8/26/16

Taming the Wild Quilt Edges

The weekend ahead will be busy, and my mind got an early start when I awakened at 2:30 a.m. and started working through all of it. After lying awake until 4:30, I decided to get up and do something productive. There will be time for a nap later.


This morning I'll head over to Working Hands Farm and pick up 40 lbs. of tomatoes. The weekend will be spent turning them into pasta sauce, salsa, and tomato jam. Just so you know what 40 lbs. of tomatoes looks like, here's a picture from last year's harvest. It's two grocery shopping bags full.


There are probably another 10 lbs. of ripe tomatoes on our own plants. Also, the plums are ripe, and so we'll be harvesting enough of those for a plum torte and a batch of plum chutney.

So, you can see there's lots to do in the kitchen. Also, the quilting is finished on the Baby Birds quilt. I don't know about you, but when a quilt is at that point, it's hard for me to relax until the binding is sewn on...at least by machine, if not by hand. Strangely, those raw quilt edges make it hard for me to rest easy.

Allow me show you the quilting. Wednesday, I was working on some feathered flowers. The patchwork areas that day were rather small, and Thursday's quilting taught me that this design is better worked in large areas. When I moved to the larger areas of the quilt, it felt so freeing! Here's how it looks now.


If you watched the video from yesterday's post, then you know she went on at some length about choosing the direction you wanted to travel and how to end up at the right place. My spatially- challenged mind was having the hardest time with that. I kept drawing the motif in the air with my finger again and again thinking about which direction I wanted to go and what that required of my stitching. Eventually, I figured out that the hook in the center needed to point in the direction I wanted to travel. Duh. This next image illustrates what I mean. I was at the edge of the quilt when I started the center hook, and so I wanted my "petals" to end up on the other side from there. Knowing that, I pointed the "hook" in that direction.


Once I had that figured out, I flew. It was perhaps the first time I've ever felt truly comfortable and "in the groove" so to speak so that the stitching flowed easily and I could relax into the motion of free motion quilting.


The last thing I needed to do was to outline the wing on the baby bird. This looks much better.


With that finished, I yanked the quilt out from under my needle and spread it out on the floor.


Here's how it looks from the back.


This quilt is for my cousin's newest granddaughter, expected to arrive in October. She might have to fight Sadie for this quilt.

You made this for me, right? I'm your baby, right? That baby will have to get her own.


So there I lay this morning, thinking about those raw quilt edges, and finally, I got up to sew on the binding. As you might expect, the furry nocturnals were there supporting me every step of the way.



As I got ready to cut the binding strips, I noticed this in the selvage edge.


So there you go...a little message from the quilting gods. A little over an hour later, those edges were tamed, and I could relax.


All that's left is the hand-stitching...and tomatoes...lots and lots of tomatoes.

8/25/16

A Day of Stitching

Quilting can be a pain in the neck...especially for me. I have a metal plate in my neck. It would be nice to say I got it from being some kind of superhero, but actually, it comes from my years as a competitive swimmer. Have you ever watched how a backstroker comes off the starting block?


You throw your head back and leap backwards as far as you can. Do that about a hundred million times in your life, and you'll give yourself a case of whiplash. As much as I try to relax my neck and shoulders, a day of stitching will send me looking for an ice pack to ice my aching neck and shoulders. Does this stop me from spending pretty much a whole day quilting? Not on your life. It actually only hurts when I stop and try to resume a normal posture. This is a minor inconvenience since 20 minutes of icing takes care of it. A small price to pay for a day of fun.

Here's what I did yesterday. I'm into the patchwork sections at the top and bottom of the quilt now. All of the longer green strips have more bird feet in them. For the smaller patchwork sections, I used Lori Kennedy's "Doodle Heart" design to quilt hearts into each one.


It's a surprisingly simple design, and I mastered it on my first practice try before moving onto the quilt. My quilting friend Marei and I were bemoaning the fact that this is not a continuous line design. In other words, each heart is stitched individually, and you must cut thread and bury your tails at the end of each. (I buried mine all at the same time.) Here's how it looks from the back.


I was thinking it would be possible to stitch this in horizontal rows using a little loopy heart between each one to connect them. I tried unsuccessfully to draw it out, but imagine using a heart similar to this one to connect a horizontal row of Doodle Hearts.


It could be done with a little practice, and it would be cute in a border or sashing. Something to ponder for future quilts.

So I finished all the smaller patches, and then I was ready to move on to the larger sections. I wanted to do some sort of flower filler there, and so I checked YouTube to find something I liked. I came up with this video for "Feathered Flower" by Amy Johnson.



If you can't see the video, click right here

This isn't so different from the Swirling Feathers I did for the free motion quilting sampler.


The difference is that Amy's design only includes two loops in the center, and she's not echoing around the feathers when she finishes them off. It seemed like a smaller design. My areas to stitch aren't large, so I opted for using Amy's design. It's a little hard to see on this first section since the fabric prints are fairly busy.



It might be easier to see from the back.


Here's a larger section with a less busy fabric.


I'm a little disappointed that it doesn't look more like flowers, but it's fine for a filler, and so I'm going to leave it and finish up the rest in the same way. When I stopped to ice my neck yesterday, I'd done two sections at the bottom left of the quilt. 


I should have time to finish off the last of the quilting today. And I snapped that image just before the quilt inspector showed up.


Today she's testing the quilt for snuggle-ability.


I give this quilt an A+ for snuggle-ability, Mom!

Here's how it's looking from the back. (I still need to outline the birds' wings.)


Today is a grocery shopping day. Word from our CSA farmers is that I can pick up 40 lbs. of Roma tomatoes from them tomorrow, and so I'm gathering supplies for a weekend of lotsa pasta sauce. It's a lot of work while I'm doing it, but so gratifying to see all those quarts of pasta sauce lined up on my pantry shelves. Also, the plums are ripe! I'll fit in some time for plum chutney while I'm at it.

8/24/16

Bird Feet and Kitty Feet

It was a marvelous day of almost nothing but quilting yesterday. Once I had my housework done in the morning, the rest of the day was devoted to the Baby Birds quilt. When I left off, I was working on the simple swirls for the applique background.


When that was finished, I was ready to work on the ruler lines in the chevron portion. It's been a challenge to get the hang of holding the rulers in place to make nice straight lines. For one thing, the throat plate of my machine was about a quarter inch higher than the surface of my Koala table, and that meant my rulers rocked when I tried holding them level. After consulting The Google to find possible solutions to this problem, it occurred to me that the addition of the table overlay that comes with the standard table for my machine might raise the surface to level.


It still isn't perfect, but it's high enough that the rulers no longer rock.


Mike and I have talked about creating a template using simple cardboard to bring it just a tad higher, but after working with the rulers for the free motion quilting sampler and working with the quilt yesterday, I'm starting to think it's fine the way it is. Even with the level surface, however, holding onto the rulers and keeping them in place for a nice straight line has required some practice. Working on these motifs for the free motion quilting sampler gave me a good bit of practice.



When I started on the quilt yesterday, it was much easier for me to stitch without getting a death grip on the ruler. By death grip, I mean death to my neck, which always ends up sore at the end of a long session of quilting.


I've outlined the trianguler portion of the chevron and then added a stylized heart to the center. The whole quilt started with the section of that purple fabric, and so I'm sticking with the designs from the fabric...hearts and flowers. Oh yes, and birdie feet.


You might recall I was working on the little birdie feet and trying to figure out if I could turn the corner in the zigzag portion of the quilt. It worked out fine. The trick was turning the quilt so that the ruled lines ran horizontal. That helped me keep my bearings as I worked my way across the quilt.


Here's how it looks from the back.


With those two rows done, the quilting is halfway finished. 


It always photographs better when I take it downstairs in front of my living room windows. It's the one place in the house where the lighting gives me enough contrast for the quilting to show. Lay a quilt down on the floor there, and you will catch yourself a cat.


I like this quilt, Mom. It has birds. I *really* like birds. They're so delicious.


Here's how it looks from the back. I've outlined the birds, but after seeing it from the back, I've decided to go back and outline the birds' wings too.


Generally, I don't do a lot of quilting on applique because it can make holes that are a little too obvious for my taste. Nevertheless, I can outline next to the top-stitching line, and I think that will look better from the back.

Does this side have birds too?


So I'll continue on my way today. While I'm hoping I can finish the quilting today, I'm not really expecting to. My goal is to have this one finished before the week is up.

8/23/16

Cooking and Jamming

It was a long day of food preservation yesterday, and my efforts were well-rewarded. The tomatoes have been gracious this year, producing lots of fruit that has only just begun to ripen. There were enough tomatoes for a much-lusted-after batch of tomato jam. I forget who told me about tomato jam last year. It has changed my life. Thank you. When I'd used almost all the tomatoes last year, I used the remainder in the first-ever batch of tomato jam. It was so delicious that I really wished I had more tomatoes for more jam. That batch was quickly dispatched into my mouth. Enter this year's tomatoes. Salsa was my first priority, but jam was quick on its heels. Yesterday I squeezed 7 half pints out of the tomatoes from our harvest so far.


This recipe is from Marisa McClellan's Food in Jars cookbook. Thankfully, she's posted the recipe on her Food in Jars blog. When I made this last year, I didn't cook it long enough. It's always hard to tell when making something for the first time. Since I'd been canning for days on end at that point, I think my patience had worn thin. This year, I started it and let it simmer for about 2-1/2 hours while I chopped and cooked down some tomatillos for salsa verde. The salsa verde was actually ready for processing before the jam. I'm still expecting 40 pounds of tomatoes from our farmers (any day now), and so I have a plan to make more tomato jam. Having experienced the long cold winter without it, I don't want to run out again.

This morning I was considering what to make for breakfast, and I remembered the jam. (Yes, mind like a steel trap.) It's was nothing fancy, but its only purpose was to be a vehicle for the jam. I just toasted an English muffin, slathered on the jam, and made some egg scramble with diced ham and cheese. Yum, yum, yum. Breakfast of champions...if you're a quilter, anyway. Don't look at me to be running any marathons.


Oh yes, and I can't depart from this topic without showing you the four pints of salsa verde. This is another of Marissa McClellan's recipes. Again, someone posted it online, so I can share it. You can find the recipe right here


I'll tell you that I've made this salsa three or four times now, trying to get the cooking time right. The recipe tells you to simmer it for 10 minutes, but my experience has shown me that isn't nearly long enough and produces a rather watery salsa. Since I like it thicker than that, I cooked it long and slow yesterday...over an hour. I noticed that after about 10 minutes, the salsa appears to be ready. Cook it longer, and more liquid develops in the pot. If you were to stop at that 10 minute mark, fill your jars and then process them, all that extra liquid accumulates in the jar. It really needs to cook a lot longer. Believe me, your patience will be rewarded.

So all of that cooking and stirring pretty much used up the day. I stitched about ten stitches on Block 18 of the Bee-utiful quilt, and then picked it up this morning to do a little more. 


This has been a fun little summertime diversion, but when this block is finished, I'm going to put it aside and take it in the regular rotation with my other embroidery and hand-quilting projects. Since I have plenty of quilts in my to-be-quilted pile, I'm in no hurry to finish this one off.

As for today, I'm going to make sure I get some sewing time in. It's a CSA pick-up day, and I have some housework to do, but sewing will take first priority. Sometimes you just have to put your sewing foot down. Pedal to the metal, as they say.

8/22/16

Quilt Shop: Piece By Piece, Eugene, Oregon

We don't get down to Eugene often, and when we do, we're generally just passing through. Since we were staying the weekend, I wanted to look up at least one local quilt shop. Checking my quilt shop app, I discovered quite a few listings.


Oftentimes these listings turn out to be long arm quilting businesses or shops that have gone out of business. We've gone on more than one wild goose chase, but in general, I like the app and use it whenever I'm looking for a quilt shop close by. The best way to find a good listing is to use the "map view". I chose Piece by Piece because they had a website...always a good sign. Plus, I can look up the hours.


There was a nice big parking lot to the right of the image below, and there was also some on-street parking, although you wouldn't need it.


Here's their business card. They were training a new employee the day I visited, and so I figure business must be good.


Walking in the front door, you see this...lots of fabrics. Something for everybody's taste.


They had their Christmas fabrics out.


To the rear of the store was a classroom, and I heard them discussing their beginner quilting class.


To the left of that image above was a nice shelf of sale items, including fabric, fat quarters, patterns, and books.


They had a nice supply of good-quality thread. To the left of the Presencia were some pretty Sulky threads.


Lots of fun buttons. I wish quilts required more buttons because I love buttons. Let's face it, I love all things sewing-related. What I really need are more hours in my day. Just now, I went in search of more hours on Amazon Prime, but I came up empty. It's the first time Amazon Prime has let me down.


They had a good supply of notions for a small shop...pretty much anything you'd need.


They also had several sizes of these Creative Grids rulers. These are my new favorite ruler. They have a non skid surface on the back, and I just like how they're marked. I'm gradually replacing all my rulers with this brand. They're great.


And just so you know I'm not kidding around, I bought this size that I haven't seen before...4 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches. I really like these smaller ones when I'm working with blocks.


Just beyond the notions, they had some pretty batiks.


They had a nice supply of quilt patterns and books, and they also had a lot of children's patterns, including the pattern for these two adorable bibs. Sigh.


Okay, and then I saw this.


Well, don't you know I snatched that pattern off the wall quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.


Did you ever wonder about Jack Robinson? Well, here's the skinny. It seems the phrase can be traced back to the 18th Century (when I was a teenager). It seems Jack Robinson was an English gentleman who changed his mind quickly. A person had to be quick to catch him in a decision. But don't take my word for it. Check it out for yourself right here.

Okay, and I picked up a few fabrics along the way. As I was standing at the cutting counter, I was looking back the other direction. Here's how it looked from deeper inside the store. Nice light coming in from those windows.


So what did I take home? Well, you know I needed this.


And I liked these next two for bindings.



And you know I'm collecting fabrics for my 365 quilt when I go into quilt shops these days. Since we were in Eugene specifically to visit the Cascades Raptor Center, I chose this owl fabric. It was the closest thing they had to represent a bird of prey. 


Surprisingly, they didn't have any University of Oregon fabric. "We don't do that," I was told. "You can find it at Joann," she finished with a sneer. And who can blame them for not wanting Ducks in their shop? What do Ducks do but walk around quacking and sh*tting all over the place. A Beaver, now, that's an industrious little bugger, although I'll admit to not seeing any Beaver fabric either.

So I really liked this shop, and I give it my highest rating of five out of five rotary cutters


for their well-organized and brightly lit store, their wealth of fabric and notions, and their smiling faces devoid of support for Ducks. We'll visit again if we find ourselves in Eugene, and you should too!

*Disclaimer:  Cat Patches accepts no advertising, nor any sponsorships.  The opinions expressed on this blog are based on the personal impressions and perceptions of the author. They are formed  on the basis of one short visit, on one day, and may or may not reflect the experience of others visiting on a different day.  They are no more descriptive than a single snapshot image can be, and nothing written in a review of a quilt shop should be construed as objective fact.  The reviews are strictly the author's subjective opinion and should not be interpreted as anything more.