Friday, January 30, 2015

Celebrating a Friday Finish ...

... and completion of a UFO

Are you like me?  I love to design on the fly, maybe using a pattern for inspiration, but using resources on hand, making it work somehow, some way.

This morning I finished my version of Notable 9-Patch, a design by Sandy Bonsib for American Patchwork and Quilting circa 2007.

Notable 9-Patch

(I didn't crop my photo so you could see where I photograph finished tops.  That's my living room floor, photographed from the bridge that connects the upstairs bedrooms.  Some day I plan to have a design wall large enough to accommodate a whole quilt!)

When a guild friend showed me the downloadable pattern -- probably around 2008 -- I immediately set aside some toile that I had been saving for a special project along with the gold fabric that I had purchased at the same time. I must have purchased a bolt of that gold because I've used it in at least three quilts!

The 9-patches are made from 2-1/2" strips that a friend cut for me from her stash about 5 years ago.

If you read my earlier post you know I faced a conundrum on what to do with the edges because I had constructed the quilt in a straight setting rather than on-point as the pattern was written.  I really wanted the red squares to be complete around the 9-patches but didn't have enough of some of the fabric to make it look like the pattern.

Flimsy before borders

I ended up adding half-blocks as the inner border, then repeated the red to frame it, making good use of the four remaining toile squares as cornerstones.

This quilt top went from fabric in a bag -- not even UFO status, but something a wanted to do SOMEDAY -- in a week.  And I adhered to my 2015 resolutions and FINISHED it!  (Finished, for me, is when the top is complete.)

Hop on over to Confessions of a Fabric Addict to see what others are celebrating today.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ready for Prime Time ...

... not quite!

Do you ever envision yourself on a competitive cooking show?  What would you do with a basket of roasted pork butt, a scruffy sweet potato. and a can of diced tomatoes? 

That was my challenge on Tuesday night.  Though I am not accomplished enough to compete, I do like to imagine that my disparate ingredients are in a basket on Chopped.   I made pork stew, or a variation of ragu.

Pork Ragu -- The Remnants
(Should have thought to take a picture before dinner .... this food reporting is new to me.)

Taking cues from a couple of recipes, I browned about a half cup of fresh pork bits trimmed from loin chops in some olive oil.  I added finely chopped onion, celery, garlic and carrot and cooked until the vegetables turned translucent.  I added salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of cumin then the can of tomatoes.  I had a couple hunks of roast pork butt that I had saved from a batch of BBQ (before the sauce!).  I cut those into small chunks and added them to the pot and let everything perk on simmer for a while. 

In the meantime I peeled and cut up a sweet potato that was on its last legs, salvaging the good parts.  About 20 minutes before serving time I added the sweet potato along with some red wine and the remnants of a jar of Ragu chunky vegetable to add more liquid.

Served over a bed of polenta.  Oh, my, was it delish!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Tip for Tuesday

Use "found" time

Are you a Pinner?  Generally, I am not.  I do pin at critical seam intersections and block intersections.  But most of the time I just use my fingers to hold things together.  I also don't make competitive quilts ... there could be a connection ...

Back to pinning ... I DO pin for organization, however, and I try to use "found" time to do this.  I know some quilters do this in the car, but when I'm the primary driver ... well, you can see the problem there.  So I do it in the kitchen.

Because we care for my invalid mother-in-law (a/k/a the Queen Mother) at home, meals have to be at regular times to accommodate shift changes.  Once I move from the sewing room to the kitchen to start dinner preparation, I'm pretty much tied up there, though not continually busy, for at least two hours.

Before you start giving me tips on using a slow cooker and other ways to stay out of the kitchen, let me tell you I use them all.  But this time is also when my husband and I convene at the breakfast bar, enjoy a libation, and catch up (even though we've both been working around the each other all day).  So I don't begrudge the time spent, especially since he covers breakfast and lunch!

I frequently use the down time -- while the meat loaf is in the oven or the stew is perking along on the stove -- to organize my next sewing step.  Yesterday I pinned sections of 9-patches.  In less than an hour I had located the proper square to add to twenty sets of twosies and pinned them into position, ready to take to the machine.

Another hour of sewing after dinner and the 9-patches were done!  (If you read yesterday's post you  may notice that I opted for darker tones/more figures in the light squares and it is really helping to tone down the red/gold hourglass blocks.)

I have also used this "found" time to press units -- I have a folding board in the kitchen -- and to square up blocks on the kitchen counter.  I can still talk to my husband and stir the stew and not feel like the time is wasted.

Keep Calm
Find Time

Monday, January 26, 2015

Who's on First?

Here's the plan ...

1.  Check stash for border options for Quick Cozy Couch Quilt.  (Sorry, I'm missing the attribution for this pattern, but it's really just a classic setting.)  I'm really liking the "manliness" of this one.

Quick Cozy Couch Quilt
The required number of blocks are made.  It would be easy to get it together this week, but here's my dilemma:  because I used existing 9-patches, my blocks finish 6" rather than 9" like the pattern.  In a 7x9 setting, that makes a 42x54 quilt.  Is that big enough for a lap quilt, or should I make it bigger?

Technically I should add two blocks to each row (and possibly two more rows) to keep it balanced.  A 9x9 setting would be 54x54; a 9x11 setting would be 54x66,  I have enough strips to make more 9Ps.   I have plenty of the gray dot and the gold leaf (they're very subtle but there are huge leaves in there).  Use them for border or make more HSTs?

 2.  Review status of Notable 9-patch.  This is another one from my TODO -- maybe I should rename it my SOMEDAY -- stack.  This is a design by Sandy Bonsib for American Patchwork & Quilting as an online pattern from

Notable 9-Patch

Like Athena's Puzzle, fabrics had been pulled several years ago so I didn't really analyze the appropriateness.  The red/gold hourglass blocks are rather bold!  It appears I have enough strips in the box to make all the 9-patches different.  Perhaps the other colors will tone down the red and gold.  Maybe deeper neutral tones in the 9Ps ....

Trying to avoid an on-point setting, I saw the red/gold as hourglasses rather than as square-in-square borders for the 6" blocks that the pattern calls for.  Now that I've cut the fabric I realize that I have created a conundrum at the edges.  I'll need to spend some time at the drawing board figuring this one out, but while I'm cogitating I can be making the 9-patch blocks.  Maybe inspiration will strike -- probably in the dark of night, but I've heard some quilters say they do their best designing in the shower ....

3.  Finish Athena blocks and pack away.

Athena's Puzzle
I need to cut some more 2" strips to mellow out some of the contrast.  Once I get the blocks made it will go back into the box awaiting the next retreat where I'll have room to lay out the blocks and finish.

4.  Happy Talk green star points as leaders-enders.  Pattern by Debbie Caffrey in Another Can of Worms.  Once the units are finished, it will go back in the box for the next retreat.

Happy Talk Stars

Well, that's my plan -- we'll see how well I do.  Nothing on the social calendar this week and cold wet weather is predicted, so it shouldn't be difficult to find the time.  Keeping my focus on the plan is another matter altogether.

While I got a lot accomplished last week, nothing could be counted.

Weekly Stash Report - Jan 26, 2015
     In last week:                    0.0 yards
     Out last week:                  0.0 yards
     In year to Date:                .75 yards
     Out Year-to-Date:           4.75 yards
     Net Used 2014                4.00 yards

Linking up with Judy at Patchwork Times for Design Wall Monday.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Snowy Saturday on The Hill

The first "real" snow of the season.

Snow on The Hill

The roads are clear and the sun is out.  It's pretty while it lasts.

Friday Finish ....

...or so I thought!

Plan A:  I set my alarm early on Friday so I could finish my Athena's Puzzle blocks and have something to report.  I had more blocks than I needed by 10 a.m. but all along I've been concerned about the high-contrast versus low contrast and the orange versus the blue all going into one quilt.

Athena's Puzzle

You may be thinking, what prompted this particular choice of fabrics?  To be honest, I had pulled  prospective fabrics several years ago and when I grabbed the bag off the shelf I did not take time to analyze whether these were the best choices for this quilt.  While they all look nice together, in this particular block, not so nice.  On to ...

Plan B:  Eureka!  At 11" square, the blocks are large enough that I could make two nice size lap quilts, one orange and one blue.  But after doing a test run on the my skimpy design wall, I'm thinking I need to go to ...

Plan C:  The low contrast of the picture on the pattern envelope is probably what attracted me in the first place, so I have pulled a few more fabrics to go with pieces I still have left that will give a lower contrast overall.  Hoping to get the extra blocks made this weekend, then it will go back in the box until the next retreat in mid-February where there will be plenty of room to hang a big design wall and get the blocks laid out.

Having attempted pattern writing myself, I hesitate to criticize; but there are definitely flaws in this pattern.   In addition to confusing (and sometime impossible) cutting instructions, the on-point setting is squared-up by cutting off half of the 14 edge blocks.  At $10/yard, plus the time invested, I'm not about to throw away nearly a quarter of my quilt in order to make it square.  So I will be doing setting triangles and some kind of border (Whittle's is on the way to retreat!).

Planning ahead to said retreat, I've chosen two more projects off my TODO shelf (those that haven't even made it to UFO status) and spent the rest of the day analyzing what needs to be done, what could be done at home, and what I could complete at retreat.  I've identified several steps that could move into the leader-ender position after I finish making the star units for Happy Talk.

Quick Cozy Couch Quilt

One of those projects is Notable 9-Patch Quick Cozy Couch Quilt.  Unfortunately I didn't make a note of what book this came from, but my notes to myself are sufficient to finish this classic setting.  The 9-patch blocks, remnants from several previous projects, are made.  Well, mostly made; I'll need 5 more, but the strips are cut.  Cutting the HSTs using Easy Angle today and this project will be boxed up for retreat.

The second project is Notable 9-Patch.  More on that later.

It is SO nice to see some empty space on my shelves and I do NOT plan to fill that space with new fabric.  I'll just pick up what's on the table and the floor and hanging over stools .......

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Flotsam ...

... floats to the top

It never fails:  something that is missing magically reappears on top of the heap after I needed it!

A dear friend, and fellow S'more, made everyone a Christmas stocking several years ago.

S'mores Stocking

Could I find it when it was time to go to the S'mores Christmas retreat?  NO!  Did it show up in time to hang from my mantle at home?  NO!

Yet, today, more than a month later, the stocking appears on top of a stack on a table outside my bedroom door.  To be honest, there's a lot of stuff piled on that table.... but why couldn't I see it when I needed it?

You'd better believe it is going back in a safe and logical place in preparation for next year.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rock Island, Rock On

Last week was my annual retreat at Rock Island State Park.  This is the 11th year of my hosting this little get-together for four of my closest friends.

RISP Cabin 9 - 2010

Even though the photo was taken in 2010, the view was very similar this year with a little dusting of snow a couple of mornings.

We began by clearing all the furniture out of the living room, set up five Sew-Ezi tables, hung utility lights from the rafters, and settled in for three and a half days of sewing and eating, eating and sewing .... you get the idea.   Cutting station on the high counter, snacks/coffee/liquid essentials on the low counter, ironing station in the Queen's bedroom -- what more could we want?  Unfortunately, this year was too cold and wet for us to walk off all the eating!

I always go with grand plans to accomplish a lot, but also come home with unopened project boxes, too.  My approach is, as long as there's room in the van, why not?  You know how it is -- something you planned to work on is not working out, or you forgot a major component, or you're just plain tired of working on it.  That's when it's time to break out something else!

My first order of business was to finish "Exploding Pineapple," a sample I'm using in a proposal for Quilt Camp 2015 (due this week, BTW).  The blocks were finished and all I needed was a bed to lay them out on.  I fussy cut the sashings on Monday and had the flimsy finished by lunch on Tuesday.

Exploding Pineapple

This is a project from Karin Hellaby's Sew Simple Pineapple booklet.  The blocks are sew easy and so much fun to make.  I used the same black and tan checked fabric for the centers of all the blocks; only had enough for 49 blocks, hence the square format.
4.75 yards out.

I have started a second one with 40s reproduction fabrics using a larger center starting point to demonstrate variety in the basic technique.  But there is not enough contrast for the pineapple to show up.

I purchased three solid FQs at Jo-Ann on the way to Rock Island, hoping I could salvage some of the pieces I have cut but not yet sewn.  Tired of dealing with pineapples, however, I never got around to this project.
.75 yard in.

I was ready to start something entirely new -- something that's been in my TODO stack for a long time.  "Athena's Puzzle" by Janine Burke for Blue Underground Studios.  You can see it's a Greek key assembled in a courthouse steps method.  I have finished over half of the blocks.  My plan is to either make more low-contrast blocks or eliminate the one that stands out (or should I say disappears?) in the photo.

Athena's Puzzle

I have to say that the cutting instructions were confusing, at best, and downright ridiculous at one point.  The pattern calls for FQs to get variety.  No way could I get 21.5" of cuts out of most of my half-widths!  Fortunately I included some yardage and can probably eak out more blocks from what I have already cut.

Not in a mood to figure out the Puzzle dilemma, I put it away and pulled out I project I had cut around 2008 -- "Happy Talk" by Debbie Caffrey from her book, Another Can of Worms.

What was I thinking??  One of my least favorite units to sew is Peaky and Spike (Tri-Recs) star points! On opening the box, I was pleased to note that, not only were all of my yellow and pink star points constructed, I had sorted them into block sets with their matching centers and background corners!  Easy-peasy to sew them together like 9-patch units.

The green star points, however, sit in the box, unsewn, laughing at me.  I've already set them next to my home machine to use as leaders and enders.  I will not be deterred; I WILL FINISH!!  (remind me of that in a couple of weeks!)

Look at me -- two weeks into the new year and I've used more than I purchased!!

Stash Report - Jan 18, 2015
     In last week:                    .75 yards
     Out last week:                4.75 yards
     In year to Date:                .75 yards
     Out Year-to-Date:           4.75 yards
     Net Used 2014                4.00 yards

Linking up with Judy at Patchwork Times.

Keep Warm
Quilt On

Monday, January 5, 2015

It's Official!

I have Quilter's ADD

I began last week dedicated to Patchwork of the Crosses.  I spent a couple of days stamping fabrics, cutting out the little pieces, and planning blocks.

POTC Pieces

Since I am hand piecing I only got this far before my attention went elsewhere.

First POTC Center

The diversion?  This bin of scraps.

Bits and Pieces

Realizing that I have just a few weeks to prepare my proposal for Quilt Camp 2015, I turned my attention to "Exploding Pineapple."  I needed to work through the pattern and formulize (is that a word?) what I'll put in the supply list.  The blocks are made with a series of squares, the largest being 5-3/8", and is very effective when made from scraps.  So I spent a couple of days whittling down chunks from my bin and after two days I had a pile of squares.  And the bin?

Still Full
Stirring things up has made it appear even fuller than before!

All the time I was cutting squares for pineapple I was thinking about a request  from DIL-1 for a throw in cafĂ©-au-lait colors.  A glance up at my fabric shelves showed me that I had already assembled a selection of fabrics that met her request.  And how striking it would be to do an Exploding Pineapple in two colors to contrast with the totally scrappy example!

The results:

Exploding Pineapple in Progress

The lights are a lot more tan than the photo shows.  I'm using the floral border for color inspiration.

Here's the thing -- all this activity and nothing finished.  My sole goal for 2015 is to FINISH.  Not so much to finish UFOs as to finish what I start. 

Stay tuned .....

In the meantime, hop over to Patchwork Times to see what other quilters are working on.

Keep Calm

Thanks for visiting today.