Sunday, September 23, 2018

Cracker II - An August Finish

     I finished this quilt in August,  and it was gifted in September.

      "Jacob's Ladder"   "Jewell Box"   It has several other historical names... but my husband named it "Cracker II"...  

     I used a variety of browns from my fabric stash and only had to purchase some backing fabric.  

It now lives at it's forever home, with a good friend of ours.  

I free motion quilted around the center area using continuous curves.... and did ruler work to do the borders.    

Meet Sophie! My Janome 9400

     After 8 weeks I decided earlier this month to trade "Ruby" in at my local dealer,  and upgraded to the Janome 9400.   

     My dealer had graciously given me a loaner to use, that was one upgrade newer than Ruby,  and I loved the changes they had made to some of my everyday complaints.     When I went to test drive the newer 9400,  they had actually solved even more issues.     

    I had purchased the 7700 when it was very brand new.... first 7 mm  machine on the domestic market, and the largest throat of 11" at the time.   

     Lesson learned.... this many new features is often not the time to buy....  my biggest complaints included:  

  1.    A very clumsy zipper foot!  the heel of it was 7 mm wide to accommodate the wide feed dogs... but that made it nearly impossible to stitch near the zipper teeth, or to make a nice piping. 
  2.  Finding an accurate 1/4" seam without pieces twisting at the end of the sewing sentence.   ( I had to use the far right needle position for the 1/4 inch... but then it would veer off at the end of triangle pieces.) 
  3. The mechanism to  use the single hole feature was a little piece of metal that would cover the wider needle hole,  but it was prone to catching lint and acting up.... plus  stitching in the far right needle position meant I couldn't use it where it was really useful, to keep triangle points from being eaten up at the beginning of stitching. 
  4. It had a very hard time climbing up over seam bulk.  I had to use a seam bridge more times than I felt I should ever have to.   (my old Viking, and my Juki never had this issue... in fact my Featherweights  can climb up more seam bulk)
  5. I never knew where the tension was set  with the Auto Tension... so when I needed to adjust for FMQ,  it was a huge guessing game.
  6. The pieces that slipped down under the walking foot would catch on my safety   pins when free motion quilting. 
  7. The presser foot lever was wide and long... which would also catch up on quilt sandwiches as they moved through the machine.... this would sometimes raise the presser foot just enough to mess with the tension.  I had learned to listen for the change of sound... but it was a pain. 

     I've had Sophie here at home now for about a month.   And she and I are getting along famously!  I named her after my great great grandmother on my mom's side.  Sophia arrived in the USA from Rohrbach, Russia on a ship in 1884.  She was only 8 years old!   

     So far,  she and I have mended some knits,  free motion quilted,  done some ruler work for quilting,  pieced 250 half square triangles (without any twisting),  pieced bulky seams on my "On Ringo Lake", and we took a fun class on embellishing fabric with zig zag stitches and metalic and specialty threads. 

     Last Sunday,  she had a small temper tantrum while I was trying to set her up for FMQ....  but we eventually came to an understanding and I finally gave her a different spool of thread which seemed to make the difference. 

     One of the features that I really love is the "HP Plate and 1/4 foot combation".  This throat plate automatically moves the needle over to the left side, using just the left half of the feed dog, for a narrow seam that does not grab or twist.  ( Like a featherweight or Juki straight stitch).  The foot is more of an industrial style,  and this foot climbs over seams like a dream.    

      Of Course, she comes with ton of decorative stitches I will most likely never use to full capacity...   She also has an auto foot up feature that is great if you are feeding lots of small block parts through in a chain.... and even with the 9 mm feed dogs,  her zipper foot is now slim and trim.  Zippers and piping are no problem at all. 

A Delicate Flower

     My husband, Mike, named this quilt. " A Delicate Flower" .    It has been bound, labeled and delivered.    This quilt is for a friend of ours....   You can read about the one I made her husband in the next blog post. 


     I've been following some blogs and watching videos on free motion quilting this summer.  I jumped in on the paisley design in the center.   Here is a closer picture of the back... which is a solid color, showing the quilting a little better. 

     This is my first attempt to quilt this design on a quilt, without using a stencil or tracing it onto golden threads paper and then stitching and tearing.   Doing it freehand took a while.  It's definitely not perfect, especially my stitch length consistency (or lack of).   

     The pattern is so dense, that it really left me with some decisions about how to do the border.  I've never quilted a quilt this heavily.  In fact... I wound a total of 20 bobbins for this quilt and have less than 1 left.  I would say that I average 7 - 10 bobbins per most quilts.  

    Oh, yeah.. the borders.  I needed something that would be equally as dense to keep everything flat.  I purchased some Westalee quilting rulers at our quilt show in May, but had not yet tried them out.  Perfect opportunity.... two new skills at  once.  

     The templates are very versatile.  They are the concentric circles.  A set of 4 that allow for quilting as close together as a quarter of an inch, to any increment you want, really... but at 1/4" , 1/2", 3/4" or 1" apart.   There are many more options rather than just concentric circles... overlapping circular motifs... Baptist Fans... which is the reason they caught my attention in the first place.   I love the way they look on quilts. 

      The templates ride on a tack, and they rotate as needed as you stitch.  There are some tutorial videos on youtube.  tutorial video     And so many choices of templates and rulers on their website.    Now.... not cheap... but they are high quality and versatile.  My thinking is to get a few more sets that I can mix and match.   

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

70, 273 Project and a Machine Update

     Ruby,  my Janome 7700 is still waiting for parts at the "spa". Turns out she needs a new "mother board"!  She was new in December of 2011, so isn't all that old...   It's been well over 5 weeks now, but after limping along on the backup machine with very limited features for 4 weeks,  I whined just a bit to the dealer, and was given an upgrade of a Janome 8900 to use as a loaner.   

     This means that I've finally been able to do some actual Quilting, instead of piecing. Believe me,  I don't need to piece any more tops right now,  I have so many waiting for their quilting to happen.  

      While  quilting on the loaner this weekend, I see that the newer model has worked out many of the  little issues that the 7700 has.  New machine?  I'm not totally sold yet, but a seed has been planted.  

     One thing I have been working on while Ruby has been away is the 70,273 Project.   If you have not heard of this, you need to check out the links below and find out more about this human atrocity.   

the 70,273 Project itself

Historical information

     As a Special Education teacher,  this project grabbed my heart and won't let go.   I pledged to make a block for each of the students I've had over the last 18 plus years, thinking the number would be about 125,  only to do an actual count and it is upwards of 225.   

     I'm still stitching blocks, but I did get one quilt top assembled that commemorates 60 lives lost during the early years of WWII.   The blocks with the green are blocks that were made by some of my students this past year.  

       I have nearly enough blocks done to make a second top finished.  The ribbon and string blocks go together quickly,  but I want a mix of media in each quilt, and the embroidery blocks take a bit longer... and I need to get the paint and stamps back out as well. 

      I'm also working on a "Midling"  which will be about the size of a fat quarter, which is on my design wall waiting for the next level of inspiration.    I am embroidering on a vintage damask tablecloth.  I love the way the damask adds texture to the background. 
 If you haven't checked out the links above yet,  each pair of   XX commemorate one soul. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Retirement at Last!

     Really?   Over 7  months since my previous post ?   Seems to be a pattern I've established over the years....  Quilt like crazy over winter break... and finally come out of a coma in July....  only to go back to school and repeat. 

     I officially retired on June 15,  after nearly 20 years in the same Special Education Program for students ages 18 - 21, where I taught transition skills for participation in real life activities at home, in the community and for work.  I loved my job,  but it finally worked out that I'm able to spend time with hubby, work in the garden, and quilt!  Yeah!!!!

    I've been working on some projects,  and yes.. I've already started 3 new projects since June.   

     Ruby, my Janome 7700  decided she needed to go to the spa.... and it's been a week already,  and most likley another 2 weeks until I get her back.    Right in the middle of a project, she decided she didn't want to change needle positions anymore...  the tech thinks it's a transformer....    I'm so glad I have a couple of backup machines!

     I've been working on the 840 HST I need for Jamestown Landing as my Leaders and Enders now for at least a year and a half....   I'm feeding them through in  mutliples of 5 now,  in hopes of finishing them before a new century arrives...  Only 260 to go.  My strategy is now to feed them 10 at a time.  Then I only need to stitch 26 chain seams to finish!   

     I've recently started following HollyAnne Knight over at the String & Story....  she's having a summer Quilt Along, a Summer Stash Busting Challenge  and has shared her pattern "Lanterns of Hope" with us. We are piecing the top in July, and she will walk us through the actual quilting of it in August.   Her blog link is: .

   Here is my top.  I chose to use 3 1/2" strips in reds, whites and blues so that I'll have a Quilt of Valor when we are done.   This goes together quickly. The tricky part is getting each block turned just right in the layout. 

    Retirement brought several  wonderful gifts and greetings from friends and co-workers.  Fabric gift cards, gardening gift cards,  eating gift cards,  even a wine gift card.... 
However,  a friend of ours was overly generous with the amount of the card they gave me for a fabric store.  I'm not divulging the amount that it takes to "bribe" me into making you a quilt... but I pulled from my stash to make them each a quilt.   Her quilt is one that I have had in the back of my mind for awhile.  In fact,  when I received this fabric several years back,  this beautiful lady came to mind,  but time hadn't allowed me to start anything for her.   It's now a top,  waiting for Ruby to return from the spa for quilting. 

Pattern:   "Samurai Garden" 
Designer: Nicole Chambers
Book:  Simple Quilts that Look Like a Million Bucks

     This is a pattern from a book I purchased several years ago.  The 3 quilts I've made from it have gone together very quickly.  It does have some waste with the triangles  go on the corners.     I usually prefer stitching scrappy quilts,  but I do have to admit that three color  quilts cut out much quicker.   

     I've also finished the center of a scrappy Jacob's Ladder in browns, and it is waiting for the border fabrics to come out of the laundry....  wouldn't you know it... All those browns and two of the same end up right next to each other!  LOL 

  There has been progress on my "On Ringo Lake" quilt as well!  All 50 blocks are now intact,  and waiting to be pieced, but I need to clear my design wall first!  This one goes together like a puzzle with the way the sashings rotate.  

Here is picture of it partially pieced.  

 I made a leap into landscape quilts early this spring,  and made a quilt of Haystock Rock on the Oregon Coast.    I used my EQ8 software to trace a photo of the rock,  and free formed the rest.   There are two very similar versions of this quilt... One is completely quilted and bound, and it took a 3rd place ribbon at our quilt show in May!  The other top is done, and waiting for quilting.... it will be gifted to my step daughter in Montana.  She loves Haystack Rock! 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Scrap and Stash Management - A Revisit

I've posted before  in Jan. 2015, about my stash and scrap management.  I believe you can find the previous posts both here ...   and  again here.  

While working on the current Bonnie Hunter Mystery, "On Ringo Lake",  I was amazed at how easy it was to go to my bins of pieces and strips a pull from them for variety.  I made it all the way through part 1 without cutting into the yardage in my stash.  In fact, much of it came from my 1 1/2" squares that were already cut.  As you can see in my picture, that I all but wiped out  my reds and whites.  

I did purchase a handful of fat quarters in the light blue I'm using for the corals that Bonnie is using,  and I cut 2 fat quarters from some blue yardage on my shelf.   The two lighter blue pieces under my step one units.  (Since is is going to be a Quilt of Valor, I am trying to steer clear of girly looking florals, and most of my lighter blues were just that... girly florals!)  I didn't have any strips of those two in my strip bins.  Other than that, Through step 5, all of my color pieces have come from strips or smaller scraps. 

Here is where my "revisit" part of this post comes in.    

As I was getting ready to cut  for clue #5 last week,  I realized that everything left in my whites/ creams bin is on the creamy, beige side.... I've used up all the whiter pieces that were in there.  Yeah for me!  but this means I need to re-supply.  


 Now,  creams and beiges are often my backgrounds of choice,  but I really wanted a brighter white feel to the background pieces in this project.  So I took a couple of hours, and re-stocked my whites on whites. 

I purchase fabrics when I find a great deal!  Especially if it's not going into a current project.  I have been really diligent about this the last couple of years.... In fact, I can honestly say that I think this past year, I've probably purchased less than 10 yards of fabric! (I'm practicing for retirement... LOL)   As you can see from this previous stash photo,  I'm not in need of anything to speak of...   See that stack of Whites near the bottom left?  Yep.. that one.. the middle part of the next to the bottom row.... That's the stack I'm working with today... and this picture was taken in Jan. of 2015...  Those are my whites on whites. 

It is a daunting task to think about pulling each of those fabrics,  and only cutting one strip off of each.   So thinking proactively,  I decided to work the pile systematically. 
I opened up each piece,  some measuring a yard,  some up to 5 yards. 

  • Step 1.  Press out the fold lines on one end, so that I could cut a half yard from one end. 
  • Step 2.  Cut the 1/2 yard off.  
  • Step 3.  Refold the remaining yardage, hopefully on the original fold lines, so that I don't have to re=press the entire piece. 
  • Step 4.  trim the fold line, resulting in 2 Fat Quarters.   One fat quarter got put aside in  a pile for later pressing and refolding. 
  • Step 5.  Once 5 fat quarters were pressed, (I like to use a little sizing or starch),  I laid them out in a stack that I'll call  a "5 stack".  Making sure that the salvage edges were straight, and the pieces were smooth.  
  • Step 6.  Now,   use about 4 of my flat flower pins, and pin about 1/3 of the way down the stack of fat quarters, to keep them from shifting.  (the use of starch or sizing in the previous step helps with this too). 

  • Step 7 -  I knew I needed 2" strips for my current project, so I cut one of those first.  
  • Step 8 - Now the planning part comes in... I also cut another 2",  1 1/2",  2 1/2"  and 3 1/2" strip to put into the strip bins for another day.   
  • Step 9 -  This left me with about 6" of my "5 stack" left.  I haven't cut the 3 1/2" strip yet from the photo above.   
Note - If you look closely in the photo above you can see the difference between my "clean cut" edge at the top,  and the uncut edge at the bottom of that striped set. 
  • Step 10 - press and refold the pile of fat quarters that I set aside earlier.  These will go into the fat quarter drawers to be pulled out to play another day.  I may not have to pull my entire stack again for a couple of  years.  
The remaining portions of my "5 stacks"  will stay pinned like this until I finish all my cutting for this project.  If I need a different size strip,  I'll cut from each of these stacks rather than grabbing from the strips I just cut for re-supply.   If I need  3 1/2 inch strips for the next clue,  I'll use these stacks.  

Then ,  I'll see what is left.  If I have more than 4 1/2 inches left,  I'll unpin, and refold them to go back into that bin marked "whites and creams"... which contains pieces smaller than a fat quarter.    

If it's less than 4 1/2",  I'll cut whatever size strips I can get out of it,  and add them to the strip bins with the strips I just cut for re-supply.  Anything less than 1 1/2" will go into my "String Bin"

Here is a picture of my results... 

I still have a stack of fabric to return to my stash shelf.. (the ones on the right).  
I have a stack of 25 fat quarters to grab when needed. 
I have strips to add back into the strip bins to use as needed.   Each little folded roll is 5 fabrics. 

I choose to do this with groups of 5,  because then I can easily count to 10 when cutting.  I use a 60 mm  rotary cutter,  (make sure it's nice and sharp).   5 single layers is my limit for strip cutting.  Many quilters feel more comfortable with just 3 - 4 layers at a time.  

When sub-cutting units,  or trimming blocks,  I do not cut this many layers.  

I use the "5 stack"  technique when cutting my colored fabrics as well.   If the pattern calls for Assorted Blues, for instance,  I pull blues just like I did my whites,  press,  make a separate FQ for use later,  and pin 5 together for cutting for the project.  When the project is done,  I'll  unpin and return to the bins.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

On Ringo Lake Week 5 update

I am all caught up!    I'm loving this project.  It was exactly what I needed for therapy.   My colors are coming together nicely,  if I have a wish for what color is up next it would be more of Bonnie's aquas,  or my reds.  

I am linking up to Bonnie's Linky party for the week at Week 5 Linky Party

Here is clue #1  - Darling little nine patches

Here is clue #2 -  Flying Geese! 

Clue #3 -  Diamonds in Squares...  Going in opposite directions... 

Clue #4 - Some winged squares....  

 And finally...  clue #5  - Another gaggle of Flying geese. 

Up to this point,  I have cut entirely out of my scrap drawers, and scrap saver system....  The only yardage I have cut into was 4 fat quarters of the lighter blue that I purchased for this project and 2 pieces of lighter blue yardage.   I also had to re-supply my white on whites from stash yardage for the flying geese wings for clue 5.     It is amazing how having that variety of strips and pieces in your scrap system allows for such a wide variety!  Thank you Bonnie for giving us this valuable information on your website and Blog.