Friday, February 19, 2016

Shopping with Minimal Buying!

If your first reaction to this post title was "That's no fun!" you'd be wrong. The smiling face of this Lil' Red doll panel attests to my feeling of enjoyment from going to a sewing festival even if I bought very little.

On Thursday, February 18th, my husband and I went to the Bay Area Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival about an hour's drive from where we live. My husband asked me when we arrived at the show if I had goal. I was not allowing myself to buy any kits. One of my self-imposed 2016 goals restricts me to a purchase of two kits maximum for this year. I did not want to stress my quota so early in the year. I also said I wanted to avoid buying fabric, concentrating instead on tools or rulers or perhaps thread. One of my 2016 quilting goals is reduction of stash. My theory is this. As beckoning as each may be, every novelty fabric I buy is a commitment to another quilt. Those novelties rarely go with each other. If I bought any fabric – a hard goal to maintain total abstinence – it was to go with other pieces I had at home. My husband missed the caveat part of this. He thought avoiding buying fabric meant NO fabric.

If not a financially-filled outing, it was a socially-filled outing. I stopped to chat at the Miracle ironing board cover booth by Measurematic where the woman remembers me from my past purchases. I own a board cover myself as well as some portable pressing pads for class use. I have also bought this ironing board cover and portable pads for my daughter. The heat reflective surface of the board cover fabric really speeds up ironing and makes for crisp seams. While there I phoned and checked with a fellow guild member and picked up an ironing board cover for her. I waved "Hi" to the vendor at the Winline textile booth where I buy my bamboo batting that I use exclusively in my quilts. I still have half of a huge roll I bought last time I attended a show and I am diligently working my way through it. I told the potential customers he was with how much I loved it, assured them I got no money for saying so, and convinced them I was no relation to the vendor.

I said "Hi" to Karen at Twisted Scissors where I generally buy something at every show I see her booth. I did cave and buy a dress pattern from her. It is by Olive Ann Designs and I liked the criss cross top overlay. I did not buy the fabric to make it. I will use what is in my stash!

I also bought Lil' Red from the Twisted Scissors booth. This panel stitches up into a doll with clothes, a wolf, a mini-pillow, and a mini-blanket. With two granddaughters and a third on the way how could I resist? A panel is not really fabric - fabric is yardage, right? What and when to stitch up the criss-cross dress pattern and the Lil'Red panel and for who is the question. The Lil Red Doll Panel is by Stacy Iest Hsu who is a new fabric designer for Moda. It was interesting when I got home to read about her story and background. I did not buy any of the coordinating prints. Yay for me! At least not now, anyway. I like her style and will keep my eye out for other designs by her.

Close nearby, I perused the Calico Cupboards booth. I admired a quilt hanging there made with the pattern Suburbs. A black and white newspaper print had been used for the white background and it really looked cute. They had kits for sale and I did not buy one, even though the Moda newspaper fabric is no longer available except possibly from Ebay or Etsy. I bought the pattern only. I patted myself on the back once again.

The San Mateo County Event Center is set up for these shows with four very long aisles that run the length of the building. As I got to the end of the fourth aisle one booth had a big box of quilt kits on the floor labeled KITS 50% OFF! I passed it by without even flinching. As I rounded the final corner I came upon American Jane Pattern booth, my final booth of the tour. It was run by Sandy Klop, another fabric designer for Moda and the teacher of my Flying Circles class. I caught her up on my progress with the quilt I was making from her pattern that I'd started in her class. I am using a bit of her fabrics. The bulk of this quilt I am creating from my stash. Hers was the final booth of the day and I did indeed buy some fabric – no novelty prints – but a half yard each of some of her blender checks and teeny checks. I am using a blue and white version of the checks shown in the bottom portion of the photo in my whirligig quilt. I rationalized these colorful but stable selections will help me use up other items in my stash. My husband called it cheating but good-naturedly smiled and shook his head.

I also bought a half yard of the black and white check and dot fabric. The dots and checks and rulers printing are all on one width of fabric. It is folded over in the photo so both sides can be seen. It will be very versatile, right?

My husband sat patiently in the cafeteria while I made a quick final repeat circuit of the booths to be sure I was not leaving behind anything I could not bear to be without. I did not add anything to my shopping bag, just said good-bye to some of my booth acquaintances. It was a nice companionable day and I did not have a lots of stuff to cram into my already over-crowded drawers and shelves when I got home. I also got to relive the experience while blogging about it. Win-Win!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Whirligig Tip-bits

New tools are great. Finding justification for having bought them is even better.  And size does not matter. Here are two tools I've been using to work on my Sandy Klop pattern Flying Circles, which is basically trisected triangles involving a lot of 60° and 120° angles.  My eye is not used to judging those degrees so I am using some tools - a BIG hex tool Hex N More and a tiny multi-angled quarter seam allowance tool Quilters Quarter Marker™.

The pattern is composed of three squatty triangles that join by Y-seams to form equilateral triangles. Six of these equilateral triangles join to make  hexagon blocks. Although this quilt will be chock full of color, I am concentrating on the grey and white blocks for now to develop a consistency in seaming sequence, trimming accuracy, and pressing direction without distracting and confusing myself with color combinations and placement.

The hex ruler worked very well for cutting out the squatty triangles that make up the pieced equilateral triangle blocks.

The small quarter marker tool was great for placing my stop dots for the Y-seams using a fine tip lead pencil and the 120° corner C.

Used with my Olfa turntable, the 60° corner D was very handy for trimming those dog tails off the trio of seamed squatty triangles. I could align the marking access hole along the seam and get accurate corners for the next stage of assembling those six triangles into a hexagon.

I did try aligning several triangles at once and trimming the corners but the effort to re-align them three times, once for each corner, was more trouble than it was worth. Doing them one at a time with the turntable and the quarter marker ruler was more accurate for equal effort.

I do not normally use leader and enders when I sew. I know it is good practice but I usually forget until a corner edge is sucked down into the needle hole of my machine throat plate. Leaders are a good habit with this block assembly though because of the pointy corner lead in. After two or three "down the rabbit hole adventures" at this stage of the block, I was trained.

Pressing direction is a big deal with these blocks. I used a consistent swirl direction for within the triangle subassemblies and a consistent direction for joining those triangle subassemblies to make the whirligig. The center bulk is not so bad since each half-whirligig has been pressed consistently so the seams are in opposite direction in the center. Please notice my white-on-white heart fabric pieces all face the same way. Yay! They may face a different way in another block but the direction will be self-consistent. I've been keeping point-facing hearts (those shown) in a separate pile from opposite flat-side-facing hearts so I do not mix them up within a block.

After seaming the half-hexagons, I used the Quilters Quarter Marker™tool again, this time the 120° corner D to trim the outer corners of the half-whirligigs. This tool has been sitting in my machine cabinet drawer probably for years but I have resurrected it for constant use on this project.

A glimpse of my design wall reveals four complementary pairs of grey hexagons I've completed in the various grey patterns of Moda's line Putting on the Ritz.

I have made an effort to keep myself stocked with a supply of those squatty triangles cut out in multiples of three or six. With cut stock on hand, I can sit down and sew, or press, or trim a bit with random snatches of time throughout the day.

A 2½" strip will make nine squatty triangles but my greys come from a fat quarter bundle. A fat quarter will yield seven 2½" strips but since each strip is only half a width of fabric, it will yield only four squatty triangles. This still gives 28 – a multiple of three with 1 extra – and a whole bunch of half-rectangles that must be good for something.

Linking up with this week's Let's Bee Social #112 ...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Stash Status Quo

It was time to raid my well-stocked flannel drawer. The pastor and wife of my daughter's church are expecting a baby around mid February and I have a lot of novelty prints just itching to be stitched up into burp cloths. I needed some dot or stripe or plaid blender fabric to go with them - or so I thought. At my quasi-local quilt shop I bought 2 yards of blender flannels – 1 yard of stripes (by Blank Quilting) and 1 yard of yellow dots (by Cozy Cotton). But I also also caved and bought ½ yard of the itty-bitty airplanes (by Alpine Fabrics) because they were so irresistibly cute. I looked for a red/white pinstripe to go with the planes but did not find any. Then I spotted those cute turtles (by Timeless Treasures). Just ½ yard of them with ½ yard of that blender stripe would make a complementary pair of burp cloths. Those tiny turtles and minuscule planes blew away my plan to buy only blender flannels to go with my stash novelties!

I got home and checked my flannel drawer to see what would go with the stripe and dot blenders I'd just bought. Nothing. Flannel choices were sparse - a good thing? Maybe yes, maybe no. There was no red/white pin stripe to go with those planes. Had I used it up at Christmas... ? Perhaps the yellow and red stripe at the far right might go with the planes...? Nope. The scale of the stripes was too broad for the plane size. The only options in that drawer to pair up with each other were that owl print with a kelly green polka dot at the left and they would make only one isolated burp cloth. I prefer to make burp cloths in complimentary pairs. The hodgepodge of flannels remaining did not go with each other and, contrary to my memory, was mostly blah blenders and not nifty novelties. Checking previous year end summaries for my blog posts revealed that I'd broken into triple digits on my burp cloth production – 126 combined for 2012 through 2015, 42 last year alone. Considering each burp cloth takes two fat quarters, that is 50+ yards of flannel I'd used. No wonder my flannel stash was not as resplendent as I remembered it to be.

I zotted out to my more local quilt store to get some novelty flannels to go with the dot and stripe blenders I'd just bought. Yes, I realize the irony. I bought a duck print (by Michael Miller) and a fox face print (by Robert Kaufman). Once I was home again I noticed the primary blue propellers on the little planes. I'd originally rejected pairing the stripe I'd just bought with the planes because of the aqua sky, but decided those propellers could be my link with the multicolored skinny stripe. I would topstitch with red thread and get my red fix that way. I also noticed the duck color was close to the yellow dot I'd just bought. The tiny yellow detail in the ferns with the foxes would allow me to put the yellow dots with that flannel, too. Here are my four complementary pairs of burp cloths from left to right; stripes with turtles, ducks with dots, foxes with dots, stripes with airplanes. Dot pairs would be top-stitched in yellow and stripe pairs would be topstitched in red.

I lined up the pairings on my cutting table, one fabric of each burp-cloth-to-be folded double for extra absorbency and aligned in position, ready to be sewn assembly-line fashion. Each burp cloth takes two pieces of flannel 17½" x 21" each, so they are fat quarter and half yard friendly. I posted instructions for these in my post for June 18, 2014.

 Yellow pairs with yellow thread were first. I chain stitched the long sides of four burp cloths.

These burp cloths take more thread than you think. They have two long seams, two short seams, four rows of long seam top-stitching, and two rows of short seam top-stitching. I do not remember what I did last with that yellow thread but I had four bobbins to use up. Using the least filled one first, I managed to empty three partial bobbins to make four burp cloths. The burp cloth seams are a great way to use up partial bobbins. The thread color does not show, and if you run out midway, it is no big deal. It is a straight seam and there is no truly awkward place to stop. Make sure to have enough of one color for the top-stitching, though.

I like the way the yellow dot and fox face pair turned out. The white dots seem to echo the white facial features on the foxes, something I had not anticipated with my initial fabric pairings.

Yellow dots with the ducks make me think of the goose that laid the golden egg, albeit those are pretty big eggs for the size of the bird.

Here are the turtles with the stripes. They are pretty good color matches considering the two flannels are from entirely different manufacturers and I like the playfulness of dots and stripes both.

I like the stripes with the planes after all.

The dashed stripes are like the white loop-de-loop, spiral, wavy, and straight dashed lines of the smoke trails of the planes. It is funny, but I think I like explaining why I combine the fabrics I do as much as I enjoy picking them out. Justifying the reason behind my choice makes me surer of it.

By the way, the expectant parents elected not to learn the baby's gender before birth. All these options will work for a boy or a girl. Baby gift giving used to be like this in "the old days", also known as "when my kids were born". I will pre-wash these burp-cloths and send them off tomorrow or the next day. I opted not to wait to see if I should make pink or blue. Boy or girl, spit-up starts on the day the baby is born!

So have I made any progress on reducing my stash? No, but everything new that I bought I used up right away so my stash status quo is preserved. This baby's mid-month due date turns out to be a good gift window for me. Burp cloths are my go-to project between bigger endeavors and I just finished barstool covers for my son and daughter-in-law. Now I need to stop procrastinating on those master bedroom curtains I keep promising my husband are "next". My most recent post promising to start the curtains was September 2, 2015. Yikes! Burp cloths were my warm-up.

I am linking up to Let's Bee Social #111 to explore what others are up to this week.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Potpourri of Quiltiness

This week was a real potpourri for me of home decor, piecing, quilting, and blogging. This week is the final time Lee Heinrich of Freshly Pieced is hosting her Wednesday WIP link-up party so I did not want to miss inclusion in that, for Auld Lang Syne.

I made up a another color combination from my Sandy Klop Flying Circles pattern. I pieced only six triangles for this wall hanging this week and I accomplished that just today. Once again I chose a trio of fabrics with an intended orientation and then when I start flipping them around I become undecided. This combination of red on red dots, green on green swirl, and red/green stripe has the potential to look suspiciously Christmas-y. But then again so do the red chairs with apple green piping in my living room. The overarching question with this block for me is "Whirligig" or "Star". I originally intended the stripes in the interior to give a sense of whirling motion with the red on the outside. But the green swirl and the green stripe seemed to blend with each other too much so the inner section becomes a weak whirligig and an even flatter, non-3D star.

I tried moving the red in to be part of the star or whirligig. I like this better but it does give off a strong aroma of Christmas with those two basically solid fabrics strongly adjacent. The stripes give a sense of radiating rather that rotating.

On the third configuration, my only remaining option, I kept the stripe inside to give that rotating feel and used the red to contrast. The perimeter is a bit weak where the green swirl and green/red stripe are adjacent, but nevertheless, I think this arrangement is the front runner for me at the moment.

Actually I mis-spoke (mis-wrote?). I do have a fourth option. I could disperse these six triangles to be the spokes of a different interior hexagon like I did with a blue/green/red-white triangles in my Sandy Klop  class post of 1/23/16. The possibilities are endless. Well, to be precise, the number of possibilities is finite, but there are indeed a myriad to choose from.

On the home decor front, I was otherwise productive in that I finally did finish the barstool covers I'd been working on and mailed them off yesterday to my son and daughter-in-law. See my previous post.

This morning I attended a Handiquilter Sweet Sixteen Club at my semi-local quilt shop The Cotton Patch in Lafayette, CA. There, I practiced stitching two FMQ patterns from Lori Kennedy's blog. She has an entire collection of patterns and tutorials at Underneath each photo is the phrase I made up to chant to myself as I sew. The cute bows are much easier than they look. I chant, "sway down, sway up, sway down, figure 8 big, figure 8 little." "Practice make perfect," as the saying goes. I will settle for "Practice makes presentable."

That concludes my potpourri of quiltiness this week. Did I mention I also bought the yarn to knit my six-month-old grandson a baseball jacket style sweater? Aah, but that is the subject of another post. For now I am linking up to this week's WIP Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Whine & Dyin'? No. Wine & Dine!

Those barstool covers are completed! My past posts to document my learning and struggles could be construed as whining. I must admit these covers challenged me but I was determined they would not defeat me. It was do or die! Now they will be best used to "Wine and Dine" instead.

In my most recent post on the topic, I dismissed a final short seam between the back and seat as trivial but was leery about the task of attaching all 30 feet of Velcro®. Pleasant surprise! The Velcro® went on like a dream. I upped my needle size from 80/12 to 90/14 and lengthened my stitch size from 2.5 mm to 3.0 mm and the thick Velcro® tape whizzed under my pressure foot. I must admit, though, that discarding 30 feet of the loop side of Velcro® was agonizing for a saver like me. Surely it could be used for something else. The stools themselves have the loopy side permanently affixed on the underside of the seats, so the covers only needed the soft side.

On the other hand, that "trivial" short seam I previously referenced was deceiving. In addition to the short straight section, it had a curved section, and a curved section that mated to a straight section after a Y-junction. Whew! The two left red arrows matched up, the two top and bottom yellow arrows matched up, and the two right red arrows matched up. It took me several tries before I recognized the Y-seam for what it was. I had to lift out the needle and re-insert it, much like turning the corning when attaching the binding to a quilt. Once I figured out the Y-seam incognito, there were no mishaps and nothing needed to be un-sewn. Yay!

I am so glad – so very glad – I kept half the original cover intact because I referred to it a zillion times I think. That short straight portion of the seam... ? It is at the far left of the photo with the snippet of Velcro® tab hanging from it. It creates a kind of pocket tab that inserts between the stool back and stool seat to fasten underneath at the rear of the seat.

I did have one area I considered ripping out. On the first seat I constructed, I pressed the seam open between the gusset and the seat top, then topstitched on both sides, shown by the upper red arrow. I later decided the seam would be stronger pressed to one side, shown by the lower red arrow. This approach also halved the amount of top stitching and replicated the original. I left it this way on one seat rather than risk tearing a hole in the fabric trying to remove it. I probably should not have even pointed it out. Consider it my signature custom flag and precautionary measure to avoid angering the gods.

If you are wondering where I got those cute arrows, they are a set of straight pins I bought several years ago, sold by Fons and Porter. A container has way more than I need, but they do come in handy for marking pressing directions (and for illustrating blog posts). Besides, the tins holding the four styles of arrowhead pins for left, right, up, and down are so darn adorable with their quilt block motif and square viewing window, I could not pass them up.

I took extra precautions to assure I placed the Velcro® in the right position to wrap just the right amount beneath the seat of the stool and mate with the loopy side of the Velcro®. I used the original cover as a pressing guide to know how much to fold up. I hope, hope, hope, hope, hope they fit! It is kind of like making clothes for a distant grandchild, but at least this should be a bit simpler since the stools are not a growing, moving target.

I think I have worked my way through just about every chair style in my house to illustrate these covers at their various stages of completion. Here is my best candidate, although the flaps hanging down have not been tucked up and fastened with Velcro® to the seat underside. My daughter-in-law is really good with keeping in touch, so when she sends me a photo of the covers on the intended barstools, I will publish an update to this post.

For those of you interested in my home decor forays outside the quilting world, here is a summary list of the posts about my progress and my lessons learned with these barstool covers. My intention is for this post to be my final one on the topic. I plan to mail the covers off ASAP.

September 30, 2015 Barstool Covers
October 7, 2015 Barstools vs. Blankies
January 20, 2016 Prototype Barstool Cover
January 27, 2016 Barstools, Whirligigs, Distractions
February 2, 2016 Whine & Dyin'? No. Wine and Dine!

Oh, and by the way, after all my forays in several fabric stores in Northern and Southern California, I finally have plenty of fabric left over. Matching pillows, any one?

UPDATE (2/6/16)
I mailed the covers Wednesday 2/3,  they arrived Friday 2/5, and they were put on the barstools Saturday 2/6. My daughter-in-law texted me, "First one fits like a glove!" Then a bit later I got the text, "They all fit perfectly!! No lie!" 

Aah... what a relief. Here is a front view...

and a rear view...

Here is one last photo of all five in place around the round end of the "apostrophe" kitchen island. I think Carrie picked out great fabric to go with the countertop. I am so glad that "All's well that ends well."