Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Goodbye March

What a strange month this has been. And from the looks of things, the strangeness will be continuing into April.

I always create a 9-picture collage of highlights as I close out each month. I knew I wanted that image of the coronavirus in the center of this month's collage. So I found the picture above in an internet search, and proceeded with my collage.

I thought about just stopping here. Ha! It seems as though everyone, everything is consumed by this little germ, so that is THE highlight of the month, right?

But we had life before "shelter in place" and life continues now while we "shelter in place." This, then is my actual March 2020 collage.

I left "the germ" in the center of my collage, as it divided the month pretty much in half - prior to halting everything, and "lockdown" mode.

Before corona (BC?), we were training for the Columbus Cap City Half Marathon - well, my husband was. I was training for the 5K walk/run. We had some great spring days out on the bike trail.  The Cap City has been postponed until late August, so training has been slowed. Our grand-cat Rocky came to stay for a week while daughter and son-in-law were at Disney. I did some fabric shopping in Columbus with dear friends Dee and Sharon, and the Frienzies had a wonderful dinner get-together at Hettie's.

Then, Covid-19. Oh, my, did things change.

My one-week spring break was stretched to a two-week spring break. Then we were given the news that the entire remainder of the semester would be done through remote means: no more face-to-face classes! I endured a week or so in panic mode (as did many students, I'm sure), but have finally arrived at a comfortable alternate.

My collage shows a picture of my longarm room, which I finally decorated. (I did not quilt the 4 quilts draped over the bar, however. Bummer.) The bottom row shows the only true finish of the month, my Peachy Surprise, made simply because I found a stack of random 4-patch blocks. The Ohio Star illustrates a tutorial I put together for a reader, and the final picture is of some protective masks I made to donate to local facilities.

I am not beating myself up too harshly for failing to quilt those quilts. Covid-19 forced me to spend way more time on schoolwork than I normally would have. I fully expect that I will far surpass my 2-quilt goal in the coming months, so it will all even out.

I also have worked pretty exclusively on sew-along projects which don't lend themselves to finishes. I am thinking that I will start something in April that will also be finished in April.

Yeah, I need some finishes.

One nice thing about all this staying home - DH and I commented the other evening that it hasn't been so bad. We are lucky in that we don't need much; we aren't lacking for activities; we have our hobbies and phones and internet and television and books. We are doing okay.

I hope you are, too.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Doing My Bit

Have you seen all the quilters and seamstresses who have been making masks? Patterns are being shared everywhere for these, and I have made a few to donate to the cause.

This little batch of 14 masks took me no time at all to whip out. The stitching is basic from start to finish. These are lined with interfacing.

I used up my original package of elastic, so I dug around in some old stuff from Grandma's sewing kit. I found some treasures.

The pink elastic has a price tag of ten cents for the 2-yard package. The other package is newer, and it was opened. Three yards for .75 - a bargain rate! It was pretty cool finding these in her sewing supplies.

This close-up of the pink elastic gives you more detail, if it isn't too blurry to see. The company is Cameo out of Massachusetts. I did a brief search, but didn't find anything about it; perhaps it no longer exists.

So this little bit will go to serve the greater good. I was reluctant to climb on board this mask-making bandwagon, as I was skeptical about the level of safety they provide. After speaking with my sister-in-law, a dentist, I decided to move forward with these. Her comment that any barrier is better than no barrier makes sense. These aren't going to be used in surgeries or the like. But if a hospital worker of some sort will be safer, then wonderful. I am not sure where I will take these masks. I have several options.

One nice side benefit of doing this is that I was able to use up scrap fabric that had no usefulness to me any longer. Additionally, I used some sew-in interfacing that never gets used. I am paring down, if only in small increments.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Scrapping Right Along

Many quilters know about leaders and enders, that technique made famous by Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville in which you are always sewing - never cutting the threads at the machine - here is Bonnie's explanation. I'm not a purist about this, but I try to do it as often as possible. For example, when I'm making a Blockheads block or one for the sew along we Frankfort girls are doing, I reach for 2-inch blocks for the scrappy quilt I've been working on.

Consequently, I have a good-size stack of 4-patch blocks piled off to the side of my sewing table. I cut a whole bunch of triangles of red and white, for the first round of the square-in-a-square blocks I'm making. Trimming them is always satisfying; they line up so nicely when sized properly with trimming.

Then I continued with the outer round of triangles. Then, these too, needed to be trimmed. Throughout this month, I have accumulated quite a few blocks and I think it's time to begin sewing rows together.

I have 30+ white blocks and 30+ red blocks. I need a whole lot more. I will make blocks as long as my fabrics hold out. Of course, the 4-patch blocks will be unending. The red is plentiful. The white, though, is running thin. I will either have to buy some (which defeats the purpose of making a scrap quilt) or substitute some likely similar white. I will dig around; there's a good chance I've got some.

So, as the month of scrap quilting comes to an end, I have barely dented the scraps available here. I will have, though, a mighty pretty quilt when all is said and done. Mighty pretty, indeed.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Reader Request

On Monday I received an email from a reader, Vivian. She had been perusing my blog and found a picture from the page where I feature Grandma's Quilts. She said she was particularly inspired to make one and asked if I knew whether or not there was a pattern.

The quilts contained on Grandma's page are just a fraction of the quilts she made over her lifetime. From that page, I took the three pictures below showing quilts that are all pretty much the same pattern  -  one Grandma called Stars and Stepping Stones.

My guess is that the blocks are 12 inches - what Grandma seemed to prefer - more expedient to make quilts with big blocks, you know. She was a no-nonsense quilter. There was no time for fussy-cutting or using ridiculously small pieces and complex construction in her day.

So back to Vivian's request. I do not know of a specific pattern that Grandma would have used, but I can very easily help out with instructions, as these two blocks are very basic and easily adaptable to any size. Vivian had already begun working on 10" blocks, so that determined the size I would work on.

And now, I am going to offer up an easy tutorial for Vivian and all you readers, as well. First, let's tackle the 10.5-inch (10-inch finished) Ohio Star block.

The parts shown in the picture above will make one star block. Cut 4 squares at 4.75-inches, then sub-cut them twice, diagonally. Cut 4-inch squares, 1 dark and 4 light.

Construct the star points. Press. Trim to 4-inches. Lay out and stitch the star like so:

NOTE: If you prefer a 3-color star instead of a 2-color star, the simple difference in cutting is this: When cutting the 4.75-inch squares, cut two in the fabric for the star, one in the background and one in the 3rd color. (Look at Grandma's 3 quilts above; two of them have a 3rd color.)

Now, we will move on to the 10.5-inch (10-inch finished) Stepping Stones block. I am opting to make mine using a different pattern than Grandma did, as I think it will require fewer steps and less cutting/stitching. Two different blocks, yet the exact same look.

Cutting for this block will require 8 light squares and 8 dark squares at 2.25 inches. Sew these into 4-patch blocks as shown in the picture. Then cut 5 squares at 4 inches, one dark, four light. Lay out the block and stitch using the picture as a diagram.

And that is all there is to it. Both blocks are super simple, and would be quick work. The hardest part will be fabric decisions, as this will look gorgeous in lots of color combinations.

Can't envision it? Wonder how these blocks would look in a full-sized bed quilt? I used a photo-editing app to mock up an entire quilt. Oh my goodness, this might have to go on my to-do list, for sure!

This is a straight set, meaning no side and corner triangles, whereas Grandma's were all on point, which did require triangles; either way, the look is fantastic. Doesn't this make you want to dive right into your stash and get busy?! If my calculations are correct, the mock-up above would require 41 Stepping Stones blocks and 40 Ohio Star blocks for a quilt that will be in the neighborhood of 90 inches square. You'll have to figure out yardage requirements. (That kind of math is above my pay grade!)

Well, Vivian, I hope this is helpful. I sure am glad you reached out. Be sure to send some pictures of your work as you progress; I would love to see!

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Bragging Time

Do you mind if I take a moment to brag on daughter Erin? It's been awhile since I've said much about any of my kiddos, but Erin made a baby quilt, and I now have all the pieces of the process to share.

Of course, beginning with the cute part makes total sense. Baby Sophia is now 7 months old and her momma (Erin's sister-in-law) shared this adorable bundle of preciousness on social media. Wouldn't you just love to hold and squeeze her? I bet she giggles all over; she looks like such a happy baby.

No doubt the quilters who follow this blog also noticed an interesting bit of a quilt folded over the back of the chair. Erin made it! I have pictures saved here from last spring when Erin was working on this quilt and knew that eventually I would be able to share.

Gorgeous florals and soft coordinating solids comprised the fabrics Erin selected for the quilt. I love that she chose the 9-patch block. That is such a versatile block. It is simple, great for a baby quilt, and can look quite sophisticated with gorgeous fabrics. Winning all the way around.

Blocks laid out on the dining table. Controlled scrappy look, I would say. Erin has a designer's eye, so I am sure she took great care in where she placed certain colors and prints.

The completed quilt top called for a picture to mark the accomplishment. It sure is a beauty!

Then to the hand-quilting. I can remember having her sit beside me to try hand-quilting when she was a teenager. I was certain she would take to it, but NO! She was outa' there after about a dozen stitches. Perhaps a seed was planted that day, though, because these stitches put mine to shame.

Here are a few random shots Erin sent of her finish. Check out the scrappy binding and the label.

I'm thinking that most of the print fabrics are from AGF, including the backing. Just beautiful!

I am so proud of Erin and her quilt-making. Click back to see this one she made about three years ago for Sophia's big brother.

I began this post with cuteness and I will close with cuteness. Erin always has a trusty helper nearby when she's working on a project. Assistant Rocky is never far from the action.

He's proud of his quilt, or maybe he just adores his human. Either way, he sure is a handsome boy.

I had a big technological breakthrough yesterday after the moaning I shared here. I feel so much better now about "distance learning" -- it does not seem quite so daunting now as it did before. After that success, I made great progress in the quilting room. I have some awesomeness coming in the next few days!

Hope you all are sheltering in place, minding your social distance, and doing your part to flatten the curve. (So many interesting phrases coming from this pandemic.)

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

More Blockheads

My classes have been a frustration for me lately, and I hope you won't mind if I moan about it for a bit. (If you want to skip the moan and get straight to the quilting, scroll down about 4 paragraphs.)

The switch from face-to-face teaching to "alternate delivery systems" has frustrated me to no end for the past two weeks.

And it's not the coronavirus I'm frustrated about, although that is certainly the cause. My frustration is more with myself for being so dense about technology that I am unable to complete tasks that should be quite simple. Whereas some people have a natural aptitude for figuring it out, I can do that to a point, and then I come up against something that completely stymies me. At that point, I have spent untold hours - yes, hours - trying to figure it out.

I have definitely spent more time on my classes in switching over than I would have had we been doing things the normal way. I have done it for so long, I was on auto-pilot.

Okay, end of moan. I really do want to learn all that cool technology, and would be a willing student. I have made progress and have done some neat-o things: used some new programs, participated in virtual meetings, had a personal video chat with someone from the campus labeled a "super-user." Talk about natural aptitude! Gracious! But he is a good teacher, patient and helpful.

Now on to sewing. I continue to focus on single blocks for sew-alongs that I'm doing. Blockheads 1 from back in 2017 were all 6-inch blocks, and all I did at the time was to print out all the weekly patterns. I decided when BH3 started that I would do the corresponding weekly block of BH1. Good plan, but I have been hit or miss as far as executing it

Here are two blocks I made this week. The fabrics are from a variety of lines by French General.

The week 5 block is a Lisa Bongean creation, and we know she loves tiny pieces. This was no exception. I starched the fabric before cutting and I'm sure that saved me lots of headaches. I still had to "unstitch" some bits - and it wasn't because of the pieces being tiny. It was my fault in not trimming each unit to the correct size. All 4 of those corner units should have been trimmed; I did not, and the result was sad, to say the least. I removed the corners, trimmed them to the proper size, reattached and now I am a much happier gal.

The week 8 block is from Betsy Chutchian. Still small pieces, but fewer of them. My seam ripper and I got friendly again, because I cut the two side rectangles a half-inch too short. I love this block, and would make a whole quilt of them. Basket quilts have always been pleasing to me, but - all those triangles!

I'm growing a bit antsy. All the sew-alongs I am attempting to do have me wishing for a "right now" project. I want to sew a whole quilt, not individual blocks for the next however-many-weeks. Sampler quilts are nice, but getting to the end takes awhile. I need to see some finishes!

 Now you know how I am weathering the coronavirus pandemic. We are staying relatively secluded; drive over to Frankfort to walk the bike path; take drives; watch The Great British Baking Show binge-fashion on Netflix. I'm listening to a book when I sew, but sewing gives over to teaching far more often than normal, so the both the book and the stitching take a back seat.

Ah, well, my troubles are miniscule by most standards. I hope everyone is staying safe and being smart about distancing!

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

BH 3 - Catching Up A Bit

It was inevitable that I would get behind on the blocks for Blockheads 3. I was thrown a bit when the applique block came out - week 3 or 4, I believe. Then that paper-pieced block, then that heart-shaped block. My tendency to prefer traditional pieced blocks revolted at all this variety.

After some reflection, though, I decided to chill out and reign in my judgmental side. I am perfectly free to create other 6.5-inch blocks to replace any I don't want to make. I can take my time when necessary like with the applique, but in the end I should just try to stay caught up.

And that is how I spent much of yesterday. It just so happened that it was National Quilting Day; DH was out during most of day, and I had nothing more pressing than to catch up with Blockheads 3.

I started with that heart-shaped block, number 7. I picked out some pretty fabric options and whipped this up in no time at all. So simple. I really don't mind it now that I've made it, and even though it's not "traditional," I will like having it in this quilt.

Then I tackled block 9. I'd selected the fabrics earlier in the week, so it was just a matter of accurate cutting and sewing, pinning when necessary, pressing carefully. All matched up reasonably well. Nice block.

The seven blocks I have made so far are laid out here on my cutting mat. The aforementioned applique block is started; I need to get it back out and finish it. I don't think I want the paper-pieced block in this. I don't object to paper-piecing; it's more a matter of how modern it looks with the rest of these blocks. My plan is to substitute another block in its place. No problem. I've got plenty of options.

I still need to make the latest block, too, which might just happen today.

On the working side of my life, I officially begin remote teaching this week. Yikes! I am quite uncertain about it, but I figure that my students are as well, so we will get through together. Everyone is dealing with different issues, and all of us are doing the best we can, right?

Happy Quilting, Friends!


Friday, March 20, 2020

Sew-Along Blocks

Sheryll announced our block for this month when we Frankfort Girls last met. Friendship Star. Today I took the opportunity to make mine -- two in the main colorway and one in the 30s prints.

I debated on making the center red, but opted against it. I had no particular reason, and now that I see it with the other blocks, I think it is just perfect

All the blocks stretched out on the guest bed. This is going to be a really gorgeous quilt. I am already eager to know what the block for next month will be.

Look at how simple that block is and it goes to show that a block does not have to be complicated to be pretty. Making 3 of these took me practically no time at all.

Yes, I have a third one - the 30s quilt I am making with the same set of blocks. One each for this one, as opposed to two in the red and cream. I am leaning toward piecing setting blocks for this one in a stepping stone pattern.

My intention when we started this sew along was to make a trial block. As it turned out so pretty, I have continued making trial blocks each month, and when we get to November for out final block, I will have enough to make a quilt. I may have to make a couple extra, but these have been so simple, I don't see that as being a problem. Add in the stepping stone setting blocks and Presto! A 30s quilt!

Happy Friday, Peeps! One week of coronavirus quarantining down! We are adjusting!

Happy Quilting, Friends!