Block-of-the-Month · Piecing · Sewing Room

Paying the Taxman

Sometimes, it’s not all fun and games. Sometimes, we just have buckle down and do the things that need doing before getting the playtime.

I signed up for two block-of-the-month programs at the local quilt shops – one through FibreChick and one through The Cottage Quilter. The FibreChick BotM (Block-of-the-Month) is every third Saturday. The Cottage Quilter BotM is every fourth Thursday. In order to get the block for the next month, you have to bring your completed block to class (both will accept a photo of it through email if you cannot make class, but the photo must be submitted before the class is over) or you pay a fee (I think 5$?) to get the next block. As I’ve stated before, I’ve had a couple of close calls with the FibreChick blocks, occasionally getting them done just a couple of days prior to class. Starting in January, my quilt guild decided to host a BotM learning session at each meeting (first Monday of the month). It is not mandatory to participate with a completed block, but why wouldn’t you do it if (like me) you are very early on in your learning curve?

If you’re counting, that means M has three blocks (or block rows in some cases) to make each month. This last-minute block making isn’t going to cut it at this point, so I’ve set a goal for myself. The goal is to have the blocks completed one week after the class is taught. Since the sessions are usually spread out with a week between each, this gives me plenty of time to do the project without getting a production backlog. I always have the option to drop the ball on the quilt guild blocks without penalty, but I’d rather not do that (although I did totally forget to take said completed row to the last guild meeting because I’m a dumb-dumb – it was even sitting on the counter by the door, for crying out loud! No excuse!).

I did have a bit of a backlog this week due to the Grandma quilt cutting carnage of last week. I had two quilt guild blocks (an optional extra row was offered the first week) and the FibreChick block had just been assigned.

My “chores”

I got cracking on the FibreChick block first. I was very excited about this block because it meant using my new rotating mat!!! Whoo hoo! Plus, it’s a bordered 4 patch that we have to cut up and sew back together – I love these!! 🙂 As long as I don’t make a mistake cutting it, that is … If I have extra fabric, I really like doing these. It’s a bit nerve-wracking with the FibreChick blocks because she supplies the fabric, so if I screw up, it’s Frankenstein block time! I think next year, I’m going to lobby for an OOPS bundle to be offered at additional cost – just a fat quarter of the selected fabrics for OOPSIES!! 😉

I just love spinning my centers. They’re the corners where at least 4 block corners meet. Look at all those spun block centers!!! So pretty!! (yes I know I’m boring … moving on)

The quilt guild row-by-row is using scraps. They give us the pattern, we make the rows our of our stashes. My first row (rail fence blocks) was SO. TERRIBLY.UGLY. I’m trying to scrap bust!!! Maybe I should give up on that fabric … I got it through an auction and I’m trying to use it all, but yeck. It’s too bad too because I did some fussy cutting to get all the children facing the right way. I did screw up the blocks, though … maybe it looks funny because it’s too small? The second row (stair step blocks) turned out really well! One of the things that Kelly focused on at the guild meeting was checking your fabrics. The secret to these are not necessarily finding complimenting fabrics, but focusing on different colour weights (read: dark/light shades) of fabrics. That might be part of the problem with my first row – it’s a bit too blendy. Even though these are both cool colours, I made sure one was dark and one was medium light – and look at how much nicer it looks!

I kept building on that theme with the third row (doughnut hole blocks). I decided at the meeting that night that I wanted to use these two fabrics for this pattern, but it wasn’t until I started cutting that I thought I’d try tossing in that hot pink. It is a completely different tone than the other two, but I figured in worst case, I’d just have two ugly rows. It could not have turned out better!! Look at how pretty that looks! And that hot pink really pops in the centers! I might re-do the first row with different fabric if I have a slow time (or at the end of the instructional series). I might need to invest in more colour solids bundles in my future – just plain colour blocks are a beautiful look without adding printed fabrics to them.

I’m starting to get a little drained in my work, though … I need a way to find some energy. And a cutting table is someday in my future – my poor back aches after bending over for an hour straight to cut fabric. I decided to try to break my funk by buying some fabric for curtains! Off I went to Fabricland on Member’s Day to get some fabric. Little did I know that this is the busiest day at our branch all year. There’s parking for 8-10 cars out front, an alley around the back, and about 5-6 staff parking spots in the back. I’ve never seen more than 7 cars out front and thought those were busy days. WELL. Parking lot full to bursting, parking all along the alley, and 7 cars squeezed into the back lot. It was absolutely mental! I swear I saw half the guild there that day. I only got to speak to a couple of them because I got overwhelmed and needed to get out of there. I found a cheap-looking orange lace curtain in the discount bin for $5 – I bought it and escaped! It still took 15 minutes to get out of the parking lot because an ambulance parked in the drive and people had to take turns using the only remaining lane to enter and exit. People kept pulling in, realizing it was full, and having to wait for a break in traffic to back out on to one of the city’s main roads. On a Saturday. At noon. Next door to a Tim Hortons. Utter chaos. I went home feeling more wiped than when I left. So much for getting energized!

The resulting curtains are ugly as sin, but I LOVE them. 😀 I wanted something bright and warm and boy – are these curtains bright and warm. Some would even say LOUD. They filter the sun a bit so it’s not an intense square of light, which is what I was looking for. When I eventually get the real curtains, I may cut these up to be underneath. It makes my space feel cheery (even though Husband insists that they’re an eyesore). The curtain rod is too long, but that’s because I used one I had sitting around in the basement. When the room is painted and finished, I’ll make everything proper. 🙂

Best part of the week? My Tula Pink Pinkerville fabric arrived!!! This is what I’m planning to make my niece’s quilt out of. Poor little girl has been dealing with a range of medical issues pretty much since she was born. She is the family “princess”, so I thought that this fabric would be a perfect fit for the princess. Now that I have it, I WANT MOAR. Shoutout to Troll Brothers Quilt Design for fussy-cutting my special picks bundle and for scoring me the very last half-metre bundle in her shop when I realized that I needed a stash of this fabric, not just barely enough to give away in a quilt. She had a draw for every pre-order of the fabric with an ultra-rare patch as the prize … and I won!!! I got so excited when she posted that! Stacie, you are the best! (and currently my top-fav online fabric store 😉 ). She is located in beautiful British Columbia, so while the odds of us meeting are fairly low (I’m on the far side of the country in Ontario), I do have a bestie in BC that I’ve promised to visit sometime in the near future. I might have to spend extra time to get all my visits in. 😉

~M

Block-of-the-Month · Piecing · Quilt Designs

Ohhh the Grandma Quilt …

I shouldn’t complain so much. This problem is not limited to the Grandma quilt. My problem is me. I have a lack of attention to detail. Most of the time, I catch my own mistakes before they get too bad. Other times – like recently, when my head was full of flu – I do myself no favours.

For example: my block-of-the-month with Fabric Chick. It was a super easy block this month. I read it several times, did my sewing, read it again, did my cutting … and I cut a block in the wrong direction. I couldn’t make it work with what I had, no matter what I tried. My only option was to dip into my scraps and make a new block to cut. Unfortunately, I cut a big block, so I didn’t have big enough scraps to make a new block. That mean sewing scraps together to make a big enough block (aka Frankenstein block). ugh ….

Moving on to the Grandma quilt. I already knew I would have to do this because I ran out of one kind of fabric and I couldn’t get any more of it. When I was getting ready to put the project on hold back in October, I measured out what I would need to finish and went trash-diving for scraps to make up blocks. I thought I would need a lot more blocks than I eventually wound up making, so I have lots left to play with now.

The scrap pile and the “trash” can

At this point, I needed to figure out where the Frankenstein blocks were going to go. My original plan was to make the bottom two small stars out of Frankies. That was before I realized I had to rip out the finished top row to make my new piecing techniques fit (quiet crying commences). One of the upsides of ripping out the top row was having access to the top corner stars. By this point, I had realized that I only needed to make two Frankenstein squares and had decided to put them in the star points, where I figured it would be less noticeable. Each corner small star only had the points showing on two sides, so I only needed to make two star-point blocks for all four corners (two green/white and two purple/white). This will make more sense when the quilt is finished.

After piecing the Frankenstein squares, I started cutting up everything left for piecing. When I first started this quilt, I cut and pieced row by row. I’m still having trouble getting motivated to work on this quilt, so I thought motivation might be easier to achieve if I created all my blocks in one fell swoop and pieced afterwards. That sort of worked and sort of backfired. 😀

Pieced star (before ripping out)

Before going any further, let’s re-visit the 4-at-a-time half-square triangles (HSTs). The steps are as follows:
1. Cut your two fabric squares of the same size.
2. Sew the squares together around all 4 edges.
3. Cut point-to-point across (2-3 cuts, results in 4 pieces). This is where the 45 degree angle ruler came in handy to make sure I was squared up properly!
4. Press open squares to get 4 completed HSTs.

There is also a 2-at-a-time and an 8-at-a-time HST option. I really wish I’d know of the 8-at-a-time when I did the husband quilt (100% HSTs), but I’d only known about the 2-at-a-time. Ah well – we learn as we go!

Back to my project:
I cut up everything, ran them through the sewing machine, re-cut the HSTs, then ironed everything open. And immediately had problems. I’d evidently forgotten to cut two pieces of the green-only fabric for my small star centers, so I had pieces that were only purple, but nicely sewn together and cut up. *facepalm*. This meant ripping out the purple squares, cutting the green pieces to the original size, cross-cutting the pieces, then matching them to the purple triangles. I was really not on the ball, so I accidentally ripped out several purple HSTs that had been properly pieced to white, so I had to sew all those back together too … only to find out I’d gotten some of the purple pieces mixed up and the Frankie triangles were sewn to the wrong triangles. Ohhhh what a day.

Needless to say, I quit half-way through the re-piecing project that day. When you discover you’re making that many mistakes, take a break! I came back a couple of days later and finished piecing and cutting up the squares. I started working on my chintz pieces and realized that I needed to check the spin direction against the squares I had already done. Since I really did not want to mess with the purple-and-green small stars again, I checked them first. Thankfully, everything was spinning the same way – purple to green in a clockwise fashion. I took a picture of my remaining blocks to make sure that everyone was spinning the right way for the whole quilt. In future star quilts, I think I’d make a hemispheric spin – everything on the right spins opposite to that on the left. The one square I’d gotten wrong looked really nice sitting beside the original spin. In this case, however, I’d gotten way too far into the quilt to change what I was doing. Maybe if I’d been more motivated about this quilt, I would have changed it – but now I just want it DONE.

I watched through several Marvel comics movies to keep myself focused. One of the good piecing sessions happened during the Thor: Ragnarok viewing. I love my sewing space!

Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnarok

Next week is all about mini projects. I have a plan for my block-of-the-month projects – but I just have to stay focused!!

~M

Block-of-the-Month · Finished Projects · Non-Quilt Projects

Has Issues Focusing …

Sooo … I might have gotten completely distracted by the challenge fabric and worked on that instead. Bad M!

I decided that this challenge would be perfect to try out on a charm-square bag! There are lots of free tutorials online for this if you want to make it yourself. I used this one, but it was just a series of pictures showing how it goes together. Some people may prefer to find something with more words.

http://www.handmadiya.com/2015/10/patchwork-bag-of-squares.html

First, cut out your squares. I cut eight 4″ squares of each colour. I’d recommend going much, much bigger than that, but I’m trying to just use the three FQ fabrics, so mine will be a mini-tote. Incidentally, I cannot begin to tell you how much I love my frosted 6″ square ruler. Every time I use it, I think about getting all the frosted rulers. They just work for me!

Squaring up the squares!

Next, lay out your fabric to see what you want to go where. This is when I realized I was 2 squares short – kinda. I technically had one white and one yellow square left over, but I thought it would throw off the pattern I had going. I didn’t want to use any more of my focus fabric, so I dipped into my stash and came up with this dark royal blue that matched the dark leaves perfectly. Plus, it’s better to have dark on the bottom of the bag – that’s where all the dirt gets picked up!

Square placement

Next, I sewed the rows together. You can do this in whichever direction makes most sense to you. Once I had the whole bag together, I pinned it so I could see the shape that I was going for.

At this point, I switched to the lining. I had great plans for the lining as well. I took the gold and the white left over fabric and ran a seam down it, joining the two pieces together. Then, I folded it and half and placed the unpinned bag on top to see if I had enough fabric for it. I did! I outlined the bag shape with wide margins (a little bigger than a 1/4″). Bag came off the lining, the lining got pinned together so the layers would not shift, and I cut out the outline.

This is where a better walkthrough or doing more research would have helped. I forgot that most bags have some sort of fusible lining in it to had a little thickness and help give the bag some form. To be honest, though – I’m not a huge fan of fusible lining and I love the feeling of just cloth bags. They crumple better too if you’re cramming them into a pocket. What you’re supposed to do at this step is attach batting or a fusible lining to pieced part, turn it into a proper bag, sew the cloth lining into a bag, then attach the two part together so the lining is loose in the bag.

What I did was attach the lining to the bag right away and do some stitch-in-the-ditch quilting around each square. I wanted the lining and the front to have a joined feel instead of the loose bag lining feel you usually get with the standard method. It also made up for not having the fusible lining added. It did halt my progress on another front, though. Part of the reason for the loose lining is to hide all the edge seams on the inside of the bag. Since the lining was already attached to the bag, I can’t nicely join all the sides together to make the bag on the machine. I found a spool of hand quilting thread that I had been intending to take to the guild for the grab table. It’s a nice soft yellow. Hand quilting thread has a coating on it that is horrible for machines because it gums up the tension disks – it almost feels like upholstery thread. I don’t hand quilt at all and bought the thread because it was on sale for 10 cents and I mis-read the label. Since I remembered I still had this thread, I decided to hand-stitch the seams together instead! This will make the seams bump up together with a “hidden” stitch and it will allow me to incorporate my exclusive handbag handle design.

Because of how this bag goes together, the mouth of the bag is more narrow than the hold of the bag (as in ship’s hold … the interior of the bag?). Since I’m building the bag on the small side to begin with, this made the opening very narrow indeed. I could easily get my fist in and out, but I could potentially see having a problem with a super bulky wallet and definitely issues with inserting a book. To fix that, I decided to add a wider handle to the bag. The problem is that this style of bag usually attaches the handles to the upper points. So I changed the design.

I cut the handles out of the remaining square of the focus fabric. I cut on an acute diagonal so I would get as much width out of it as possible. I sewed a seam up the two edges to make an elongated triangle. The ends didn’t match up, but I cut them square after sewing the seam. Once this was done, I measured the length of the two top panels of the bag as the handle will be attached to the side. I marked the top and bottom on the handle and drew a line to follow. Back at the sewing machine, I ran the lines under my walking foot and sewed down the point. I turned just after the edge of the fabric so I would have less bulk bunching when I turned it inside out. Finally, I cut off the excess fabric and turned the handle inside out. I used my Purple Thang to make the point as pointy as possible. Word of caution: while this is a wonderful tool, I have accidentally ripped through fabric with it by pushing too hard, so keep that in mind. The handles got spritzed and ironed and are ready to be attached to the bag!

My hand sewing is really slow and I’m also knitting a birthday gift for someone turning an age on January 22, so it’s not my biggest priority right now. It is coming along though! I’m adding a bonus picture showing one side almost finished. It might look a bit funny at the bottom where everything comes together because of the way I sewed on the first handle, but I figure I’ll put a pale yellow button over that spot on both sides it it does. I’m also thinking of putting a yellow button at the top and adding a fabric loop so you can “close” the bag, but I think the mouth might be small enough to make that redundant.

As punishment for having my dessert first, I also did most of my block-of-the-month. I am really struggling with these block. Not because the patterns are wrong (Kim does a really good job at writing them) but because I evidently don’t read patterns well. All the quilts I’ve made so far have either been completely out of my head or I borrowed elements from a pattern and modified it to suit myself. The modified patterns gave me the most trouble because I was trying to understand how they did what they did so I could change or increase it. All my bags were just a little bit wrong because I would do something then realize I mis-understood what I was doing. That’s learning for me and that’s why I leave my mistakes in. I’m teaching myself to hide the mistakes in plain sight. This month’s block was a pointed flower block and I didn’t realize until I started joining them all together that I’d done it completely wrong. All the piecing was done right, but the joining was not done in the right order so it doesn’t look pointed. Since I didn’t realize this until the end of the process, I’m finishing it as-is and taking it in as an alternative design piece. It doesn’t look bad – in fact, it looks like it’s on purpose because they’re all done the same way. It’s just not according to pattern. When I post the completed quilt top in May, you’ll have to see if you can spot it.

I’m going to blame it on the concert I was watching while I was doing this. I usually watch Netflix, but I sometimes get distracted by the screen and I wanted to concentrate so I didn’t make any mistakes (HA!). It was the memorial concert for “Beard Guy” Mike Taylor from Walk Off The Earth. Like a good Canadian, I’ve always enjoyed their music and have quite a bit of it, but I’m in no way a super-fan or know much about the band’s personal life. Regardless, this concert brought me to tears a couple of times. It’s so amazing to see the impact a single person can have on a large group of people and so sad to think that most of the time, it’s not celebrated until after the person is gone.

This week, find someone who means a lot to you and tell them what makes them so special and why you love them. We should all do this more often, but it’s so easy to get bogged down in life and forget. Try to remember to show your love more often. I wish I could show my dearly departed aunt, Auntie El, how much she had meant to me and how big of an impact her presence had in my life. The only way I can do that now is to reflect her in how I behave in my own life and that will just have to be enough.

~M