Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jinny Beyer's Beech Basket

This block is the one that will make or break my Jinny Beyer block of the month quilt.

Beech Basket:

I am really happy with how the piecing turned out.  I like this basket as it is, but since I've turned down Jinny's kind suggestion of applique so many times, I decided that on this block, and only on this would, I would add the recommended applique:


I feel like I'm finally getting in the swing of things with this quilt and might actually finish in 2015!

Thursday, October 08, 2015


Marie Kondo invaded my closet and this happened:

If you haven't heard of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, then please let me enlighten you.  This tiny little book was written by a Japanese organizing expert and has been on the New York Times bestseller list for about a year.  Some of her ideas (thanking your clothes as you fold them) are probably not going to work for me, but her idea of asking "Does it spark joy?" when you are deciding whether to keep or get rid of something really worked for me.

Earlier this year, I decluttered my books and only kept those that made me happy.  I don't look at my shelves and groan "Oh, I really should read that someday."  I know why each book is there and I can find each one easily.

I have also weeded through my fabric collection and only own fabric that makes me happy.  I no longer have the "Why did I buy this?" and "What was I thinking?" fabrics and I've found new homes for the fabrics that well-intentioned friends have gifted me.  I've put a lot of those fabrics on the backs of my quilts and I've donated the rest.

Recently I went through my linen closet.  I found six perfectly-folded sets of sheets for twin beds  (folding fitted sheets is my super-power), but I don't own any twin beds.  I mentioned this problem to a young momma friend of mine (mother of five) and she jumped at extra sheets for those middle-of-the-night accidents!  In my closet, I also found six sets of sheets for double beds.  Again, I don't own any double beds.  I am passing these along to a recent college grad who is just setting up housekeeping and on a very tight budget.

Proof of my fitted-sheet-folding super-powers:

Marie Kondo suggested tackling your entire house at once.  I have a ridiculously full travel and teaching schedule with a lot of super-secret sewing projects thrown in just for fun, so I'm taking work breaks to clear small areas at a time. I have so much more in my house that needs to be sorted and donated, but I feel I've made a great start.  The parts of my house that are no longer stuffed full and bursting at the seams make me so incredibly happy!

To sum up, if you've heard about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing and wondered if it was any good, I'll say that it was some good.  Some parts of the book I am choosing to pass by, but if this short little book can inspire me to get my house organized, it's a good book!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Progress can be noisy

Remember when I replaced the ugliest bathroom in the world?



This bathroom makes me happier than chocolate cake!

Well, I also own the second ugliest bathroom in the world and it's time has come.

Anyone want an avocado toilet or sink? 

How about disco ball lighting? 

C'mon.  You know you want an avocado fiberglass shower unit:

(warning:  it leaks and has destroyed the kitchen ceiling)

Doesn't everyone need a real wood clothes hamper with a fake marble top?

I've never been a fan of the wallpaper, but it is much better than the original wallpaper we found during demolition.  Can you see the metallic paint around the orange flowers?

I am starting a "Museum of ugly wallpaper" and these two papers are exhibits A and B.

Does anyone have ugly wallpaper to donate to my new museum?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

This will be funny later

I am up to my eyeballs in top-secret sewing projects and might, just maybe, be losing my sense of humor due to lack of sleep.

I was rather-excited to have the LP gas truck deliver fuel for me this morning so I could maybe bring the temperature in my sewing room to over 58*F.  Sadly, I couldn't re-light the pilot.  I called the fireplace company three times for advice and they left me with "we don't know what to tell you."  I spent well over an hour throughout the day trying in vain to create fire.  No luck.  A fireplace repair dude is scheduled to arrive at 9am tomorrow.

Super-hubby received flurries of texts from me throughout the day detailing my plight.  As he entered the house, he told me that the gas delivery guy turned off the valve on my tank.  30 seconds later, I clicked the little "auto-start" button and I now have heat.

Super-hubby has yet again earned his title.

The temperature is 61*F and rising.  I might not have to wear a parka indoors anymore.  And yes, that is the largest Hello Kitty PEZ dispenser in the world.  It dispenses entire packs of PEZ.  The folks at Bits 'n Pieces thought I needed this ... and they were correct!

This will all be hilarious... in November.

Jinny Beyer quilt: Birch Basket

Another week, another finished basket block from Jinny Beyer's block of the month quilt.

Birch Basket:

Isn't it pretty?  I really, really like this one.

Are you working on this quilt?  Am I the only one behind?

Jinny Beyer Birch Basket

I'm moving right along on my Jinny Beyer block of the month quilt from Craftsy.

This month's Birch Basket has another beautiful handle, but this one is paper-pieced instead of appliqued.

Who knew that my world could be rocked by tall and narrow basket handles?  I learned something new about myself with this quilt.

This basket also had optional appliqued flower which I am opting not to do.  I could never cover up such a beautiful basket handle!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September's Book Shelf

Fall is always a crazy quilt time.  I'm either quilting, teaching, or traveling.  While teaching, I am not actively reading, but I read while flying and listen to audiobooks while quilting or driving.  I run through a lot of books each Autumn.  Here is September's book shelf:

The Martian by Andy Weir
I.  Love.  This.  Book!  I am a sucker for any post-apocalyptic book.  I am a sucker for any book that gets mired into teeny, tiny details.  I am a sucker for smart and witty books.  I am a sucker for a good story.  After only 10 minutes of listening, I felt he wrote this book just for me!  I was tickled to find out it was going to be a movie.  I thought that Mark Wahlberg was starring in it, which was good, but later learned it was Matt Damon, which is even better!  The movie opens in October and I will carve some precious time from my schedule to get to the theatre!  The books are always better than the movies, but I'm always hopeful.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas 
I gave a full review here but the short version is "Amazing book!  Why haven't I read this before?"

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
I was raving about my love of The Martian and all things post-apocalyptic to another industry professional and she responded with her love of The Martian and all things post-apocalyptic.  We are now book buddies!  She recommended this Young Adult book which sparked her love of survival tales.  It was short and succinct and I have already requested the next in the series.

Bear is Broken by Lachlan Smith
Since I listen to books while I'm quilting, the book doesn't have to be great; it just has to be interesting.  This was one of those books.  It wasn't great, but it had a lot of twists and turns and kept me guessing until the end.

Stuffology by Brenda Avadian and Eric M. Riddle
This was a Deal of the Day book and I am always interested in finding a better way to deal with the "stuff" I have accumulated.  This book didn't do that.  It was a general overview of what clutter is and a few stories about people dealing with their piles, but I can't recommend this book.

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Although I have watched James Bond movies my whole life, never have I ever read one of the novels.  I decided to start at the beginning with Casino Royale.  I am very well acquainted with the plot of the movie and was surprised at how closely the movie followed the book.  Since the book was over 50 years old when the movie was made, they had to make some changes to make it seem current.  As soon as I finished the book, I watched the movie because because Daniel Craig.  Sigh.

The River by Gary Paulsen
This is the sequel to Hatchet.  These are outdoor survival novels for tweens.  Fast paced and easy to read, it was a quick listen and short enough that I finished the book while quilting after dinner!

When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning
My husband and I have been watching/listening/discussing a lot about WWII lately so this a timely read for me.  Sparked by Hilter's mass book burnings, the US put books millions of books into the hands of our soldiers during the war.  This was a really interesting account of how the book program started, how it got bogged down in politics, the impact those books had on individual soldiers, and the lasting impact of a well-read military.

Brian's Winter by Gary Paulsen
I just keep requesting the next book in the Hatchet series and the library keeps getting them for me quickly!  John Boy narrated this one (the other ones were narrated by Peter Coyote).  The author indulged himself and wrote his own alternate universe:  What would have happened if....?  Basically, if the ending of the first book had been different, this would have been the second book.  Another quick-moving adventure book for young boys.  It's a fun listen even though I am neither young nor a boy.

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
This was a random selection from my library.  Viktor Frankl was imprisoned in concentration camps by the Germans during WWII.  As a psychiatrist, he discusses survival and the search for hope and meaning in life.  I was disappointed that the CDs in this set were damaged and I missed a bit of text
here and there, but it was a fascinating read/listen.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
If I I only knew humans by the characters in this book, I would think that all men are rubbish (they aren't), that infidelity is a bad idea (it is), and that there are no good people on earth (there are).  I disliked every single character and still read the book to completion.  To say that I liked this book would be incorrect, but it was engaging.  It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion (pun intended) and I couldn't look away.  I think I need to read Pollyanna or The Little Princess or some other feel-good book soon else I'll give up hope for humanity.

Descent by Tim Johnston
Imperfect people dealing with difficult subject matter, this was a well-written book that kept me riveted.  Even though I couldn't connect with the mother, I cared about what happened to these people and needed to know how their story ended.  Sadly, this book ended too soon.  I want to know more.  I'm always desperate for the story after the story, y'know?

I get a lot of my audio books on CD from my local library, but I also have and Audible account.  It is worth every penny to me!  Amazon is offering a special promotion if you want to check out Audible and see if you love it, too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jinny Beyer White Oak Basket

I recently finished another block in my Jinny Beyer block of the month quilt.

This White Oak Basket makes me happy and sad.  I'm happy because of the appliqued handle. I really, REALLY like that deep handle.  I'm sad because of the basket brim.  I didn't get it cut just right.  I'm going to leave it but I'm not going to be thrilled with that part of this quilt ever.

Even though the optional applique might cover up the basket brim that makes me unhappy, I am choosing to not applique flowers onto this block.  I'm working with the "done is better than perfect" philosophy.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Such a Sweet Tooth

I can't help it; I have a Sweet Tooth!  I made another quilt from my Cutie Pattern:

I used a bunch of soft blues/greens/aquas from my Cutie stash.  This quilt is so soothing!

It was also super-fun to quilt, since I quilted (my favorite!) ribbon candy all over it:

Sometimes, it's hard to choose a quilting design.  This border fabric, however, definitely had an opinion about how it should be quilted:

Sometimes,I just let the quilt tell me what it wants.  This quilt wanted some swirls!

In case you've lost track, this is my third Sweet Tooth quilt.  When will I stop?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Jinny Beyer Pine Needle Basket

The April block for Craftsy's Jinny Beyer block of the month was called Pine Needle Basket.

New for this month's block was Paper-Piecing.  Have you ever taken a paper-piecing class from me?  No?  Well, there's a good reason for that.  I don't DO paper-piecing!  I guess I do now!

I am piecing this entire quilt with DecoBob from WonderFil.  It's an 80 weight poly thread and pieces like a secret!  I worried that the thread wouldn't withstand the "rip out the paper" part of this process, but I didn't pop a single stitch!

I am piecing on my Janome 6600 and never have I ever used the scissor button before.  I just discovered that the scissor button was designed for paper-piecing.  It is ah-ma-zing!

So, here's my block:

Once again, Jinny gave me the option to add applique flowers to this block and, once again, I am declining her thoughtful invitation.  This shall remain a basket empty of flowers.

What new skill might I learn with the next block?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Jinny Beyer Quilt: Basket of Fruit

I'm home for a few days this week between teaching trips and working on my Jinny Beyer block of the month quilt.

I'm happy to share my Basket of Fruit block:

It was such a beautiful day that I had to pin up my block on the laundry line!  Are you working on this quilt?  Do you have plans to finish it before the end of the year?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

There's Always Room for One More

 I love the busy autumn months when the weather becomes cooler, the leaves change color, and I'm ridiculously busy running from quilt show to store event to quilt guild.  I look forward to this season every year, but I never remember the hecticness of it until it starts again.  Well, it started again.

When I am not traveling to teach, I am home working furiously to support all of the upcoming events.  Every minute counts and I don't have a second to waste.

Which makes this the perfect time to start a new quilt!

Pat Sloan issued a Quilt Challenge to her quilting friends:  use your scraps to make her Little Wishes quilt.  It's a FREE PATTERN.  Pat has even added a give-away for those who post a photo of a block or quilt on her website.

I love scraps.  

I love free.  

This was a no-brainer.

I made one block with bright colors:

I dug through my orphan block collection and found eleven other blocks in this black/white/bright color palette.  I will eventually stitch them into a baby quilt.

I made one block in blacks and browns:

I will eventually make 15 more of these and set them with green fabric for a manly throw quilt.

Are you ridiculously busy at this time of the year?  Consider starting this new quilt challenge.  Quilting helps balance out our lives.

There are 67 days until I finish my last teaching commitment for 2015.  My challenge to myself:  try to start less than 67 more projects!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Books and Movies and Food: The Collision

I am in a "Read the Classics" book club.  The books so far have been:

House of Seven Gables
The Brothers Karamazov
The Scarlet Letter
The Maltese Falcon
Cyrano De Begerac
The Count of Monte Cristo

I read the first two and then slacked off on the rest.  Since I am deep in the throes of the annual Autumn Quilting Frenzy, I need some good books to listen to as I quilt and travel nearly non-stop.  I decided to catch up with my reading, starting with the latest.

The Count of Monte Cristo is a big book.  Huge.  I listen to my books while I quilt and this book came in at nearly 53 hours long.  I love big books but was worried how I would get through 53 hours of a musty old book.  I listened as I quilted, as I packed, and as I drove.  The book was so great that I couldn't stop listening to it.  I kept an earbud plugged in while I was in stores and restaurants and in the library (picking up a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo movie!).  I drove home from last weekend's event with 58 minutes left.  I waved hello to my husband and then kept listening while I unpacked, started a load of laundry, and sorted my mail.  I knew after the first several hours of listening that I would love this book unless it totally derailed.  It didn't.  This is now in my top ten favorite books ever.

Summary:  Book = Excellent.

The morning after I finished the book, I ran the Jim Caviezel version of The Count Of Monte Cristo movie on my laptop in my office and quilted while watching/listening.  Oh, the disappointment.  I've ranted before about my love of The Little Princess BOOK and my disgust at The  Little Princess MOVIE.  In both cases, the movies are probably just fine but would probably be better served if they had completely different titles.  Shirley Temple's The Little Princess could be titled "Cute Little Girl Sings and Dances and Makes Everyone Happy."  The Jim Caviezel The Count of Monte Cristo could be known as "No.  Just no."  It's a fine tale of adventure that was marred by the casting of Luis Guzman. He's a fine actor and I really like him, but he's not quite cut out for a period piece.

Summary:  Book > Movie.

The book had one flaw, though.  I waited 53 hours for Edmond to make a Monte Cristo sandwich.  SPOILER ALERT:  he didn't.  So I did.

Look closely at the homemade currant sauce made from berries grown a mile from my house.  Be impressed.

Confession:  I did shop for the ingredients with an earbud in my ear, listening to the second to last hour of the book.

Summary:  Sandwich = Yum

I'm going to tackle either Walden or The Maltese Falcon next.  I've been warned about Walden.  Any advice on getting through that one?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Jinny Beyer Cherry Basket

I really liked this block from the Jinny Beyer Craftsy block of the month.

Jinny gave the option to add applique flowers to this block.  I was proud of myself for appliqueing the handle and while I appreciate her thoughtfulness, I will opt to not add applique flowers to this block.  I actually enjoy needle-turn applique and am rather good at it, but I know that this quilt would get stuck in the "add applique later pile" and never get finished.  My block will forever look like this:

On to the next block!

Friday, September 11, 2015

National Sewing Month

The Sewing Loft is celebrating National Sewing Month with a series about scrap quilting.  She featured one of my tips today.

Happy Scrappy Quilting!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

More or Less: Fruit Salad

I finished another More or Less Quilt, this time using WonderFil FabuLux Fruit Salad thread.  I designed this thread line for WonderFil and it will be available for purchase later in 2015.

My latest More or Less Quilt:

It started with a new pair of quilting glasses.  Did you know that needles have holes in them?  I can see the eye of the needle now!

I stitched ribbon candy in the pink stripe (of course!) and then worked on a feather in the white fabric:

I used a Handi Quilter Wave F template for the spine, added some swirls for feathers, echoed the swirls 1/4" away.  Instead of putting swirls on the other side of the spine, I grabbed my Handi Quilter Mini Circles template and added a line of half-inch pearls.

I filled in the background behind the swirls with pebbles but filled the background behind the pearls with parallel lines using my Handi Quilter Right Angle Ruler (my fave!).

I added some dissolving diamonds in the black fabric using my Handi Quilter Mini Scallop template and then filled the diamonds with asterisks.

In my last quilt, I wasn't happy with the way I outlined the Dissolving Diamonds, so this time I stitched 1/8" and 1/4" outside of each uneven diamond:

I filled in the channels with ribbon candy, just 'cuz I like it

And here's the finished Fruit Salad quilt again:

The difference between my last two More or Less quilts:

First Love (left) had very little contrast between the thread and the black fabric.  Fruit Salad has more contrast and is easier to see.

I explain this process and more in my video:

Fruit Salad has less pebbles and more parallel lines.

Fruit Salad has less swirls and more pearls.

Fruit Salad has more outlines and less jumpy transitions outside of the diamonds.

Fruit Salad has less fabric.  I made this quilt much smaller than First Love.

I have butterflies and dragonflies on the back of this quilts.  Sadly, they are all flying upside down.  Let's keep this our secret, ok?

I'm hard at work on my next More or Less quilt using Cabana thread.  Here's a sneak peek:

Those hippos are facing all directions so I can't get this backing upside down!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

All I Want for Christmas is...

...  a binding fairy.

Six quilts in need of binding and many more in process -- big sigh!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Jinny Beyer Ash Basket

I am pushing through and determined to finish my Jinny Beyer block of the month in the correct year.

Block 3:

I will admit that I had to make this one twice to get it to this stage.  I'm still not thrilled with the centering of the basket and basket brim, but I don't think I can make this one a third time.

"I can quilt that out!  Right?"  If you aren't a machine quilter for hire, this might not be as funny to you as it is to those of us who have been routinely assured that an imperfections will "quilt out."

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Jinny Beyer May Basket

Several months ago, I decided to start Jinny Beyer's Craftsy block of the month quilt.  Summer was super busy and I didn't make as much progress as I would have liked, but I am still chugging along.

I recently finished February's Basket of Fruit block:

I am hand piecing this quilt and enjoying the process.  It's completely different than my usual piecing style which consists of quickly rotary cut, string piece, and use large pieces in simple patterns.  I wanted a challenge and with this quilt I GOT ONE!

Look, I'm nearly done!

Friday, August 28, 2015

More or Less Quilting -- Mission IMPOSSIBLE!

When I started my More or Less quilting journey, I agreed to

1.  Use a different spool of FabuLux* thread from WonderFil for each quilt
2.  Use black fabric, white fabric, and a matching fabric
3.  Make one small change between each quilt
4.  Get it done.  Don't quilt for show.
5.  Be transparent. Be willing to show what doesn't work.

Well.... I recently finished quilt #4: First Love and I am going to be transparent and tell you what didn't work.

More or Less: Majestic Sunrise (quilt #3)

In the white, I quilted swirly feathers, echoed them 1/4" away, and pebbled the background up to the solid line 1/4" away from the red stripe.

In the red, I quilted ribbon candy. Who is shocked by that?

In the black, I quilted diamonds up to the solid line 1/4" away from the red strip.  I filled the space between the diamonds with ribbon candy (again, who is shocked?) and quilted stars in the middle of each diamond.

I liked that quilt, but needed to change something before I quilted the next quilt.

I decided to use FabuLux First Love thread from WonderFil (purple, pink, and teal).  The one thing I changed was to not finish all of the rows of diamonds.

Want to see the finished quilt?

Can you see it?  No?

THIS QUILT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PHOTOGRAPH!!! One of my students this weekend took some photos that came out better than mine, but she also acknowledges that this quilt just can't be photographed!  There is very little contrast between the thread and the black fabric, but if I increase the light, the white fabric simply glows:

You can see the diamond stitching much better in this photo, but the white hurts my eyes.

Maybe some color correcting on the computer will help?

The stitching shows well (yay!) but the quilt is actually black, white, and purple.

Millions of thanks to Barbara and Ben Skaught for their photography efforts with this impossible-to-photograph quilt.  Your photos at least show the stitching, and that was something I was unable to accomplish on my own.

So how was that for being transparent and "keeping it real"?

Details on the quilting:

I stitched this on my sweet Sweet Sixteen named Hazel.  She and I had a great time!

White Fabric:  I used my Handi Quilter Wave Ruler to stitch the spine, added some spiral feathers, and echoed with my 1/4" foot open-toe foot.

I added pebbles and stitched all of the way to the line 1/4" away from the purple stripe.

Purple Stripe:  I stitched ribbon candy in the purple fabric and stitched 1/4" away from the seam line with my Handi Quilter Mini Scallop Ruler:

Black fabric:

I rolled a die and let chance determine how many diamonds I stitched in each row.

After I stitched all of the diamonds, I had to fill the in-between areas with ribbon candy and figure out how to outline the uneven edges of the diamonds.  Then I added stars inside each diamond.

A reminder of the stitching on the finished quilt:

Here's a brief video explaining the differences.  Warning:  the quilting is REALLY hard to see on the last quilt.

So what did I learn from this quilt and what might I do different next time?

1.  I learned that this quilt is impossible to photograph.  Contrast matters!
2.  I learned that this quilt is too large; my next one will be smaller.
3.  I learned that I like this "dissolving diamonds" look but want to improve the transitions and outlines around the uneven diamond edges.

The next quilt will be quilted with FabuLux Tropical Fruit Salad thread from WonderFil.  The contrast should be better (oh please, let it be better!).  I hope to make the next quilt about half the size of this one.

I'll show the next quilt in next week's newsletter.  Stay tuned!

*I was tickled to select the colors for the FabuLux line of thread.  I'm teasing you with these samples, because the thread is not yet available for purchase.  Keep checking in and I promise to make a huge announcement as soon as you can buy it!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Quilt Pic of the week: Zoë's quilt

I have a fab friend named Zoë.  She's so wonderful that I make sure to type the umlauts and I wouldn't go to that trouble for just anyone!

I met Miss Zoë in Minneapolis at Quilt Market in May of this year:

Isn't she cute?  

She's smart, too!  She's helping me with my website and other online details that make me want to stick a seam ripper in my eye.  My website and my eyes thank her daily!

Well, Miss Zoë had a birthday recently and she definitely needed a quilt:

This is a scrappy version of my Sweet Tooth pattern. It is a happy quilt and it made me think of her.  

In addition to being a happy quilt, it's also a snuggly quilt with warm flannel on the back:

It may be summer now but, to quote the Stark family, Winter is coming!

Happy birthday, Miss Z!