Monday, January 28, 2008

Quick 'n Easy Charm Quilt

I found an online tutorial on Wendy's Snippets of a Quilter blog to make a quick top from 9-patches made from charm squares. Sew the 9-patches, cut into quarters and sew them back together. The result looks like you did much more cutting and sewing than you did. (My apologies, this isn't the best photo.)

I just so happens that I have a goodly stack of charms and I'd really been itching to use the April Cornell Sonnet collection (I think this was particularly strong of late because the colors make me think of spring). Turns out it was the same collection featured in the tutorial! I used nearly three packs to put this one together, limiting the use of the brown fabric to the center square in the 9-patch (which was the one that ended up being cut into quarters with a quarter in each of the resulting blocks) and the setting triangles. I love this quilt and it was so simple. It'd be great to use this idea to whip up a few baby quilts quick-like.

Only problem: I can't decide whether I want to put a border on this or not. I like the size that it is, but maybe a border would be nice too. Either way, I think I could still manage to quilt it myself. What do you think? I'd probably go with a brown border, but would consider another color as well.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Well, it took a bit longer than I'd hoped (probably because I was working on other things, bad me!), but I did this evening put together two pincushions using the wool I felted earlier in the week. I'd come across Betz White's website a few weeks ago, and she makes and sells these really cupcake pincushions using recycled felted wool.

How did the felting go? Well, it did seem to work okay in my front-loader... once I actually got it ready to go in the washer! It takes more time that you'd think to deconstruct clothing. Of course this was my fault - I should have just totally cut off the seams rather than ripping them apart, but I was trying to be conservative and save as much of the wool as possible. (By the way - French seams are twice the work when you're using the seam ripper! How do I know? The hard way!)

In the end, I only felted the sleeves out of the jackets and sweaters because it sounded like that was the portion that the designer recommended. I ran it through three times on the hot/cold cycle with as long of a cycle as possible and I don't really know if it was finished or right, but I'd had enough and it seemed reasonably right by feel. [Random aside: this being the first time that I've felted, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Tam had told me that I might want to run some towels in the washer afterwards to take care of some of the extra fuzz. Well, Ben did that and then asked me whether she'd mentioned anything about color bleeding because the towels were all pink... Hmm, I'm thinking. I wouldn't have expected that. Well, in checking the dryer, I discovered the likely culprit: he'd washed a red dry-clean only Christmas table runner with the towels! Fortunately, the runner is fine. And fortunately the towels were mostly those that we simply take to the gym and not our good ones!]

I'm not convinced that I can actually use these in the guild's pincushion sale. I can't figure out how to get them to sit flat, despite my best efforts. I will admit that I did not buy the designer's book to make the pincushion, but I did watch a Martha Stewart video segment where Betz made one of her other designs (using some of the same techniques, I'm certain), so I somewhat winged it in terms of figuring out how to put this together.

The one is ridiculously huge (or so it seems), and that's one where I used a combination of a sweater sleeve and jacket on the inside with a sweater sleeve on the outside. The smaller one was made with two jacket pieces on the inside and a sweater on the outside. It seems more reasonably sized, but I still don't think they look all that great.

What do you all think - do they look too lame? Please be honest. I'm really not in the mood to find another pattern to make some other kind of pincushion, especially as I'm not even a pincushion-user to begin with. But at the same time, the whole point is to make something that would sell. Would you buy one of these? I'll have to see how motivated I'm feeling (and how much other time I have). The other downside is that I spent a fair amount buying all of these pieces at Goodwill; if I scrap this idea, I now have a bunch of cut-up garments with which I have no idea what I will do.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Round Robin - Finished!

I dropped off my completed round robin top at Patched Works today and Caren, the owner of this particular top, has seen it, so I don't feel bad about posting pictures of my work today. Schedules were too crazy to arrange in January a meeting amongst our entire group, and given that some in the group hope to quilt their tops in time for the guild's show in March, we opted to do a drop-off and pick-up with three days next week at the shop for viewing. I'm looking forward to seeing my top next week!

I debated about what to do with Caren's quilt (see my post on January 8) and in the end decided that the top needed to finish on a darker note. I added this shaded borders round to make the outside a bit darker, following instructions from The Border Workbook by Janet Kime. I did cut my strips wider than instructed in the book so that they would fit this top properly and also so that they would finish at a more appropriate border width. I am truly thankful that I had a decent background in geometry (actually, it was my favorite math class!), and for the genius of the Pythagorean theorem. I had no idea in 10th grade that I would use those formulas with such regularity in my quilting; without this basic grounding, I never would have been able to calculate my cuts for this quilt! (I also was able to catch an error in the measurements stated in the book.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wool for Felting

I found a really cool pincushion pattern online a couple of weeks ago and plan to make a couple of them for our upcoming quilt show. It's an added fundraiser and a hook for the media, or at least that's the hope: hundreds of pincushions will entice people in. I don't want to show you the pincushion yet, but the pattern requires wool that I purchase as used clothing and felt.

A trip to Goodwill yesterday yielded some wool, although I had wished for a wider variety of colors and perhaps some stripes. Most of the sweaters that I really liked had a pretty low wool content - unsuitable for felting - so I had to settle for solids this time around, both those in sweaters and in jackets from which I will have to remove the buttons and lining.

I've never felted before, and don't know how effective it will be with my front-loading washer, but I'm planning to give it a shot tomorrow. If all goes well, I hope to show you the finished pincushions later this week.

Baked Potato Soup

Given that it is absolutely freezing here, Ben and I decided that soup would be a nice way to warm up. Before going grocery shopping - and choosing the absolute worst time to do so, when everyone else was shopping for their Packer parties - I thumbed through my stack of recipes to try and opted for a baked potato one that appeared in the Journal Sentinel sometime after we moved here. It was so good (and easy), I thought I'd share it.

Baked Potato Soup
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
1 quart milk
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chicken base
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 large baked potatoes, cooled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add celery and onion and saute until soft. Add flour and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly. Add milk, parsley, chicken base, salt, and pepper. Simmer until mixture is thickened, 15-20 minutes or until it reaches the consistency of a thick gravy. Remove peel from cooked potatoes and cube. Add to soup and heat through, but do not let mixture boil. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Serve immediately.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Working on lots ... but not much I can show you

I haven’t written much this week because I haven’t done a terrible lot of sewing. I was tied up reading an Einstein biography for my book group instead. It was quite a good book (I learned a lot), but a bit on the long side. I did finish my round robin on Sunday and had planned to post photos later today after we met and exchanged our tops, but the exchange has been postponed for a week so that people have a bit more time to finish up. I don’t want to give away my work, so you’ll have to wait until later to see what I’ve done.

I did however, want to post photos of the Chelsea Boutique quilt that I finished binding over the Christmas holiday. It was a Moda University quilt kit that I purchased from the Fat Quarter Shop last year with a gift certificate from Ben’s mom (thanks again!). I loved the colors of this line and couldn’t resist! It was so nice to be able to purchase it without it costing me anything and the kit even came with binding on a roll, which I had thought would be the most wonderful thing ever (I hate sewing together binding strips when I get close to finishing a quilt). However, I don’t know that I would purchase binding on a roll in the future: I personally think it was wider than I needed or preferred. I think this was 2.5” binding and I now cut all of my own bindings at 2.25” or even slightly narrower to get the fit I like. Sandi Goulet quilted this one for me and did a fabulous job, as usual.

Speaking of quilt kits, the most recent issue of Mark Lipinski’s Quilter’s Home (a fun magazine if you haven’t checked it out) included an article about McQuilting – making quilts from kits and jelly rolls and charm packs - questioning whether addiction to these types of projects causes us to lose our creativity in favor of convenience. I guess for me, it depends on how we choose to define creativity. I personally subscribe to the notion that there is more than one appropriate and relevant definition for creativity: I think of creativity as being the ability to develop new ideas and new interpretations (and thus being original in some way) but also being simply the act of creating, which is to say, creativity could simply be the act of producing something, whatever that something might be. If we adhere to the former definition, perhaps all of these kits do reduce our creativity in that quilters may be mass-producing the same idea rather than striking out on their own to select fabrics and color interpretations. If we adhere to the latter interpretation, perhaps all of these kits actually increase our creative output in that we can hit the ground running to sit down and sew in the limited time we have available. I personally will continue to buy quilt kilts that I like and will also come up with my own fabric combinations. For me, there is a time and place for each.

I was also busy last week getting three backings ready to match three tops I delivered to Sandi for quilting on Saturday. I’ll have these back in time to include in my guild’s upcoming show, so look for photos and updates on those in the future. Finally, I was able to spend a bit of time last evening working on some quick blocks for a couple of small projects from charm packs. I was able to finish up 25 of these while watching Project Runway and part of the local news. Not bad!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Antique Quilts

Last night my quilt guild hosted Julie Hendrickson, owner of the JJ Stitches quilt shop in Sun Prairie. Julie provided a trunk show of antique quilts from her collection, ranging from the mid-1800s through 1930. These quilts were amazing. The work was beautiful and the colors gorgeous, but what was most amazing was how imperfect they were - blocks totally cut off, huge bows in the borders, borders noticeably mismatched, etc. - things that most of us today would rip out or never show to anyone. And those imperfections made them all the more loveable. This program reminded me that a quilt need not be complicated to be beautiful, that it need not be perfect to be beautiful, and that it is highly unlikely that I will make a quilt with significant amounts of cheddar yellow.

While I didn't have the best seat in the house for taking pictures, I tried to get some reasonable ones. They're available in my Picasa web album. (They are also currently cycling through as a slide show at right).

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Round Robin

I have just a little over a week to finish the final round of my round robin exchange (due Thursday 1/17). This round may well be the most difficult, as it is an “anything goes” round. We can do absolutely anything we want with the top. In previous rounds, at least we were limited in the options we could consider – appliqué, a border with triangles, etc. But now, it can be ANYTHING!

The top currently in my possession is Caren’s, and I think that it needs another round of border – it doesn’t seem right to end with the white at the outside. So I’m going to blend the white back out to a darker blue in a style similar to that of the trip around the world quilt I made for my parents. I hope this is the right decision, but I find I just have to take the leap of faith and move forward with it assuming that it is the right move, otherwise I'll never get anything done. I'm sorry the photo of the entire quilt is so small - I stole it from Lisa's webshots album documenting our group.

At least I have a plan, and I have the fabric (isn’t it yummy?). I need to sit down and calculate the math for cutting and to make everything fit. And then I will start. My mantra for this round: I WILL NOT be up until 3 a.m. the night before our swap to complete it!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Project Report

Well, some quilting projects move along more slowly than others... And this is one of the slow ones. I'm pretty certain that I got in a good solid 5+ hours of sewing today and all I finished were 2 of the 7 rows! Now mind you that there is an individual checkerboard sewn between each of the squares you see, and the checkerboard finishes at 1". There's really no way to speed piece this, as there are so many pieces to keep track of and each one needs to be in just the right place.

While I was at one point ready to beat my head against the wall, I am thankful that I had a solid chunk of time to work on it today because I think that I have my head around what I need to do now so that I can probably work on it in the evenings and not have it take over my whole sewing area or drive me totally insane. Unfortunately, today's progress indicates that I will not finish this before giving in to my round-robin project, due on the 17th.

And Tam, I'm sorry if I'm making you feel guilty. Perhaps I shouldn't mention, then, that I finished my French braid project yesterday afternoon (I'll photograph it and write about it when I've gotten it quilted).

Today's Project

Since my parents' visit in October, I have had this "Pull Your Palette" project hanging in front of my sewing machine, a constant reminder that I still have not worked on it since the last class (in August!). I didn't want to take the squares off of the batting because I didn't want to have to recreate the layout and I'd really like to finish this so that I can put away the stack of various fabrics that I pulled from my stash for use in this project.

So, I've decided I'm going to work on it today and see how far I can get... I'd hoped to have a day dedicated to sewing, but I do have a few other things to take care of. At any rate, I'll post pictures later in the day to record my progress.