Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Cruise

After spending three days at the Houston International Quilt Festival, we boarded buses and headed to Port Galveston!
Our ship was Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.  After a fairly seamless check in progress, we were on board!

I chose the far bed, so I could be closer to the balcony.  Which was great as my cabin mate Kathy preferred to be closer to the bathroom!

What's a cruise without the cabin steward dressing up the cabin with a little towel art!

Our first two days were at sea.  As this was a quilting cruise, you know we spent time fondling fabric and thread.  A special Thanks to the Bobbin Boys at Citrus Sew and Vac who provided the Janome 8900 machines and expert help in keeping us sewing!

My first class was with Kim Diehl.  I have always wanted to do wool applique.  This little cutie was the perfect project!  I got everything done except for the outer border while on the cruise!

Next class was with Pam Holland.  Pam is a fantastic fiber artist, combining applique with shading with pigment pens.  I added some thread painting when I quilted this to add some interest.

Next day was class with Bonnie Hunter!  The seas were pretty rough this day, but we all took it in stride.  Any mistakes were blamed on the ship!  As I had just taken a class with Bonnie, I used my leftover strips from my version of "My Blue Heaven" to make my Texas Tumbleweed.

I didn't want another large quilt in my queue to be quilted.  Our local quilt guild is making lap quilts for one of our local nursing homes, so I decided to make it that size.  The binding just needs to be stitched down, and it is ready to bring warmth and cheer to a resident!

Next class was with Catherine Redford.  She provided us with a kit that included a preprinted panel that shows our Caribbean cruise.  She had it printed up through Spoonflower.  Also in the kit were some yummy hand dyed perle cotton.  We learned several hand embroidery stitches.  She encouraged to add little souvenirs from the cruise.  I added enamel pins with flags of Texas, Mexico, Honduras, and Belize.  One of my dinner table mates gave us each a worry doll.  I added some cool buttons I found back home.  Very fun!

In the evening we had open sewing time.  And we also had the opportunity for some small "make and take" projects.  This one was a small pouch to help us be more comfortable with free motion quilting.  The ever fabulous Dana Lynch taught this class.

This project was taught by Carol Moellers.  She showed us how to weave fabric to make a new background fabric.  I did free motion raw edge applique around the hibiscus flowers, then added the yellow stamens, and some gold beading in the centers.  I added the black borders, then stapled it to a 16x20" canvas.  Not all projects need batting and binding!

This blog is getting too long.  Stay tuned for the non quilt happenings!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2014 Houston Trip

Today the weather here in the lower Midwest is turning more winterlike with a Polar Vortex heading our way.  But I am still basking in the glow of my recent trip to Houston and cruise to the western Caribbean!  I have so much to tell, that I will do a series of blogs to get all the information in (and to extend the warm memories!)

First leg of the trip started in Houston for the 40th Houston Quilt Show!  I shared a room at the Hilton with my new friend, Jan Ruiz!  This was her first show, and she was like a kid in a candy store!  We got along famously, and enjoyed the show!

I am not good at taking selfies, but I wanted to get the convention center in the picture with me!

This was the Ruby Celebration of 40 years, so red and white quilts were celebrated!  This awesome display was front and center of the quilt exhibition!  I was in love!

This is a small aerial view of the vendor floor!  With over 1000 vendors, it is easy to get overwhelmed!

I did show great restraint.  But this sweet bundle of yellow batik fabric had to come home with me!  This will be perfect for Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusions mystery quilt!

The best things about going to the quilt shows is meeting up with friends.  The internet and Facebook are great for making far flung friends; the big quilt shows are great venues for meeting up with them and getting hugs!

Before leaving Houston, I attended mass at the Annunciation Church, which is a 10 minute walk from the hotel.  It sits in the shadow of Minute Maid Stadium.  It is a beautiful church with beautiful stained glass and statuary!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Recent projects

I am going to try to be more regular with my blogging.  I have worked on lots of different projects over the past few months, and I hope to share in the future the ones that haven't been given away.

Last week our local guild hosted Millie Sorrells.  Millie is an award winning quilter, with several quilts in the National Quilt Museum.  She is the sweetest person you could ever meet.  She reminds me of my Aunt Zola.  I got to be a quilt holder for her trunk show...I can't believe I didn't get drool over them!  The quilting on them is drop dead gorgeous! I didn't get any pictures from the trunk show, unfortunately, but check out her website to see her talent.
The next day she taught two half day classes.  The morning hand quilting class was full, and I didn't take it.  In the afternoon, she taught Machine Trapunto.  This I took, and thoroughly enjoyed the class.

Here is Millie and I with my class project.  I did get the center trapunto piece done in class.  Most of the class did.  For my family, you can see why she reminds of Aunt Zola (my Featherweight is named after her).

This is my completed project.  I used wool batting, so the hearts in the border almost have a trapunto look to them!  I used Superior Kimono 100wt silk thread in the borders, and used the BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) for the quilting.  I reduced my stitch length to 1.5 and it gave me a great result.

I also finished up this little gem yesterday.  I had pieced it at a recent Sewing Saturday with the Material Girls.  The pattern called for hand embroidery.  I chose to do machine embroidery instead. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2015 guild raffle quilt!

I blogged in March that my word for this year was "transition".  At the time, I thought my only transition was going to be going from working to retirement.  My transition included becoming a widow, and learning to live alone.  Well, almost 7 months are behind me.  I have redecorated my home.  Cleaned out a lot of closets.  Bought a new car (and didn't pay sticker price, are you listening Mr. Szafranski?!)  There were times when I thought I wouldn't get back into that wonderful feeling of sewing the day away.  I kept a smile on my face, persevered.  Maggie's got her groove back!

Last year I volunteered to be the chair of our quilt guild's raffle quilt committee for 2015.  We are given three years to get the job done.  No, it doesn't take that long, but they budget out expenses over three years.

The first task (after the committee is formed) is to decide on a pattern for the quilt.  Things to take into consideration are 1) is the quilt one that will get people interested in buying a raffle ticket, 2)  is the design amenable to be broken up into blocks that the members can complete and return?

There are so many beautiful quilts to choose from.  My personal favorite in the Lone Star.  This is not amenable to having multiple people work on.  But what if the Lone Star is the central medallion, and you have simpler stars in the borders that could be done by multiple members?  And what if you decided to take inspiration from Jan Krentz and make the colors of your lone star swirl?  And what if you used University of Illinois (or Chicago Bears) colors?
This was the design I worked up in EQ7.  I personally prefer a rectangular quilt.  Finished size, 100"x119".  It should easily fit a king bed.

I pieced the central Lone Star Medallion.  I did strip piecing, which is truly the only way to do a Lone Star.  The complicating factor is that each strip for each arm of the star is slightly different.  This necessitated checking the pattern constantly to make sure a mistake wasn't made.

 My committee and I got to spend a couple hours at our local quilt store Sew Sassy to pick out the fabrics.  That is a lot of fun, especially when you are not the one going to have to pay for it!  After the fabrics were prewashed (didn't want to risk any fabric bleeding, and don't want to trigger any asthma attacks in members that may react to the off gassing of chemicals used in processing) the committee spent an evening cutting up kits for the two different blocks.  24 blocks each.  We used the Easy Angle and Companion Angle rulers.  The meeting when they were passed out, I had a tutorial PowerPoint presentation on how to sew the blocks!

I don't have a picture of the completed top, because it is too gigantic for my 6' square design wall.  This is a major downside of living alone.

One of the traditions that our guild has is that for almost every raffle quilt that we have done, we have made a smaller version that we have kept as an archive.  It is very nice to have a tangible piece of history, and to see how quilting has evolved over the 30 years that our guild has been in existence.
This is the 2015 Raffle "mini" quilt!  It measures 46"x46".  The big quilt will be going to a long arm quilter, but I think I will quilt the "mini".

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

And this is why they don't give old people babies

If you can't laugh at yourself, then you just don't have any sense of humor.

So on Tuesday morning, I took my stepdaughter and her boyfriend out to breakfast.  I drove in my Ford Escape, because we were going to stop by the funeral home and pick up the flowers, pictures, and miscellany.  From there we stopped at the supportive living facility in my neighborhood to drop off a few of the floral arrangements so that more people could enjoy them.  When we got to my home, family friends from Texas were waiting to spend a little time with me before they left for home.  My dog Kelvin ran out the front door when someone went in.  No problem, he does his business and goes back in, usually.  I have the two guys unload the car, and I go in the house to tell them where to place plants and flowers.  We all sit and chat for about an hour.

Then it was time to say goodbye.  Where is Kelvin?  We called for him in the house.  Sinking feeling.  I don't remember him coming back in!  I run outside calling.....

But then I remember seeing him jump into my car.  He loves going for a ride, and he took the opportunity to jump in my car.  The guys didn't see him in there when they closed it up.  We found him in the back seat with a big grin on his face!  He had been going for a ride!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Feathered Star

I certainly wish to apologize for my lack of posts this winter.  It is certainly not because I have not had things to share.  I simply have been busy doing things!

My word for 2014 is Transition.  Instead of making New Year resolutions, many people choose a word that reflects what they wish to achieve for the upcoming year.  I choose transition, as I feel this will be a transition year.  I hope to retire from the nursing profession in January, 2015.  I plan on becoming more active in various quilting activities.  One of those activities is doing commission quilting.

I have been asked many times over the years about making a quilt for the asker.  And have been told many times I should sell my quilts.  I have always had the same response, no, I don't want to turn something fun into a job.  But I enjoy the process of making a quilt so much, I thought this would be a good way to pay me for the pleasure.  So when a friend from grade school and high school (I think we even went to Sunday School together!) asked me about making a quilt for him and his wife for their retirement cabin in upstate New York, I said yes.

The first thing I needed to decide was how much I was going to charge for the quilt.  I searched the internet, and found lots of discussion on pricing schemes.  The one that I settled on is based of square footage.  After obtaining the area of the quilt in square feet, take that number and multiply it by the dollar figure according to difficulty:
                                   $10 for a simple quilt pattern.  ie: baby or child's quilt
                                $15 for a more complex pattern
                               $25 for a very intricate pattern, ie: requiring applique, paper piecing, etc
The next step was to have them choose their pattern.  I told them I thought they had the hardest part, because there are so many beautiful quilts to choose from!  I gave them several sites to look at, and also suggested that they Google Quilt patterns.  This is what they chose:
They had already decided they wanted a blue and white quilt.  Experienced quilters will recognize this as the feathered star!  It is a drop dead beautiful pattern.  I have done several of these prior to this one.  But they had all been paper pieced and were miniatures.  Doing this is in a queen size format was going to be a new adventure.
Next step was to work up the pattern in EQ7.  I love being able to develop quilts, and make changes quickly with this software.  And I was able to share my designs with my friend.  I didn't want any surprises for them.
After I came up with the final design decision, it was time to go shopping for fabric! The staff at Sew Sassy in Urbana were very helpful.
Putting my nose to the proverbial grindstone, it took me a week to piece the entire quilt.
  There were some challenges along the way that I had to overcome. The first was how was I going to stitch those feathers onto the royal blue.  I figured that I was going to have to sew a partial seam on one side, a full seam on the other, then finish the partial seam.
That is probably as clear as mud.  But the bottom line, is that I got the job done.  And I now can say that I am an expert when it comes to Y-seams!  This is why most quilters do not do the feathered star, or paper piece them.  But when you are using it as the center medallion of a queen quilt, paper piecing is just not an option!
Kelvin gets in the act of inspecting my quilts!
I had to let the quilting wait, as I was going on a quilt cruise.  But it is usually good to let these things "marinate" for a while
The process of sandwiching a large quilt is a very daunting task.  Fortunately, a friend has a Gammill long-arm machine and lets me rent time and helps me with this process.  I use water soluble thread to baste the top, batting, and backing together.  We can get it done in about 2 hours, saves my knees and back, no pins to's a good thing!
Of course a feathered star has to have feathers!  I love 'em !  Unfortunately, I did not take a close up picture of the feathered wreaths that are in the white spaces around the center and in the border.  I used a stencil I made from Golden Threads Quilting Paper, then used blue chalk pounce pad to mark the quilt.  I found that the chalk was bouncing off the fabric during the quilting process, obliterating the design.  But if I sprayed the chalked design with water soluble hairspray, the design stayed in place long enough for me to quilt it.  I can't take credit for this idea, as it was on the pounce pad package.
As an extra, I made quilted pillow shams to complete the ensemble.  I had never made quilted shams, but they certainly do have a great look!  They took me a bit longer than I thought they would, but all good things are worth the extra effort!
Here's the finished product on our bed!  Hubby is very impressed, and thinks it is a winner!  I am happy with it, and hope my friend is also.  This is a win/win for me.  I got to work on a challenging quilt, and got paid for it! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Guild color challenge

I have taken on the leadership position of challenge committee at our local quilt guild.  I love a good challenge!  I see it as a means of stretching myself further.  We never know what we can accomplish if we don't try!  Challenge quilts are generally small, and give us a chance to think outside the box, or block!
For our first challenge, I decided we needed to do something with color.  And what better color to use than Pantone's 2014 color of the year: Radiant Orchid!

The rules for the challenge are to use Radiant Orchid in a wall hanging, minimum 20", maximum 30".  Any technique (pieced, applique, fabric painting, thread painting) could be used.  There also is no set amount of the color that must be used, it just needs to be obvious that the color was used.  The above picture has the official paint chip, along with fabrics that I found on our recent road trip to Indianapolis to Back Door Quilts and Quilts Plus.
I have several different ideas floating around on what I want to do.  The complement of Radiant Orchid is a lime green; now that just sounds awesome!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Celtic Solstice

First blog post for 2014!  Just noted it has been a month since I have posted.  I don't get overly involved with lots of Christmas doings, so my only excuse is that I have been busy working on a mystery!
Bonnie Hunter for the past several years has been presenting a mystery quilt.  I got hooked on Bonnie through several of my guild sisters who have been doing her mystery quilts.  I decided this year to take the plunge, especially after I heard the name and saw her color scheme!  I have never done a mystery quilt as it was going on...the only other one I did I waited until I saw the finished product before starting it.  So I thought, what the hey, just jump in and do it!
We started out by pulling our colors.  Bonnie got paint chips with the colors she was using to give us an idea of colors that she knew would work best.  I played along and pulled from my stash a nice selection of oranges (as an Illini fan, you know I have orange!), yellows, greens, blues, and neutrals.  WOW!  This was like a free quilt!  I had it already in my stash closet!  I failed to take a picture of my project bucket, but it was colorful!   But then, there was the wait!  Three weeks I believe!
Week one we made 188 Tri-rec units!  I love these little units, and they always add such a great spark when they are used in a block design!  Always an unexpected break from the right angle triangle!  And it was such fun to revisit those blues and oranges that I had purchased for various projects! Three pieces to each unit, 564 pieces!

And it is a good thing that I do like to make those Tri-rec units, as I failed to properly read the instructions for week one.  I made all 188 units at first SCRAPPY!  I did have the orange and neutral centers.  I thought the blue in her pictures was just a red herring to throw us off (this is a mystery, after all!), but then I kept seeing other participants with all blue and decided to reread the directions.  ARG! I considered just going with it, but I decided I had best just put on my big girl panties and remake them. Bonus: I have all these scrappy Tri-rec units for a future project!
Week two we made 100 chevron units.  By the way, every week we are making 3 1/2" unfinished blocks.  100 chevron units that each contain 6 pieces.  600 pieces this week; running total: 1164! This got me to wondering what the finished quilt was going to be!  I was imagining this as a cool sashing or border design.  All along Bonnie was posting pictures of church floor from her recent trip to Ireland which was her inspiration for this quilt. 
Apparently there was some grumbling in the ranks about making the Tri-rec units in week one.  Well, there was some muttering in my studio over having to mark all those flipping units for the chevrons.  I find that a very tedious endeavor, but like Bonnie, I can't seem to sew a straight line from one corner to the next without the line.  But I also have trouble getting the lines marked.  The fabric would shift, and I was always fumbling with picking up the ruler.  That's when the AHA moment came and I thought, why not use that sandboard you bought!  When Becky Goldsmith taught at our guild, she recommended this for drawing applique shapes. Well, it works great for holding your fabric when drawing your straight line.
I also found that if I held my ruler at an angle, I could see both corners, and could then move on to the next square without fumbling to pick up the ruler!  Brilliant!
When Susan Cleveland taught at our guild, she showed how she makes quick work of mitering her binding strips.  She places a piece of painters' tape in front of her needle, then draws a line out from her needle.  I used this line to help center my units to make it easier to keep a steady straight line just one thread to the right of the drawn line. 
Week three we made 200 half square triangle units.  We used 100 to make 25 pinwheels.  The leftover 100 were to be used later.  HMMM, where is she going with this mystery! 400 pieces this week; running total: 1564!
Week 4 we made 120 4 patches.  Except I just got in the zone and made 200!  AH, more bonus parts, I can use them with those bonus tri-rec units! 480 pieces this week; running total: 2044!
Week 5.  Well, I failed to take a picture of the units we made.  Suffice it to say, we utilized the left over half square triangle units, as this was the last set of blocks to be made!  Each block contained 5 pieces (minus the two from the half square triangle block).  We made 100 blue, neutral, yellow, and orange blocks (that looked a bit like candy corn).  300 new pieces this week; running total 2344!
Week 6 we put it all together!  Using the tri-rec units with the neutral center, and the four patch units, we made 54-40 or fight! blocks on the left!  We were cautioned to keep the four patches all oriented the same way, which I diligently did during this process.  On the right we used those chevrons (brilliant!), pinwheels, and the units from week 5 (see them in the corners) to make Birthday Girl, one of Bonnie's designs.  Bonnie gave us pressing instructions, which made sewing the rows together so much easier, as the seams butted together nicely!
So here is the main body of the quilt!  Love it.  Bonnie's directions said to add a neutral border, then using the orange centered tri-recs, make a pieced border that ran like an marquee arrow around the quilt.  Then a final green border. HMM, I don't want my quilt to look like everyone elses, and those circles on the edges look like they want to be completed.....
So I did.  I used some of the orange centered tri-recs and some of those leftover 4 patches, made some blue and neutral half square triangles, added some neutral patches, and made a pieced border that finished those edge circles.  I used orange as an inner border to "stop" the neutral. I didn't have enough of a green in my stash that looked right as the final border, so I used a blue! 
Whew!  It is done.  Now it goes in the "to be quilted" queue!  You can check out the other Celtic Solstice quilts being made at