Friday, March 28, 2014

It's Not Easy Being Square

The garrison quilt's inner border was finished yesterday. I wound up using a free-motion stitch after all, one based on Leah Day's 'Square Spiral' pattern. It's more or less a nod to the crenels on the tower battlements, and it was a welcome change from all the less structured free-motion lines I'd been stitching on the trees, sky and grass.

The first three square spirals were lightly drawn with a ceramic pencil (white lead). After that, my brain had the pattern down and I could stitch without marking. I tried to be consistent, but also managed to be more forgiving than usual of any imperfect lines. That's progress!

Now comes the wide, dark-gray outer border. As of yesterday, there was no real plan for it but, after thinking about it for a while, I decided to use Leah's 'Gentle Flame' stitch.

That's as far as it's come for now. My work's cut out for me this weekend!

Speaking of squares (or not-so-squares), my other ongoing project is the quilt-as-you-go blocks being sewn on the beautiful old Singer 403 (running great now, with a grand total of fourteen dollars invested in buying and repairing it), using only pieces from my scrap drawer. The blocks aren't really very square, but I'm sure having fun with them. These are cropped photos of the ones done so far:

This was the first, at which point it became clear I needed my walking foot!

Each one obviously has its own color scheme, so there definitely won't be anything coordinated about the quilt when it's finished, except maybe for the joining strips.

But that's ok, because this project, besides being a good workout for the 403, is really a lesson in color values--something that has occasionally presented a challenge for me in landscape quilting (I favor mid-tones). However, I'm really liking some of the color combinations. As for the others...well, let's just call them 'interesting.'  :)  Here are the backs:

Joining Leah Day's FMQ Project Linkup--check out the photos of the finished Building Blocks Quilt! Also linking up at Whoop Whoop Fridays (since I'm whooping it up about finishing my inner border). Sarah has a very cool giveaway going on there!

Signing off with good-luck wish to the Louisville Cardinals--from my hometown--on their NCAA tournament game tonight with the Kentucky Wildcats--from my home state. It's an intense rivalry, and only rarely do they play one another. The sports bars around here will be absolutely wild. (VVHH and I will watch at home. Go, Cards!)

Have a wonderful weekend~~


Friday, March 21, 2014

The Girl in the Drawer

This week, the interior of the garrison quilt was finished, including the elements overlapping the border.

For the inner border, I'll test some combinations of the machine's programmed stitches. The outer border may be free-motion quilted or it may be quilted with programmed stitches--not sure yet. All I know is that I'm finished wrestling with this behemoth, so whatever doesn't strain my neck and arms is what gets my vote.

And...she's back! Tucked away in a drawer all this time for safekeeping, the girl was taken out and quilted Wednesday in free motion, onto a piece of purple batik. Her hair clasp is embellished with the same gold metallic thread used for her gown lacing.

She's now ready to be appliqued onto the garrison quilt...but that won't happen until the borders are quilted, the quilt is blocked, and the shrubs, the binding and the label are sewn on. In other words, she'll be the very last thing to go on the quilt. I don't want her involved in the blocking process, and this way she'll endure as little handling as possible. So she's back in the drawer for now.

The last two days were spent cutting scrap fabric into strips for my first quilt-as-you-go project. The batting squares had already been spray-glued to the backing squares out in the garage. No way am I going to spray aerosol glue in the studio--or even my basement for that matter!

The quilt-as-you-go project will be a good workout for the beautiful Singer 403 that my VVHH picked up for $8.00 last week at the thrift shop. He fixed the motor and it's running fine now. It didn't come with any attachments except the presser foot and one cam, but all the attachments for the Singer 503 I inherited from my mother-in-law fit this machine as well--including the walking foot. How lucky is that?!

The next thing VVHH did (he should have his own blog, or at least write a guest blog, as one reader suggested) was to install a pretty curtain rod in the studio. It's the perfect space to hang quilts when photographing them for my Etsy shop!

Linking up at Whoop Whoop Fridays where Sarah has a charity quilt challenge going, as well as a beautiful butterfly quilt on display, made by a friend. Also hooking up with FMQ Project Linkup, where Leah has finished her Building Blocks Quilt!

And now, back to quilting and March Madness--lots of games today, and Louisville (my hometown) scored another win last night in their conference tournament. Also, the temp is going into the 70's today! (Before dropping back into the 20's Monday or Tuesday--can you believe it?).

Have a great weekend!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Run for the Border

This week, the last third of the batting was re-inserted in the garrison quilt, and by tomorrow the landscape scene itself should be finished, except for the girl. Yay! Haven't decided how to quilt the borders yet, but am thinking about using some of the machine's programmed stitches. That's because free-motion quilting has turned into a big pain in the neck (and arms) at this point. You can see why from this photo.

As mentioned in a previous post, this is the largest landscape quilt I've attempted, 42 x 54--and the most densely quilted. The wool batting is also heavier than the poly I normally use. Even with a slippery mat on the machine bed and the vinyl-covered ironing board giving support in front, I'm literally dragging this log of a quilt through the machine (you can't 'bunch' a densely-quilted landscape; it has to be rolled). I don't know what it weighs, but it's clear to me that my future landscapes will have to be either smaller overall or quilted on a larger scale. (The lines of stitching in this one are about 1/4 inch apart in most places, sometimes less, so it's been intense, to say the least.)

Ok, enough moaning and groaning. The run-away table runner from last week decided it wanted to be a door quilt instead. And the colors work really well with the silk flowers in the hallway.

Incidentally, the wooden bowls, vases and mushrooms were made by my VVHH--very versatile handy husband--as was the cabinet they're sitting on. (Same guy who turned the upstairs bedroom into a quilting studio. He's amazing!)

This week's take-a-break project was fun. Most of the sky fabric from my introduction to hand-painting (using diluted Tsukineko inks) was used for the garrison quilt... I wanted to add some more of it to my stash. This time I tried Jacquard textile paints, also diluted, and came up with a few decent sunset pieces. Notice what part of the studio got used for this project. ;) Cleanup was a cinch!

Back to VVHH. Look what he brought home from the thrift store yesterday--for eight dollars:

Anyone who has seen my Singer 503 posts will understand why I'm so excited about this Singer 403. It's practically the same machine, just four years older, and is in great condition...except for the smoking motor. Unfortunately, by 'smoking,' I don't mean fast. It literally smokes. However, VVHH has already found a good used motor for it on ebay. So we'll see how this $8.00 investment works out. If all goes well it may replace the 503, as she's worked really hard for 50 years and seems to be slowing down.

UPDATE: Saturday, March 15
Well, VVHH has done it again! He took the smoking motor apart (after it stopped smoking) and cleaned oil out of the bushings and brushes (and bearings, maybe?). Long story short, someone had either over-oiled the machine or had oiled it in places it wasn't supposed to be oiled. It's running great now, although it is having some tension issues with at least one brand of poly thread. It likes the old mercerized thread just fine. So I'm about to do some research on that and see if a couple of drops of Sewer's Aid on the spool of thread would be a good fix. Not taking any chances. This machine is a gem, especially for $8.00!

Linking up to Whoop Whoop Friday, where Sarah has several things to whoop about as well. Also hooking up with the person I consider my free-motion quilting teacher, Leah Day, at her FMQ Project Link Up. Things are progressing quickly on her group project. Check out the reader links at the end of each of these posts for LOTS of inspiration!

Here's to a great weekend...and approaching spring (we hope)!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Project Run-away

It's been fun this week to alternate between the garrison quilt on the new machine...

...and the table runner on the old (1962) Singer.

All but the decorative stitch was done on the Singer

Working back and forth between projects allowed me to shift gears whenever fatigue or boredom set in. It also helped relieve the stiffness and soreness in my neck and arms.

That is, until the old Singer went renegade.

I had been sewing along nicely, carefully stitching in the ditch, lifting my foot up off the pedal every few stitches to re-position the table runner to help keep the stitching precisely in the seam. And then it happened. I lifted my foot up off the pedal, but instead of stopping, the machine kept going. What????

Panic!!! How to keep the needle in the ditch and try to stop the machine??? Instinctively I turned off the machine's light switch--forgetting that it was only a light switch. These old machines had no on/off switch. So now my sewing area was dark and the machine was still chugging away. By this time, the needle was out of the ditch and heading into the sashing. The plug, the plug!  I whipped my head around to look down at the fancy multi-plug electrical outlet and saw not one, but three plugs, side-by-side. I yanked out the first one. Wrong plug! By this time the machine was stitching merrily down the middle of the sashing. Jerked out the second plug--and thanks be to the quilting gods, the machine came to an immediate halt.

Turns out the culprit wasn't the machine itself, but the cheap-o foot pedal (not the original). The hinge pin had popped out of one side and made the pedal twist, causing it to get stuck in the pressed-down position. (They just don't make 'em like they used to.) The good news is I only had to rip out about three inches of stitching, as I'd been moving along at a conservative pace and the machine had kindly maintained that speed while on auto-pilot. The bad news is I had forgotten to lengthen my stitches after piecing, so those darned quilting stitches were about 14 to an inch--and when I yanked the plugs out of the wall, my arm was in such an awkward position that I pulled the muscles in my shoulder. So much for relieving stiffness and soreness!

Oh, well, it could have been worse. Afterward, my husband and I headed to The Center for Women and Families to donate the twin-sized quilt, also made on the old Singer.

As mentioned in a previous post, if you live in the Kentuckiana area and would like to donate any (new) handmade items to a good cause, this wonderful place takes in families in immediate crisis, and will gladly send your new handmade items home with the families when they relocate.

Back to the garrison quilt. I tried all the free-motion feet that came with the Horizon 8900, and even though Janome has enlarged the openings on the open-toe foot and the closed-toe foot since the original (7700), I still have better visibility with the darning foot. And since the 'hopping' motion of that foot drives me nuts, I pulled up Leah Day's directions again on getting rid of the bar on the darning foot. One difference--she bends the bar back, whereas I cut it completely off about midway and smooth the cut end with a bastard-file (that's not cursing! LOL). One caution, if you cut the bar instead of bending it: protect your eyes. When I cut the bar with the wire cutters, that little piece of steel went flying so fast and furiously that we still haven't located it. All we know is that it's somewhere up in the rafters of my husband's shop. Thank goodness it went away from me instead of toward me.

Hooking up to Leah Day's FMQ Project Linkup and Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday. Be sure to check out those blogs and then click on some of the reader linkups at the bottom of each one. Lots of inspiration!

Have a wonderful weekend...and happy March to all!