Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Retreating Means Lots of Sewing

Last Wednesday, Thursday, and part of Friday, I went on my second quilt retreat since moving to Florida. About 25 quilters from Bradenton Quilters (a chapter of Quilting Guild of The Villages), went to Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Leesburg, where we sewed in the Education Building, and slept in the Evergreen "hotel."

It was a lovely venue for a retreat! This is the view from our sewing room.

I'm still impressed whenever I see sand hill cranes, who are always in pairs. Though they look moderately-sized, they're really quite large... like five to six feet tall.

On Friday morning, my friend Karen (also formerly from Iowa) and I were were the first to arrive in the sewing room (we were also the last to go to bed each night), and blessed by this glorious sunrise.

Being late go-to-bed-ers, and early risers, we managed a lot of sewing. Heavenly.

The first order of business was obligation sewing. These are the October and November bee blocks for Anne and Elizabeth (foundation paper-pieced Pineapple Block) in our Mid-Century Modern Bee. And because my Australia friend, Jeanette, is celebrating a birthday in November and asked for blocks from her friends, I obliged. I hope she likes the FPP Palm block made in my favorite colors.

My big accomplishment at retreat was turning this pile of cut fabrics...
into this quilt top.

"Urban Abacus" is a pattern from Sew Kind of Wonderful, made using the Quick Curve Ruler. Students who enroll in my next Beyond First Time Quiltmaking class (see teaching schedule in above tab) can make this pattern, or one of two other options. 

While I love a pretty fabric collection, I've never been one to use only one collection in my quilts. I used several prints from the Terra Australis collection (Ella Blue Fabrics, by Emma Jean Jansen) and also some random prints from my stash. I had to include that print with oranges. It says, "Florida."

I also finished sewing 336 string diamonds needed for the "Picket Fence" quilt by Elsie Campbell that's for our king-sized bed. This project has been in limbo for about four years now, so it feels good to have finally finished stringing diamonds. 

Strings came from this bin, which remains so full, the lid doesn't fit! 

So, instead of sewing during last Saturday's Central Florida MQG Sew-In, I spent seven hours cutting strips into one-inch strips that I'll sew together to make a "yarn" ball for another crocheted rug. I can't tell you how good it feels to be getting these strings under control!

And, in an update about the grease on my QuiltCon Bias Tape Challenge quilt... these are the before and after pictures.
before treatment
After treatment with Zout, Dawn, and Grandma's Secret Spot Remover, the quilt looked like this. I also tested lighter fluid and bleach on another grease-marked piece of white Kona, just to see if they worked. This was as good as it got. Better, but not acceptable.

So, during retreat when brainstorming with Karen about possible fixes, she suggested an appliquéd hexagon. I ran with the idea, deciding to make the hexagon shape with bias tape. I cut a plastic template using the 4-1/2" size of the Hex N More ruler. The bias tape is hand-appliquéd and machine-quilted. I'll do this several more times, so it looks like those hexagons were planned all along.

Now it's back to machine quilting with a vengeance. I have a deadline to meet, and before then we're taking care of two grandsons for a week. 'Nuf said! Linda

Monday, October 20, 2014

Quilting Problems

Last week I started quilting my bias tape challenge quilt. Now I've made a mess of it, and I've been stewing about what to do.

What happened is that I began quilting, outlining the basic shapes with straight-line quilting to get everything stabilized. At first I used my free motion foot to quilt, but then decided I would have prettier stitches if I used my walking foot. That's when disaster happened.

Recently, my walking foot and machine were serviced to figure out why the foot wouldn't "walk." The tech figured out that the top pressure wasn't tightened down. I suspect the walking foot itself was oiled/greased.

So as I was quilting, twisting the quilt to make a turn, it bunched under the back of the walking foot smearing grease on the white Kona. By the time I realized it, the damage was done. Since then I have thoroughly wiped out the bottom inside of the walking foot.

From a distance, the grease doesn't look so bad, but a judge would certainly see it - if this quilt even gets into a show! The red arrows are pointing at them.

I've tried all sorts of things to remove the marks, testing on the edge of the quilt top where there's also a grease smear. I've used Zout, Dawn dishwashing liquid, lighter fluid, and bleach. I'm hesitant to do anything more. What makes removal even more difficult is that the quilt is already quilted, so I can't just spot-clean the quilt top.

You can guess that I've been very upset - even sleepless - because of this. What's worse is that it isn't the first time I've had a problem when attempting to make a show quilt! My first experience was marking a quilt design using a Sharpie to draw on Glad Press and Seal, and last year I had a problem with FriXion pens - which I no longer use to mark quilting designs. You'd think I'd learn to be more careful.

Because I've been off quilting, recovering from my procedure, I've been thinking about my options. This might be a possibility - a cover-up with more newsprint bias tape. But honestly, I don't like how it changes the overall design.

Is there an ink or paint that would cover it up. Maybe a dense quilting design?

Often, I tell my beginner quiltmaking students that if they make a mistake or encounter a problem, they should look at it as an opportunity to make the quilt even better. I need to heed my own advice, especially since I like how the rest of the quilt is looking. Linda

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Not Discouraged

Well that didn't take long! In less than three hours, I used up all of my "yarn ball" of fabric scraps to crochet this oval rug. Amanda's tutorial makes a rectangle-shaped rug, but after chatting with a couple knowledgeable crocheters in my Happy Stitchers group, I opted to make mine oval.
20" X 30"
Lucky for me, I found a size P crochet hook in the Happy Stitchers' stash of donated needlework items, so I got it for free. To make an oval rug, chain 20 stitches. Then single-crocheted into one side of each chain. At the end, stitch three single crochets in one chain. Keep going with single crochets to reach the opposite end. Stitch three single crochets again. Continue to single crochet into each stitch, randomly adding a chain stitch to allow for the convex curve at each end. Really, it was that easy!

I can't say that the rug is perfectly oval, but I don't care. I love the colors! After a wash, I think it will ease into shape. The rug will likely be put to use in the laundry room, or in front of the guest room sink.

Oranges in the neighbor's back yard tree.
Health Update
For those of you who have been so kind as to ask after me since my balloon and re-stent procedure (for severe peripheral artery disease) on Friday... I feel perfectly fine! The procedure went very well, and I have had zero pain or discomfort. Gosh, I'm not even showing signs of bruising as I have after previous procedures.

What was unexpected was the extent of the blockage in my left femoral artery. The ultrasound showed a 1 cm blockage when in fact it was 80% blocked at the top of the 8" stent, and 90% blocked in the middle and bottom of the stent. No wonder my calf ached, for lack of oxygen, whenever I line danced! It seems the mesh stent has been gathering floating plaque. This time the doc put a 6" solid stent inside the mesh stent. It's gotta work, right?

While "in the area" the doc also peeped down my right femoral artery, the one with a 6" mesh stent. Not surprisingly, it's beginning to collect plaque too. (I've begun to notice it.) So, when I return to the doc this week, for my follow-up appointment, we're going to discuss when I'll be having my right leg ballooned and re-stented. You can be sure I'm not happy about any of this, but if we happen upon a permanent fix, I'll be tickled.

This is all causing me to think of my word for 2014.

In the big scheme of life, this is a temporary and fixable problem. While it's certainly not pleasant, and is always inconvenient - Really? No sewing machine for two days?! - I am reminded that others face much greater pain and challenges. From my perspective, my problems are very small.

God's Word always comforts.
Deuteronomy 31:8 - The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (NIV)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pin-Basting and Book Listening

My bias tape appliqué quilt top is complete. It doesn't come close to resembling the design I began with, but here it is in it's uber-pinned glory. Several quilters who saw pictures on IG commented about the abundance of pins. Yes, I used a lot. In fact I used every safety pin I had available! It was important to me to keep those four layers very secure as I'm quilting. 

The finished quilt will be somewhere around 64" X 72". 

I've begun quilting. It took quite a bit of wrangling to make eight passes from top to bottom, stabilizing on both sides of the newsprint strip, and echoing the zig-zag. 

Now I'm getting into the more fun, freehand quilting part.

During pin-basting and quilting time, and while vacuuming and folding laundry, I tuck my iPhone into my back pocket, put in my earbuds, and listen to an audiobook. I listen to books more often than I read a print book. My audio books come from the local public library; I download them through Overdrive. 

My latest listens have been totally captivating! I highly recommend them. The books are a trilogy beginning with The Selection, by Kiera Cass, published in 2012 by HarperTeen. I guess that says a lot about the kind of books I enjoy! Light and entertaining reading. Not surprisingly, I also thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter series, the Twilight series, and Hunger Games series.

The Selection plot is a combination of story lines very similar to Twilight and Hunger Games. The main character, America Singer (yes, that's her name) faces challenges and choices in a competitive, yet romantic, environment.  

The second book is The Elite, followed by The One. I was fortunate to get the first two books right away, but was crushed to learn that the library doesn't have the third book in audiobook format. Really?! Now I'm on a wait list for a print copy.

Last Saturday was a special day for my husband. With much help from a neighbor, including months of challenging research, Dan was accepted and officially inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution. Documentation requirements are rigid, so that makes his honor a pretty big deal. I'm very proud of him!
Dan, on the left.
Anticipating my balloon/stent procedure this coming Friday, and being unable to use my sewing machine for several days afterward, I have prepped a resting time project. I've sewn together dozens of one-inch scrap strips to make this fabric "yarn ball." I plan to crochet a rag rug according to Amanda Jean's tutorial at Crazy Mom Quilts.  

Thanks for everyone's well-wishes with that procedure. If I haven't replied to your comments made on my previous blog posts, it's because you're a "no-reply" commenter. More and more of you seem to be no-reply, so without your email address, I can't send my personal thanks. Still, I do say thank you! Linda

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Working with Bias Tape and Quilting

It's been nice to have sewing room time, but with several projects on my to-do list - two with deadlines - I find it difficult to know which project to work on next! My medical procedure, to have my left femoral artery ballooned and another stent inserted, is next Friday, October 17. I've got to manage my sewing time wisely since I won't be able to use my sewing machine for several days following the procedure.

So, primarily, I've been working on the MQG's bias tape challenge.

In my last post, I showed a couple pictures of how it's progressing, and I will do the same again so you can see how it's changing. It's very telling about how I create that I cannot stick with a plan... or rather, I should say, I don't have a plan at all!

After settling on the squares-on-point and rings design, I decided the colors were a bit boring - only yellows, oranges, and aquas. I added a little hot pink, and like the pop that this color gives.  

But then I changed it again (above, see the whole square of pink that's now a partial bit of pink), and am still not done adding that color.

Most of the bias tape is appliquéd now, using Aurifil in the same color as the fabric. And I have also very carefully cut away the excess fabric on the back, so the quilt top won't be too heavy or stiff.

Teaching quilting classes has also taken time, as I finished up Beyond First Time Quiltmaking last week. On Wednesday I led an all-day Free Motion Quilting workshop for 16 quilters.

I'm always happy to hear students make positive comments at the end of their first quilting experience, even if during the process their frustrations are verbal! I completely understand how awkward it is to learn to manipulate fabric under a moving needle. As I tell them, learning free motion quilting is all about attitude and determination. You can do it, if you're willing to put some effort into it. I suggest practicing at least ten minutes a day.

Our nine month-old grandson, LJ - doll that he is - has been spending much of his time trying to keep up with big brother, Austin. Though LJ has been standing for several weeks, this week he graduated to pushing a walker. We're predicting he's going to be taking off on his own very soon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Different Stuff

I've begun to create a project to enter in the Panasonic Bias Tape Appliqué Challenge at QuiltCon 2015.  

As I've mentioned before, designing isn't my strong suit. But I know the elements of modern quilting, and I'm trying to incorporate a couple of them into my design. I've already been through several iterations of this design, beginning with what I came up with on EQ7.

You can see how it has evolved. 

Even now, after changing a few aspects, I'm not satisfied, and wish I'd done something different.

Perhaps that's because I watched Jacquie Gering's MQG webinar "Modern Quilting: Know It When You See It!" She made many excellent points about modern quilting, and - in my opinion - this should be a must-watch presentation for anyone who wants to understand "modern." (You have to be a member of the MQG to see it.)

Jacquie shared one visual that helps explain our quilting world. Due to copyright restrictions, I'm unable to share that photo. But, imagine a three-legged stool.

The seat is the huge community of quilters.
The legs are: 1) traditional quilters; 2) art quilters; and 3) modern quilters.

Each of us supports the quilting community in some way. Isn't that a great visual interpretation of what us quilters are all about?

Last week, Lora Douglas and I were interviewed by the local newspaper, The Daily Sun, about "Ad Libbing" our collaborative, blue ribbon-winning quilt at QuiltFest Jacksonville. The article appeared in today's newspaper. Though the reporter took lots of photos, and Lora and I sent pictures of the quilt and of us, none of them were used! How can an article about a quilt be published without a picture of it?!

Hey friends! Today begins Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a breast cancer statistic myself, since my diagnosis last year of invasive ductal carcinoma, and as a person with no risk factors for breast cancer, I am in the position to tell you, "Get a mammogram!" My BC was found early, and I was fortunate to need only a lumpectomy, and radiation. Now I'm taking Arimidex for five years to ensure the cancer doesn't return. If you can't remember when you had your last mammogram, then it's time to get one!

In another health update, I've learned that my left femoral artery is again blocked by plaque. Though the blockage is very small at 1 cm, I need another balloon procedure at the catheterization lab in Ocala. My doc will again push back the blockage and this time insert a 1 cm solid "spot stent." The rest of that artery has an eight inch-long mesh stent. To put it mildly, I'm less than pleased about this development since my last procedure, June 18, on the same arterial stent. This will be my fifth procedure since December. It also means that for several days afterward, I'm not to drive, use my sewing machine, or lift anything. Ergh.

My doctor asked for my cell phone number and punched it into his own cell phone. Does that tell you how well we're getting to know each other?!

He tells me that the upside of all this is that I'm finding these blockages early because I line dance several times a week. I felt the blockage - a burning ache in my left calf where the muscle was being deprived of blood. The doc will be able to clear out this small piece of plaque (re-stenosis) before it accumulates further.

Yep, it's all about the benefits of exercise - getting your blood pumping. In my case, that's line dancing. I love it! Here's my latest favorite song to dance to: "Stripes" by Brandy Clark. The lyrics are really cute and clever, so have a listen. Linda


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