Saturday, May 2, 2020

Quarantine Projects   

For some reason, during these last 6 weeks of quarantine, I haven’t felt like working on big projects.  It would be the perfect time to finish up a bunch of UFOs, but what do I do?  Start a bunch of new things.  Little things that I can finish quickly.  For example, the picture below shows the projects that I made last weekend. 

What was I thinking, making a St. Patrick’s Day pillow at the end of April? Well, I had the fabric for the front, border and back all cut out since the week before St. Patrick’s Day, but just couldn’t decide what to put on the front.  Then, last week,  I saw the Irish Blessing embroidery file on sale, and that decided it!  I knew that if I let the project sit until next year, I would lose it somewhere, so I just went ahead and made it.  Next time, I’ll use a different stabilizer, because the embroidery pulled a little too much and left some wrinkles which I can’t iron out. 

The cute little owl stuffie has a pocket in the front, so I think that I will sit it on the end table and use it to hold my embroidery scissors or maybe a few crochet hooks.

The trivet is made out of fabric twine, which I started making a couple of years ago. It is a great way to use up those thin strips of fabric that you hate to throw away, but are too small to use for much of anything.  I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it, but it is a good project to make when you are sitting in front of the TV and don’t want to have to concentrate on what you are working on, but can’t stand to just sit in front of the TV. One day last week, I saw a video on Debby Brown’s website ( where she made coasters and trivets out of fabric twine.  Until I saw that video, I didn’t think that a needle would go through the twine because it is so tightly twisted.  Her twine is twisted a little more loosely than mine, but I figured that I would try it to see what would happen.  I’m happy to report that I only broke one needle.  ^.^  This trivet is about 8 inches across, and it only used one smallish ball of the twine that I have made so far. And I have tons of narrow strips to make more twine.  There might be a rug in my future….

Anyway, this week’s Project Quilting Quarantine theme is Vintage. I looked up the definition of Vintage.  There doesn’t seem to be a consensus, but one definition is something that is at least 20 years old. 

In the early 2000’s, I was part of an online swap group for what at the time were called ‘nickel squares’.  The intent of the group was to get a variety of fabrics to make the quilts in the book “Nickel Quilts” by Pat Speth and Charlene Thode.  This was well before charm packs were introduced.  I think that the swap was run in Yahoo Groups. A theme was announced, and then you would go into the site and sign up for the swap if you were interested.  From what I recall, you would need to cut 5 (or 6?) different fabrics into 5-inch squares, pair up the squares, keep a pair cut from each fabric for yourself and send the rest to the quilter who was in charge of the swap.  She would then switch them all around and send you back the same number of nickel squares that you sent in, but they would all be fabrics from other quilters.  It was rather convoluted, but it was a good way to get the variety of squares needed to make the quilts in the Nickel Quilts book. 

I swapped and I swapped, but somehow, I never made any of the quilts. But I have found other uses for the nickel squares, so all the work was worth it in the end.

Anyway, I still have a whole bin full of those nickels. I’m not sure that they are quite 20 years old, but since the PQQ rules can be loosely followed, I am calling them Vintage!  Here is the table runner that I made using some of my vintage nickel squares.  It was made from a brilliant pattern designed by Gudrun Erla called L’il Kim.  The brilliant part is that it uses a charm pack with no extra fabric to make a table runner!  I used 20 dark and 20 cream nickel squares instead of a charm pack, and I really like the way that it turned out. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Project Quilting Quarantine -2 

My goal for this year was to finish a lot of UFOs.  Note the past tense.  The coronavirus hit, and what does everyone do?  Post tempting quilt-a-long projects to do while we are all stuck at home. AAAARRRRGGGGHHH!   Since the middle of March, when everything shut down, I have started 3 new quilts and a table runner.   How many UFOs have I finished?  None.  Zip, zilch, nada.  I did finish my PQ 11.6 Vibrant and Vivacious challenge, but since that wasn’t a UFO, I’m not counting it.  Oh well, there’s always the rest of the year!  

One of the new quilts that I started was from a quilt pattern called “Elvira” for Gudrun Erla’s Quarantine Quilt-A-Long.  I finished the top, and I was thinking about finishing and submitting it for the first Project Quilting Quarantine Challenge, which was “Big”.  I reasoned that it qualified on many fronts – 1.  I used a large-scale print for one of the fabrics.  2.  Even though I made the ‘crib’ size, it is the biggest crib size ever! At 49 X 65, I would consider it more of a lap quilt, or a couch quilt than a crib quilt. 3.  And last, but not least, this whole pandemic is by definition, BIG! 

I ultimately decided against submitting it, for a few reasons.  First of all, I started it before the challenge was issued, so it really doesn’t meet the rules.  I know that the rules are really flexible for PQQ, because after all, there is nothing at stake here.  The PQ quilt police aren’t going to come after me!  As Kim stated when PQQ was announced, it is only for fun, inspiration and community building.  Another reason is because I started making fabric masks for family and friends, and that took quite a bit of time.    It all boiled down to the fact that I just didn’t need the extra stress that would have been incurred by trying to get the top pinned, quilted and bound by the deadline while trying the masks done.  I decided that the masks are more important right now than a finished quilt is, no matter how good it feels to finish one.    

Speaking of masks… I wanted a mask for myself that would be bright and cheerful and spring-y.  

I remembered that I had a piece of a bright floral print by Karen Montgomery in my stash.  I dug it out and made myself a new mask.  It qualifies under the “ 3 layers stitched together” criteria because it has interfacing stitched in between two layers of fabric as a filter.  So here is my PQQ Floral Challenge Project.  Quick, easy, no-stress and very useful!  ^.^

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Project Quilting 11.6 - Vibrant and Vivacious

I'm really not sure how to write a blog post today.  I’ve been mulling it over all ever since the topic was announced. It has just been such an unsettling couple of weeks.  Should I just ignore the whole pandemic thing and talk about my project? Or focus on the pandemic and just glancingly touch on quilting? Ignoring either doesn’t feel right, so I think that I need to try to strike a balance between the two. 

A pandemic? Wow, just wow.  I know there was the H1N1 'swine' flu going around about 10 years ago, and the SARS epidemic a few years before that.  But neither of those had the impact that this new COVID-19 is having. This one has everyone panicking. I’m truly not sure how much of the hype is real and how much is just that – hype.  I was an EMT for a while, so I certainly understand the necessity of preventing the spread of disease.  There are just so many unknowns for this virus.  Some of the official advice is normal for any flu season - wash your hands, don't touch your face, disinfect commonly touched surfaces. But this one adds the unprecedented advice to stay inside, and, if you have to go out, maintain the recommended ‘social distance’.  It is causing a real disruption in our society, justifiably or not.  They have closed all non-essential stores in our area, and cancelled any meetings of groups of more than about 10 people. The Concert Chorale that I sing with can’t practice, I can’t go to the boathouse to work out, my quilt guild can’t meet and they cancelled the quilt retreat for this week. And I think worst of all, they have cancelled all church services so we can’t get to Mass. 

I’m sure everyone else has a similar story to tell.  I could very easily get panicked or depressed, but I am choosing to count my blessings instead.  For every negative, I am going to look for a positive. We have heat, water and electricity.  There is food in the fridge and in the pantry. I have been able to buy what I need at the local grocery store. The lines are a little longer and I may have to buy a brand that I am not used to using, but it is perfectly fine. I can’t practice with the chorale, but I have my sheet music and there are lots of You Tube videos of the music being performed and I can sing along.  I can’t work out with my rowing team, but I can get a workout by taking a long walk or jog outside in the fresh air.  I can’t physically go to Sunday Mass, but our church is live-streaming the Mass every day at 9 a.m.  I can’t meet with my quilt guild or go to the retreat, but there are lots of online quilt alongs and challenges that I can participate in. 

For instance, tomorrow, I plan to participate in Gudrun Erla’s Quarantine Quilt Along.
I wasn’t sure that I was going to do it until I listened to one of Pat Sloan’s You Tube videos today.  In it, she mentioned that she didn’t make a ‘Millennial” quilt when a lot of people were making them to commemorate the year 2000, and she regretted it.  She pointed out that this is an historic occasion, and quilters are famous for commemorating historic occasions with quilts.  I realized that this is not only an historic occasion, but it will be a way for quilters to connect with each other during this time of social distancing.  So I will be digging into the retirement stash and finding some fat quarters that are begging to be used!

I also used some of that retirement stash to make this week’s Project Quilting challenge - Vibrant and Vivacious.  I’m not sure that I would call my project ‘vivacious’, but I think that it is vibrant!  I have always liked the fabrics by Me and My Sisters Designs because they are bright and cheerful, and that certainly fits the bill for this challenge.  I knew that I had a Layer Cake from one of their lines stashed away, so I dug it out and started planning.  I had recently seen a tutorial by Amy Smart on her ‘Diary of a Quilter’ blog for a baby quilt made by using one large Lemoyne Star block.
 I knew that it was the perfect project for that layer cake and this week’s PQ.  Each star point uses one 10-inch square from the layer cake and one 10-inch background square.  Instead of the scrappy border, I used a border made from the background fabric and made a scrappy binding from some of the other layer cake squares.  It finished at just over 40 inches square.

I used straight line stitching, 1 ½ inches apart to quilt it.  Please don’t look at the ‘whiskers’ in my quilting!  I used a walking foot, and a thin batting, but I still got them.  I am hoping that when it is washed, they disappear or become less obvious.  Speaking of things that disappear – I used a purple air and water erasable marking pen to mark the quilting lines.  The lines disappeared, all right, but when I tried steaming the quilt to get rid of the whiskers, the lines came back!  That gave me quite a scare because I thought at first that I had made them permanent.  Fortunately, they disappeared again.  But that is another good reason to wash the quilt before I give it away. Now I know that whatever is used to make the lines is still there, just invisible.  And we all know that invisible doesn’t mean harmless, especially after this corona virus scare!  Viruses are invisible (at least to the naked eye),  but look what damage they can cause!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Project Quilting 11.5 – Give It Away

I like projects where I can get started right away and don’t have to make a trip to the fabric store. I also like projects that can be finished quickly, so they keep my attention and don’t end up in the UFO pile. This week’s Project Quilting challenge is right up my alley!

I’ve been planning to make a larger project for one of the challenges because so far this year, all my projects have been small due to time constraints.  Because the challenge is to make something and give it away, I thought that this would be the perfect week to make a baby or kid’s size quilt. 

I have supported a couple of the organizations listed in Trish’s blog post in the past, including Quilts for Kids and Project Linus. I looked them both up online, and Project Linus won, only because they have a local drop off location.  If I am going to get something finished quickly, I also want it to be given away quickly so that it doesn’t get buried in the general chaos that is my sewing room!

The project had to be something simple enough that I could get it done between reloading sessions.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we are having our kitchen remodeled, and I had to unload all the drawers and cupboards.  Now that the majority of the work is done, it is time to put everything back in the kitchen.  I’m trying to organize everything by use instead of by where it used to be.  I’ve been filling a cupboard and then taking a break to ponder which cupboard to reload next, and with what.  It’s been during these breaks that I’ve been sewing. 

I decided that I wanted to use some of the fat quarters that have been proliferating in the set of plastic storage drawers that are beside my sewing machine.  I really can’t figure out how the drawers got so full.  The only explanation that I have is that there has been some hanky-panky going on in there.  ^.^

Deciding what pattern to use was relatively easy.  Karen Montgomery’s Three-Six-Nine pattern uses fat quarters and is a quick and easy way to make a baby quilt.  Basically, you stack up the fat quarters, cut them into squares and rectangles, then shuffle the stacks.  When you sew them together into uneven four patches, you get four different fabrics in each four patch.  But when you rotate the blocks and sew them together, sometimes identical fabrics touch each other, which gives a unique look. When I am making a scrap quilt, I usually don't want identical fabrics to touch, but with this quilt, I like the shapes that form when identical fabrics are next to each other.

Navy/Green colorway
Red/Aqua colorway
A few years ago, I found some yardage that was printed into fat quarters. I think that it was called a Fat Quarter Panel.  Never one to pass up something unique, I bought one in the navy/green colorway and one in the red/aqua colorway.  I tried to find the fabric online, but all I found was an historic listing from the Fat Quarter Shop.  The fabric isn't available from them any longer, but I wanted to show what it looked like before I cut it into fat quarters, and ultimately, into the squares and rectangles required for the pattern. 

That gave me eight coordinating fat quarters, and the pattern only called for seven.  After some angst design decisions, I tossed out the aqua/white print because I wanted the darker prints to dominate, not the light.  And besides, I like it better, and will keep it for another project. :>

Three Six Nine
36" x 45" 

Here is my final project, to be delivered to Project Linus.  It was machine quilted using an all-over meander. The binding was also sewn on entirely by machine, not because it is faster that way, but because it gives a more sturdy finish.  It is most likely going to be washed numerous times, and I want it to hold up well!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Project Quilting 11.4 – Birds in the Air

Project Quilting kind of snuck up on me this week.  For some reason, I was thinking that I had another week.  But no, there it was, posted on Facebook on Sunday afternoon.  Actually, it was probably wishful thinking.  You see, I knew that this was going to be a really crazy busy week and I didn’t need one more thing to do!

We are having our kitchen remodeled, and the work starts this week.  I have mixed feelings about the whole project.  On one hand, I’m really excited that I am going to have a brand new kitchen where everything works, but I am definitely not looking forward to the chaos that is involved with not having a working kitchen for close to a month.  And even though we have known that the workmen (work people?) are coming on Thursday, there is only so much that you can do ahead of time when it comes to your kitchen.  I have been gradually emptying out the cupboards that contain rarely used items like the ice bucket and the big serving pieces. They have gone into boxes and bins which I then carted off to places where I hope that they won’t be underfoot.  The walls of the dining room and my son’s bedroom are lined with said boxes.  (My son doesn’t live here anymore, but still comes to visit.  I guess that I should start calling it the spare bedroom, but in my mind, it’s always going to be his room.)

We are getting new appliances along with the new cabinets and lighting.  They are going to take out the existing stove and dishwasher, but the new appliances won’t be installed for a couple of weeks. So I won't be able to do any cooking until the new ones are installed. The plumbing isn’t scheduled to be finished until the middle of March, so I'll be limited in the amount of dish washing that I can do.  Using disposable plates, cups and flatware seems so wasteful, but we won't have much choice. 

The old refrigerator will get moved around the corner into the dining room for the time being and we’ll put the microwave on the dining room table so we have a way to heat up meals.  I’ve been doing some cooking ahead so that we can have warm meals without having to order takeout or go out to eat all the time.  

I’m also going to have to make myself a chart to remind me where I put everything! It will say something like: Coffee pods for the Keurig - Third box from the left along the front wall of the dining room, on top of the box of mugs. And I will leave the chart out in plain sight so that I don’t have to answer the inevitable “Honey, where is the…” questions. ^.^

The last thing that I need to do is to pack up the rest of the kitchen.  The dishes and cookware that we use all the time couldn’t get packed away until the day before the work starts. Tomorrow is going to the busiest day yet, so I wanted to get my project done by today, in case I run out of time this week. 

So now that I have given you a glimpse into my week, I hope you will understand why my PQ 11.4 project is rather small and simple.  I really like the block and can think of so many ways to use it in a large quilt.  But I had to curb my enthusiasm and make something that could be finished quickly.

My overflowing bin of waste triangles
I saw those half square triangles in the Birds in the Air block and immediately thought of my bin of waste triangles.  Whenever I make a unit that requires you to cut off a triangle, I throw those triangles into a small bin.  Sometimes I will sew the extra seam before I cut them off, so that I have ready made little HST. A good example of this is when you make flying geese by starting with a rectangle and two squares. If you sew an extra diagonal seam ½ inch away from the first, you can cut between them and have a cute little half square triangle. I first saw the technique in a book called Nickel Quilts by Pat Speth and Charlene Thode. I was fascinated, and I have been saving the waste triangles ever since.  Someday, I will make a whole quilt out of them, but in the meantime, they come in handy for quick little projects.

There are several variations of the  Bird in the Air block, but the one that I chose requires 3 HST.   I found some red/white and some blue/white HST fairly close to the top of my bin, so that decided my color scheme. The waste triangle HST finish at 1¼ inches, so they are a bit tricky to use.  Instead of trying to do the math, I just used a 5-inch square cut in half diagonally for the large triangle, then trimmed it down to match the HST side of the block.  I made four BITA blocks and set them 2 x 2.  

A new potholder for a new kitchen
The resulting block ended up to be a little over 8 inches square.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with this week’s project, but when I had the block done, I looked at it and it yelled “Potholder”!    I thought that it was appropriate for me to have a new potholder to go with my new kitchen!   

Because I wanted to finish it quickly, I tried a new technique for binding by machine.  You sew the binding to the back first, wrap it around to the front and stitch it down from the front.  I ended up with a few tucks, but not bad for a first attempt.  I'll use it again for things that will get a lot of use, since I think it results in a sturdier finish than binding by hand.   

Friday, February 7, 2020

Project Quilting 11.3 - Put a Heart on It

I've always been attracted to quilt patterns that have hearts on them.  The first real quilt that I attempted to make was made with hearts.  (As an aside, I don’t count the patchwork comforter that I made for college as a real quilt.  I think that I have written about that experience in a prior blog post, so I won’t get into it here.)

That first 'real' quilt was a pattern that I saw on the HGTV website, so long ago now that I can’t recall exactly when it was.  It might have been a show called “Simply Quilts”, but I’m not even sure about that. The show wasn’t on TV in my area, but the website had information from each episode, and sometimes had patterns.  The episode that really captured my fancy featured a scrappy heart themed quilt.  The directions started with ‘grab scraps of all your reds and pinks’.  Well, I had never made a quilt before, so I didn’t have scraps.  Over the next several months, I gradually picked up cotton remnants from the local Minnesota Fabrics store, since that was the only place that I knew of where I could buy fabric. I finished all the blocks (with hardly any matching points or edges, LOL!), sewed them together, and put a backing on it.  Then I wrapped the backing around to the front to finish the edges.  Did you notice that I missed a step?  I didn’t quilt it before I bound it!  I was such a newbie that I didn’t realize that you were supposed to quilt it first, then bind it!  I started to hand quilt it, but got busy and never finished it.  It is actually hanging on a quilt rack in my room.  Maybe someday I will finish it. ^.^

The first quilt that I had the audacity to actually give to someone was a heart quilt that I designed and made for my sister’s wedding.  I really liked it, and hoped that other people would, too.  So I decided to write it up as a pattern. I had the crazy idea that I wanted to be a pattern designer when I retired, ha ha!  That was the first quilt pattern that I had published in a magazine.  It was published in the inaugural issue of The Quilt Pattern Magazine, January 2011.  Just in time to make a Valentine’s Day quilt!  Here is a link to the site with the pattern listings.   The Quilt Pattern Magazine - Valentine's patterns

That’s mine in the bottom right hand corner!

Anyway, my love affair with hearts continues!  For this challenge, I decided that I needed a Valentine’s pillow cover to help dress up my living room.  I went to my scrap bin and got some red scraps, sewed them together crazy quilt style.  I fused the patchwork to a piece of Wonder Under, then cut out a heart. I pressed it onto a white background and added a border of red 2 ½ inch squares.  I wasn't sure what I was going to use for the back of the pillow cover, so I went spelunking in my fat quarter drawer.  I found one that has red roses all over it and knew that was the one! Roses are very Valentine-y, right? 

About the same time that the challenge topic was posted, a local quilt store announced a charity promotion.  They have partnered with Meals on Wheels and have promised to provide quilted mug rugs for each recipient this month.  Since I was done with the challenge, but still in the mood to make hearts, I decided to make a few mug rugs to donate.  The pattern I decided to use was hearts, of course!

Recently, I saw a blog post by Allison of Cluck Cluck Sew that features a quilt called Simple Hearts.  You can read it here: Cluck Cluck Sew Simple Heart Pattern

The hearts in her quilt are similar to the ones that I made in that first quilt, and as a bonus, she gives a chart to make various sizes of hearts.  I often cut my scraps into 2½ inch strips, so I used some of them to make the hearts that finish at 4 inches. These hearts are like potato chips!  You simply can’t make just one! 

To make a simple 4 x 6 mug rug like these, you only need 3 matching 2½ x 4½ inch rectangles, 2 – 2½ inch background squares and 4 – 1-inch background squares.  Follow Allison’s directions to make the 4-inch heart using 2 of the rectangles and the background pieces, then sew the remaining rectangle to one side.  Use a 4 ½ x 6 ½ inch piece of batting and the same size backing.  You could quilt it then bind it, but I chose to sew mine together envelope style since I was short on time.  I had to get them to the quilt store by this past Wednesday, or I would have made a lot more. 

But I wasn’t still done with making hearts!  I had some fabric strips leftover from making a Valentine’s table runner, and I was able to make 12 more 4” hearts.  I set them 3 X 4 and am currently trying to decide if they will be another pillow cover or a placemat!    And I still may make that cute Simple Heart quilt, since my niece is expecting, and it makes a really great baby quilt!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Project Quilting 11.2 - Team Colors

When I saw the theme for the second Project Quilting challenge, there was no doubt in my mind as to what colors I was going to use.  

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so I bleed black and gold! We are fortunate to have a long history with great major league sports teams here in the Burgh, and all of them use black and gold as their team colors. 

As an aside - A lot of people misspell Pittsburgh because there are not very many places that have maintained the Scottish spelling with the ‘h’ rather than the German spelling (without the ‘h’, as in burg).  There is a long and complicated history behind the name. I won’t bore you with all the details, but if the topic piques your interest, you can look up here 

OK, back to the main topic – Team Colors.  The NFL Pittsburgh Steelers, the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, and the MLB Pittsburgh Pirates all use black and gold as their team color.  My high school’s colors were also black and gold.  The University of Pittsburgh’s colors are black and gold.  I’m not an alumnus, but two of my children have degrees from that institution, so I am going to count them as one of 'my' black and gold teams.   As far as I know, we are the only city whose major sports teams all use the same colors.  The reason is that black and gold are the colors of Pittsburgh's flag, which in turn, is based on the coat of arms of William Pitt, the 18th century British prime minister for whom the city is named.

So my project for this challenge had to be black and gold.  The real dilemma was what was I going to make, and what fabric was I going to use?  I have some fabric that features the major Pittsburgh landmarks, and I considered using that. It was commissioned the owner of a local quilt store.  The issue is that it was a limited run, and is no longer available.  If I run out, I won’t be able to get any more.  So it went back into the ‘save it for another project’ bin. 

Then I remembered that I had some Steelers fabric left over from a project that I made for someone. That's a long story that I won't go into here ^.^!  I’m not a big fan of the officially licensed NFL fabrics, because they tend to be kind of stiff.  But I hated to throw it away because you never know, someone might ask me to make something with it again. 

I dug in my bin of “not quilt quality’ fabrics and unearthed not only some of the black, but also a handful of 4 ½ inch squares of the white.

 That decided the issue.  I was going to make ‘something’ that used 4 ½ inch squares.
My husband suggested a table runner that we could put out during football season, and I thought that was a reasonable suggestion. 

After playing around with the squares on my design wall for a few days, I decided to use a “trip around the world’ layout, because I had exactly enough of the white 4 ½ inch squares for that.  The problem was that I didn’t have enough to fill in the sides to make it either a square or a rectangle.  So rather than filling in with other fabrics, I just kept the central motif and sewed it to some backing fabric, envelope style.  A little stitching around the center and around the edges and voila!  A Steeler table topper for my dining room table!