Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year (what else?)

One last post for the year 2008. It's been an interesting year, ups and downs, triumphs and frustrations, but I can't complain! Christmas was lovely, despite a nasty cold. I enjoyed having my girls home, and sharing my grandson's first Christmas. And as a bonus found out that next Christmas there'll be another grandbaby to enjoy! One of the best presents of all!

Quilted a lot this year, but nothing spectacular. Oh, but the ideas are running through my head for the next fabulous quilt! Nothing concrete yet, but the inspirations are coming together, and the designing is under way. Fabric and stitching be happening soon, I think!

I spent the last couple of days finishing up a UFO project. A set of blocks from a Swap I did with my fellow Quiltsy Members (Quilting street team on Etsy). The colors were blue and green and they were a lovely set of blocks, but I could not figure out how in the world to set them together. Nothing seemed to work in blue or green and it just muddied up the blocks and they didn't stand out. Then I was inspired to try an alternate color. I didn't have a good orange, but found the nicest yellow that was perfect to set them off! Now each block sparkles like the jewel it is!

One of the nice thing about working with these blocks is the fact that each of them was exactly the right size and square! How often does that happen in a swap? I tell you, the Quiltsy team is one talented set of quilters, and any quilt you would buy from them would would be well worth your money!

I even have the back ready. I pieced it (yeah, me!) using the one leftover block which was a duplicate of my own, and the leftover fabric that I purchased to make my blocks with. I even have plenty for binding! All I have to do is rustle up a square of batting to fit and I'm ready to quilt. That would be a good project for tomorrow. Well, Happy New Year to you all! Stay safe and have a wonderful evening, and I'll be back next year (I know, I'm just corny that way!)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Rescued Project

As you know, I have a hard time resisting something for free. It's hard to turn someone down when they want to give you something for nothing - but I am learning! But this particular project was before those days, and it is one of many partially done projects that I am determined to finish, even if they didn't start in my own sewing room.

I had a set of six finished blocks, and a couple small pieces of yardage with a few strips thrown in for good measure. I decided the blocks just needed a simple setting with sashing, then bordered with the same brown. There was just enough of the yellow to make the binding. The leftover strips were enough to make hanging tags which I thought looked quite nice.

I thought all the hand-painted faces on the kitties were adorable, and I love that hungry looking one looking down at the mouse!

The bells were also on the package, so I added them with a touch of blue embroidery floss tied with a little bow. A couple of the cats had ears that were pressed down, but I pressed them back up because I liked them better that way. All in all a very cute quilt, and better a finished quilt than a baggie of bits and pieces!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh, Christmas Tree...Take 2

I know, what does a Christmas tree have to do with quilting? Nothing actually, other than the fact that it kept me from doing much yesterday! Why would that be, you ask. Well, it has a lot to do with the fact that I own two cats and a dog. And they have been inside for several days because of bad weather. And when my daughter set up the Christmas tree the first time we heard a crack down at the stand.

I was puttering around in the sewing room yesterday morning, then walked into the living room only to find to my total disgust and horror that my beautiful Christmas tree was laying on the floor, ornaments scattered all around and the angel topper laying in disarray above the mess.

So I got to spend the next few hours disassembling our tree, repairing the stand, reassembling the tree and then decorating it....again. We attached the tree to two walls with fishing line, hoping to discourage a third incident. (Been there, done that before!) Despite it all, the tree looks lovely, my angel still works, and all is well. Plus I have strategically placed a basket to prevent the dog from going behind the tree. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll survive for another couple of weeks!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Talk about a long term project...

I finally finished that Christmas quilt I have been working on for several years! I think it's been four years since I purchased the fabric for it. Last year I actually layered and pinned it, but never got around to quilting it, so this year that was a priority for me. I actually finished it Thanksgiving weekend, but due to the abduction of my camera wasn't able to take pictures. (My camera went to Portland in my daughters purse by accident!)
That is where a cell phone can come in handy. These pictures aren't the greatest, but at least I can share what I accomplished!
This is the applique that I did on the corners. That was two years ago! I used batiks to make the lovely holly leaves and berries. To make the berries nice and round I stacked freezer paper for the templates and used spray starch painted on the seam allowances to turn them under nice and tight (a great trick gleaned from watching Simply Quilts!). I've tried basting and pulling the seam allowances around a mylar template, and also tried using a metal washer, but the seam allowances just didn't stay in place as well as they do when you use a touch of starch.
This is the aplique after quilting. I did a fairly small meander in the white, and went around the holly berries. I think after I take this quilt down I will add veins in the holly leaves and perhaps some beading to give it a little sparkle.

The outer border gave me the most trouble, mostly because the pattern in the book had a very cool continuous line leaf pattern that I really wanted to use, but I had already layered the quilt. So, I ended up biting the bullet and making a stencil for the pattern. It took me longer to make the stencil and do the marking than it did to do the quilting, but it was well worth the effort. I used my heat tool with a stencil tip, but wasn't too thrilled with how it worked. There were a lot of burned plastic lumps left on the template and it chewed up my blue pen something awful. But I did get the results I wanted and I suppose in the end that is what was most important. Next time I'll use my light table and mark before I baste! In the black border with holly leaves I free motioned my own holly leaf design which really worked out well! I used a gold toned thread after using a metallic in the center and not being impressed with that. The non metallic gold tone looks just as good.

All in all a job well done, if not a timely job. I am happy with the quilt and it's beautiful hanging over the mantle! Now it's on to other quilts that are begging to be finished, one of which will be the strip robin. It needs to be hung in my husbands office!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why Should You Buy a Handmade Quilt?

This topic has been rambling through my head a lot lately. With budgets being tight and people trying to get the most for their money I am frequently asked this question. Of course, when I am put on the spot I can't come up with the articulate reasons that I can after a day or two of deep thinking, Winnie the Pooh style!

Reason No.. 1: Because you LOVE it! To me, this is one of the best reasons, though there is no quantifying or qualifying it. It's like meeting the man of your dreams, or finding a Bosom Friend - you just know it. Something in that quilt touches something in your soul and you have to have it.

Reason No. 2: A handmade quilt is one of a kind, and you will never find another just like it. At least in the case of the quilts I have made, you are highly unlikely to find one just like it. Two quilters can use the same pattern and the same fabric and come up with two very different quilts! Some of my quilts are made as shop samples, and if I have made it with the fabrics it was made for you may be able to find another one, but for the most case they are one of a kind quilts. I work a lot from my stash, so there may be fabrics used together that you won't find anywhere else.

Reason No. 3: A handmade quilt will endure. I have made each of my children a bed sized quilt for their first big bed - at the age of 2. With one exception every one of these quilts endured throughout their childhood all the way through high school. The exception was a quilt I made with 99 cent a yard fabric, and it wore out much faster. Each of these quilts were used daily, washed when needed (and you know how it is with kids!) and generally treated with little respect. When two of my daughters were in high school they wanted to buy one of those bed in a bag sets you can get for less than $100. Neither one of these lasted more than a year.

I have a quilt that I made 18 years ago for my bed. It is a special quilt, hand quilted and has lots of hours of labor in it. I have used it regurlarly for about 4 months out of the year, washing it at the end of each use. It still looks almost new, and I know that eventually I will be able to hand it down to one of my girls as an heirloom. Yes, you can buy a quilt for around $100.00 at any department store. But how long will it last? I can tell you that I have made a good amount of money repairing these inexpensive quilts, and they are no bargain - you will get a year or two out of them and a few washings, but that's about it.

Reason No. 4: You are supporting an artist, not a factory. By buying handmade, your money actually goes to the person who is doing the work, not a CEO or the Chairmen, or a bunch of stock-holders. You are helping someone support their family and a way of life that is getting lost in this busy world. A quilt takes time and thought. It comes from the heart and imagination of the quilter. There is love in this process, and the world needs more love!

Reason No. 5: Quilts keep you warm! There is nothing better than snuggling under a warm quilt with a hot cup of tea and a book on a chilly day - and you can turn the heat down and save a little money on your heating bill, too.

Reason No. 6: Quilts are wonderful decorating accents. Ask an Interior Designer - a beautiful quilt can make a room! Whether it's hung on a wall as art, or draped over a chair as an accent piece, the right quilt can make your room a beautiful place to live.

I can probably come up with a lot more, but these are the ones that come to my mind right now. I don't think any home is complete without a quilt or two (or a dozen!) but of course, that's my passion. I do know that the expense of a handmade quilt is small for the value you will receive when buying it. There are times when buying on the cheap is good, but just like in clothing, if you spend a little more on quality, you will get a lot more for your money in the long run!