The Curious Case of the Unfinished Quilt(s)

Today, I’m working on the Wishes Block of the Month. It’s from 2014, so it’s not really what I’d call current – it’s an Unfinished Object, or UFO. I decided a couple of weeks ago that I really should finish it, since I had five of the twelve blocks finished, and it’s just sitting here gathering dust. I’ve now got eight blocks done, so I’m definitely making progress, though maybe not as quickly as I’d like, and definitely not as quickly as others might move. I’m pretty pleased with myself today, though, because I finished one in-progress block that’s been on my table since at least last weekend, and I’ve completely made another one. Maybe I’ll get a third one completed today, if I’m feeling up to it.

While I was working on the Wishes blocks, though, I began to think of all the other projects I have that are in some stage of incompletion, and I have to admit, it’s a little embarrassing. I don’t remember whether I’ve mentioned it here or not, but I have one quilt top that I made for my daughter when she was about 10; she’s 22 now. The cutesy fish theme may no longer be to her liking, but I have determined to get it finished any way, hopefully this year.

I pulled out my old quilting journal and took a look at my list of in-progress projects. In no particular order, here it is …

Cat in the Hat quilt

Wishes Block of the Month quilt

Churn Dash quilt in brights

Brick Road quilt

Under the Sea quilt

Green & Blue Tissue Box quilt

Disappearing Nine Patch quilt

These are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head; there may be more! It’s really humbling, too, because I’ve got other quilts just waiting to be started, like something using the Minions fabric I just purchased, and the wall hanging my mother challenged me to make almost two years ago! I’ve got to do something about this …

So I’ve decided that before I can begin a new project, I have to finish at least one UFO or WIP (Work In Progress). And by finished, I do NOT mean finish a quilt top. It has to be a completed project, whether it’s a wall hanging, or a quilt, or a pair of pants. One old project must be finished in between every new project that I start. And I am going to try to start being more accountable for the things that are on the wall and my sewing table, by posting here more often. Maybe the idea of writing down that I accomplished nothing in a week will motivate me to get off my backside in the evenings and into the studio.

At any rate, that’s what’s going on in my studio right now. I guess it’s time to get back to it, but first, maybe a short little nap …

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out …

I have a tendency to NOT really follow a pattern or have the whole plan for a new quilt, and most of the time, I think it works out, more or less. Granted, this approach often means that I’m making adjustments throughout the course of construction, and sometimes things aren’t exactly the way I envisioned them, but it’s my process, and I’m comfortable with it. It’s how I work, and it really isn’t all that different from a garment sewist who uses a dress form to pin and/or drape fabric to get their start on a new project that they have imagined.

But sometimes, even the best intentions don’t work out. Case in point, I decided a few weeks ago that I’d really like to have a patriotic quilt to use for the months of June & July (or at least through the 4th of July). I pulled out several red, blue and cream colored fabrics and began planning my layout. I thought that maybe a log cabin would be nice, but when I put together the test blocks, I just didn’t like it much. So then I decided that maybe I would do a rail fence type block. I put together a few small test blocks and decided that it looked good, so I got down to business making more blocks.

I put the blocks on the design wall and played around with them a bit, then decided on a layout and put it together, sashing blocks as I went. Once I got it together and put the whole top on the wall, I saw the problem. It’s a pretty big problem. The entire quilt looks like rows of swastikas … I’m not impressed with it, nor myself at this point. I could take it apart and redo it, but right now, I’m just disgusted and irritated with it, so it’ll go on a shelf or in a basket as a UFO. Maybe I’ll pick it up this winter and fix it but for now, I’m done with it.

So, to soothe my psyche for now, I’ve turned back to the Wishes Block of the Month from last year. I know it was supposed to be done in 2014, but I had other things going on and I never got around to it. I did get five blocks done last year, so that means I have seven more to go. Well, six, actually, because I got one block done earlier this week. I was showing my Mom the five blocks I had finished when she was over on the 4th of July, and she really liked it, so it inspired me to complete it. I told her that my intention was to sash the blocks in white, but she thinks that would be a mistake. She thinks yellow, grey or black would look better. She may have a point, and I am considering using a light grey for sashing. My design wall is light grey, so what do you think? Forgive the angled look of the photo – it’s not the picture, it’s the positioning of the blocks on the wall!

Wishes BOM in progress

Wishes BOM in progress

Obviously, this isn’t the final lay out I’ll use, because there are six more blocks to be made. I’m really hoping to get the quilt top done this month, so that maybe I can finish the quilt and use it as a Christmas present for someone this year.

And on that note, I suppose I should move on for now. I do know I need to get better at blogging, so I’m setting myself some reminders to write more often.

See ya soon!

This and that

I’ve noticed that after I finish a project, I usually want to take some time away from the studio. Sometimes, it’s only a few days; other times, it can be months. This time, it’s been about a month.

I finished the motorcycle quilt that I was working on for Chris. Overall, I”m pretty happy with the way it turned out, though if I had it to do over again, I would of course, do it somewhat differently. For instance, I wouldn’t cut the motorcycle fabric squares half an inch too small, then have to sash them! But for the most part, I’m satisfied with it.

Motorcycle quilt

Motorcycle quilt

I really enjoyed working on this one. I really enjoyed doing the motorcycle embroidery along the borders …

Vroom vroom!

Vroom vroom!

So after it was done, I decided to take a little break. Like I said, that’s my process. I think about sewing, but I don’t actually sew much during a break.

Then my grandmother passed away on the 9th of June. She hasn’t been well since January, when she had to have some heart surgery, and she just really never recovered. She meant a lot to me – I spent most of my summers as a teen with her.

Betty Reaid, 1923 - 2015

Betty Reaid, 1923 – 2015

She was 91 years old last December. Even though she wasn’t doing well when this photo was taken in April, she looked fabulous didn’t she? It’s like a piece of my heart has been stolen away from me.

But her passing awakened my need to be busy, and so I started a new quilt. I’ve been wanting to make a patriotic log cabin for a long time now. I once made a very small one and gave it to my former mother-in-law many years ago, but I wanted a big one for myself. This is the prototype square.

Prototype square for patriotic log cabin quilt

Prototype square for patriotic log cabin quilt

At first, I wasn’t too pleased with it, but it’s growing on me. I think it’s going to look really nice once I’ve got a few of these done. Of course, there will also be some blue in there as well. I’m hoping to have this quilt finished by July 4th, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

After this, who knows? Maybe I’ll actually tackle that applique quilt I want to do, or make myself some new clothing or something. That reminds me, I have been working on making myself a bra, but that is a post for another time.

In closing, just let me say – if you don’t spend much time with the older generations of your family, do it now. Ask them to tell you about their lives, and what things were like growing up. Because trust me, you don’t get a second chance.

A little of this, a little of that …

Well, another month went by and I didn’t post. But this time, I think I have a pretty good excuse … well, I guess you’d say it’s multiple excuses, but here goes. First off, Chris and I set off on a whirlwind adventure in the middle of April. We took a road trip vacation to New Mexico and Arizona. Then we went east to see my grandmother in Alabama. When I returned to work after a two week absence, I found that a deadline that was supposed to be the middle of May had been moved up to the end of April! So I spent the rest of the month (and the first week of this month) working on that. And finally, this weekend we had our grandson, as my daughter and her husband pack up their home in Killeen and move back to Houston. So see, I haven’t just been slacking off – I’ve been legitimately busy! Every time I’ve thought about sitting down and writing a blog post over the last month, I either haven’t been near a computer, or I spent hours in front of one for work. It just wasn’t in me to get a new blog post out. But I’m back, and I have a lot to share over the coming days!

First off, a quick run down of our vacation. We were gone for a week, but we could have easily spent a month out west checking things out. We had a blast, and we ate a lot of good food while we were making our rounds. Our first stop was in Amarillo, Texas. People who aren’t from Texas don’t seem to understand that it takes me a full day to drive out of this state going any direction but due East, or South (and right now, Mexico isn’t where I want to be). So it took us about 10.5 hours to get to Amarillo from home. Of course, we stopped a few times for bathroom breaks and meals, but the majority of that time was driving. While in Amarillo, I really wanted to see the Cadillac Ranch and Palo Duro Canyon. Can you believe we FORGOT Cadillac Ranch?! We didn’t even realize it until we’d made it across the state line into New Mexico! So we’ll have to go back and see that sometime soon. But Palo Duro Canyon! Oh, it is amazing! The second largest canyon in the United States, I can say it doesn’t really rival the Grand Canyon, but you can drive down in to it and it’s amazing.

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the US, behind the Grand Canyon

Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the US, behind the Grand Canyon

We really want to go back and spend more time there, because we really only scratched the surface. It’s just beautiful; the pictures really don’t do it justice!

From there, we headed to New Mexico. We were following the old Route 66 as much as we could, and we went through several small towns. Unfortunately, we did this on a Sunday, so it looked like a lot of things were closed. We learned that it’s probably best to do that on a weekday. And that works well for us, the next time we want to go that direction, because when we got to Albuquerque, we found that the trolley tour doesn’t run on Monday! I believe that if it did run on Monday, we  would have had a much different vacation, but as it was, we stayed in Albuquerque on Sunday night and then checked out Old Town Monday morning.

The San Felipe de Neri Church is now several shops.

The San Felipe de Neri Church is now several shops.

We made a decision on the fly, since the trolley tour didn’t run on Monday, to head out to Arizona and go check out the Grand Canyon. Confession time: I didn’t think I would like the Grand Canyon that much. I thought I’d walk up, look at it and go, “Yep, that’s a really big hole.”

I should have known better.

On the way to the Grand Canyon, we made a stop at the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. Oh. My. Gosh! I was under impressed with most of the Painted Desert, but there were parts that were awe inspiring.

The Painted Desert wasn't really what I expected, but it was still beautiful.

The Painted Desert wasn’t really what I expected, but it was still beautiful.

Then we learned about the Village on the Rio Puerco.

The Village on the Rio Puerco

The Village on the Rio Puerco

Base of walls for the rooms of the Native Americans who lived here.

Base of walls for the rooms of the Native Americans who lived here.

Hieroglyphics everywhere!

Hieroglyphics everywhere!

But then we got to the Blue Mesas …

Our first glimpse of the Blue Mesas

Our first glimpse of the Blue Mesas

Beautiful, aren't they?

Beautiful, aren’t they?

I could have stayed here for hours, but we didn't really have hours ...

I could have stayed here for hours, but we didn’t really have hours …

Then there was a lot of petrified wood. I mean a LOT …

Petrified wood

Petrified wood

More petrified wood

More petrified wood

One more ...

One more …

Next time, I’ll share some photos of the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad and Roswell, New Mexico!

WIP Wednesday

Well, it’s been quite a while since I did a work in progress (WIP) post, but I really want to start posting more often, so here goes …

Today’s WIP is the quilt I mentioned in my last post that I’m working on for my husband. Unlike most of my projects, this one does have a deadline – I’d like to take it on vacation with us next week! I know it probably seems crazy to take a quilt on vacation, but that’s only because you’ve never spent any time in a vehicle with Chris, who is always warm. Since I’m always cold, and I don’t feel like wearing a parka on a spring vacation in the South, I decided we needed a quilt for the trip. Also, the quilt I made for Chris a while back is way too big to be used in the den as a throw, so this very manly quilt will fill that need, too. ;-)

I found this motorcycle fabric online a couple of years ago. It’s part of the “Man Cave” series by Bernartex, and it is really beautiful. If you’re looking for some masculine fabric, I would suggest this series. I believe it’s ongoing, as there are images on the website now of cigars and such. Anyway, I combined that with some fabrics I had in my stash, and some Kona Solids to come up with the quilt top …

Motorcycle quilt top completed

Motorcycle quilt top completed

I guess I wasn’t really paying attention, because I didn’t notice that I had quite the pattern going here. LOL If I were to make this quilt again, I would probably replace the grey fabric with black, but Chris says he likes it just this way, so if he’s happy, I’m thrilled.

By the time you read this post, I will probably have the backing put together and the quilt sandwiched. And with a little luck, I’ll be well along in the quilting process. I mean, I only have a week and a half before I need it to be done. Here is the backing fabric …

Motorcycle quilt backing

Motorcycle quilt backing

Chris is a HUGE Texans fan, so I found this fabric a while back at Hobby Lobby and decided it would make a great backing for the motorcycle quilt – two of his favorite things in one quilt! The black and red will be borders around the Texans fabric, because it’s neither wide nor long enough without it. I haven’t decided if I’ll do two red borders and two black borders, or if I’ll do it like the front and run one and then the other all the way around. At first, I thought I’d do two red and two black, but I’ve been thinking it might look cooler to do the red and black together like the front of the quilt.

I have some ideas on how I’m going to quilt it, but I’ll save that to share once the quilt is completed.

Until next time, happy sewing!

Another addition

Viking Opal 690Q

Viking Opal 690Q

When I posted photos of my new studio, I mentioned that I purchased a Viking Opal 690Q machine. I also sold the Janome 8900 that I purchased two years ago. The truth is, while the 8900 is a perfectly wonderful machine for some people, it just wasn’t the machine for me. I never bonded with it, and while it did fine work, I was never really satisfied with it. So when the Opal caught my eye at the dealership a few months ago, I was really leery for many reasons.

First and foremost, I was concerned about some of the reviews I’ve seen about Viking quality in the last couple of years. They were bought out by a holding group that also purchased Singer and Pfaff. Anyone in the sewing world knows that the Singers of today can not hold a candle to the Singer machines our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers used, and the biggest issue is the lack of quality. Having lived with a mother who sewed extensively, I know that the problems with modern Singer machines started in the late 1970’s. While she was away visiting her family one year, my dad decided to surprise her with a new Singer electronic machine when she came home. He was really trying to do a nice thing, but that machine turned out to be a major lemon. It was constantly in the shop, and it forced my mother to buy a mechanical machine so she could continue to sew while the Singer was unusable. After that, my mom never owned another Singer machine.

I have read some reviews about Viking machines in the last couple of  years that suggested the quality of the machines was about on par with the Singers of the late 1970’s forward. And I am certain that these people have told the truth about their experiences, because what possible reason would they have to lie about things like problems with thread tension, motors burning out, and other mishaps that have been reported? So I had very real concerns about what I might be getting in to if I purchased a Viking machine.

I also was a bit worried that maybe I was so much of a Brother machine junkie, I would never be happy with another sewing machine brand. I mean, there are people who are so in love with their Janomes, they sound like an advertisement when they talk about them, and I clearly just never really liked the Janome. Would I end up in the same place if I were to buy a non-Brother sewing machine again? Well, after owning this machine for more than two months, I can answer that with a resounding, NO!

I know it’s not been very long since I bought the machine, but so far, it’s been a dream to use. And I love it. I have found myself using it more frequently than I do George, because the piecing is just so great on the Viking. It is a bit noisier than George is, but not nearly so loud as the Janome was, and it’s not an unpleasant sound. The stitching on the Viking is just beautiful, and the decorative stitches are adorable. In fact, I already have plans to use some of those decorative stitches on an upcoming quilt I have in the queue. And I’ve had no problems at all with this machine, knock on wood. It’s been lovely to work with ever since I took it out of the box!

I will be doing a full review of the Opal 690Q after I’ve had it and used it a bit more extensively, but I can say that the projects I’ve used it for so far – some quilt piecing, and a knit t-shirt – both turned out lovely, and the machine did a bang up job on everything I’ve used it for so far. It’s quickly becoming my “go to” machine for many things, which is a good thing because I want to put George to work on finishing up quilts by using him to do in the hoop quilting.

Check this space in a few months for a comprehensive review on Opal!

A long absence

Sorry I’ve been quiet the last couple of months. I think the rain and the grey days and the cold weather just got to me this year, in a way it usually doesn’t. But the sun Has been making frequent appearances lately, and I’ve used the time I’ve been away from here to do a few things that will really make sewing more enjoyable, hopefully a little easier, and definitely more likely.

We moved in to this house about three and a half years ago, and one of the things that I never really adjusted to was having my studio area in the master bedroom, where we also sleep (obviously). I felt isolated up there, often alone, and it was, frankly, a bit of a pain in the backside to be constantly up and down the stairs. A typical weekend sewing day would go something like this:

7:30 am – Wake up, have some caffeine, catch up on internet stuff (Facebook, blogs, forums)

8:30 am – Housework

9:30 am – Start thinking about sewing, but DH isn’t awake yet, so wait a little longer to see if he comes downstairs soon

10:15 am – Start getting antsy and ready to start sewing; go upstairs and find DH either in bed or on the couch, but almost always awake. Get a little irritated that I’ve wasted time waiting on him

10:30 am – Run DH out of room and start getting ready to sew; start project

11:30 am – Realize I haven’t eaten anything and I’m starving, so head downstairs to get some lunch

12:15 pm – After spending the last 45 minutes talking to DH, get ready to go out for lunch and to run errands.

I know it’s hard to believe, but it just goes downhill from there. By the time I get back to the studio, it’s dinner time, or even later! So on an average weekend day, I was getting about an hour a day in sewing time. So I decided it was time to make a change, and although it wasn’t a very popular idea at first, after trying out the new sewing space for a while, I finally made the switch last month. And it is truly a BIG change for all of us!

This house has a nice, open layout downstairs, with a formal living & dining room, and separated by a wall, a kitchen, den and breakfast area. There is also an office that’s tucked out of the way. The formal living/dining area previously housed a pool table I bought before I ever met my DH, primarily in the hopes of giving the kids a place to hang out back when we had a massive game room upstairs in our old house. More recently, my DH was the only one who used it, and that was rare, so we decided to sell it and clear out that space to be used as my new studio.

I spent the last several weeks cleaning and getting things organized. What I haven’t done yet is to add some art to the little wall space I have, but I’ve waited long enough to share photos of the space, so here it is …

Here’s what it looked like before we sold the pool table …

IMG_3889

Before we sold the pool table, this is what the room looked like.

Before we sold the pool table, this is what the room looked like.

And here’s some of the transformation …

Decisions, decisions. Where will I put everything?

Decisions, decisions. Where will I put everything?

Starting to get things set up ...

Starting to get things set up …

Two of these Ikea Hermes dressers, back to back, form the new cutting table. It gives me TONS of storage.

Two of these Ikea Hermes dressers, back to back, form the new cutting table. It gives me TONS of storage.

This new cutting table is probably my favorite thing in the room!

This new cutting table is probably my favorite thing in the room!

Then, once I got the main storage ideas worked out, I needed to figure out how to store things like thread.

This is just a small sample of the thread that I've managed to collect over the last few months.

This is just a small sample of the thread that I’ve managed to collect over the last few months.

I had been keeping it in the big blue Craftsman toolbox I bought a few years ago, but I was quickly running out of room. I mean, that toolbox IS used for other things. So I went to The Container Store. Chris cringes every time I go in there, because he knows it’s going to be an “investment.” LOL I have long been a fan of the Elfa basket system (I had two from there, and one cheaper one from Home Depot or Lowe’s), so I was thrilled to find these solid drawers, which have available lids. The single runner baskets are perfect for embroidery thread. So of course I added another set of baskets …

Elfa Smoke Solid Drawers are perfect for storing thread.

Elfa Smoke Solid Drawers are perfect for storing thread.

Then there is the wall of Billy Bookcases from Ikea

These bookcases are sturdier and maybe a little taller than the ones you can buy from Walmart.

These bookcases are sturdier and maybe a little taller than the ones you can buy from Walmart.

You can see my fabric stash on the far right, and below that are some ArtBin cases that I use for “works in progress.” The ArtBin cases on the top of that bookcase are empty and waiting for projects. I also bought two cases of 10 men’s shoe boxes from The Container Store to store things like old sewing machine pieces (bottom right), fat quarters (top left) and other things that aren’t pictured here, like scraps and bias tape, zippers, and the like. I left out one of the shelves in the middle bookcase so I could store fabric bolts. In this photo, you can see my new Viking Opal 690Q, which I’ve not talked about here, but I will write about it soon. To the left of that machine is another set of Elfa baskets that contain things like hand embroidery, patterns, and other things I don’t have another place to store.

Another machine I’ve added recently is this Brother 1034D serger, which I love.

Brother 1034D Serger

Brother 1034D Serger and more baskets, of course!

George is living down here at the end of the room next to the big window.

 

George, the Brother DreamCreator VM5100

George, the Brother DreamCreator VM5100

This is where the Elfa for thread storage lives, and the Craftsman toolbox that I love so much. That toolbox is awesome, and if I had to move into a super small space and could only keep one storage element, this is what I’d choose.

Behind George, at the end of the cutting table, I have this ClosetMaid Cubeical shelf that’s really useful for small-ish things.

ClosetMaid Cubeical

ClosetMaid Cubeical

This is where my miscellaneous stuff, and my fabric dyeing supplies, are stored.

And last but not least, here is my design wall, which currently features a small throw I’m making for Chris.

Design Wall

Design Wall

I’m sure I’ll make a few tweaks as I go along, but so far, I really love the layout of the new studio space, and it’s incredibly functional. I no longer feel isolated, and I can sew when I want, how I want without worrying about anyone else’s schedule. I really hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing the space, and I’d love to know what others think!

Happy sewing!