Saturday, October 9, 2010

Western Electric 2B708408 , circa 1917-1918

Shirley, my mother-in-law handed me this heavy wooden case probably 7 years ago, when they were packing up their house to downsize into an apartment in a Senior building. I had opened it, and I knew it was an old sewing machine. It wasn't a treadle machine which I had been desiring for a while, and the wiring frankly looked terrifying, so I put it away in the basement and basically forgot about it. It wound up in the garage during the move almost 4 years ago, and I finally opened it up and really took a look at it today, while sorting through our stuff for a garage sale in a couple of weeks.

This is what I found (click to embiggen):

There is a compartment at the back of the machine with a sliding cover. Inside what I thought was a bag of needles, were also two bobbins, a hemming foot, and the quilting attachments!

I was thinking simply about selling this, but the people at have convinced me to have it restored instead. There is a gentleman there who does this work for a very reasonable amount of money (thankfully, because I think the shipping costs are going to be outrageous - this thing weighs a TON), and had already offered to spruce the old girl up.

From some quick research on the Internet, I managed to find the owner's manual on line, which is great because it explains how to care for the machine, how to thread it, wind bobbins and use the attachments.

The serial # is on the motor only and is 2B708408. I could not find anything on line indicating when it was made specifically. However, I did discover that National Sewing Machine made the actual sewing machine (and put the W.E. label on it) in their factory in Illinois, and Western Electric made the motor.

The motor is stamped with a patent date of May 22, 1917, and the website that told me about the mfr of the machine itself said that Western Electric stopped making these in 1918. So it seems that the machine was built in 1917 or 1918, and I may not necessarily find out exactly when.

Of course, it's got that "fussy" bobbin casing that I hate, and hopefully it won't give me a lot of tsuris when I try to use it. It may be a very nice machine to teach people with; I doubt that it runs terribly fast, and I expect it to be a fun and relaxing machine to use for piecing.

I also like how it's about the same age as my house, so it kind of "matches". I am looking forward to using it. Maybe I'll have it back in time for my birthday!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Finally got to play with fabrc over the weekend!

I had an opportunity to take a much-needed break from the recovery (reorganizing) from all the renovations, and attended the Anna Faustino workshop that one of my guilds held yesterday. She taught us her "no sew" fabric weaving techniques. It took me about 5 hours to make this:

Of course all the prep work was done ahead of time by Ms Faustino; which consisted of a whole lot of accurate drawings on fusible web, and then fusing the web to the black fabric. We were doing the cutting and the weaving.

I still have to finish this piece - I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet in terms of quilting or embellishments. I may even add a border or something, since it's maybe 36" square at this point.

I hope to return to regular blogging now that things are almost back to "normal"... I'm back on costume duty again, for the fall production at the High School: Romeo & Juliet, so I don't know if I'll be doing much quilting in the next few months or not.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I had a blog on

They are shutting down tomorrow, so I am trying to move it over here. It was effortless to move it to a TypePad blog:'s typepad blog aka but I'm having a heckuva time trying to import it over here. It's rather annoying, actually.

Anyway, this other blog has posts from 2007-2009. I don't think it's going to import here. Not with a couple of mouse clicks, anyway. Blogger is looking for an XML file and typepad and vox are providing me with TXT files.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Interludes and Distractions

I haven't been keeping up with my self-imposed schedule of a weekly post on Sundays, and I apologize to  those of you who expect that from me. Home office renovations, work and back-to-school preparations have been keeping me out of my sewing room for the past month. It's been bothering me, but I will be very happy once my house is back in order (or in as much "order" as it ever is), and even happier once I'm back at my sewing machine!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

You know you're a quilter

This is taken from a thread that I started on It's from the contributions of a lot of the quilters there, and some additions from the quilting group at LiveJournal. If you distribute, please mention as the source. You have no idea how much it would tickle me to get this in my inbox 10 years from now...

You know you're a quilter when...

1. You pay more attention to the quilts in the movie than what the actors are saying.
2. Meals are an interruption
3. you see a nice shirt, skirt or dress, you mentally go through your stash to see if you have coordinating fabric and figure out what block the garment would look best in.
4. you rewind or pause a movie to get a better look at the quilt in the background.
5. you stop driving or walking to dig out a camera, cell phone, or paper and pen to capture an image of something for a new quilt idea.
6. You wish quilters got credit in films like actors and tech staff do.
7. you go to bed, you think about what you want to sew in the morning instead of what you plan to make for breakfast.
8. you trace a design in a hospital waiting room.
9. you look at the tile design on the floor and figure out how to piece it in fabric.
10. You pick threads off your clothes every time you walk out the door.
11. You pick threads off your spouse, the dogs, the cat...
12. You see quilt designs everywhere.
13. You dream about quilts
14. You are districated by the carpet pattern underneath the buffet table.
15. You color your small square window panes in a nice 9-patch design
16. You plan your vacations around the locations of fabric stores.
17. You realize the fabric you are sitting on at the fast food joint would make a great quilt.
18. You copy tile patterns from hotels, churches, old government buildings...
19. Nobody eats in the dining room because your "project" is taking up the entire table.
20. You buy antique quilt at the swap meet even though it has too many holes.
21. Your dog has a coat made from an antique quilt.
22. You are covered with threads all the time.
23. you can't just sit and watch TV; you have to be sewing or quilting at the same time.
24. Your car is trained to turn in to every fabric store parking lot it passes.
25. You come home to find a purple bin filled with fabrics at your door that "a friend" bought at a garage sale and knew you would like it.
26. A neighbor says he likes the humming sound of your sewing machine late at night.
27. Your friends' clothes remind you of quilt blocks
28. you can't leave home without your sewing machine
29. You are thrilled to find a shirt, skirt or dress at the thrift shop that will work great in your next project.
30. A friend hands you a giant bag of her husband's old silk ties.
31. you go to a well-stocked quilt store and you can't find any accessories that you do NOT have
32. You miss your sewing machine more than your family
33. you disappear for the weekend into your sewing room
34. You save greeting cards and pictures from magazines for a future quilt design
35. you look for fabric that's based on ancient tile designs
36. you lay out floor and wall tiles based on a quilt pattern.
37. you are attracted to a man's tie because the fabric would look great in a quilt.
38. you tell your kids/spouse "Just one more row!"
39. you tell your family "whoever finds thread in their food wins a prize" at dinner time.
40. you find the stair railing in the courthouse has a very interesting pattern
41. you cut up carpet tile squares into triangles for the floor.
42. you bore your non-quilting friends with endless talk about quilting
43. you run out of storage space for fabric and unfinished projects.
44. you would rather spend money on fabric than new shoes or clothes.
45. you are directionally challenged, yet you can find quilt stores that are hidden in the woods
44. you quit volunteering at church because they threw away some antique quilts.
45. you sit down at your sewing machine at 7PM and before you know it, your neighbor is banging on the wall at 11:30PM and he wants to sleep.
46. your vacation consists of attending quilt shows and fabric shopping.
47. You decorate pies and cakes to look like quilts.
48. you go on vacation, you bring a list of all the quilt stores within driving distance of your destination.
49. you hear that someone sewed through their finger and your first thought is "That's awful! Another broken needle!"
50. You prepare to paint your barn or garage by looking at quilt block patterns.
51. your automatic response to any request from any family member is "just let me finish this one seam"
52. you observe that the quilting in the toilet paper could have been done better.
53. you wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if you can sneak out to the quilting room.
54. your husband automatically turns the car around because you spotted a quilt shop on a side road
55. you meet another quilter for the first time and chat for an hour before either of you realize it
56  you seriously consider stealing your best friend's shirt because it's just the right color.
57. when your granddaughter brings the picture she drew in art class home from school and you want to turn it into a quilt.
58. you wake up earlier when you're on vacation than when you're working so you can have more quilting time
59. you get into the car and you realize you are still wearing a thimble.
60. you try to surprise your kids with a "fun new place to visit" and they reply "let me guess - a quilt shop?"
61. you take your sewing machine on a 10-day road trip.
62. you want to re-create the stained-glass window from church as a quilt.
63. The first place you visit in the library is the new display quilt.
64. you envision all the horses in the pasture wearing quilted blankets.
65. you make the dog wait to go out so you can finish a seam.
66. you ask to trace cardboard butterflies hanging in a florist's window.
67. your machine is out for its annual tune-up and you clean your house for "something to do"
68  you don't iron clothing, but you do iron scraps of fabric
69. you delay surgery to attend the state quilt convention
70  you "borrow" a napkin from a fancy restaurant so you can make a quilt designed like it.
71. you can't stay out of fabric stores, even though you already own enough fabric for a lifetime.
72. you redesign your kitchen to include an island large enough to baste a queen-size quilt.
73. you start sewing at 2AM because you have a lot of blocks to finish.
74. you don't remember the names of the towns you visited, but you do remember how to get to the local Quilt Store in that town.
75. you can measure a block from a computer image.
76. you can't stand the heat, but will sew in an unairconditioned room for hours, sweat rolling down your face.
77. you are in an airplane looking out the window and see many many quilt patterns on the ground.
78. your children/grandchildren refuse to go out with you when they find out you are only going to a fabric shop.
79. the ONLY shopping you like to do is for fabric.
80. you must stop at the fabric store before going to the grocery store (when you are out grocery shopping)
81. you practice quilting feathers and other designs with the lawn mower.
82. you are trying to figure out how to reproduce the light and shadow on the ceiling tiles in a quilt while laying back in a dentist's chair.
83. your spouse is trained to call you to the computer when he sees a quilt in a house listing photo.
84. you impress people with your ability to know the dimensions of something without a ruler.
85. someone says "what nice points", you take it as a compliment.
86. you offer to take your neighbor's donation box to the drop off so you can root through it for clothing that would make a nice addition to your stash.
87. you photohgraph brickwork for a future quilt design.
88. you select gift wrap because the pattern would look good in a quilt.
89. you cut a nice looking tie off someone's neck to use in a project.
90. sofas are for quilts to sit on, not people.
91. you think it's entirely normal to find needles in the bed.
92. when you see something pretty, your usual way of expressing praise is, "That would make a lovely quilt!"
93. you ignore the main portion of a painting because you're too busy looking at the potential quilt designs in the border.
94. when you hear that someone is pregnant, it takes you no more than ten seconds to offer them a baby quilt.

95. you recognize yourself in this list.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Idea explosion

Of course, I have a great idea for a quilt, and I"m at work and nowhere near my EQ7 software. Sigh.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's Sunday already?!

I haven't been in my sewing room much at all this week, as other things have been demanding my time and attention: there have been plays to attend, and most pressing, two rooms to pack and clear out so that the contractors can start work tomorrow on renovating my home office space. A wall is coming down and 2 rooms will be combined into one which  will finally allow me to unpack all my  books, reclaim my garage and get back to the "new normal", whatever that will entail.

In the meantime, I did get a fabulous book, Quilt Savvy: Gaudynski's Machine Quilting Guidebook from the American Quilting Society, and it was worth every penny. I wish I had this book before I started quilting a few of my quilts; there are some invaluable tips and tutorials. I'm debating whether to continue quilting Chaos Theory, or take a break and practice what I've been reading about in my few moments of relaxation time this week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Feminism and Fiber Arts

This post is inspired by this post and subsequent discussion thread at the Hands In Delight blog. Hands' observation that the women in her mother's generation (late 50's to early 60's) do not know how to crochet or knit or embroider may be true for her mother and her mother's peer group for some reason (I suspect that it has more to do with women clubbing together from other mutual interests), but it has not really been my experience at all. I am in my early 50's, and I am surrounded by contemporaries who excel in a multitude of fiber arts, who are also in the age range of Hand's mother, and also my own age.

She then wonders if feminism had anything to do with that generation's lack of interest in the fiber arts. I have to vehemently disagree with her. I think it is a matter of personal taste and priorities, and the thing that killed the ubiquitous knowledge of knitting, crochet, embroidery and sewing was the inception of cheap mass-produced manufactured clothing and housewares, first domestically and then from overseas. Feminism had little to nothing to do with it.

I was taught various needle arts by my mother, who was born in 1925, and who learned it from her mother. My mother worked a full-time job and had 2 careers (as a teacher and college professor and later, a novelist) over her lifetime, with a very brief period of "stay at home" when my brother and I were infants. The moment we were both in school, she was back to work as a teacher. I suppose this was considered unusual for the time, and she didn't work because the family needed the money; she worked because it was part of who she was. My grandmother also worked throughout my mother's childhood - she ran a small grocery store in the Bronx while my grandfather worked as a low-level bureaucrat for New York City. I am sketchy on the details of my mother's childhood and her parent's financial situation, but I am guessing that both my grandparents worked because they wanted the extra money to provide for their family. So I suppose you could say that I came from a family of feminist needle-artists.

I think the "demise" of needle arts came about more from the pre-feminist thinking that these skills were "women's work" and therefore beneath any "real" artistic endeavors, so perhaps artistically-bent women in the 60's were eschewing these types of skills in favor of the more "masculine" or "high" arts of painting and sculpture - areas that before the feminist movement were not really open to women. I also think that social class had something to do with this as well. Fine embroidery and tapestry work was historically done by women in the upper classes, whereas the more mundane everyday textiles and clothing were created by the lower classes in the 19th century and before. With the advent of the weaving mills and factories, this became even more pronounced. Once women were "freed" from a lot of the gender-specific "mundane household tasks" they took on a stigma - there are plenty of women of  the "feminist" generation in the wealthier strata of society that don't even like to cook! So maybe this is more of a class thing than a "feminist" thing.

And honestly, I don't think there was that much of a demise - remember the Society for Creative Anachronism was started in Berkeley CA in 1975, and by the mid 1980's had grown into an international organization with groups all over the world - this organization prized hand-made items reviving ancient arts and crafts in many areas including needlework and sewing (and also metal and leather working) and working with raw materials - so people were teaching themselves to card and spin wool and other fibers and take up hand-weaving again. I think the current resurgence in crafting and the home-craft movement of today owes a bit to the SCA and the hippies and their tie-dyed textiles and beadwork.

Well, I'm off my sopabox for now, and I'm dying to get back to my sewing machine!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Quilting "Chaos Theory"

I started quilting Chaos Theory, which is the name I've given to the quilt formerly known as the Challenge Quilt, that I discussed in these earlier posts. I decided to do all the dark purple thread first, and I've completed the center section and the large sashing sections surrounding the tortured 9-patch blocks. I recently purchased an 80/20 low loft batting, and I'm not really liking it too much. Yes, it's easy to work with, but so far, I don't think it's showing off the quilting as much as I'd like. Although, if you get the lighting just right, you can see it.

I'm trying my hand at free-hand feathers, and from the front, they don't look too bad. If you look at the back of the quilt, it's a whole other matter. Not being able to see where you stitched when you're going in reverse and supposedly retracing your steps doesn't work too well. I don't know if another foot would improve things, or I just have to wait until I get a long-arm machine to really be able to do these properly, but all-in-all, I'm not disappointed in my progress as a quilter. This is an improvement over my last quilt.

I also used that basting gun to baste this quilt, and it's not too bad. The tacks sometimes get hung up on the throat plate or in the thread so I cut them off when I'm working near one.

It does take a while to get back in the rhythm of quilting after not doing it for a while. I should probably have some practice pieces sitting around to warm up with before going at a quilt that I want to do something with. In the future, I will remember to have a warm-up piece waiting before I get started. I still have a ways to go before I'll be happy with my quilting results. So the debate is: do I quilt Goose by myself, or send it out to a long-arm quilter?

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Lunchbag and a Sweater

We will return shortly to our regularly scheduled quilting, but for now, here is a lunchbag that I made for my daughter to take her copious food allocation and water bottles to camp in (she's in a theater camp for 8 hours a day in an unairconditioned theater, and they require the kids to use reusable water bottles and she takes a lot of food and snacks with her). I used the "seat of your pants" design method: rough measurements of the paper shopping bag that she used the first week (until it fell apart from being damp from the water bottle condensation), and eyeballing the side pocket to fit one of her water bottles.

I had bought 3 or 4 yards of this cupcake fabric on a whim because it was cute and inexpensive. I figured this was a good use for it. I used the stiffest interfacing that I had on-hand, which is pretty stiff, but it could be stiffer, and I think I've found some at the Pellon website for future totes and messenger bags.

I also finally finished the Wisteria sweater from Twist Collective (yarn from Knit Picks). The "Arsenic & Old Lace" Production Sweater is complete, except for blocking. And it fits!

I am determined to start quilting the Challenge quilt, which I have named "Chaos Theory", but more on that later.

Till next time, keep on quilting!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fabirc Painting with Tsukenieko Inks

Since I seem to be spending my time during this heat wave finishing up a knitting project (because I can sit in front of the air conditioner and knit, rather than be in my hot sewing room), I thought I'd post a retrospective about some work I did a few years ago.

Back in 2006, I religiously watched Simply Quilts when it was aired on the HGTV network. One episode featured Lura Schwarz Smith and her quilt Seams Like Degas. She demonstrated the technique she used to make the faces in that quilt, using Tsukenieko inks. I was very excited about these techniques; I was thinking about using them for my mother's portrait quilt, so I went out and purchased a whole bunch of the inks and supplemental tools (pens, stand, "ready to dye" fabric, etc.).

In order to learn how to use the inks, I gave myself a small project: to create a series of wall hangings representing the 5 "esoteric" elements of air, earth, water, fire and spirit. For the first four elements (air, earth, water, fire) I wanted to use animal representations. I was also thinking that I would do a few series of these, so for my first batch, I chose animals from the class Mammalia: a bat for air, a stag for earth, a lion for fire, and a sea otter for water.

I started with a rough pencil sketch on newsprint, and placed the newsprint and a piece of dyer's cloth on a clear plastic clipboard, which acted like a light box. I traced the sketch using black ink and a fine-tip pen onto the fabric, took it from the clipboard, and heat set the outline.

Then, using a spray bottle, I soaked the fabric. Then I applied the background colors, being careful not to get too much ink in the area where the animal was going to be. To get the hand-dyed fabric effect, the ink is applied in random spots and then you crumple the wet fabric into a ball. When you open it up, the ink has spread all over the fabric. If you need to remove some ink from an area, you can rinse it or soak it out. Once you have your background the way you want it, heat-set the ink again.

NOTE: if you don't put paper or a pillowcase or other fabric under the piece you are working on when you iron, you will stain your ironing surface. (I discovered that the hard way).

Then I colored in the foreground figure. For the stag wall hanging, I decided that a crescent moon would add a lot to the image. I decided this after I had made the background. Luckily, the white ink is opaque, and a few layers of it covered the green pretty well. The final image is then heat set.

For these pieces, I simply added 2 fabric frames around the inked fabric, and quilted and bound them like I would have any other quilt (as you can see, my binding techniques weren't quite up to "show standards"). One additional thing I did on the Lion quilt is that I used thread painting to do the mane.

All of these mini quilts were made using my trusty old Singer. I didn't have a darning foot, so all the quilting was done "bare needle" - which I know you're not supposed to do as it's pretty dangerous. I didn't stab myself on these, but I did on another quilt, which prompted me to finally get my Viking.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Well this was a vacation

And I didn't get any quilting done! What I did do was make a huge dent into sorting and organizing my scraps and thinking about returning the larger pieces left over from the last 2 quilt tops back into the stash and how I'm going to manage that and keep the stash neat. Going through the scraps was fun and nostalgic - seeing fabric from quilts that have been gifted to people years ago, and thinking about making a nice scrap quilt that includes them. I have no photos today, though. Sorry.

I have made some serious progress on my sweater. Six rows of cabling to go and the body is finished! The sleeves shouldn't take me long at all to knit, comparatively (the body has 265 stitches per row or something like that).

I also got my "basting gun" from JoAnn's this week, so I will try it out on the smaller challenge quilt top before I attempt to quilt "Goose In A NY Minute" -- but that's on the horizon: quilting, not piecing, probably for the next month. And also getting some patterns written up (finally!).

Till next time, keep on quilting!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Completion! (well almost)


I am not going to quilt this thing for tomorrow - I don't want to rush through it. I need to "live" with it a bit and figure out a quilting pattern that will enhance the design and not detract from it. It's a rather BUSY quilt (as many of my designs seem to be these days... what's up with that?).

And had I bothered to notice the patch count before I started, I don't think I would have done this at all. there are 677 individual pieces of fabric in this monstrosity. The smallest 9-patch in the quilt (there were 4 of these) had a finished size of 1 3/4 inches. yes, you read that right. And when you are working that small, you cannot be inaccurate with your measuring, cutting or sewing - at all.

Lessons learned: 1. when I am doing a crazy pieced block that has a lot of triangles in it and odd-angles, I need to paper piece. I lost a quarter to half an inch in the width of the triangle blocks by cutting and piecing rather than using foundation techniques.

2. After spending hours and hours wrestling with split rectangles, doing a straight nine-patch is an absolute joy.

The purple "background" fabric photographed really blue in the pictures, but it's a really dark blue-violet, more towards the violet side of the spectrum (at least to my eyes!).

 (click the picture for a larger view)

I will be taking a little hiatus from my machine for a few days or maybe a week - I desperately need to clean my sewing room and organize my scraps. I think I'll get back to doll design and finish a knitting project. for  a little while. I feel like I've run a marathon...

Till next time, keep on quilting!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


After 90 minutes of doing things wrong I'm giving up for the night. I managed to get one right-triangle piece done - I have 7 more to do. I am having second thoughts about one of my fabric choices - the value is too close to the challenge fabric - I made the same "mistake" on the quilt I just finished.

Those half-rectangular pieces will drive me insane. I just know it. But if things go like for the paper pieced parts (these are NOT paper pieced, and I'm beginning to have second thoughts about that decision, too!), I should be able to finally get the other 7 "blocks" finished tomorrow night. and then the 9-patch blocks which should go very fast, so there is a possibility I could be quilting on Saturday night.

Here are some progress pictures:
the quilt design, to remind you what it's "supposed" to look like.

the first triangle block, done Tuesday night, with the brown paisley challenge fabric. I don't hate it.

The rest of the triangle blocks completed (Wednesday night).

and tonight's progress. Just that one triangle attached to the large one. And a whole lot of small bits of fabric that have been cut out, but I'm not sure can all be used for this quilt. I was expecting things to go more smoothly tonight for some reason.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Woodbrige Heritage Quilt Guild 2010 challenge

I received my challenge fabric this past September at our first meeting of the year, and it's due at the meeting next Monday, so in typical "leave things for the last minute" fashion, I started on it today.

Lucky for me I got my EQ7 Upgrade yesterday and I had some time to install it and poke around in it a bit. So far, it's running much more smoothly than my EQ6, which seemed to have issues with my hardware or wasn't playing nice with everything else loaded on the computer. There are so many new fabrics, blocks, and quilt layouts and I think there are a lot more customization tools available for designing - I haven't scratched the surface yet.

But I did come up with this design for the challenge quilt. It's a small quilt, only 42 inches on a side, but it will be a challenge to get it all pieced for Monday's meeting. If I can get the top done by bedtime on Friday night, I may actually have the thing quilted and done by monday. Who knows?

The brown in the triangles represents the challenge fabric - a brown/beige/purple paisley fabric that our guild leader "hated".

The overall design is a Garden Patch framework (one of the included quilt layouts) with some variable block sizes. EQ7 now adjusts a square block to fit a triangular setting for it automatically, which created the vaguely insane pieced triangle blocks. They are actually rather pedestrian square blocks: Kings Chain and 6-Grid Chain. The remaining blocks are Framed 9-Patch and 3-inch squares of fabric. I haven't tried distorted blocks like this yet, and I'm hoping it will give an optical illusion effect of a curved surface.

I probably could have chosen better colors, but I am in a hurry so I pulled stash fabric rather quickly. There will be progress and completion photos later on. I am paper piecing the 4 large triangles, and that is proving to be time consuming. I only completed one tonight. I'm not planning to paper piece the outer triangles of the garden patch sections, because I think I can construct them with strip piecing and some half-rectangle triangles, so the rest of the top should go together more quickly.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Goose In A New York Minute, Part 3

The top is assembled except for the 2 outer borders. Things took longer than I had thought they would.

Part of that is because I did a lot more ripping of seams that in the past I would have just let go, and another part was because each NY Beauty block had 29 individual pieces of fabric in them! The paper piecing went very slowly. It took an entire day to piece the 4 corner blocks.

I completed the NY Beauties yesterday. I'm not in love with paper piecing. I like how accurate the points are, but I really don't like wasting so much fabric. I guess I'm ready for the freezer paper piecing method. I was doing a little bit of it with these blocks, anyway.

I forgot to add a solid border in between the center section and the large pieced border, and this quilt really needed it. I figured out a way to do it without having to recalculate the entire border and I think it works pretty well: I continued the solid border into the pieced border, bracketing the corner blocks.

I can't get a proper photo of the top yet, since it's pouring rain and the only place I can hang it and then back away far enough for a square picture is outside. So we will all have to settle for the distorted photo of the top laying on the floor... but here it is, sans another 12 inches of solid borders on the outside.

What I really like is the secondary "broken dishes" pattern that shows up in the reversed Goose In Flight blocks in the border. I'm going to work that into the pillow shams that will go with this.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Goose In A New York Minute, Part 2

Progress is being made, and I may have all the components completed by the time I have to go back to the office on Wednesday. I have all the pieced  borders done, with the exception of the NY Beauty blocks, which I will tackle tomorrow.

I have a good reason for the delay: we discovered a stray kitten trapped in our woodpile on Thursday evening, trapped it on Friday, got it to the vet on Saturday and have been trying to socialize the infant kitten (she's only 6 weeks old) and start to integrate her with the 2 adult resident cats. Also, my car's sunroof suffered an "attack" by an errant basketball and shattered and is now in the body shop. So some things have kept me away from the sewing machine a little more than I would have liked. And I don't have pictures of the progress so far to post, either.

I have leftover "stripes" from the Goose in Flight block; enough to make table runners or placemats or pillow shams that will coordinate with the quilt. I haven't figured out what exactly yet, but I think the table runner design from the border pattern is something I want to write up when I write up the quilt pattern.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Goose In A New York Minute, Part 1

My latest WIP is a bed quilt for our bed. We've needed a summer weight quilt for a few years now, and I finally have a chance to make something for us. I came up with this design close to 18 months ago, around the time I was working on "Hours In The Garden" because it was hard for me to let that quilt go to its owner after I finished it.

There are some similarities in this new quilt with the prior one (and actually with a number of quilts I've been designing and constructing over the past several years: they all feature the Hourglass block. I think, after this one I will be ready to move on, but we'll see. Maybe there's a book in this (grin).

"Goose in a New York Minute" was designed using three blocks: Hourglass, Flying Goose Variation, and New York Beauty. This is the design from my EQ6 program:

I'm not using this exact colorway - the pink doesn't really go with my bedroom, and it's much brighter than I wanted it to be in the final quilt. I finished piecing the center square just a few minutes ago, and the Flying Goose Variation blocks were proving a bit more challenging that I expected them to be.
I will have better photographs later on.

I'm nervous about how I'm going to tackle the NY Beauty blocks. I had printed out the block for paper piecing, but that's not going to work around the curves. I've been getting some good advice from the LiveJournal quilters and the quilters over at Quilting Board (which I just discovered on Friday). I will most likely use a freezer paper piecing technique since the slap-dash "figure it out on my own" method has not yielded fantastic results so far.

Till next time, keep on quilting!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's the little things

I never thought I could get so much satisfaction out of reorganizing my thread. I relegated all my old polyester thread to a box, because I will probably only use those threads for garment sewing and not quilting. These are all 100% cotton threads, most of which are from the Connecting Threads sale a few months ago.

I could pose these spools all day long. Stay tuned for some attempts at photographic artistry and colorful backgrounds in my blog and/or website.

Oh, and I picked up these thread spool holders at a neighbor's moving sale about 5 years back.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Giant Dahlia: A Retrospective

I seem to be in a knitting mood ever since I returned to the Wisteria sweater when I had to be backstage for a couple of day-long rehearsals. I guess these are my "production sweaters" - I made one during the Shakespeare "medley" last year, and this one is the "Arsenic & Old Lace" sweater. Since I haven't started cutting fabric for my next project (a king-sized bed quilt for us for the "warm weather"), I will show you some new photos of an old(er) quilt I finished in 2005: A Giant Dahlia quilt, using the Marti Mitchell templates with additional instructions from a Dover Giant Dahlia quilt book.

This is our "winter" quilt - the backing is flannel, and Janice put in her heaviest batting when she quilted it.

(click the photos for the full effect)

This is a king-size  bed, and I had to send it out to be quilted. Janice Jamieson did the long-arm quilting (and a beautiful job of it, too!)

And someday, I'll learn to take decent photos of my quilts...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

EQ7 has a discount for pre-ordering!

Only 58 dollars for an upgrade. I love EQ6 and I've been using it for almost all my designs, and I can't wait to try out the new version. Check it out!

And Panzi still needs more pictures for - help her out!

Cats On Quilts

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A brief interlude

I have a deadline of tomorrow for a quilt block for a  Garden State Quilters guild group quilt (for our show next year) with the theme "New Jersey, Then and Now". I whipped this up over the weekend, in just a few hours. It's only one block and fusible applique goes very quickly.

I chose for my theme the old RCA Victor logo, also called "His Master's Voice", since RCA was a huge employer in the state, and also my first real job out of college was working for RCA as an Electrical Engineer. I didn't want to do flowers (as there are a number of floral entries already), and other people have riffed on the highways and some Tomas Edison inventions. I was thinking about doing a transistor (since they were invented in New Jersey at Bell Labs), but I think very few people would "get" it these days, since it's really rare to see a discrete transistor anymore - it's all large integrated circuits these days. I also thought of (and rejected) some famous corporate logos from the past (like the old Ma Bell logo, and such). Another plus for this theme was the dog - animals are popular subjects, and Nipper is a cute terrier.

Anyway, I found this on the 'net, and I picked the artwork on the left of the second row for my sample.

and this is the finished block:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Costumes: Done! Messenger Bag: Done!

It's a strange feeling to be done with both of these projects all in the same week. I was really lucky at the thrift stores this month, and I got a lot of items that needed little to no work. I did have to spend time building the aunties' costumes and the policewomen's costumes, but I saw the uniforms on the girls yesterday for a final fitting and they looked so official! The production is having a "costume parade" tomorrow, and I'll charge my camera and take pictures.

The bargello messenger bag is done, and I'll be handing it over to its recipient shortly. I will be posting instructions for the parts I documented with the camera - not sure if I'm going to write them up as formal instructions for download or just blog about it yet - I guess it will depend on what my spare time looks like over the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, here is the bargello fabric after piecing

and after quilting

and after putting the bag together.


The solid brown bits are leather, and this was the first time I've really attempted to sew finished leather on my machine (I've attempted suede and deerskin with poor results in the past). My Husqvarna machine worked like a champ, even through 6 layers of leather. I have some sharp new leather needles and I went slowly, and I think that made a big difference.

If I were making another one, I would construct it in a different order to make my life easier. When you are making a bag with inner sections (a lining that also acts as a 3-pocket separator), it's best to build everything and then sew the sides up all at once and together. I didn't do this bag that way.

My next project on deck is to (finally) make a new bed quilt for our new bedroom. I've only had the design done 14 months ago, and the fabric for only a year! (and our bedroom was finished 3 months ago, and this was supposed to be our summer quilt, and summer's here early!) The fabric's been washed and ironed for at least 2 months now....

Till next time, keep on quilting!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Quilting Magazine's Unsolicited DVD Review

I subscribe to two print quilting magazines at this moment; Quilt and Quilting (probably because I got them confused when filling out the cards). I have been pretty happy with both of them (The latest Quilt contained a bag pattern that I'm modifying for a commissioned bag I'm working on, and was a very timely arrival).

What I didn't expect to get in the mail last week was an unsolicited DVD from them - the first DVD in a series called Inspire - Design - Create - Quilting DVD Collection. I get annoyed with stuff like this - if I don't return the DVD, I'll get billed 12.95 for it and they'll ship me MORE DVDs that I didn't ask for. I suppose that I could keep it and not pay, utilizing the same legal strategy that almost bankrupted the Musical Heritage Society (and caused them to re-think their scheme of sending out vinyl records and hoping people are honest enough to pay for them), but I am a grown up now, and I'm not going to do that.

I did pop it in the DVD player in my sewing room today and watched it as I was ripping seams, hemming pants and skirts and resetting zippers (I'm still in costume mode  for a high school production of Arsenic & Old Lace - I have 4 more skirts to make, but they will have to wait till tomorrow after a trip to the fabric store, since my stash doesn't include navy wool suiting any more). The DVD contained 8 segments, and 3 free PDF patterns.

Segment 1, Color Inspirations: Introduction to the Color Wheel - This was a very basic lesson in color, with one interesting tip: using a kaleidoscope viewer (without any color chips in it) as a way to audition fabrics together. I'll have to try that (yes, I own a small collection of kaleidoscopes - I think they are fabulous).

Segment 2, Reaching Out: Organizing and Participating in Exchanges was a nice introduction to various swaps from charm square to block-of-the-month, and good for people who don't have active and experienced guilds in their locality.

Segment 3, Tool Center: Using Your Rotary Tools to Create Templates presented some nice ideas for how to cut both symmetric and asymmetrical shapes, and this segment was actually useful to me, and showed me something I hadn't seen or thought of before.

Segment 4: Try Something New: English Paper Piecing explained in detail how to go about doing this, and maybe someday in the fullness of time, I might.

Segment 5: Fun & Fanciful: Fussy Cutting explained about various things to be fussy about and showed some lovely quilts as examples. I did figure out striped bindings on my own, though, and I learned about the kaleidoscope effect of cutting identical pieces from a striped fabric from an episode of Simply Quilts a while back (and I even bought the hinged mirrors from Marti Mitchell to preview the cuts).

Segment 6: Techniques Revealed: Stenciling with Shiva Paintsticks had a demonstration of stencil making and using the paint sticks on fabric to make a block, and also some stunning examples of finished quilts. I found this segment most intriguing because I had seen the sticks at the last show I attended but I was dubious about using paint that is in paste form. I'm not convinced yet, but I feel a lot more informed about this method of surface embellishment. Personally, I still have a lot of Tsukeniko ink to work with, and I'm not ready to move on to oil paint just yet. The inks are more forgiving - you can completely wash them out until you heat set them, so you can fix mistakes (a big plus with me!), and they act like watercolors rather than oil paints, which permit you to use a lot of watercolor painting techniques on fabric.

Segment 7: Design Workshop: Free Motion Quilting was a good beginner introduction to free motion quilting with some nice examples. I would have really loved this segment if I hadn't taken a workshop in free motion quilting at a quilt show last summer.

Segment 8: Shop Talk Thread Tension Troubleshooting: this might have been my favorite segment in the entire DVD. I was amused that the only man on the DVD was the sewing machine repair person, but I was fascinated with his explanation of how a sewing machine works, and the fact that he used a Singer Featherweight to illustrate the thread pathways was also really interesting to a technology geek like me.

I forgot to check out the free pattern PDF files before I packaged the DVD up for return. The patterns are cute, from the photos I saw on the menu.

I am not keeping the DVD for myself, for budget reasons - I already bought a quilt book online this week, and things are generally tight - and I don't want to get into a subscription thing with a 13.00/month price tag on it. The DVDs are very good for people starting out and who don't have access to live workshops or guilds where there are quilters who are willing to share their knowledge, but for advanced quilters, I don't think it's really worth it. I'd rather take the 156 dollars a year's worth of these DVDs would cost me and pay for a few workshops.

If you haven't seen the Cats on Quilts blog, please do - and if you have a photo of your pet helping you with a quilt project, please send it in!

Till next week, keep on quilting!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cats on Quilts

I just wanted to let y'all know that I started a photo blog featuring cats (and other pets) on quilts.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Not much quilting done this week

Because I've been making costumes for an upcoming High School production of Arsenic & Old Lace. There will be photos, but not yet.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Third Baby Quilt Done

This is also a donation quilt, but for my daughter's High School parent group's Tricky Tray (a "raffle auction" to those of you who don't live in New Jersey and have never heard that phrase before). It's basically a really cute kids' panel with some pieced borders:

A close-up of the center panel:

As you may or may not see, I quilted around all the animals and the leaves (and toys and larger shapes) and did some "texture" quilting in the other areas. I quilted a meander in the border. The binding is satin  blanket binding (which I like to use in baby quilts because one of my earliest memories was of a satin blanket binding on my face - I loved the way that felt). I used that cute animal print on the back that I used on the cat quilt.

In other news, I started working on a commissioned bargello messenger bag (I'm taking pictures along the way to document the process for a future pattern), and I have costumes to build for Arsenic & Old Lace (my daughter's High School  production, but on the Main Stage at Kean University), which opens in less than 3 weeks! And finally, a local Realtor is thinking about buying gift certificates from me to give as closing gifts. So I'll hopefully be making wall hangings for people (but more likely placemats or table runners).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Quilts for Kids - ready to ship!

I decided to do a cat-themed quilt for the stash quilt, and I used some of my coveted Laurel Burch cat fabric. I think it came out really nice, and I suppose I'm going to have to make another one for the house.

I am also planning to publish instructions for this quilt, so keep an eye out for that over the next couple of weeks.  I think the total time from start-to-finish for this quilt was probably close to 2 full days' work. I am also glad my spool of varigated thread lasted long enough to cover the quilt top. I did a random meander on this one, rather than try to do a design (like the hearts I did on the dog quilt).

the backing fabric isn't a great match for the front, but the fabric is so cute, and I have a lot of it, I had to use it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Quilts for Kids - One quilt done!

  • an awesome sweet 16 party for my daughter friday: check!
  • Pieced & quilted the Quilts for Kids quilt Saturday: Check!
Putting a quilt kit together is a breeze! This is my first kit, and the fact that I didn't have to measure or cut was really a pleasant experience. There were only a few scraps left over, too - and I'm glad there was something left over, because I want to make a "keepsake" block for a journal quilt - something someone in one of the guilds I belong to does for the quilts she doesn't keep, and I think it's a great idea.

I still have to make a second quilt to ship back with the first one. I will most likely use cat-themed fabric (since I have a LOT of that, and this quilt is dog-themed), but I'm not sure I'll duplicate this pattern or make something else. This is a very simple pattern and I assembled it in about 2 hours. It took about 6 hours to quilt it. My spring-action foot broke about halfway through quilting it, too - the bar that activates the spring and raising the foot off the fabric snapped off (maybe because I put it on wrong this time? I don't know). I'm somewhat upset about it because it's much harder to use this way, and the foot wasn't cheap.

I may wimp out and just do another of the same pattern, because I have a third baby quilt to make for the High School Tricky Tray raffle next month, and they are getting antsy about gathering the gifts together, and I just have to get these done.

And if you want to participate in Quilts for Kids, visit this website:  and order your kit!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I'd like to thank the Academy...

There were no speeches at the Harvest Quilter's 27th annual guild show yesterday, but I did get a blue ribbon for Portrait of My Mother as a Young Woman. I got completely choked up about the whole thing, too. I am hoping this is the start of something good in my "quilting career," and I'm really trying not to get a swelled head about it. I'm going to have to do at least one more portrait quilt, to see if I can do as good a rendering on someone else before offering to make any for strangers for money. Bisa Butler, the woman who taught the class on her style of applique quilting came to the show and complimented me on it, too.

But it sure feels good to have a real blue ribbon to hang on the wall next to (or covering) my "participant" ribbon from the Quilt Guild of NJ show last year.

Here is my award-winning quilt :

Other quilts that won prizes or that I simply thought were awesome:

This quilt won Best in Show, and Best LargeQuilt - 25th Anniversary Quilt by Karen Hochman. This took 6 years to complete, and I believe it's all hand made. My photo does not do this quilt justice.

This quilt won a prize in the Art Quilt category, but I don't remember which prize it won (not first, because that's below). Trees by Paula Pearl. all the trees are painted with thread on hand-dyed fabric.

The first prize in the Art Quilts category was Tumbling Blocks by Lori Suchomel. The most interesting thing on this quilt, to me is the "floating" binding. The pieces of the binding hang off the edge of the quilt and are attached in the front and back. And the 3-D applique work on this one is just great. Another "I wish I had thought of that" moment, for sure!

There were over 100 quilts and fabric art items for view at the show, as well as some vendors with interesting stuff, some great "church lady" food (food vending provided by a local church group), some door prizes, and raffle baskets bursting with fabric, books and notions, and the awesome raffle quilt (which I didn't get a picture of for some reason) - I didn't win any raffles, by the way. The raffle money is going to a charity - I'm not sure which one at the moment.

I spent most of the day ensconced in the "Things Mom and Dad Made" - which displayed all sorts of artistic creations from guild members' parents, grandparents and other ancestors. There were quilts, embroidery, stained glass, some sculpture, clothing, and knitted items. I worked on a sweater I started over a year ago, which has been sitting in a bag for the past year, and made some actual progress on it.

I was also surprised by some old friends who just showed up out of the blue, and the other friends who came out to see the quilts and support the guild.

I was also able to finally take some better photos of my quilts, and I'll leave you this week with the "good" picture of Sunrise: Winter Solstice, and Yellow Submarine.

'Till next week - keep on quilting!