Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bernina Master Class

The Bernina and I just arrived home from our first Master Class. The class was given at Pennington Quilt Works, the LQS where I bought my machine last spring. This class covered topics of special interest to quilters: maintaining an accurate 1/4" seam, different ways to machine applique, use of the walking foot, and free-motion quilting with (and without) the Bernina Stitch Regulator. It was a big help to me, especially as I had been too chicken to try the BSR on my own. Next week we have the general sewing classes.
Does my Bernina need a name?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some Gift-Giving Inspiration

I found this book at the library yesterday:

and browsed through it before bed. It's got some creative ideas for gifts to make; I'm already planning some projects! Plus, the author, Alicia Paulson, has an interesting blog.

You can find the book here:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Start

I felt like starting a new project today. I've had this layer cake of Fig Tree's Patisserie for a while, with a pattern already chosen for it, so I pulled it out and got cutting. As you may notice, it is not strips. The pattern came with special templates to use. This quilt calls for a lot of curved piecing, giving me much practice in perfecting that skill. I'll provide some periodic updates on this project.

Here's a picture of our Corgi, Reggie, taking a rest in one of his characteristic poses we call tummy to woodwork. He's a funny little dog and keeps us well entertained. In fact, I'm not sure what we did for entertainment before the Girl and the Dog.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Package On My Doorstep

Look what came in the mail! It is a layer cake and some yardage from the Legacy line by Moda. It is not my "usual" colors but I love, love, love this line! So when I saw in an email from Hancock's of Paducah that the line was on sale, I was very tempted. I filled up my cart and left it to sit for a day before making it final but now that the fabric is here, I am very glad I gave in. It is lovely and I plan on using it in one of the new Miss Rosie's patterns. In a little while...after I get a couple of other things out of the way.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Finished Flimsy

I finished the blue and gold quilt top yesterday but had to wait until today's more cooperative weather to take the photos. I was trying to keep this a secret from Miss Main Street but she burst in me during the layout so she knows about it and thinks it is "cool."

I used a t-shirt purchased at the school store for the center. I backed the t-shirt with very lightweight fusible interfacing then cut out, centering the school name and falcon logo. I added some strips to get it to the right size to fit the blocks. There wasn't enough fabric between the logo and the neck of the shirt to cut it full size and still center the logo - there would have been a lot of blank t-shirt fabric at the bottom of the block.

The hardest thing about this quilt was coming up with the design. It had to combine the two high contrast colors yet be simple enough that the piecing would not fight the t-shirt block for attention. I think it came out pretty well and was easy and fast to piece, especially when I got on the hour-a-day plan. The top is 61" by 82".

I just have to piece the back then it will go off to the longarm quilter.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Embellished Kitchen Towels

I got this idea to make embellished kitchen towels for Christmas gifts. It is really not too early to get cracking on the Christmas list and I think I could make a few towels in between bigger projects.

However, I am not sure where to get the towels to use as the base for embellishing. I think I'd like a good quality cotton or cotton/linen woven towel in solid colors as well as some nice terry towels. If anyone has done this before and has a good source, please let me know.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Find - Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale

Like just about everyone, I have been trying to spend less. One of the ways I do it is that I simply don't go shopping as often, and when I do shop I keep my priorities top-of-mind and try to be more selective about what I bring home with me.

But there are some things we need so today I set out for our local Nordtrom store and the first day of this year's Anniversary Sale. I heartily recommend it; they have some great stuff at significant savings. My lingerie needed replenishing and I was looking for some not-very-high heels in brown to wear to work. I found my favorite bra from Wacoal at a big discount from the usual, rarely ever on sale price and had a hard time deciding amongst three pairs of shoes because I liked them all so much. Miss Main Street needs clothes for fall that comply with her school's dress code. We did not find much in that line but one of her favorite looks is bright colored tights with a black skirt and boots and we found her some purple tights. They also had some good deals on workout and yoga wear from Nike and so on but I have plenty of that so I resisted the urge. We also entertained ourselves in the cosmetics area by experimenting with the testers, but if you are in the market for that they have a lot of special offers and the MAC people were doing free make-overs.

All-in-all, it was an enjoyable afternoon and I feel like I stretched my dollar and kept to my budget.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Parade of First Quilts

Did you see the parade of first quilts? If not, you can find the links here. It was fun to see so many first efforts and even more interesting to read the stories. One thing that struck me was the extent to which we were limited by the fabric selection available prior to the mid or late 1990's - there has been such an explosion in fabric selection lately.

Then, if you were anything like me, you imposed further boundaries. For example, it took me a good while, and several quilts, to get comfortable mixing lots of colors and design scales together. I was a little too matchy-matchy with my early projects, using just three or four different fabrics in one quilt. I think dabbling with the watercolor technique got me "over it" and now I like a more scrappy look. I also like to use larger scale prints, though I am still hesitant to cut them in very small pieces.

I think it is important to keep trying new things and experimenting with new looks and techniques. That is how I have really developed as a quilter. Of course, I still want to make the occasional "safe" project, the one I know will turn out exactly as I expect it to, either because I'm using the same fabrics the pattern maker used or I have made the design before and can visualize exactly how it will turn out even with a change in fabric. And sometimes I need a quick, no-brainer project. But if every quilt I make is another Yellow Brick Road, I won't develop my skills much nor will I develop an individual style. (Now, I don't mean to put down Yellow Brick Road or the designer - it is a great pattern and every beginner quilter wondering what to do with a stack of fat quarters should consider it - but making it once was enough for me.)

I have a couple things in the project line-up that will stretch me a bit. As soon as I finish the blue and gold...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Hour A Day Progress

A few weeks ago, Nicole of Sister's Choice blogged about how much she was able to accomplish by working on a quilt for just an hour a day. It sounded like A PLAN to me; it is so hard to find big chunks of time. So when I returned from my trips, I tidied up my studio (I use the term loosely; it is a bedroom that doubles as guest room and storage for orphan furniture) and got the blue and gold project organized for hour-at-a-time work.

I'm glad to report it works just like Nicole said it would and I am making progress.
I've got the quilt cut, organized for chain piecing, all the sashing is pieced, and a few of the blocks are finished (see photo above). I think I'll be able to finish this top in about a week. Then I'll move on to one of my UFOs.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

The August edition of Real Simple magazine asks, "What is your guiltiest pleasure?"

Chocolate - I am a major sweet tooth and have a chocolate stash. It used to be hidden but my daughter found it; she has the bug even worse than me, which I did not think was possible. My favorites: See's chocolate mint patties, Trader Joe's chocolate mint UFOs, Cadbury chocolate with almonds, Ritter anything.

Romance novels - I am partial to authors Mary Balogh and Loretta Chase. They can be counted on for about a book a year but Mary Balogh was unusually prolific this year with four new books out already! That's almost overload as my annual allotment is about 7 or 8; any more and it is like eating too much sugar at once.

Cosmopolitans - I refer to that girly pink variation on a vodka martini. I am not of the Sex In The City generation or demeanor but I like my cosmo once in a while. I don't feel guilty if I drink just one.

Purses - There is nothing better than a new handbag to give me a fashion pick-me-up. I just bought a new Brahmin purse in olive green moc-croc leather. It will be a little boost for my fall wardrobe, brighten up all the blacks and browns I wear.

Notice I didn't mention fabric, quilting, making stuff - no, no guilt about that!

Friday, July 10, 2009

My First Quilt

Strictly speaking, what I am showing here is not really my first quilt because it no longer exists, having fallen into shreds and been discarded. I first learned to quilt at a community education class in the early 80's. It was quilting, 19th century style - cardboard templates, scissors, hand piecing. I made two 16 inch square "quilts" that I turned into pillows for my first "career girl" apartment. I enjoyed quilting but was so focused on my career, working more-than-full-time, trying to have a social life (meet marriageable men really) so quilting was just too time consuming and pretty much fell by the wayside...

...until early 1992 when I just happened into the LQS (Quilter's Barn in Allentown, NJ - sadly, since gone out of business), where I saw a sign advertising their Quilt In A Day class. "Quilt in a day, how is that possible?!!" I was quickly introduced to rotary cutters, machine piecing, strip piecing, and all the modern advances in quilting at the time that made it possible to make a quilt in less than three years. While I was in the process of making a log cabin quilt, my sister told me she was pregnant so the resulting quilt went to her baby, Nicholas, now 16. It was loved to death and is now in shreds. I don't even have a photo of it. The handmade quilt pillows suffered from excessive sun exposure over the years and eventually fell apart and were discarded during a move.

So the quilt shown here is my First Quilt Still In Existence. I made it in early 1995 while pregnant with Miss Main Street (yes, eventually, while not quilting, I met a marriageable man). First Quilt Still In Existence is the double Irish chain pattern in traditional calico prints, machine pieced and hand quilted. We used it as a crib quilt and my daughter still has it in her bedroom, on the back of a chair. It survived in good condition because her blanket of choice was a soft, fringed baby blanket she received as a christening gift. It was known as "Manky" and was the one that went everywhere with her. She still has it and occasionally "wears" it like a shawl while watching tv.

My latest finished quilt is Mon Petit Chou, blogged about here.

Between then and now I have become much more adventurous about color and enjoy mixing more fabrics together. Of course, my skills have improved and I have moved well beyond squares. I still enjoy hand quilting but limit it to smaller projects and let a "professional" handle the larger quilts, though I would like to try quilting on my new Bernina. And I am more prolific, generally completing four or five quilts a year (depending on size and complexity).

Now, this is a real first effort, I mean really FIRST! This is what started it all, the skirt I made in 7th grade home ec. It was my introduction to sewing, when I fell in love with fabric and creating, and the whole shebang! Picture it - early 1971, the girls in home ec for sewing and cooking, the boys in workshop so they could learn how to hide in the basement without doing anything productive :>)

A maxi prairie skirt with eyelet trim and an elastic waist. And my mother saved it all these years! Miss Main Street and I brought it home from Michigan along with some other clothes I really did wear in the 70's; she is saving them to wear to a 70's theme party she thinks is going to take place sometime during this next school year.

Thank you Carrie and Camille; this was a lot of fun!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Trip To Sauder Fabrics

Last Friday (July 3), I drove from my house in NJ to my mother's house in Michigan. Since I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and it would be only a five minute detour, I thought it would be a good idea to stop at Sauder's on the way. Sauder Fabrics is in Lancaster County, home to many Amish, and is a bargain paradise for quilters. I had to suppress my natural urge to go nuts around all that fabric and limit myself to what I need for current projects, 'cause I still have fabric in the stash that I bought at Sauder's 18 month ago!
Here's my loot:
Two blue pieces for backs (one will go on the blue and gold quilt currently in the works) and one yard each of two creams destined as backgrounds in the Fig Tree Rosettes quilt. But get a look at the prices! One was $3.99 a yard, the other was $6.49. The lighter blue (on left) is Robert Kaufman Fusions; it was $6.49 per yard. The darker blue on the right is Konabay and it was only $4.99 per yard. Around here, most fabrics are over $9 per yard now so the savings can make it worth the two hour trip when I need something major.

Sauder's can do it because they don't have the overhead of a typical LQS in a suburban location. It is a "no-frills" operation - lots of fabrics and patterns but no samples or enticing store decor. And the restroom is an outhouse (I made a pre-emptive strike at the highway rest stop right before the exit).

They have a limited website so internet shoppers can take advantage at

If you go to Sauder's, there are several other good fabric stores in the area, particularly in Intercourse (hey, that's the name of the town!). And the farmer's market right in Lancaster is well worth a stop for lunch or to make purchases to take home (not open on Mondays though).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Vintage Button Wreath

I made this wreath a few years ago. It hangs year 'round on a door handle on our second floor. I made it by sewing vintage white buttons (some are fancy, some are plain shirt buttons) to white ribbon then wrapped the ribbon around a styrofoam wreath form. I tied a long piece of white ribbon around the wreath to form bow and hanger.

closer up view

You can get the styrofoam wreath form at craft stores like Michaels. Just pick the size you want your finished wreath to be. Warning - it takes more buttons and more time to sew than you would think! You might want to start small. My finished wreath is 9" in diameter and it is plenty large enough for hanging from a door handle. I had purchased a couple of large lots of white buttons on eBay and used those. You can buy buttons in bulk at craft stores but buying new buttons meant for garments would get a little expensive for this project.

If you want to try making your own button wreath and need more detailed directions, just leave a comment and I'll get back to you.