Friday, June 26, 2015

It's Red, White and Blue Season

It's red, white and blue season for me. (I know for some of you that's all year long!) I've made more than a few small quilts in red, white and blue over the year and I enjoy displaying some of them around the house in the summer. Judging by how many there are I guess I must be partial to those colors. Until I took the time to dig them out I had no idea I'd made this many. There are probably more.

Gee, would you look at that - I do have a lot in this color scheme. Here are a few others -

This one is an oldie  : ) Can you guess where it's from?

So's this one. 

It's always fun to bring out the red, white and blues and make a nice display for the fourth of July. Do you do this too?  We're sharing some red white and blue quilts in my Small Quilt Lovers Facebook group if you'd like to join us. 

If you don't have any red, white and blue or red, tan and blue in your own collection of little quilts, maybe this weekend is the time to do something about that. Get out your scraps and play around with some simple blocks until something comes to you. It almost always does if you play hard enough.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


I'm just checking in because my sister was worried I'd fallen off the planet since I haven't been blogging much. Well, I'm still here (and I told her to pick up the phone). After a busy spring I'm taking some time for myself. So I'm not doing much or at least nothing terribly productive: trying to solve a lot of computer problems, dealing with a lot of broken appliances and thus shopping for replacements (ick), a lot of having to deal with ornery contractors, a couple of doctor appointments, air bag replacements, things like that.

On the positive side though -  lately there's been a lot of walking (a lot of additional dog walking too when it's not raining), a lot of light reading along with a lot of reading looong good books with a glass of iced tea on the patio, a lot of family time, a little binge TV watching, a few barbeques, a lot of enjoying the back yard before it gets too hot to be outside, a little doggie play time, a couple of Dear Jane blocks here and there (6 finished this month so far).  Ah, summer. That's what it's for, right? Recharging. I'm acting like a kid on summer vacation from school.

Footloose and fancy-free days

I liked it fine. Did not think it measured up to the hype though. 

Yes, I loved The Goldfinch. Some hate it, I know. I liked it so much I'm reading her first book now, another long one. (The Secret History by Donna Tartt)

 I had a really sweet surprise too. My friend Sue Bennett made this little tumbler flag quilt - for me! How cute is it?

It's VERY cute. Let me tell you. You should see the stitching up close - perfect and tiny and slightly primitive.

Okay, that's what's up with me. All this fresh air (and blogging) is making me tired. I'm thinking of taking a nap. What's up with you? 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Make a Perfect Pressing Board

Are you dissatisfied with your ironing board or pressing surface? Long ago I became very tired of pressing my blocks on pressing mats that were soft and squishy. It's much better to press blocks on a firm surface rather than a padded one. I knew that my blocks always turned out nicer when I pressed on my smooth kitchen counters (which are made of heat-resistant soapstone) and I loved pressing there. Awhile ago I found a great tutorial on Cristy's blog for a firm, portable pressing board and have been eager to try making one of these for myself to fit nicely on one side of the cutting table in my (small) sewing area. 

I have to smile as I press and look at the sweet birdies.

If you're looking to change and enhance your pressing surface, check out her tutorial and make one of these cool boards for yourself in any size you like. It's very simple - all you  need is the board, fabric, cotton batting (NOT polyester), a staple gun and glue. I bought the inexpensive OSB (engineered wood board) at Home Depot and had them cut it 18" x 24". These would also be perfect in a smaller size for taking along to classes. I still have a large portion of the board left over from what they cut so I may make another and keep it somewhere else. 

The perfect pressing board  Thanks, Cristy, for the great tutorial.  Here's a link to a video made by Sharon Schamber (Cristy's mother). 

It's the perfect size for pressing my small blocks and my small quilts and much better than a large ironing board or pressing mat. The ironing board is tucked away nearby if I need it for borders or larger quilts : )

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Playing with Scraps

Right now there are scrap baskets all over my house. I'll admit, I haven't been very diligent in organizing them lately. Many of the small quilts I make are made with scraps from these scrap baskets. Some of the scraps I like to use and use again are pretty old--not vintage, just little pieces of some of my favorite fabrics I've saved over the years that are left over from other projects. If you're like me, when a fabric calls to you, you have to buy it even if you have no particular plans for it. I have a habit of hanging onto my favorite pieces (some of them are now pretty small) and lovingly spreading them throughout my scrap quilts. I never get tired of some of them. Those of you who have my books and are pretty sharp may have already noticed that I like to use some of the same scraps over and over in the quilts I make. 

It's not that I don't have enough other fabric (goodness) or because I can't afford to buy NEW fabric (I buy new fabric all the time), I've just formed attachments to some of them. Somehow it feels very satisfying to use those scraps and place the ones I particularly love in several different quilts (or, especially, in my Dear Jane quilt). Then, every time I look at one I have to smile because I feel a little tug. Seeing the special fabric might make me recall where I bought it or what else was going on in my life at that time.

I know we all love to collect our little scraps and save them to make doll quilts someday, but, in your collecting excitement - don't forget to use them!

We often dream about quilts we want to make someday. Sometimes, it becomes a regular pastime. I'm sure many of you have pictures of old quilts or quilts from your favorite designers just sitting around waiting to come alive as a real quilt.  One of the best ways I've found to get myself motivated to do this and actually make those quilts is to first take the time to organize your scraps. Otherwise, I get bogged down by the clutter and don't know what to do with all those little pieces. Try cutting them into same-size squares or strips to make it easier to use them up.

My sewing space is often a mess when I'm working on something, especially when it's several projects at the same time (No time to organize, too many things to do! More coffee!). Then it becomes a real chore when it's time to clean it up. But if I do it often and keep it up, it feels SO good to know where everything is, like a cleansing. Sometimes it's almost like getting new fabric because every single time I find a piece or two or three I forgot I had.

*  *  *

Well, it's time for me to organize some of my scraps (AGAIN) before I get too bogged down with a mess and then become stuck.  How about you? Feeling a little unmotivated? Not eager to start something new? Try to make a little time to organize your scraps. Then - here's an idea - after you do organize your scraps and pull out some of your favorites,  can you make a small quilt entirely from scraps in your collection? Nothing fancy, maybe just simple squares or four patches. Don't use a pattern, just let your creativity flow and just use up those little scraps, without cutting into fat quarters or larger cuts of fabrics.  Something happens when we do this . . . . It's fun and relaxing and if you're feeling a little stuck you'll be surprised at how it gets your creativity and motivation flowing again.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Making Some Good Progress on My Quilt

Most of the easy Dear Jane blocks for my quilt are already done. That's good and bad. On the one hand, by moving along with some of the easier blocks first, I was able to practice my skills working with teeny tiny pieces and become motivated to make a lot of blocks (112 blocks finished out of 225 blocks and triangles. Yay!). If I had started with all the difficult ones at first, I know I would have gotten stuck and the blocks would be sitting in a drawer today.  On the other hand, this means that I still have quite a few difficult blocks left to make.

But I'm a big girl and now that I've just about completed half of the quilt I find that I cannot quit at this stage. I've come too far. I have to keep going. And that means making some of the blocks that are not easy for me. Most of them involve foundation paper piecing - yuck.

I've never been a fan of paper piecing and avoided it for years because it involved too much fussing around with paper and not enough sewing. (Sewing along with abandon and either random thoughts or music in the background is the fun part of quilting, am I right?) Paper piecing, on the other hand,  requires your undivided attention, as well as patience. If my mind wandered I would end up with my fabric sewn to the wrong side of the papers or my edges and seams cut off because I was too impatient to correctly measure the pieces. And the waste! You waste so much darn fabric with paper piecing. Insane for someone who likes to savor her scraps.

I try to keep the book and my blocks accessible on or near my sewing table in case I have the urge to pick one up and work on it if I have a day. (I was going to say "moment" but the truth is it takes me a lot longer than a moment to sew these together. I'm not especially quick about it but it certainly has trained me to become a more patient sewer.)

What has helped me lately is buckling down and forcing myself to do better with the paper piecing and using this technique instead of hand piecing the blocks (a nice idea but just not practical for me. I'm clumsy at it. Something else I need to work on.). I've tried and have even hand pieced quite a few blocks but it takes me a long time and they often end up not looking great. Right now I am anxious to work harder to get the quilt done already, you know? These days, with half of the blocks done, I feel like I am at the top of the hill, finally looking down the other side.

 Messy before you trim

After trimming, nice and neat.

I could not even think of hand piecing this one . . . . God bless those of you who can and Jane, who did. 

Anyway, I decided upon this topic today because I suspect some of you are like me when it comes to paper piecing. And, if you're putting off beginning a Dear Jane quilt because of all those tiny pieces in those tiny blocks, here's what I want to tell you -  just do it. Make peace with paper piecing. It is not difficult, just tedious, but it will make your Dear Jane blocks go that much faster. 

To simplify the process, I found a couple of good books on paper piecing, watched some videos, bought a few new tools and I practiced, practiced, practiced. Even though very time I am away from it for awhile it feels like my brain has to relearn it again, I have stuck with it and progressed much just by forcing myself to keep doing it often. I still don't love it but I do love racking up the number of blocks I can finish quickly so that's something.

There are a couple of  videos I found to be helpful here and  here . Practice, practice, practice and it will eventually click.

Also, since Carol Doak is the paper piecing queen, I got her book and foundation paper. I really like the Add a Quarter ruler she recommends. Get an index card, a glue stick and fabric (and, of course, if you're me buy a new blue rotary cutter and baby blue cutting mat) and you're all set.

The pieces are so freaking small I can't believe these blocks turned out as well as they did. Couldn't have done it without paper piecing, that's for sure.

In case you missed this post, you can read more about my recent Dear Jane® progress here.

See my post about my trip to see the quilt last year. Wish I were going to Vermont again.