Conquering applique aversion, for finish #3

As I progress toward my goal of completing twelve UFOs this year, I am focusing on some of the oldest ones first. This project was begun in 2001, I think, as I was trying to learn needle-turn applique. The teacher, Debbie, is a very skilled applique artist and a superb educator – patient with even the most ham-fisted students, generous with her time, and so knowledgeable! But in spite of her best efforts, I just couldn’t get the hang of it, so my “Dutch Bouquet” became a long lost UFO. No more hand applique for me, I said.

After trying some new applique techniques, I decided to give the A-word another go, and I’m glad I did. It requires a LOT of prep work with freezer-paper templates, starch, the iron, and glue, but the results are pretty darn good.DSC00698

Looks just the same as needle-turn, and I can actually do it and be satisfied with the appearance.DSC00700

My next applique project won’t have so many little skinny, weird-shaped leaves, though…DSC00699With the center done (a couple weeks worth of evenings), I was ready to pick fabrics for the borders. I’m sure I must have had something in mind when I started this fifteen years ago, but I guess I must have used that fabric for something else…DSC00701

When it came to quilting it, I realized how rusty I have become at machine quilting. I need to practice, and this was as a good place as any to begin brushing up on those skills too. I enjoy binding, so that was easy. Then for hanging it up, I used the triangles-in-the-corners method instead of a sleeve. It works great for a small piece like this.



DSC00703 This is number three of twelve for 2016, and I’m still on schedule. I actually completed this by the end of February, and am working on the next one – stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by!


Seasonal projects in an unseasonably warm January

January ended with a second checkmark toward my goal of twelve UFO finishes in 2016. It’s actually several UFOs in one: I came across a bag of small wool applique/embroidery projects in varying stages of completion. None of them needed a lot of work, and since they were lumped together in one container, I’m treating them as one UFO.

First was this table mat, featuring a snowman. It’s been warm, and there is almost no snow on the ground – very unusual for January in NH – so he reminds me that we could still get clobbered with winter weather in the next few weeks. A couple evenings in front of the TV, with Downton Abbey and Sherlock to keep me company, and it’s done.


Next was this pincushion. All it needed was blanket stitching around the edge, which took about half an hour. Now why didn’t I just finish it up when I worked on it before??


Next, these two Christmas ornaments. Too late for this year’s tree, but next year I’ll be happily surprised to see them again!


And finally, just in time for Valentine’s Day, this heart-shaped stuffie. I’m not really the lacy, frilly type, but this is cute, right?


So many wool projects are based on seasonal themes. Because most are quick to complete, you can easily make something for any season or occasion on short notice. Or you can do what I did: start a bunch of them, let them “mature” for a few years, then complete them all at once when the spirit finally moves you! Now to put away the scraps, the floss, and the patterns, and call UFO #2 done.

Happy stitching, all.

First finish, and feelin’ good!

In my previous post, I announced my intention to finish twelve UFOs this year, around one per month. I’m allowing myself some flexibility here, in case I either fall behind, or actually jump ahead of the one per month target. The path to success on these long-range goals has to allow for some detours, right?

Anyway, I decided that I would start with this project, which was one of my very oldest UFOs. I must have started this about 25 years ago:DSC00669

My construction technique was none too good back then, loads of mismatched points, ruffly borders, all the marks of an inexperienced hand. The machine quilting was about half done, and to call it merely clumsy is giving myself a lot of credit. But it was not worth ripping it all out and starting over, it made more sense to just carry on and finish what I had started in spite of my grave misgivings.

carry on

You can’t tell from the photo, but this quilt is BIG. Queen size, as a matter of fact. And because I made it so long ago, before I knew better, it has a puffy polyester batting (eewwww…) and a sheet for the backing (EEEK!!). A monstrosity of bulk and toughness, it nearly swallowed me whole as I struggled to quilt it. I concluded that the reason I had abandoned it in the first place was the fact that 25 years ago, I had only my trusty Bernina 1030, with its tiny opening to wrestle that wad through. No wonder I gave up, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

1030See how small that opening is? Cat (not mine, sadly…) included for scale.

My current machine (a Pfaff creative 4.0) has a much greater distance to the right of the needle, so jamming that sucker through the opening was only a medium-sized pain-in-the-@$$). I did the minimum amount of quilting necessary to hold it together, added a binding, and I am calling it DONE!

The far-apart, wavy quilting lines qualify this piece as more of a comforter than a quilt, and I'm OK with that.The far-apart, wavy quilting lines qualify this piece as more of a comforter than a quilt, and I’m OK with that.

The bright, pretty batiks are what ultimately saved this quilt from an eternity at the back of the closet.

So today, I’m feeling pretty good about myself, for several reasons:

  1. I accomplished the first finish toward my goal, and only eleven days into the new year.
  2. I made an entry in my success journal, to remind myself later that I made progress.
  3. I wrote this blog post about it (which covers another of my goals for 2016).
  4. I saw how very far my quilting skills have come over the years. Amazing what 25 years of practice can do!

New Year, New Goals

I love projects. Correction, I love planning and starting projects, and getting to the interesting and fun part of them. I’m not always so good at FINISHING them. This is why I make the same New Year’a resolution year after year – to finish up the UFOs (Un-Finished Objects) hanging out in the closet.DSC00666

To simply say, “I will finish some of these projects in 2016” is too vague to qualify as a real resolution, so this is what I proposed to myself a few days ago: an attainable, measurable goal of finishing twelve UFOs this year, around one per month. “Twelve UFOs,” I hear you gasp, “you really have that many?!”


Oh, yeah. No shortage of raw material here.


In a “great minds think alike” coincidence, my friend Joan over at Hummingbird Highway came up with the same notion, and went one better. She plans to keep a journal of her successes. She describes herself as a finisher – I admire that!

This is a great idea, and I will be using one too. It will serve as both a planning tool and as an encouraging reminder if I fall off course. Which I probably will, somewhere along the line. If I can look back at what I have achieved so far, it may help me get back on track. The journal can be a source of accountability and support for myself.

I went to my stack of blank journals (don’t judge), and chose this this one. It’ll be easy to spot amid the chaos of the studio, I think, and will make me smile each time I add an entry.


Since another goal for 2016 is to blog at least once a month, I’ll keep you posted on my UFO progress here too. A blog post for each finish? Another attainable, measurable goal! Now I’m off to tackle this, one of my oldest UFOs – wish me luck!



Quilt Rehab

This post is NOT about some Quiltaholics Anonymous program. No, this is about rehab for down-on-their-luck quilts. In particular, some ugly ducklings that surfaced when we moved this fall. I am a bit ashamed to admit that we used these old raggedy quilts that belonged to my other half to wrap furniture.

I admire lovely antique quilts, but these were humble utility quilts, they were not beautiful to begin with, and they had seen better days.

After the move was over, I asked DH what to do with them. He was willing to get rid of them, and I almost did… but just couldn’t bring myself to toss them. Could someone squeeze a bit more utility out of them? Nothing to lose in trying.

First step, into the wash. They emerged bright, fresh, and soft. Two out of three were actually in acceptable condition, no repairs needed. They will be donated to a local shelter, just in time for the long New England winter ahead.

The third – that’s where the real story lies. Here it is:

You have noticed by now that these quilts are very similar. String-pieced by machine on a muslin foundation, tied, and two out of three, scrappy. All made by the same woman, my DH’s late grandmother, Molly Pack, back in the 60’s and 70’s. She would ask her grandkids to pick a favorite color, and that would form the diamonds in their quilt. He recalled driving his matchbox cars on the lines of this quilt, which was on his bed throughout his childhood.

As he talked about his grandma, I began to feel differently about these humble bits of family history – and so did he. For as long as he could recall, Molly had no use of one arm, due to an accident with a wringer washing machine when she was a young mother with 11 kids. Maybe string-piecing and tying were her favorite methods, but more likely, they were the only way she was able to make these quilts. You just can’t keep a determined quilter down!

And the fabric choices? He remembers going with her to buy fabric-by-the-pound. Scrap quilting in its truest sense! She took care in arranging her strips more or less symmetrically across each block though. He pointed out a few special fabrics, including the blue and white print that was also the curtains in his room.


How about these groovy paisleys? I’d love to have seen her scrap stash!


The edges of this quilt were badly damaged from years of use, and appeared to have been repaired at least once before. In order for it to survive further handling, they had to get a trim and a new binding. And in Molly’s honor, I went to my scrap bin to choose fabrics that looked “right” on this now special quilt. Funny how knowing the backstory turned this ugly duckling into something … more.

We are going to keep this one after all, Molly – your grandson wanted you to know.