Monday, July 30, 2018

Valences with Grommets

This past weekend I completed valences for the kitchen nook to match the drapes in the adjacent family room. These valances were made from the 20" I had trimmed off the bottom of each drapery panel so the tops would all align along the same point in the 25" fabric repeat. I put a 2½" hem on the valences where the drape panels had a 4½" hem but otherwise it was the same process to make each valence as it was to make the floor to ceiling drapes. I was able to get all four valences sewn in one day and my husband encouraged me by getting the rods up even before I'd finished them. Like with the long panels, he supplied brute force to help crimp the grommets in place, 8 per valence. The two windows are 4 feet and 6 feet wide. Putting two valences on each window would have given an uneven wavelike density. I solved this by having one valence span the corner, 5 of the 8 grommets on one window rod and the remaining 3 spilling over onto the other rod. The small window rod held 13 grommets and the larger window rod held 19 grommets. The ratios are close enough to equal – 13/19 = 0.68 and 4/6 = 0.67 – that the valence fabric looks evenly distributed. And that valence that spanned two rods, rounded the corner nicely.

In my post for June 28, 2018 I described in detail how I'd made the floor-to-ceiling length drapes for the adjacent family room and installed the grommets. I had turned over 4½" at the top edge and stitched on a 4½" wide non-woven heading stiffener butted up to the fold. Then I wrapped ½" of the fabric over the lower edge of the stiffener and zigzagged in place. For the valences, I did not have the luxury of enough length from what I'd cut off the bottoms to cover the stiffener with the same fabric so instead I sewed on a facing of a cream colored fabric of similar weight and butted the stiffener up to the seam, wrapping the lower ½" of facing fabric over the stiffener. The facing does not show at all on the back side of the valences. I made all four valences in one day – a source of great joy compared to how I dragged out sewing the floor to ceiling panels. There is also the minor detail that I was not hauling around 8 feet of fabric all the time. But more importantly, having done it before recently, I knew the pitfalls. This one day did not count the shopping time expended before I sat down to sew the valences. I needed to find and buy the facing fabric and get more heading stiffener. I had to go to two stores to get enough of the stiffener. Still I was glad this project did not linger or languish. Now about those circle cutouts for the grommet installation...

I have added 32 more of these circles to bring my total up to 64 circles. Gee, I just realized that if I split them apart from the stiffener, I will have 128 circles! Wow! This second batch of 32 has cream on the backside, lending itself to more variety and creativity. A comment on the post about the long drapes suggested I appliqué them on a pillow. That would be a lot of pillows. Surely I must do something with these. They look like they should float upward on a wall hanging, denser on the bottom more spaced apart toward on top.  I envision something flowing and artistic like the bubbles in a glass of champagne. Dream on. The circles will probably age in a ziplock bag in a drawer somewhere while I ponder over them or forget about them. Alas, at least if they were donut holes they would get eaten!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Men's Panel Discussion on Quilts

At our last monthly meeting Saturday, July 14th, my local guild, Amador Valley Quilters held a men's panel comprised of four speakers who were husbands of guild members. Each speaker was to bring 3-5 quilts to discuss. My husband Frank was one of the speakers. This blog post is about his perspective.

The panel of men were vocal, jovial, entertaining, and surprisingly varied in their selections from among their wives' quilts. The only overlap was that both my husband and the leftmost gentleman brought train quilts made especially for them by their wives. My husband is the fourth from the left, sitting in front of the mainly green quilt.

I found it interesting what my husband selected to bring. First off he chose three vintage Christmas stockings: his, mine, and our son Alex's. True, not a quilt, but still symbolic of handiwork of mine that was very special to him. The original stocking that started it all had been made for him as a child by his aunt who subsequently made one for me upon our marriage and one for each of our three kids upon their birth. Frank found the pattern on the internet and I have since knitted six more of these: one for a son-in-law, one for a daughter-in-law, three for three granddaughters, and one for a grandson. They have been disbursed to their respective families and I am about to knit a seventh for a new grandson just born in April. The three on the topmost right of the stair rail are what Frank brought to display and talk about. Links to the four stockings for my grandchildren are in my blog posts for Autumn's (12/10/14) Vivian's (12/17/14), Isaiah's(12/28/15), and Lillian's (11/29/16). Tradition is something my husband obviously values.

In keeping with the Christmas theme, Frank then spoke of the Grinch quilt, a favorite of his because it is based on the book he loves, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He started his presentation of this quilt by reciting a quote from the book. The complete text can be found at

It started in low. Then it started to grow.
But the sound wasn't sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!

This book was a favorite of his as a child – and as an adult, too – so the subject matter appealed. He also liked all the crooked angles I put in it, in keeping with the flavor of Dr. Seuss type illustrations. Another selling feature for this quilt is that we use it. My husband likes quilts that are not hands off because they were so much work to make. Frank did not discuss the making of this quilt, only the reasons for his liking it. Details of setting the skewed panel images are available in posts for 11/26/11 (blocks 1-5) and 11/26/11 (blocks 6-10), as are my misadventures in quilting it in my post for 7/2/14.

Here is the Grinch quilt covering four grandchildren Christmas of 2016.

Speaking of Christmas and quilt usage, next up for discussion was his train quilt, made for his 60th birthday. On November 30th, 2016 Frank fell from a ladder hanging up master bedroom curtains I'd sewn, shattering his hip joint and needing an emergency hip replacement. Frank used his train quilt all the time in his hospital bed at home after the surgery and during recuperation. The train quilt had turned out much longer and narrower than I actually wanted it to. Frank does not reveal the odd proportions nor seemed to be aware of this anomaly in his talk. Fortuitously, that extra length was perfect for tucking under the mattress of his hospital bed staged in the living room the Christmas of 2016.

More important to him was that I appropriately captured the colors of Refrigerator Railway Cars. He brought the book to prove it.

A closeup of the quilt is in the following photo showing the near to authentic mellow yellows and subdued oranges of the box cars. Note that the divider strips are black and brown train tracks. Frank noted that, too.

Frank's next quilt topic was the Thimbleberries quilt that lives on the king size bed in our guest room. Note again this is a quilt we use. It also has a story behind it that he loves to tell – since it features his heroics.

I initially saw this quilt kit online many years ago. I was able to buy the pattern books for it – all four volumes of Thimbleberries Hometown Christmas – but the kits were all sold out. I was disappointed because I thought the muted colorway of fabrics, already gathered together in kit form would stretch me beyond my usual palette of brights. 

My husband, knowing me, realized I would take forever to decide on the fabrics, buy those outside my comfort color zone, and then analyze where to place them. Having no online success at finding the kit, unbeknownst to me, Frank proceeded to phone quilt shops up and down the west coast, trying to find one that still had the kit. He found a shop in Oregon going out of business that still had one of the kits to sell. He bought it and surprised me with it. I thoroughly enjoyed taking my time and sewing it up. I intentionally left the holly leaves off the tri-tone triple bar gold border, partially because I am not fond of appliqué but more so because after having invested that much work in the quilt, I wanted it to be available for use year round and not just at the holidays. I entered the Thimbleberries quilt at our local county fair and won a ribbon.

The final quilt my husband selected to share is nicknamed by us The Sanity Quilt. It too has a background story. In the winter of 2007 our special needs son who has a heart condition caught the flu. He became so dehydrated that the cardiac medications in his bloodstream rose to toxic levels and he had to be admitted to the intensive care unit of our hospital. He survived and is fine now but obviously this was a stressful period for several days for us. When he was released and sent to recuperate at home in the weeks thereafter, we sought out short trips that were distracting and not too taxing so we could get out of the house.

These trips were to San Francisco Bay Area Jo-Ann's fabric stores within a 50 or so mile radius to collect outdated quilt blocks from their 2006 Collection titled Rhythm & Blues, normally sold at one per month for $7 or $8. My husband and I, with Alex along for the ride, scoured their clearance bins gathering these packages for $1. I even had my daughter in Oklahoma and my sister in North Carolina find some of these for us. Sewing them up as my son regained his strength and health was a soothing form of maintaining our sanity. The quilt looks nothing like the intended assembly. My husband's focus was the daunting background story that helped us through to a happy outcome. (For those who want the quilting details, they are in my blog post for 6/20/12, where I compared this quilt to the original design and show how I repurposed the blocks.) In the next photo Frank is telling the story and explaining why we dubbed it The Sanity Quilt.

Here Frank is down on his hands and knees – despite his limited mobility with his replaced hip  – spreading out the quilt on the stage for members to look at afterward. Quilt husband extraordinaire!

Frank also shared some book knowledge suggesting that women should get A Husband's Guide to Quilt Appreciation for their husbands' educations. He divulged his technique for appearing knowledgable, learned from the book. When asked his opinion on a quilt he will pause, ponder, and thoughtfully offer the query, "Do you think this might look better on point?"

Frank showed off the shirt he wears to all quilting functions, be they shows, or shop hops, or auctions, etc. The shirt bears the embroidered image of a skeleton sitting on a bench outside a quilt shop with the description inscribed above Quilter's Husband. The neck is worn thin on the collar of this shirt. Frank points out that he also has train shirts that he wears to all model train functions and they are not worn. Draw your own conclusions. He is proud to admit he is the CEO of quilt shows, the acronym standing for "Carries Everything Out".

Frank also gave an advertisement for the Earlene Fowler series of quilt themed mysteries. He told how he had read them all. I have read none. He advised other husbands to buy them at quilt shows and read them while their wives are shopping.

I am pleased, proud, and grateful that Frank is so supportive of my hobby. In my own defense, however, I am also very accepting of the 1000+ train cars he has in our his garage. Not all of them are shown in the following photo. I will close this post with a quote from Winston Churchill:
To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real.

Another hobby? Linking up with Let's Bee Social #235.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Patriotic Placemats

For the 4th of July holiday I wanted to have patriotic placemats on my dining room table along with other stars and stripes and red/white/blue decorations. I did get the placemats sewn with a layer of bamboo batting in between the two fabric layers but did not get time to quilt them before my holiday guests arrived. Dots was a pattern that was not to busy to compete with the bandanas I had tied around my candle holders

On clearance sale a couple years back, I had bought a one yard bundle of Riley Blake medium dot fabric in several colors with a cream background. The red and navy dots were great for this time of year. One yard red and one yard blue made six placemats, each 18" high by one-third the WOF or about x 14"wide, red on one side and blue on the other. This way I could mix them to be patriotic or have just red for Christmas or Valentines or just navy for any neutral other time. Plus I was glad I was using a bargain bundle from my stash that I had bought on spec.

That Riley Blake bundle of medium dots and a similar bundle I bought of medium stripes turned out to be versatile stash additions. The other dots colors not shown were pink and lime – like the stripes on the left – and black. I used the black dots on creme for the backing of a zebra pillow. The zebra is in my post for December 6, 2017. The creme background worked out perfectly since the zebra was not stark white.

I used the pink and lime dots as backing for a lion and lamb pillow, post for April 6, 2017. I quilted these with a diagonal grid which came out looking sharp. Had my red dots aligned with my blue dots on the reverse side of my placemats, I might have done the same diagonal grid. Knowing that alignment was not likely to be precise enough, instead I chose to practice my FMQ. At first I thought I might do a different pattern on each placemat but then decided I preferred to improve my skill on just one pattern. I picked overall swirls, a design I am not at all proficient at, but want to learn and am a bit chicken. I watched several YouTube demonstrations by Angela Walters, Lori Kennedy, and Leah Day and they look easy but looks can be deceiving. I doodled and then got brave to stitch it. After all it was just a set of placemats, not a huge time investment, and small enough to maneuver.  Here is a comparison of my first mat on the left with my fifth mat on the right. Neither are stellar but a dinner plate goes over it, right? Also I am not quite sure which is better.

I tried to concentrate on consistent spacing, approximate roundness, and desirable size so each of my five attempts focused on something different. My second and third attempts had more uneven spacing as I tried to adjust on the fly. For the fifth one I placed a round tape measure on the mat as I sewed to keep me mindful of a size I was gunning for. Of course that commitment went out the window when I was trying to fill in between. I eventually tried to fill in with echoing rather that smaller spirals. I did find that going at faster speed did tend to help me keep the swirls rounder. 

I have one placemat left to go. I want to study what I've done so far and see if it is roundness, or size, or spacing that is my biggest area for improvement. I can't fix what my eye fails to reveal to me what is not quite right. Here are placemats #2, #3, and #4  and the one non-quilted placemat on my table. The quilted ones do not lie as flat as I'd like, but I have not steamed them either. I was wary of flattening out the texture I had just worked so hard to introduce. Hmm. Maybe I like the non-quilted one best. Hmm. Maybe swirls should be reserved for a more solid and less graphic background.

By the way, here are all six placemats on the navy dot side; counter-clockwise from lower right they are, #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6. That ivory thread really blends in and all that is left is texture. I am not really sure but that I like the non-quilted one best. But at least I got a bit of practice. Sharing my experiences with Let's Bee Social#233.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

My DL2Q Blog Book - Vol. 10

I have added Volume 10 of my DianeLoves2Quilt blog book to my ongoing series that I make from the online service Blog2Print. Volume 9 contained 355 pages which was really too thick and heavy to handle and so, following my own advice, Volume 10 contains 233 pages and 21 posts and seems about right. This post is mainly a collection of notes to myself but I will also link it to Let's Bee Social #232 in case others want to make blog books of their own.

Volume 10: Dec 28, 2017 - Jun 22, 2018

The quilt for my fifth grandchild is pictured on the front cover. The post for this quilt was dated 4/27/18. Featured on the back cover are my husband Frank and me while at the Road to California Quilters Conference and Showcase. The post describing that event is dated 1/25/18. When I created this book, I chose the cover color of a masculine brown go with brown squares in my grandson's quilt and with the Harry Potter images on the shirt my husband is wearing, sewn for him by our daughter.

The Dedication for Volume 10 reads

The birth of William Daniel on April 13, 2018 prompted the quilt on the front cover. A tile quilt and a top with curved piecing are within the pages of DL2Q Vol. 10, tucked among items made for grandkids. A Road to California quilt show in SoCal and my local guild's Silent Auction fundraiser are also included.
– Diane I. Chambers

Here is the Table of Contents for Volume 10. In keeping with my own notes for improvement, I kept the number of posts less than 24 so the Table of Contents would not overflow onto a second page.

Links to my previous volumes:

  • DL2Q Volume 10 posted 07/05/2018 cover color Brown Swirls
  • DL2Q Volume 9   posted 06/22/2018 cover color Polka Dots - green
  • DL2Q Volume 8   posted 06/27/2017 cover color Polka Dots - blue
  • DL2Q Volume 7   posted 06/27/2017 cover color Polka Dots - pink
  • DL2Q Volume 6   posted 06/27/2017 cover color Red Swirls
  • DL2Q Volume 5   posted 12/16/2015 cover color Green Swirls
  • DL2Q Volume 4   posted 03/18/2015 cover color Plum Flowers
  • DL2Q Volume 3   posted 03/18/2015 cover color Flowers - yellow
  • DL2Q Volume 2   posted 04/14/2014 cover color Flowers - pink
  • DL2Q Volume 1   posted 04/17/2013 cover color Blue Swirls

My reminder notes for best layout and for consistency in future volumes:
  • Volume 1 post contains overall tips
  • Do not add captions to blog photos (explained in post for Volumes 3 and 4)
  • Keep number of included posts at 24 or less for one page Table of Contents
  • Photo format for best cover layout are in priority order square, portrait, landscape
  • Include comments in the book and maximize the photo size
  • Opt neither to reposition nor resize photos to minimize pages; keep formatting same as when posts are published online