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!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Camp and Cabin Fever

Sandy Pond is located on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. My family had a small camp (some might call it a cottage) in the woods, and growing up, this is where I spent my summers. As soon as school was over for the year, we packed up our summer things and headed there. My dad would commute to work every day (it's only about a 40 minute drive from Syracuse), except when he was officially on vacation. Now my sister owns the camp, so I spent a couple of days with her there this weekend, and even brought my sewing machine along.

The camp is uniquely situated on a super-sized sandbar. On one side of the dunes, the quiet, musky atmosphere of a typical pond. . .

And on the other side of the dune, a short walk away, Lake Ontario awaits, complete with sandy beach and dramatic sunsets.

On this particular weekend, a full harvest moon rose over the pond (facing east) simultaneously as the sun was setting to the west.

Pretty spectacular!

I brought a couple of projects to work on. I'm making a few Mini Mug Mat samples for Fall Quilt Market. Mostly I worked on cutting and prepping the fabrics.

To feel a bit more accomplished, I brought a project I started several years ago--finishing "Fat Quarter Log Cabin" from Log Cabin ABCs by Marti Michell was my objective. The quilt center is made entirely from fat quarters, cut using Marti's Log Cabin ruler. My quilt looks a lot like the one on the cover of the book (on the left).

The quilt is square, but I want to add a scrappy border on each end of the quilt to make it rectangular.

During the weekend, I made scrappy log cabin blocks using the courthouse steps block arrangement, and then brought the quilt center home where I had more space to lay out the center and the borders and to audition some inner border fabrics to finish it all up. . . . but there's a little problem . . .

You can see my courthouse steps log cabin borders at the bottom (one border is for the top). Do you see the problem with the quilt center? I didn't until I walked by the quilt laid out on the floor. In my peripheral vision, I noticed a problem. Some of the blocks in the upper left portion of the quilt are sewn the wrong way. The darks are where the lights are supposed to be.

Some might say leave the mistake, it's part of the quilt. I might do that if I discovered the error when I was at the quilting stage. But it will be very easy to remove the blocks and replace them in their correct positions. So that's my plan.

This quilt has been in the works for a long time. In the grand scheme of things, what's a little more time so I can be completely happy with the result?

What would you do? When you discover an error at this stage, would you let it go, or let it rip?

Inquiring minds want to know! *wink!*

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Alone? . . . Never!

Labor Day. The last 'official' weekend of the summer. At least it is here in the US.

Since I've had a busy summer with lots of fun travel adventures, when the weatherman predicted nice weather for Labor Day Monday, I decided to spend a little alone-time on the back patio with some stitching.

I never expected that 'alone' would involve so many visitors!

Ever-present chipmunks scurried around under the feeder filling their cheek pouches with seed. . . .

Mr. Groundhog showed up for his share (or hers--not sure if this is a Mr. or a Ms.) . . .

The activity on the ground didn't stop the traffic at the feeder above. Goldfinch, (soon to return to the olive drab color way for the winter months), nuthatch, chickadee, woodpecker, and mourning dove all stopped by.

Making the Chocolate Bunny pose, this bun-bun is only about 6" long. He made his (again, might be a 'she') first appearance in the yard in early August when 'he' was no larger than the palm of your hand. So cute!

And, of course, the day wouldn't be complete without the constant buzzing about at the nectar feeders. . . Looks like she brought her own sewing needle . . . or is that a sippy straw?

And with all the activity in the yard, I never could shake that odd feeling that something was watching me from behind . . . maybe from an upstairs window. . .

I can't say that I made tons of progress with my cross-stitch project.

That's alright. I rather enjoyed the visitors.

Happy Stitching!