The Finish of Nick & Two Tips!

 

Peter came in one day to check on Nick and started laughing. I was sitting at my desk area and asked what was so funny. He replied that I had better watch out for his crotch area… Of course everything would be trimmed when I completed the fusing, but it was funny nonetheless. You can see that I was auditioning two sets of eyes and wondering how bright should his nose be.

I fiddled around for a week or so and here is his final face…

Nick is very large (about 40″x40″) and he hung over the edges of the office table that I use in the studio to work on. To do the final fusing and cut him out, I used the dining room table. Here he is cut out and ready to glue (!) on the background fabric.

Marking lines for machine quilting was no picnic! Every resourceful quilter knows to tape rulers together to get the lengths they need. (Tip #1) – I very much like the washable blue marker, but it was a mistake in this case. I was not able to immerse the quilt in water and I spritzed and spritzed with water to get the blue out. I did it so much that the red fabrics started to bleed!

I have mentioned this tool before, but it bears repeating! (Tip #2) – here I am quilting straight lines using my Sweet 16. I have practised holding a ruler with my left hand and moving the fabric with my right and inevitably the ruler shifts and I go off track. Jenny of QuiltSkipper recommended this Line Tamer Template by FourPawsQuilting, and it works so well.

Here is Nick on the wall of Island Quilters, next to his relative, Ebba.

I took Nick’s portrait before I sent him off to Island Quilters. I am looking forward to seeing him hang over our mantlepiece next December!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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The Very Wonderful Nick!

As I have mentioned often, my friend Beth now owns Island Quilters on Hilton Head Island. We became friends when we were both posted in Singapore with our husbands. We shared so many common interests and I helped her learn how to quilt. In January I went to the store to talk with the customers about my great passion for hexagons, specifically English Paper Pieced ones. I was wandering around the store the day before and she asked if I had heard of Laura Heine. I said no and she said, I have a pattern of hers that I think you would like, and she handed me Nick. We both love Santas and as we were oooohing and aaaahing over him I blurted out “Shall I make a store sample for you?”. She immediately said “yes!”. I have been wondering ever since if I was set up, but no matter, I was delighted to have that assignment.

I have done some fused quilts over the years, but Nick is made using a collage technique. The pattern is basically a coloring book page – Nick is an outline – and the quilter is free to fill him in as desired. Laura Heine evidently came up with this technique to use up some of the many floral fabrics that she had in her store. I used to buy florals, but now they are not the fabrics I gravitate to. Kaffe Fassett’s fabrics are perfect for this technique and I did snag some of Beth’s scraps.

Because I knew I wanted to share Nick with you and because I suspected Beth would like me to talk with her customers about Nick, I took a lot of pictures. I hope you will enjoy seeing him emerge.

Fusible web works much like double stick tape. You peel one side off and iron it on the fabric. You peel the other side off when you are feeling ready to place the piece. (The fabrics in the photos that are curled still have the backing on.) Fusibles have improved a lot over the years and now they are more like Colorforms and can be moved around a lot before permanently fusing them to the background. I started with his face and I did some auditions…

If you look at this picture, you can see that there are 5 areas of white – the hat trim, his eyebrows, his mustache and his beard. I worked hard to make them different. The hat trim is creamy with a small red and green print. His eyebrows have a white newsprint fabric, his mustache is a very white and black print and his beard is an assortment of creamy prints. I even found a white poinsettia print in a quilt store that worked in his beard and on his face.

Then I started to fill in, up and down and up and down. It’s hard to decide when to stop.

This is what the studio looked like for several weeks! It is very hard to be neat and tidy and it’s one of many reasons I am grateful to have my own space.

 

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I did a little talk/demo at Island Quilters recently. I told the ladies to take one of my business cards and e-mail me their Nick, done or in progress, for the next blog post. Ladies, I am waiting! We all want to see your wonderful version of Nick.

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HQAL – the dog ate my homework!

What follows is my December Hand Quilt Along report:

One afternoon I took the quilt up to the studio and fussed with it. Years ago I  pin basted it in order to machine quilt it and then decided to hand quilt it. When I decided to hand quilt the top, I should  have then thread basted it…but was lazy. The pins do not hold the three layers securely enough, so periodically  I have to smooth all the layers and re pin it. I put the whole bundle in my evening chair fully intending to quilt it that night. And here is what I found later that evening. It’s the cat equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”.

How could I possibly disturb the little man?!? The cats always love whatever I am working on, so now I put the quilt where they can’t reach it. However, last night Gizmo jumped in the middle of my lap, and the quilt….what can a cat loving quilter do?

That concludes my excuses for lack of progress…

Seriously, I have divided the quilt into quarters with pins so that I can keep track of what I have accomplished. I have gotten my rhythm back and am enjoying the work, even quilting around all the triangles. ( Kerry asked and here is the answer: There are 352 flying geese and 160 New York Beauty spikes.)

Here are links to the other talented quilters participating. Go check them out and give them some atta girls!

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  Susan , Jessisca  ,  SherryNanette, Sassy and Edith

 

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Gift Ideas For…

…your cat. Last year I found the Buttercup bed in an expensive catalog. I waited for the inevitable 20% off and free shipping offer and ordered one. Our cats loved it! Gizmo slept in it during the day and Jasmine did at night. This year when I got the bed out, Jasmine immediately jumped in it. Gizmo stood there, looking disgruntled and so it went. I Googled Bowsers Buttercup bed and found many sellers on Amazon, including several for Amazon Prime (yippee!). Both cats are now happy to have their own beds. It comes in several sizes and is made for small dogs… You can see that there is a drawstring to adjust. The cats love it no matter how we have it adjusted. It washes well, though cat owners will have to pick out the fuzz.

…your husband. I can’t remember where I came across this website, but it has fun/ny things for men. If you have been married a long time, you know how difficult it is to find something for your DH. As well as gifts, Man Crates carries advent calendars. This one is called The Strike Before Christmas and has a funny verse behind each door and a jerky or candy treat! (I also found a lot of great “man” gifts” on The Grommet.)

… the crafty person. I have known about Spoonflower for some years; it’s a web-based company that makes fabrics from a design that you send them, or you can purchase other people’s designs. This Fall I got a catalog from them and discovered that they print not only fabrics but wallpaper and wrapping paper. The catalog is full of fun ideas. I was particularly taken by this page full of dish towels. Every December, one of my grandmothers would buy a calendar dish towel, use it and then make it into an apron the following year. Spoonflower has loads of calendar dish towels. (They suggest making them into pillows after the year is over!) I ordered several fat quarters, which evidently will include one design repeat. The towels will need to be hemmed, but they will be fun small and last-minute gifts.

…stocking stuffers. When I was little there were Decembers that my family (and often some cousins), would board the train in Trenton New Jersey and head for Christmas with my grandparents in Florida. An overnight train ride was super fun and our families had several rooms in a row on the sleeper car. Before we went to bed, my parents would give us each a surprise ball. Tiny toys and gifts are wrapped in crepe paper and what a treat it is to unwrap them! If you Google surprise ball, lots of sellers come up. I bet the hand-made Etsy ones would be really wonderful.

I really enjoy shopping for the special people in my life. Inquiring minds want to know – what unusual things have you found this year?

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Christmas Counted Cross Stitch

“Christmas in July” as a sales pitch made by quilting and needlework stores does not appeal to me; I work on Christmas projects in December when I am in the mood. Consequently they take several years to complete! This cross stitch project is a mash-up that I started it in 2015 . As you can see from the photo below, the patterns are by Birds of a Feather, who no longer do counted cross stitch patterns.

When I bought these patterns, I envisioned the designs being combined into one picture. I do not make or collect Christmas stockings…I adore the knitted ones my mother made for me {at birth} and Peter {when we got engaged}. I also hang another knitted one that a dear friend made decades ago. I came up with the mash-up idea so that I “could” buy the patterns. ;-D

The fabric is cotton and 18 squares per inch – my favorite size to work on. Nowadays, I require good light and my readers, because of the size and the dark fabric. My design plan is to stitch the sledding elves to the bottom right of the snowman and Santa will be dancing in the top right. I’m not sure whether the reindeer will make the cut – perhaps he can be in the top left jumping towards Santa. I have a lot of stitching to go until that decision needs to be made.

I work on this one night and then I hand quilt on my quilt along project the next evening.

{Should you want to find some of the delightful Birds of a Feather patterns, 123stitch still has some stock.}

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Hand Quilt-Along Progress….

…very little! Has it been three weeks already???

I started hand quilting this top some time ago and then I put it in my “quilt top” cupboard. Often I wrap the threads I am using in the unfinished project, but I did not this time, so I had to take some time to match the thread. I am stitching in the ditch around all the flying geese {sigh}. In the more open spaces, I marked a little leafy pattern, which I will have to inspect to reproduce it. As I complained mentioned in the previous post, the fabrics are all batiks, so the quilting will be slow.

Today is a full day of football, so I will really get started on the quilt. I get a lot of handwork done on Sundays and Monday night. It’s one of my favorite times of the year.

I am relieved to see that we all have had other things to do. ;-D  Please click on the links below to see what the other ladies have been up to!

Kathy, Bella, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  Susan , Jessisca  and Sherry

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Happy Thanksgiving from Tommy Lee (and me!)

He’s finally done and hanging up, though just in the nick of time. I see from the post where I announced that the quilt top was completed, that Tommy Lee has been waiting to be quilted since 2015… I pulled him out of the closet a month ago, and though I had plenty of time to get him quilted before Thanksgiving, it has come down to the wire. The quilting went fairly well, but I always rip out and curse over adjusting the thread tension. {And as you can see, he does not want to hang straight, so I will add a sleeve to insert dowels on the top and bottom of the quilt.}

An incredibly helpful template to outline and to quilt zig zaggy lines was this machine quilting ruler that I read about on Jenny’s Quilt Skipper blog. I have been practising, but I do not find it easy to use a ruler for straight line quilting; while trying to keep the foot tight against the ruler, the ruler can easily shift, and the next thing I know, the line isn’t going where I want it to go. With the line tamer, made by Four Paws Quilting, the foot fits in the slot and I can hold and guide the ruler with both hands  – it’s so much simpler! Add some sticky tape or Handi grip (which is a bit like sand paper) on the back of the template, and it’s a great tool.

I hope you all have a delicious and happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Hand Quilt-Along Group!

Kerry of Lovethosehandsathome  recently posted about a hand quilt-along group that she had joined. It sounded like a great idea to me, as I guiltily remembered a quilt stuffed in a cupboard waiting to be completed. The quilt along was started by Kathy of Sewingetc, and I contacted her to be added to the group. Here is the story of my project….

I was surprised to see the date on the post – I didn’t realize that it was so old. (The top was completed pre-move (2013) and it is still not done!) I did start quilting it at some point and it is perhaps halfway done. It is not an easy project to hand quilt. All of the fabrics are batiks, which are always printed on very finely woven cotton, which means that it is harder to pierce with a needle. The backing is also made up of batiks… To compensate for the difficult fabrics, the batting is a thin polyester. Sneer as you might, but polyester is very easy to quilt, it’s very light, it washes easily and many award-winning hand quilters use it for all of these reasons.

I noticed on the post I wrote celebrating the finish, that I was planning to machine quilt it. In those days I had the #%$& Bernina sewing machine and was having all sorts of trouble using it, which would explain why I decided to hand quilt it. I use the teeny, tiny quilting needles with my readers on and a bright light over my left shoulder. Now that the weather here has finally cooled off, I will surely attract a cat or two with this cozy project.

This quilt was made in what I call my Illinois colors. I have moved on to lighter, brighter colors in South Carolina. But I do still have the Indian rug that I used as an inspiration, and it will still be lovely in that room.

Let the quilting begin!

Here are the other quilters who are participating! Click on their names to see what wonderful quilts they will be finishing. Check up on us November 26th to see what we have accomplished.

Kathy, Kerry, Deb , Bella Lori , Margaret , Emma , Tracy

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A Cruise on the Rhine: Windmills & Cheese!

One of my favorite tours on the Rhine River Cruise was the (free) windmills tour in Kinderdijk, Holland. Before we arrived, I was pronouncing the name several different ways, but it turns out to be perfectly simple! Dijk is dike. ;-D This area has been a UNESCO World Heritage site for many years and is a delightful spot to visit.

What makes the windmills so magical? The Dutch have so many wonderful stories like the boy putting his finger in the dike and Hans Brinker and the silver skates, and somehow, windmills figure into the folklore. I was not the only one enchanted by them! The cameras and cell phones were out with each of us exclaiming that we’d gotten such a wonderful shot. It was an overcast day, which made most of my pictures sepia toned until the sun peeped out for a few minutes…and then we knew we’d gotten the best picture.

There are 19 windmills in Kinderdjik and all of them are inhabited but one, which we were able to go into. They are cosy, to say the least, but terrifically charming. The kitchen is generally outside because of the danger of fire. The downstairs has living areas and a small bedroom with a built-in bed not unlike a boat. It was surprisingly quiet! Then you start climbing up ladders and you can hear and feel the mill working. This was a fun view!

The people who live in windmills, no matter what the windmill’s purpose, are all called millers. These mills were built in the mid 1700’s to pump water. Some mills grind grain and others are sawmills but the guide said that most mills pump water – obviously a big priority in a country that exists below sea level. You can tell the purpose of the windmills by the shape and the length of the sails. Just one more little video….

Later that afternoon, Peter and I took an optional (paid) trip to a farm which makes cheese. It was a wonderful and informative tour; first to see the ladies and their babies and then to see how Gouda cheese is made. I grew up by my grandparents’ farm, where they raised Angus beef, but I’ve not been around milking cows. They are very sweet and seemed interested in us as well. We arrived while they were being milked, so I suppose they were glad of the diversion. This sweet girl is making sure her friend is clean, and right after I took this shot, she put her head in the food and sprayed it all over everyone nearby!

I won’t go into detail about cheese making, but I will tell you the proper pronunciation of Gouda, which is How-dah! The accent is on the how and you need to gargle a bit. (The proper pronunciation of Edam is e-Dam, accent on the dam!) The cheese making room smelled divine. Here are cheeses getting salted.

These cheese are aging, though they certainly look like loaves of bread ready to bake!

And here the cheeses are getting waxed. You can see that they make many, many flavors of Gouda, some of which arrived home safe and sound in our suitcase.

This farm is a family business. The grandparents take care of the babies and do a lot of chores. The father and the boys milk and care for the cows and the mother and girls make the cheese. They do have some workers to help as well. Obviously manure is recycled and they have some acreage to grow grain. The pigs down the street love the whey left over from the cheese making and the birds (lucky them!) get fed bits of cheese that is shaved off.

A trip to the windmills of Kinderdjik should be on your bucket list!

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Neighborhood Dyeing Projects

Last Summer I had so much fun doing tie dyeing with my niece and her family that I offered to teach the ladies some dyeing techniques. First up was tie dyeing and June was game to try. Here is the result of our morning’s work…

and here is her shirt washed and dried! Perfect for gardening or a Summer music festival or kayaking on the lake!

Then I offered a little class on the many sorts of shibori dyeing. I had three ladies who spent another morning working on samples. We wrapped and sewed and tied indoors and then dyed and unwrapped in the shade.

A few weeks later, Joan and June came over to do a project of their own. June came ready with 6 napkins wrapped and ready to dye.

She made them to go with her Fiestaware china. Didn’t they turn out well?

Joan decided to make a pool cover-up. Isn’t it great?

 

Though the best time for tie dyeing is over, I am anxious to get dyeing again. I want to make some shibori napkins and I also have an idea for an ikat warp. This Winter I am determined to try some ice dyeing as well. Stay tuned!

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