Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Let's Talk UFOs on Halloween

Most of my blog posts have to do with UFOs. I've admitted to having LOTS of them. Several times. But I've yet to disclose fully my problem with UFOs. So here goes. Deep breath. Can you guess my UFO Number?
Once my blocks are sewn together I like to store my flimsies on hangers.  Some hangers have a single top, others hold several. I totally LOVE to piece, if you can't tell! Side note: the Sterilite totes contain my collection of 5" squares. I love the Nickel Quilt books by Pat Speth and all of the patterns spawned by the charm pack craze.
UFOs in Progress... UIPs?
This is the right side of my sewing table. I keep the UFOs that I'm currently working on in these plastic bins and one improvised "bin" from a bottled water container. I must have thought 5 would be a good self imposed limit when I bought these.
Mostly Blocks
This wheeled drawer unit contains a lot of blocks that are waiting to be sewn together. String blocks in the bottom drawer, Happy Blocks in the middle drawer and a mish-mash of blocks in the top drawer. Some are in baggies, some are pinned together in groups of 10 for easy counting and some have notes attached for what needs to be done next when I pick them up.  It fits nicely under my cutting table.
Barely Started UFOs
Next are these wicker drawer units. I have two of them with 3 drawers each which flank my cutting table. This drawer contains what I call my "Barely Started" UFOs.  They are often the result of a swap (the warm 9 patches), a pattern I wanted to try (red, blue & yellow disappearing 9 patches) or a technique that caught my eye (30's mini-hexies). Things I started on a whim I guess without a lot of planning or commitment to and are therefore low priority at the moment.
UFO Command Central
This awesome pantry style closet is in my laundry room. I used to sew in a walk in closet adjacent to the laundry room before moving upstairs into my current room. You can see a bit of the fabrics on the top shelf. Most of these are large pieces for quilt backings. More UFOs in baggies, tote bins and shoe box bins. The large cardboard boxes contain scraps and strings which I use for my string blocks.
Too Many UFOs Mom!!!
Even Tucker has to cover his face for the big reveal! He can't bear to look...


Yes, I have 88 UFOs in my possession.  Happy Halloween!

I'm linking up to WIP Wednesday@Freshly Pieced.  So much eye candy...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Charlotte's Fusible Web Thread

I came across a spool of Charlotte's Fusible Web thread last week in a drawer and vaguely remembered using it for machine binding. It is made by Superior Threads and I followed these directions with one change while binding Two by Two last night.  After sewing my binding to the back of the quilt I put Charlotte's Web in the bobbin and sewed a zigzag stitch around the edge of the quilt back.  I wasn't too keen on attaching the binding using a zigzag as they did without trying it out on some scraps.

So, with the fusible thread on the top of the quilt I pulled the binding over and lined it up just covering my sewing line from attaching the binding and pressed it down. Easy peasy! I made my miters in each corner, pressed and put a pin in to hold them. Then I sewed from the front just inside the binding edge. I was feeling so confident I used the same variegated thread I quilted with. I think it turned out great and the stitching in the back was in or very close to the ditch. I'll be doing this on my next quilt for sure!

Two by Two was made using the free Warm Wishes pattern found at It's one of my go-to patterns for Project Linus quilts. Strip piecing makes it quick and it highlights novelty prints so well. I had the perfect flannel backing in my stash and quilted it like example E at Petit Design Co. I like how adding one diagonal changed the look of the quilt.

Another UFO bites the dust... SING IT!  (for all Queen fans).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Snowy Stars on UFO Sunday

Snowy Stars brings my UFO finishes to 5! This quilt started with a bundle of beautiful snow themed batiks that seemed in need of a simple pattern to showcase them. I'd seen many Lucky Stars quilts made with bright batiks and thought I'd give it a try with blues.  Some of the batiks have touches of metallic for extra sparkle.
I love how the two fabrics with a hint of purple worked out as I remember being a bit leery of them while piecing. Lucky Stars is an Atkinson Designs pattern which uses fat quarters and is super easy because of the floating star points. I started this quilt in 2004 and it was machine quilted by Nancy Clayburn of Quilting by Design in April 2005. It is the last of my trio of quilts that spent 7 years waiting for binding. Never again!

Nancy's quilting is amazing on this!  I love the micro stippling on white, the star in the middle of each star block and the wiggly line down each point.  The rest of the quilt is done with loops and bursts of snowflakes.

This quilt will be proudly displayed on my wall all winter long.  I'm linking up to Sew Darn Crafty@Sew Many Ways and UFO Sunday@The Free Motion Quilting Project.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Practice Means Progress NOT Perfect

On my thread buying trip yesterday I was chatting with the checkout person at my LQS. She asked if I was aware that the one thread was variegated and I said that's why I picked it because it was a mix of all darks as opposed to having a light section. For most of my kid's quilts I've been using a primary mix but I'm not fond of how the yellow section tends to disappear. Her response was that most people WANT the thread to disappear.

That comment stuck with me all afternoon. I really am making progress with machine quilting. Yes, that used to be me doing mostly stitch in the ditch and using MonoPoly thread. I think that's the REAL reason my UFO Closet Collection of Project Linus tops started because I couldn't use MonoPoly! Light bulb moment!!

Working on my Super Bright Strings top yesterday I also overcame my inner critic when I realized that not all of the center strips were 2.5". I just zoomed over, realigned and kept going. How exhilarating! I'm thinking that might be what being good at FMQ would feel like - just humming along and adjusting as you go.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Good Plan in Theory

Happy Friday! I don't have any finishes to brag post about today, but it's not for lack of trying. I just got back from a trip to my LQS for a big purchase. I thought I had a fantastic idea when quilting my string tops from my last post... why not use up some old thread? Great idea right! Well, except when you run out of the the leftover thread mid quilt after the LQS is closed for the day. Then it's a bad idea. So, now that I'm restocked with hot pink & navy thread plus the lovely peacock blue/purple blend that hopped into my bag I'm back in business.
I grid quilted my Super Bright string quilt but then thought I'd quilt along the middle strings of each block too. Since the grid quilting stabilized the top I can really crank along on those diagonals. At one point I had this quilt almost stuck in my machine harp after twisting and turning it this way and that! As soon as I hit the publish button on this post I'll be popping the navy thread on my machine and slamming down my foot pedal.
The pink, black & white string quilt needs 2 more rows of stitch in the ditch and then I'll be ready to jazz it up with some hot pink decorative stitching. Total play time! No new pics since it hasn't changed much yet. This Warm Wishes quilt that I'm calling Two by Two because of the cute animal fabric is quilted and ready for machine binding.
I'm linking up to FaFF@Sew Many Ways and Can I Get a Whoop Whoop@Confessions of a Fabric Addict. Enjoy your weekend - I'm looking forward to a visit from my daughter, her boyfriend and the grandcats. It's always lively when they are around!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gloomy Weather = Bright Quilting

A string of gloomy days starts to wear on my mood. One of the things I love about our Minnesota winters is bright sunshine lighting up fresh snow. Everything just sparkles! But late October and November tend to be grey and rather dreary for days on end.

I've pulled the brightest UFOs in my pile for quilt therapy today...

I love string quilts! I got started by making blocks to donate to Heartstrings Quilt Project several years ago. The blocks for the first top came from an online string block swap. If you've never made string blocks you are missing out on a fun way to use up your scraps. Here's a great tutorial.  

Since the strings are pieced on muslin the completed quilt top already has two layers of fabric, plus the stitching from all the strings, which makes them fairly heavy. I like to use fleece for one step batting & backing, it adds just the right amount of cozy fluff. I could not resist the tropical print for the pink, white & black quilt while shopping last weekend. Nothing like hibiscus blooming on fleece! The bottom top is <<BRIGHT!!!>> so I chose a solid.

I'm planning to play around with decorative stitches on the white strings using hot pink thread. I'd like to find a few that could be used for sewing down binding by machine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fused Glass Art

I've been pretty light so far on the "Other Craft" part of my blog title. Since my quilting has been going so well I just want to keep at it I guess! However, I did take a beginner's fused glass class at a wonderful local studio a few weeks ago. I've worked with stained glass before in mosaic projects and had seen fused glass art back when HGTV used to have a few crafty type shows so was excited to give it a try.

We spent an evening learning about fused glass and of course making a project. Basically what happens is you lay out a design on glass and then use an adhesive to hold the layers together. The art piece is fired in a kiln which makes the glass layers fuse together. Then it goes back into the kiln using a mold for shaping or "slumping" as it is referred to.

Here is how my design looked at the end of class. It's a 6" x 6" square of white glass with a mixture of glass pieces glued on top.
Our instructor did the firing using the mold of our choice and a few days later this was delivered by one of my friends who attended the class with me. All of the edges are totally smooth. I can't wait to go back to the studio and play some more!  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Worms to Noodles to Jelly Rolls

Four Patches & Friends

I love flowers and I love floral prints. I remember seeing this quilt made up in a shop on the northern edge of Minneapolis/St. Paul on my way back to the lake about 10 years ago. I couldn't take my eyes off it! I bought the book "Open Up a Can of Worms" by Debbie Caffrey and a package of 60 worms (2.5" strips).  When I got home I set up my machine in our family room and sewed at least half of these 80 blocks during NCAA March Madness.

Then they got put away until I'd pull them back out, fall in love all over again and sew a few more. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Over the lifetime of this UFO, "Worms" were renamed "Noodles" and eventually reborn as "Jelly Rolls".  And, there was an explosion of new patterns and books featuring them. To my knowledge, Debbie Caffrey's book which was published in 2000 is the original.

I thought I'd lay these out and audition some inner border fabrics today on my design king sized bed. Guess what... I've totally forgotten how challenging it can be to put blocks into a pleasing layout. I have 40 pairs of identical blocks, and one of the fabrics in each block was used twice so I need to spread out those 4 in addition to the identical pairs. Sigh. This is so NOT going to happen on the bed today~! I'll be moving these to a spare bedroom floor where I can close the door and come back periodically to play with them over the next few days. We are having a grey day today so you will have to trust me that these blocks are beauties.

I'm linking up to Design Wall Monday@Patchwork Times.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Another Sunday of Football & UFO Quilting

I've got a short post today showing what I'm working on while mostly watching football. I decided to pin baste this quilt because I'm using a flannel backing and I wasn't sure how spray basting would adhere to flannel. The quilting is done and I'm going to try binding it by machine using fusible thread tonight.
Here's a sneak peak of my hand binding project for today. I absolutely LOVE the custom quilting done by my long arm quilter on this! Hopefully you'll see the finished quilt later in the week...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Two Friday UFO Finishes

It's been a good week of quilting for me!  I feel like I'm getting over my road block of sandwiching, machine quilting and binding.  The key for me is to just keep working at it and use the wealth of information available on the internet to learn about different techniques.

This Yellow Brick Road quilt is about the same vintage as my Blended Stars which I finished last week.  It was also quilted by Nancy Clayburn of Quilting by Design in April 2005.  This quilt is from a kit that I bought at 60% off and it included the backing fabric.  I subbed in a few of my own fabrics (the plaid & the blue swirls for sure since I still have some in my stash) to give it more zip.  My mom also sewed the binding on for me in 2009.  It so belongs here on the bed waiting for me and a great book!

My Halloween table topper is done with little time to spare... I'm thinking it will be staying on my table through Thanksgiving for good measure. The pattern is Everyday Table Topper from "Charmed and Dangerous" by Heather Mulder Peterson of Anka's Treasures. I used a charm pack of Thimbleberries October Glow with coordinating background & binding fabrics.  I'm definitely going to use this pattern again.

I'm linking up to Can I Get a Whoop Whoop@Confessions of a Fabric AddictFaFF@Sew Many Ways and Thank Goodness its Finished Friday@Echinops and Aster  Have a great weekend everyone - I'm off to watch a two day volleyball tournament and visit my daughter :-D!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

These are my grandcats Jax & JMeow. My daughter texted me this picture last week and it just cracks me up every time I look at it! JMeow lived with us last year while my daughter lived in a no-pet apartment and it's been pretty quiet around here without his big personality and energy. Jax joined the family in July when she moved and they are inseparable. When they come to visit Tucker they all co-exist quite well.
Trick or Treat!
We see plenty of deer around our yard but this was a first!
Post Meal Nap?
While trying to stay UFO focused I've dutifully been clicking delete on my quilting sale emails... but when the Fat Quarter Shop had Halloween fabric 50% off last weekend my delete key got stuck. I'd forgotten how adorably packed their goodies are! I've pinned and bookmarked so many cute Halloween projects this fall, this will be a real treat to use sometime next year.
Do Not Open Until 2013...
I've been a long time member of the HGTV Quilting Forum. There are so many talented & genuinely nice women on that board and it's been great to get back in touch with them after my 3 year hiatus. They have started doing Friday night PJ Parties where a hostess picks a project and teaches us how to do it online. Last Friday we made Artist Trading Cards (ATCs). I had a blast pulling out my crazy quilting bins and creating this 2.5" by 3.5" card, I've made a few of these for swaps before and they are just plain fun.
My 1st Yo-Yo!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Learning Quilt

One of my 100 Day Hustle goals is to finish and donate 6 of my UFOs to Project Linus. I really enjoy making quilts for kids so I can work with bright novelty fabrics and it's for a great cause. Double bonus!
This is "Bees & Cats" which stung me a few times yesterday.  Before I get into that, there are some things I really like about this quilt.  I love how the binding makes the turquoise centers pop.  I also like the range of value in this quilt a lot.  Pastels & brights don't always work so well together.
I used to be active in a Yahoo quilting group that did "Happy Block" exchanges.  Each month you would send 5 4" squares of your choice to other quilters.  We would keep one, sew borders on the other 4 and return them to each other  It was fun to get little squishies in the mail, figure out how to complement different fabrics and build a collection of eclectic blocks. And, they really are Happy don't you think? 

The downside is that sometimes the blocks are a little difficult to work with due to the fabrics used.  A mix of not pre-washed or washed, some maybe not all cotton, etc.  I fought some of these blocks every step of this quilt - they pressed funny & distorted easily.  Last night I learned that if they press funny they are going to quilt funny too. Usually I'm worrying about tucks on the backing but on this quilt the front was a challenge.  I also learned that if the 1st quilting line has a bad section so will every line that runs the same way.  Next time I will rip out the bad one and start over.  Oh, and start with a full bobbin.  No further explanation needed~!
I did my 1st pieced backing using 4 left over blocks and love it.  I learned how to finish off my binding using this awesome tutorial.  The binding was sewn to the back of the quilt, folded over and machine stitched from the front which is also new to me.  I'm really happy with how the front turned out and will get better at making the back line more consistent.  I stayed up late to wash it because I was letting those funny blocks get to me (silly I know!) and was glad to see it crinkled up nicely all over.

This really was a learning quilt.  Do I love it?  Not really.  But, will a child love this quilt?  Yes!
I also had to join in the mug rug craze... here is my shabby chic version sporting my favorite coffee mug.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday@Freshly Pieced.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

UFO Sunday - Quilting & Binding

No piecing today... I'm getting tough and going after my least favorite parts of quilting which are making the quilt sandwich and the quilting itself. Actually I'm not getting THAT tough because I picked my smallest project to start with. Start small and work up from there, right?
I used June Tailor basting spray. Fast and easy! I'm using Warm & Natural batting and white cotton for the backing. My kitchen has a nice open counter at one end, so I put down a plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Store and sprayed away.
Originally I planned to stitch in the ditch, but I've been getting inspired following  31 Days of Walking Foot Quilting@Petite Design Co. so I did an easy grid using the edge of my normal machine foot along the main seams. It only took me about 45 minutes and was actually kind of fun!
Then it was time to bind and watch football. I finished 2 sides of my Yellow Brick Road quilt watching the Vikings lose to the Redskins and hope to finish the other 2 during the Packers-Texans game tonight. This will be a cuddle quilt for our master bedroom.

I'm linking up to UFO Sunday@The Free Motion Quilting Project and Sew Darn Crafty@Sew Many Ways.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A FINISH... I'm SEW Excited!!!

I actually finished this on Sunday night, but we have had heavy clouds everyday and the colors in this quilt need sunshine to show their beauty. Finally the sun is out and I'm scrambling around my house trying to find the best light. I could also use a marching band or at least a drum roll...
Like all quilts, this one has a story. Let's cut to the chase and just say it involves a LOT of procrastination. Apparently this quilt loved life as a UFO. I think this was pieced in 2004. I do know that it was my first lap sized quilt top. I found the floral fabric used in the border and some of the star blocks at a quilt shop and fell in love with it. It's from In the Beginning by Sharon Evans Yenter.  Her book "Blended Wall Quilts" is one of my favorite go-to books for inspiration.
At that time I was a newbie quilter and didn't have the confidence to tackle a quilt from that book so I went with a pattern called Island Star from "More Fat Quarter Quilts" by M'Liss Rae Rawley. I carefully picked out 5 fat quarters to match my floral and a background fabric, trying for the "blended" look but in a simpler way. I don't know if all new quilters struggle like I used to with fabric choices. So overwhelming!
The beautiful quilting was done by Nancy Clayburn of Quilting by Design in April 2005. I know that because of her label on the back. Then, it sat in my closet until fall 2009 when my Mom who is a wonderful quilter (and a wonderful Mom!) took it home with 2 other UFO siblings to sew on the binding for me. One would think when you have a broken leg which puts you on your butt for months you would have ample time to do hand sewing. Well, I did one side of this quilt and back to the closet it went.  Shame, shame, shame...
So, this is my first finish in 3+ years. See the sparkly new tab at the top of my blog that says Finished Quilts?!? Hopefully Sure to be the first of many. Tucker wants more quilts to love, he literally does not leave this one alone. For the other pics I had to quarantine him.
I'm linking up to:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Post About Me

I love this quote. This image is from the June 2009 page of a "The Artistry of Robbin Rawlings" wall calender which hangs where my sewing table used to be in my old quilting space. I love this quote so much that I never turned the calendar to the next month. Left it there all this time.

By the age of 35, I was well on my way to a dream. I grew up in a loving family, did well in school, went to college on a track scholarship, met a wonderful man who I married, built a consulting company that I thrived upon, had our baby girl in 1991, made partner in my CPA firm, moved into a beautiful home and topped it all off with our baby boy in 1996. Before our son was born, my husband quit his retail career to become "Mr. Mom" and excelled at it.

In the midst of this dream life, I was getting lost. But I didn't want to acknowledge it, didn't understand it and just wanted to keep living the dream. In 1998 I hired a wonderfully wise woman as a Life Coach who got me through another year. Kay was also the first person who diagnosed my deepening depression. I was totally clueless.

I made it to my better life with the support of my family, friends, doctors, therapy and modern medicine. My husband went back to school and got his teaching degree. I ended up losing my career due to my disability. We made a fresh start by moving to the north woods in 2001. My husband got a job at our local school after subbing for a year. He also coaches track, cross country and helps with our JO volleyball program. And, most importantly, loves it. I am grateful every day that he is still in my life.

Life is good. It challenges you and sometimes changes you. I wouldn't alter one thing about my life, because I wouldn't be who I am today without the experiences I've had. Good and not so good. I bought a frame last night to hang this over my sewing table in my new quilting space. I really do love this quote.