Thursday, October 16, 2014

October Sky

With one or two deep frosts already under our belt this season here in central New York, the last couple of days have brought a reprieve from the approaching chilly season in the form of a few warm, breezy days. So warm, that a quick trip to Gannon's Isle for a cone of yummy pumpkin ice cream was in order on Tuesday with my friend Janet Lutz of Calico Gals. The place was mobbed just like it would be in the middle of July.

And yesterday morning, as the sun was rising, this was Mother Nature's greeting. The clouds soon over took the sky, and the weatherman says they're here to stay for a few days. However, with a morning like this, how can the day possibly get off track?

Quilt Market (big trade show) and Quilt Festival (bit retail show) are fast approaching, and all my productive energy seems to be going toward booth preparation, samples, printed materials, and product for sale. As well as preparing for the road trip to Houston.

At my Quilt Market booth (booth 932) and at Quilt Festival (booth 609), it's all about the 9-patch, and the Mini Scrap Grid Interfacing. And, of course, all the associated patterns.

On Sunday morning during Quilt Market, I'm teaching a Take & Teach workshop. Shop employees can have hands-on experience making a Mini Mug Mat using the Mini Scrap Grid interfacing. Many thanks to Presencia and Colonial Needle, Creative Grids, and Timeless Treasures for providing our class supplies. And let's not forget Bernina for the fabulous machines we'll be using! Last I knew, there's still space in the class, so pass this along to your favorite local quilt shop owner so he or she can reserve his or her spot!

More goodies for goody bags . . .

And some fabulous treats to wear thanks to Hoffman California Fabrics and the brand new 1895 Bali hand-dyed fabrics. These 9-patch pins will be THE bling to wear at either show!

Enough distraction for now. I'd better get back to business and put my 'nose to the grindstone' - although that really sounds quite painful. Maybe I'll stick to sewing!

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dinner is Served!

With Quilt Market and Quilt Festival approaching, a lot of my energy and time is going toward preparing quilted samples and printed materials. With all that going on in the sewing room and at the computer, who has time to cook?

And yet, the farmer's market is just loaded with tempting harvest produce this time of year! My family heritage is 100% Polish, and that means a large, fresh head of cabbage translates to only one thing: Golumbki (pronounced go-WHUMB-kee), or stuffed cabbage rolls.

As a kid, I used to watch my mom par-boil a full head of cabbage after cutting out the core, pull off the large leaves one by one as they softened, then stuff them with a mixture of rice, meat, tomatoes, and seasonings. Her hands would skillfully and carefully roll up each leaf, then pack each tidy cabbage roll into a huge roaster pan to finish cooking in the oven. It took all day (it seemed) in the kitchen.

The result was a real harvest treat! A slice down the center of each steaming cabbage roll left room for a touch of savory butter, melting into the center. Just thinking of those days, makes my mouth water. Comfort food, for sure.

I've searched for a recipe that simplified the process, but maintained the flavor and texture from the cabbage rolls. And I think I've finally found the secret formula. Ingredients are tossed together in a lasagne pan then baked--maybe thirty minutes of prep and 90 minutes in the oven--a far cry from the all-day leaf-rolling affair that I remember as a kid. Super easy! Super yummy. And plenty of leftovers!

You want the recipe? Download a copy here.

Enjoy and  . . .

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Who's Got the Button?

All summer long, Fabrics N Quilts has been running their fourth annual Scrap Quilt Challenge. As a sponsor, I promised to post a tutorial for a scrappy quilt block. And since it's October, and October is 'my' month . . . here we go!

For my scrappy quilt block, I was inspired by the Ikea carpet that I used in my booth at the AQS Quilt Week in Grand Rapids this summer. Buttons. Lots of scrappy buttons. This Cute-as-a-Button block finishes to 5" square, so we're dealing with some fairly small scraps. Especially in the very center.

Most of you may know, that I like to cut and store three scrap sizes: 2, 3-1/2, and 5" scrap squares. And if you aren't aware of that, you can learn all about my thought process in either of my ScrapTherapy books.

Therefore, whenever I start a new scrappy project, I dig into my bins of pre-cut scrap squares. For one button block, I'll need two matching 5" scraps, and from some white yardage in my stash, I cut two 2-1/2" squares and up to four 1" squares. On the back of the 2-1/2" squares, draw a diagonal line, corner to corner. 

I'm choosing to work with white yardage, because I want a consistent background. So, grab something from the stash or from the quilt shop to make the scrap fabrics really pop in the finished project.

Cut two 2-1/2" squares from one of the 5" scraps . . .

 . . . and four 2" squares from the second 5" scrap. Use the leftover 1" strips to cut . . .

 . . . at least five 1" squares.

Arrange the 1" squares into a nine patch for the center of the button block . . . wait a minute! Sewing those itty bitty squares can be a bit of a pain in the patootie. . . SO . . .

I'm going to use one 9-patch worth of the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid! Align the 1" squares on the fusible side of the printed grid interfacing to form the 9-patch block.

Fuse. Now, instead of handling tiny little 1" squares, I'm dealing with a significantly more comfortable-to-handle, stabilized piece of fabric! Notice that there's a little bit of interfacing showing between the scraps--that's on purpose to make the next step easier.

Fold the 9-patch on the first dotted line and pin to secure. . .

Sew on the solid line. . . Repeat for both seams.

Then snip the interfacing at the intersections, snipping just past the stitching line (there is a little + sign printed on the interfacing right where you want to snip)

Rotate the block 90˚ to sew the last two seams. The snipping allows you to oppose the seams. Fold on the dotted line, then oppose and nest the seams. Front seams away from each other, and back seams toward each other. (Or vice verse, as long as the seams are 'toward' and 'away' on opposite sides.)

Pin the seam intersections so they don't get a mind of their own while you sew.

Sew . . .

These next few steps aren't necessary, but I like to do them because I'm a tidy butt (right, Maureen?!) Pull out the last few stitches on both sides at all four seam intersections as shown. . . .

Then furl-pop-twirl-twist (this technique is called many things in various quilt patterns) the center of the seam so it flattens. The interfacing creates a little flattened triangle on the back of the mini 9-patch. See how the seam intersections rotate around each seam intersection?

Then press real quick from the front.

The block will be a tiny bit larger than 2" square. So I (tidy-butt Joan) like to trim them up nicely. Look how that ruler helps align dots with seams! Trim to 2" square. Exactly 2". Not a thread more! (*wink*)

Set the little 9-patch aside and let's move to making half-square triangle units. Place a scrap 2-1/2" square and a background 2-1/2" square right sides together, with the background fabric on top so you can see the drawn line.

Sew 1/4" seam on both sides of the drawn line. Repeat both pairs of squares (hey, that rhymes!)

Cut them apart . . .

And press the seam toward the scrap fabric.

Now, trim all four half-square triangle units to 2" square. I like to use the small Blocloc ruler to do this, but any square ruler with a bias line will do a nice job, too!

You should have four half-square triangle units, four 2" squares cut from the original 5" scrap square, and one center 9-patch. Arrange them into a bigger 9-patch and sew it together. Sew the parts into rows, then sew the rows together. Press to best advantage. 'Best advantage' means press to fewer seams in this case--it'll feel like the right way to press. When in doubt, follow the red pressing arrows below.

There's the Button Block! Looks a little weird to me, but it gets much better when you sew it into something. And even better when you quilt it! Scroll back up to the Mug Mat at the very beginning of this post--I found a couple of kitchen items that were just the right circular size to use as quilting templates.

Here is the back of the block. See the 'best advantage' I was talking about?

Now make more. I switched up the center mini 9-patch on each of the button blocks to make four-hole and two-hole buttons.

It's just a collection of goofy-looking blocks until you make something from them. I chose to make a table runner. 1-1/2" sashing strips in between the blocks, and a 2-1/2" background border all the way around. I can't wait to get this quilted in time for my next stitch-in event with my quilty girlfriends! And I have the perfect multi-color striped binding to pull all the scrappy goodness together.

By the way, each panel of the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid makes 54 mini 9-patches. Wow! That's a lot of buttons!

Now, it's your turn. Submit a quilt following the guidelines listed at the very bottom of this Fabrics N Quilts blog post by October 15th, and you could be a lucky, lucky winner. Tons of great prizes!

Good luck and . . .

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sweet Treats

With Quilt Market--the big quilting industry trade show--just around the corner at the end of October, I've been busy in the sewing room getting ready for my Schoolhouse and my Take and Teach sessions.

Mini Mug Mats seem to be the project of the day--every day--here at the Hummingbird Highway! These in-progress samples feature Mini Series prints from Timeless Treasures.

And these 1895 pre-cut fabrics just arrived from Hoffman California Fabrics. Aren't they just luscious!? They will be converted to Mini Mug Mat and Taste of Nectar pin samples to decorate my booth at Quilt Market and Quilt Festival in Houston. It's difficult to leave the studio with these fabrics calling to me all day long!

When I look at the stacks of fabrics prepared and ready to be sewn, I start to feel like I'm way behind in preparing my samples, but this stack of Mini Mug Mats reminds me that I've had a running start on sample-making. Sewing sessions in between travel sessions this summer have kept me on track.

All this sewing can give a sewist the hankerin' for a little treat. Thanks to my friend Kris Poor, Poorhouse Quilt Design, and her weekly newsletter, just the right amount of sweetness arrived in my in box a few weeks ago. Her Almond Blondie recipe is just the ticket to calm a raging sweet tooth--and is oh-so-easy to prepare.

If I'm gonna bake, then I'm GONNA bake, and since Kris' recipe makes a smaller pan of blondies, I upped the recipe and increased the pan size and baking times. I also added a basic sugary glaze on top, just because! You can download the super-sized version of the recipe right here

Kris says these go great with some hot tea. I have to agree! And if you have them with tea, then you can have the tea in a mug. If you have the tea in a mug, then you need a Mini Mug Mat! (Just sayn *wink!*) By the way, the blondies also work pretty nicely solo--ask me how I know . . . *wink-wink!*

The sewing room calls, so I'd best get back to it. Plus, I've got all kinds of ideas for new projects germinating--I can't wait to get them sewn and into patterns to share. Treats for you and me.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cabin Fever Fix

Last week, I ended my newsletter and blog post with a question: If you spent years (working off and on) putting together a beautiful quilt top and discovered an error just as you were about to add borders, what would you do? Fix it, or leave it go?

Betsy said:
I think at this stage I'd have to rip. I have a friend who did the same thing. She used the quilt every day, and it took her 18 years to notice the mistake!

Cynthia said:
I would get my favorite tool, the seam ripper out, and make it correct!

True to form, Terry offered a different opinion (love ya, Terry!):
I would leave it and be happy it is done and love it for what it is. I love all my quilts with their bits and pieces of me in them. Must have been a busy week when you were putting that part together. So, it is what it is.

I so agree with you Terry, our quilts really can be a visual diary of what's happening in our lives. But, the following comment really hit home (Yes, I am a tidy butt when it comes to my quilts):

From Maureen:
Take it out, Take It Out, TAKE IT OUT!!! Otherwise EVERY time you walk by it, it will annoy the bejesus out of you. You've referred to yourself as a "tidy butt" so many times, this would never sit well with you.

So, here's where we ended last week. The main problem is those four blocks outlined in the upper portion of the quilt, just left of center (outlined in red in the next photo). The dark/light value for each of the four-block cluster is reversed, creating a break in the 'barn raising' log cabin arrangement.

The less-obvious problem is the symmetry that was created when I laid out the blocks. Following Marti Michell's pattern each combination of four fat quarters yields 4 matching blocks, or 'quadruplets.' When I arranged my blocks into rows, I made sure that the matching quadruplets were placed symmetrically. For example, if one block was three blocks from the corner, its quadruplet siblings were also three blocks away from the corner. The problem blocks also throw that arrangement out of whack (see the green-outlined blocks?)

So the first step was to remove the four errant blocks. I decided to remove them in a clump of four, then I ripped the seams connecting the blocks and the rows.

To rip out a straight seam, with your finger behind the fabric to keep the fabric flat (I'm a rightie, so I hold the fabric with my left hand) insert the point of the seam riper between the fabric and the seam thread until the thread breaks. Be careful not to catch the fabric, then you'll have a more complicated repair. Break the thread every third or fourth stitch. If you tend to piece with a very short stitch length, times like these create a convincing argument for a stitch length set to 2.4-2.6--it's much easier to remove should the opportunity present itself. 

With just the slightest tug at the end of the seam, the blocks easily break away from each other.

Make sure you've ripped the row seams about 1-2" past the block being replaced. In this case the row seams run vertically (little red arrows). This will make it easier to connect the blocks back into their row position. Lay the quilt that now has a gaping hole in it on a bed, design wall, or floor, and arrange the errant blocks in their correct position.

Stand back, and double check. If possible have someone else check it, too. No sense ripping this stuff out more than once! If no one is around, take a digital photograph. You'd be surprised that the photo will show you what your eye by itself might miss.

Re-sew the blocks into their places in their rows. Then finish the row seams starting off where the ripping began. Of course, press the seams after each block is replaced.

Then stand back and admire one more time. With any luck, the blocks will now be where they belong.

In my case, I then added some narrow print borders, then a pieced border made from courthouse steps log cabin blocks on each end.

Ah, all is right with the world--or at least with the quilt--again. 

It can be so discouraging to discover an error after weeks, months, or even years of careful stitching. Especially with the end in sight, it's backwards progress and you want to move FORWARD. And schlepping the entire quilt top that has to be ripped, then re-sewn and re-pressed seems an impossible task. Blech.

But, how you feel with the result is the key. What's a few more hours working on something you've already spend a hefty amount of time on? It's all about what makes you happy. And this 'tidy-butt' is very pleased.

The next challenge is quilting this 80x100" quilt! Hmmm . . . Any suggestions?

Happy Stitching!