Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stash Storage

This is the bookcase you see when you first walk into my sewing studio. On the top shelf are cups with pens and pencils, blue tape, and boxes containing sewing notions not really quilt related. The next shelf holds all the paperwork that gets generated when somebody orders a quilt, as well as my notebooks and folders with patterns or inspiration pictures. Tonya, see that plastic bag way on the right? That's filled with all my reject letters for you.
The next shelf is for quilting and sewing books. I have a few classic books on the history of quilts and a few basics, books by Michael James some books on Seminole Patchwork and quilted clothing.
Like most quilters, I never really think about how much fabric I actually have in my stash. Like most of you, I'd rather buy fabric than lots of other things. But all that fabric has to live somewhere. If I'm just buying for my stash, I buy half-yard pieces. No fabric makes it into the sewing room until it gets washed. Then I iron it, and it goes on this shelf, until (or unless) I cut it into strips. Actually, I just discovered the Happy Zombie Method of Fabric Folding. I like it... (this means I have some work to do...)

I love this wall mounted drying rack. It's great for when I am cutting strips. It keeps them organized, and flat.When the rack is closed, it doesn't take up any space. I've got a TV and a DVD player and CD player in the room too. (You gotta watch something when you iron!) Projects that are in progress are stored in large ziplock bags (keeps the components together) in the drawers of the bureau. (yes, I painted the bureau.)Once the strips are cut, they go on hangers in the closet. The hangers are all organized by color. You can see the quilt batting and my shipping supplies too. Out of sight are shelves with plastic bins with other projects or supplies or fabrics for future projects or old WIPs.These bins are filled with my precut "chunks", organized by color.

But don't get the idea that my sewing studio is spotlessly clean all the time!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tools 2 - Tables

I am very fortunate to have a room devoted to my sewing. I took over my son's room when he moved out after college. He still calls it his room.

Every quilter needs a work surface and a place to iron fabric. My work surface is a drafting table, 37" x 50". I keep it at a slight angle so it is easier for me when I use the rotary cutter to cut strips. An angled table makes it easier to see an entire project, easier to reach everything, and much easier on my back, particularly when cutting strips with the rotary cutter. Not as much leaning over. I just have to remember not to set my scissors down on this table, because they will slide off. There's a little "cat hammock" underneath the table for Millie.

I have always felt traditional ironing boards were pretty useless for quilters, so my sister and I built this one about a year ago. The top is 24" x 48", and the base is 2" x 3" and some assorted 1" x 4" poplar scraps from another project.After the table was finished, I covered it with two layers of cotton batting (using a power stapler)and then some of that metallic heat-resistant ironing board cover fabric.I love it, and now I use the shelf underneath for fabric storage.It's terrific for ironing a full width of fabric. But if I were to do it over, I would make the top six inches wider, or about 54". Why? Because you need a place to set your iron down within easy reach while you shift your fabric about, and 44" wide fabric on a 48" wide table doesn't leave you a lot of space. Also, if you make one of these (and I highly recommend it), make sure you set the height properly. The top of my ironing table is 32-1/2" off the floor, perfect for me. But I am only five feet tall. If you're taller, adjust accordingly.Of course, Millie thinks it's hers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tools of the Trade

I really like to keep my sewing studio tidy. Whenever I am finished working, though, I always put my tools away. This is the drawer in my bureau where I keep the essentials. You can see my scissors and rotary cutters, pins, binding makers, seam ripper and a few other things.
I keep my pins in this big tin. I use the finest pins I can get, and I use steel pins. This way if I drop them, I can pick them up with a big magnet. The two dark areas on the cover of the tin are magnetic strips, useful for stray pins and this little pair of scissors I use to trim threads.My cutting mat is clear, and is 24" x 36" which makes cutting crosswise strips a snap. Many years ago I bought these plexiglass strips in varying widths, from 5/8" up to 4" and 24" long. I love them. I haven't seen them available anywhere. I guess folks just measure every time, which would make me crazy. I love grabbing one of these plexi strips and just ... ZIP. These hang on the wall near my cutting table.I have a good selection of right triangles, too. The two large ones are 16" and 12" and are very useful for squaring things up. The small orange one is 4" and I use it most often for bindings. I also love my 6" wide x 24" long rule.I have a small assortment of specialized rules, but the one I like the best is the Easy Rule Jr. It's 3-1/2" x 9" and it's very handy because of its small size. These hang on the side of my ironing table.On a bookcase behind the ironing table I keep my spray bottle, a box for loose thread bits, some pencils, the pencil sharpener, a lint remover (or cat hair remover), the telephone, iron, and a measuring cup of water. I refresh the water in the measuring cup every day because my cat likes to drink from it. The yellow banana shaped bowl is a holding spot for my scissors when I need to get them out of the way when I am ironing.No matter how busy I am, when I am finished sewing, all these tools get put back where they belong. It may sound obsessive, but actually, it just makes everything much easier to find.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Clean Sewing Studio

My sewing studio is clean, and ready for the next project.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Here's the back of the Alphabet Sampler Quilt. It flies out to the longarm quilter on Monday.

What next? Well, I have to clean the sewing studio (and the rest of the house).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


A couple of you suggested using punctuation marks in my quilt, but I couldn't see how they would fit. Then I noticed this little string of punctuation marks one of my friends uses at the bottom of her emails to me.

> ^ . . ^ <


This is a bit of the backing of the Sampler quilt. Can you tell I think a sense of humor is important in Life?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alphabet Sampler Quilt Top is Finished

I am really happy with it. It is 41" x 60".

The row of yellow dots went up at the top. The lavender ones went below the numbers, the soft green went below the house, and pink ones are at the very bottom. Now I am working on piecing the backing and making binding.

I also have to figure out how to quilt it, which is going to be interesting because I don't have a longarm machine, and my elderly Kenmore is not designed for stipple quilting.

You can click the photo to enlarge.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Have a Hand!

I knew what was wrong with the "rubber glove" hand in the last post. The fingers were too narrow and they didn't join the hand in a "V" as Callie correctly pointed out. In that regard my first try was better.

So I decided to do it the old-fashioned way. I copied my hand drawing, and cut individual templates.
Here's the finished hand:
It really is my hand, too, as you can see:
So now the components are all sewn, and I can assemble the top.

(I might move the rows of dots around, though. I'm not really sold on the yellow dots underneath the numbers. I liked the lavender ones better.)

Edit: My son came over, took one look and said, "You cut off the arm. It looks weird." So I added a cuff. We both like it better.

I have to go out tonight, and then to a concert tomorrow, so I don't know when I will be able to sew the top up, but for now, all the pieces are finished, and I am very happy with the layout.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Got a Hand?

I can absolutely draw my own hand. I love drawing hands. They are harder than faces, and I love drawing those too.

A friend suggested I put my hand on the sampler quilt, on one side of the house. I thought it was a great idea. So I traced my hand.

Then I worked out how I would piece it. So far, so good.

And then I tried to free-piece it. This looks like a clumsy rake to me.

And this looks like a sick rubber glove.

Makes me think I might actually have to cheat and use paper piecing (eeek). I will absolutely NOT applique this. The rest of the quilt is pieced, this hand will be pieced too.

because, you know, the idea has legs.

(okay, okay, I couldn't resist. I love a good [bad] pun.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009


One of these colors is singing for me. The other two, not so much.

Which one do you like, and why? You can click the photos to enlarge. The last one is a pretty soft green, even though it doesn't show up well in the photo.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wonky Stars

I didn't like the way my stars turned out on the number panel of the quilt. They are shown above in the bottom row. I want my stars to have points. So I really studied them and tried again last night. I think I have two winners, shown in the top row. I'll be replacing them later.

I have been busy the last couple of days with the usual boring stuff: dishes, laundry, shoveling, cleaning, work, and some not so usual stuff: blogging about my bread and fixing my mother's computer... I am almost "caught up." You all know how it is!

I've got an idea of what to put on the right side of the house, and it isn't a giant cat. I've also sewn the strips together for the last three rows of "dots."

I'm in the home stretch...

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Gunny Mom suggested sunshine and Paula suggested stars. So I decided to use Belinda's little tutorial and make some mini stars.

These are only 3" tall, and I had a hard time with them, and now that I see them near the numbers, I think I can easily make them a little bit bigger.

Dot suggested pencils or crayons, which a coworker had also suggested, and that thought led me to the idea of spools of thread, which I like very much.

Derby and 3anklebiters, hold that thought about the punctuation marks. I've already got a plan for those, but not in this quilt.

I had always planned to have a cat on the right side of the house, in the empty spot below, so Magpie Sue and Maggie, you are on the right track.

I have finished my signature panel, and I like the idea of the yellow flower between the location and the date. And I've got more rows of "dots" planned to separate all the individual "panels."

Finally, please go visit Tanya. She's just finished a spectacular quilt with words, hearts, houses, Japanese kanji and original cat and dog free pieced blocks. It's filled with color, love and originality. It's a knockout!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Suggestions, Please!

My Sampler quilt is coming along. This morning I worked on the rest of the signature block. All I need to add now is the year, 2009.

But I have a small problem. I need something to fill in the space on either side of the numbers panel. In this photo, I am trying out a little flower, and a wonky heart, but neither really hits the mark I am looking for.

I need something to fill in the blocks marked with ?? The letters are 3" tall, so it can't be bigger, and whatever it is has to be sorta wonky.

Whatever goes on one side, should go on the other, so hearts, flowers, tiny butterflies...?

Suggestions welcome! Leave a comment.

Thank you!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Seminole Patchwork Band

The strip of blue squares I used to separate the upper from the lower case letters in my alphabet sampler quilt is an example of Seminole Patchwork. There were a few books about this technique published in the early 80's, and I have them all. They are now out of print, but some newer ones are available. Last summer, I posted pictures of a Gizzy Quilt I made for my cat Jasmine using Seminole Patchwork.

(You can click the photos to enlarge.)

This band is very simple to make. The fabric is cut into strips. Here the white is 2" and the blue is 1-1/2". I cut two strips of white, and one of blue, and sewed them together using a 1/4" seam. I pressed the seams away from the middle. Next, cut crosswise at a 90 degree angle into 1-1/2" pieces.Sew pairs together, offsetting the pieces like so. You can use the seams to line them up, as shown here.
Sew the pairs together using a 1/4" seam. Don't bother pressing them yet.Sew your pairs together, as shown.
When all your pieces are sewn together, they should look like this.
Now you can press.To get a band with a straight edge, just cut somewhereAnd then join the cut piece to the other end.You have to be careful when trimming the points on these bands. Remember, it is completely on the bias. If you look carefully at my blue band in yesterday's post, you will see the band wobbles a bit.

No, I am not ripping it out.