Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bathing and Sleeping Beauties

I really only made one item since my shop hop last week. I figured after buying one quarter yard each of three blue fabrics, just for an accent strip on two pillowcases, I'd better make up those pillowcases before I kept buying more trial fabrics in search of the perfect blue. I liked the outcome of the blue batik triangle accent sandwiched between the bathing beauty focus fabric of the main body and the orange swirl fabric of the border. The swirls remind me of the froth on waves. The way the rows of navy triangles undulate suggest wave motion to me.

Seeing the trio up close now it appeared to me that those dark blue triangles look like shark fins protruding from the water. Oh, no! Banish that thought. I want sweet dreams in my seaside themed master bedroom. Do NOT cue music from the movie Jaws!

Backing off a bit to look at the effect of the two pillows side by side, they no longer scream "Shark! Get out of the water!" to me. The pillowcases have the same colors as the duvet cover I bought at one of those home design discount stores. I would not mix these two prints in a quilt, one graphically bold and one delicately detailed, so I probably would opt to display the solid colored, safer pillows on top with this dominant side of the duvet cover.

When I use the reverse side of the duvet cover with its calmer blue mini-print, I'd pair and feature the bathing beauties, placing them on top. I like their bouncy appeal and I like the combination of navy, blue, and orange.

Speaking of navy and orange, my seven week old granddaughter arrived for a week's visit and look at her outfit. Navy with orange polka dots! This is the sleeping beauty to go with the bathing beauties.

She brought along her two-year old sister and her mom. These last few days my sewing time was diminished so I could prepare for them. No regrets. It is well worth it.

Besides, with their visit I get to give away eight more burp cloths from my posts of June 15, 2016 and June 23, 2016. Both kiddos are asleep now so I will take the opportunity to be social at Let's Bee Social #131.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Shop Hop Purchases and Memories

I went with a fellow guild member on the opening day of a Shop Hop by the Bay, that was running June 22-26, 2016. We were on the same page strategy-wise for buying. We each planned to buy something only if it strongly caught our eye. If we had to debate "yes or no", then we would leave it behind. A purchase was also permitted if it fit a prescribed purpose and not slip into a "maybe someday" category. My only trepidation in this respect was one of my 2016 quilting resolutions. I had a self-imposed limit that I could buy no more than two quilt kits in 2016 in an effort to reduce my inventory of kits in my stash. I had reached that limit in April. My daughter had suggested a work-around to that by adding the corollary that for every two kits I completed, I could allow myself to buy one. Last week, in anticipation of this trip, I toyed with the idea of attempting to sew up two kits in three days on the off chance I might see one I really, really, liked. But I didn't sew up two kits. What if I saw a kit that was too good to pass up? Would I be sorely tempted to break this "no more kits in 2016" resolution?

A Shop Hop by the Bay map cited the locations and distances between participating shops. We visited shops in farthest to nearest order from our homes. I picked up my friend and drove about 75 miles and 1 hour and 20 minutes south to start shopping at San Juan Bautista. We worked our way north, in the map order FT, NT, SBI, QT, GSQ, G, ESB. We had no pre-allotted time limit in each shop but uncannily we were on the same wavelength as to when we approached the checkout register and were ready to move onward. Between these shops totaled about 50 miles. We collected seven stamps in our passport but ran out of time due to traffic in the final leg and had to skip the two shops in Fremont, NJQ and CMQ. Energy was beginning to lag as well – just a bit. It had been a great day, from initial pickup at 8:00 am to final drop-off after 6:00 pm, and we had a blast.

Each shop had snacking goodies and a small give away just for coming. These were some of the freebies. There was a 2½"wide batik strip at each shop and a pattern to sew them all into a tote bag. Also I picked up a ruler, a tape measure, a retracting tape measure, and a block of thread conditioner. But not everything is free! I did make purchases I will show and describe in the following photos. I combined purchases for two shops in one photo; so the accompanying text does not flow in visiting order. I took the photos before I started writing this post.

In the next photo, I've shown my purchases from Family Threads in San Juan Bautista, CA and Quilts and Things in Morgan Hill, CA.  First stop of the day was Family Threads in San Juan Bautista. I've shown my purchases there in the bottom row. I love that their license plate reads Squirrel Moment. I really feel that way sometimes as my head whips around when a piece of fabric catches my eye, like the dog in the Disney move Up. At Family Threads I bought a ¼ yard of a blue and white pin stripe. I was looking for a broader blue and white cabana style stripe to use as a accent strip on two pillowcases but no luck at this shop. The day was yet young. The wild, almost obnoxiously bright, stripe came from the 50% off section as did the buttons and the EZpiecing star pattern. The stripe will add to my collection I reserve for quilt bindings. The buttons are earmarked for a sweater for on of my granddaughters. The pattern came preprinted on light weight interfacing so there is no paper removal after sewing. Maybe that is why it is named EZpiecing and not paper piecing even though it is the same technique. I had opened the pattern to check it out and, when my shopping partner spotted the convenience, she bought one also. The black and white book was 50% off too and the quilts inside are absolutely adorable. That says a lot for me who is a color fan and usually uses black and white in only small amounts. Wow – I had a lot to say about only the first shop! Fourth stop of the day was Quilts and Things in Morgan Hill, CA, and right before we ate lunch. In the upper row are purchases from there. From left to right is the commemorative license plate, appropriately named Joy of Quilting. Next are four flannels to help replenish my burp cloth stash and an adorable stripe by Debbie Mumm earmarked for grandkid pillowcases.

In the second store, The Nimble Thimble, in quaint downtown Gilroy, there was this awesome blast from the past up at the checkout register. It was an old fashioned yardage measuring device from a JC Penney store. I remember standing at my mom's side when I was a child as the store clerk would insert a selvedge side of the fabric into the slot of the machine and pass the yardage through a pair of rollers. The dial on the meter would spin around like the hand of a clock counting out the requested yardage. The lever on the right was depressed to cut a nick in the edge of the fabric. Then the clerk slid the cloth out from the machine and r-i-p-p-e-d it across the grain to give the customer the length she had requested. Nimble Thimble was not using the  fabric meter for their sales but it sure was nostalgic to see it.

I was not tall enough back then to see the numbered face on top that the clerk was watching as she drew the fabric through the metering rollers. As a counter height kid I remember instead watching that front dial spin around. I was enthralled when the lady bore down on that lever with a resounding klunk, then violently tore that length of fabric right off the bolt. And my mother bought it anyway - rips, mini-frayed edge, and all!

In the top row of the next photo are my purchases at the Nimble Thimble. The shop's commemorative license plate reminds quilters that Gilroy is nicknamed the garlic capital of the world. To the right of the plate is my replacement notion of silicone thermal thimbles. Do not ask me how, but I misplaced one thimble, but since doing so I have repeatedly singed my finger. I guess since I started using this handy-dandy notion I have diminished my skill of instantaneous retraction of my hand when I hear the first hint of steam whooshing out from beneath the sole plate of my iron. Next are some luggage tags and a second option for accent blue on those pillowcases instead of a stripe. The fabric panel of color chips I plan to hang a s a decoration accent. Maybe I will border it and quilt it, or I may merely put it on stretcher bars. The fifth stop of the day was Golden State Quilting in Campbell, CA. Their commemorative plate reads Quilt Crazy. Here I bought a pattern for a pillow out of prairie points and a pattern for called Typography which gives me a nice alphabet selection for flexible use in future projects.

At Golden State Quilting I also picked up a couple fat quarters, black leaves on a red background, dubbed "low-fat quarters" because they were on sale. They are the rubber-banded rolls in the previous photo. They look enough like feathers that I will use them with fabrics I have been accumulating for a yellow, red, black, and white chicken quilt. In the next photo those two low-fat feathered fat quarters are shown centrally nestled in among those chicken fabrics I have been collecting. I still need to find or decide upon the appropriate pattern or layout to showcase these perky, quirky novelties. The cheery green one may be out of place but I am reserving judgment about its use – maybe as a surprise backing?

Our sixth and seventh stops of the day were Eddie's Quilting Bee and The Granary both in Sunnyvale, CA. The number of purchased items have definitely become fewer. We had plastic ware so I think it was more a matter of visual saturation than funding. At EQB (upper row) I bought some tape measure fabric I plan to interspersed as strips in a log cabin block patter. To the right of it is a third and last stab at the best blue accent fabric for those pillowcases. I also  got myself a new thread snip with cushy ergonomic grips. Mine that I have used for many, many years were dull. Two or three snips to cut a thread can be annoying. I'd bought a pair of orange Fiskars to replace them and although they worked fine, I did not like the feel of them in my hand. Hopefully these yellow snips will be more comfortable – and sharper. At The Granary I bought some 50% off fire engine novelty fabric destined to become pillowcases for my grandson. I will draw the accent and band fabric from my stash. Hey, I just noticed the zig-zig blue above is a good candidate to go with that blue background Dalmatian stripe. At each of these shops I also picked up a commemorative license plate.

For thoroughness, I will add that the third stop of the day was Sew Bee It in Morgan Hill but we made no purchases there. Well, I did get a license plate and a stamp to say I had been there but that is not in any of the photos. I also bought a magazine at one of shops. Which shop? I don't know and the magazine is not shown.

All in all, I bought ¼ yard three times over for the blue accent strip on those two pillowcases. The bathing beauties are the main body and the orange is the band at the opening. Here is the comparison of all three candidates for accent. I never did find a wide blue and white stripe like I had in mind. The pinstripe seems too wimpy to me but I do like the mini-triangles on the far right. They have a sort of wave motion. The blue triangle print has a periwinkle tint to it also and not so clearly royal as the far left candidate. The far right fabric it will be. I am glad I kept an open mind.

I play a game with myself when I go on quilting outings or shows where I generally make several purchases. Soon after I get home, before I open any of the bags or empty any of my tote bags to admire my treasures, I sit down and attempt to write a list, from memory, without peeking, of all that I bought. Only then do I take it out and look at it. I informally grade myself on how much I remember. This is not a test of my brain but rather a measure of how many of the purchases were impulse lust at first sight and not a true everlasting love. If I can not remember it, I ask myself how much did I really want it. My performance this trip was that I remembered 27 items out of 30 for a score of 90%. Not too shabby. The items I forgot were a magazine, the typography pattern, and the color chip panel and none of them was a high ticket item. Would I have had regrets had I left any of those behind? Probably not. My count test is a reasonable indicator of my restraint. An even better indicator is that I bought NO kits.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Go Ahead – Break up the Set!

What I wanted the focus of this post to be is not even more burp cloths, as the first photo might lead you to believe, but rather a story of "What am I saving this for?" The speakers at my guild's June meeting were twin sisters Lisa W. Norton and Lora W. Zmak of Material Girlfriends Patterns. They gave a delightful talk on quilting personalities. They also spoke of personal color saturation and project saturation. As a quilter you may be familiar with the syndrome. It can be described as, "If I sew another  pinwheel or star or HST in puce and lime, I think I will hurl." Their solution is to interject a small, easily completed project in your assembly line to "cleanse your quilting palette". My short project is typically burp cloths, or a cloth book, or pillowcases.

These  pink and green complementary pairs of burp cloths were made with an adorable flannel print titled Spring Turtle from the Robert Kaufman fabric collection called The Wild Bunch. I wanted the "right" color thread for top stitching these burp cloths. I have a generous stock of threads in a variety of shades from which to choose. On the open shelving in my sewing room, are three clear, aluminum hinged, acrylic cases in which I store said thread. Those containers on the shelf adding a spark of color to my sewing room and are always visible so I do not forget I have them.

These boxes are typically called cosmetic cases or train cases and come in many colors. I have the un-tinted option to hold my thread assortment. I get mine cheapest at Walmart usually.

I opened each of those three containers checking – unsuccessfully – for the exact shade of pink to topstitch those burp cloths. I found a vibrant hot pink and several pale tints but none were what I was looking for. Then I noticed the Essential label I had included in the box. This reminded me I had bought two neatly boxed thread sets for my daughter as a Christmas gift. I'd forgotten I'd treated myself to a box, as well. Essential is a 100% cotton thread exclusive to Connecting Threads. It is relatively inexpensive and I have not had any issues with it breaking or producing excessive lint on either my Pfaff domestic or Handi-Quilter longarm.

Here was a box of threads, gifted to myself and tucked away on its side, nearly forgotten by me, an out-of sight, out-of-mind kind of gal. It has a clear window on the lid, but the edges are opaque and do not reveal the treasures that lie within when stored on its side.

I do love red and I love polka dots so how could I resist this presentation? It was just too  cute to open and use! Could it be hiding the pink for which I searched?

Bingo! All the pinks on the left were too pale or too coral or too mauve, but the one on the right, newly discovered in my unbroken set, was perfect. It was strong and jewel toned, without being a hot pink.

For topstitching it was the accent I had pictured in my mind. It shows up but does not dominate. See, there are even decisions to be made in burp cloth design!

My take away message here is to open up those sets, though they may be prettily packaged and presented, and use the components out of them. Even a small project, as small and humble as these burp cloths, empowered me to stop saving and expand myself to incorporate those rainbow hues of alternatives into my daily repertoire of threads. Next step is to build up the courage to do the same with those fabric bundles I have on display.

Linking up with Let's Bee Social #130. Hmm... like mother like daughter. I wonder if my daughter has broken into her boxes of threads yet. Hope she reads this post.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Book

One of my purchases at the Sandy Klop Open house earlier this month (post for June 6, 2016) was a cloth panel to assemble into a book for a child. I sewed it up recently and it came out really cute. I like the size of the pages, easy to be grasped by little hands. Batting was not called for in the book and this detail adds to its simplicity. My Book it is not too big and not too small. It is just right as Goldilocks might say from within the three bears' house .

Construction on this book was different from what is normally done with cloth books. Instead of doublets of pages matched and stitched all around, each single page of My Book was folded in half. Instead of a line of stitching for a spine, the book had a bound spine - like a real book would have.

Each page was folded over and only the top and bottom of each page was sewn. I chain pieced all the tops and then all the bottoms on the pages at this step.

The raw edges that were not sewn gave great access for pressing those seams one way and then flat.

Not only my iron, but also my point turner and seam creaser tool had lots of room to get inside and poke out the corners of the pages.

After pressing, each page lay smooth, flat, and crisp.

This book has the unusual feature that it was not in numeric order, not in alphabetical order, and did not tell a story. Consequently, I was free to stack the pages in any sequence as long as the front and back covers landed at the top and bottom of the pile facing outward. This ordering took me the most time in the assembly process because I am the type of quilter who agonizes over each decision. What should the page order be?

I knew the apple needed to go opposite the orange. Of course. Where else would you put it?

I similarly reasoned that outdoor toys and nursery toys should be grouped with each other as much as possible. This is the final sequence I decided for these old fashioned pictures.

Once stacked, I sewed the spine from mid-height of the book up to the top edge and then from mid-height down to the bottom edge, so that even if there were shifting, it would be symmetric top to bottom. There were many thicknesses (sixteen!) to sew through at this point so I was glad there was no batting. The fabric is a thin cotton and my Pfaff handled it fine.

I liked that the spine was different. It reminded me of the taped edge of those test booklets back in school. Remember those... with the black marbled front?

In the fabric, Sandy Klop gives the option of using either blue or red binding from supplied strips pre-printed on the panel. I cut them to 1¾" and 1½" respectively, seamed them lengthwise, and made a red binding with blue accent flange binding.

The covers and pictures within are reminiscent of an era gone-by and the color combinations are soft and inviting. Granted, this telephone has a cord and a rotary dial and is definitely not a "smart" cell phone and I am pretty certain the radio pictured here does not get digital downloads. But I find these comfort pictures on the same par as comfort food. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes, anyone?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Sometimes it is easier to make up a project right away rather than putting away the components only at a later date to forget where they are (or even that you have them). I decided to not delay with four half-yards of flannel I had. I have a new granddaughter Lillian, born last month on May 11. Although her mom assured me she had a more-than-adequate supply of burp cloths from Lillian's older sister Vivian, I felt Lillian needed some new ones, sewn especially for her. Besides, I cannot pass up an adorable print. So I whipped up these four burp cloths. The cotton flannel fabric is by Michael Miller and the patterns in pink and blue are a combination of nature babies and pennant party.

Anyone who is familiar with my blog knows I have an obsession with burp cloths. I made 42 of them last year, shown in my 2015 review post, 21 of them in 2014 shown in my 2014 review post, and 29 of them shown in 2013 in my 2013 review post. I published a tutorial on how to make them in my June 18, 2014 post. I wanted to add this detail to that initial 2014 June tutorial, not that it is vital but because it will help me remember helpful hints I have learned. This diagram reminds me of the best topstitching path. By starting at the closed end of the burp cloth (lower left), proceeding clockwise on the outside and counter clockwise on the inside, the open end gets double stitched. The top stitching finishes at the closed end again (upper left).

But what is that red "Oops" you ask? Nothing at all major - just mildly annoying. I almost always make burp cloths in pairs. This batch was four burp cloths, all sewn and topstitched in bright parrot green thread. Well, as Murphy's Law would have it, when I start with a freshly wound full bobbin and sew four burp cloths, I run out of bobbin thread after not quite two sides of the top stitching of the fourth and final burp cloth. For the sewing construction portion, I can just substitute another bobbin in just about any color. For top-stitching, I need the same color on both top and bottom thread so I need to stop, unthread my machine, wind a bobbin (or part of one) rethread and continue. Note to self, ONE bobbin is not enough to assemble and topstitch four burp cloths. Use something else in the bobbin for the construction seams that do not show! Save some of that bobbin for the final top-stitching. Not complaining - just remembering. So close... and yet so far...

I still love making these burp cloths and will continue to inundate unsuspecting recipients with them. I have a bottomless flannel stash. I will share my quirky burp cloth fondness with other bloggers at Let's Bee Social #129.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


My husband requested I make him a dust cover for a microscope he bought and keeps in the garage. The microscope is not very big, about a foot tall. When he is woodworking away, the garage can be sawdust haven and so the instrument needed protecting.

The base is square and so I could have made a boxy rectangular cover but decided to make something a bit more custom. I laid the microscope on its side and roughly traced around its profile. It is not quite symmetric front to back but close enough. Here is the template I made for sides, folded along a centerline. The front and back would be rectangles. I allowed for ½" seams and ½" ease on each side of the microscope. I picked a fabric that seemed appropriately hardware-like or nerdy, take your pick of adjective.

Now the trick was to sew these two cathedral window shaped sides on to the front and back rectangles. I decided it would be easier to make the top ridge a seam rather having one continuous front-to-back strip. Seaming it was also a more economical use of fabric. I wanted no raw edges so I used French seams throughout - double the sewing but no ragged threads would be exposed. Easing the curve to the straight was not hard. I just took my time and adjusted often. I had cut the front and back rectangles extra long enabling me to trim them after the eased seam was complete to make a straight bottom edge.

I turned the bottom hen under twice and topstitched it. Here is the finished cover. It is a bit wide because I intentionally gave it a fair amount of ease in the width. My husband "grumbles" that when I make curtains I make the casing "within one millimeter" so sliding them on the rod is doable but not easy. I did not want him to have to struggle to drop the dust cover over his microscope.

Here is the microscope all tucked away. One happy husband is not shown but I scored a few points with him. This small "micro-project", completed in one sitting, was also a fun mini-accomplishment for me. I will share it with the folks at Let's Bee Social #129.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Overlapping Squares Completed

OK, I did those circles in the squares that I was hankering for in my June 2, 2016 post titled FMQ for Overlapping Squares. My choice of concentric circles was prompted by a desire to emulate the ripples in a pond.

I decided my pond could have rain drops splashing into it making smaller ripples along the edges and between the large concentric circles. But I had quilted only three-quarter circles in some locations to promote the illusion of overlapping squares. Now, how to fill in that space and still maintain the overlapping illusion along the diagonal? I did not want a stippling or dense filler. I wanted to keep the top less densely quilted while still keeping the feeling of the radial motion like ripples in a pond. So what to do?

I considered more and smaller circles but frankly I was tired of making them. I thought about pebbles or cross-hatching but felt they would result in sections more densely quilted than I wanted. I tried to think of something that would keep a radial movement. The pebbles, cross-hatching, or smaller circles, even if I did them less densely, were neutral in the radial movement category. Then sunburst-like rays occurred to me as a viable option. I wanted equal angles not just equal spacing on the straight edges and so determined I would need a template. Looking around the house I could not find a compass, even in all the junk drawers. Everything is done by computer these days. I tried using excel to make a chart and decided it was too much effort. Besides it could distort when I printed it. Then I went low-tech. I drew an arc on a piece of paper and folded it in half, fourths, eights and sixteenths giving me evenly spaced fold lines emanating out radially at equal angles.

There were quite a few lines, so I had to decide just how many I wanted. I trimmed the paper to a quarter circle and overlaid a plastic on it to judge just how many "rays" I wanted. Since I was not filling in near the center of the circle, only outside it where the rays are more widely spaced, I decided I wanted them all. I colored alternate ones red on the paper template to help me keep my place when quilting them. I taped the template to the quilt top to keep it from moving while I worked. I never marked anything on the quilt top itself.

I used an HQ ruler ruler to help me project those ray lines. The Mini-Scallop ruler has an indented grove with register marks to aid in placing the stitching line where I want it. I bought this particular ruler intending to use the scalloped edge but it turns out the indented straight edge is very valuable. The HQ Versa-tool has this feature as well. By putting the white etched line (upper black arrow) on the ray of the template and eye-balling the indent to be parallel to a ray, I then had a guided edge allowing me to stitch at the appropriate angle for the ray (yellow dashed line). A good check that I was on track was that the longest central ray also had a registration point falling at the corner (white lower arrow).

Note that the HQ Right-Angle ruler may have a longer span but both it and the Mini-ruler do not have this convenient indent feature.

The quilter's-eye view was pretty cool. I would quilt up to the template using the ruler as a guide for straightness and angle, then back along the same line. Then I would readjust the ruler and quilt sideways along the straight outer edge to abut the rule and go up and back for the next ray. I never stitched over again on the circle edge.  My chant was "up, back, over"... NOT "up, along, back, over". I debated stitching twice over the radial lines. Sometime double stitching looks heavier and stand out. But I decided that if the rays did have a different look than the circles that was OK. I took a class from Megan Best, a Handiquilter educator, and she suggested this method for a piano key border and she was correct. Once I had the ruler in place it was a piece of cake to go up and back before repositioning it.

OK, once is a while I did get a "whoops". When I did go off track, I back tracked along the deviant stitching line with large stitches to return to the correct path and continue where I should have been. I picked out the stub paths later - if I could find them. This one I did pick out.

I use low tack masking tape in my quilting to avoid leaving a residue. As I move my template from corner to corner  – 16 locations in total – it gradually lost its adhesive quality and was prone to slip. I just added another piece of tape. By the time I was done, here was my well-used template.

Here is the finished quilt top viewed at an angle. I bound it in the pumpkin color left over from those blocks. Note the half-circle ripples along the outer edges. Only the overlapping diagonal squares have the sunburst type rays.

Here is a closer view of the quilting along the edges and along the diagonal.

Hmmm. Is it ripples in a pond? Or with the color scheme, perhaps it is more like fireworks.

I like that this quilt has diagonal symmetry along a line from upper left to lower right. I did sneak in four more donuts as fillers at the inner edges only of the two corner purple blocks. More drip-drops of rain, I imagine.

For the backing I used a mottled fabric. The colors are not an exact match, but the blotchy look gives the same feel as those marbleized tones on the front. The variegated thread blends right in. The "water splotches" fit in with the pond theme.

The final stage of my quilts is naming them and adding the labels. This one has been hanging around for so long, I think I am going to punt adding a fancy label and just use a pigment pen to print my name, its name, and the completion year on the binding. What should its name be? I was considering naming it Ripple because it reminded me of wavelets on the surface of a pond. Then I could also call it Rip, short for Rip Van Winkle. Although not quite the twenty years that Rip was asleep, this project has remained dormant for many years. It feels good to have it finished. But "rip" is not a good term for something that has been sewn. Then again, the working title for years has been Overlapping Squares. It is not very imaginative but why change now? The "vote" is in and Overlapping Squares it remains. It will officially be a "write-in" once I've printed it on the binding.

Catching up now with this week's Let's Bee Social #128.