Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spring To Finish!

The incredibly talented Jacquie of Tallgrass Prairie Studio is the brains behind the Spring To Finish Challenge of 2010.  Each participant chooses the task or tasks that they want to finish before May 31.

I have been working on mine since the start date (April 19), but I realized that I never officially listed what I plan to finish.  So here it is:

My Goals...
1.) The Testosterone Quilt
I am going to either a) finish the entire quilt top, or b) finish as much of the quilt top as I am financially able to do.

2.)  The Houseboat Schnibble
I will finish the top. and piece together the backing.

3.)  The Hexagon Quilt-a-Long
It took awhile for me to be able to get my fabric, so I am a bit behind.  I want to have all of the cutting done.

My Reward!
Per Jacquie's orders, we should reward ourselves for finishing our goals, and who am I to argue? :)
I was killing time at B&N last night and came across this book... I have seen it before but it didn't jump out at me and I never opened it.  But the quilting section at this store was woefully small, so I took what I could find.  And of course, since that's the way life goes, I fell in love immediately.  I think I want to make 95% of the projects in here, which is unusual for me -- usually I just want to make one or two out of a book.

And I will even offer myself a bonus...

Bonus A = Testosterone Quilt --> quilt sandwich
Bonus B = Houseboat Schnibble --> quilt sandwich
Bonus C = More than 50% of my triangles --> hexagon halves

The rewards for those are TBD.

Wish me luck!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Stash...

I bought today's subject fabric a few months ago.  But I didn't have a blog then, and I never posted about my stash.  So I am taking the position that it doesn't matter when I got it -- if I haven't posted about it, it's fair game. :-)

I wanted to make a quilt for my neighbor's daughter, and found a Clementine jelly roll for a good price on ebay.  (This was during my surgery recovery, when I spent almost all day online.)  On the day that the box came, I opened the box, examined its contents, and then put it in the hallway next to the basement/sewing dungeon door (so that I would remember to take it downstairs with me).

As always, Bentley watched me do this.  Since he can't stand to be more than 3 feet away from me, I didn't think anything of him following me into the hallway.  I went back into the family room and sat on the couch.  A second or two later, I saw a white flash jump into my dad's recliner.  I documented what I saw next and have translated his expressions for you (I am fluent in Small Evil Dog Thoughts).

  What?!?!  I just wanted to look at it... I've never seen one of these before!

Don't you dare take this away from me until I have had a chance to examine it.

::: sniff ::: Hrm... 

 ::: sniff ::: :::sniff:::   ...I am settling in for a closer look.  ::: sniff :::

Oh mom, how nice of you!! You bought me a new pillow!!!

This is one of the many, many times that I have told him, "thank goodness you're cute.  Otherwise, I might have to strangle you."  Because really, who can be mad at *that* face?!?!?!?!

(For the record, Bentley is a Bichon, and they are hypo-allergenic.  Plus, my neighbors have a dog that is half Bichon, so I'm really not worried about giving away the quilt made from this jelly roll that now has Bentley germs.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WIP Wednesday

These are two of the four things I'm working on.  I couldn't get to the other two, due to the temporary dismantling of my sewing dungeon.

This is the almost-halfway-finished Schnibble that I'm working on... the Schnibble is  Houseboat, and I am attempting to make it out of Boutique by Chez Moi for Moda.  (The black thing underneath is a piece of plastic that these have been resting on -- they are all ironed and ready for another round for the sewing machine, so I didn't want to mess them up too much.)

The second WIP has a bit of a story behind it.  See, I bought the fabric to make this quilt in 2004 -- yes, this has been quite the ongoing project. Around that time, I got as far as cutting the fabric into strips, sewing them together, and then cutting about half of the pieced strips.  I had planned on doing a very simple quilt with 5 inch (finished) squares, in a downward diagonal.

The fabrics consist of prints of: construction scenes, power tools, police cars, fire engines, trains, and yellow construction vehicles (like backhoes and bulldozers).  I have no idea who any of the designers are/were.  I might try to find some tractors for the border.   This quilt is PERFECT for its recipient.  I have nicknamed it The Testosterone Quilt.

Well, whatever I was using as my instruction manual didn't mention that part about making sure that your fabric is square.  Between that, my nonexistent quarter inch seam (I tried, I really did!) and my uber-beginner-ness, I have some of the most bizarre 5.5 inch squares that you have ever seen.  They look like they were cut with one of the tools in the quilt.  I have been putting off finishing this because I will have to figure out a way around all of the craziness.  Starting over is not an option, because I don't think that I could find a better group of fabrics for the recipient, and I think only one of these fabrics is still being made.

When I have thought about tackling this monstrosity over the past few weeks, I could only think of two options -- either take the strips apart and try to sew them together a little bit better, or take the strips apart, cut them into 4.5 inch blocks and sew each block together individually. 

I showed my mom an example of the problem and asked her what she thought I should do.  She looked at me like I was completely out of my mind (I get this look a lot though).  "So the seams don't match up perfectly -- HE WILL NEVER NOTICE.  He just wants his quilt."  Letting the quilt go with less than perfect squares with less than perfect quarter inch seams didn't even OCCUR to me.  At all.   But the more I thought about it, the more I think my mom is right, and that my dad would be upset if I wasted all that fabric and time.  

The photo above is of two rolls of two columns each.  I have a third group, so that is six finished columns altogether.  I think there will be four more, but those four are going to take a lot more work than these did.  My goal is to finish the entire quilt top by the end of April.  This sounds reasonable enough, considering that I have no job and there is no employment in sight.  But sewing these together... there is only so much I can handle at one time, so we will see what happens.

Oh -- and the (eventual) recipient of The Testosterone Quilt?

My dad!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Tiny Peanut

Meet Bentley:

He has a middle name, but we really only use it when he is bad.  I'm sure that he heard "BENTLEY JAMES" after I took these photos... and stopped laughing (Yes, they were two separate incidents.  He has a thing for toilet paper.).

I don't have kids, but anyone who has met him can tell you that he's an awful lot like a 4-legged toddler.

He will also melt your heart with his adorableness.  I'm pretty sure that he could make world peace happen.

He has about a million nicknames, but his first one was "Tiny Peanut."  My sister started it, back when he looked like this (the weekend after I got him, he was 13 weeks old):

Why did I name my blog after him?  There are two things keeping me going right now... quilting, and Bentley. It seemed appropriate to combine the two.

That, and right after I got Ebbie, I had him down in the sewing dungeon with me.  I was working on something and I thought he was asleep.  I saw him move out of the corner of my eye, and turned to see what he was getting into.  And then I sewed right through my fingernail, and halfway down through my finger.

Um, ouch.

But I couldn't be mad at this:

So I named my blog after him instead.

There will be more Bentley in the future... consider yourself warned. :-)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Apparently, I *Sound* Like a Quilter...

After getting halfway through typing this, I realized that you might be thinking "what in the world do the first few paragraphs have to do with quilting?  But hang on! I do make a point, I promise!

I have always been a reader.  I was the kid who read while brushing her teeth, eating, in the car... my friend and I used to read and roller skate at the same time (no, really.  I have no idea why one or both of us isn't dead).

It also I read freakishly quickly.  When I was in 5th grade, I read Gone With The Wind in two days -- and I slept.  I remember getting in trouble in third grade... my "reading group" was sitting around a table and we were supposed to be reading a certain page.  I got in trouble for drawing on my note paper because I was supposed to be reading.  What my teacher didn't know is that I had already read the assigned page FOUR TIMES.  (I had no idea that other people didn't read this fast too, so I never brought it up.)

This helped once I became a history major in college, and again in the various jobs that I have had.  So when I decided to take up quilting, I started reading everything that I could find about quilting.  I had nose/sinus surgery a month or two later, and since the painkillers and my discomfort made me think that actual sewing was a bad idea, I spent a LOT Of time on the computer, reading about quilting.  My recovery time got even longer after I had some complications, so I kept reading.  Most of my reading consisted of the blogs of a few incredibly talented quilters.  I like to have all of the information, so I started at the beginning of their blogs and read through the present.  I think that I have lost count of how many I actually read.  I'd try to come up with a list, but it would be a very long list -- remember, I read freakishly quickly.  If a blog mentioned that they check their stats (as in, how many people visited their site, where they were from, etc.), I felt compelled to email that person and apologize for screwing their status up. And to assure them that I'm not a stalker.

Let me put it this way... if you could somehow gain experience and talent by reading, I would be the next AmandaJean by now.  (Quilting blasphemy!  I know.)

So, here's the actual story/point of this post.  I was in Joann's picking up some cheap yarn and some "cheap" thread (I use the Gutermann 100% polyester for miscellaneous projects).  I was trying to decide what to get when a lady who had been standing near me turned and asked me, "what do you sew?"   I consider myself to be a pseudo-quilter, (I'm slowly working my way up to "real quilter") but I went for the short answer ("quilts") instead.  "Oh good!"  she said, looking very relieved.   "I just made my first quilt and am on to my second, and I have NO idea what kind of thread to buy!" She started to pick up one kind of thread, which turned out to be Gutermann's hand quilting thread -- she had just told me that she had even free motion quilted her first quilt, so I was fairly certain that she wasn't buying the correct thread.

Now, my ability to sew a consistent quarter inch seam in a straight line might be nonexistent, but all she wanted was information that did NOT involve any experience!!  I could TOTALLY handle this one! I even sounded confident in my answer, which was (essentially), "pretty much everything that I have read or everyone that I have talked to has recommended good quality, 100% cotton thread."  Then we had a short discussion on where one can purchase this thread -- she had no idea that a local quilt shop existed, so I gave her directions and asked her if she used the internet.  She did, so I pointed her in the direction of SMS and said that they were having "quilting month" and that their blog would be full of great tips.  She said that she had found SMS, which led her to Elizabeth at Oh, Fransson!, which is where she got her first pattern.  I was just about to say that the blogs of some of the contributors have some fantastic tutorials and hints, but she had already gotten there.  Now I *really* looked like I knew what I was talking about. And when we parted, she thanked me profusely for my help.

This just goes to show you that a little bit of knowledge in the hands of the wrong person can be very, very dangerous.  I went and passed myself off as a quilter!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Story of Ebbie

I have attempted to start quilting a few times in the past, but various life events (school, jobs, moving, etc.) kept getting in the way.  Back in September 2009-ish, I decided that I was really going to do it.  I couldn't afford a "real" sewing machine, so I settled for the kind that you can get from Amazon for $170 (I had a $100 gift certificate to Amazon, so that helped.).  I figured it would be years before I could afford anything better.

My grandparents have been incredibly generous to me.  I won't go into details, but for example, I have no student loans to pay back because of them.  My grandfather died a long time ago, so it has been just my grandma for awhile.  She had super-serious heart surgery back in October, and before (and after) that surgery, she said that she wanted to give each of us (my mom, my sister and I)  something to remember her by.  She was thinking jewelry.  Her surgery went great, but it took her a long time to recover.  In the meantime, my case of Quilt Addiction got more serious by the day.  One day, I had a brilliant idea.  See, I'm not the girl that needs a lot of expensive jewelry.  But everyone remembers the machine that they learned to quilt on, right?  Not to mention that I would use it to make quilts that would (hopefully) last a long time.  And make gifts for people that they would appreciate.  So I asked her if she would consider buying me a sewing machine instead of jewelry, and she agreed!

I knew what my budget was and started doing my research.  I did some test-driving.  There was one machine that I liked a *lot* but that particular group of sewing machines had a reputation for being unreliable (supposedly, there was a new model out that fixed the majority of the problems that the machines were having, but I couldn't find anyone who had bought one so that I could ask them about it!).  It didn't take long to realize that the choice was clear.

So on February 28, 2010...

I brought this home!

I took pictures of the entire unpacking process - because when was I going to get to do this again?  But I will not subject you to that kind of torture (...yet).

Meet my brand-new Janome Memory Craft 6600*!!!

I decided almost immediately that her name would be Ebbie.  This was my grandfather's nickname for my grandmother.  (My grandfather had a nickname for everyone.  He was one of those men who was unintentionally funny.  He would come home from work and watch the news every day, and all of the neighborhood kids would gather at the window to watch him watch the news.  Apparently, he would get angry at the news and start ranting and screaming at the TV, and it was amusing enough to be the kids' after-school entertainment.)  My machine seems to like her name, and I thought it would be a perfect tribute to my grandparents.

 I know this post is boring, but I wanted to tell The Story of Ebbie. :-)

P.S.  All of the 6500/6600 fanatics were totally telling the truth.  This machine is AMAZING.  I have said more than once that Janome should make me their spokesperson... I can totally see my picture under this headline:

"If we can make her quilting look good, think of the miracles that could happen for you!"

*I know that Janome has released a newer model.  But I had two thoughts: 1) What if the new machine isn't as good, and the 6600s become hard to find?  and 2)  My dealer will let me trade up for a year, so I have plenty of time to find out if the trade-in will be worthwhile or not.  So I'm not worried. :-) 

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