Sunday, September 30, 2012

Win Some, Lose Some

It's been a couple of crazy weeks. The conference room project at work is moving along
This is the room before all the work started.

and this is the room as it looked just before work stopped on Friday afternoon.

While all this was going on, the Accounting and Information Technology departments (moi) were working on the fiscal month and quarter end closing.  Which means I put in a twelve-hour day on Friday.

I needed a little break from work-work-work, so yesterday I did a little retail therapy, then drove over to a new grocery store in town. I'd been meaning to check it out for a few weeks. The store was awesome.  I did my groceries and then as I was getting out of the parking lot, I accidentally drove over a curb.

I knew I had done something wrong when the low pressure light on my dashboard lit up. I drove to a gas station to put some air in the tire, but when I looked at the tire I knew it was bad. The tire was as flat as a pancake. I was amazed the car had driven so well. I called AAA and when the guy came, he took one look at the tire and said, "Well THAT'S wrecked.  You're gonna need a new one."

Sunday morning I went out to get the few things at my usual grocery store. (The new one hadn't had all the cat food flavors Millie prefers.)  Just down the road is a tire store that advertises good prices.  I had the tire replaced for less money than I had expected.

Today I'll be doing all the housework I've been putting off.  Laundry, dishes, the checkbook, vacuuming, etc. And I've got to watch the Ryder Cup and of course, Millie has to watch her friends, the guys named Pat. No sewing, probably, but an easy day.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Black Box Update

I found Millie napping on the Black Box quilt. I've tried to keep it someplace where she can't get on it, but obviously I failed.

I have been working on the quilt. I didn't like part of what I did the last time I worked on it, so I took that out.  I realized I put the left side of the box and rays together differently than the way I put the right side together.  So I've taken it apart and will get it back together the "correct" way.

It isn't that I've been avoiding this quilt, it's just that I've been named project manager of the renovation of our primary conference room at work. This means I've been on the phone with the contractor, electrician, designers, and technical folks for hours each day.  It means I've been the go-between between the CEO and CFO and everybody else on the outside. I've been shopping for conference room chairs, reviewing rug samples, soothing ruffled feathers and getting to know some really wonderful painters, plasterers, and carpenters.  It means I've got to work early to meet workers, and left late (after getting my own work done).  I even spent a few hours at the office last weekend while a two foot wide by ten foot long trench was jack-hammered out of the concrete so we could run electrical, network and telephone lines under the floor so they could come up through the bottom of the as-yet-to-be-selected ultra-mega-cool conference room table.

Everything that -was- in the room is going.  The wallpaper was stripped, and the condition of the wallboard underneath was not good. The walls needed two days of prep work before the custom designed, custom printed wallpaper could be hung.  Tomorrow the very last of the wallpaper will be hung, and the "jewelry" will be installed. What "jewelry?" A 60" flat panel TV, a ceiling mounted projector, a new speaker system, and an almost four foot by eight foot interactive whiteboard.  Running these goodies will be not one, but two computers.  We're getting a 3D version of our corporate logo installed on one long wall (they call it "branding") along with some large images of the products we manufacture. (I've had to oversee the choice of those photos too.)

So not only have I been getting home late, but I've been pretty well zonked. That and the fact that my son is traveling on the West Coast (two weeks ago he was in Mexico, next week he'll be in Yosemite) and has been calling me late at night to talk have all contributed to make me spend my evenings sacked out on the couch with a book instead of in the sewing room making magic.

Fortunately the "heavy lifting" part of the project is complete, and I'll be able to get back to sewing soon.

I can't wait.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Side Trip

I made this house panel for Michele.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Julie!!!

This is my best pal, Julie, shown wrapped in the quilt I made, "No Rules for Julie". It's her birthday today. Julie and I chat regularly and exchange emails almost daily. She helps me with my quilting conundrums. Go on over to her blog and help me wish her a Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Julie!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Hole In One

Some of you know how much I love to watch tennis. During long matches, one always hears that the winner will be the one who "wants it more." This is balderdash. Both players want it. The winner will be the one who prepared himself well beforehand. He or she will be the one who did whatever was needed to ensure a good result.

I like to make quilts that "knock it out of the park," that "blow people away," or are thought to be "awesome."  You don't get a quilt like that if you settle for less. I want this quilt to be a knockout. If that means I have to remove something and do it over (and over and over), then that's what I have to do.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Box, Updated

I did some work on the box. Trimming that left side made a big difference, but I'm still working on the long diagonal on the left.  That will affect the lower left flap - which I'm still working on.

It's coming along.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Kiss My Asterisk!

 (Sorry, I have a hard time resisting temptation.)  These asterisks are only 4" (10.16 cm) across.

Asterisk stars (or flowers) aren't hard to make, but they can be a bit time consuming.  Make one to see how it works, then when you make more, make several at the same time.

To make an asterisk / flower, sew a 4-1/2"wide piece of your asterisk / flower fabric between two 2-1/2" strips of background fabric.You'll need a 6 inch  (15.24cm) square of background fabric and a small scrap of another color for the center.

If you want your asterisk / flower a different size, that's easy.  Just add 1/2" to the size you want, and cut the flower fabric that wide.  If you want a 3" flower, cut the fabric 3-1/2". If you want it 2-1/2" across, cut the fabric 3" wide. If you want it 5" across, cut it 5-1/2". For larger flowers, you might want to increase the size of the square (background) a bit.  It's up to you.
 Cut the flower fabric into strips 1" wide.
 Slice the square in half diagonally.

 Sew one of the flower strips along a diagonal,edge of the background piece, making sure both are centered.  Press the seam toward the triangle.

 Sew the other white triangle to the other edge of the flower. Press away from the flower fabric.
 Cut the block in half diagonally, across the flower piece.
Sew another flower strip between the two triangle pieces. Press the seams away from the center.  You will also have to trim some bulky seams away.  Sew the other triangle to make an "X."
 Slice the block in half. (This is a good time to trim some of those floppy triangles in the seam allowance on the back.)
 As seen in these two photos, sew another flower strip.
 If you want to make a two-toned flower, now is the time to add the second fabric. Then sew the other half of the flower to it.
Now you have to add the center of the flower. Cut the block in half (again!)
The best way to figure out what the center color should be is to hold an audition.

 I just cut a tiny piece of various fabrics to try them out. This purple is too dark.

 This green looks nice.
 This yelllow doesn't look right.  You want to be careful about very light centers.  Sometimes they can read as "holes."
 I don't think there is enough contrast in value between the red and the dark violet flower fabric.
This could be okay, but it really doesn't do anything for me.

Cut the last flower strip in half and insert a one inch wide strip of whatever center fabric you choose.

 Press to the center.
Sew in place.

Sew the two halves of the flower together.  Press these last two seams toward the center of the block.  This way there's less bulk.
The finished asterisk flower.
Here's another.
Don't worry if your asterisk flower comes out crooked.  Asymmetrical flowers have a certain charm.

You can make the "petals" of the flower longer, or wider, but be advised there are a LOT of seams and the center of the flower gets very bulky.  You won't be able to hand quilt these.  Still, I think they look great, are a lot of fun and add a lot of pizzazz.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rip Rip

I ripped out the bad seams in the Black Box quilt last night.  It's funny to think of taking something apart as "progress."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Little Break...

I took a trip to Quilted Threads over the weekend with a friend when I did NOT need any fabric. Nevertheless, this collection of fabrics followed me home.
By the end of the next day, they had transformed themselves into this quilt:

Gosh, it's fun to make a whole quilt in just one day! This is for my favorite little rug rat, affectionately nicknamed the Caboose!

*(btw, this design is from Tula Pink's new book. If you make it, be advised there is an error.  You'll need twice the number of cream colored pieces the directions specify to make the quilt as designed.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Theory and Practice

In Theory, theory and practice are the same. 
In Practice, they are different.

This photo of the box in the Black Box quilt is proof. I knew how I wanted all these components to fit together, and in theory, they were supposed to fit together perfectly. However reality got in the way.

For some reason, the left side of the box is 1/4" too big. That's the THIRD time I cut that piece.  Partly because it is too big, I've got bubbles in two places where the quilt won't lie flat.  I'm going to have to rip that seam along the box, trim it down and resew it. I've also got to rip out the long diagonal seam from the box flap alongside the gold ray on the left.  I'll have to do some finagling there to get it to lie flat.

If I'm lucky fixing those two seams will get rid of the two bubbles. If I'm not, then I've got more tinkering to do.  I've been working on this quilt full steam ahead for the last two weeks, and it's kind of worn me out. I'm going to take a little break from it to regroup.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Silver & Gold Asterisk

I won't be making more of these gold and silver asterisks.  The gold fabric, even with a new needle, had lots of pulled "threads". 

After I'm finished the Black Box quilt, I'll do a tutorial on how to make these asterisk flowers.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Little Maintenance and TLC

Like Queenie, I really hate running out of bobbin thread when I'm in the middle of a seam. Since there isn't anything worse at that particular moment then winding a new bobbin, I wind as many empty bobbins as I can when I get down to the last one.

Since I do all my piecing with a medium gray thread, about a dozen will keep me going for a while.

But after sewing with a dozen bobbins, the dust in the bobbin area of the sewing machine usually needs to be cleaned out, so I take the time to do a thorough job.

Julie suggested I take a photo of the type of pins I use so I don't forget. Since I don't tinker with the settings on my sewing machine, it's easy for me to forget what settings I like best.  I took a picture, so now I can get back to "Normal" very easily.

 I turn off my sewing machine and unplug it before I do any of this maintenance. Couple of reasons, first, there's no risk to machine or my fingers if the power is disconnected. Secondly, if you're going to be taking things apart, be smart, make sure nothing bad can happen. Unplug the machine. (In the manufacturing world, we call this "Lock Out, Tag Out.")
Next I remove the cover, the bobbin casing, and blow the dust out of it with a can of compressed air. Now there are a couple of things you really really need to know before you use this stuff. First, read the instructions on the back of the can.  Second, use only short bursts of air. Don't just press the button and go for broke. The air that comes out of the can is COLD, and I mean, FREEZING COLD. You can damage your skin, and electronics don't like extreme temperatures.

Get yourself a little flashlight. Mine's a Mini MagLite.  Keep it nearby. It takes two AA batteries and costs about twelve bucks. There are cheaper flashlights, but the MagLite always comes with a spare bulb built in and it allows you to focus the light brighter where you want it. The flashlight makes it easy to see what's inside the dark areas of your machine.

Just like a tape measure from the hardware store, a utility knife, blue painter's tape and a 48" long metal ruler, these are handy to have at hand.  Sure you could probably buy all this stuff at a spiffy quilt shop, but you'd pay lots more $$$ for them, and I think that's pretty lame.

Dunno where you get those little pipe cleaner type brushes, but those are handy for cleaning dust out of nooks and crannies. Dust collects, grows, and stores heat and occupies space. You gotta get rid of it.

The bent needle nosed pliers (also called a hemostat) are useful for reaching in and pulling a chunk of dust or tangle of thread out of tight places you can't reach, and they're also handy when ripping out seams.

If you're going this far, you might as well oil your machine, but only if the manufacturer's instruction manual tells you to.

After I've done all this stuff, I clean the machine itself, and the work area. When that's all done, I plug the sewing machine back in (this also gives any parts inside a chance to come back to room temperature), and then I'm ready to get back to work, feeling very virtuous.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sun Rays

Oh boy!
This is the layout of the rays that will surround the black box. I had to sew them up this way first before I could add them to the quilt.

Of course, there are a couple of finicky things I have to work out before I add them to the box...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Make It, Break It

To make "Made Fabric" you have to have scraps.
  You can probably do it by cutting up yardage, but I think it's fun to use scraps.

So aside from scraps, where did I get the bits to make the Made Fabric?
 First, I collected all the pieces I wasn't going to be using in the quilt.
 Then I cut what I need away.
Now I have a pile to play with.

 Like this!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Old Box, New Box

Judy in Michigan wondered if the white inside of the box was a moire fabric.


It's the same White on White as it was in the original box.

Monday, September 3, 2012


 Can you guess what these funny, fussy triangles are for?
If I turn them on their sides, you can probably see right away..
It's the new black box.