Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Little Miracles

Yesterday was such a beautiful summer day here in Southern Ontario so I took the opportunity to head out to the blueberry farm. Blueberry season is a little later this year and I always go out to pick with whomever I can drag along with me. Last year I took my sister and her girls (see here). I used to make the kids come along when they were younger, but they flatly refuse to come now...too early for teenagers to roll out of bed!
I learned the love of picking blueberries from my mother-in-law. It has always been one of her greatest pleasures in life to pick berries and since she is 84 years old, it is getting harder for her each year. Considering we thought she might die last fall and she spent about 2 months in hospital too weak to even walk by herself, it was a miracle that she could be here this summer to pick blueberries. Here she is, sitting on a stool picking the low berries, and I picked the higher ones. This photo makes me smile because even though it was hot and I was sweating, she has a jacket on so she won't catch a chill! I picked 17 litres of berries and she picked about 6 litres to share with the other seniors in the facility where she now lives.
I find that I am getting more like her every year (shudder) and this year she has convinced me that I can make jam. Now, I come from a long line of domestically challenged women, so if I could actually make a tasty jam, that would be the second miracle for the day!
Secretly I have always wanted to be a jam maker/domestic goddess. I love all types of jam but my husband is very specific about the only jam he will eat (Smuckers Sugar Free). I know he won't eat this stuff because it has 4 cups of sugar in it, but if it turns out to be good, I'm sure the kids and I can polish it off in no time. I just made the refrigerator version since I don't know anything about how to seal/sterilize jars properly (that is next on the list of things I'd like to learn).
And here is the finished product...after hours of work...
ta da...7 jars of blueberry rhubarb jam made from rhubarb in my garden and berries I picked in the morning. My official taste tester told me "the flavour and texture and colour are perfect"!! I was so happy!! It really is a great feeling of accomplishment....unlike sewing borders on quilts!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Border time

I enjoy very step of quiltmaking except sewing on borders. I really dislike the measuring (and the wide variations of those measurements!), the figuring, the time spent pinning, then struggling and pulling to get the border strip to end at the same time as the quilt top when I am sewing the two together. In fact I try to avoid these steps, or at least minimize the pain by just making one quick and easy border. I admire those of you who make multiple and/or complex pieced borders that always seem to lay flat.
But sometimes, when you have a stack of UFO's that just need borders, you have to just force yourself to get 'r done!! So, I am bribing myself this weekend to get the borders on at least two projects. I bought these beautiful cherries at the market (and hid them on the kids) and they were my rewards for tackling the borders. Yum yum!!
First I tackled the smaller project - the Kwik Scrappy Star. I got all the blocks together easily and was chiding myself for all the fuss I made about piecing the blocks in the first place (read about it here) since they came together just great. I decided to go with a 1" inner border and 3" outer border. The borders weren't too hard to deal with, except for a ridiculous cutting mistake that made me piece together the top and bottom gold borders. Now I just need to buy some quilting thread and this will actually be finished in record time (less than a year !).
While enjoying that feeling of success, I moved on to the OC, which is about a thousand times bigger than the star quilt! I worked out that the amount of black fabric I had leftover would allow me to make a 1.5" inner border. I sewed the side borders on with the quilt top on the feed dogs, since I knew there would be some easing in to do! But that resulted in not being able to see where the seam was coming through the pieced blocks and I sewed over most of the block points. Ugh! I really don't like that. So, today I am doing the frog stitch (rip it, rip it) and taking off those borders and sewing them on again, this time with the borders on the feed dogs and the quilt top where I can keep an eye on it. Wish me luck...the cherries are all gone!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BeAttitudes Block 1 - January

I do try to resist signing up for Block of the Month projects and swaps because I just know that I won't finish on time, and then I'll be stressed out. But this year I think my resistance has been a bit low and I have signed up for too many projects! Here is one of them - the BeAttitudes quilt. (You can read about my beginning of the quilt here.) On the left is the base of block one. On the right is the snowman and words all fused into place. I am getting quite handy with the fusing - and have a clean iron to prove it!!!
I thought this BOM would be a good project for getting to know my Janome Jem Platinum better. It was my first attempt at the buttonhole (or anything other than straight!) stitch since I got this machine for Christmas. It sure took a lot of getting used to, especially figuring out how to turn the corners. I decided to use a water soluble stabilizer on the back since the block was puckering up quite a bit. But I need to shop for some more since I could only find small leftover pieces to do the stitching of the various parts of the snowwoman. Oh well, it worked out fine.
I wasn't sure how to deal with all these threads, so I just left them where they were and then pulled them all to the back of the block, made knots and hand stitched the ends. It was a lot of stopping and starting, and therefore lots of threads to sew in. Does anyone have any tips about how to do this in an easier way?!?
Here is the January block finished! Yes I know it is July, but hey, it only started recently (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!). The pattern calls for embellishments (like a carrot nose for the snowwoman) and I know they have the original Nancy Halvorsen buttons at Keepsake Quilting. I am still trying to decide if I would enjoy shopping for my own embellishments or buy the package.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fabric Box

My friend Judy has made about a million fabric boxes and I thought I would like to learn how to make them, just in case I got it in my mind to make them for my nieces and nephews for Christmas gifts. Judy agreed to give me a boxing lesson and give me some pointers - thanks Judy! Her boxes were all so pretty, but man are they hard to make! I really don't know if I want to make 14 more of them! I think I might have that out of my system now!
Here are all my pieces laying on the fabric, and I'm trying to see if I have enough of it to make this box - size is 2" x 3". You cut the matt board pieces for the inside and the outside, then glue all those pieces to batting. Then you cut out all the pieces and wrap the fabric around the board and batting, and glue it like crazy. I was too stingey on the glue and I didn't buy the right kind (you need the white UHU not the purple). But I managed to get the pieces to stick and didn't glue my fingers to the box, so that was good!
Here are the bottom and side pieces finished for my box and for Judy's. Aren't they pretty?!?! That was the fun part over.
Then you have to struggle and fight with the thing to hand stitch the seams closed...and that was not fun! I couldn't get my bottom to fit nicely inside the box like Judy's did. Figures that my bottom is TOO BIG!
I didn't give up and I did manage to finish it. I took the photo on the left to show you how small it actually is - inside are beading/Nymo bobbins.
Unfortunately, the more I look at it, the more great ideas I am getting to make these for kids gifts. But if I just hold off a little while, maybe I will forget about those ideas and buy some boxes at the dollar store??!!?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Working, stitching, visiting, and blogging

I am on call for work today and so far, it's been a blog surfing and doing laundry kind of day!
Here is what I found out how to do from my blog surfing...

This is called a "wordle" and is composed from the words I use most frequently in my blog. It is disappointing that the words "time" and "working" are some of the largest, which means they are the most frequently used words on my blog. I wish that the biggest words would be "fun" and "relaxation"!
I'll "work" on that!
You can try making one of your own if you have time to waste today - click here.
Yesterday I went to the Mount Forest Fireworks Festival Quilt Show with my oldest (as in "long time", not as in "elderly") quilt friend Louise. It was a beautiful sunny summer day and I enjoyed the long drive to her farm. We sat out on her deck eating blueberries, watching her children play, enjoying one of my favorite smells... freshly baled hay. We chatted and stitched and laughed. Well, one of us was stitching and one of us was only talking, but we both were laughing!!! This is one of the words on the block I was stitching - block #5 of Journey of a Quilter. You can see some of my blocks by clicking here. (Please don't notice that these blog entries are from 2007! Thank you!) I am making progress on this quilt at a snail's pace, but seeing Sarah's photos of her hand quilting of this quilt is very inspiring and makes me want to get to work on - I mean "enjoy"- this stitching more frequently!
It was great fun finding friends at the Quilt Show that I hadn't seen for a long time, and see the quilts they have made. It was also fun to run into some "blog stalkers" - mother-daughter dynamic duo Karen and Melanie! They said they read my blog all the time. I am always surprised to hear this from people and makes me think I should write something more profound and important if all these people are going to be reading it. Hmmm...I'll try to "work" on that!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Making progress

It has been too hot here, and I have been working too many hours to fit in much quilting time. But I have had a few free moments to do something other than watch my tomatoes grow! Here they are! Aren't they so cute?!?!
Yes I actually have something other than weeds growing in my garden, since nothing was happening for a very long time! But just like Libby said, "before you know it, everything will be flourishing right before your very eyes". Everything except the carrots and cucumbers - those seeds did not produce a single green sprout! But that made more room for the mutant crazy tomatoes.
I have had a similar struggle with my Kwik Scrappy Star blocks. It was such an interesting process working on this pattern, because the block seams are not straight lines and this caused my traditional quilter brain lots of anxiety. It just wasn't working out in my mind. I wrote on the blog last week that I contacted the pattern designer for reassurance, and she told me I was doing everything right and to keep on going. So I did. This is how the seam edges look, and then you match them to another seam and sew them together. I had to even up the edges to a straight line since I couldn't cope otherwise!! I was anxious, working slowly, re-reading the instructions frequently, and not liking the project, until the first block came together and looked great. And then I loved it!
There are 6 gold star blocks and 6 black star blocks in this layout. I am almost ready to sew the top together!
See...if I am just patient, and do the right thing, everything comes together - with gardens and quilts!
And life?!????
I am hoping that another project I am working on will come together too - come visit my blog on the weekend to see how my new fabric boxes are working out - or not!
Some exciting blogging news it that two of my quilt blog friends Sharon and Paula have given me the "Brilliante Weblog award"! Thanks you guys! I really appreciate your wonderful comments about me - that made my day!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A little tiny finish

In the spring I ordered these treats from Bird Brain Designs as an easter present for myself. I haven't tried the perle floss yet - I'm still a DMC user! I promise to try it on my next project and see how it works. I first saw Darlene's completed sampler on her blog called Quilting Daze and loved it. I stitched a small block of the Easter Sampler design for a hand stitching demo and it has been sitting patiently waiting for me to do something with it. This photo is a little yellowish, but here is the hand stitching completed.
I decided to make one of my favorite paper pieced patterns for the border. It's just a simple design, but I really enjoy sewing it. I taught this as a class in the fall, but I don't see any photos of it on my blog - hmmm, don't know if I forgot to post those? I'll look for those photos and post them tomorrow if I find them.
Anyway, here is a photo of trying to figure out what the size of the border should be and how many spikes I will need in the pattern. It looks much bigger in these photos than it really is...the finished size is just a bit bigger than 6" square! Once I figured out the math, I strip paper pieced the border pieces, sewed them on the block, and then machine quilted. I stippled the background, and stitched in the ditch around the border spikes.
Then I thought I'd try a new binding technique that I learned from Anne Morrell Robinson at Quilt Canada. I wish I would have taken a photo to remind me how to do it, because here is how my first attempts looked! That's not going to work! I eventually remembered how to do it correctly, and was happy with how the corners layed flat.
So here is the finished project...anybody have an idea for a name for this little cutie????!?!

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Project - Kwik Scrappy Star

Every time my husband sees me working on a project, he gets annoyed that it is not the quilt he picked out for me to make for his office. He oftens asks me how his quilt is coming along. He picked out the project when we were on the shop hop, I mean when we were celebrating our anniversary - remember this? The pattern is called Kwik Scrappy Star.
Here are the fabrics I decided to use - some are from the kit and some I substituted. I don't really like to work with course weave homespun fabrics, so I substituted those. I picked out some alternatives, letting hubby think that he had some choice in the decision. Luckily he picked the fabrics I liked/pre-selected, so it all worked out!
This pattern was not really kwik or easy! Here are the freezer paper templates and the pieces cut. The getting ready to sew part was only manageable by reading the instructions slowly and carefully, and controlling my anxiety that it would all work out! My non-analytical mind could not figure out how this was going to come together.
And then I got stuck. After the first sewing step, I couldn't get the next seams to line up. So I took a photo of the problem, with my wooden skewers pointing to the uneven seams and contacted the pattern company called Two Kwik Quilters. They got back to me right away, which I loved, and reassured me that I had done all the steps correctly and could continue as the instructions indicate. Or I could trim the seams if I wanted to - which I did. My mind couldn't get around the concept of not having two straight seams to line up together. Too many years of sewing traditional mini quilts?!?!? I'm hoping to continue working on the stars on the weekend, so I have something to show my husband the next time he asks "How's my quilt coming along?"!!!!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Blogland Delights

In this post I wrote about receiving a blogging award from Toni. I must admit it was fun to be acknowledged in this way. I have enjoyed thinking about my favorite blogs and whose efforts I should recognize by recommending that you go check them out.
As you probably already have experienced, blogland is immense - endless stories to read and visual treats to enjoy. It can gobble up hours and hours of your relaxation and quilting/beading time. I had to develop some guidelines to help me figure out how to spend this time. I set time limits on my blog activities, usually 30 - 60 minutes before bed while I drink my herbal tea. I write a new post if I am inspired to do so. I check in with as many of my book marked blogs as I can - these are blogs I have found that clicked with my interests and/or inspired me. If I have time I read the sites those posts link to and sometimes find new favorites to add to my list. If I still have time after that, I run through the list of the 2 blogrings I belong to, although that is sometimes frustrating since there are many "dead" blogs that have no new entries for months, but are still kept on the ring. I am going to change how I use that time by signing up for srr feeds as soon as I figure out what that means and how to do it!!!
I recently found this interesting post on "Meet Me at Mike's" blog called "A rough guide to having nice blog manners". Great ideas here about blog etiquette and worth the read! I was able to find that post from clicking on a link while reading this quilting blog - Fiber Babble.
Here are some of my frequently visited blogs:

Beading Blogs
Robin Atkins - the beading queen who has a new book out that I am going to order this week!
The Bead Journal Project - this is the year long project that Robin started and here is the site of some of the finished series. It's not too late to sign up for the 2008 project!

Quilting Blogs
I always read Bonnie's blog and have made both of her mystery quilts (neither one is quilted yet!). She has great patterns to use up your stash and will be publishing a book this fall.
I enjoy Leanne's House and am working on her pattern called "Journey of a Quilter", although I haven't posted my progress in a while, because there has been no progress!!! She has patterns for sale and if you like hand embroidery, you'll love her work. She also is an amazing photographer and I enjoy seeing her photos.
Then I tour around the world and check in on Tanya in Japan , and then over to Andrea in Wales, and usually see what Tazzie in Australia is working on.
Judy's blog is interesting and she is hosting a star Block of the Month starting in August if you are interested.
I read Nicole's blog faithfully and enjoy reading about what her puppy Ozzie is up to! I almost signed up for her 2 colour challenge, but I know I don't have the time. I do have the fabrics picked out though! Here they are - blue and white, and I have the pattern ready too. Just no time!
And every once in a while you come across a quilt blogger challenge that really takes off and here is the link for the "Finish 5 in July" challenge. You can go through the list and see the UFO's that the participants are trying to finish up. There's a few hours of fun reading right there! I almost signed up for that, but knew I wouldn't have time...ugh...so much fun to be had and so few hours in the day!!

Creativity Blog
This is my favorite by Christine Kane and if you are a blogger, here is one of her posts you must read called "18 stupid mistakes bloggers make in their first year".
Well, that should use up your blog reading time for today- do you see the problem!?!?!
How do you handle your desire to participate in blogland and still keep your life going?!?!?

Monday, July 07, 2008

OC top together - working on the border

I finally overcame my procrastination on the weekend and finished sewing my OC blocks together. It is bigger than my design board, so I taped it to the wall for the photo. I don't want it to be much bigger but I do want to use all these split 4 patch blocks we made. So I have been working on ideas for a border that will use up these blocks and won't require purchasing more fabrics since I am almost out of most of the fabrics in this quilt. I used up a lot of stash in this baby - approx. 6.5 yards!
Here is one of the border possibilities - a black inner border made of leftover black scraps and using the
split 4 patch blocks in the corners. I don't know if I have enough black fabric left to do this, so I will work out the numbers and see if it will work. Otherwise I'll use green since I still have some of that left....and I know I have enough of the red fabric for the binding. I have enjoyed surfing the Mystery Quilters blog ring to see the other finished quilts.

Friday, July 04, 2008

News Scraps

I should be working right now, and have scheduled a paperwork morning to get caught up at work, but I am a master of avoidance of all things boring! So I bribe myself (like I do to the children - see here) and agree that if I do an entire morning of updating clinical notes, I can sew for the afternoon. Technically updating one's blog doesn't count for "work", but I promise I will start my official work soon!!!
Sometimes I force myself to overcome my avoidance, just like I will do this afternoon and finish my OC top. It is silly really - it's just one more seam, but it is so bulky and there are so many seams to match (whine, whine) and I just want to do something easier. So I made a tote bag that I showed you last post and I have been working on this BOM from Reichards. This is the first month's package and I already have picked up the second month so I better get moving on it. I have pieced the first block and started with the applique, and it's more fun than fighting with the OC! This is the background block for January.
Another great way to avoid working if I were so inclined, would be to print out the July Capricorn BOM pattern here. I still haven't finished June's yet, so if I were undisciplined, I could work on that this afternoon!!!
Anyway, onto other news...thanks to Jane for telling me about the theft of Valerie Hearder's quilts while she was in Newfoundland! You can read more about it here on Valerie's blog. What a relief to read that her quilts were found!
And my last bit of news is that I won a blog award! Toni at 3 AM Designs has given me the "Arte Y Pico" award! You can visit Toni's blog here. I have been fascinated by her amazing paper quilling (no T - not quilting!) art. See the wonderful pieces she gave away in February here. This blog award is given to acknowledge "creativity, design, interesting material, and overall contribution to the blogger community, regardless of the language". Thanks Toni! I will have fun thinking about the 5 blogs that I will give the award to. But not while I'm working this morning....maybe this afternoon when I am working on my BOM's, uh, um, I mean while I am sewing the OC!!!!
Happy 4th of July to my American quilt friends!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day everyone!
Prior to 1982, July 1st used to be called Dominion Day. You can read about what it is all about here. For some strange reason my kids were both away today, which meant I didn't need to stand in the sun and watch the parade. So I celebrated Canada Day by...guess what?!?
That's right - Canadian quilting!
I worked on my tote bag from the spring shop hop (you can read about the shop hop here). For those of you like Mare and Paula, I know you can sew these tote bags in your sleep! But for me, having only sewn 2 bags in my entire life, it was hard!
Here I am on the left sewing the handles to the INSIDE of the bag! Nope - that's wrong.
Let's see...how to fix, how to fix?
Cut them off and try again!!!
I kept thinking that no one else complains about how difficult these bags are and Mare is making them by the hundreds! I just kept at it, and finally finished! This is how Paula shows her bags by hanging them on the doorknob. So here is the tote bag, back and front.