Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Lazy Day for Sewing

Another BORING post, LOL . . . . Fall has arrived here in Chicago after a late start. Today it's nice and cool and slightly wet outside so that means I'm likely to be sewing. Or making soup. The kind of quiet, lazy day I love.

There's nothing pressing on the homefront agenda. What should I do today?

The sewing desk is relatively clean for a change. Makes it easier to work on those fussy blocks you saw in my last post.

The desk gets cluttered up pretty fast. When it's clean I'm much more productive and can see the tiny paper pieces.

Paper piecing is going well - finally. 

All I need is a clean desk and some quiet and I'll be happy and productive. Living outside but still near Chicago sometimes means traffic and noise, dogs barking. Every time a police siren goes off after some speeder, the dog mimics it by howling back. Other dogs on the block chime in. Her favorite spot when I'm sewing? Right next to me, as close as she can get. To make sure I can hear the howling up close I guess. She does an awesome impression of a police siren and I always laugh but, much as I love her, it gets annoying pretty fast. 

Who me? Annoying??

I finished this appliqued DJ block yesterday after working on it for two days. (Applique's not my thing but I'm getting so much better the more I work on these tiny blocks.) I was so proud I wanted to frame it.  But then I decided if I did that I'd have to make ANOTHER one to put in my Jane quilt. THAT'S not happening, ha ha.

Should probably also get around to organizing those overflowing scrap baskets of mine. Pretty soon I'm going to run out of baskets and have to start using bowls, haha. Need to put the fat quarters away too.

But maybe I'll play around with some wool instead. 

The day is young. Who knows what stitching marvels will occur?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Getting There

Thanks for all of your kind words about my "boring" blog. You all have put me in a sentimental mood with your nice comments. I have no intention of stopping the blog just yet. It's nice to have feedback and know some are actually reading it. Otherwise, it's a whole lot of wasted time. I do hesitate to share much because I often feel I am not doing anything of much interest to anyone else. Just living my life, you know?  In addition to working and teaching and taking care of the family here's something else I've been busy with for five years - 

There's almost no room in my tiny house to lay out all of my Dear Jane blocks but last weekend I put up a makeshift design wall of batting so I could finally see all of them together. It's amazing to see how much work has really gone into this quilt. Most of the rows have only a few blocks left to go. Yay! It's fun to see my progress. Almost looks like a quilt.

I know that there are some of you want to begin this quilt or get back to it if it's been put away for awhile. I so encourage you to do this. At the very least, if you began one and know for sure you will never finish - take the blocks you have completed and make them into a smaller quilt or table runner. Be proud of what you have accomplished. There is no shame in not finishing. It's not for everyone. 

Once you commit to making this quilt then you have to accept the fact that it will take you awhile; try not to become discouraged. Very few of us have the luxury of only working on this one quilt all day long, every day, until we finish. We also have work and lives and families and other projects we want to make. That doesn't mean you have to stop completely if you can't finish it immediately. I don't mind the long time frame as long as I can keep going, slow as it may go, one block at a time. I keep my book out near my sewing table where I can see it to have the constant reminder in case I become inspired. You just can't lose momentum or you will get stalled. Ask me how I know.

I let mine sit way too long too many times. But then two years ago in my Small Quilt Talk group (SQT for those not in the loop) we had a month where our small quilt challenge was to finish a UFO, any UFO. I decided to revive my DJ blocks that month and some people there joined me. That's why I started an online DJ support group - so we could keep ourselves accountable, move forward and get support and encouragement to finish by talking about our progress. Some have made fantastic progress. 

Three things have helped me progress - The DJ Electric Quilt software, my Yahoo DJ group (see blog sidebar for info if you're interested in joining us) and finally making the decision to tackle paper piecing, which I have always hated and put off learning.  See my post on this.  You can certainly make the quilt without paper piecing and I sure tried to avoid it for as long as I could but it's much easier using this technique to make some of the blocks. And when you've made a few difficult blocks that don't look half bad, well, then you become motivated to go on and make more.

To those of you who started but struggle with this quilt, all I can say is - Keep going! You have to find what works for you. Some do it methodically row by row but I chose to skip around so I could do more of the easier blocks first and not get stuck. By the time I made enough blocks I knew I could tackle some of the more difficult ones without quitting. Then I figured out that committing to making at least one block a month gets me motivated enough that I want to go on to make a few more. If it's been awhile since I worked on my blocks, then I choose an easy one to ease myself back into it. I am not an expert quilter when it comes to these small blocks. Many are difficult, but I seem to be able to focus better on the difficult ones when I am motivated. What works/worked for you? 

It seems longer but it's only been five years since I started my Dear Jane journey and I had to take some time off in between then and now. In the back of my mind I never really knew if I would finish. But, several years ago, during a long illness, I made a decision that if I do nothing else, then I will try to finish this quilt. So it got bumped up on the list of Important Things I Needed to Do. Working on this Jane quilt takes you into a place that calms you and if there ever was a time I needed calming that was it. Jane Stickle was supposedly an invalid and bedridden while she was stitching her quilt, did you know that? 

Kudos to all of you who have finished the quilt. You should be proud. It's an awesome accomplishment. I like to think I'm right behind ya!

Jane's quilt on display in Bennington, Vermont. I was thrilled to make the pilgrimage last year. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Boring Blog

Sorry, no quilts this time.  It's difficult to blog about something interesting on a regular basis. Or whip up something fun to show you.  You've all seen enough of my Dear Jane blocks, I'm sure.  Still plugging away. So, I fear that my blogging has become a little boring lately. I'm hardly a quilting jet setter, ha ha. Jennifer M. made me feel good recently when she mentioned that she likes to read my blog anyway - even if all I write about is walking my dog! Now there's a fan for you . . . . The question then becomes -  Is a boring blog better than no blog?   I'm not sure.

Well,  this one is for Jennifer and all the rest of you out there who love me even if I'm boring to tears at times.

 More photos of a nice peaceful walk I took at yet another conservation area -

 Bird Girl by Sylvia Shaw Judson

Stumbled upon two log cabins in the woods

A few weeks ago, on a cloudy day, I walked around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

That's all for now, folks.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Maple Leaf Redux

I posted a pattern for a Maple Leaf  block here a few years ago. Since a couple of you asked about the pattern again after seeing my blocks in the previous post, here it is - Maple Leaf block. The pieces go together pretty quickly and if you have some time coming up this weekend you might have fun making a few. It's an easy block and if you don't like scrappy then make it matchy in your favorite fall colors. I really enjoy making them scrappy and have lots more pieces cut from my scraps that are all ready to go. But I have enough blocks that I made a few years ago so I can also easily stitch some of them together.

Every time the weather gets a little cool I bring them out and get inspired again. 


There was even a maple leaf block swap in my small quilt group, not once but twice, so everyone got a pretty nice assortment.  I made several small quilts and gave them to friends.

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."

~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Or, just take time to sit still and sew up a few leaves . . . 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Clean Your Sewing Machine

Whenever I teach, I'm often amazed at the number of quilters who have trouble with the sewing machines they bring to class, right before they start to sew. Skipped stitches, thread breakage, tension problems, etc. It's always difficult to watch some of them become frustrated and struggle with their machine during class when all they really want to do is sew and get on with what everyone else in the class is doing. I cannot always stop the class so they can clean their machine and get it going before we go on to the next step. Do yourself, your teacher and your machine a favor. If you're thinking of taking a class, here are a few things you can do beforehand to make your experience pleasant and productive, not frustrating. This also goes for everyone else in general who sews, not just class takers. These things should be done on a regular basis if you quilt at all.

Number 1 - CHANGE YOUR NEEDLE. It matters, so do it often. Dull, bent or broken needles can definitely affect your sewing. If you sew frequently, then your needle goes in and out of the fabric thousands of times. I was originally taught to use an 80/12 needle, but now I go with a 75/11 or 70/10 needle. Try a finer needle. You may find that it makes your piecing much easier and your blocks will look better, particularly if you make small quilts. Some quilters go by the rule of changing the needle every time they begin a new project. That's not always practical if you're mostly making small quilts but it's still good advice to do it often.

Number 2 - Try a different thread. I can't remember now but I am grateful to the person in one of my classes many years ago who told me about using Aurifil 50 wt cotton thread. It's wonderful - thin but strong and takes up less space in the seams (so your seams lie flatter). I like a nice neutral tan for sewing with both light and dark fabrics.

Number 3 - Do your machine another big favor - take that little brush that came with it and clean out the bobbin casing and all around and underneath the plate or anywhere else you see lint. Do this often and your machine will thank you. I take off the plate and clean out the lint from around the bobbin case every time I change my bobbin. Every single time. I'm not lying. It takes me about 5-10 minutes tops and is so worth it. Before this became a habit, I would start to notice problems when I forgot so now I take the time and do it automatically when I put in a fresh bobbin. And I'm still always amazed at all the crap that accumulates in there even though I do it so often. (Tweezers help get the big clumps).

Although Aurifil thread generates much less lint you will still get lint from working with certain fabrics or batting. One time I noticed a student was having a lot of problems with her machine before class so I suggested that she clean her bobbin case to see if that made a difference. Oh my Lord - I wish I had taken a picture. It was so full of thick, smashed down lint that the bobbin could barely move. So, if you haven't looked in there and cleaned it in awhile, be brave - go clean out your bobbin case. Now.  (If it looks really bad, take a picture for me!)

Oh, and make sure to keep your sewing machine manual handy in case you forget how it put it all back together! 

Don't be a chicken. Just do it.

Once you've done these things, especially if it's been awhile, you'll be amazed at how much better your machine runs. Try it and tell me what happens. I'll bet sewing will be a breeze after that and you won't have to waste your precious time fussing with a machine that's crying out for some TLC. You'll have more time to make pretty things!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Worn Out and Loved

That title could describe me to a T but I'm talking about quilts, hah! Don't you love old things? (Again, I could be talking about myself; I just had another birthday!) I could not resist buying this old tattered-on-the-edges crib quilt recently, mostly because it has simple pink and brown nine patches and a pale blue striped backing.  It's very worn out and appears well loved. I'm going to reproduce it in newer fabrics.

The little bird dish was a birthday gift from my daughter. She knows me well. We had a good time during dinner deciding what it should hold after I put it on my sewing desk. Pins? Buttons? Chapstick? Sunflower seeds? M&Ms? Chicken bones? (I was eating chicken.) 

I don't buy a lot of antique quilts because they just cost too much around here but there are some I can't let get away. Sometimes they're raggedy but who cares? It's always the well worn and also well loved look that gets me.

The crib quilt I bought sort of reminds me of the pink and brown quilt I made for my daughter. It's held up well and is getting that faded look because it gets washed a lot. That tiny bit of nail polish hasn't come out.

Another well worn quilt I keep on her bed.

Faded indigo always gets me too.

Doll quilts that were obviously played with quite a bit.

When I reproduce that antique quilt I will probably use some of the same types of prints that I used in my pink and brown shoo fly doll quilt. It's actually more like me - not quite worn out yet and certainly well loved.