Saturday, July 30, 2011

Conflict on the design wall and a thrift store find

The projects on my design wall are growing. They are jockeying for priority position. Floribunda started off as leader/ender to the Tree of Life quilt, but it keeps jumping in front. Now they have both grown to the point that they are threatening each other's space on the wall. I'm interested to see which one will be the winner. I feel like the whole thing is totally out of my hands. Also, I'm still trying to decide on a border to go between the tree of life and the Ocean Waves blocks.
Yes, those are more Floribunda blocks on design boards, leaning
against the wall, and waiting to be assembled. They are currently
in the "9-patch" stage, so they finish up pretty quickly.
Before I forget--looky here! This arrived in my mail Thursday from Julie at Me and My Stitches. I was so excited when I won her giveaway! Her stuff is amazing! It is as great as it looked on the website. She has posted new stuff on her blog--go check it out! Julie's stuff will not disappoint. I will wear this proudly!
This is about 7/8" by 1 1/2" in real life
I have been busy making soap and it was fun to see what the giveaway winners chose for the scents of their soaps--some choices are ones that have been my most popular over the years. Other choices are unique scents that I don't make very often. So far I have made the scents that involve cinnamon--cinnamon patchouli, orange cinnamon, and cedar cinnamon. I've also mixed up the grapefruit/lime--a very fresh blend. There are four more to make. There was very little overlap in their choices, but I don't mind. I love them all, and I love to make a variety whenever I get all of the equipment out and start into a marathon soap making session. I don't know if you click on the photo below if you will be able to read the words on the soap dish hanging over the sink. It was a gift 5 years ago from my dear friend who died a couple of months ago. She was a big fan of my soap.
My "soap kitchen." When we were finishing our home, DH graciously
agreed to building this wall into my craft area.
Special cabinet for curing soap. Slots in the
door allow for air circulation as soap cures.
I believe I have mentioned before that I love thrift store shopping. When I have a chance I like to drop in and browse the aisles. You find some wonderful treasures some days--other days you leave empty-handed. Well, on Tuesday I was lucky. For one thing, recently Kristie at Cowgirl Quilter (my giveaway winner!) showed the baskets she uses for her strips of fabric on a current project. I thought they looked great, but wasn't sure where to find them. Of course, at the thrift store! These three were waiting for me down the plasticware aisle. I'm already using them.

Then I succumbed to another plaid shirt for my shirt stash (thank you, Bonnie)--I won't take up space to show you, but it is a beautiful red plaid. And last of all, this came home with me.

 I have had a Viking for 33 years. About four years ago DH surprised me with a new Pfaff for Mother's Day, since my Viking was so old it couldn't be fitted with a walking foot (I know--technically Pfaffs have "even feed," not a walking foot), but there are some things I still do on the old Viking. This Viking isn't quite as old as my original, but almost. It runs fine and has a few stitches my other machines don't have--since I don't go for the "bells and whistles" models. I had thought about giving it to someone, but now I'm feeling selfish. We'll see. I also have my mother's 59 year-old Bernina--and it still works, too. If I set them all up in my new sewing room (my attempt to make lemonade out of the recently emptied nest) it would be pretty crowded.

I don't know how much sewing I will accomplish this weekend, with soap production taking priority right now. So the winner of the design wall war will not be decided yet. I will keep you posted.

Until next time, from the little mountain valley where the sagebrush grows,
Janet O.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And the Winner is...

Kristie at Cowgirl Quilter!! Woo-Hoo, I'm doing a celebration dance, Kristie. As soon as I get your address I will send the Eye Fooler pattern and Tri/Recs rulers your way.

I said I was going to choose a runner-up that would receive soap, but I couldn't limit myself to just one. Miss America has three runners-up (runner-ups, what sounds right to you? I don't like either option!), why shouldn't we?
So I had the random number generator work overtime and chose three more numbers.

First runner-up: Midge E. (no email on your profile page, "no reply" on your email to me--please email me your email address.)
Second runner-up: Mrs. Goodneedle--now you will get some of the "good, clean fun"!
Third runner-up: pcflamingo--you are on a winning streak!

Congratulations to you all!
I will be in touch with all four of you in an email with your scent options. We will talk!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Giveaway! (Delayed & Instant Gratification)

This week I hit 75 followers and it is time to have fun (well, I guess we have been having fun--we are just going to have more)! I've made some good friends among you and I appreciate the time you take to visit and comment. I know that many of you first found my blog when I sent some handcrafted soap as a "thank-you" to Bonnie Hunter and she then showed it and posted a link to my blog. I mentioned then that I would give some away when I had enough followers. I had planned on doing it at 50, but I didn't get on it fast enough when that number came up. Then before I knew it there were 75 and that seemed like a good number to celebrate.

A giveaway of the Eye Fooler pattern, Tri/Recs rulers
 and some handcrafted herbal soap.

The delayed gratification will be the soap. I will email the winner a list of the scent options and make the soap fresh for them. Since it takes 3-4 weeks for soap to cure, I will send it on when it is ready to use.
The instant gratification part of the giveaway is the Eye Fooler pattern. When I posted about this quilt before it generated so much interest, I decided that pattern would make a good giveaway. And since you need the Tri/Recs rulers to make it, I've thrown those in as well (if you already have the rulers you can gift them to someone else).
There you have it!

Here is what you need to do, just be sure you are a follower and leave a comment on this post before midnight (12:00 a.m.) MST on Tuesday, July 26. On Wednesday evening I will randomly draw the winner and post the results! I will even choose a "runner-up" to receive some soap.

Just to ease the minds of any who may have less than fond memories of great-grandma's not-real-pleasant-smelling homemade soap, this soap is made with pure vegetable oils (coconut, olive and cocoa butter). There are no animal fats to smell rancid, and the essential oils make it very enticing. The colorants are all herbs and spices--no artificial colors. I started making this stuff because I have sensitive skin. After trying some my BIL made 15 years ago, it made such a difference to my skin, I jumped on board and have been making it ever since.

While we're on the subject of Eye Fooler, in spite of my forsaking this quilt for another, I have made a good-sized dent in the Eye Fooler, strictly as a leader/ender. All of the HST are finished, as are the 4-patch blocks. I'm over halfway through the Tri/Recs units and then I have an excessive amount of flying geese units to make. They aren't my favorites, so I have been avoiding them. I should have just got them over with first. It is sitting on the sidelines now, waiting for me to finish Floribunda.

Progress on my Tree of Life has been slow.
This is my second Tree of Life quilt. I finished up the first one a few years ago.

I hand quilted this one--took me about 10 months to get it finished!
These are memory quilts for my sons who have served as missionaries in South America. I try to make the blocks represent something to do with the names of the areas in which they served or the experiences they had. It was easy to find blocks that were connected to names and places in California, where my oldest daughter served, but when my first son went to Argentina things got much more complicated. Even in Barbara Brackman's "Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns" (which I poured over for hours) there are no designs related to South America that I could see. I ended up using the tree of life pattern from "Biblical Blocks" by Rosemary Makhan, along with another religious themed block and a simple "sun" block (if I'd known how to make a Mariner's Compass when I did this, I would have produced a better looking sun) to represent the sun on the Argentinian flag. Put "Spanish Squares" blocks in the corners, for the language he spoke, and called it good!
The next son went to Brazil, and that is the one I am currently stumped on. I need to stop this frustrating habit of design-as-you-go quilting. It would save me a lot of grief.

So again, I thank you for following along. Don't forget to leave your comment by midnight Tuesday. Good Luck! I'm already excited for whoever wins!

Until next time, from the little mountain valley where the sagebrush grows,
Janet O.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Take a Look at This Stuff!

Had to tell you about the giveaway Julie is having over at Me and My Stitches. You won't believe this amazing quilt block jewelry she makes. And you could win one!! Wow--I love this stuff!!
There are pins and pendants, earrings and scissor fobs. Even if I don't win, I am saving my pennies for one or two. These are tiny little blocks. How does she do it? Well, I know she paper pieces them, I just don't know how she can do it with such tiny pieces. My fat fingers wouldn't be able to manage it.
Now, I'm not sure why I am telling you about it--even though it gives me one more chance at winning, it also decreases my chances. Does that make sense? But you are my friends, and if I can't win (I never win anything, how about you?) I would like one of you to win. Hop on over there--NOW!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Floribunda Lives!!

...and I love it! Mine does not have that 50s look of many others posted, but my florals tend to be of the "dark and dirty" variety and my yellows are more golden and patterned, rather than lemony and solid.
The top six blocks are sewn up (but not together). The
four blocks on the bottom are still each nine separate
pieces waiting on design boards to go to the sewing
machine and get sewn together.
That's okay--it is the pattern and scrappiness that I love about it. I have all of the pieces cut and ready to go. The original was 6x8 blocks. I have cut mine to be 7x8 blocks. I wanted this to be totally from my stash, but today I broke down and picked up 1/4 yard of more yellow (and I grabbed a floral remnant while I was in the store--I can't resist the remnants). I use a lot of mustard and gold in my quilts, but not much yellow, so I couldn't quite make it without a tad more. Can't decide yet what I will do for borders.
 Now I will set aside "Eye Fooler" as my leader/ender for a time, and let this one butt in line. It just wouldn't patiently wait its turn. In fact, it got so impatient that when I was just going to sew up one block to get a feel for it tonight, something happened and you can see the results above. I am going to put my foot down now and keep it in its place as my leader/ender project. Wonder how long that will last?
I am following Bonnie's instructions for this quilt, but I want to share with you one tip I like to use. Maybe you all are doing this already, but in case not, here goes. When I have a bunch of strips or squares to cut in a row I like to use the June Tailor Shape Cut ruler. On this quilt, when you have the two 21" strips sewn together and are putting half of one set on top of the other half (or whole ones on top of each other if you are making two blocks from the same fabric), butting the seams to prepare to slice every two inches as Bonnie shows ...
...then I like to pull out this ruler, which has cuts in it every 1/2 inch,  and line it up so that one of the black lines follows the seam on the strips. Grab your rotary cutter and slice through every two inches.

After you have sliced every two inches down the length of the fabric, remove the ruler and you are ready to sew the 4-patch units, and you never had to reposition the ruler. It is so slick! Yes, the ruler can be a bit pricey, but that is what those 40 or 50% off coupons at JoAnn's are for!
Of course, no matter how many slick tricks I use, I have to include some major error along the way. Why couldn't I catch this before having it all sewn and pressed?
I wanted to say thanks to all who responded to my last post. It really seems to have struck a chord--or a nerve, or something. As we are drowning in Bonnie's creative juices I guess we can take comfort in the fact that we are not going down alone. : ) I had some good chuckles over your responses and have met some wonderful new people. I know many of you found your way here because Bonnie put a link to that post on her Facebook page, and thanks to whomever it was that mentioned that to me in an email. I'm not on Facebook, so I wouldn't have known. If you are a new follower, I hope you don't expect me to be that entertaining all the time. I'm usually pretty dry.
My mini, wonky 9-patches are finally a flimsy. I'm trying to talk myself into my first attempt at machine quilting on this, but I really don't want to ruin it with my noviceness (when there isn't a word that says what I need, I'll make one). I'll have to think about it some more. If you can recommend a good book or website about quilting on your home machine, I would appreciate the input.
Until next time, from the little mountain valley where the mosquitos are returning like swallows to Capistrano (I'd rather have the swallows--besides, they eat mosquitos),
Janet O.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Open Letter to Bonnie K. Hunter

(With Tongue Firmly Planted in Cheek)
Dear Bonnie,
You know I follow your blog faithfully. I love your quilts, your methods, your fun-loving spirit, your boundless energy and enthusiasm for quilting. I have learned so much from you! I now keep baskets of little "leader/ender" pieces by my sewing machine.

 I have a stash of men's shirts from thrift stores that I have begun to disassemble.
I am slowly cutting up my color-separated scraps into the "scrap user system," where they will then be separated by size rather than color (all of this change takes its toll on a person). And I am determined that no fabric is too ugly to go into one of my scrap quilts--it just needs to be cut smaller!!
 But I have to say this is turning into a love/hate relationship. I hate the fact that every time I turn around you are showing off some wonderful antique quilt that hits me right where my quilter's heart lives. And it isn't enough to just show the quilt--you actually figure out the pattern, start making one yourself, and invite the rest of us to sew along. How strong can a body be against such temptation?
The leader/ender method has revolutionized my quilt production and I am doing more than I ever thought I could, but there are limits to what a person can take. One can only do so much (well, can only do so much--you seem to be able to do everything). I have downloaded several patterns from your website and carefully set them aside telling myself, "Someday." I have taken a vow not to begin a mystery project to turn out one of those fantastic mystery scrap quilts you have created in the past, should you start posting one (I got a bit sick to my stomach when you mentioned something in a recent post about a mystery). I drooled over the Floribunda quilt and even printed out the pattern and started pulling fabrics before I got a grip on myself and put them all back.(Boy, that was a close call!)
I quickly turned away from the cute little bowties that are in wonderful vintage colors! I already have a leader/ender project!!! (I REALLY do love that floribunda quilt!)
Just today I was reading another quilter's blog and she happened to mention that though she doesn't need another project (who does?) she caved and is doing those little bowties you posted. She caved! Is that a good thing? (Did I mention that I have a bunch of old florals that I need to use up somehow?--Floribunda would be just the thing!)

 Before you know it they will need a 12-step program to help people overcome their Bonnie Hunter scrap quilt addiction. (And you know, I got a lovely piece of yellow on sale at a recent shop hop.)
So I am writing this letter to ask beg you to consider your readers. Just show us some really ugly quilts for a while--with no patterns included. (That Jacob's Ladder pattern in Floribunda has been on my bucket list for years!) Who needs another really great scrap quilt to make anyway?
Oh, forget it. I can't resist either. Where did I put all of those florals? But I will draw the line here--I will not put these two very cool colored florals in this otherwise very warm toned quilt!!
See, I really am in control after all.
Sincerely, and with genuine admiration (tongue out of cheek)
Janet O.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How long would your stash last?

Main stash.
The stash can be a quilter's deepest, darkest secret. A couple of responders to my last post indicated that if they never bought fabric again, they wouldn't run out before they died. Whether it was said tongue-in-cheek or not, it got me thinking. My Mom is 81 and still quilting. If I follow her lead, I have almost 30 years yet to go. I really don't think my stash would make it that long.
Neutrals, a
few backings,
and some craft
(not quilt)
How about you? If you kept quilting at your current rate, never bought another piece of fabric, and lived an average lifespan, would you run out?
10 of the large bins and 6 small hold collections, scraps being
cut up, projects that are currently on hiatus, etc.
Above and below you see what I have--modest by many standards, and not very organized.                                                                                                             
These drawers hold my holiday fabrics and a
few current projects.
Scraps sorted by color. I am just starting to get things cut to
use in the "scrap savers system."
How does it stack up to your stash? Do you have twice as much, three times... ten times? Or can you not admit in public?

My "scrap bag" 9-patches are in the flimsy stage now...
... and the irregular 9-patches are shrinking into a very small quilt top. I have to cut them down to 3" unfinished to accommodate the smallest of them, and that means that the largest of them are going to have a center that is much larger than the corner blocks. I place a section of them onto a design board,    
I take the board to my sewing table where I square up the 9-patches and sew it all up.  

Then I place that section back on the design wall and load a board again. See how much it shrinks?
I finally got the brown border off of the tree of life. I'm not sure what kind of a border to use (I have to use something to make the center fit with the Ocean Waves blocks), so I am playing around with possibilities. The HST below are one of many options, but I don't think it will be my final choice. Any suggestions?                                                                                                                                        
Never found the matching corner fabric. I found something similar, but now I need to make the other four blocks and see if I am happy with that look--8 of the blocks have large triangles in one fabric and the last four are in a different fabric. I just am not sure if this quilt has enough of a "scrappy" look to get away with that. We'll see.

I, for one, am thoroughly enjoying the photos on other blogs of the Sisters, Oregon quilt show. Thanks to all who have shared the joy!!

Until next time, from the little mountain valley where the sagebrush grows,
Janet O.

Friday, July 8, 2011

9-Patch Mania and Sidewalk Sale Bargains

Yesterday I planned to work on the Tree of Life quilt on my design wall. I need to replace the border around the tree (first, because it is too narrow, and second, because I don't like it) and make 4 more Ocean Waves blocks before moving on to the next row of blocks.  All of the large corner triangles on the Ocean Waves blocks are from the same fabric--though the small HST are from a scrappy mix of blues and creams. I was laying out the next block on my design board to take to the sewing machine, when I couldn't find the corner fabric. This was the one constant fabric in those blocks and I didn't feel like I could just start going scrappy on them 3/4 of the way through. A trip to the LQS to find more of the fabric (who knows how long I have had it) was fruitless. Frustrated, I switched gears.

To lift my mood, I needed closure on something. I rummaged around and found a few 9-patch blocks that I had purchased in a former LQS that used to sell scraps by the bag--as much as you could cram into a very small bag for $3.00 (I was known as "the bag lady" and I  knew I could get more in a bag if I took the time to neatly fold it all). Every now and then you would find leftover bits of projects. That is how I acquired these. They were already sewn to the yellow squares--some in a row and some, just two squares together.  I figured they would make a quick and easy little baby quilt. I made myself stick to the "stash only" rule.
The center is all sewn together, but I need to trim
the borders and sew them on.
The checkered end strips and the green border were from my limited 30s fabric box--not what I normally use. The outer yellow is leftover from the backing of a quilt I made for my granddaughter a few years ago. It almost looks solid in the photo, but actually has little butterfly outlines on it.

I was on a roll. I also had in my "leftovers" box some pieces that were almost 9-patches. Another quilter had been making these small 9-patch blocks for a large quilt. She had just bought  a new sewing machine and was struggling to adjust to the 1/4 inch seam when there wasn't a 1/4 inch foot on the machine. So these pieces were already cut into strips and sewn together. Some of them were even sliced, but the irregular seams made them a challenge to put together. I received them a couple of years ago--knowing I would eventually find a way to use them. 
I can't decide if I will set them with plain squares in between
or if I want to make HST or broken dishes. I will probably
take the easy route on this one. 
I spent some time finishing off these little blocks. They look a bit skewed and are going to have to be trimmed quite a bit to bring them all to the same size. The center squares will probably end up disproportionately larger than the outer ones. But I think it will be a fun little quilt--eventually.

I said that the trip to the LQS was fruitless, but that isn't entirely true. This was the first day of the nearby town's Downtown Alliance Sidewalk Sale. It was a rainy morning, so the tables out on the sidewalk had been crowded together under some awnings. I came away with two large pieces and at $4.00 per yard--I emptied the bolts.
On the left is a Thimbleberries that will be the backing for
the Tree of Life quilt--over 8 yards. On the right is a
Windham Fabrics "Little Farmhouse" print--9 1/2 yards.
They also had many patterns at $1.00 each. I don't often buy patterns and I never stick to them faithfully, but at that price I can bring home a few for inspiration.
The sampler pattern is in colors I don't use much,
 but I do love samplers, and I can use
whatever colors I want.

That is it for now, so until next time, from the little mountain valley where the rain just keeps coming,
Janet O.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

O Canada!

Returned yesterday from a week in the north country. Had never sung the Canadian National Anthem before but I had two opportunities last week. The first time was at our family reunion which was held on Canada Day (July 1st) and the second time was at church on the Canada Day weekend. It is a moving song. I enjoyed it.
Spent part of last evening catching up on reading what all my blog friends have been up to.
During the entire week of vacation this is all that I saw of a quilty nature...
These two quilts were on display in an information center in the little town of Waterton in the National Park of the same name. It was hard to see exactly what pattern they were because they were all folded up and draped over a narrow rack. I wanted to get a better look and I also wanted to move them out of the sun, but it wasn't my shop. : )

My MIL was born and raised in a small town in southern Alberta, but has spent most of her adult life in the States. We were taking her with us to a family reunion and we planned our trip so that we could spend a couple of days before the reunion in Waterton National Park and a couple of days after the reunion we were in Banff National Park. I live in the Rocky Mountains and they are beautiful, but nothing I see here in the States compares with the majesty of the Canadian Rockies.

Probably my favorite memory of the entire trip was an hour spent canoeing on Moraine Lake in Banff. The water is an amazing turquoise color and it is surrounded by ten incredible peaks formed by the glaciers. Just take a look. Click to enlarge them.

Look at those peaks. This doesn't show all ten of them.
The clouds were shifting and one moment we would have sun,
the next minute it would be overcast.
That is truly the color of the water. Something about the way the minerals
in the water interact with rays of light creates this shade. Gorgeous!
See the waterfall coming down through the trees?
They were everywhere in the park!
I did have one other quilt related encounter--you can't expect many while spending most of your time in national parks. On reunion day I was in a little market getting an ice cream cone of my favorite flavor which you can only get in Canada (why is that?), Tiger Tiger--an orange ice cream (not sherbet) swirled with black licorice. As I stood licking my cone I spied a rack of used books and among them this caught my eye...

I have read on several quilt blogger's profiles that they enjoy these books, so I thought I would try one. For $2, why not? But I was already reading a book on that trip that my son loaned me on neuromarketing. Fascinating stuff about brain studies into why we buy what we buy. So I haven't started the Elm Creek Quilt book yet.

After that week of quilt drought I wanted to visit the LQS today, but I spent the night very sick to my stomach and didn't dare risk it this morning. By afternoon I wasn't at the top of my game, but felt like I could handle it. In honor of the 4th, one of the shops is giving 1/4 off your entire purchase this week. The other shop is having a sidewalk sale tomorrow with 20% off most stuff and bigger discounts on some things. The nice clerk gave me the 20% discount today. This is what came home with me ...
I've never done miniature quilts, but I love these Primitive
Gatherings patterns. It is the second one I have purchased.
 Now I need to make one of them.  : )
I'll leave you with these views of some of the wildlife beside Lake Minnewanka. If you haven't yet seen the Canadian Rockies, I highly recommend them!

 Until next time, from the little mountain valley where the mountains don't seem so large anymore,
Janet O.