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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Free At Last!

All week, I was longing to spend my time doing this:

But instead, I spent my time doing this....

I'm attending school with the thought of getting my MBA Entrepreneur degree and finals week has just about done me in.  It has been non-stop and I cannot believe that the final schedule put me in the classroom from 8:45 - 11:30 PM... 3 nights in a row!  It's crazy if you ask me.  I mean, who can think STATISTICS at 8:45 pm???!?!?!  Oh well, the good news is that I'm done for the semester and I can BREATHE and QUILT!

I'm not as far along on Bonnie Hunter's Mystery Quilt, Grand Illusion as I'd like because of my finals but now that they are done and over with I can really get things rolling.  

I started step 3 and did a get a bit of it done because it's a fairly simple step.  It's all about strips turned into squares and that goes pretty quick.

Since I like things to be as scrappy as possible, I used a wide variety of strip lengths.  Some were as long as 18" and some as short as 4".   One of the things I've learned is that to get things really scrappy you got to really mix things up!  I fed the strips through the machine and as one ended I added another.
You can see in the photo below  that the black strip is about to end . 

So, I just slid a neutral strip in place.

This way I could keep my chain going and have great scrappy variety!

Here's what it looks likes when it's sewn and open.  See the scrappy goodness?

One thing about this technique is that you want to pay attention to the length that remains before adding the next strip

I need at least 2 and a half inches to make it worth adding a new strip.

This strip had just enough! 
(Yes, that's a Bonnie machine seam guide ruler. 
 If you don't have one you can get them 
 I love them and have about a half dozen of them!)

So, here is what I did manage to get done.

Oh! By the way.  Can you see my little numbered pins?

I love these pins!   

Their "intended use" is to help you keep track
of the order of your block layout.
I use them to keep track of the number
of units while I'm making them.
This way I avoid having to stop and count
 every time I get a few more done.
  I just add to the pile and put the
appropriate number pin in the set.

Once I have ten units done I clip them together
 with Wonder clips and move them out of the way.
Since I'm making two separate units
 (One with a black square and one without)
 I have two sets of pins (1-9) lined up
in my pin cushion for easy access.
(Michelle, this is the pin cushion you gave me :-) )

Don't you love finding additional uses for
things you already have on hand?

As you saw, I only have 8 finished units so
I better get off this computer and back to sewing.  
After all, Clue four comes out on Friday 
and I want to be ready!  And just think!
With finals out of the way it will be guilt free sewing! 

Piece and Joy!!


PS...  Click here to find your way back to QUILTVILLE.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Size DOES matter!

I'm sorry to report that I am not as far along on step 2 of Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt as I'd like to be.  First off, I had longtime dear friends come for a visit.  Our friends the Reffs headed down from Colorado Springs for a quick visit and we had a great time seeing them! We talked about old times when our kids were in the 1st grade, and new times and our kids who are now grown and on their own.

Deann and I enjoying a San Antonio Spurs Game

Then, I had homework.  I usually love going to school but this semester has been a thorn in my side. Homework and tests and presentations, oh my!  What was I thinking?  I guess I was thinking, "I love learning" which is true.  What I am quickly realizing is that I love learning on my own terms without homework, tests and presentations :-)  Oh Well.  The semester is almost done.  THEN I can REALLY concentrate on Christmas and Grand Illusion!

I did get started on Grand Illusion Step 2.  I think the lesson learned here is that it is not wise to cut and sew a bunch of units without measuring to make sure they are finishing correctly.  This is one of the key tenets I have learned from Bonnie-   that is:  It doesn't matter how you cut or what your seam allowance's the UNIT SIZE that is important.  The unit size must be correct or you will struggle with the rest of the quilt top.  I have to admit it took quite a few attempts with the computer and printer to get the correct size template printed out.  I must have printed about 20 incorrect templates but perseverance paid off and I was able to get my template cut out as outlined by Bonnie's instructions.

 What a victory!  I hate letting technology get the best of me so I'm really glad that I got it right AND learned some new things about my Surface 3 (which would not let me turn off scaling) and my laptop and printer (which were not talking to each other at the time but are over it now :-P)  I know lots of people had trouble with this and it did take me a while to get it done but I did and am smarter for it! Anyway...

With the correct size template at hand, I used Roxanne's Glue Baste to adhere my template to the ruler.  I just like it better than tape.  It's right here in the sewing room and it cleans up with water so...there you go.

 After I glued the template on my ruler I realized that I couldn't see the fabric at the edge of the ruler.  I really like to see where everything is so I had to get a little clever....

I took out my zebra tape and laid a strip right at the very edge of the template.  Once I had that on there, I removed the template.  With the tape in place I could see exactly the size I needed AND where the fabric was...Excellent.  As an added bonus, because I put the tape on the under side of the ruler, it gave me a little lip guide for my fabric...much like a seam guide.  It really helped me with accurate cuts especially since it helped me avoid slipping ruler syndrome!

Tape at the edge of where the template was.

Fabric right up against the tape.

Of course, I tested a few pieces for accuracy.  I pieced together 4 units all of which were just about perfect, and then I was on my way!

I was able to get all my pieces cut out and start piecing the pink triangles on.  I used my Accuquilt Studio to cut out those triangles.  I gotta say I love my Accuquilt Studio.  I wrote about it in a previous blog which you can find by clicking here.

Only 80 more pink triangles and then I can start on the black..  I'm one of those people that like to complete each step before constructing blocks.  I will stop the "chain" I'm piecing if it's getting too long just to avoid a knotty mess but otherwise I like to finish each step before moving on to the next.

By the way.... Do you have The Cutting Gizmo?  I gotta say I love it. Saves a ton a time cutting apart those chains!

Well, I better get back to the sewing machine.  Papers and presentations due this week are done but FINALS are next week so quilty time will be extremely limited.  I want to make sure I get this step done so I'm not too distracted to study.  

Piece and Joy


PS   Find your way back to Quiltville by clicking HERE
Monday, December 1, 2014

Thirty Percent

It's that time of year- I'm not talking about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday or even the holidays themselves.  No-  I'm referring to the Bonnie Hunter Reader Appreciation Mystery Quilt!    Every year on Black Friday Bonnie presents a free mystery quilt.  She's been doing this for several years although this is only my second time to participate...
My first attempt was Orca Bay... I bought all the fabrics, printed out the first set of instructions and then...nothing.  I can't remember why I didn't go any further with it but eventually those fabrics ended up in my stash.  

Last year, a few years after Orca Bay, I decide to give the mystery another whirl.  This one was Celtic Solstice.  I was off to a great start and even blogged about my progress (click here to see that post).  I worked on it for a while and got to step three and then...nothing.  I didn't finish it and there it sits in a bin next to about another 50 bins holding other UFOs waiting to be finished.

I am NOT proud that I have so many UFOs but at least they're organized!

Finished.  Hmmm.  Quite a concept for me and many other quilters like me.  Finished.  Not quite as exciting as STARTING, but way better than IN PROGRESS.  Starting means new patterns, new fabrics, new tools, new beginnings!  Excitement at picking colorways, and watching color and texture work together to make the block sing!  In progress means a million-billion more of the million-billion blocks you have already done.  You know how the fabrics are working together and you know what the block is going to look like when you are done...Boooooring!   Finishing... in as far as quilting goes, this is not a concept that I have had a great deal of experience.  Well, at least not as much as I have with starting. The sad truth is that I haven't enough experience with FINISH to make it through IN PROGRESS.  But, there's hope!

Last December, I had the pleasure of not only meeting Bonnie Hunter but becoming a friend.

Me, Bonnie and my dog, Murphy

In our talks and visits she has imparted soooo much wisdom upon me.  One of the things that she said that really spoke to me is '30%'.   Yes, 30%; the point in the quilting process where STARTING ends and IN PROGRESS begins.  It's the point where the been-there-done-that attitude takes over and another UFO is born.  I am learning to muscle through In-Progress and get to Finish.  The key is finding that point where In-Progress becomes Finishing because once you are there, you get excited to see it done.  To that end, I am happy to report that I have quite a few "finishes" this year.  Not all are quilts but they were started and now they are finished so they count.  I did a bunch of Quilts of Valor with my mom for all the veterans in my family... I think we made a total of 15! I also did

Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Bargello 

This cute little tote.

Roll Roll Cotton Boll... 
(which won 3rd place in the New Braunfels Area Quilt Guild Show 2014)

One of Bonnie Hunter's previous mystery quilts and now in her book
String Fling.  You can purchase the book directly from Bonnie by clicking here.

I can't put them all here but you can find them by clicking the 2014  Finish tab.

So, back to where we started.... Grand Illusion is this years mystery and I am off to a roaring start!  The introduction to the mystery appeared on Bonnie Hunter's Blog about a month ago with a promise of the first clue appearing on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Oh the excitement of choosing colorways, fabrics, texture, tools (STARTING!)

My Fabric Choices.

I chose not to use that darkest teal.   There wasn't enough contrast between it and the black.  

The first clue is Half-Square Triangles and Broken Dish Blocks.  
It took me two days to get everything cut out and sewn! 

The lighting for this picture is not the best.  I took it at 2:30 AM when I finished the last block.  The next one has better lighting but my quilt inspector, Bobbins Hunter (Bobby, to his friends), felt it necessary to do a surprise inspection.

 I know, I know.  Cat hair is a pain but in my house 
pet hair (I have three Yorkies, as well) should be considered part of the decor!

So, along with Grand Illusion, I will be working hard to FINISH.  I have developed a taste for FINISHED.  Its such a great feeling to put those last stitches into the binding of a quilt and I hope to enjoy it a lot more often.

Until next time,
May your irons be hot and your needles sharp!


PS.   Go back to Bonnie's Blog by clicking here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring has Sprung!

I recently bought a FitBit so I have spent a lot of time walking the neighborhood (in a non-prostitute way :-D). Spring is short lived here in San Antonio.  By next month the temps will be well in the 90's and the humidity not far below that. But- for a month or so I will be able to enjoy sites like these

Texas Bluebonnets!

These are so pretty but they don't stay long.  My favorite part of spring are the Bluebonnets and seeing people pulled over on the sides of the roads taking pictures of the kids.  Bluebonnets are the state flower here in Texas and are sacred!  You are not allowed to pick them or remove them in any way so once they start blooming in one spot they will continue to multiply year after year until there is a large patch of them.  Most of the time, this is a great thing. I'm not sure that this home owner appreciates it though...

This is one of my neighbor's front yard.  It's so pretty but he has to mow his lawn with a weed whacker so that he doesn't disturb the bluebonnets and has to tolerate people coming by to take pictures of and in front of his house.
Believe it or not, this is another sign of spring in San Antonio:

Our Live Oak Trees don't drop their leaves until spring when the new leaves push the old ones out
so we see tons of little leaves being raked up in the spring.
I like the renewing properties of Spring. 
 Old leaves making way for new ones.
Bushes and trees budding and then blooming. 
 Daughters deciding to give quilting a try....
Yep!  You read that right. 
 It turns out that quilting DIDN'T skip a generation...
It was just lying dormant waiting for SPRING!
As I mentioned in my last post I began giving my grand-daughter Lillian quilting lessons.  She has been so eager to sew and quilt and has really taken to the process.
Well, she and my daughter-in-law, Natalie, had their first quilt block lesson. 
Measuring TWICE, Cutting ONCE!

 FINISHED 9-Patches!  Look at those intersections!
Well, when my daughter, Teresa, 
saw Lillian and Natalie enjoying themselves
she decided to jump in!
Getting the feel of the sewing machine.
Precision, Precision, Precision!

Every quilter will 'Frog-Stitch" now and again!
(Rip-it Rip-it, Rip-it!)
We PRESS!  No steam, no IRONING!

 FINISHED!  Doesn't it look great!
I was talking to my mother-in-law, Carnell, about how fun it was to teach my girls how to quilt and she pointed out something that gave me such a wonderful feeling. 
I have taught four Generations of women quilting!
I taught both my mom and my mother-in-law, my daughters and my grand-daughter as well as some of my contemporaries.  How special is that?
Until next time,
May your needles be sharp and your tops square!
Monday, March 24, 2014

I Guess It Skips a Generation

Once upon a time, I tried to get my daughter Teresa involved with quilting.  She actually started a Yo-Yo quilt once but only got about 40 done before she decided it wasn't for her.   Since then I have tried, in vain, to get her to try again but she just doesn't have the desire.
So, you can imagine my joy when my grand-daughter, Lillian, showed interest in sewing.  Now, truth be told her interest started and continues to be in fashion and for quite some time, with Project Runway for inspiration, she has been designing fashion for her dolls and stuffed animals out of just about everything... paper, fabric, and even toilet paper.  She loves drawing out her fashion, too.  This is one of her designs- It was drawn on a napkin while we waited to be served in a local restaurant.
Last December Lillian turned 9 years old and so I decided it was time to initiate her into the sewing world.  While designing and making clothing is not my forte, I could show her a thing or two about quilting.  So, with that thought in mind I bought her and my daughter-in-law, Natalie, each a sewing machine for Christmas.  (Why not get them both hooked, right?)

Well, life took over for a while and Lillian and I, both, were busy... me, with traveling and her, with Volleyball, choir and school but we finally had our first lesson!  We talked about being safe and the basics of threading a machine and bobbin and then off she went.  Our first lesson was all about sewing a straight seam.  We used a striped fabric to practice on.
Fierce Concentration

Working hard at staying on the lines
Looking Good!
She worked on the entire strip of fabric and really loved it!  I'm so excited to have another quilter in my family!  It's comforting to know that there will be someone who will understand the work and love that goes into making a quilt long after I'm gone.  Now, I need to get Natalie started :-)
I'm still hard at work on Roll, Roll Cotton Boll but I took a short break to work on another small project and I am happy to report that it can be added to the 2014 FINISHED! page. 
This is the Small Duffle from "Easy to Make Totes with Zippers".  It took a little longer than I thought it would to put it together because 1) I quilted the fabrics myself and 2) the instructions confused me just a little.  It's one of those instruction sets that is constantly referring you to other pages of instructions.  You know... 'Make straps referring to directions for "Large Yellow Duffle" on page 14.' and 'Review instructions for setting zipper on inside front cover".  I understand that by using this method of instruction writing it saves paper and therefore holds costs down BUT I personally would rather pay a dollar or two more than waste an hour or two flipping back and forth through the pages.  It gets confusing after a while!
In any case, I have to say that I LOVE the finished project!  I used stash fabrics, batting remnants and a zipper I had on hand to do this project.  I plan to use it for carrying quilting tools to retreats and while traveling so I used this ruler/quilty fabric.  I should have paid better attention to fabric direction...It would have been better if I had cut the body the other way.  Oh Well, Live and Learn right?
Front Pocket View
Front Pocket and Side Pocket View
(Both sides have pockets.  Back does not but could be easily added.)
On the way home from Phoenix, AZ, we stopped at Bernina Sewing And Design in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  I neglected to take any photos but I didn't walk out empty handed!  For some reason, I have become obsessed with these organizers/bags/totes and they had a great one made up as a shop sample and I HAD to have it.  I bought the fabric.  I had several combos of fabric picked out but I put them all back knowing that I have SOMETHING that I can use to make this wonderful tote.  I did buy the hardware and the mesh the pattern calls for since I knew I did not have those things at home but I left the fabrics on the bolts...  I can't decide if I'm happy or sad about that :-| 

In any case, I know that getting another bit of my fabric off the stash shelf and into something useful and beautiful will make up for any sadness caused by not buying "new".   In fact, I'm looking forward to diving into my a whole new meaning to "Shopping at Home".
Until next time- May your iron be hot and your rotary blade sharp!