Feb 29, 2012

Paducah Nine Patch

I have this book and I love it.  It is an oldie, but goody. I bought it years ago and there are several quilts in it that I have always wanted to make~especially the one on the front.  It is called Paducah Nine Patch and I just love the scrappiness of it. All of the quilts in the book are made using 5" squares of fabric~hence the name Nickel Quilts

About 2 years ago a friend of mine and I decided to exchange blocks and make this quilt.  We used only Jo Morton Civil War fabrics and all of our "lights" were tan or cream.  Every month we made 8 blocks-4 to keep and 4 to mail to each other.  We made 80 blocks total~so it took us 10 months.  

I loved having them on my design wall and watching the quilt come together.  Every month new blocks would arrive in the mail and I would quickly add them to the others. I  finished piecing the top together last Thursday. This quilt is everything I dreamed it would be.  And it is even more special because every time I look at it I am reminded of my friendship with Pam and all the months we spent making and mailing blocks to each other.  

I have ordered several quilting stencils that I am going to audition to "quilt as desired". I may end up just doing a stipple, but having a stencil collection for future quilts will be great too.

Here are all 80 blocks on my design wall

Here is my completed top!!

Feb 25, 2012

Those Three Little Words.....

I love so many things about quilting.  I love shopping for fabric! I mean, I LOVE shopping for fabric.  I love buying and reading quilt books and patterns and magazines. I love planning out my next quilt~picking the pattern and selecting the fabrics.  I love cutting all the pieces and stacking them, ready for stitching. I love making each block and adding it to my design wall and seeing the quilt evolve from my mind's eye to fruition.  Sewing all the blocks into rows, adding sashing and borders and finally having a finished top~it is all so satisfying to me.  The hum of my sewing machine as I feed the fabric through is as soothing to my soul as my yoga classes are.  

Then all the fun comes to a screeching halt!! And I read those three little words that are at the end of every pattern~quilt as desired! I feel a cold shiver creeping up my spine.  Quilt as desired?  What if I have no desire?  What if what I desire is going to look horrible? What if I ruin my beautiful quilt top?  Oh, I hate those three little words!

I have heard that some quilt tops actually "speak" to their owners. Women will say that this quilt just cried out to be quilted in a Baptist Fan pattern or that this quilt just says "feathers in the border".  My quilts have never said a word to me! They just lay there mocking me. They don't speak~but I swear I have heard them laughing at me. 

This is the reason that I have over a dozen quilt tops hanging in my closet.  I visit them there every now and then and still none of them has said a word to me~not even, "Hey, it's dark in here. When are you ever going to finish me?" I have come to the conclusion that I am fooling myself when I say I am a quilter.  I think I should just tell people that I am a "piecer".  

I refuse to be beaten, so, I have challenged myself.  First I bought a LOT of books on quilting.  I mean the kind of books that discuss the mechanics of machine quilting-pulling your bobbin thread to the top when you begin, taking several stitches in place to make a knot, meandering vs. stippling.  Next I moved to books that have patterns in them.  They show you how to quilt in a continuous pattern in your blocks or border.  I have watched videos online where you take clear vinyl and place it on your top and draw the pattern you want to quilt on it. You can audition lots of patterns that way and decide what will showcase your quilt. I even bought a spiral notebook to doodle and "train my brain". All of this and still I can't do it! I know what I am supposed to do-I just can't do it! It's a mental thing. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I purchased a sit-down long arm machine. If I am going to be a serious quilter I have to have the right equipment, right?  Maybe my whole problem is trying to get that big quilt sandwich under my regular machine.  Ha! Still no luck.  Every time I sit down to quilt I get a huge pit (think Grand Canyon) in my stomach and I think to myself "here goes the ruination of a perfectly good quilt top".  

I am not trying to quilt a quilt that will win a ribbon at Houston or Paducah quilt shows.  I know that practice makes perfect and so I have decided that I need to not be so hard on myself.  I have to remember that the quilts I am making are for my family and friends and that they love them, imperfections and all. They don't care if all of my stitches are the same length or if I quilted myself into a corner and could not get out without crossing over another line of stitching. They just see all the time and love I put into making that quilt for them. They feel the quilted hugs I have for them every time they cuddle up with it and maybe they wrap it just a little tighter. After all, isn't that what quilting is all about? 

Feb 20, 2012

A Little Bit of Sewing and A Little Bit of De-Cluttering

Some days I just can't get into the mood to sew.  I don't know why. I usually have at  least two projects going at all times, so if I am not in the mood to sew on one of them, the other one will usually strike my fancy that day.  But, there are days when I just don't feel like sewing at all. Usually going to my quilt room will get me in the mood to do something, though. Some days I just refold fabric from my stash. Other days I look at quilt books or old magazines. After being there for a bit, I will invariably end up sitting at my machine and sewing!

Saturday I was in the mood to de-clutter.  I pulled out a large stack of old quilt magazines and decided this is the day to tear out any quilt patterns I may ever want to make in the future and throw the rest of the magazines out.  So, I reduced the large stack on the right down to the small stack on the left. It felt good.  I have about two more stacks just like it~I can't wait to get my hands on them too.  :)

Sunday I actually got to sew for a few minutes~with emphasis on A FEW MINUTES. Since our youngest daughter, her husband and their three little girls are staying with us right now there were constant interruptions from young ladies in need of my attention.  I ended up walking away from my machine with the needle in the middle of a seam after having sewn for about 3 minutes total.  Oh well~their visit will be over in the blink of an eye and my quilt will still be there. Granddaughters trump quilting every day. It was fun to sit down at my machine again~the first time since before Thanksgiving! I need to get back in there soon.  I have the itch to sew!!!

Feb 17, 2012

Guess What? Chicken Butt!

Chickens are the theme for this post so I have to start with a short story about my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter, Sofie.  Any time you say "Guess what?" to her, she quickly answers "Chicken butt".  She catches me off guard every single time!  :)

Not long after I started quilting I attended a quilt show in Lancaster, PA with friends. Our favorite quilt in the entire exhibit was a chicken quilt.  It had hens and roosters and eggs and  all things chicken related on it.  To make it even better it was made with chicken fabrics!  The three of us put our heads together and decided we needed to collect chicken fabric and make chicken blocks and swap them with each other and have our own chicken themed quilts.  

Well, when you start looking, chicken fabric is everywhere and it is so much fun! We found not only hens, roosters, and baskets of eggs, but, chicken wire and chicken feet, as well.  Our stash of chicken fabrics grew at an alarming rate!  We had no rules for our chicken blocks-they could be any size we wanted, appliqued, pieced or even wool.  We had a great time making them and sending them to each other through the mail.

After collecting, sewing and mailing for several years, we decided to call a halt to chicken blocks and put our quilts together.  Assembly required adding a four-patch here and a sashing strip there to get the blocks to fit together.  Each of us has entered our quilt in a different show and won a ribbon. It was fun to share them with others.  And now I am sharing them with you.

My chicken quilt

Pam and her quilt

Anne and her quilt-the only picture I have of it is before she had it quilted

After we made all these blocks we each had so much chicken fabric left over that we sewed large pieces together and used it for our backs!  I still had enough fabric left to make this quilt for a friend.

Cindy's quilt

After all of this we had the "chicken bug".  Anne, Pam and I now each have an extensive chicken collection.  We have chicken plates, ceramic chickens, yard ornaments, etc.  We even swap chicken ornaments for Christmas!  

If you decide to make a chicken quilt, let me know~I think I still have some chicken fabric around here and could help you start your very own chicken stash.

Feb 16, 2012

My Quilt Room!

I have everything a quilty girl could want~I have my own room, a great sewing machine, and fabric and patterns galore.  Lots of quilters blog about their space and others look at their pics for inspiration.  I have decided to post a few pics to show that you can have a great room and not spend a fortune~but it does help to have a handy husband.  :)

I prefer to sew on a flat surface, so I purchased a cabinet for my sewing machine.  When I got my sit-down long arm I backed the two machines up to each other. It gives me a wonderful large surface for piecing and quilting. 

My husband made this drop down surface to the left of the machine. The legs come out and the extension drops down when it is not in use.  You can also see my design wall in this picture.  It is two sheets of insulation board taped together and then cut to size. I covered it in flannel and it's nailed to the wall.  I think we are going to eventually hinge it on the right side and make it two sided!! 

I love my cutting table!  We went to the hardware store and bought 4 unfinished lower kitchen cabinets, painted and fastened them together, then added the top.  It's a great surface~and just the right height for me. I wanted the overhang for the bar stool.  I sit there to look at quilt magazines or sketch out patterns~it is also a terrific place for a little granddaughter to sit and visit while I am working.   

My husband also made this long table for me and I bought the plastic drawers at Wal-mart to store "stuff" in.  I keep all my rulers on top (he cut ruler racks for me too~I told you a handy husband is an asset)

The shelves I use for storage fabric came from Staples.  I really like them because they are stackable--each of these is two units stacked together.  I have two more sets on the other side of the window.

A place to curl up and hand sew or look at quilt magazines or books is a bonus.  It's a cozy corner and I love to sit here. 

That's it~my quilting space. I wish I just had more time to spend there....

Feb 15, 2012

Grammy Quilts

I began quilting 12 years ago. Through the years, I have found myself drawn to traditional quilts. I love scrappy, Civil War, 2-color, and primitive projects. Kansas Troubles and Jo Morton fabrics make up a large percentage of my fabric stash. I enjoy piecing my tops and watching my quilt take shape~but when it comes to quilting, I would rather visit the dentist for a root canal than slide that quilt sandwich under my machine needle and have to "quilt as desired". For years I sent my larger quilts to someone else to finish for me and was not always pleased with what I got back. Last year I bought an HQ Sweet 16 sit-down long arm and I am now trying to learn to finish my own tops.

I became a Grammy for the first time 8 1/2 years ago and I have to say~being "Grammy" is more fun and more rewarding for me than quilting will ever be. I have six of the most beautiful granddaughters ever and I am fortunate to live close to all of them. I made each granddaughter a quilt when she was born and instructed their moms that these were "drag around" quilts. I wanted them used and loved-and they are!

I am hoping that by blogging about quilting that I will be inspired to finish my current projects and some long overdue UFOs in a more timely manner. I see other bloggers who knock out multiple projects every month (some even finish more than one project in a week!!) I will never have the time to do that. My granddaughters come first and if I have to pick between being with them or sitting in my quilt room~they win every time.

So, here goes.......my online quilt journal.