21 August, 2014

Improvements At The Strawberry Patch

I received an early (1 month +) birthday present yesterday, compliments of my super-talented husband!  Here it is, mounted on the wall in the studio; a solid oak, hand crafted cabinet.  I've wanted one for years, but the one that he made for me is even better than what I thought I wanted. Originally I had a floor-standing cabinet in  mind, he improved on my idea by making it a much slimmer profile (only 4.5" off the wall) and hanging it so that I didn't lose the electrical outlet underneath or have one more thing standing on the floor collecting dust beneath it where the vacuum won't reach.  In case you haven't guessed what this custom cabinet was built to contain...
...yep, cones of longarm thread; releasing them from an over-crowded drawer where they were all jumbled up together! 
Now, at a glance, I know exactly what I have on hand; and even have plenty of room to expand inventory.

Luckily, we had four of these cabinet door pulls leftover from the original cabinetry that he made; aren't they just perfect for The Strawberry Patch?
As if the cabinet improvement wasn't enough... we re-did the design wall on Saturday. After 13 years on the wall the outer fabric surface had pulled away from the backing and was stretched out and sagging badly. We took it all down, peeled the fabric off and restretched, remounted and rehung the new, improved, face-lifted design wall back into position.
Life is Good!

20 August, 2014

Swiss Baskets, The Reveal!

Swiss Baskets ~ 53" X 53"
This quilt, begun in 1999 and finished this week is, at long last, completely complete (see previous  post)! I based the design of this one on a pattern  "Aunt Boppy's Baskets" from the book The Joy Of Quilting (© 1995) by Joan Hanson and Mary Hickey. I was inspired by that pattern which incorporated antique lace doilies into the baskets and wanted to create a similar effect using handkerchiefs collected while living in Switzerland.  Using a method known as "channel (reverse) applique" I added the lettering to spell out Switzerland in the three languages I heard on a daily basis while calling that country home for three years.  I have recently acquired a box full of handmade, antique doilies and may make another, similar, wallhanging... hopefully in less than fifteen years! The two photos below depict the quilting in more detail, show the dimension of the baskets and represent the quilt's colors much more accurately. 

Life is Good!

19 August, 2014

Who Moved The Finish Line?

How many times have you heard (or said) "the quilting's done, all I need to do is bind it."  For me, I always have to remind myself that having the quilting done is simply one more step toward finishing... you'd think that I would know enough to understand that the finish line is still some distance away, but I continue to be delusional, even after all these years! After quilting come the following six steps,  and they're all important:
1. trimming/squaring up the quilt 
2.  cutting/joining the binding strips (and making piping, as I did in the case of this quilt, Swiss Baskets, as shown) 
3.  making the hanging sleeve (I always make a sleeve, even if it's to be used as a bed quilt; we have no idea how our quilts might be used/displayed in the future. I make the sleeve almost invisible by constructing it from leftover backing fabric) and attaching that to the top of the quilt before adding binding
4.  creating the label (be sure to add pertinent information, such as the quilt's name, the recipient's name and occasion if that applies; your name, location and the date completed
5.  applying the binding by machine
6.  hand stitching the binding into place (and the bottom/sides of the sleeve)
This handkerchief was a gift from Quiltkeemosabe and will become this quilt's label, it fits the theme perfectly! I plan to add all of the information to it (as mentioned above) with my embroidery machine. So, the next time you think (along with me) "who moved the finish line?" keep in mind that every step toward finishing gives all your hard work up to this point (the planning, the shopping, the piecing/applique and, finally, the quilting) even more value. You'll be even happier with your final result if you check off each step as you go from the "finishing list", I know that I always am; and then, at long last, that elusive finish line comes into view and becomes a very welcome sight!
Life is Good!

16 August, 2014

Quilting Apnea... The Cure!

I've discovered that I suffer from a dangerous condition, quilting apnea; I hold my breath when I quilt at the longarm!  My friend Gina recently diagnosed this when we were together in a class at the AQS show in Charlotte. Gina and I were sharing a machine and quilting some feathers when I heard her telling me: "breathe, just breathe"! I laughed it off at the time. On Thursday I was quilting these long, feathered borders when I realized I had to keep stopping... just to BREATHE! She was right. The only thing I could think of to relax myself and allow breathing to happen was to sing while I quilted. One can't sing if they're not breathing, right?  I cranked up the I-pod loaded with church camp music (the only songs I could think of offhand where I knew all the words) and sang!  What a difference this made; the quilting flowed, I was breathing and my heart was happy! It was a particularly lovely afternoon on Thursday, the windows were open and a light breeze filled the space as I was quilting flowing feathers and belting out "My God Is An Awesome God" at the same time... it just doesn't get much better than that!
Life is Good!

14 August, 2014

The Last Straw

"The Last Straw" ~ 56" X 70"
I've set together these blocks from the latest of block-of-the-month series at my LQS. This colorway offered a variety of indigo and white on white fabrics plus the option of adding an additional fabric of the quiltmaker's choice. I had a length of a straw-colored, sketch-y, print in my stash and began incorporating that into each block for continuity; I liked the combination. By the time I had added the straw print into block #12 it was clear to me that my dwindling supply of "straw" was going to make using it in the border a carefully planned exercise in conservation. Using EQ7, I came up with this setting; and, based on the yardage calculations in the software program, it showed that I should have just enough! Fingers crossed, I set to work, carefully measuring and cutting. It worked; I didn't have very much left over, but I had enough; and that's all that mattered!
The last of the straw...
and, all of a sudden, this quilt had a name!
Life is Good!

10 August, 2014

Finally Quilted!

Swiss Baskets 53" X 53"

I was pretty excited to put the final quilting stitch in this wallhanging
 yesterday afternoon; it's only been a half (or less) done project for
the last fifteen years! I'm moving on to the binding and hanging sleeve,
 while I'm on a roll.  There's nothing quite as satisfying as moving those
undone projects over into the done column. Stay tuned for the full reveal.
Life is Good!

07 August, 2014

Sharp Advice!

Your sewing space is fraught with dangerous, sharp, objects; you already know that. We always think that we're exercising caution around our tools; but, as quilters, we're so accustomed to picking up and handling the rotary cutter that it's almost like an extension of our own hand. We use them without always thinking about the risk, we become mindless to the fact that we really are handling a rolling razor blade...herein lies the potential problem; believe me, I am just as guilty of this lack of respect for the rotary cutter as anyone else. I've learned something this week that has changed my thinking however, a lesson that will haunt me (and you, too) for a long time to come.

A friend dropped her rotary cutter last week, it innocently bumped (blade exposed) on the edge of  a table, causing her to lose her grasp on the handle, and ended up blade-side-down in the top of her foot, her bare foot.  What she thought was a superficial laceration has turned out to be much more. She has suffered a cut to a tendon; at this point she's not even sure if the tendon is severed, there's too much swelling to know that yet. In the meantime she is sidelined; immobilized and awaiting surgery with her foot elevated.  She's out of work while this waiting happens; adding insult to injury, quite literally.

I'm posting these three rules today as a warning. Why? Because this could happen to any one of us!
1.  Pay attention to your rotary cutter, only expose that cutting blade when you have your cutter poised over your fabric to make that one cut and then slide the guard back into position. Every. Single. Time.
2.  Wear shoes in your sewing space, real shoes... no more bare feet, sandals or flip-flops; it's not worth the risk.
3.  Clean up your sewing/cutting area frequently: you'd be amazed at how quickly those piles of accumulating scraps can obscure your workspace and cause you to lose sight of your rotary cutter or other sharp objects... if you can't see them you don't have control of them.

Develop a heightened awareness and exercise caution around all of your tools; remember: they stay sharp, especially when we don't!  Please join me in a prayer for complete and speedy healing for my friend; she is eager to get up on her feet and back to work soon.

Life is Good!