Saturday, 9 November 2019

Small Quilting Projects

After making Damian's treat bag, I decided to try another bag and another new block, this one for my niece, Julie, whose birthday was coming up. Unfortunately, my calculations were way off when I cut the pieces to make the above Arabian Star or Dresden Tile block. I had just started adding the darker pieces when I realized it was going to end up at least 20" square, and there was no way I wanted the tote bag that big. I was also finding that the star was not lying flat. So, I set this one aside and started over. 
I decided to try two different 15" blocks, and had much better success. The one above is the Japanese Poppy. When I looked at the picture in the book, I figured that the Tri Recs Tools would work for this block. And they did!
The second block was the Z-Cross, which after sewing the directional print cross in the centre with all of the fabric pieces going in the same direction, I then sewed it into the bag sideways. <sigh>
In the middle of all this, stitching along on my newer Janome, I heard a "sprong" noise and suddenly there was no tension. After fiddling with it a bit and realizing it was going to need to go in for repairs, I decided to set up the old Janome that had been my mother's. After its last servicing over a year ago, I had not used it because I was planning on giving it to my daughter. She just hadn't come to get it yet. 
I had to rearrange things in the studio in order to set this machine up in its cabinet. Finally, with that done, I plugged it in and pressed on the foot pedal and nothing. There was power to the motor, but the needle wouldn't go up and down and the buttons were not responding. Totally seized up! Another machine that needed to go in for servicing. How did I end up with two Janomes down at once? 
I got out the Omega and tried working with that. 
While the Janome ¼" foot fits on this machine, the needle doesn't come down in the centre of the opening in the foot, but on the far left. So, it wasn't really stitching a true ¼". And the tension was not consistent. 
I cleaned and oiled this vintage Singer, which I had picked up at a thrift store for $20, and tried it. I wasn't entirely happy with its performance either. Again, I couldn't get the tension just right. And I didn't have a ¼" foot for it either, so I was just approximating. Both this one and the Omega could probably benefit from a servicing as well.
Finally, I pulled out this little Janome that I had bought for my grandson. It's made for children, so it has a guard on the presser foot to help prevent little fingers from getting under the needle. The presser foot can not be changed, nor can the needle position. And it only stitches at a slow speed. Not being able to change the presser foot, I couldn't change to a ¼" foot, so again I had to approximate. This didn't work very well because parts of the projects were sewn on 3 different machines, with inconsistent tension and varying seam widths. By this time, I had finished the tote bag and quilted it without any really major issues (aside from the sewing machine issues). 
I used the Feather Heart Pantograph by Hermione Agee from Urban Elementz.
It was my first time using metallic thread on the longarm, and that worked without any serious hitch. It was Marathon Metallic 3009, with Glide pink in the bobbin
I was able to assemble it and felt pleased with the results.
I had to take a picture of each side, since they were different.

Meanwhile, I took both Janomes in for servicing and was told it would be 4 weeks! 😞 Oh no! So I bought a ¼" foot for the Singer as I was getting tired of trying to approximate seams. And I went back to working on the Arabian Star block, determined to make it into a table topper. As I mentioned, it wasn't lying flat. I was able to remedy that by taking the seams in a little. Then I added the background, then worked on the borders. That was pretty disastrous as I did them on more than one machine - one which was making the seams too wide and another which was making the seams too narrow. 
Rippling, puckering seams notwithstanding, I determined to load it on the longarm and see what transpired. 
This! This is what transpired. And while a more OCD quilter than me might not be satisfied with it because it most definitely is not perfect, I'm reasonably happy with it. 
And it's already been cat-tested and approved by Mystery. 
Here's a close up of the quilting. This was a project that would have really benefitted from free motion quilting. But I still haven't mastered that art yet. And I'm not sure I will ever have the time or patience to do so. However, I did want a smaller, more dense design. Looking through my pantograph library, I finally chose Simply Elegant from Willow Leaf Studio, and used the same threads that I used for the tote bag. 
This table topper measures approximately 36" square. It will be my niece's Christmas present. 

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Dishcloths and Health Care Aide Day

October 18 was Health Care Aide Day in Alberta. It's a time to recognize health care aides (personal support workers, home support aides, nurses aides or whatever name they go by) and the important work they do. It's not an easy job - they do most of the "grunt" work in health care, and are often unrecognized and unappreciated. Last year, when I was working as a director of care in a long term care, I gave each of my health care aides a bath scrubby and some home made soap. I personally did not make the soap, as that is not one of my hobbies, but it was made by one of my retired nursing colleagues. This year, back in home care, I gave each of our health care aides a home made dishcloth.
That was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 26 dishcloths! It gave me an excuse to try a new Bernat yarn: Scrub Off. This yarn has regular cotton yarn interspersed with a scrubby-textured yarn, sort of like terrycloth. I decided it's not my favourite yarn. Like Bernat Bundle, the transitions between yarn types are not smooth - there are often loose ends that you have to figure out what to do with. I also don't really like working with the scrubby texture - a little rougher on the hands. 
While in Ontario on vacation, I picked up this book: 

and decided to start trying some of the patterns.
Orange Slice  -  Sunny Day
Cornflower  -  Wild Rose
So, the health care aides got quite a variety of dishcloths.
I took a Big Ball of Bernat Handicrafter Cotton in the lava lamp colourway (the green/pink/blue/white ones in the photo above) with me on the plane. When I finished that up, I bought one in Garden Party (the purple/pink ones). 
 I was using patterns from yarn labels and the internet. Above is another new yarn I purchased in Ontario. The purple/blue one is Bernat Handicrafter Stripey. It comes in a "cake," rather than the usual skein, with about double the amount of yarn, and I find it softer and finer than the usual Handicrafter cotton.
Summer Shells (which really isn't the pattern in the book)  -  Summer Rose
Rose Granny  -  Sunflower in Circle
At home I continued with the "Year of Dishcloths."
I then made these Pretty Posies dishcloths for a neighbour who had lost her husband. This is a free Mary Maxim pattern that I've used numerous times. It's pretty and it works up quickly. I use Red Heart Scrubby cotton for the edging.
Passion Flower  -  Fancy Heart
Before the Pie  -  Grandmother's Flower Garden
October 18 was drawing nearer, so I finished off with these four, plus some other dishcloths I had left in my stash. On the afternoon of October 17, I stuffed one in each of the health care aides mail boxes at work.
Now I'm down to just three in my stash, so it's time to get started on some new ones. I decided to try a pattern I got on a leaflet in Len's Mill, Bernat Holiday Dishcloths. I couldn't find the pattern online so I can't link to it. It's a Handicrafter Holidays pattern.
Because of the stitches used (front post double crochet, alternating with back post double crochet), it really ends up being too bulky for a dishcloth, so I put it in my drawer with my hot pot holders and trivets. 
Better get moving. I've got a quilt on the longarm that needs to be finished before I can get my niece's bag done, plus laundry and cooking to do, so I'm ready to go back to work tomorrow.

Odd Fellow's Treat Bag

While I don't personally choose to celebrate Halloween, my daughter does take my grandson out trick or treating. So, I decided that he should have a proper treat bag. A quilted treat bag, of course. But I didn't want it to be specifically Halloween. So, while the colours are Halloween-ish, there are no jack-o'-lanterns, witches, etc. featured on this bag. And as for the colours, well, orange is his and his mother's favourite, and purple is Grandma's favourite. So, he can use this bag any time he wants to. 
Originally, I had seen a bag pattern in a quilting magazine and intended to use it to make this bag. So, I purchased the fabric (guestimating the yardage, since I didn't have the magazine with me) that was on sale at Fabricland. I don't know if I forgot to buy the magazine or just forgot which one it was in, but I haven't been able to find it in any of my recent purchases. As my mother used to say, necessity is the mother of invention, and I figured it wasn't that difficult to make a tote bag. I just had to determine size and what block to use. I suppose I could have googled to find a pattern or at least what size to make it, but I decided to wing it. I felt that a 12" bag would be too small and an 18" bag would be too big, so I took middle ground and made a 15" bag, with the sides 6" wide. It might be a little big for a 7-year-old, but he definitely won't run out of room for his treats.
As for the block, I decided to use one of the many quilting books that I have picked up at thrift stores. I chose Odd Fellow's Chain from this book: As the title indicates, this is a dictionary of quilt blocks, not an instruction book. So, once I chose a block, I had to determine how to make a 12" block from a 2" line drawing. Yes, I probably could have googled the block name and found instuctions, but too often I find the patterns come with templates. And I am really not fond of templates. I'd much rather just measure and cut. I only had to determine the measurements. It's been a while since I have done a more traditional quilt block, and an even longer while since I've made one "from scratch." And I'd forgotten how much I enjoy doing that. It's a good thing I'm good at math, since EQ8 is not yet in my budget. 

I produced two of these quilt blocks. I added 1½ borders to the blocks, and stitched them together with the side pieces, leaving the bottom piece separate. And I loaded it on my longarm for quilting, laying the bottom piece beside the main piece. It's the smallest project I've done yet on the longarm. The main part of the bag was 42½ by 15½, with the bottom piece measuring 6½ by 15½. 
I quilted it using the Pumpkin Fest pantograph. 
I used Glide Halloween for the top thread and on the bottom, I used a prefilled bobbin of orange thread that came with my machine. I didn't know what I'd ever use that orange bobbin for. Now I do. 😃 
I made quilted handles as I think the handles will be more comfortable with batting in them. 
Next project will be one for my niece. Not that she needs a tote bag for trick-or-treating - LOL, but even as adults, we could all use a little treat now and then. And she just had a birthday, so I plan to make her a quilted gift bag to hold her "treats."

Just in case you're wondering why I choose not to celebrate Halloween, see the video below.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Go Broncos

As the second youngest of 7 children, I have nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews, that are older than one might expect for someone my age. My oldest nephew just turned 50, and a great nephew, Jordon, just graduated from university - Western Michigan University. I hate to admit it, but I actually started this quilt for him when he graduated from high school. It's just taken me this long to get around to finishing it. I don't even remember how I found this pattern, but it's an Alphabet Soup Quilt pattern from AD Designs. WMU's school colours are brown and gold - hence the colours in the letters and borders. The pattern calls for tan and light brown as the background colours, but I decided to make it orange and blue - Jordon's favourite colours.
I might have mentioned before that I seldom pay full price for fabric. However, I occasionally make an exception, like when it's a novelty print that's not readily available. That was the case in the backing fabric I used for this quilt.

It's certainly not fabric I would even find in Canada. Unfortunately, the print runs edge to edge and so I had to do a vertical seam to keep it upright on the quilt, since the quilt top is also directional. I managed the vertical seam on my longarm without any problems.
Meanwhile, I had to choose a quilting design. I considered various ideas, but finally settled on Wild Horses Grande to coordinate with WMU's school team, the Broncos.

This is an Urban Elementz pantograph by Deb Geissler. I'm a big fan of novelty pantographs and I love how this one turned out. I used a Wonderfil Fabulux thread for the first time. This is the Ocean Breeze colour way and it's really pretty, with Glide Mocha on the back. Still having some challenges with my Amara, however. 
Did you ever think about how much thread we throw away when longarming, especially when we're having problems with our machines? Well, I found this idea when looking for what to do with yarn ends, and decided to try it with thread as well. 
I bought these baubles at Walmart a few years ago in the Boxing Day sales. My grandson and I have made several different projects with them, but I still have quite a few left over. My goal is to decorate a Christmas tree with craft-related items: old thread spools, maybe some crochet hooks and knitting needles. And now I have these to add.
But back to my quilt: Once the binding was done, I sat down in my recliner to tack down the label and trim any loose threads from around the binding. I was giving it a final look over, when Mystery decided he needed to test it.
Cat-tested and approved, and ready for mailing. As soon as I find the right size box.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Neutral Territory

I bought the jelly roll used in this quilt at a Christmas craft and bake sale this past year. It's Tim Holz Eclectic Elements, and it was only $10. A steal, really, and the fabric is quite interesting: dictionary pages, music scores, posters, lepidoptera, maps, etc. Definitely eclectic. So it appealed to me for it's uniqueness. However, if I had to do it over again, I would likely have used it in a larger quilt with a darker or brighter coloured fabric for contrast, because, as you can see, it's mostly beige. Boring Beige, which is what I could have called this quilt, except that that's not a very appealing name. So I chose Neutral Territory. And it has so much neutral and so little contrast that you can barely discern any pattern. I used the 9-Patch pattern in this book: 

 It's a nice and reasonably simple pattern, but unless you get up close and personal with this quilt, you really can't see it. But I was really just putting this quilt together to have something to practice with my Amara as I was still having issues. And this time the cotton thread misbehaved, but with the help of a piece of batting in the thread guide above the cone of thread, I was able to use polyester. This was good news since I've got several hundred dollars tied up in polyester thread. And, to give this quilt a little more pizzazz, I chose the Funky Music pantograph by Beany Girl Quilts from Willow Leaf Studio. It's challenging and the quilting is quite dense. Maybe overkill? But it was fun and I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out looking as good as it does. With all of those corners, angles, straight lines, I really wasn't sure how well it would turn out. 
But they are readily identifiable music symbols. And I used leftovers from the jelly roll to make a scrappy binding. 
Another note about this jelly roll: pieces not all the same width or length (not as bad as the non-jelly roll I used in Baby Blues, but enough that it was frustrating), and most of them were actually a little wider than 2½", which threw my blocks out. And just saying, if I haven't said this before, I really do NOT like pinked edges. They're too inconsistent in where the actual precut measurement falls. These ones seemed to fall somewhere between the peak and the valley. 
Now I have to figure out what to do with this quilt. It wasn't made with any particular recipient in mind. Maybe I should just use it as a dust cover for my Amara. Perhaps I shall try to sell it. I certainly could use the money. I've overspent lately on fabric (no surprise there) and really should start earning some extra money to pay for my extravagance. 😁

Lilac Grove

Not so long ago (2015?) and not so far away, Walmart had a sale on Bernat Blanket yarn. I hadn't tried this yarn before, but the pickings were slim so I ended up with a skein or two of the Lilac Bush colourway. As this was insufficient to make an afghan (at least, not an adult sized one), I did pay full price to acquire the remainder of what I needed when I found it available. Then I started knitting an afghan. I think I had actually wanted to try a cable stitch and I don't recall why I chose against it. Perhaps it was to help fulfill my goal of completing at least one project from every craft pattern book I own. I actually started this one prior to Lavender Rhapsody, which was my first project with Bernat Bundle yarn, but I finished that one first. I chose the Toasty Warm pattern from this book However, the pattern instructions have you repeat bands of four rows of garter stitch following 8 rows of pattern, but the pictures did not show any bands of garter stitch, other than the beginning and ending, so I opted to skip them. 
I also used curtain rings to separate the pattern sections, which you can see on the needle in the above picture. When knitting, I find I can't see the stitches on the needle well enough to know where I am in the pattern, and if I lose track, it can end up a mess. So I find using some kind of stitch markers, even if not called for in the pattern, help me keep on track. 
Being a not-highly-experienced knitter, I was pleased with how my stitches turned out. 
I'm not sure why the pattern started with 4 rows of garter stitch and ended with 6, but I just ended with 4. I also skipped the fringe called for in the pattern as my afghan was already plenty big enough, about 60" x 70". You can see in the top picture that it almost covers my queen-size mattress. It's also pretty heavy and the weight of it dragged it down when I tried to hang it on the line for pictures. So I got Allan, who was there working on my fence, to hold it from the deck. 
Difficult to get it stretched out wide enough and keep it high enough so it wasn't dragging on the ground. That's when I took it inside and spread it on my mattress.
Another WIP finished! I'm trying to discipline myself to not buy any more yarn, other than what I may need to complete a project, until all of my WIPs and UFOs are finished. That's challenging enough, especially when a beautiful yarn that I haven't tried yet is on sale. But it's nowhere near as challenging as doing the same for fabric. 

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Irene's Rubies

This is my first signature quilt. While I was working as Director of Care in a nursing home, my senior nurse retired. I wanted to make her a signature quilt and have all of the staff members sign it. However, I lost that job - I was going to say "unfortunately," but the only things unfortunate about it were a) my staff were left without effective leadership that genuinely cared about them and b) I didn't get this quilt made before I left. So, aside from my signature, it will be up to the recipient to get the signatures if she so desires. It's an attractive quilt even without the signatures.
Before she retired, I asked her what her favourite colour is: red. So I chose the Boundless Ruby Rue fabric from Bluprint (Craftsy).  
This was my very first signature quilt, so I googled to find ideas. I had the signature block from my Canada 150 Sampler quilt,
but I didn't want such big blocks. There were 70-80 staff members that needed to sign, and this is a 10" block. I did not intend to make a queen-sized quilt. In my search, I found the directions for making the basic signature block I used here, and the layout here
I bought a warm white solid for the signature part and the cornerstones, and cut 2½" squares from from jelly roll strips for the corners.
I have to admit that I really like the looks of this layout. It will hold 100 signatures and measures 36" square (finished size), so it could be finished this size and used as a wallhanging. However, I wanted a throw-sized quilt, so determined to add a border of 12" quilt blocks.
By this time I had made up my mind to call this quilt Irene's Rubies. Irene is the recipient and the fabric is Ruby Rue. Meanwhile I was trying to determine what block to use and I remembered that in the book Lazy and Loving It (companion book for the Lazy Angle ruler), was at least one gemstone block, Sapphires, that might work. But there are still boxes, fabric, books, etc. piled everywhere in my craft studio and I couldn't find that book. I found a picture of it online, so I at least knew what it looked like and that I was looking for a blue book. But I could not find that blue book on my shelf. Until I prayed about it. And there it was on the shelf where I was sure I had checked any blue book on that shelf already! Thank the Lord. He does care about little things like quilt books. And not only was there a Sapphires block and a Diamonds block, but also a Rubies block. 
It is a rather labour-intensive block and between these blocks and the signature blocks, there was a lot of fabric wastage. So the Lazy Angle will not be one of my favourite rulers, but it's nowhere near as bad as the Bias Stripper or the Square in a Square. And now I have completed one quilt using the Lazy Angle ruler (remember I have a goal to make at least one quilt using each ruler I own).
I decided to add a narrow border out of the same fabric as the sashing in the signature section to give it a more cohesive look. 
In keeping with the red theme, I used the Moulin Rouge pantograph by Patricia E. Ritter from Urban Elementz, "rouge" being the French word for "red," and quilted it in a red Glide thread. This is a beautiful pantograph and not too difficult.
I finally put my clothesline up to get a picture of the full quilt. Unfortunately, the wind was strong and I had to have help holding the quilt in place. Allan (my ex-husband, friend and handyman) happened to show up while I was struggling to get the picture, so those are his fingers you see at the top left corner and side of the quilt. Thanks Allan, I couldn't have done it without you. 😊
Now I have to find a box for shipping it to Irene. I'm having a problem with locating boxes of the right sizes for shipping quilts. I may have to buy some from Staples.