A silk purse from a sow’s ear

From Wiktionary:

Verb:
make a silk purse of a sow’s ear

  1. (idiomatic) To produce something refined, admirable, or valuable from something which is unrefined, unpleasant, or of little or no value.

The proverb says you can’t do it, but you can. Just have to start with the right sow…

I began the new year with a goal of cleaning up my overflowing, long-neglected batik scraps – unrefined for sure, but great raw material. One big bin and a couple of bags, bulging with yummy leftover chunks from batik beauties of many years past.

Much of my January studio time was spent getting them in order. Here’s what I started with:

Wrinkled, messy, and no longer able to close the lid on the bin – time to dig in.

One handful at a time, I sorted, pressed, and trimmed.

I expected the level in the bin would go down. Funny though, the more I dug through the pile, the more it fluffed up – instead of shrinking, the mess seemed to grow, for a while anyway!

More strips, squares, bricks (rectangles), and a bag of “crumbs”…

Many hours later, I was left with this:

Getting the scraps in order was just the first part though. What’s the point of having a great stash if you don’t actually USE it? I found a super-easy pattern on Bonnie Hunter’s Quiltville that was perfect for these scraps. If you have not discovered this site yet, go there RIGHT NOW!! Full of tips about the smartest ways to cut and use your scraps, and lots of free patterns. Bonnie is the Scrap Queen!

Here are the pieces I’ll need to make my version of her Bricks and Stepping Stones quilt: There’s 300 bricks and 300 dark/light 4-patches here – enough for a queen-size – all from that overflowing scrap bin. No new fabric, all scraps from that bin. How about that!?

I’ll be putting it together over the next couple weeks, so watch for the next update. That pile of sow’s ears is turning into a beautiful silk purse – er, quilt top!

Happy stitching!

 

Have a Grateful New Year

As we ring out 2016 (I’m not sorry to see it end!), and begin a new and hopefully better 2017, I’m looking back at progress towards my goals, and taking a moment to be grateful for my many blessings.

My 2016 goal of twelve UFO finishes? Well, I came pretty close; much closer than I would have, had I not set it down firmly in my mind and in writing! I have fewer UFOs on the shelf, and a satisfying sense of accomplishment. I am grateful to have had the time, energy, good health, and skill to complete all these projects.

Finish number 10 was this late entry, made from an orphan block. It was supposed to be part of a English paper-pieced hexagon sew-along. Should have been right up my alley, right? Wrong. The pieces were HUGE compared to what I have been doing, making the fussy-cutting I love impractical. I made this one block, and part of another, then moved on.

It made a really nice pillow for my best friend’s new apartment. She has been my BFF for almost 50 years, and I am forever grateful for her continued presence in my life.

Not a UFO finish per se, but a promise kept, was this gift for my 7-month-old great-nephew. I just love sock monkeys, and make them for all the wee ones in our family. I’m not counting him toward my goal, but I had to share anyway. :^)

I am beyond grateful to be part of a loving, growing family. The world lost so many special people in 2016, but we gained so many too – who knows what kind of people the babies of 2016 will become, what greatness they may achieve?

And my final UFO for 2016, finish number 11, actually ran over into 2017 by just one day. How nice to begin the new year with a real feel-good project!

I came across a kit given to me some time ago by my friend Doris, the wonderful woman who runs “The Quilt Cupboard.” That’s the charitable arm of the Squanicook Colonial Quilt Guild of Pepperell, MA. Doris stores and organizes donated materials in her cozy basement workroom, distributes them to guild members for making tops, and passes the tops along to others to quilt and bind. Finally, and best of all, she makes sure that the completed quilts are given out to those in need in the community. Dozens and dozens of quilts every year, to families and individuals dealing with illness, injury, or loss.

The kit contained a handful of blocks in shades of purple (someone else’s UFO, I suspect) and some chunks of fabric. I made a bunch more nine-patches and friendship stars with bits from my stash, and added a couple borders. Notice that unusual corner treatment? Courtesy of a math error flash of creative inspiration, LOL. I’ll send this off to “the cupboard” soon, so Doris can get it quilted and donated.

This past year may have been bleak and difficult on the surface, but you really don’t have to look very far to see that there is still a LOT of good in the world. I’m grateful for the ability to contribute to it in my own small way, and for people like Doris, and for all the quilters in all the guilds who believe that small acts of kindness can make a difference, one warm quilt at a time, to each grateful recipient.

Have a Grateful and Happy New Year.

 

 

Wonky Teacups and Wild Colors

The countdown continues!

Finish number eight was this year’s camp quilt project. As I have mentioned, each summer, I take all the stuff for one major project to camp, so I don’t have to schlep it back and forth every weekend. For this summer’s project, I chose Wonky Teacups, which I started over ten years ago. The pattern (actual title “We’re allowed ten minutes for tea”) is by Australian pattern and fabric designer Jan Mullen, and it’s available on patternspot.com. Funky, wild, bright – what’s not to love?!

dsc00751Way back when, I had made just a few of the many cups, plates and jugs, and had amassed a sizable stash of the loudest geometric prints I could find. The piecing is improvisational, and totally forgiving – perfect for the casual attitude I take when camp-quilting! It was lots of fun watching it take shape as more and more sections began to fill up the design wall in my tiny camp sewing nook.

As soon as it was done, off it went to my friend Linda, a longarm quilter. She used an edge-to-edge design that looks like steam rising from the cups – a great choice!

And now it is hanging in my studio, in place of the useless and annoying sliding closet doors. Turns out it was the perfect size, and could not have fit better if I had planned it that way!

And number nine got finished while I was on a retreat with some friends at East Hill Farm In Troy, NH, overlooking Mount Monadnock. The view was great, still showing some color after a glorious foliage season.monadnock

This project was the 2013 block-of-the-month from my favorite LQS, Quilted Threads in Henniker, NH. I had done 11 of the 12 blocks. After deciding how I wanted to do sashing and borders (NOT following the pattern, of course…), I found that I needed more of the background fabric – and thank goodness, my LQS came through for me! YAY!!

dsc00766

The background is actually a deep eggplant purple. Not  a great photo, but you get the idea. It sets off the bright, saturated colors in the blocks beautifully, and is so much more interesting than plain old black would have been. And it’s just a “flimsie” – an unquilted top – because that’s as far as I planned to go with it for now. So while it’s not DONE-done, I’m calling it a UFO finish-for-now. My goal, my rules, so don’t judge, OK?

Now, I’m not kidding myself. I’m not going to get three more UFOs done between now and New Year’s. My goal of twelve was rather ambitious. But I might make one more happen, for a nice even ten – a round and healthy number that I can be proud of.

Did any of you set a goal like mine? If you did, leave a comment and let me know how you are progressing. Sharing our intentions and our successes is good for us all!

Thanks for stopping by – Happy stitching!

Lucky Seven

Finish number seven is in the books! I actually completed it about a month ago, and I had hoped to be farther along toward my goal of twelve finishes by now, but you all know how it is. I’m still way ahead of where I was at the beginning of the year in terms of the UFO pile!

So here is “Hug Your Sister,” all quilted and bound.

dsc00759

This started out as a “camp project” in the summer of 2013  (you can read all about it here.) No pattern, I just made it up as I went along, in casual camp-sewing mode, which was fine. However, when it resurfaced after being set aside for several months, it was clear to me that I needed to rework the center.

Here’s the “before…”

004

And the “during“…this was a little scary.

001

And the “after” – better, right?

008

Once the center was fixed, I tackled machine quilting it. I’ve done a fair amount of free motion quilting, but it was just not clicking for me on this one. I tried different threads, needles, tension, you name it – just not working, so it got set aside again. Humbug.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I learned that there is a new foot for my trusty Pfaff that has turned out to be the answer to my prayers. It’s a spring-action free-motion quilting foot with a C-shaped end, allowing a wide-open view of the needle area. WAY better than the other feet I had tried! The hopping action puts just the right amount of pressure where I need it, controls the tension perfectly, and I can see what I’m doing – what a concept!

new-foot2

I’m so glad that my favorite sewing machine dealer (Nashua Sew and Vac) had it in stock. This, my friends, is why we all need to support our local businesses – machine dealers, quilt shops, etc.  We gotta keep them around so they’ll be there when we need them!

So how did this quilt get its name? The new center block is called “Sister’s Choice,” and I like to think of each round as “hugging” the center. Hokey? Maybe. But as someone who has only brothers (whom I love), I would have loved to have a sister. Lucky for me, I have a couple BFFs (you know who you are) who stand in very well as surrogate sisters,

So if you are lucky enough to have a sister, give her a big hug today, tell her you love her, then get back to work on those UFOs.

Happy stitching! Finishes eight and nine are coming very soon, so stay tuned ;>)

 

Yes, I’m still sewing! My journal is proof!

Remember when I proclaimed my goal of 12 UFO completions this year? And my plan to keep a sewing successes journal, and to blog monthly? And how I was doing really well moving toward those goals for the first half of the year?

Yeah, me too. So what happened?! Nothing since June? Not exactly. Not many UFO completions, but plenty of other sewing, as it turns out, and the journal part of the goal provided the proof! Thanks to my journal, I was able to see just how much I have accomplished, even if not in terms of UFOs, which makes me feel a whole lot better about where the summer went.

Here’s a summary:

  1. New drapes for my living room, made by cutting down and re-purposing the ones we had in our previous home. I still love this fabric, and I saved a fortune. Have you priced window treatments lately? Scary!dsc00742
  2. Tote bag for my BFF’s birthday. Sorry, I didn’t get a pic before I gave it to her, but it was a favorite pattern, the Fat Quarter Scrappysack. I’ve made this same bag for her several times, she uses them till they wear out, and then I make her another one!
  3. Hand sewing, all summer long. I am continuing to work on my latest EPP project, La Passacaglia. It won’t be done for a long time, but here’s a littler teaser:
    dsc00744
  4. And this random act of EPP, a scrappy little hexie thing. Not sure just what it will become, but it was easy, mindless, and gave my brain a rest from the focus required for La Pass (see above…)
    dsc00743
  5. Splendid Sampler – I fell behind briefly, but I am now proud to say I am all caught up, all 67 blocks to date, plus a few bonus blocks. For more about this 100-block year-long project, run by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson, go to splendidsampler.com.
    If this is the first you’ve heard about the project, where you been, gurl?? The Splendid Sampler facebook group has over 23,000 members – it’s free, it’s fun, and it’s a great way to stretch your skills.dsc00745
  6. Studio improvements. Just yesterday I made a cute new set of valances for the studio windows, to replace the world’s most hideous curtains (left by the previous owners, and only marginally better than nothing). dsc00740We’ve been here for a year, so that job was long overdue! Along with some re-arranging of tables and cleaning up, my studio space gets more comfortable and functional all the time.

There’s been a couple other projects in the works, including machine quilting a piece that I set aside some time ago, and finishing the piecing on a wild UFO from at least 10 years ago. More on those when they are really done – they are in line for finishes #7 and #8.

The take-away from all this? Just because I didn’t make progress toward a specific goal, that doesn’t mean I failed – I just progressed toward different ones. And honestly, the record of my achievements in that little journal was just what I needed to feel better about it all!

Happy stitching!