Friday, April 21, 2017

you can't take the sky from me

In case you didn't know, I'm a big fan of all things Firefly. We rarely go a day without a Firefly reference in this house.

A couple years ago I bought Sam Hunter's wonderful book Quilt Talk. That book convinced me that paper piecing is not just possible, but much easier than I thought. I love the alphabet she created and I knew just the thing I wanted to make.
I don't remember how many different colors of red, orange, and yellow I used, but I'm pretty sure it was all of the three that I had in my stack of solids. The background fabric is very dark navy that almost reads as black.
I decided I wanted a firefly-class transport ship but I didn't want it to be embroidered. I found the perfect graphic to use as a guide.
I traced the outline of the ship, traced over some of the shaping, and then used echo quilting to create some movement in the background of the whole quilt. Each letter is outlined, too.
I bound the quilt in a "two-by-two" blue with another piece of the navy in the lower corner. The Firefly mini quilt in the lower left of this picture was part of a Whedonverse swap I participated in 2015.
I want to say that I planned the binding so it looks like Serenity is making for the black but that just isn't true. It was a happy accident.

This is number 11 on my list of 12 for the 2017 UFO Challenge. You can see my list of 12 projects in this postFour months, four finishes! 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Marled Magic Mystery Finish!

After what seemed like ages and ages of 1-cord bind-off I finished my Marled Magic Mystery Knit Along.
I wanted to see how it fit before I blocked it. It is a respectable size. Not that Stephen West designs small shawls. One of the surprised I had while making this shawl as that I had no idea how much purple yarn I had in my bin of leftovers. I still have some purple yarn, too. But much less than before I started this one.
I wet block my hand knits and this one turned out to be super-sized when wet. I measured it and the measurement (before removing from the blocking mat) was 10 feet 6 inches long on the top edge.
This one will require some wrapping to keep it off the ground if you're around the 5 foot tall mark.
All scrunched up it is just as awesome. I really like the striped yarn for the i-cord, too.
I really like the varied textures in this one and working with the different marled techniques was a wonderful color exercise. I look forward to the next project like this to use up my scraps. I'll have to make some leftovers to do it, though.

Marled Magic Mystery patter can be found on Ravelry.

Monday, April 17, 2017

In the Mail Monday: Quilting from A to Zen

I received my copy of Bethanne Nemesh's new book Quilting Textures from A to Zen. This is a great addition to my growing collection of quilting design books. I love background textures and this will be a great resource. Bethanne does a great job explaining how she finds inspiration in so many things. You can look around you to find beautiful designs to use in your creative process.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wardrobe Wednesday: Modified Shirt Dress

I spent some time about a week ago working on a project that I had in mind for a while, but hadn't managed to find the time.
I like pockets. I need pockets. Yet many things don't meet this requirement. I found this simple shirt dress at Costco and thought it would be perfect. If only it had some pockets. So I bought it.
I pulled out a coordinating print fabric for those pockets. My pockets won't be boring. I had about a half yard of this fabric.
Using a side-seam pocket from a pair of sweat pants as a guide, I created this pocket pattern.
I carefully folded the fabric and cut out two sets of pockets.
The sleeves are these roll up with the tab thing.
Always messy. Not my favorite.
So I chopped off the offending bit to add a touch of color.
I cut cuffs from my fabric. Pressed up a 1/2" hem.
Pinned and stitched to the cut edge of the sleeve.
Pressed up over the edge and top stitched close to the top and bottom of the cuffs. I failed to get a final picture of this up close. Sorry.
I didn't like the drawstring for the waist, either. So I cut a couple strips, stitched them together and made a double fold string to replace it. Again, no photo. Thank goodness this isn't really a tutorial.
After all that, I ripped out the side seams enough to put in my pockets. I was careful with the ripping, as the side seams were stitched with a chain stitch. We'll have to wait and see if I was successful when it makes it through the wash the first time. I did stitch over a few places in an attempt to lock in the stitches.
I pinned the pockets in and stitched with a straight stitch.
Then I used the overlock machine to clean up the edges.
Pinned the pocket halves together, stitched with a straight stitch and then finished with the overlock. Nice clean and smooth finish.
Everything stitched and cleaned up.
Most importantly: it has pockets now.

Shirt dress from Costco: $14.99
1/2 yard of quilter's cotton fabric: $5 (it was a remnant, so likely not that much)
Time to pull it all together: about an afternoon but it seemed like all day
Having pockets in a garment I will enjoy wearing: priceless

I would like to give a shout-out to Megan over at The Bitchy Stitcher. She is an amazing person. She likes purple and cephalopods, which makes her even more amazing in my book. Anyway, she recently wrote a great newsletter about how the photos you see on the internet are carefully curated to show the best side of things. This dress is no different. I didn't show you the little mistakes. They are there. They don't affect the suitability of the garment in any way and I'm going to wear it because that's why I modified it. Can I do better? Definitely. Will imperfection slow me down? Not one bit!

Go make great things!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Quick Knitting Update

Yesterday we returned from a brief trip to Delaware. I spent the drive time catching up on my shawl knitting.
I'm on the final section of the Marled Magic Mystery KAL by Stephen West. I'm working through my scrap yarn and that makes this project so awesome! Find the pattern on Ravelry.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Everywhere a Critter

As often as I am able, I take time after work to go for a 30-45 minute walk in the woods.
I often come across all manner of critters. Like this turtle, pushing leaves about in the drainage ditch. Or frogs, which are much more difficult to capture with my camera.
Or this young buck foraging. He had about a dozen friends that ran off when I walked up the path. They left, he didn't care about be and continued his munching after looking up to make sure I wasn't a threat.
My most recent encounter was when I found this snake on the grass to one side of the path.
I didn't get close, but the camera on my phone is pretty good. Our guess is that it is an eastern rat snake. It didn't move at all when I stopped to take these photos. I think it was hoping I would just move on and leave it alone, which I did.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Churning Fourteen

I have been collecting batik fabrics for far too long. Particularly if I'm not going to use them.
I recently picked up a few patterns from Hunter Design StudioChurning Fourteen was one that I thought would work well with some of those batiks. My work space isn't always neat, but I do accomplish many things there. I cut, and cut, and cut. Some of my fabrics were a little smaller than the required fat quarter, so I ended up pulling from my scrap bin for some of the smaller pieces. I think it adds interest.
I missed something the first time I put together one of those tiny churn dash blocks (the one on the right) so it didn't end up the right size (like the one on the left). I reread the directions, found where I'd gone wrong, and managed to get the rest of them to the right size. I was going to sneak that mistake into the quilt somewhere but when I went to find it it was nowhere to be found. I still haven't found it.
The pattern said to start with the biggest blocks but I started with the littlest bits. I like to know that the work will just pick up speed from my starting point.
Then I moved on to the medium-sized blocks.
Finally the largest blocks. I worked on the blocks throughout the week so I had most of them done by the weekend.
I laid out all the pieces and started to rearrange them. That took forever. I do reach a point where I decide it doesn't matter and I just sew it all together. Random is nice, but takes more planning than people think.
The construction of sections is clearly laid out in the instructions and I love how many of the seams are designed for minimal overlap of seams. Once you construct the blocks, the section construction is pretty forgiving when it comes to matching up seams. The result is awesome! No partial seams!
I wanted to use up more of my collection of batiks so I sat down with Electric Quilt 7 and redesigned the borders to fit the center of the quilt and allow me to add a 4" border made up of 4-patch blocks. It took some math but I did it. I didn't even make a dent in that bin of 2.5" strips.

I have a collection of 1930 reproduction prints that would be great in this pattern. Maybe that's what I should make next. Maybe that's what should be my next leaders and enders project. We shall see.

I recommend the Churning Fourteen pattern if you want to use up one of those fat quarter stacks you had to have. The directions are clearly written and the result is stunning.

Have you tried any new patterns?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Sewing Machine Love

Many years ago I decided to stop buying cheap sewing machines from the big box stores. Without doing much research I found a Pfaff dealer. They were in the middle of a sale and I found one that I thought would suit my needs. It isn't terribly fancy but has a huge space for quilting, and more features than I've ever managed to use.
One thing about all machines is that you do have to treat them with respect and I'll be honest and say that I don't treat this machine with the respect it deserves. I'm horrible at changing out the needle, even when I know I should. I fail to clean out the dust bunnies often enough. I ask it to work long hours without a rest. To the machine's credit, it never lets me down. Ever. I've had this machine for almost ten years and other than the light bulb becoming wobbly and flickering (fixed by my technician, not me) it has never had a problem. April 1st, the beginning of a new month, a new quarter, and time to do the maintenance I keep putting off. This poorly lit photo is what it looked like when I opened it up. Pretty horrible, really.
I plucked, and brushed, and moved the dust bunnies from the inside to the outside. I replaced the needle, and said "I'm sorry" at least a hundred times. See that pile of lint to the right? Yep, that's what I dug out of the machine.
Cleaned, dusted, a fresh topstitch needle, and we were ready to get to work on a full day of projects.

I tried to find a single cleaning tutorial that I thought would be helpful but there are just so many out there. Use your search engine of choice to learn more about sewing machine maintenance that matches your machine, and make sure you refer to your owner's manual before adding any lubricant to your machine. Some machines (older mechanical machines with mostly metal parts) can be lubricated with sewing machine oil without a worry of damaging the machine (I oil my long arm with every bobbin change). More modern machines often have oil-free bushings and you'll end up with your machine in the shop if you oil something that doesn't need it, or put oil in the wrong spot.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Bee Blocks: March

Thuis month I made bee blocks for the queen bee using a pattern from Blossom Heart Quilts. The block is called Alpine.
I pulled the requested colors from my stacks and stacks of fabric and cut two blocks for the bee. I didn't use the exact cutting directions because I'm not a fan of stitch and flip construction for flying geese blocks. I used my Easy Angle and Easy Companion Angle rules to cut those geese and their corners.
A slight miscalculation in cutting and they ended up a little more scrappy than I had planned, but I don't mind. Another project checked off for the week.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

National Puppy Day

Last week was National Puppy Day. These are my full-grown pound puppies.
This is Belle, a black lab mix. She loves tennis balls and trying to get on the couch.
This lovely, is Reesey. She will sit for ear rubs and has a wicked wag.
They are spoiled pups. Don't let them convince you otherwise.