Monday, 7 September 2020

UFOs No More - 2 projects

I get bored easily. And maybe distracted by new projects too easily. So, I start new projects before the current one is finished - over and over again. I have more UFOs than I care to count. And some of them have disappeared in the mess that is my quilting/crafting studio (or somewhere else in the house). Daughter and grandson move in and out, r
enovations in the studio, and rooms have to be rearranged and projects disappear, only to reappear when I'm looking for a different one... But I'm trying to do better!

I don't remember how long ago my niece Tara asked me for a set of placemats. She loves Christmas, so I opted for Christmas ones, and decided to go one better and make a matching table runner. I picked up these patterns, probably at my local quilt shop. 

They're from Pieced Tree Patterns, and are quick and easy. That is, they are quick and easy if they're not interrupted by renovations and you then have to find the pieces and the patterns and the time...

Now, I'll digress slightly to explain why I decided to finally finish this set now. Some time before, my brother-in-law in Michigan paid me to make him some masks. (I wasn't going to charge him, but he insisted on paying me - he's generous to a fault). He has a larger than average head and was finding that the elastics broke on the standardly available masks, so had been wearing one of the ones I had made for my sister, to the point where it was getting ragged. So, I made and mailed his custom made masks, plus some ear savers and a couple of extra masks for my sister. I made the mistake of just sending them through as small packet, no tracking. And then we waited and waited. As the weeks went by, I finally decided to make him a new bunch of masks to replace the ones that had gone missing. This time, I determined to send them in a trackable parcel and to make it more difficult to lose, I decided to include the placemat set I hadn't yet finished for my niece, this sister's daughter, who lived nearby. That way the parcel would be bigger. But I had to finish the set first, which I did.  And I had the parcel all packed up and addressed in my truck, ready to mail when I got off work. Then I got the text from my sister that they got the masks! Seven weeks, that's how long it took! So, now I have some oversized masks that I should probably try to sell on our local buy and sell Facebook group. Plus the box that I originally had the placemat set in is now too big without the masks. I need to find a smaller box before I can mail it. But at least it's done.

Looking at them altogether like this, I think they are just too busy. The print is too big and if I had to do it over again, I would have selected different fabrics. The focus fabric in the centre is fine, and the other fabric doesn't look too bad on the table runner, but almost overwhelming on the placemats. However, spread out on a table, it won't look quite so bad either. See the individual placemat at the top of this post. But, it's still too busy. Smaller prints would have worked much better. 
If my niece gets tired or dizzy from looking at them, she can always turn them over. 
(I really love this backing fabric and wouldn't blame my niece if she primarily uses this side. LOL). I quilted them using the Poinsettia Fantasia pantograph from Meadow Lyon. I wasn't entirely happy with it, because, to me, the poinsettias came out too abstract looking. If I ever choose to quilt poinsettias again, I think I will look for a different pantograph. I never took a close up of the quilting for that reason. 
Next on the UFO agenda was my grandson's dinosaur quilt, Dinosaur Days. Again, I don't remember when I first bought it. My grandson was old enough to express to the clerk in the store where I bought the kit that the T Rex in the panel was Grandpa B___ (my ex-husband). 😄 (I still find that incredibly amusing). But it was long enough ago that Damian didn't remember I was making it. And this year, I determined to get it finished for his birthday, August 30. Thank the Lord, I was able to find all of the pieces (in different locations in the studio) and the pattern and the backing fabric. 
Isn't this amazing fabric? Every once in awhile, I find a piece of fabric that it so appealing that I'd like to just disappear into it and live happily ever after. The scenic fabric in Wintry Woods is another such fabric. Unfortunately, like most directional fabrics, I had to do a vertical seam to keep the scenery going in the same direction as the quilt top, since the quilt top was directional as well. Not a favourite thing for longarmers to do, but it's not the first time I've had to do it. 
Getting home from work one day, while I had it on the longarm frame, the light coming in the window was just perfect to highlight the triceratops in the quilting.
I never did get a picture of the stegasaurus because it didn't show up as well as the triceratops. However, my grandson was impressed that even the stitching was dinosaurs in his new quilt. I used Dino Jungle from Urban Elementz for the quilting. With this pantograph, I had the opposite problem from Poinsettia Fantasia. It was too detailed and accurate. All of those points, angles and corners made for very tedious and time-consuming quilting. I'm happy with the results, but what a lot of work! I couldn't help but think that an apatosaurus would have been much simpler to quilt than stegasauruses and triceratops! Again, if I ever do another dinosaur quilt, I will likely look for a different pantograph. I think Dave's Dinosaurs gives sufficient detail to make the dinosaurs recognizable without being so time-consuming.

Once the quilt was done, I had to find a place to take its picture. I have a sloping front lawn, and with my tallest stepladder on the public sidewalk, I was able to get a full-length portrait. 

This quilt is 76x96", so a generous twin bed size or a skimpy double. Here it is on my double bed. 
Admittedly, it doesn't look great with the pink-flowered bedskirt, but Damian isn't going to have to worry about a bedskirt. I bought Damian's bed when he was a toddler and had "graduated" from a crib. It's got a thin mattress and is fairly low to the ground. It's a good, safe bed for a small child, but this quilt is really too wide for it and will be dragging on the floor. However, in a few years time, we will get him a full box spring and mattress and the quilt will fit fine. And the good thing about this quilt is, because the dinosaurs are realistic and not toy-looking, it's not limited to just being appropriate for small children. 
One oddball thing I found about this pattern: it showed the side dinosaur borders with the dinosaurs facing in, not out. So when hanging like this, the dinosaurs would be upside down! Obviously, I chose not to follow that part of the pattern. 😃 And I'm going to keep this pattern around as one that might work well with other panels and their coordinating fabrics. 

Sunday, 2 August 2020

The Quick and Easy Baby Quilt

I think I've finally found it: the (almost) perfect formula for a quick and easy baby quilt. If you've been following my blog, then you know that I've been looking for a baby quilt pattern that works up quickly but still looks good. I thought I'd found it when I made Baby Alter Ego, but after making two of those, I was bored. (Even though they had significantly different fabrics, and I haven't even finished the first one, which exists somewhere in my stash as a UFO). I honestly don't know how people can make the same quilt pattern more than once or twice. But whether or not it's a personality flaw to get bored easily and constantly need a new challenge, that's me. And so, the search continued. I have made several baby quilts since Baby Alter Ego, most of which I was quite happy with, but none of them really fit the bill of being quick and easy. So, having 3 more baby quilts to make, I was once again perusing Jenny Doan's tutorials. And I found the Chevron quilt. 
And the Herringbone quilt, which I posted about previously. And I realized that this is basically the same quilt, just with the HSTs arranged differently. In case, you don't want to take the time to watch the video, the idea is this: take a 10" square of print and a 10" square of background, right sides together, and stitch a ¼" seam all the way around the outside. Then cut on the diagonal, corner to corner in both directions. This yields 4 HST units that are a little over 6½" square. So, I calculated how many HST units I would need for a reasonable sized baby quilt and came up with 63, 9 rows of 7 units, which produces a quilt about 44" x 55". So my fabric requirements for the Quick and Easy Baby Quilt are: 

  • 16 - 10" squares of print
  • 16 - 10" squares of background
  • 3 yards of backing fabric (approx.)
  • ½ yard binding fabric (approx.)
The main drawback to this method is that you are dealing with all bias edges on the HST units. So handle carefully to avoid distortion, maybe even starching the 10" squares before you start stitching and cutting. And you may want to add a narrow border to help prevent distortion during quilting. But I didn't, and so far I've completed 3 of them without any really significant problems. You will also end up with 1 extra HST unit, because using 16 - 10" squares produces 64, and you'll only need 63. I assume I will eventually accumulate enough orphan HSTs to make another quilt. 😉
Chevron Quilt
I quilted the Chevron quilt using Alphabet Soup #2 by Patricia Ritter from Urban Elementz. 

After completing this quilt top, I figured I would just come up with my own arrangement for the next quilt. Initially, I was going to do some kind of star arrangement, maybe with pinwheels. But then decided on something totally different and came up with A-Maze-Ing, which you can see in the picture at the top of the post. The recipient of this quilt did her nursery in blues and greys. Initially, I thought, "Oh, that will be a boring quilt." I'm big on bright, cheerful colours. But I was actually surprised by how stunning this quilt is, and it has become one of my favourite quilts. (When I posted it in a quilting group on Facebook, one quilter referred to it as a modern quilt and I thought, "Oh, I've made a modern quilt, and I actually like it.")
Then I had to pick the perfect pantograph, and chose Celtic Square by Quilting Creations from Urban Elementz.
A word about the backing - I hadn't purchased backing fabric for either of these quilts. And being in the midst of the pandemic, I didn't want to go to the fabric store, unless I really had to. I had 3 yards of an orange ombre that I considered using for the Chevron quilt, but I just didn't feel it was quite right. I have some ice cream fabric and some popsicle fabric, both of which would work for baby quilts, but I didn't consider either of them appropriate for these quilts. Then I found some fabric that was navy blue with stars and I figured that would work for both quilts, but I only had 4 yards. Doing some calculations, I cut the fabric into three lengths, stitched two seams, and was able to use it for both quilts by putting one after the other on the frame. 
Yikes! That was "backing chicken" in both length and width.  But I managed it, thank the Lord. 
Here's the actual backing fabric: 
In case you want to try my idea for the Quick and Easy Baby quilt and need some ideas for different arrangement for HST units, check out this video:

Just bear in mind that she uses a square layout with an even number of units, whereas my idea for a baby quilt is a rectangle, with an odd number of units. 
So, there you have it - a baby quilt that uses the same instructions, but can be different each time. 

Sunday, 24 May 2020

My Quilting Journey

When I'm asked how long I've been quilting, that is a difficult question to answer. It's not like I can answer, "My mother taught me when I was 12 and I've been quilting ever since." (My mother wasn't even a quilter, but she was a seamstress). Or, "I took a class when I was 40..." No, my quilting journey is a rather long and convoluted one. 
Let me start by saying that I hated Home Economics (or Home Ec, as we preferred to call it) classes. I was required to take them in Grade 8. I think it was one afternoon a week, all of the girls in my class were required to traipse over to another school, where they had a Home Economics classroom and teacher, so we could learn the joys of cooking and sewing. The class was divided in half, so that half of the girls were learning cooking while the other half was learning sewing. I had baked cakes from scratch before I ever took a Home Economics class, so was quite insulted when we had to make a cake mix. Therefore, I didn't really feel that there was much to learn on the cooking side of things. 
Sewing was a different matter because, while I had used my mother's Sunbeam Mixmaster, I had never used her Singer. And, for whatever reason, there appeared to be a shortage of sewing machines in the Home Ec classroom. It seemed that every time I got up from my sewing machine, another girl in the class would "steal" it. It made for a very frustrating time trying to complete a project. My first project was a skirt. I think it was probably made from a yard of fabric (we weren't on the metric system back then). One seam up the side, an elastic casing and then hand-hemming. Boy, that hand-hemming was painful. Little wonder that when I finally got my first sewing machine, one of the requirements was that it have a blind hemming stitch. No more of that hand-hemming for me. As I was working on hemming my skirt, the teacher told me it was too short. Oh come on, this was the early 70s: all of our skirts were either minis, midis or maxis. And one yard was definitely not enough fabric to make a midi or a maxi! And why didn't she tell me that before I started hemming? The next project was pajamas. I asked if I could use a pattern that my mother already had from one of my older sisters' forays into the domestic arts, rather than the one the teacher suggested. Why spend money on another pattern if we didn't have to? (Especially since it was not likely to get used again). The teacher agreed and the project was started. She did, however, tell me to do something different with the armholes. Was it binding instead of facing? I don't remember exactly, but instead of making it easier, I think it made it more challenging. I had to take the project home to get it finished, and when my mother saw me so frustrated, struggling so much with it to the point of tears, she finished if for me. Was that cheating? Probably, but I likely would have done the same for my daughter. Except that I homeschooled my daughter, so I was the teacher.
Somewhere during that frustrating time, I decided to stop attending Home Ec classes, with my mother's full knowledge and consent. If that makes me sound like a spoiled brat with an indulgent mother, that's definitely not the case. My mother raised me to be mature, responsible and self-directed, and when she heard my rationale for wanting to quit, she allowed me to. Instead, I stayed home and cleaned the litter box. That is, I stayed home until the Home Ec teacher reported my continued absence to my teacher, and I started going back again. Looking back, I wish I'd had the courage to tell him how frustrating I considered Home Ec and what a waste of time it was. And that I had my mother's permission to stay home. However, I went back and endured the frustration until it was over. But it turned me off sewing so much that I never touched a sewing machine again until after I finished high school. I found shop class, which I took as an option, much more fun, feeling that I was learning and accomplishing something, with appropriate supervision and input from the teacher. I can't help but wonder how many of the girls in my Home Ec class never sewed again. At least for me, it wasn't an experience calculated to instill in me a lifelong love of sewing. 
So how did I end up returning to sewing? I really don't know, other than the fact that my mother always sewed, and so, in spite of my experience, it wasn't something that was seen as negative. Somehow I got back into it, only this time it was a wonderful journey. Yes, I had frustrations. I remember a green satin dress on which I just couldn't get the bodice right. And my mother ended up finishing that one for me as well. But I did successfully make a lot of my own clothing. 
And sometime in those early days of garment sewing, I developed an interest in quilts. That was back in the day of women's magazines that would feature craft patterns - I still have some of them in my library. One of the first I remember was a puff quilt that called for four layers of batting, two of which were cut up into squares about an inch smaller than the squares of fabric. When you stitched the quilt together, these two layers would be stitched inside the fabric squares. It made for a very puffy, and no doubt very warm, quilt. Unfortunately, I never did get around to making that quilt and neglected to preserve the pattern. The next one was the Meow-y Christmas quilt. I love Christmas and I love cats, so this was a perfect quilt for me. I think it had 16 or 20 blocks where I had to embroider cats in various poses. Each cat pattern had to be increased in size using a grid from a small picture in the magazine, and then transferred to the fabric. I managed to get 12 of them done, and eventually ordered the package from the magazine. 

As you can see, I still have it. And maybe some day, I will actually complete this quilt. 
One of my reasons for being interested in making quilts was because of all the scraps I was accumulating from garment sewing. Eventually, I used some of those to make my very first quilt.
And yes, I've still got it, too. And believe it or not, I think it has pieces of that original skirt in it (the orange fabric).
It's a real mish-mash of fabrics - cotton, poly-cotton, polyester, flannelette, and satin. And in some places, the fabric is totally gone. So, it is in definite need of repair. I did the quilting on the sewing machine, not really having a clue what I was doing. I don't even know if walking feet even existed back then. I got tired of making all the squares in the centre and decided to try crazy quilting around the outside. Look at those huge pieces with no quilting, aside from the edges of the pieces. If I ever get around to repairing it, I might try putting it on the longarm and doing a better quilting job. Not sure how that would work because I'm not going to take it all apart. I don't remember what year I made it, but I know that I had it on my bed in nurses' residence when I was in nursing school, 1982-1984.
Sometime early in my marriage, I belonged to a book club, and I am quite sure that's how I obtained this book. 
Owning a book on quilt-making and actually making a quilt are not the same thing. And this book, unfortunately, is about making quilts by hand. It's from the days before rotary cutters and rulers and walking feet were common. And as you can see from the spine, it's well travelled, going with us as we moved from province to province. 
My next quilt was not until I was pregnant with my daughter in 1990. I finally used 6 of the embroidered cat blocks I completed many years before. 
And this one is also still around and now in my grandson's possession. I had intended to use the other cat blocks for another quilt for my daughter, doubling the batting to make a winter weight quilt. But, once I had Sophia, finding time for making another quilt just didn't happen. Unfortunately, through my many moves, I have lost the other six blocks.
Somewhere and somehow, I acquired a rotary cutter and pattern weights to use with garment making. I'm not sure whose not-so-brilliant idea that was. Rotary cutters don't work very well for cutting out garment patterns with small notches and indentations and curves. And the pattern weights don't work very well with scissors. As soon as you lift the fabric up to cut, the weights shift. At least, I already had a rotary cutter and mat for when I actually started making quilts.
It was after I moved to Alberta (1999) that I really wanted to get into quiltmaking. And I wanted to take a class. But I couldn't find one. I could find quilting classes for my daughter, but none for me. So, I had to learn from books and magazines. This is one of my original books. 
And then not only was I able to make quilts, but I actually taught a small class of my daughter and her friend, my niece and a couple of my friends. It was just a basic 4-patch, and my daughter still has the quilt she made from that class. 
I made a few quilts over a few years, but when my marriage started falling apart, so did my motivation for quilting. And once the marriage ended (2006), I had to focus on getting my life and my career back on track. Not really any time for hobbies. I had been out of nursing for 20 years, and had to take a nursing refresher course in order to get back into it. I had started it preemptively before the marriage ended and finished it in 2007. Then, because I didn't have any recent experience to put on my resume, I decided to pursue my degree. In 2012, I was awarded my bachelor's degree in nursing. And in 2013, I started quilting again, starting with both the 2012 and 2013 Craftsy (now Bluprint) BOMs, neither of which is finished yet. 
In September of that year was the last time I quilted a larger quilt on my domestic machine.
The cats were extremely helpful, as you can see. I had been trying through online learning to figure out how to do free motion quilting on the domestic machine. I had even found a tractor tire design that I wanted to use on this John Deere quilt. But I just couldn't get it right, so I ended up just doing straight line quilting with the walking foot. I had wanted to do cross-hatching, but It took me days just to get diagonal lines done. And I'd had enough. 
I had probably been to the Creativ Stitches show in September and I think that's where I got the flyer about renting a longarm. So, in November, I decided to give it a try. 
And I've never looked back. Since then, I have only done mini quilts on my domestic machine, renting a longarm for all of my bigger quilts. And in 2018, I bought my HQ Amara. 
And since this purchase, I have completed over 20 quilts on this machine, plus a couple of tote bags, table runners and table toppers. 

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Herringbone Quilt

This is the second baby girl's quilt made with the pink print background fabric and it's based on Jenny Doan's Herringbone tutorial.
This one was made with 16 - 10" squares each of background and print and I ended up with one extra HST unit because I only needed 63. I will decide what to do with that one later. Because these units are made with diagonal cuts, the entire project is made with bias edges, not one of my favourite ideas. However, it worked out fine without even using starch. 
The prints in this one are left over from Ingrid's Tulips, plus that purple is left over from Baby Alter Ego. And I still love that pink background fabric. It gives the quilt more visual impact, in my not so humble opinion. 
I chose Briar Rose from Willow Leaf Studio as the pantograph.
I actually called this pantograph Nameless Rose. I bought it second hand and for some reason, the end with the name was cut off, so I had to look on the Willow Leaf website to see if it was theirs and what it's actual name is. Another really pretty design, but it doesn't surpass Abstract Rose from Urban Elementz in beauty. 
I have two more baby boy quilts to make and then hopefully I'll be done baby quilts for awhile. But meanwhile, I've got some masks to make.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Grand Adventures

My next two quilts were for baby girls, so I wanted a pink layer cake, and I didn't want to pay a whole lot of money for it. And then I thought, why couldn't I just make my own? I just had to find some pink fabric on sale (since I seldom pay full price for fabric) and buy enough to make my own layer cake. After all, I do own the Stripology ruler and I might as well put it to good use. So, on my next trip to Fabricland, I looked at pink fabric. And had to decide between a pink solid or a pink print. And since I tend to like to do things a little more radical sometimes (and I find solids boring), I chose a print. Here's the first quilt made with it. 
And making my own layer cake was quite easy with the Stripology ruler. 
Once again, this is a scaled down version of a Jenny Doan quilt, this time Grand Adventures. 
It took only 18 - 10" squares each of background and print. And this particular print is the remainder of the layer cake used in the Baby Alter Ego. I had separated it into girl's prints and boy's prints, and here is where I used the girl's prints. 
Isn't this just scrumptious? And it was a lot more fun to make than Exploring Space. No extra trimming - it just came together really easily and it looks great! I love it with that pink print for the background. 
To quilt it, I used the Flower Swirl pantograph by Urban Elementz and a pink Marathon thread. 
My Amara really likes Marathon thread.
Three more baby quilts to go. And in order to bind this one, I had to quilt the next one so that I could use scraps from that backing for this binding. And vice versa.

Exploring Space

I was looking through Jenny Doan's YouTube tutorials for quilts that I could easily downsize for baby quilts. I had previously made a couple of Baby Alter Ego quilts, the first one still unfinished somewhere in my stash, and had figured this would become my go-to quilt for babies. And I bought a bunch of layer cakes to use in these. However, I'm really not the type to make the same quilt multiple times, so I was looking for new ideas. One of the ones I found was Night Sky. Here's the video:
I really liked this pattern and figured I could make it work, using half of a solid layer cake and half of a print one. I had this space-themed layer cake and decided that would work perfectly for this quilt. 
I used to think that layer cakes were my favourite fabric pre-cut. Now that I've made a few layer cake quilts, I'm beginning to wonder if I actually have a favourite pre-cut. I don't like the pinked edges. In spite of googling and finding that I'm supposed to measure from the peaks, I still don't find that consistently accurate. And it's really challenging to keep your piecing accurate when all of the pre-cuts are not precisely the same size. And then there's the fact that many patterns waste fabric and time because they don't call for the exact measurement of the pre-cut. This pattern was a case in point. 168 half square triangle units that had to be trimmed up to 4½"! I suppose if I had the Clearly Perfect Slotted Trimmer (which is currently "only" C$64.59 on Amazon), it might have gone a little faster than using my small Easy Angle. But I seldom trim at the best of times. Trimming 168 squares was pretty painful for me, and a colossal waste of time, in my opinion. I think I would have been much better off starting with the exact size squares I needed to make the Easy 8 HSTs and not have to trim each individual one. So, using a layer cake was kind of pointless. And that made this quilt tedious instead of quick and fun. I was really glad when the quilt top was finally finished. 

Initially, I wasn't sure what I was going to put in the corners. Based on Jenny's pattern, I couldn't fit more stars in and I tossed around different ideas. But then when I started playing around with the HSTs, I realized that I could fit the stars in just by a bit of rearranging. 
As to quilting it, I was hoping to use Urban Elementz' Blast Off pantograph and had ordered it from a Canadian supplier during a sale. I should have known better. That particular vendor has a reputation for terrible customer service, but I thought, "How difficult can it be to ship me a few pantographs?" I won't go into all the details, but suffice it to say that I finally left them a message to either ship me my pantographs or refund my money. And I did get my money back, thank the Lord. But meanwhile, I missed the Urban Elementz sale because I had chosen the Canadian vendor. So, instead I chose the Windy Stars pantograph. I bought this one used and I think it's by a company that's no longer in business. It's the first time that I have used a staggered pantograph. I had to shift the pantograph each time I advanced the quilt so that the exact same part of the design doesn't line up all the way down the quilt. 
It was great and quite attractive. I didn't have a navy blue thread, which would have likely been my first choice for the quilting. So, I went with something more radical - a bright orange. And I like it. 
Finally, I had to find enough fabric for the binding, which was rather challenging during a pandemic. I managed to piece together enough leftovers from the backing of a previous quilt. However, I didn't have quite enough of it that had all of the stripes going in the right direction. Look carefully and you can see it at the bottom left side of the quilt - the binding looks like it's a solid colour. Who cares? I'm sure the baby won't. 
More baby quilts to come. 

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Helen Godden Classes

2020 was going to be my year of quilting. Not that I don't quilt every year, but this year Quilt Canada was to be in Edmonton in June. Central Sewing Machines was going to sponsor a Handiquilter Quilt Academy in October, the first time in Canada. I was also thinking of going to Heritage Park in Calgary for their Festival of Quilts in May. And in early March, I was able to take some Helen Godden classes at Central Sewing Machines in Edmonton. I'm really glad I took those classes because they may be the only ones I am able to attend in my "year of quilting". Thanks to the pandemic, Heritage Park is closed, Quilt Canada has been tentatively rescheduled for September. And the Quilt Academy has been put on hold until the organizers know that it can actually be held. Also cancelled are any of the local fairs where I was hoping to enter some of my quilts. So, the Helen Godden classes may be my only quilting event this year. And we got them in just under the wire. The classes were March 6 through 9, and the pandemic was declared March 11. 
Because I'm a knitter and crocheter as well as a quilter, I took the Couching class. Couching is embellishing a quilt with yarn, though this project was actually creating a picture with couching. What fun! I had already purchased the couching feet for my Amara, but hadn't used them yet. Now I at least have some knowledge and experience. I just have to find a quilt that it would work on.
I debated on whether I was going to take the 2-day class, Flying into Colours. Painting really isn't my thing, and I couldn't imagine that I would ever use the skills learned. But I decided to anyway, and I don't regret it. It was a lot of fun, and, as I said, these may be my only quilting events this year.
Thanks Central Sewing Machines for sponsoring these classes, and thanks Helen Godden for coming from Australia to give them.

Transform Me

This is one time that I had to pay full price for fabric. I seldom do it, but once in a while a project comes along that I don't have much choice. 
Peter, one of my adult nephews, collects Transformers. As I've likely mentioned before, my goal is to make every sister, niece and nephew and great niece and nephew a quilt. And I like to customize the quilts as much as possible. So, when it came to Peter's quilt, I promised him a Transformers quilt. Originally, I was planning on applique because I hadn't seen any Transformers fabric. Then one day, as I was browsing in a fabric store, I came across Transformers panels and fabric. And this particular fabric store doesn't have much in the way of sales. They do have some clearance fabric and a reduced price on "end of the bolt," but the Transformers fabric wasn't in either of those categories. I bought the panel first, and had it kicking around for at least a couple of months before I finally went back and bought the fabric. The solid red is the only fabric that came from my stash. I came up with the design myself.
Some time ago, I saw a video on Trapunto, which is adding extra batting to certain areas of a quilt to give it more emphasis. I'm really not all that adventurous when it comes to quilting, sticking with my comfort zone, pantographs. But I decided to give Trapunto a try, especially since I have lots of pieces of fibrefil batting kicking around. And that's what the batting of choice is for Trapunto, to give the extra loft. So I added one layer of fibrefil and one layer of cotton batting to the word, "Transformers." 
Honestly, if you're going to try Trapunto, I don't recommend that you start with a word. All of those tiny spaces in the letters that needed to be cut out! Start with a simple shape like a circle. 😁 Well, I did it, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. 
In order to make the Trapunto stand out, it's necessary to quilt densely around the object to which the extra batting has been added. Which meant I had to do free motion quilting around the word. Definitely not professional, but I'm still happy with it. 
I used the pantograph, Game Night, to quilt the rest of the quilt. 
It's finally on its way to my nephew. First, I had to get a negative result to my Covid-19 test so that I could end my self-isolation. Then I had to find the right size box. Then I had to have a day off so that I could mail it. Canada Post's hours have been cut back because of the pandemic and they close at the same time that I finish work. So, it was mailed April 20, and I hope he loves it. 

Country Christmas

When I discovered this panel and the coordinating pillow panel, I decided that I had to have it and hopefully make a relatively quick Christmas quilt. That was sometime before Christmas and, well, you know what they say about the best laid plans... I just didn't get a chance to work on it until March of this year. And now here it is almost May and I'm finally blogging about it. 
I realized that I likely would not be able to match the reds or greens in the panel with alternate fabrics, so I chose two Christmas prints with a black and a white background to create the blocks to fill in the spaces around the panel. I selected the Anna's Choice Quilt block from one of my books of quilt blocks, and created it without a pattern. Not really difficult since it is just 16 HSTs. And they are 16" blocks. 
At the same time as when I bought the panels, I was able to find this fabric, which was perfect for the backing. 
Isn't it awesome? You can see the quilting in this picture, too. Rather than use a Christmas-themed pantograph, I chose the Cowboys pantograph. 
This pantograph had no "shadow lines" to help line it up when advancing the quilt, so I had to add my own. 
I'm quite pleased with how it turned out and now I have a jumpstart on next Christmas. 

Sunday, 12 April 2020


Earlier in this pandemic, a lot of quilters and sewists got on the mask-making bandwagon and began churning out masks. My employer, however, was not "caught with its pants down," so to speak and had a good stock of both surgical and N95 masks. They were not asking for home-made masks, nor were they recommending them. The feeling was that home-made masks were not very effective in preventing the transmission of germs and could give the wearers a false sense of security, as well as possibly causing them to touch their faces more because they weren't used to wearing masks. In addition, the average member of the general public does not have annual training on wearing masks like health care professionals do. They could be doing more harm than good. So, I was taking a wait and see approach and chose not to commence mask-making production. 
However, the experts now recognize that the opportunity for spreading the virus by asymptomatic individuals is greater than first thought. And while not dictating that everyone should be wearing masks, it is no longer discouraged. They did, however, point out that wearing a mask protects others from your germs more than it protects you from theirs. So, the idea that everyone should wear a mask is probably a good one, but they really should learn how to put one on, take it off, how often to change it and what to do with it once it's contaminated. I have been encouraging people to find appropriate training online so that they can do it properly right from the start. If people are going to be wearing masks they should do it properly. 
Now I've started my mask-making by making these masks for my youngest sister. I used Leah Day's pattern because she left an opening to insert a filter. Here's her video: 
She also added a chenille stick (pipe cleaner) at the top so that the mask can be conformed to the nose. The only thing I did differently was serge the short ends of the piece of fabric from which the mask is made. Otherwise, there would be raw edges on either side of the filter opening, which could lead to fraying. The mask does gap a little at the sides and bottom, but as long as the wearer is maintaining the 2 metre (6 feet) social distancing rule, it should still be sufficient. Remember masks are not a substitute for social distancing. They are an additional precaution. 
About filters: in the research, it was indicated that vacuum cleaner bags are almost as effective as surgical masks. So, initially, I was considering the possibility of cutting up some bags to fit into the masks. However, most of us don't have a huge surplus of these around. In addition, one of my friends said that they have fibreglass in them. Not something you want on your face. Some people are using interfacing that's used in garment sewing. I have concerns about using interfacing, unless the user is going to be disposing of it each time. I have seen the results of repeated washing of interfacing. It's not likely to endure for the long haul. I had heard that coffee filters could work as well, so I decided to experiment. 

On my first shopping trip post self-isolation, I found these. There are 200 in the package  for just under $4 and they are about the right size to fit into the mask. However, I found them quite papery feeling and I was concerned as to how breathable they would be. 

So I also grabbed a couple of the coffee filters from work, on the left in the picture above. These are thicker, but more of a fibre-y feel. I don't drink coffee and I have no idea what brand they are. They are folded in half, so I separated the halves and used one half in a mask. 

The opening in the mask is only 3". If you choose to follow this pattern, you might like to make it bigger if you plan on using a filter. However, I did find that by folding in each side, I was able to get the filters in without much trouble. I then had to spend a little effort to unfold them and spread them out to cover as much of the mask as possible. The pattern actually recommends that you cut the filter down to 5" square, so that might have worked better, but I also wanted to cover as much of the mask with filter as I could. I found that I could breathe quite easily with either filter. However, if you wear glasses like I do, you must exhale gently or your glasses will fog up. I found this true, even without the filter, but less so. 
Now on to caring for your masks. I suggest carrying your clean masks in a Ziploc bag. 

If necessary, the outside of the bag can be wiped down with a sanitizing wipe. 

Change your mask if it becomes damp. When you remove your mask, only touch the elastics, not the mask itself. And once you remove it, it is considered contaminated. Don't try to remove the filter. Don't put it in your purse or on your car seat. If you look in the top photo, you will see a small drawstring bag.

This is for putting your used masks in. Pull the drawstrings tight for transporting your contaminated masks.
When you get home, take your bag to the laundry room, open the drawstrings and bag and all can go in the washing machine.
You don't need to remove the masks from the bag as the agitation of the washing machine will do that for you. Can you hand wash your masks? I don't recommend it. As mentioned above, once you have worn a mask, it is considered contaminated. All of the germs that you were trying to keep from getting into your nose and mouth by wearing a mask instead landed on the outside of the mask. So, the less you handle it the better.

I made the drawstring bag about the size of a sheet of copier paper, so started with a piece of fabric about 12" by 16", folded in half. I serged the inside seams to keep them from fraying and made buttonholes for the drawstrings. A double drawstring closes more easily than a single one. 
And back to filters. Once the bags were done in the washer, I removed the filters.
This is the coffee filter from work. 
Not sure how well you can see that, but the Melitta coffee filter turned into a ball at the bottom of the mask. However, both filters stayed in the masks in one piece. I was concerned about the possibility of them coming out and either ending up clogging the drain on the washing machine or getting filter shreds throughout the laundry. Kind of like when you accidentally leave a Kleenex in a pocket. But that didn't happen. So, it appears to be safe to leave the filters in when you wash the masks. No guarantees, however. And I did only check these two filters. 
The washing machine is pretty hard on the chenille stems. They were pretty twisted up when I took them out of the washer, so you'll need to straighten them out. And because they are not as wide as the masks, they will shift in their little pocket to one side or the other. I recommend that you stitch at each end of the chenille stem to help keep it in place, which is not in the instructions. I did this with some masks, but not all. Online, someone suggested floral wire instead of the chenille stems, which might be sturdier. 
I threw my masks into the dryer, but it likely would be better to just dry them on a rack. The dryer can be hard on both the elastic and the cotton fabric. 
One other alteration I made was to make some masks with elastic that goes around the head instead of around each ear. To do this, I used 15½" for the top elastic and 11" for the bottom. You may have to adjust these measurements, depending on the size of your head. I used ¼" elastic for this and ⅛" elastic for around the ears.
So, how many masks do you need? That depends on how often you will be changing your mask between laundering. As a nurse, my employer provides my masks, and I wouldn't be allowed to wear my cloth masks at work because they've never been tested to meet any safety standards. For the odd time that I may have to go out to buy essentials, I have made myself three masks, and that would probably be more than sufficient for most people. However, if you're working in an essential service, like a grocery store, where you will be meeting the public all day long, then you will need as many masks as you have breaks, plus two, per shift. Let me explain. Mask 1, you put on at the start of your shift. You will take that one off and put it in your drawstring bag at your first break. Remember that you don't put a used mask back on. After your break, you put on Mask 2, which you remove when you go for lunch break. After lunch, you put on Mask 3. Mid-afternoon break, you switch to mask 4. And you should have at least one extra mask in case any of them get damp or soiled. So, if you have two coffee breaks plus a meal break per shift, you should have at least 5 masks (3 breaks + 2). Unless, you don't plan on eating or drinking anything during your breaks and plan on wearing the same mask all day. 😝 And if you only plan on laundering your masks once a week and you work 5 shifts a week with 3 breaks per shift , then you would need over 20 masks - 4 per shift, plus 2 or 3 extra. And a bigger drawstring bag. I'm not the mask police, so whether or not you follow these guidelines is entirely up to you. I'm just sharing some of the principles of mask use and disease transmission that I know from healthcare.
Finally, a note about hand-washing and mask-wearing: You should wash or sanitize your hands before putting your mask on, wash or sanitize your hands before taking the mask off, again after you take the mask off, and once more after tossing the bag into the washing machine.
There you have it - my mask-making, use and care guide. 

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Lessons from Self-Isolation

I have allergies. And while there are times when the symptoms get worse (like when pussy willows are pollinating or when the canola is in bloom), they are with me year round. The symptoms are runny nose, sinus congestion, cough (sometimes mild, sometimes bad enough to keep me awake at night), and sore throat. Do any of those sound familiar? As in symptoms of Covid-19? It's made me a little paranoid that I might have Covid-19 and be unaware of it and spread it to my clients. And I work with the very vulnerable - hospitalized seniors. And I don't want to be the death of anyone, literally. So, when my sore throat got worse, and it wasn't improved by nasal irrigation, which usually improves it, I decided to self-isolate at home. 
Now, self-isolation really wasn't a great trial for me for the following reasons: 
  1. I'm an introvert.
  2. I like being at home.
  3. I have 2 cats, who are really good company (sometimes too good).
  4. I have lots of fabric, thread and yarn to keep me occupied. 
  5. I tend to buy in bulk, so have lots of grains and legumes, and wouldn't go hungry.
  6. I have enough toilet paper. 😆
  7. I'm never alone.
Regarding point number 7, I'm not talking about the cats. And I don't mean friends, family or room-mates. I live alone. But I'm not alone, because God is with me everywhere. 
Many years ago, I learned the three "omni's" about God. God is 
  • Omniscient - all-knowing, or knows everything
  • Omnipotent - all-powerful, or has all power
  • Omnipresent - present everywhere
Psalm 139 says:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you. (vv.7-12; NIV)

I can not hide from God and I wouldn't want to. He is my Heavenly Father and best friend. He is with me at home, at work, when I'm shopping, when I'm driving, everywhere, all the time. He has promised, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Hebrews 13:5. And, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Matthew 28:20. And, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." John 14:18. 
And I can talk to Him any time, sometimes out loud and sometimes just in my mind, but He hears even my thoughts. 
If I'm having a challenging day at work, He's there. If I accidentally leave my purse in a shopping cart in the Walmart parking lot, He's there. And when I'm at home in self-isolation, He's there, too. 
So don't be afraid of being alone, because you never have to be really alone. Try Him, He's there.