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Monday, November 6, 2017

MY quarter-inch seam took a licking, but kept on ticking


I need to work on my perfect quarter-inch seam. In spite of the challenges, I finally finished my first medallion quilt—thanks to this beautiful quilt designed by Lynette Jensen for a Craftsy class from last year. I mentioned this project in an earlier blog post.

At left is the quilt Lynette Jensen designed. At right is the actual quilt top I completed. There are so many reasons I wanted to make this quilt, but the most important was that I knew it would be a challenge. It was!

I chose different colors, but I followed every direction exactly as written. She did a beautiful job of explaining details, by the way. But, I will admit, I struggled with this one. I’ve always had a problem with anything to do with triangles. Of course matching points is always tasking. My biggest issue was the border in the center—the purple border in my quilt—which was a bear for me. It included sewing lots of tiny little pieces, including lots of squares cut into tiny triangles. Speaking of which, I had a few issues with the hour-glass shapes in the very center, for that very reason. But, I got through that after a few tries.

The purple border would not have worked if my life had been dependent on perfect ¼” seams or else. I’m not sure where my hang-up was, the sewing, the pressing, the cutting, or perhaps a little of all three. I made it work and if you didn’t know I varied a few seams to make it work, you would never know. I definitely went from below scant quarter-inch to way beyond chunky quarter-inch seams.

Because I was so bothered by this, I decided to make a little table runner out using the same pattern. I wanted to diagnose where my problem was. This is the result, at left.

I concluded that I have a long way to go to be as proficient at quilting as Lynette Jensen, but that gives me something to strive for. This is just a matter of practice needed. The points are good. The seams are all in the right places. It is definitely not perfect, but I can live with this. So, I guess the old adage still applies, practice, practice, practice.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Don’t go to a therapist; quilt

Chain-piecing can look like such a mess!
This weekend, I had a gaggle of flying geese to sew. Well, they weren’t exactly flying geese, but a quilt border that was similar. Sometimes I enjoy this mindless, repetitive chain-piecing work while other times, I get impatient and just want it to be done so I can move onto the next step. I’m happy to say the former worked for me on Sunday. I turned on the radio, to listen and even sing along to some of my beloved oldies. The rest of the time, I just let my mind wander.

Perhaps it is because I’m in the autumn of my life or perhaps it was the music that brought me back, but I thought about when I was a little girl, how happy, carefree and different life was back then. It was really nice not to have a care in the world. So, as I pressed my foot pedal and guided my squares under the needle, reliving that childhood experience. Right then, I felt no stress, no anxiety, no worry, just the mechanics of sewing.

At other times, I let my mind wander toward mistakes I’ve made, people I’ve known, or places I’ve lived. I thought about regrets. In 65 years, there are plenty of opportunities where it might be advantageous to go back to travel a different path, to think about the what if’s or the coulda, shoulda, wouldas. But what is the point of that? The unknown along a different path could have led to far worse consequences than any I’ve actually experienced. So, I’ve ruled out regrets. There is just no purpose for them. I’d much rather go about solving whatever problems come up along the way. I think that is more akin to my philosophy. And, I think I’ve done that. Perhaps I didn’t choose wisely at the time, but who knows? It all seems to have turned out alright; here I am, without a care in the world, creating something that hopefully, will be beautiful. What could be better?

From time to time, I would snap back to the present, and wonder, “How many of
The pile really does get smaller, I think???
these suckers do I have left?” I was reminded of the kids in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?”

That was so annoying, I reasoned, so I dismissed my own question with the conscious thought, “There is still a huge pile. Just keep sewing.”

It was a rainy Sunday, one of my favorite kind of day for sewing. I was able to glance out the window behind my sewing machine as the raindrops bounced off the leaves of my plants. as my mind bounced back into the past. I remembered sitting in school on a rainy day, my feet cold from socks wet from old leaky boots. Turning my head caused my wet hair to tickle the back of my neck, giving me a quick chill. 


I remembered how just after the rain, my friends and I would ride our bikes through the puddles left behind. We had to hurry before the water soaked into the ground. We had to get up to speed quickly so we could glide through the water, our legs spread and our feet far from the pedals to protect them from the muddy water. Sheer momentum kept the pedals turning. Seems to me our feet always got wet anyway. Ah, such great memories.


Half-way there!
While I didn’t utter a sound, there was plenty of talking to myself. And before you know it, my pile of squares was all sewn onto their rectangles. Then, it was time to turn the pile and sew squares onto the other side of the rectangle. Good, there was time to have another meaningful dialogue with myself and more good things to conjure up from my mind chock full of happy times.

This is just one more aspect of quilting that I find invaluable. There are times when extreme focus is required, and yet, this activity is just the opposite. I enjoy both of these extremes, and this is just another reason I love quilting.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Remembering Granny and her quilts

When I married my husband more than forty years ago, I married into a very talented family of stitchers. His mother crocheted and did a little quilting. But the star of the family was his grandmother, Mary. Everybody just called her Granny. I don’t think I will ever forget her.


Granny and Jenny
Granny with her Great-Granddaughter, Jenny
Granny was a quilter. Well into her 80’s, she would spend her time in the family’s dark, damp basement, lit by only a lone light bulb hanging from the rafters where her quilt frame was set up. It was just outside the fruit cellar and coal bin in the house her husband built. My husband tells me she would be down there for hours at a time. She did all her piecing by hand and turned out some beautiful quilts. As she aged and things became more difficult for her, she purchased quilt kits from places like Lee Wards Creative Crafts, which began in 1947. In the 70’s, it morphed into the modern and well-known Michaels.

Years ago though, I remember going to the Lee Wards in Elgin, IL. It was huge. To me it was like a kid’s first trip into Toys R Us. But this was not just a store; it was an immense warehouse, with aisle after aisle filled with every kind of art and craft imaginable. I wasn’t a quilter back then, but I did knit and crochet. Even today, I love yarn almost as much as I love fabric. Get me into a place like that now, I’d have to bring a sleeping bag.

Granny's quilt
Granny died in the early 80’s, but she lives on in our memory and of one of the quilts she gave us. Each of his siblings also has one. Ours was from a kit she liked to make. Once she cross-stitched the quilt top, she completed the quilt, hand stitching simple quilting designs.

I never actually saw her quilt; I only saw the result of her work. She eventually gave up quilting because she could no longer go down the steep stairs to the basement. She also complained about her failing eyesight.

Despite that, she never gave up working on her crewel embroidery. My mother-in-law, who was her caregiver, often bought kits for her. Often times she didn’t care what the finished piece was; she just enjoyed doing the work. The pieces often doubled as Christmas presents.

I had never seen anyone do such beautiful hand work. It is hard to believe that her eyesight was failing, given the beautiful stitches she could make. There was never any evidence of it in her work. It was flawless.

I recall how she used to sit on the edge of her bed, with her back straight as an arrow and her feet flat on the floor, as the sunlight streamed through her window and onto whatever project she had in her lap. She began sewing after the breakfast dishes were done and worked up until lunch. After the kitchen was clean, she took a nap, and sometimes sewed in the afternoon until the sun went down.

I can’t help but think that in the back of my mind, knowing her, planted the seeds of quilting into my own heart, only to sprout a little later in my life.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Quilting and cats just seem to go together

I have finally started hand quilting my Dresden Plate quilt, although there are
challenges. 
Quilting with Ryan
Quilting with Ryan

One of them, at right, is pretty obvious. Ryan just loves to be where the action is. She loves hanging out with me, for which I am oh-so-flattered. She is the greatest quilting supervisor, and she is always positive. I don’t think she has ever curled up on or under a quilt she didn’t like.

I can’t say that I mind either. I considered quilting to be an enjoyable activity, so a few cuddles from one of my favorite cats fits right in. Ryan is one of four and we have her mom too. For me, quilting is therapy and so is enjoying our pets.

Finishing this quilt will take months, so a few minutes here and there to bond with my girl won’t hurt a bit.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Blogging, comments, and quilting


I love quilting and I love writing which is why I started blogging in the first place.

CHQuilts actually grew out of another blog, CHMusings, which is, as the name implies, all about the things I ponder, what matters to me, and all 
that I love in my daily life. No question, CHMusings is personal. It is for that reason that quilting was often times a topic. When it dawned on me that I was writing about quilting quite often, I decided to start CHQuilts.

Funny, one of the most read posts in CHMusings, is about quilting, entitled, “New way to mark the quilt.” Feel free to check it out by clicking the link. 
Marking the quilt has always been a sore spot with me. One day I decided to try a new technique I'd heard about using Glad Press & Seal. 

Most of the posts I write come from my own experience. I try to write about as many teaching moments, or should I say learning moments. I'm learning new things all the time, as a former city girl who lives in the woods after moving to the Arkansas Ozarks. I do believe I have found my niche here.

For the record, I also write two other blogs, CHBlog, which has a political bent and CHontrack, which showcases my interest in NASCAR, have lost some appeal for me lately. I’m sorry to say, they have been a bit neglected lately. I still write in them from time-to-time, but honestly, I’d prefer to spend my days quilting.

I’ve found that the more I learn about quilting, the more I want to learn. There are always new questions, new techniques, and new ideas. There will always be a new quilt inside my head. 

I’m not a professional blogger by any means, I just write about things that interest me, but the one post about marking the quilt seemingly has sparked some interest. I love it when folks make comments. I love the conversational aspect of quilting and blogging. And I love the constant flow of information. It comes in so many forms. Quilters are generally curious and caring. Quilters love to share, and learn from one another. Quilters are a complete inspiration to me. There are so many aspects to quilting that I love, but meeting other quilters certainly ranks high on that list.

So thank you to everyone who reads these posts; thank you to everyone that can relate in any way to quilting, and of course, those who comment on this and all other platforms from Facebook to the Quiltingboard to Craftsy pages, etc. I love the conversations. I love learning from you all, for you make me a better quilter.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Just trying to make a point

I’ve decided to begin a new quilt project—a medallion quilt taught by Lynette Jennings for Craftsy. I remember Lynette Jennings from watching "Simply Quilts," so I'm thrilled to be one of her students.

This was a free class offered as the 2016 Block of the month from Craftsy. Since I wasn’t able to participate when the class was first offered, I am glad to be able to catch up.

The hardest part about this quilt so far, is picking out the colors. There are a lot of them. I could have just purchased the kit, but isn’t that why I buy fabrics? It took a little while, but I think I have this all sorted out finally.

This quilt looks complex, so I’m really anxious to get started. I do love a challenge. The first class was to make the hourglass blocks in the center along with the first border.

I had a heck of a time with all those points and bulky seams. It occurred to me that I have spent so much time practicing my skills in piecing and cutting, that I have neglected part of quilting that is really helpful—the pressing.

As I was putting my rows of three blocks together, I could hear Lynette Jennings' words echo in my head, “Press the rows in opposite directions.” Unfortunately, I heard her voice only after I finished putting the entire center together. I was not happy with my results, so I decided to take apart all the pieces and sew them again, pressing each row in opposite directions. 


Here are the before and after photos:
BEFORE
AFTER

A big improvement! Clearly, the before and after show that this little exercise was well worth my trouble. And despite my husband telling me I’m crazy for ‘unsewing’ that entire middle section, I’m glad I did. Besides, that is just how I roll.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Spray basting, plan B

I admit it; I was pretty bummed about my first attempting at spray basting a quilt, detailed in an earlier post

But that is behind me. What I didn’t reveal, because I only realized it later, is how important it is to read directions. I had no idea I was supposed to finish the bonding process by pressing the piece. Needless to say, my failing to perform that all-important step, resulted in the layers not sticking together. Once I realized my mistake, I was a little bummed. Beyond my own foolishness was the knowledge that I had to spray baste the whole quilt all over again. I knew it would be even be more challenging this time, since I had already quilted an entire motif, right in the center of the quilt that I would have to work around.

I decided that working on the floor was just not an option this time around, so I cleared off the dining room table, put the leaf in it, and set out to flatten out my quilt, upside down. Of course the table wasn’t big enough to accommodate the entire quilt, but I moved it around, folded back some at a time to spray every little nook and cranny, keeping the back as wrinkle-free as possible. Then I pressed it, as it sat on the table. I’m sure that wasn’t good for the table, but a woman has to do what a woman has to do. I made sure I kept the iron moving and it didn’t appear to get too hot three layers down. Once the back was all sprayed and pressed, I worked to secure the quilt top to the bottom fabric and batting which was now one layer since it was stuck together. I walked around that table a gazillion times, folding, smoothing, spraying, smoothing again, and finally pressing. Finally, it was all done. When all else fails, read the directions. So for now, I’m a fan of spray basting. It is so much easier than all those darned safety pins or sewing.

My next challenge is to quilt with or without a hoop. I tried using a large oval hoop, but that was just too cumbersome. Then I dragged out a smaller round one, which was a definite improvement. But, it is actually so much easier to quilt without a hoop at all. Hand quilting got a little easier, once I got the feel of it again. I recently watched Alex Anderson of Simply Quilts and The Quilt Show fame as she spoke about learning to hand quilt. She said to give yourself about 20 hours to get comfortable with hand quilting. I’d say that is about right.

It will be more fun to quilt when it gets cold outside. There is nothing more relaxing than quilting and snuggling all at the same time.