I can't find the humor. 
Along with the Flutterby Butterfly quilt above, I listed this little Granny Square baby afghan.  With the extra yarn, I made two matching little baby hats. 
I'm running out of space in the sewing room, so I've decided to share some of my goodies.  The yarn stash is the first to go, since technically I'm not supposed to be doing crochet anymore.  (Carpal tunnel=ouch!)  While I was digging and sorting, I found these little dish rags.  I have a closet full of them because these are my "taste testers", to see if I actually like a stitch before I go whole hog into a big project. 
Then there is the super soft pastel baby afghan.  I love pastels!  Hopefully, someone else out there loves them, too!  :)  I'd really love to put a little more money in the piggy bank towards my quilting frame.  Wish me luck and stop by SugarTreeStitching on Etsy if you get a few minutes.  I sure hope my butteflies fly away soon! 
Happy Sewing~Happy Friday!

11 Sept 2011 Update- The Flutterby Butterfly quilt sold yesterday afternoon!  I'm stunned that it sold so quickly and very happy that someone out in the big wide world liked my work enough to buy it.  Thank you to the sweet lady in Tennessee.  I hope you love your new quilt as much as I loved making it! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Homespun Rag Quilt

The Rag Quilt is done!  My hand is sore from all of the seam snipping because I didn't buy a pair of rag shears, but that's okay.  I've washed it twice to get the ragging effect going but I'm thinking about 3-4 more times might really get it where I would like it to be.  Not today though.  There are clothes and bed linens to wash that take precedence.  Boo! :(   LOL! 

I'm really happy I got this done before Eagle1 comes home on leave.  He still has no idea. hehe  I'm going to make a couple of throw pillows and find a couple of colorful pillow cases to match.  Maybe when we get a little extra money I can buy a few charm packs to make valances or curtains with.  One of these days I hope to have a real log bed frame and some matching dressers, but that's a dream for another day. 
This is Ranger.  She's my Quality Assurance checker for all things quilted.  She does a very good job! 

Now, it's time to clean up all of the strands of fabric from all over the house.  I'm sure when Ranger gets done with her inspection she will help me.  :) 

Happy Quilting to all!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Little of This and A Little of That

Tonight I reached the halfway point on the homespun rag quilt.  No new pictures to share though, sorry.  :(  It's turning out to be very pretty!  I have to say that even with all of the bright colors, making a rag quilt is just plain boring now that I've learned how to piece more intricate blocks.  I do love the "rustic/home" feel of a rag quilt but the process is just blah.  I'm really dreading all of the seam snipping time I have yet to put into this one. 

We spent a couple of hours at the fairground park today and I was able to piece together several more blocks for the charm quilt.  I'm loving that quilt more and more with each stitch.  It's just so random sewing all of the colors together without concern for anything other than the blocks lining up straight.  I'm really have a great time with it!

The advent calendars for the boys are coming along slowly, too.  I work on the pockets for those while we are at swim practice during the week.  Wednesday I finished another set of pockets and picked up the December embroidery towel just for something different.  Sometimes I wish I could stay focused on just one project but then again, I'm the type of person who, if I get bored with something, I have to re-direct my attention to regain my motivation or else I'll get sloppy and do a poor job just to be done with it.  It's good to know your limitations.  :) 

The results of the County Fair quilt judging are in and...I didn't stand a chance!  Honestly, there are some seriously talented folks in Lewis County!  Granted, I'm up against not only the Amish and Mennonite ladies, but also the native Northern New York women who have been handed down the art of quilting from so many generations that even they have lost count.  I am a little upset that they didn't make more of an effort to display some of the smaller quilts better (most were merely folded in half and draped over a dowel).  Most quilts, mine included, have the fancy needlework more towards the center of the quilt, not along the edges.  When they are folded in half and "hung to dry", only a quarter of the quilt is on display, which seems pointless to me.  All in all, it was an interesting experience but I don't know if I will submit another quilt for judging at the next fair.  Maybe when I have more experience...

Happy Stitching to all!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hand Piecing the Charm Quilt-Week 1

The charm quilt has been slow going but I have made a little progress this past week. I still have a bit more embroidery to do on some of the blocks but I think I'll tackle those as I come across them so that I can take a mini break from hand piecing all of those little squares. The blocks in each row are sewn together in this picture but the rows are not, so they won't necessarily be in this order when it's all said and done.
Part of the reason for not making much progress is this little thingamabob.   This is the nameplate for the Minky Monster.  It's made out of minky, too.  Now that we aren't hitting 99 degrees with 85% humidity anymore I'll have to drag this behemoth out of its cave and finish it up. 
Now for the surprise stuff.  A few posts ago I made mention of the homespun fabric I used to make the needle case.  Well, what I didn't say was what I was doing with the rest of the homespun.  :)  This is my first experience with this type of material but I am truly in love with everything about it.  I bought these from Jubilee Homespun about 3 months ago and I'm so happy I did.  Their fabrics are fabulous! 

Rag quilts aren't my favorite type of quilt by far, but when I saw what they did with these fabrics it inspired me, you know, the little butterflies of happiness that float around when you find something you love love love! 
I added several blocks of denim from my boys' old jeans to the mix and even appliqued butterflies, flowers and hearts to some of them.  There is a hand embroidered name block for each person in our family, as well. 
The blocks are 7" square, so finished they will measure out to 6" as each seam allowance is 1/2" for the ragging.  The rows count out to 17 w X 15 l which will be the perfect size for our king size bed.  So far, I've sewn four rows together and it looks fantastic!  The best part about all of this is my husband has no idea I'm making it so it will be a complete surprise to him when he comes home for mid-tour leave in the fall!  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll have enough left over to make a couple of throw pillows with the leftovers but if not, I will just buy a little more.  Yes, it is really that good! 
This one is so big that I couldn't find floor space in the house to lay out the blocks so I had to wrestle with the wind and design it in the backyard.  Thankfully, I just mowed not too long ago! 

Overall, it's been a busy week or two, especially since my oldest was away at summer camp.   We're back to normal now, or as normal as we can be with Daddy being away. 

Happy stitching to all!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Stone Soup Charm Quilt

Back on 27 February 2011, I created a Facebook page called "The Stone Soup Charm Quilt Project" and invited a handful of my friends and family to help me create a unique quilt using more than 1,700 different pieces of fabric.   On the 9th of March I mailed out packets containing registry cards, instructions and ziploc bags.  The idea was to have each person send back a 3" x 3" or larger piece of fabric along with the pre-printed card containing their name, birthdate, hometown and current city/state of residence.  As this is basically a "Friendship" quilt, I thought it would be interesting and fun to include a little information about who helped to create the quilt to whomever winds up with it later on. 
The group grew to a whole whopping 18 members, 10 of whom sent back the packets with their registry cards.  Quite honestly, I am a bit disappointed that I couldn't encourage more of my friends and family to participate, especially since this quilt feels more and more like a lifetime achievement project than anything and I really wanted them to be a part of it.  I've never been much of a salesman, so maybe I should have tried harder.  (I don't like to be pushy.) 

So now, here it is, 9 July 2011 and I have officially completed collecting all 1,757 pieces I need to begin hand piecing this quilt together.  The design is my own, simple but hopefully unique.  I spent 9 hours today sorting and checking to make sure that there are not any matching pieces.  (A true charm quilt doesn't have any two pieces of the same print or color or in some cases, only one set that matches, which turns the quilt into a hide and seek game.)  I decided to cut two matching pieces from one of my old maternity night gowns to use as the one and only matching set.  The nightgown is the one item of clothing I own that I used through both of my pregnanies and the many months of nursing with my two boys.
My husband has mailed a piece of his Army uniform, a multi-cam print from Afghanistan, to be the centerpiece of the quilt.   His unit patches, along with those of my active duty and prior service friends, will be sewn to the back of the quilt above or below their names.  The name of each person who sent in a piece of fabric for the quilt top will also be embroidered into the quilt backing.  I'm not sure yet what I will use for the backing and binding, but sometimes you just have to get the feel of something before you can decide how best to finish it.  Right now, I'm kind of leaning towards a red binding in 30's reproduction, but time will tell.  The backing will have be light colored with a small scale almost neutral print so as not to distract from the names and patches that will be sewn to it.  I've decided not to buy anything at all for the backing until I come across something I'm head over heels in love with.  Yeah, that will take a while to find!  

I have a ton of scraps from all of these little pieces, two full buckets to be exact!  Maybe a postage stamp quilt and yet another scrap quilt or two are in my future.  :)  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Un-quilting the Minky Monster

Nine days of hand quilting can be undone in less than an hour.  Did you know that?  No?  Neither did I, until yesterday.  My brilliant idea of hand quilting the ginormous minky monster wasn't such a great one after all.  While researching how to work with minky I read that tying was the best way to secure the layers.  This quilt is so large and heavy though that tying just didn't seem like it would be strong enough, so I decided to quilt it instead.  The center block turned out beautifully!  It took forever but it gave me the motivation to move on to the next block just below it. 

That's where I ran into the trouble.  :(

I'm not sure exactly why, but the more I quilted, the more distorted the block became.  It puckered, it twisted, it bulged.  It was just plain ugly.  I stared at it, pulled at it, wished for it lay flat and pretty, but in the end it was just a lumpy mess.  To be honest, if this quilt was for me, I would have rolled it in a ball and buried it deep in the depths of the UFO black hole.  I can't though.  Not this time.  This one is bought and mostly paid for by someone else, so another day of sunlight it shall see. 

The hardest part of ripping stitches out of minky is simply finding the stitches.  Once you pop one you can gently tug the layers apart and pull the stitches a few at a time.  Then it's hunt and peck for the next stitch using the tail of thread you just yanked loose. 

I wanted to cry, more and more with each unsewn stitch.  So, now I'm just angry that I've lost all of those days of work only to have to tie the damn quilt after all.  That's what I get for not taking the advice of someone more experienced than myself.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Year In Stitches

Several months ago while shopping in Joann's, I saw the cutest little iron-on transfers for each month of the year.  I'm a sucker for little needlwork projects that I can slide into my handbag as I'm running out the door, so along with a package of flour sack towels, I headed to the checkout lane.  I embroidered the one for May first because it seemed to have the least complicated pattern and I figured, if I'm going to mess up I would rather do it on something small.  It came out very pretty though and I'll have to pull it out of the kitchen drawer later on for it's mugshot. 
Having a bit more confidence, I fixed up the August, October and December towels and into the ziploc baggie they went.  October was kind of bland in my opinion, but then I'm not one who cares for white-on-white for craft projects.  August was fun for all of the bright colors and my new friend Liz suggested using Mint Chocolate Chip for the ice cream.  Very cute idea!  I haven't started December yet, but just a few minutes ago I ordered a few more packages of towels so that I can complete the whole years' worth of stitching.  The great thing about the flour sack towels is that I cut them in half lengthwise and sewed on a new hem for each.  The towels are 33" x 38" out of the package, which is just too big for my needs.  They aren't really expensive at about $7 for two, but if I can conserve/recycle a bit I'm all for it!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Embroidered Needle Case

No matter where I go, you can pretty much bet that I'm going to have some small needle work project packed away in either my handbag or a quilted tote.
I just can't sit still and look at a magazine in a waiting room or people watch, even though there are some pretty interesting characters out and about these days.  I'd rather have busy hands and a creative mind working away than to do anything else.  
A few months ago I emptied out a cinnamon shaker making the boys some toast, so I washed out the shaker thinking it would make a nifty sewing needle case. It worked okay for a while, but I got tired of having to empty out the whole jar just to find the right size needle for the project I was working on. My fingers don't quite work as well as they used to and those little needles can be the devil to get up when you have them scattered all over.

Well, a few nights ago I was reading up on quilting ideas and ran across a cute little sewing needle case someone had made. Very simple to make if you don't have alot of time to invest in it. 
Needing a break from the 300 lb. Minky Monster, (okay, I'm's only 200!), I spent the late hours of last night and part of this afternoon embroidering a little sugar tree onto a piece of the boys old blue jeans. I hacked a small bit of homespun (shhh! can't talk about the homespun's a surprise!) off to make the binding and dug through the fabric shelves for some bright pretty yellow, reddish pink and green fabrics to match. The binding gave me a bit of trouble for some reason, maybe because I'm not used to working with homespun, but it did come out okay otherwise.    I drew the tree by hand with a pencil and just embroidered the leaves wherever I thought they would look nice.  The whole thing is just a little lopsided but that's okay, too.  I like it all the same.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Progress on the Minky Monster

So, we've made it to the halfway-pieced, sewing the blocks together part of the quilt making process for the aptly named "Minky Monster". The first vertical row is finished to include borders and the open seams are pinned flat to make life easier when it comes time to make the quilt sandwich. I was able to stitch about half of the second vertical row together today in between, "Hey Mom's!", but that was about it. After tomorrow I should have the rest of the week to really sink my teeth into this one.
I was really hoping to be able to tie this quilt because the Lt. is so anxious and happy to get it that I didn't want to keep him waiting for too long. The more I work with it though, I'm just not convinced that tying is going to be the best method. After I get the sandwich made, this quilt will weigh right at about 25 lbs. Yes, you read that right. 25! No matter what else happens with this quilt, when this one is complete I'm going to have some well toned arms!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Minky Bullseye

A few weeks ago I wrote that one of Eagle1's buddies downrange was drafting his own quilt pattern. He chose a black, red and white color scheme in a bullseye pattern using Minky fabric. Drawing up a scale pattern along with cutting diagram and shopping list took little time at all. Finding a decent price on 17 yards of Minky was a different story.
It's all here though, and in less than a week, too! So, I spent today washing and drying, then trying my hand at the dreaded stretchy, slippery, super soft, oh-so-cuddly mountain on my cutting table. Thankfully, I did a bunch of research before the box of goodies even arrived, and I have to say I'm so very grateful to everyone who posted tips and tricks for working with this stuff. So far, the hardest part is getting all of the nap to flow in the same direction so that it doesn't look sloppy. (We won't talk about the 10 different times I had to vacuum the sewing room because of the "minky snow" left from cutting!) It's coming along though and at a quicker pace than I expected. Even with all of the horror stories I've read, I'll say that I haven't experienced any of them...yet. By far, my favorite thing about Minky, besides the feel of it!, is that with a 1/2" seam allowance you don't have to mess with trying to press seams. They just naturally fall to either side and the only thing you have to worry about is making sure they stay that way when you piece the blocks together so that they stay flat. Quilting without a hot iron. Who'd have thought?