Monday, December 14, 2015

Unseeming Seams

I'm not talking about ripping out seams, although I've done plenty of that! In fact, this spring I put up a blog post about my first quilted table runner, which I had to totally undo. And last week I put a little poem on Facebook expressing my frustration over not being able to find my seam ripper, when I desperately needed it!

Ode to a Seam Ripper

Dear little seam ripper, where have you gone?
I’ve hunted, I’ve searched. I’ve been looking so long.
You are bright pink. You should stand out.
You should be easy to see laying about.
But no, you are missing, and can’t be found.
Not on the table, by the machine, under my foot, on the ground.
If I’m to find you I better stop typing this ditty.

It’s time to clean up and stop trying to be witty!

This post is about my big "AH HA"! for the week!  This is Week #3 of the Allietare mystery quilt. Bonnie posted her instructions and I began my task for the week... 


I learned something new! 
(I so love it when I learn something new... and useful!)

Thank you, Bonnie!

This week we were to make "four patches". We cut 2" strips of our neutral fabrics, and 2" strips of our gold fabrics and sewed the strips together. Then, we cut the sewn strips into 2" pieces, after first pressing the seams toward the gold side. 

Then (here is where I learned something new!) we sewed two of the pairs together, to make small checkerboards. (OK, so that wasn't exactly where my new learning came in!) Bonnie cautioned us (HERE is the new learning) that when we sew pairs together, the top seam must be pointing toward the needle. The reason being, that as the fabric gets pulled through the machine by the feed dogs, the two opposing seams will be pushed together so they are nested, and the end result will be perfectly aligned seams with no gaps! Now, I am really new at quilting, but I've sewn my share of pieces where I tried to nest the seams. More often than not I was successful, but there were times when I wasn't pleased with the end results. 

Here are four of my four-patch squares. The color is a little off, but I think you can see that all four fabrics join together very neatly. 

How wonderful to learn something so practical, and something I can use from here on out!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Another Mystery

I find it interesting to see how the pieces of a puzzle come together....

The first piece of the puzzle was the plastic I had taped over the hole leading into the hay storage area of the barn. It had been shoved out of place.
"Darn...(well, the words were a bit stronger than that)!" Dreaming commented to no one (or at least she thought it was no one.) "The *#&*^%) pigeons have been trying to get in there to nest."

The second piece of this puzzle was the dead mouse. I have had a huge mouse problem in the barn, so seeing a mouse was no big deal. But, a dead one? Gypsy had it. She had shown renewed interest in peering intently into the hay and sticking her nose under the hay pallets. Had she somehow caught a mouse?
"Hmmm," Dreaming thought to herself, "a mouser dog. Ain't that something!"

The third piece of the puzzle were the tracks. After our first storm I saw muddy tracks in the snow. Sure, the tracks could have been bunny tracks. Lord knows, we are overrun with the little critters. But, I saw the prints from four distinct pads. Usually the prints from the bunny rear legs show their whole lower leg.
"Well," Dreaming thought, "maybe bunnies 'tip toe' through the mud and snow."

The pieces came together when Mr. Dreamy asked if I had seen our "new cat"! He saw the cat outside the barn. Just a quick glimpse, but enough to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. We have a new barn cat!

I've named the cat Stormy, since we first actually saw him after one of our big snow storms. He is very elusive. We also call him the ghost cat. I've put food and water out for him, trying to encourage him to stick around. I've found bits of kill here and there. He is a good barn kitty! He is totally feral. We've seen him from a distance, but I've only seen him up close one time when I cut the baling twine on a bale of hay that he was hiding under. I only saw him for an instant as he took off in a flash!

It will be interesting to see if he ever gains trust in us.

Our one photo of Stormy, taken with a looonnngggg lens!
Proof positive!

Monday, December 7, 2015

On The Second Week of Allietare

I made it through week #2 of Bonnie Hunter's Allietare Mystery Quilt. I am really enjoying the process and the camaraderie to be found with other "Thread Warriors" as I've named them. There is an active FaceBook page called Quiltville's Open Studio. Quilters post pictures of their progress on this mystery quilt. They post pictures of completed quilts and "what's under the needle". They ask questions and answer questions. I have found the group to be so supportive and absolutely nonjudgmental. Here is a link to Bonnie's blog, Quiltville's Quips & Snips.

One part of the clue for this week required us to make 80 pieces that look like stretched out 'flying geese'.  Bonnie explained two different ways to make them, one using two special triangular rulers, the "Easy Angle" and the "Companion Angle".  The other method is sewing on the diagonals of two squares placed on either end of a rectangle. I chose to use the rulers.

For those of you who haven't quilted, The red triangles with gold triangular corners are flying geese. (This is not the mystery quilt. This is one block from a sampler quilt I finished last spring.)

Here are the 'stretched' out flying geese from the mystery quilt. All 80 of them!

Quite a few of my geese came out slightly misshapen. It shouldn't be a problem when I piece them in the quilt, as long as I measure each piece, and on the worst, draw seam lines. I think I worked a bit too quickly, and sewing on the bias can cause fabric to stretch, even on such small pieces. There were a lot of suggestions for avoiding this problem on the FaceBook page. Some folks suggested always pressing on flannel. The tooth of the flannel helps hold the cloth. We were reminded to 'press' - not twist with the iron. Some ladies mentioned spray starching the fabric before cutting and sewing. It was also mentioned that when one is sewing on the bias, the presser foot should be lifted, and put down at the point where you want to sew. You shouldn't let the pieces feed into the machine. All very interesting. All great pointers for the next time! I have already learned so much!

Bonnie suggested that the pieces might be headless geese! Many of the quilters in her group felt they really are little Santa's.

What do you think?!

To recap:
(sing along to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas)

Dear Bonnie gave to me,
Two hundred ninety-four HST's.

On the second week of the mystery quilt 
Dear Bonnie gave to me,
80 headless geese,
Two hundred ninety-four HST's!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How to Begin?

Should I really begin at the beginning? 

And, where is the beginning, anyway?!

My mom graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Home Economics. (Should I go that far back?) In the early 40's they didn't offer too many degrees for women.  (Do they even offer Home Ec these days?)

My mother sewed almost all of our clothing - well, clothes for the girls. She didn't particularly care for making shirts for the guys. As far back as I remember, she had a sewing machine in our 'playroom'. It was a green Elna "Supermatic". She taught me to sew on the machine. I made my first dress, a simple shift when I was 9 years old.

Is the story too boring? Maybe I shouldn't have started way back when. Maybe I should begin the story with....


I found it!

Well, to be honest I didn't look especially hard for it. 
It kinda fell into my lap.

I was feeling nostalgic. The Missouri Star Quilt Company had a display of vintage sewing machines. I pointed out my Mom's Elna to my friend. Perhaps that planted the seed. Wouldn't it be fun to have a machine just like the one on which I learned to sew?

Then I connected with Bonnie Hunter and her Quiltville group. Bonnie is teasing us with weekly clues to create a quilt. She, and other quilters on her Facebook page, often talk about sewing on vintage sewing machines. Or acquiring a new/old sewing machine. Perhaps that was the impetus.

Anyway, (I will finish this post... I promise!) Today I was on my way to visit my dad, and pulled into the Salvation Army store. I wandered around the electronics. I must admit to being a bit disappointed. No vintage sewing machines.

Then, on the way out, I walked over to the corner where they display 'valuable' items. Nice crystal, fur coats and so forth. And look,  there was a vintage machine. It looked like an old Singer. It didn't have a base. It wasn't what I was looking for. I turned the corner... and...




"My" Elna!!

It was providence. I was meant to stop at the Salvation Army.  I have been donating to the bell ringers this year. It has been really cold. I can't help but reward them for standing in the cold listening to that bell! Maybe this was a reward!

I snatched the machine up and headed to the checkout. It was worth every penny of the $70.24 price tag. (Why such an odd amount?!!) The machine came with all of the necessary pieces. It even had old boxes with cams and presser feet. It had a new/old sewing machine needle in a paperboard package... and the manual! Wow!

I pulled out my credit card and was told the total would be $35.12, plus tax. Not only did I find my machine, but it was half-price Saturday! Don't you agree? It must all part of a bigger plan!

At this point the machine doesn't work. It sews when hand cranked - so the bobbin and needle bits work as they should. It could simply be the power cord.  That's the only non-original piece of the machine. A previous owner took a heavy-duty extension cord... well, two of them, and spliced them together. He ground off the ground plug on one end so it will fit into the machine. It is possible that the cord is bad.

Regardless, it's all OK. I love looking at it - and my money did go to a good cause. I am going to run it by my sewing machine fix-it place and see if they can give me an estimate for evaluating and repairing the machine. It is nice to have a piece of my history and that tie with my mom.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Il Mistero

I decided to try a mystery quilt this year. As if I don't have a gazillion things to do at this time of year!
Bonnie Hunter posts clues to creating a quilt every year. Some time after Halloween Bonnie introduces this year's mystery. For 2015 we are putting together a quilt inspired by a visit to Allietare, Italy. If you are at all interested in quilting, or travel, or connecting travel to fiber arts, you must visit Bonnie's blog and check out the intro.

Bonnie provides readers with paint chip numbers to help them collect the right sort of colors for their quilts. She tells us how much fabric we will need.

Here are my fabric choices:

I chose the green on the bottom as my "constant". Bonnie suggest a gray, and I'm just not a gray person. The middle swatch will be the backing for my quilt. It is called Renaissance Books, and I thought it was not only perfect because of its rich colors, but it goes with the Italian theme!

Then, we wait for the first clue. I "penned" this poem just before the big reveal on black Friday:

'Twas the eve of Thanksgiving and all through the house
Folks were groaning, clutching full tummies and laying about.
Except for me! I was downstairs in my lair,
Doing the sort of things I love to do there!
I was admiring all of the colors in the stash I collected,
Something other quilters are doing, I kinda suspected.
I have my black, and my gold, I think I'll use green and not gray.
Will my neutrals be neutral enough and not stand out in some way?
I love my reds. They are my favorite. They are warm, not too bold,
Some were bought recently and some are quite old. 
And my backing, a Renaissance print just begged to be bought.
It was a bit pricey, I wasn’t sure if I ought.
But it looked wonderful with the colors. It matches the theme.
It was the prettiest backing I had recently seen.
Tomorrow is the day we thought would never be here;
Give a hoot! Give a holler! Give a big cheer!
Bonnie is posting Clue Number One.
This year’s mystery quilt has finally begun!
Allietare, we are ready. We can’t wait to start.

So, Rejoice! Let the challenge gladden your hearts!

Bonnie posted the first clue. We were to use our constant fabric and neutrals to make two hundred ninety-four HST (half-square triangles). Hey, I love sounding like I know what I'm doing! But, lucky for me, and other quilters out there who may be new, or not into the lingo, Bonnie explains step-by-step what to do, and even has links to videos for us visual learners!

Here are a bunch of my HST's ready to be snipped apart and pressed open.

Who would think that 294 HST's would fit in a baggie and look so inconsequential!

And now....

Oh, Bonnie, that was easy! We snipped and we sewed.
Many of us have 294 two-inch blocks ready to go!

My triangle blocks are bundled in groups of ten,
Stored in a baggie and fastened by pins.

Are you the type to get it finished all in one day?
Or would your rather spread it out, having more time to play?

I have little triangle bits on the floor, everywhere,
But what the heck, they blend in well with all my dogs’ hair.

I haven’t time to vacuum with Christmas ‘round the bend,
And combined with this project, my sewing never ends!

What’s next? We quilters in Quiltville all want to know,
We are ready, Allietare, on with the show!

Let the banners wave across Quiltville land
Press on thread warriors, Clue #2 is at hand.

To recap: (sing along…)

On the first week of the mystery quilt,
Dear Bonnie gave to me,

Two hundred ninety-four HSTs.

What is Four?

Have you ever thought of the meaning of "four"?  Four is the number of: seasons in a year. corners and sides to a square. virtues....