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A 4 month hiatus…what have I been doing?

First let me start out by saying Happy New Year to everyone and apologize for dropping off the face for five months without warning. It was quite unexpected (my leave of absence) though in my defense, Christmas was rapidly approaching. I was finishing projects and I was trying out this thing called going to the gym? Last summer I was making an attempt to lose some weight and get into shape that wasn’t round. I hit my first milestone in the month of September.  On the 11th (my birthday) I decided I was going to run my first 5k and I did without dropping dead at the end like I was so sure I would. Since then, I’ve been running 2 to 3 5k’s a week, depending on how many visits to the gym I make. Of course I can never do anything without an accomplice and since I became my husbands partner on his Weight Watchers endeavor, he too goes to the gym. Our cardio/weight lifting regimen has taken the place of our free time after work and making healthy breakfast & lunches at night to take to work the next day consumes the very last of our efforts before passing out. I’d like to say that we are starting to balance out free time with getting healthy and doing all that it takes to stay that way but to be honest it is work and we are still trying to find a happy medium that will allow us to get back to the other things we enjoy so much. On the brighter side of things, I have lost 28 pounds and my husband has lost about 30. So for not having had time to make a few quilts and mini’s I would say that was a fair trade off. Not to mention, all those projects we were trying to finish by the end of the year came to a grand total of 7 quilts and $800 in long arm fees (which isn’t bad at all for the custom work) Thanks Linda, you’re wonderful! We have a few quilts that are waiting to go out but since I haven’t gotten around to taking any pictures of them, I will have to make an effort to post those later.

Michael came across a few quilts that he decided our home couldn’t do without and one of them is in the piecing process. It’s a maroon and white Ohio Star that is coming along beautifully. But since its Michael’s project, I wont steal his thunder by posting a pic. You will all have to visit his site to get a look at it sometime soon. Like me though he took  a little break and they are awaiting to be finished along with his Persian Plum. I’m told he is going to be starting it back up and have it finished by next weekend, so…I’m thinking that along with my latest nine-patch project for my son Justin, I will be helping out my handsome husband to complete a few his.

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Volunteer Work

As we are approaching the end of the year at a break neck pace I have been bracing myself for the impact for such a time when all my projects come to an end. The company I work for has an incentive program that has certain requirements and percentages per, to acquire what any other company would call a bonus. One requirement worth 25% of our incentive (should we choose) is community service. Isn’t it sad, how much we aspire to give back or volunteer to the community but in reality find that there just aren’t enough hours in the day?  This 25% for community service breaks down to 12 hours of volunteer work for the whole year. 365 days a year and  I barely managed to eek out my community service in the last two weeks in order to obtain 100% of my incentive. Pathetic, I know. And if that didn’t prove just how much I suck, let me just bear the rest of the whole ugly truth in saying that it only took me two days of focus to whip out a project that had been under my nose the whole stinking time.

In my growing library of quilting books there is one among them called “Quilting for Peace.” If ever there was a book that was responsible for coining the phrase, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” this small on the outside but  huge inspirational compilation, saved my collective…you know; with it’s quick yet mesmerizing quilting pattern called the fence rail. I later learned from my long arm quilter that this pattern also goes by the name, triple rail.  Upon reading the text for this particular pattern, I learned that a woman in Colorado along with a small group, made several of these fence rail quilts as Emergency Snuggle Blankets for firefighters to carry on their trucks. The pattern is so very simple to read, understand and put together. With a group, I’m certain with an assembly line of sorts, could whip out quite a few of these. By myself I was able to piece two quilts in about a 48 hour period. My long arm quilter mentioned that she and her guild apparently made these 49 inch squared blankets for charity and that she charges around $20 a quilt. I cannot even begin to tell you how happy that made me.

 

Today I turned in all my paperwork for my yearly incentive and the one thing I am most proud to have accomplished was the community service project. When these two little gems come back from the quilter and are bound, they will find their new homes in the Shady Dale Firehouse in Oklahoma.

My quest for perfect applique

Earlier this year I finished my first block of the month quilt, purchased from Joann’s Fabric. It would be the second quilt I ever made solely on my own and my first attempt at applique. I have to say the undertaking was quite ambitious on my part and at the time I had no idea that this type of quilt would be my Whale but since the finishing of that first quilt, a secondary BOTM (Natures Garden) and the third Albatross called Petal Power Duo, I have indeed come a long way in a short amount of time.

In the beginning I knew absolutely nothing about applique, except for that one piece of fabric would sit atop of another and be stitched down. I hadn’t looked at any stabilizer products much less used any on my first quilt. And one would think that in this day in age, something that sounds so simple would be simple. Maybe it was before the days of the interfacing and stabilizer revolution. I have talked to several people now about their preferences in products and  applique techniques, and though it seems that they have their favorites due to finding something that worked the first time out or an old stand by because their mother used it, it almost seems as though they have a limited opinion or next to none about the wide variety of products and how to utilize them to their advantage. A friend of mine (who has been quilting for 20+ years) confided in me last week that she didn’t know how to do applique and could I show her? Of course you know this just spurred me on to try every product within reason, test it on different type, size fabric pieces and this is what I came up with.

Pellon makes great stabilizer products. There are several types to choose from and each one has a specific purpose for which it is made.

Pellon Wash-N-Gone

Pellon Wash-N-Gone is a magical little number if you are working on a quilt with applique  that seems to have a million little pieces made up of circles, leaves, petals, stems and/or your doing embroidery/monogramming work. Wash-N-Gone stabilizes your product and at that same time, save’s you the trouble of trimming or removing the excess as it dissolves in any temperature of water. FYI, don’t handle with wet hands, it works that good.

Heat’n Gone

Pellon Wonder Under or Heat’n Bond Fusible Web is fantastic as it is an iron on product. This is great for a medium size applique projects or to use on any one individual cut out. To keep your applique from being stiff on your quilt, you would have to use the webbing on the outside edges of your cut though. Trying to remove the inner excess afterwords is hard work and risky.

Pellon Stitch’n Tear

Pellon Stitch’n Tear is fabulous to use for large applique in size and quantity. It’s thicker and stiffer than other stabilizers, which makes it easier for pinning and leaves your finished product laying flatter than others that might come out with a little poof.  Especially if you satin stitch your applique. Stitch’n Tear is cheap, so you don’t feel bad about anything you waste and the time you save for not having to cut  the excess away with scissors is, well… you cant put a price that.

And finally, a word on  “fabric glue stick.” Use it. It’s simple, cheap and it works. I rubbed it on the backside of the flower petals and stuck it to the block where I wanted it. I ran an iron over it and it stayed for days before I got around to sewing it together. I haven’t had the opportunity yet, to try any of  the spray on adhesives other interfacing/stabilizer brands like Peltex or Sulky but I imagine they all work pretty well and much the same.

As I always, I hope you found this topic interesting if not useful. If there is anyone out there who has a testimonial on this subject, I would be very interested in hearing it. Have a great day and happy stitching.

How does your Garden Grow?

Apartment living doesn’t really provide space enough for anyone to plant and enjoy pretty flowers, ferns or any other leafy green one might find in a garden or patio display. I’ve taken to making paper flowers recently, so that I might enjoy the loveliness of such things indoors for longer than a week. and I know it’s hardly the same but I’ve found that quilts do provide a happy ever after place for flowers and other garden life.

Yesterday, I finished the top of my Natures Garden quilt and as I mentioned in my last post “Heirloom Projects” I was as good as my word, changing the design to suit my fancy and making it entirely my own. I think I actually like it better the way I made it versus the way the picture displayed it as far as the sashing framework goes. I cut and sewed the vine work in a reverse fashion because that’s what rebels do and because I’m me, there are quite a few more embellishments (flowers, vines & leaves) than the pattern called for. I love taking creative license with my own things. I was never one to color outside the lines as a child and to make something different other than what the directions called for would have been inconceivable to me before. I don’t exactly know when my ability to make changes on the fly occurred, I only know that I’m quite okay with it now and I’m having great fun with my new-found artistic freedom.

As I’m getting ready to send this quilt off and am in the home stretch with my third rag blanket for my grand daughter Lily, I am about to ramp up a long awaited project. My next quilt is going to go to Michael, who has been patiently waiting for me to make something just for him. I will no doubt be posting a little something about it soon. Until then, have a happy creative day.

Heirloom Projects

Michael and I have been thinking greatly upon the number of quilts we have managed to make recently and how many we will have in the home at our disposal in a month or two. It has been our desire for the love of fabric shopping, designing, sewing and the art of quilting that sent us into quilt making motion. And as you know, things in motion have a tendency to stay in motion.

In the most recent past, Michael went on a quilt book buying spree in the which spurred on many an idea for upcoming quilt projects. Inside Thimbleberries “Quilting a Patchwork Garden” we found a very simple pattern (block within a block) in green with a clean white background. The pattern is called Sage Garden and is every bit as lovely as the book depicted. Micheal made one for a friend of mine in the green and white, then we proceeded to make a few in other colors that we wouldn’t mind having about the house. Though they are newly made and are awaiting the long-arm quilters touch, we decided to have them custom stitched to give them an heirloom appeal.

Speaking of Heirlooms, I happened to actually look the word up to see what qualifies as an heirloom by definition. This is what the Encarta Dictionary had to offer: 1. Something Handed Down -something valuable that has been in the family for a  very long time and has been passed down from one generation to the next. 2. Something Inherited by Law-An item of personal property attached to the estate that a legal heir will inherit.

After 40+ years of purchasing/collecting material things, a person would certainly have an item or two to pass down. In our family, as money will probably be the least of these things inherited, it has become apparent that our quilts will most likely be our legacy to our children. I love putting together blocks of the month because for the most part all the pieces are already cut out and the predetermined fabric colors all compliment each other. Each one has a theme befitting a season and you can put it together as quickly or as leisurely as you like.  There was a run on the Persian Plum block of the month (due to it’s popularity) and many people were frantic on how to get the rest of the blocks to make the whole quilt. Luckily for me, I went for Nature’s Garden instead and left the Persian Plum to my husband to make.  When we find that blocks are sparse we make an effort to get all the ones we need so that we can at the very least get all the blocks for the top put together. Of course, when you make a block of the month, there are many a cookie cutter quilt out there that looks just like yours. To make it my own and special to me and/or my family I have decided to give my BOTM my own personal spin. Whether I go off pattern just a touch or add something that wasn’t there before, I can forever take pleasure in knowing that even though many people may make the same quilt as mine, mine will be different.

Block 8 of Nature’s Garden sold at Joann’s Fabric

So What if I Change My Mind?

In our house we have a few sayings about changing one’s mind. It usually goes a little something like “what I meant was” or “I know what I said” and the ever most popular “I went the other way.” My favorite saying however for the most ridiculous moments including but not limited to changing your mind is “Don’t judge me.”  Every time I hear that saying I reminisce back to a moment when Michael had stuffed an entire Chocolate Pinwheel cookie in his mouth and proceeded to talk. Nothing but good time’s at our house.  So back in the post of Everything in it’s Place, I made mention of my laundry list of things to do and getting a move on with that sampler quilt happened to be one such item. Did I mention I cut over (200) 2″ blocks that need to be sewn to other fabric I haven’t even cut yet to finish the framework? Just shoot me already. I’m not saying it wont be totally worth it,  I’m just saying  “Hey! Look at what we have behind curtain number two….WHY IT’S A WHOLE ‘NOTHER BLOCK OF THE MONTH just waiting to be put together.”  Yea!!!       Ya, I went the other way.

In celebration of my girlishness and the prerogative to change my other mind, here are the first three blocks of Nature’s Garden from package to to finished block.  I just couldn’t wait.

At the rate I’m going, I could just be done with this by next weekend? That’s my goal. Then maybe, after feeling very accomplished I could get back to my sampler.

Sarah’s Sampler-Elm Creek Quilts

So I’m rifling through my wallet one day for no particular reason and I came across a Barnes and Noble gift card given to me by my daughter as a Christmas present last year. I remembered immediately how much was on the card but checked the balance anyway and proceeded to shop for yet another quilt book. Though I was treating the card like it was burning a hole in my pocket, I didn’t actually buy a book on line but rather wanted to check the possibilities through their online list. This was a good decision on my part as there were a couple of books I considered getting, only to find that it was already a part of the library Michael had been working on. So not only did I benefit by not getting a duplicate but it caused me to take inventory and pay closer attention to what I had at the ready. Of course you have to know that even though our selection has grown to a ridiculous size; it did in no way detour me from getting another. It only takes one picture to strike my fancy to be considered as good as sold. My book of choice when all was said and done was- ELM Creek Quilts: Quilt Projects Inspired by the ELM Creek Quilts Novels by Jennifer Chiaverini & Nancy Odom. I was going to say that if you think the name Jennifer Chiaverini is familiar, it should be with well over a baker’s dozen books published. In reality however, it’s more like 29 just on the first page if you were to look up Elm Creek Quilts on the Barnes and Noble online store. This project book like many of her others, pictures quilts in their entirety with such quality, color and life that you can’t help but pull out a fresh rotary cutter and begin without a second thought. Which I must confess is how my new quilting journey began.

It started with the purchase of the book and happily carried it into the house (which at the time, looked like a fabric store at the end of a Black Friday shopping day) and proceeded to share my purchase with my husband. I showed him the Quilt Sampler at the front of the book because that in itself was enough to ignite me to buy the book in the first place and as I said above; we immediately cleared the table and brought out all implements of construction. This lovely piece of art with its 12 individual blocks, complimentary “Garden Maze” framework and Twisted Ribbon border on a white background is quite a sight to behold when finished. And though we are 2 blocks shy of the 12 required for the center piece, we already know this will be a favored addition to our growing quilt collection.

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