Friday, January 30, 2009

Everyone should clean out the closet now and then

A few days ago I was trying to find the right size sheets in the linen closet and decided it was time to reorganize and maybe get rid of a few things. When I lifted the stack off the top shelf, look what I found!
I had forgotten all about this little crib quilt that I made about 20 years ago! I had made a disastrous attempt at quilting in college and still had no idea what I was doing. I had some fabric scraps from baby clothes I had made, that dark blue with yellow and red flowers was from an apron I made in high school (!!), I had some scraps from my sister, etc. Most of the squares date from the 1970's, a few from the 60's. I pieced them together and then went to the fabric store for help. The clerk was not a quilter (no quilt shops in town then) and so it was the blind leading the blind. I ended up using a polyester batting, folding the back over the front to make the border, and then tying the quilt. But it has held up to many washings. I can't believe I forgot this quilt! We had it out in the family room when the kids were little, so it was in constant use for many years.
And here are the other two 9 patches I made for Bumble Beans' fundraiser quilt (you can read about it on my previous post). Digging in my scrap bin was another trip down memory lane. All the fabrics but one are from the last few years when I took up quilting, but that darker blue is from a maternity dress I made when I was pregnant with DD#1, who is now 24 years old. I was never much of a seamstress because I couldn't get things to fit properly, but that doesn't matter much with clothes for babies and pregnant ladies!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's here!!

My new sewing table arrived 2-1/2 weeks ago, but I had to wait and wait and wait until the insert to fit my machine arrived. It finally got here yesterday evening! The table doesn't look like much, but it is so wonderful to sew on a machine that sits in a table instead of on it. I just love it. This is a Sew Perfect table, much less expensive than most cabinets, and I got a great price on their end-of-the-year, pre-inventory sale. DH gave up his Sunday afternoon to put the table together (thank you!!) so it would be all ready to go when the insert arrived.
Simple and quick seemed the way to go while I got the feel of the new table, so I decided to use my scraps to make some 9 patches. Bumble Beans is collecting them to make a quilt as a fundraiser for Love without Boundaries. Do go read about the money she and her daughter raised to help a Chinese orphan in need of medical care -- you'll probably start making 9 patches to send her as soon as you do!
Next I started putting together a sample Streak of Sunshine quilt. Make A Blanket Day for Project Linus is coming up, and I'm in charge of getting the projects ready for the event my LQS is hosting that day. We're doing Heartstring quilts, but I wanted some other projects, too. This is such an easy quilt, very cute, and perfect for using the odds and ends of donated fabric that we have to work with. Don't these fabrics look like springtime? With all the snow and frigid temps we've been having, I really needed to spend some time with these colors!

Now that I have such a great table, it's time to use it! For the record, these are the things I need to get done:
Quilt Landon's I Spy quilt -- I've been waiting until I got my table for this
Project Improv -- the quilt for our family room (finally!) and my chance to play
Erin's I Spy -- I hope to piece this on Saturday at a guild mini-retreat
Kathi & Buz's t-shirt quilt -- I thought I had until summer when they returned from overseas, but their plans changed and they came back this month
Kim's wedding quilt -- I've made I Spy quilts for all my nieces' and nephews' kids, but Kim has no children, so she gets a wedding quilt
Stroop quilt -- I just need to do it!

Happy quilting, everyone!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sweet Treat bags and donation quilts

If you've ever been to a major quilt show, you know what Sweet Treats are. They are yummy fat quarter bundles of 8 coordinating fabrics. I don't usually buy bundles because I like to pick my own fabrics, but it's a great way to get a group of fabrics that are not the sort of thing you normally buy. It allows you to sample a whole new color scheme, or do something thematic. I picked up a Sweet Treat of animal skin prints in Chicago last year, and my friend G, who also loves Sweet Treats, suggested we make bags from them. For Christmas she gave me a copy of M'Liss Rae Hawley's 101 Fabulous Fat-Quarter Bags.
This terrible photo shows the beginning of one -- the big center panel is the bottom, and when folded the top and bottom pieces become the two sides. I goofed. The two B&W prints should be on opposite sides so that they won't be next to each other in the finished bag. I have a little unstitching to do...

I have a few more MLK Service Day links for you. Seems like many of you spent some time working on donation quilts that day!

Sara made a bright squares quilt to donate, and kept working right through inauguration day!
Susan finished another quilt for Project Linus -- wow!
Mary, who makes makes most of her quilts for charity, worked with us on MLK day and that evening quilted a cute penguin quilt that her mom had made to donate.
Michele worked with leftovers from one quilt to turn them into another donation quilt.
Alycia makes so many wonderful Quilts of Valor that stitching on MLK day was much like any other quilting day!

It's not my place to thank these quilters for what they've done, but I am so glad they participated and I know their efforts are greatly appreciated by many.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack-y Road ice cream and donation quilts

Zingerman's has a fabulous inauguration ice cream called Barack-y Road Gelato, which they describe like this:

Barack-y Road is new, our special blend made just for inauguration. Handmade marshmallows, butter-roasted peanuts, dulce de leche caramel and chocolate chips that gelato genius Josh makes himself. That's in addition to the base of fresh milk from Calder Dairy (one of the last farmstead dairies in Michigan), organic Demerara sugar and Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans.

Eat it because it's chilled and he's chill. Eat it because he's facing a rocky road but it will turn out sweet in the end. Eat it for any reason, just be sure to bring all your friends to the table. It serves twelve of them nicely.

Alas, I no longer live in Ann Arbor, so can't get a scoop of this, but I picked up some slow-churned rocky road ice cream and some caramel sauce today and we'll have a dish while we watch the inaugural address for the second time tonight.

It was so exciting to see all the donation quilts that people worked on yesterday! Thanks to everyone who let me know they would be doing this. I'll put up links that people have sent me so far, and I'll keep posting links over the next few days. Please post a photo of a charity project you worked on for the MLK National Day of Service and I'll post a link to your blog.

Roz made some great crazy blocks for a quilt for an agency that helps the homeless.
Susan finished a colorful, cheery Project Linus quilt.
Trisha worked on a bright charity quilt, a fun pattern.
Magpie Sue turned a red and white UFO into a preemie quilt.
Gari worked on a disappearing nine-patch for law enforcement to give to a child who has to be removed from his home.
True Blue Nana worked on a lovely blue and orange star quilt for donation.
Quiltdiva Julie has just finished her So Many Memories Alzheimer's quilt and got it ready to ship off.

If you participated in the Day of Service by quilting for charity, please let me know and I'll post a link. It's such a wonderful feeling to know that our quilts will be big hugs for someone who really needs one.

Monday, January 19, 2009

One blanket for donation done

One fringed fleece blanket for Project Linus done!
These are quick, easy, and oh-so-cuddly. If you want to make one yourself, the pattern is on the Project Linus website (scroll down to Fringed Fleece Blanket).

If you're doing any charity quilting today for the MLK National Day of Service, please put a photo on your blog and let me know. Tonight or tomorrow I'll post links to everyone's projects. Remember, you don't have to make a whole quilt today, but if you have any time to give to making a block, choosing the pattern, cutting the fabric, etc., let me know. I have some links to simple projects in my previous two posts.

Happy quilting!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Getting ready for National Day of Service!

Hi, everyone! So many of you have responded saying that you would like to spend some time on MLK Day doing some quilting for charity. Awesome! Even if you don't have the time that day, I hope you'll think about becoming involved in some charitable quilting of some sort. If you don't have time to make a quilt, you might consider making a block. Clare collects them for Quilts 4 Leukaemia and the Heartstrings Quilt Project does, too. Check their websites for details.

If you do some charity quilting on MLK Day, please post about it on your blog and let me know so I can put a link to it from my blog. It'll be wonderful to see what everyone has done! Michele at With Hearts and Hands has posted a list of people who are doing charitable quilting that day -- check it out! Even if you are not in the US, please consider participating -- there is a need everywhere.

I responded to everyone who left a comment that they wanted to quilt for charity on MLK Day, and I would have liked to post more links and updates on the Day of Service, but I was down this week with some sort of miserable virus. Our furnace broke, too, but my own personal thermostat was so off kilter between fever and chills that I didn't even notice! Fortunately DH did, and he's the one who had to stay up until midnight while the furnace guy fixed things. DH said the repairman just shrugged off being called out so late, saying it came with his career choice. I'm glad he was willing to work nights because we couldn't wait until morning -- the outside temp had dropped to -16F (that's -27C) and we we were afraid the pipes would freeze.

Since I didn't get any quilting done myself -- charity or otherwise -- I thought I'd give you a tour of my guild's Project Linus stash and works in progress.

We have a finished basement that became my sewing area when the girls left for college and I took up quilting. I volunteered to house the fabrics that guild members donated to Project Linus. As you can see, we have a lot! And we use it.

Here are some piles of projects underway -- tops that need batting and backing, tops ready for quilting, quilted tops that need binding, donated quilts that need a little fixing, great fabrics that need a special pattern rather than one of our standards (we call those "Get Creative" quilts). You can see our finished red and turquoise fungly top in the foreground -- still has to be quilted.
This big roll of batting was a donation from a batting company. We are very appreciative because batting is expensive. Unfortunately, the batting is only 36" (a scant meter) wide, and our standard quilts are 40" x 60", which means we have to piece it! Eek! I see a piecing party in our future!
But this is the only piecing I managed to do this week. These were supposed to be put together as leaders and enders while I worked on another project, but I was so frustrated at not being up to any real quilting that I took 5 minutes and strip pieced them. At least I got something done!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Donation Quilts

President-elect Obama has asked Americans to participate in a national day of service on Martin Luther King Day (January 19). He and his family will be doing volunteer work, and I thought it would be great if quilters would participate by working on charity quilts that day. Just do whatever you have time for -- cut some fabric scraps into squares for a charity quilt, piece a strip quilt, tie a top you made for charity but never got around to finishing. Quilters are so generous with their time and talents that I'm sure many of you already have projects underway. It'll be fun to dedicate some time on MLK Day to charity quilting, especially because you'll know that lots of other quilters out there are doing the same.

Need a pattern or some ideas to get you started? Mary at Mary Quilts has many free patterns for simple but beautiful charity quilts, and Bonnie at Quiltville has lots of scrap patterns, many of which make wonderful donation quilts.
Julie of Me & My Quilts gathered fabric for about 15 pillowcases to donate to ConKerr Cancer, which distributes them to children with the disease. Members of my guild stitched them into pillowcases and we're sending them in. This photo shows about half of them. If you don't have much time but want to make something to donate, these pillowcases are easy to make in a short time.
This Heartstrings quilt was made at a local Project Linus worknight and quilted by a member of my guild. They are wonderful group projects! Maybe you can get a few friends together to work on one of these on MLK Day. Directions are on the Heartstrings Quilt Project website.

Post edited to include:
There are also some good quilting patterns on the Project Linus website, and Michele at Quilting Journey has compiled a list of 2,500 free quilting patterns.

I hope you'll think about participating. Let me know if you do! Together, we can make a difference.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Jacquie over at Tallgrass Prairie Studio has started Project Improv to encourage quilters to "quilt outside the lines." Her timing was perfect for me -- I'm doing a wonky quilt for our family room wall and could use the support of a group. We can make whatever we want for our own projects, but everyone commits to contributing a 12.5" wonky log cabin block for a charity quilt. I joined the red and aqua group since I love this color combination. Here's the block. I wish it had a little more sparkle in the lower left corner, but I think it will be fine in a quilt with lots of other red and aqua blocks.I have an uneasy peace with my wonky blocks about who is in charge. I (sort of) know what I want, and my fabric (sort of) knows what it wants, and ideally we march shoulder to shoulder into the fray. If either of us is too much in charge, the results are boring or disastrous. It takes some practice to work together.

For a leaders and enders project, I'm using these black and white pieces with their colored strips. They're the first installment of a fabric swap through my guild.
Our swap chair got permission from Bonnie Hunter at Quiltville to use her Sticks and Stones pattern (you can download a PDF of the pattern here), and all the swappers are providing cut squares and strips so she can make a quilt for charity. It's a fun pattern and I like having a straightforward project for leaders and enders (a technique I also learned from Bonnie). I'm thinking about something a little funkier for the border, though.

As for the title of this post, cucire is the Italian word for sew. The university here offers intensive language classes between semesters, and DD2 and I signed up. She spent a semester in Italy and has much better Italian than I do. She also has a better sense of direction, which is fortunate considering I had planned to follow the signs to the classroom.
I kid you not, this sign is actually in the hallway by our class!

Happy quilting, everyone! Ciao!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Guts and glory

Like just about everybody else, I've been trying to figure out what my quilting goals are for the new year. Finish my UFO's? Get rid of stash? Take a class? Blog more often? What???

This morning I had an ah-ha! moment, a flash of insight so brilliant that it has to work for me. And here it is: I'm going to work on those projects that will make my gut feel good. I know, I know, it doesn't sound like a plan and it certainly doesn't sound brilliant. But it's just what I need to push myself and to feel good about what I've accomplished. Here's why:

Quilting is my hobby, which means it's something I do for fun. Right? Apparently not, because I sometimes stress about it. So then it's not a stress-reliever, it's a stress producer. I need to get rid of whatever makes me feel bad about my hobby. And what is that? I feel bad that I don't let myself work on projects that are really creative because I don't know whether I can be creative. In the end, that's what I will regret -- not that my sewing room was messy, not that I have several UFO's, not that there are skills I have not mastered, but that I have been afraid to follow my own creative instincts.

So I'm starting small. Quilt Pixie is doing a block a week to improve her piecing skills, and I thought I'd do something similar to give my creativity an opportunity to come out and play. I need new potholders anyway, so I thought I'd try some ideas there. How about a wonky log cabin potholder? I love how a tiny project looks great big on my blog!
My only rule for practicing creativity is that I have to start the creativity-jogging project. Once I'm started, I'm usually okay. (It's that "energy of activation" stuff from chemistry class -- it takes more energy to start than to keep going.) I don't love this potholder top, but I like it fine and I feel great about the process -- I didn't know where I was going with it, but I let it develop as I went.

And on a completely different note, I finished the three borders of an I Spy that started as a way to make use of leaders and enders, a la Bonnie. Still need to quilt it. (And don't you hate how those great big projects look so tiny in a photo? It's the same size as the potholder!)

I wish you all a wonderful 2009 -- I know my year will be better for sharing it with my blogging friends. May we all find the guts to aim for our true goals!