New Orleans House Project

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Scrappy Fabric Therapy

Today was one of those Saturdays when I was in serious need of some fabric therapy.  I did a lot of traveling for work this week, and that left me too tired to do much of anything in the evenings.  Happily, I was able to spend most of today sewing, and getting lots of good things accomplished!

I'm still plugging along on some Rainbow Scrap Challenge projects.  This month's color is teal (and similar variations), so I pulled some 1.5 inch strips and pieced two 49-patch blocks.
I'm still not sure what size quilt project I'll ultimately make with these.  They're only 7 inches, so I'll either need to make a lot more, or stop soon and make a small quilt.

Last year's block was made with random 1.5 inch squares; the Trip Around the World/strip method is much easier!

I've been feeling the need to finish up a number of languishing projects - so most of my current stitching focus has been on moving things along.

One of last year's Rainbow Scrap Challenge projects was making Windblown Wishes blocks from Diane D. Knott's Scrap Quilt Secrets book.  After I assembled my blocks, I took a little detour from Diane's pattern when it came to the borders.  I decided to make a half-square triangle border, again using rainbow colors.  

Today I added a narrow all-white border and stitched all the HSTs together for the next border.  If I'm lucky, I'll get to sew the borders to the top tomorrow.  I think I'll add a wider white border after the HSTs to finish things up.

I haven't been blogging much over the past several weeks, so I was surprised to discover Blogger had disabled the emailed comments feature.  I've switched to moderating all comments, so at least I'll get an email notification when comments are posted.  I do enjoy all the sharing that takes place via blogging comments, so I hope this helps keep the conversation alive!

*Edit:  moderated comments are not getting sent via email, either. 

There's more Rainbow Scrap Challenge inspiration at the weekly RSC link-up, so please stop by and see what other quilters are up to!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Checking In With a Few Finishes

Wow!  Where did the second half of May and the first week of June get to?  

I have been working on quilting projects, but feeling very haphazard in my use of time.  Sometimes it's hard to stay focused when your sewing time only comes in short spurts.   Summer distractions like gardening and family time seem to keep me away from my fabric therapy!

Since my last blog post, I managed to complete another block in the Gathered Harvest BOM I'm doing via my local quilt shop.  This one is called "Fresh Pineapple".  I'm prepping the appliqué shapes with freezer paper and starch, then using invisible thread to machine appliqué the shapes in place - using a narrow zig-zag stitch.  

Since this block had LOTS of leaves, I tried a new-to-me technique:  I made leaf templates using card stock, then used a running stitch in the seam allowance and gathered the allowance around the template.  Then used starch and a hot iron to press the seam allowance to the back of the leaf shape (i.e. the same idea as the "perfect circle" technique).  It worked like a charm! 

Another finish:  a Rainbow Scrap Challenge project made from pinwheel blocks.  I saw a quilt in this style in a decorating magazine, and since I love nine-patch blocks, I was smitten. 

I searched Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns and the Quilt Index - finally discovering the name of the pattern as Flutter Wheel.  I drafted my own pattern and made pinwheel blocks every month in 2017 as part of the Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  The original quilt doesn't have an outside border, but since the pinwheels tend to stretch, I decided a solid fabric border would help prevent wobbly edges to the quilt.

Close up of the pattern:  nine patch of pinwheel blocks with pinwheel sashing squares and plain sashing.

Non-quilting, but cooking related
Dear Husband and I are cookbook collectors.  Not only do we enjoy preparing new recipes, we both tend to read cookbooks like novels.  We've purchased many cookbooks for ourselves, and been gifted many more for holidays and anniversaries.  Needless to say, we have quite a cookbook collection.  Some are frequently used favorites and others are more for reference.

A few weeks ago, Dear Husband decided we needed to put the collection to a more frequent use.  He issued a family challenge:  Sunday night dinners must include a recipe from one of the cookbooks in our collection.  Since our oldest Dear Son is currently living at home, that meant 3 rotating Sundays of different cookbook recipes.

Today was my first Sunday dinner as part of the challenge.  I chose a cookbook from way back "in the day".  Long before the Food Network or HGTV, those of us who were interested in food watched PBS for cooking inspiration.  I remember watching The Frugal Gourmet on PBS - I was a SAHM with small children and always interested in new ways of preparing meals.  My inspiration for tonight was a Frugal Gourmet - Jeff Smith - book titled "Our Immigrant Ancestors".  My immigrant ancestors mostly come from the British Isles, but I chose a recipe from somewhere completely different - Thai Beef Salad.  Which, I'm happy to report, was a big success, and will probably enter the rotation as a frequent summertime meal!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Doggie-Approved Quilts (and a Dog Hazard Warning!)

A few weeks ago, Kyle (Timeless Reflections) shared some of her quilts from the turn of the 21st century period.  (It's hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago!)  Her gentle admonishment was to remind everyone to label their quilts.

Kyle's retrospective got me thinking about quilts I had made during that same time period.  Exactly one quilt came to mind and I decided to get busy and document it before it vanished completely!

I made this Jacob's Ladder variation for my oldest son Andrew sometime around 1997-1998.  We had just moved to New Orleans and he had asked to paint his bedroom black.  I said "no", so we settled on dark red instead.  This quilt was made specifically for his room.

I made it entirely on my Singer 201 treadle sewing machine, which was new-to-me at the time.  It was my first quilt made completely on a treadle.  I even machine-stitched the binding to the back of the quilt (something I almost never do) just so I could get 'er done!

The quilt has gone from home to college to first apartment and now home again, since Andrew moved back in with us last summer (he's back in school).  Along the way, his dog, Moose, decided to try a few sample bites of the quilt.  I'm going to appliqué some replacement squares over the damage, and fix the loose seam.   

I liked the design of this quilt so much, I even saved the original pattern!  It's from Ladies Circle Patchwork Quilts, although I'm not sure of the date as I didn't save the entire magazine.  They called the quilt pattern Endless Chain.

It's sad to see how poorly the black fabric in the quilt top has held up, but that's pretty typical of black fabrics from that period.  I used a bandana print for the backing and it has held up much better - the white streaks in the picture are the camera's reaction to sunlight, not wear in the fabric.  When I'm fixing the doggie damage on the front, I'll also add a small label to the back.  I don't know how much longer this quilt will hold up, but I'm gonna put my name on it anyway!

I have another doggie-approved quilt story, kinda scary, but with a happy ending.
This is my son David's dog, Jozy Labradore.  Jozy and David live in Dallas, Texas, but Jozy spends part of his summer with us every year when David has to to be away from home for 6 weeks as part of his job.  In other words, Jozy is part of our family, too.

Last week, David inadvertently left a container of sugar-free gum on his bedside table.  Jozy does not usually chew on stuff he's not supposed to, but for some reason the gum got his attention.  David's roommate found Jozy an hour or so later, having seizures.  He took Jozy to the emergency vet's office and found out he had been poisoned by the xylitol in the sugar-free gum.  David was in New York City for work, so he was helpless and totally freaked out!

David was able to come home the next day, and immediately went to see Jozy and took one of my quilts along to comfort him.  Fortunately, Jozy responded to treatment (and the quilt!) and has since recovered and gone home.  

As it turns out, xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs.  Even in very small amounts, it causes very low blood sugar, which can lead to seizures, liver damage and death.  The scary thing is, there are seldom any warnings about pet toxicity on items containing xylitol.  It's not just in chewing gum, but also found in toothpaste, mouthwash, sugar-free baked goods and even peanut butter.  Here's a link to a good article about xylitol and pets - it's a little long, but if you're a dog-lover, definitely worth knowing!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Scrappy Quilt Construction Goes Pink

Pink is the color for this month's Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  I've scoured the bins of pink strips and squares and pulled some pink scrappy chunks from various drawers.  Blocks were made and parts and pieces assembled.  I'm getting anxious to finish up a couple of scrappy projects from last year, so I jumped ahead and made some extra parts and pieces as well.

First project:  use up some 1.5 inch strips to make 49-patch blocks.  I already had one pink block from last year, and I was able to add 2 more.  I'm waiting for the end of the year before I decide what to do with these blocks.

I started making these quarter square log cabin blocks this year using reproduction fabrics.  My original plan for these blocks was to make a straight set quilt, but maybe I'll reconsider and set them on point.

One of last year's RSC projects was based on Windblown Wishes, a quilt from Diane D. Knott's book, Scrap Quilt Secrets.  I decided to do an outer border of HSTs, and planned to make the HST parts each month as part of this year's Rainbow Scrap Challenge.

Since I had the box of 2.5 inch scrappy strips out anyway (for the pink HSTs), I went ahead and finished up all the remaining colors needed to finish the border.  I'm not sure when I'll get to start assembling this, but at least the HSTs are ready to go.

This is another Rainbow Scrap 2017 project that still needs attention.  The scrappy pinwheel blocks need sashing and cornerstones; the cornerstones are more pinwheel blocks.

And now the cornerstone pinwheels are complete, so as soon as I cut the sashing, I can start assembling this RSC project!

If you love scrappy quilts, be sure to check out today's Rainbow Scrap Challenge link-up - lots of colorful inspiration!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Little More Yellow with More Machine Appliqué

The Rainbow Scrap Challenge colors for April were yellow and gold.  I pulled out some scraps earlier in the month for on-going RSC projects and I wrapped up the month with some reproduction fabric scrappy appliqué.
The basket pattern is from Blackbird Designs - When the Cold Wind Blows.  I've been using the design to practice machine appliqué techniques.  

Inspired by a recent post by Barb (Fun with Barb), I decided to try using 100 weight polyester thread for machine appliqué.  Barb had tried the thread for machine quilting, but I reasoned it might be good for machine appliqué as well.

Barb used Invisifil thread, a product from Wonderfil.  The thread is advertised as "ultra-fine but surprisingly strong".  I ordered some small spools of Invisifil in neutral colors to try on my basket blocks.

For stitching, I used a universal 65/9 needle and 50 wt Aurifil cotton thread in my bobbin.  After I adjusted the tension a tiny bit, my machine was very happy with the new thread.  In this example, the neutral thread worked well with the fabrics and seems to disappear, although the stitching line is fairly easy to see.  What I like about the 100 weight thread is the matte finish.

I ordered my Invisifil thread from Red Rocks Thread, and while I was perusing the website I decided to see if there were any other 100 wt thread options.  I wound up ordering a spool of Superior MicroQuilter 100 wt thread.  The MicroQuilter thread is advertised as being very strong, but still good for invisible stitching. 

The MicroQuilter thread performed just as easily in my machine; I used the same needle and bobbin thread.  The stitching is more obvious in this example, but using a different color of thread might improve the "invisibility".   Again, the matte finish is a plus.  Both of these threads come in a multitude of colors, so getting a close match is possible. 

For comparison, I went back and photographed the stitching on an early basket.  This block was stitched with invisible nylon monofilament thread (YLI brand, but others are available).  The nylon thread is good for recreating the look of hand appliqué, but the thread does have a glossy look.  

OK, now that I've bored you with all my thread experiments, go over to the weekly Rainbow Scrap link-up for some scrappy inspiration!

Monday, April 16, 2018

More Flamingo Hexies

I've been in a hand-stitching frame of mind for the past two weeks.  My stack of prepared hexie pieces was calling out to me, so I got busy with needle and thread.  I managed to finish most of the blocks I had prepped back in October of last year.

My method is to choose a fabric from the flamingo hexie stash and cut as many variations as possible before I put the fabric away.  These blocks are two of the variations I've made from the paisley fabric.

Two variations from the green batik (sunburst) fabric.

Abstract orange flowers (?) on a fuschia background.

Flamingo admiration society?

This current batch of hexies will get added to the pile.  The project was inspired by Barb Vedder's Hex Vex pattern.  I still need quite a few more finished hexies, but if I keep taking small bites I'll get there eventually!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Start with Some Gold Scraps

The first Saturday in April means it's time to focus on Rainbow Scrap Challenge projects.  This month's challenge is to use scraps in shades of yellow and gold.  Not all my current RSC projects need yellow or gold, but I'll have fun digging through the scrap bins anyway.

I started with the 49-patch blocks - a project I started last year.  I had one yellow block already made, so I added another yellow block and a gold block.  Since my Rainbow Scrap projects tend to focus on bright colors, the gold scraps are usually neglected.  I was happy to use a few of them for this block.  Maybe I should make another gold block just so this one doesn't feel like the odd man out!

I also pulled some chunks from the repro fabric bin and made these quarter square log cabin blocks.  I did some math ahead of time when I started making these blocks, so I know I need at least 5 of each RSC color in order to get a decent-sized quilt at the end of the year.

From the "You Never Know What Will Happen" department:  I volunteered to attend a work-related event this morning (you know - making brownie points by working on a Saturday 😇) and met a group of quilters by happy accident!  The quilters were utilizing another meeting room down the hall from where my work event was taking place.  I happened to walk past their room, and of course, when I saw sewing machines being set up I had to investigate.  Turns out they meet there every month, bring a pot-luck lunch and spend all day sewing.  When they found out I was also a quilter, they invited me to join them next month.  I'll be looking forward to that, for sure!

For more scrappy yellow and gold inspiration, check out the Rainbow Scrap Challenge link-up.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Machine Appliqué with a Vintage Twist

I guess 2018 is turning out to be my Year of Machine Appliqué!

I finished the first block - Sweet Cherry - in the Gathered Harvest BOM sponsored by my LQS, Quilted Owl.  The patterns are from Fresh Picked by Blackbird Designs.  

I prepped all the appliqué pieces using freezer paper and starch.  Next I laid the pieces out on the background fabric, so I could figure out the order to stitch each piece.  I worked in sections, using fabric glue to adhere the pieces to the background for sewing.  Using invisible nylon thread on top and Aurifil 50 weight thread in the bobbin, I stitched each piece with a very narrow zigzag stitch.  

I have started the prep work for block number 2 - Fresh Pineapple.  I'm only two months behind on the BOM process, but I'd be even farther behind if I were stitching each block by hand!

Since I've been experimenting with different machine appliqué techniques this year, I decided it was time to experiment with a different sewing machine as well.  I've had this vintage Singer sewing machine for years, but it was neglected in favor of other vintage machines.  Unlike all the other vintage sewing machines in my flock, this machine can do zigzag stitching (and more).

The machine is a Singer 503A - which was a new design, introduced in 1961.  The 503A and its cousin the 500A, are also known as the Rocketeer - at least among sewing machine enthusiasts.  It's definitely got that mid-century space age vibe going!  The two Rocketeer machines were the last of the all-metal gear Singer machines.

The 503A sews several different stitches in addition to straight stitch and zigzag.  By changing the cams included with the machine, sewists can create a variety of decorative stitches.  The cams (Singer called them Fashion Discs) drop into the round opening to the right of the thread holders.  

The needle placement can be changed using the triangular knob.  The stitch width adjustment, to the left of the needle placement knob, allows for different widths on the zigzag and other decorative stitches.  The stitch length lever allows for forward and reverse stitching.  There's also a light under the Singer logo.

Probably the best reason to use this machine for appliqué is the slant needle feature.  Singer slant needle machines have a needle bar that is slanted forward, which allows for much easier visualization of the stitching area.  The only thing that would make the appliqué stitching a little easier here would be an open-toe presser foot - which can be purchased online for a few dollars.

So - how did the Rocketeer handle appliqué with invisible thread?  Like a champ!  I used Aurifil 50 weight thread in the bobbin and a polyester invisible thread on top.  I needed to loosen the upper thread tension a good bit, but the machine handled the poly thread just fine.  Going forward, I'll use a finer gauge needle (the machine uses standard 15x1 sewing machine needles) and I'm going to order an open toe foot attachment.  I'm going to keep the Rocketeer at our camp, so I can still do machine appliqué when we're there for the weekend.

I stitched up two more appliqué baskets yesterday to work out the process.  

This may become a project after all!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Scrappy Building Blocks

It's a new month and a new color for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  This month we are challenged to use our light green and lime green scraps.  I have plenty of scraps in that fit the description, so I got to work!

I had enough 1.5" strips to make two 49-patch blocks.  I'll keep making these 7 inch blocks for the rest of the year - maybe I'll have enough for a quilt at the end of the year!

A few more scraps made some HSTs to go in the border I'm planning for the Windblown Wishes quilt.

I made this light green Burgoyne Surrounded block last year.  I looked through the scrap stash and nothing in the lime green family jumped out at me, so I'll wait until we do dark green scraps to create another green Burgoyne block.

All of these pinwheel blocks were an RSC project last year.  I finished assembling them into 9-patches earlier this week.  Next up:  sashing and cornerstones (more pinwheel blocks!).  

For more scrappy inspiration, check out the linky party for the RSC 2018!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Machine Appliqué: Trying New Techniques

Back in January, I wrote about trying different machine appliqué techniques this year.  My plan was to use machine appliqué to complete a BOM being offered by my LQS, Quilted Owl.  Since that blog entry, I have been playing with different methods of preparing templates and the fabric appliqué shapes.

I started my experimentation by following a tutorial by Julie Baird, from her website Generations Quilt Patterns.  Her method involves using water soluble stabilizer to create templates for the appliqué shapes.  Julie's instructions are great and I can't do them justice in just a sentence or two, so if you're interested, go check out her technique.  
I had the pattern Julie used for her tutorial - Trick or Treat Baskets from When the Cold Wind Blows, and I went ahead and used that pattern for some practice pieces.  I didn't have any of the water soluble stabilizers recommended in the tutorial, so I tried what I had on hand.  The Pellon stabilizer worked fine for the template preparation technique, but after washing, the appliqué shapes remained very stiff and inflexible.  I'll try this technique again after I've got one of Julie's recommended stabilizers on hand.

Next, I used my "tried and true" method of appliqué prep: freezer paper templates and starch.   After prepping the baskets, I used a tiny bit of fabric glue to hold the pieces in place and commenced to sew.  

I used YLI Invisible Nylon Monofilament thread for the appliqué.  I already had the thread on hand, and it performed beautifully in my sewing machine.  I set my machine for zigzag stitching and adjusted the stitch length to 1 and the stitch width to 1.  It's a very narrow stitch and it mimics hand appliqué very closely.  I used Aurifil 50 weight thread in the bobbin.  I didn't need to adjust my tension, but your mileage may vary.  I tried taking a close-up of the actual stitching, but my camera is lousy for that. 

I heard about another prep method - this one used by quilt designer Kim Diehl.  In her book, Simple Appliqué, she describes several techniques, but the one I tried involved using freezer paper in a different manner.  The freezer paper is glued to the wrong side of the fabric for the appliqué shape, then the sticky side of the freezer paper is used to adhere the seam allowance AND adhere the appliqué shape to the background fabric.  

The appliqué shape is then machine-stitched to the background, using the same narrow zig-zag stitch and invisible thread.  When the stitching is complete, the background fabric is cut open or cut away, and the freezer paper removed (the above picture shows the back of the appliqué after removing the freezer paper).

I didn't dislike this technique, but I found it difficult to remove the freezer paper.  Even though the appliqué stitch was narrow, it still caught the edges of the paper, and it took careful manipulation to remove the paper.  I can see where it might come in handy for large or simple shapes, but it was akward for the baskets.

Now that I've started making the appliqué basket blocks, I can't seem to stop!  I have no plans to make the original quilt from When the Cold Wind Blows - it requires almost 300 blocks - but I will probably keep making these just for fun!

And...with that said, I've finally finished all the freezer paper and starch prep for my first Gathered Harvest block.  I need to make a few more bits of bias tape for the stems, but otherwise, everything is ready to be glued in place and machine appliquéd.  It will be an interesting week for Fabric Therapy!