Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Sewing

I enjoyed sewing Sujata Shah's variation of the Rail Fence blocks so much, I decided to keep going.
I decided to make another table cover for my dining room table using these blocks. This would be an "everyday / any season" tablecloth quilt, so I measured my table without the extension leaves and determined I'd need 20 blocks. Since I already had 4, I only needed to choose fabrics for 16 more.

Fortunately I had to drive up to Quilted Threads to deliver my Black and White Crayons quilt to hang in the shop as a sample for a Letters class I will teach there on January 31.

I went shopping and bought some fabrics, then threw them all in the washing mashine when I got home. Last night and this morning I put fabric pairs together and cut my strips.

i deliberately planned a strong light/dark contrast between the pairs and I wanted the light/dark pairs to relate to each other somehow. Generally they are the same color - blue with a light blue, orange with a light orange, etc., but sometimes the combination pair was more connected by shape or feel (see the second to the bottom pair in the leftmost column). I also tried to get a contrast in pattern. A rectilinear pattern paired with a more rounded, organic shape, for example, as in the tan fabric at the bottom of the second column.

(the photos will supersize when clicked, then double-clicked.)

My selections were severely hampered by the fact that I couldn't use any fat quarters. For each block I needed four 5" x 20" strips.  This also meant a half yard of fabric would only yield one block. Had I thought more about it while I was at QT yesterday I would have bought more fabric, but it's OK. This way each fabric is only represented once.

I totally screwed up when I cut the fabrics for the first blocks. For some reason I cut the strips 5" instead of 5-1/2" as instructed in the book. I had to readjust the size of the individual blocks, but that's no big deal. Adapt, improvise, overcome.

I cannot tell you how happy I am to be back in my own house after being displaced for 2-1/2 days.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Another Blast From The Past

Since I'm staying at my sister's house until the electricity is restored in mine, I can't play with fabric. 

  I painted this oil painting of a colored beach towel hanging on a wall in 1987. It's about 28" x 40". My sister bought it and it hangs in her house.

Here's a detail.

It's fun to revisit artwork you did 24 years ago.

There are now about 89,000 homes without power in NH. (On Thursday the number was 200,000.) Mine is one of them. This is the fourth largest power outage in NH ever. They expect to have all power restored by the end of the day on Monday. I sure do hope mine is connected before then.  

Millie and I are fine.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Day After

When I woke up yesterday, Thanksgiving morning, the electricity was out and the temperature inside the house was 57F. The temperature outside was 33F, but it was sunny. As the day wore on, it got cloudy and cold. My sister had power at her house, so the Thanksgiving feast was moved there. A good time was had by all except for one small black and white cat.

When my brother, niece and I drove to my house to get Millie, it was starting to get dark, and the house was 53F. The overnight temperatures were supposed to drop to 22F, and I had no idea how cold the house would get. I was very worried about leaving her alone, so we went to get her.

Millie was not happy to be ambushed and thrown in the crate. I am sure she isn't happy at all to be in my sister's bathroom, even though she has her own litterbox and food. Still, I feel much better knowing she is safe and secure.

I sure do hope I get my electricity back soon. I really want to be in my own home, in my own bed, and sewing in my own studio.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

When I tell people my life changed when I adopted a famous cat, they all look at me like I have three heads. I laugh. It's true. If it wasn't for Millie I wouldn't be quilting today. 

If I hadn't adopted Millie, I wouldn't have made 200 Gizzy quilts and sold them to cat lovers all over the world.

If it wasn't for Millie I wouldn't have a very special family of fairy oddkids in Maryland.

If it wasn't for Millie I would never have discovered Tonya and her free pieced letters.

If it wasn't for Millie I would never have met Julie and Chris, and made so many new friends.

Thank you Millie.

When my family sits down for dinner today, we will all say what we are thankful for. I will say that I am thankful for a 13 pound ball of fur who still, after eight years, refuses to sit in my lap.

The world is indeed a funny place.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Like Wanda and Julie, I also received Sujata's book in the mail recently.

And since I've got most of my Thanksgiving prep done, I decided to do a little experimenting.

Until now I've never done any work with curves, not even this "gentle" kind that are amazingly easy to do. Oh boy, I'm gonna have to eat my words. I LIKE these. I can see lots of these in my future.

Yep, I'm gonna have a lot of fun this weekend.

And OH! See that lovely blue leaves fabric? I am in LOVE with that fabric and bought yardage in five or six colorways. And do you see that I have CUT INTO it?  Yes, that is what you are supposed to do with fabric. USE IT!

It's only fabric, it isn't gold, and it isn't doing you any good sitting in your stash!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Insipid No Longer

The master bath of my new house has a very small "water closet." I hung the Red Letter Alphabet above the toilet, and an African mask on a nearby wall. There is also a tall narrow window. It's frosted for privacy, but when I moved in there was a sad, old fashioned lacy curtain panel covering it. I thought it was awful, so I replaced it with a white curtain panel from my old studio, but it looked insipid and tired.

The room needed red.  Although I have a lot of red in my stash, I needed a piece two yards long, and I don't have a lot of red pieces that big.


 I did have a piece of this fabric, left over from the backing fabric I used for The Black Box quilt.  It isn't perfect, but I think it's a vast improvement.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy

I finished the backing for the Fall House Top quilt. Yes, Pat, it will be a quilt, but I will use it as a tablecloth.

Next up is preparing for Turkey Day.

I've seen suggestions to set out all your serving dishes ahead of time, and put post-it notes on each saying what you'll use them for. It's a great piece of advice. I've been doing it for years.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Back! Back!

The thing I dislike most about making quilts is getting the backing ready.  The Fall House Top quilt is 56" wide by 110" long, so the backing has to be 68" wide by 122" long.  THAT'S BIG!

(My longarm quilter, Chris, asks that the backing be 6" bigger than the quilt on all four sides. Since I love Chris and the work she does for me, I oblige her.)

Here are the fabrics I found (in my stash) that I'll be using for the backing. Since the quilt is going to be used as a tablecloth, the food themed fabrics are appropriate. There will be a panel of the black martini style fabric, then a strip of the forks, then the coffee themed fabric, then another strip of the forks, then the martini fabric.

At least in my new living room I have space to lay out a piece of fabric 122" long.  My goal for the weekend is to get the backing all done.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Inspiration Wall

I finally set up the inspiration wall over my ironing table. Here is what it has looked like for the last two or three weeks.

Pretty boring, huh?

So the other night I stayed up way too late filling it up with photos, notecards, art postcards, favorite quotes, artwork from my fairy niece and nephews, and emails from friends.

The wall looks MUCH better.

Now, whenever I look up at it, I smile.  It's not quite finished, but that means there is room for new stuff to be added.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ready for Action

I do not know why us quilters feel the need to show photographs of our clean studios.  Here is mine just before I cleaned up last night.

Three worktables is really nice for working, but not so nice when you've got all three covered with stuff.

After a couple of hours of stacking and folding, this is the result.  See that fabric on the far table?

It's going to be a perfect curtain for the door in the sewing studio!! You may recognize it from this post.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Design Wall Done!

The design wall is done. Finally.
I had forgotten the new wall is wider than the old one, and I got it 3/4 stapled to the wall before I realized it. I decided not to take it down and sew an extra piece down one side.  To do that I'd have to not only take it all down, but find a big (clean) flat spot on the floor to lay it all out and cut and trim, etc., etc.

I decided I could live with it, especially as the seam didn't run smack dab down the middle. I also had an electrical outlet to work around.

It's done, and it's fine. It's also slightly more complicated than it looks.

Underneath it all, stapled to the wall is a 1/2" of homosote. It's pressed cardboard, and works as a bulletin board, so this design wall has the advantage of having push pins stuck into it too. This is great when you want to get something big to stay up.

On top of that is that plastic tablecloth material that has flannel on the back. (Some years ago I bought a 25 yard roll of the stuff. I can't quite remember why.) Anyway, that's stapled up there on top of the homosote. The nice thing about it is that it is white, and you can't see through it.  On top of that I stapled the white flannel of the design wall. Because two flannel surfaces are touching, they stick to each other, making my design wall very smooth and flat. And because I've got that extra layer of white back there, you can't see through the thin flannel.

Boy, am I glad THAT's done!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fall House Top Flimsy is Complete

The Fall House Top quilt flimsy is complete. It's 56" x 110" or so. Here it is on my fully extended dining room table.

Normally a quilt like this would have a border, but this one won't. It already hangs down 8" on all sides, which is enough for a tablecloth without being a pain for the people sitting at the table. When the extra leaves are removed and the drop leafs are lowered, the quilt still looks good.

After Thanksgiving I'll send it to Chris for quilting.

Pat wanted me to take pictures of the Thanksgiving table when it is set. The table will look great. Do you know I have Fiestaware dishes?? (You're not surprised at all, right?)

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Here are nine Fall House Top blocks sewn together with the sashing and cornerstones.

Here it is laid out on my dining room table, to get an idea of what it will look like when it is finished. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

When It's Wrong, You Know It

I've finished sewing the 18 blocks needed for my Autumn table cover.  Then I calculated how much fabric I would need for the sashing.  Hmm. I didn't have enough of one fabric, and I didn't want to buy more. This is a scrap quilt, and I wanted to use what I had. 
I had quite a lot of this martini fabric. I expected it to be wrong, but I had to give it a go.  As you can see, it was an epic fail.  But nothing ventured, nothing gained. I tell my students it's easy to tell when it's wrong, and it's not hard to know when it's right. It's when it's so-so that we have difficulties.  The secret is to recognize, and admit that it isn't doing anything for you. (See "The Value of Meh")

After a lot of agonizing, and going through my stash to find something big enough so all the sashing pieces would be made of the same fabric, I said "The hell with it. It's a scrap quilt," and I started cutting the sashing pieces out of two separate dark fabrics.

I started laying the blocks out on the floor to get a feel for how to arrange them and quickly realized it didn't much matter, that they would look good no matter how they were arranged.  So I lay out some of the sashing strips to see what that would look like, then I lay out a few little squares to see what color I wanted those to be. Did I want them to show up (in which case I would make them gold) or did I want them to disappear (in which case I would make them brown) or did I simply want them subtle (in which case I would make them green.)

I think I like all three. What the heck. When you're going over the top, keep going.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fall House Top Blocks 13 - 18

Woo hoo! The last six fall house top blocks are finished. These blocks are BIG - about 18" square.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Closing in on the Fall House Top Blocks

I'm almost finished the Fall House Top blocks.  I've been using the strips I cut, rummaging through the pile on my cutting table.

I've been keeping all the little bits I cut off from the long strips, so I sewed some pieces together to add some variety to the blocks.

Since I've only got six blocks left to finish, I figured I better use these right away.

These need one row on each side to be finished. I've also checked through my stash to find fabrics for the sashing between the blocks and the backing and binding. I think I've got them all worked out, but you know how it is. You never know until you actually put stuff next to each other.

Anyway, I'm getting there and I'm happy.

PS, my quilt, The Black Box, was accepted into the AQS Albuquerque show in January 2015. W00t! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fall House Tops 9, 10, 11, 12

I finished four more blocks yesterday.

 I have no particular plan in how I arrange the fabrics in these blocks.

 I only try to vary the pattern, color and scale of the fabrics.

The biggest rule is to try to avoid BLOBS (which are any place where there is TOO much of the same thing in one spot. Too much dark, too much BRIGHT, too much BUSY.)

Hah!  Look at the upper right hand corner of this block. I goofed, but so what?

By the way, all these fabrics came from my stash. Some of these are years and years old, some come from fat quarters I've picked up over time, some were given to me by my friends, and if you can believe it, at least two are my absolute FAVORITE fabrics.

You know what I say, "It's only fabric, it isn't GOLD, and it isn't doing you any good on the shelf."

What are you keeping it for? If you leave this earth before you use all your favorite stuff, do you want it to go in the trash or donated to some careless quilter? Use it, or lose it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fall House Top Blocks 5, 6, 7, 8

I laid all my house top blocks on the floor and realized I had eighteen in progress and four finished blocks.

I need eighteen blocks for the finished table cover, so I had too many.

 The in-progress blocks were about 12" each, so I chose four and finished them.

  Because I was working with four instead of 18, I made good progress.

 I am very happy with them, and that's how I'll finish the others, in groups of four.

 I think this is going to be a great table cover for Autumn.

(Obviously I'll trim the blocks to size first. These haven't been trimmed.)