Cancelled, again!

March 2, 2015

I’m very glad that I don’t live in Boston. Our winter hasn’t been so bad, but I’m getting sick and tired of everything being cancelled because of weather. It’s the timing of the storms that has been the problem. Mimi Dietrich‘s grad school class was supposed to meet today but we were cancelled again. This group was also cancelled last month. Baltimore Applique Society was also cancelled in Jan and Feb. My guild has a group that meets every Monday evening and a group that meets every Thursday morning. Now that I’m retired, I go to both. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve been cancelled this year. Tonight’s meeting is cancelled. I need to do laundry but my dryer vent is buried under snow and ice. Guess I’ll have to go out in the rain on Wed and try to free it.

I feel like I’m trapped in the house. The front of my house faces north and doesn’t get any sunshine so my steps and walk are solid ice. I do have some cleat things for walking on ice that I can strap on my shoes if I want to leave.

What’s the forecast for the rest of the week? Tues – Freezing rain, Wed – rain, Thurs – Snow. What do you want to bet that Thursday’s guild meeting is cancelled? Our daytime temps are supposed to be in the 50s this time of year.

If you haven’t heard, Mimi Dietrich is being inducted into the Quilter’s Hall of Fame this year. She’s having her students make blocks for a quilt to give to the Hall of Fame. They were due today. Mimi provided the background, stems, flower center and fabric for one leaf. The flower color and remaining leaves were our choice but had to be batiks.

I haven’t done hand applique in quite a while – longer than I realized. I’m sorry to say that this block isn’t the best work I’ve ever done. It did turn out better than I feared it was going to. Don’t look too closely, :-)


The stem looks a lot more puckered in the picture than it does in person. Guess I’d better spend more time with the steam iron before I send it off to Mimi.

The Cherokee Rose block was designed by Marie Webster in 1916.

Stash accounting 2014

February 8, 2015

Sometime last year I rashly claimed that I was going to track fabric coming in and going out. That didn’t happen. What did happen was this:

Row by Row + Quilters’ Quest = too much fabric = Stash Overflow.

While I was in Houston with my brother our cousin kidnapped me for a few days while he was in the hospital. She is not a quilter but wanted to provide something quilty for me so took me to Tea Time Quilting. I had to pick up some cowboy toile and barbed wire prints as well as a 30s charm pack and a layer cake of Little Black Dress. Unfortunately it was the day before Row by Row started. If I’d realized they were participating I’d have begged for the pattern early.

Tea Time Quilting

Once my brother improved enough that I didn’t need to be there 24/7, I took a day each of the last 2 weeks I was there and visited some Row by Row shops in the Chicago area. I managed 4 shops each day.

Quilter’s Quest, not to be confused with the Maryland-DC-Virginia shop hop which is Quilters’ Quest.

York 2014 and row by row 112 This was my favorite shop. I almost wish I lived near there except I don’t want to move back to the Chicago area.

York 2014 and row by row 115York 2014 and row by row 116

Gentler Times

York 2014 and row by row 121

York 2014 and row by row 122

Fabrics Etc. This was a huge store.

York 2014 and row by row 134

York 2014 and row by row 133

I seem to be missing pictures of the loot from the other 3 stores in the Chicago area.

In August Patty, Linda and I went to Lancaster County, PA where we visited 8 quilt shops in a single day. Seven of them were Row by Row shops. I had never realized how close all the shops were. This is not the order we visited them.

Log Cabin Quilt Shop. When we first entered, we thought it was just selling completed items. The fabrics and supplies were in the back room. I picked up a Nancy Drew panel.

York 2014 and row by row 124

The Old Country Store. We’re happy to see this store reopened under new management. Linda and I were choosing fabric for a quilt for our hairdresser’s first baby. We found the crayons for the outer border and the gray for the inner border and binding.

York 2014 and row by row 126

Dutchland Quilt Patch

York 2014 and row by row 127

Family Farm Quilt Shop

York 2014 and row by row 128

Piece by Piece Quilt Shop

York 2014 and row by row 129

The Quilt Shop At Miller’s. This one is part of a complex that includes a large buffet restaurant and other shops. This quilt shop doesn’t sell supplies, only completed items. They did have fat quarters of the Amish buggy fabric which they had used in their row pattern.

York 2014 and row by row 130

Sauder’s Fabrics Shop. This is always the first stop on my guild’s annual bus shopping trip. I don’t go on that trip anymore because I have too much fabric. As you can see from this post I need to not put myself into the path of temptation.

York 2014 and row by row 131

Sashing and backing for the baby quilt Linda and I were making.

York 2014 and row by row 132

I’m missing pictures from 2 of the Lancaster shops.

Around Maryland and Virginia, I visited the following shops.

Ellicott City Sew-Vac

York 2014 and row by row 125

Jinny Beyer Studio

York 2014 and row by row 120

Capital Quilts

York 2014 and row by row 119

I’m pretty sure I managed to get to one or two others but I don’t have anything to show for it. I do plan to account for my stash comings and goings in 2015 so I’ll know if it’s going in the right direction. But, I’d better get busy tracking it because I fell off the wagon on Jan 6th. Sigh.

Grand Illusion behind the scenes: Creating a big block back

February 7, 2015
Grand Illusion top.

Grand Illusion top.

Now that I’ve finished the top, I need a back. For the back of Easy Street, the 2012 mystery, I used one of the blocks from the front but blew it up to make a one block back. I liked that and did it again for Grand Illusion.

The first thing I do is determine the grid for the block and draw it on graph paper. This block uses a 6 by 6 grid.

wpid-20150126_115616.jpgThe second step is to determine what size the block needs to be. It can’t be the same size as the front of the quilt because the back needs to be bigger. I also have to take into account that my quilter needs extra fabric on the back for mounting onto the long-arm frame. I need to make the back block smaller than the quilt top because the quilter can’t exactly match them up and I don’t want pieces of the block cut off to make it not square. So, I make the block smaller and add a border. My quilter will do her best to center the top on the back but the borders won’t be exactly the same size when the quilt is finished.

How did I decide how big to make the block? The top was approximately 88″ square. 88″ divided by 6 (the number of sections in the block grid) is 14 and change. Making each section of the block 14″ would yield an 84″ block. That leaves only 2″ of border on each side when it is finished which is cutting it too close for my comfort. Making each section 13″ makes a 78″ block which is much more comfortable.

Uh oh, I just realized I forgot to divide the 10″ difference by 2 when making my borders. I should have made my borders about 10″ wide to provide the additional width the long-arm quilter needs. I was thinking each border would be 10″ plus the extra so I made them about 16″ wide. Oh, well, better too big than too small. If I’d done the math properly I’d have made the grid segments 12″ instead of 13″. That would have made the borders 8″ instead of 5″ which would look better.

To make the sections of the block, I used the leftovers from the front. But, most of the fabrics weren’t big enough to cut full pieces from. What’s a quilter to do? Sew the pieces together until the fabric is big enough. I think Bonnie would approve.

A brown square pieced from leftovers.

A brown square pieced from leftovers.

I only had enough yellow from the front to make one square. I found 3 fabrics with yellow backgrounds and prints in pink, turquoise and green for the remaining yellow squares. How perfect is that?

In the interest of best usage of fabric, I made the chevrons with half-square triangles instead of a single background piece like the front blocks. I didn’t want to have a bunch of large triangle scrap pieces left over.

I decided to do green borders instead of the checkerboard. After I pieced 2 slabs I ran out of green leftovers that I was willing to sacrifice for the back. The rest of my greens from the front were big enough to put back into stash. Because they’re the only fabrics I have of that color of green, that’s what I did.

I found another pile of brown scraps so made a square for one corner. Pink scraps went into another corner and the last 2 corners got neutral scraps. For the other 2 borders I used large pieces of turquoise from the front leftovers. Those 2 fabrics were bought on spec as borders for a different project but were rejected. I didn’t mind using them here since there was still quite a bit left.

Grand Illusion back.

Grand Illusion back.

See others’ progress on Grand Illusion at Quiltville.

Grand Illusion: Playing catch-up

February 7, 2015

Clue 4 is where I get behind because I leave home to spend the holidays with my elderly parents (87 and 91) and brother. After staying with my parents for several days, I went to Chicago to spend a couple of days with my brother.

One of my brother's Christmas trees.

One of my brother’s Christmas trees.

He has three mini Schnauzers.

Missy, AKA the small evil one, after her bath.

Missy, AKA the small evil one, after her bath.

Gibson, the sneaky one. Hard to get a decent picture of this one.

Gibson, the sneaky one. Hard to get a decent picture of this one.

Nobody sneaks up with Smokey on the job.

Nobody sneaks up with Smokey on the job.

Some of the neutrals in Grand Illusion.

Some of the neutrals in Grand Illusion. Quiet but with nice textures.

I cut lots of half-square triangles with my Accuquilt Go! cutter. Lots of pink triangles, lots of turquoise triangles, lots of neutral triangles and yellow and brown squares.

Clue 4 ready to sew.

Clue 4 ready to sew.

After cutting all these, I tidied up before leaving for the holidays. I found the baggie with the pink and turquoise half-square triangle squares set aside from a previous clue. Oops. I should read the instructions instead of just looking at the pictures. I didn’t need the pink triangles at all.

But, when I got to assembling the border pieces, I had half as many units as I needed. Apparently, I got the number 40 stuck in my head and made 20 pairs instead of 40 pairs of blocks. Back to the sewing machine.

Grand Illusion block.

Grand Illusion block.

I sewed and sewed and sewed. Every time I finished a step, there was something else to do. Eventually it was a completed top!

Grand Illusion top.

Grand Illusion top.

Grand Illusion Clue Roundup

December 18, 2014

In last week’s link-up clue 2 was on hiatus while I waited for the rectangle Go! cutter die to arrive. It came Thursday afternoon. I got busy rough cutting for the die, starching the fabric and cutting.

Basket of clue 2 pieces waiting for trimming and pressing.

Basket of some clue 2 pieces waiting for trimming and pressing.

Left - pefect. Middle - almost perfect. Right - not quite perfect.

Check out the seam where the neutral pieces meet. Left – perfect. Middle – almost perfect. Right – not quite perfect but close enough. The differences don’t show up as much in the picture as they do in real life.

I like to press seams open, especially with Bonnie’s mysteries. With Easy Street I had too many seems going the same direction. But, for this unit, because I did the rectangles and squares method for the bonus half-square triangle squares, my seams were too small for me to be comfortable with pressing them open. So, I pressed the small seams to the colored square and pressed the normal size seam between the units open.

Back of one unit.

Back of one unit.

Clue 2 with a basket of bonus half-square triangle squares.

Clue 2 with a basket of bonus half-square triangle squares.

I finished clue 2 on Sunday.

Monday, Patty and I ran down to Ikea to pick up “Bonnie” lamps. Online shows the desktop lamp in black or white only but the store had several other colors. I got a blue metallic. I also got an orange clip-on to take with me when I travel. I may also use it upstairs when doing hand work. The clip has quite a large mouth so should prove quite useful. I assembled the desktop one before starting clue 3 on Monday afternoon. What a difference it makes! I can actually see what I’m doing at the machine. It’s so bright I was seeing spots at the ironing board. The light there seems dim by comparison.

On to clue 3. I ride the scrappy train so my first thought was to cut squares for maximum scrappy goodness instead of using strips. I sat still till that urge passed. I’ve been ironing, cutting and sewing ever since. I like to do a little bit of each step, then repeat so i don’t get bored with doing a lot of one thing before moving on to the next step. I’m making 2 strip sets (one of each type) at a time and cutting them into the subunits. I got smart and started counting them as I go so I’ll know when to stop. I won’t sew them together until all the subunits are ready. Then I can mix and match for scrappy satisfaction.

Sing along with me to the Rawhide theme:

Ironing, cutting, sewing;
Keep those strip sets moving;
Ironing, cutting, sewing, woo hoo!

We want them to be scrappy,
So keep those strips sets coming,
Ironing, cutting sewing, we’re done!

Clue 3: ready to sew the 2 strips together.

Clue 3: ready to sew the 2 strips together.

Well, I’m not done yet, but I should finish tomorrow. I’ve sewn more than half of them.

See what others have done at the clue 3 link-up.

It’s a boy!

December 8, 2014

At least, it will be soon. Linda and I share a hairdresser. She will be having her first child any day now. Last Friday, I had my last appointment until she comes back from maternity leave. After she finished with me, I told her she was free to have the baby. Of course, Linda and I made a quilt for the baby.

Cara with the quilt.

Cara with the quilt.

We used the free Wonky Zoo Pens pattern from Fabri-Quilt. It’s foundation pieced. When Linda printed the patterns, the blocks didn’t print out square. We don’t know why. That wasn’t a big deal. I just trimmed the full blocks to the correct size. For the side and corner blocks, I couldn’t figure out how to make the adjustment. It didn’t seem to matter – everything fit well enough.

In August, we did a Row by Row shop hop day in Lancaster county. We got the sashing and backing fabric at Sauder’s. The inner border/binding and crayon border came from The Old Country Store. The fabrics for my blocks came from stash. Linda bought hers because she doesn’t stash tone-on-tone “go withs”. We each pieced half the blocks. I assembled the top. Linda quilted it. I did the binding. Linda wasn’t able to be with me when I gave the quilt to Cara last week because her daughter had a baby a couple of weeks earlier – also a boy.

Front of quilt

Front of quilt. The border fabric is crayons.

Back of quilt

Back of quilt

Close up of backing. Animals in balloons.

Close up of backing. Animals in balloons.

While we were making the blocks, Linda mis-read what she was supposed to make and we ended up with an extra half-block. No problem. It was perfect for the label.

The label.

The label.

Close up of label text

Close up of label text

Close up of quilting

Close up of quilting

Close up of quilting

Close up of quilting

Close up of quilting

Close up of quilting

Cara was thrilled with the quilt. She better have that baby soon so she’ll be ready to come back and do my cut and color in early February. I’ll probably be cutting bits off here and there before that.

Grand Illusion: part 1 done, part 2 on hiatus

December 8, 2014

When last we spoke, I was cutting clue 1. By Tuesday afternoon last week, I was almost finished cutting the 180 pairs of half-square triangles for clue 1. I started reading some of the link-ups and noticed that they all talked about 280 pairs of triangles. What? 280? I went back to check the instructions and sure enough, I was going to be 100 pairs short. More cutting. Sigh. I finished cutting the triangles with the Go! value die about 5:45 pm on Wed. At 7:15 pm, the triangle die I ordered arrived. The delivery wasn’t without drama. I went to get the package off the porch. It was a small box which didn’t seem right. I opened it – wasn’t the die. Finally thought to check the label – the package was for someone down the street. Went there and swapped the packages. Came home with my die and wrote a note about why their package was opened and went back down to their house to put the note in the box. If we have more triangles to cut in future clues, I’m all set now with the correct die.

Ready to sew clue 1.

Ready to sew clue 1.

They are laid out like that so I could get the maximum scrappiness with the triangles. I’m weird that way.


Clue 1 units finished.

Clue 1 half-square triangles set aside.

Clue 1 half-square triangles set aside.

My quilt guild had the holiday luncheons this week. I won a door prize which contained a package of Thermal Thimbles. I love these. I’d been thinking I needed something like this and now I have them.

Thermal Thimbles in action.

Thermal Thimbles in action.

For clue 2, I decided to use the 3rd option – rectangles and squares with bonus half-square triangles. I cut and marked the squares. The clue is on hiatus until the rectangle die arrives.

Clue 2 squares, marked and ready to sew.

Clue 2 squares, marked and ready to sew.

While I’m waiting on that I’m picking up where I left off a year ago on Celtic Solstice.

A mess of Celtic Solstice.

A mess of Celtic Solstice.

I ordered the triangle in a square die for the clue 1 pieces that haven’t been cut yet. In the meantime I can sort out which fabrics have been cut and which need to be cut and get things more organized. If I can get everything cut for Celtic Solstice, I can work on it when I’m away for the holiday.

When I was in Houston this summer, my cousin gave me a bulb from an amaryllis plant that was given to our great-grandmother, Rachel Arbaugh Bennett, as a wedding gift in 1889. My cousin inherited our great-granmother’s plant from our grandmother. I was afraid the bulb wouldn’t grow after spending a couple of months in a plastic bag before being replanted. But, it is thriving.

It not only grew, it is in bloom.

It not only grew, it is in bloom.

Take a look at other’s progress on the Grand Illusion Mystery.

Just keep cutting, just keep cutting . . .

December 1, 2014

Bonnie released the first clue for the Grand Illusion mystery quilt on Friday. I got an Accuquilt die cutter a year ago and am determined to use it for this quilt. As careful as I try to be, my cutting isn’t as accurate as I would like. The problem is: we don’t know what size and shape of pieces we will be cutting so can’t get the dies in advance. Not whining, Bonnie, just explaining. Two local shops carry the dies and I was sure I would be able to get what I needed. But, no luck at either shop.

I had the necessary die for the squares but not for the half-square triangles. While it would be easier with the specific die for the size triangles we need because that die cuts 12 triangles in one go, the value die that came with the machine does include 2 of the right size triangles. Here’s what I’ve managed to cut so far:


Still to cut:


Lest you think I’ve been doing nothing, I had some deadline items that had to be done. Friday morning I ran some errands including picking up my travel sewing machine from its tuneup and the futile attempt to acquire the die. Friday afternoon I had to put the binding on a quilt for my hairdresser who is having her first baby in a couple of weeks. That quilt needs to be gifted this coming Friday. I did get the squares cut on Friday.

Saturday I had to fuse 2 applique blocks for Mimi’s grad school meeting this morning.

Sunday after finding out the other shop also didn’t have the die, I decided to bite the bullet and cut the triangles with the value die. I was also supposed to do the label for the quilt I’m getting appraised tomorrow morning but that didn’t happen.

My friend Patty is doing the mystery quilt in two different sets of colors. Hers will be much smaller than Bonnie’s quilt so it’s not as much work as it sounds like. Patty is using one fabric per color rather than scrappy.


Patty’s blocks showing her 2 color ways.

See what others are doing on the mystery.

And they’re off!

November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the last several years, I’ve spent Thanksgiving day at the Laurel Park Racetrack with my friends, Caren and Paul.We get a great buffet and a day of horse racing. I forgot to take pictures.

In past years, the admission fee of $2 or $3 got us free coffee or apple cider and a donut and a free pumpkin or apple pie. Last year they changed bakers and the pies weren’t very good. This year – no pie. The Jockey Club said it had gotten too expensive. Oh, well, I shouldn’t be eating pie anyway.

Monday it was 74 degrees and yesterday it snowed. That’s life in Maryland. The snow made the racetrack muddy today which made handicapping more problematic. But, the horses in the races on Thanksgiving aren’t very good anyway so handicapping is usually a crapshoot. A lot of the races are maiden races which means the horses have never won a race. I learned today that one of my quilt guild members is one of the track vets.

I had a great day as far as betting went. I won my bets in the first race and the last race and some in-between. It’s always more fun when I win. I think this might be the best I’ve done on Thanksgiving.

We’re now in Bonnie Hunter season. The first mystery of hers I did was 2012 (Easy Street). I followed her colors very closely so my quilt looks like thousands of others. Last year I intended to use different colors until she revealed hers. She picked the colors I have the most of in my stash so I had to go ahead and use them.  But, I got behind with the first clue and didn’t progress very far. I hope to work on it at the same time as this year’s mystery.

I’m mostly using her colors again this year because I couldn’t think of substitutes for that many colors.

Grand Illusion fabrics.

Grand Illusion fabrics.

I’m using brown instead of black and off-white for the neutrals to keep sufficient contrast with the colors. I have a very large stash so everything came from there except the 2 yellow fabrics. I didn’t have a single piece large enough because I mostly buy half-yards and fat quarters. I found the yellow with pink, blue and green stripey bits on it at a local shop. It should be perfect for the binding.

First clue will be released tomorrow morning.

Retirement begins: Reality bites

October 1, 2014

May 30 was my last day of gainful employment. When I decided to retire at the end of May, I had fantasized about a lazy summer filled of comfortable temperatures and humidity, working in my sewing room enjoying the wonderful weather, having lunch on my new bench/half picnic table, having friends stop by to lunch with me or join me in sewing. You get the idea. My rational mind knew this was fantasy but, at the time, I couldn’t imagine how that dream would be crushed by the rocks of reality. Therein lies a tale. Don’t worry – there is a happy ending and some quilty content.

In August 2013, my brother’s appendix perforated. His doctors wanted to wait until the infection was gone before they did the surgery to remove it. They finally took it out in November. In December when he went for his post-surgery check, they told him the appendix was cancerous. Appendix cancer is rare. Fortunately, he didn’t have the worst type. They did more tests and told him it hadn’t spread and scheduled him for precautionary surgery to remove the portion of the colon where the appendix attaches.

When he went for the surgery in Jan 2014, they made the incision, looked around and said “never mind”. Told him the cancer had spread to the peritoneum so he was stage 4. They also told him this type of cancer can’t be surgically removed and doesn’t show up on tests. The only treatment they offered him was systemic chemo every 2 weeks indefinitely with periodic scans to see if cancer showed up anywhere else. Maybe he’d have 2-3 years; they didn’t really know because there aren’t any statistics.

I told him to ask if there were treatments or studies at other centers that he should consider. They told him about HIPEC (heated intra-peritoneal chemotherapy) with cytoreductive surgery. I said he should go for it. I recommended he go to MD Anderson in Houston since they were rated the #1 cancer center at the time.

They accepted him as a patient. Did you know that you can’t just make an appointment at the major cancer centers? MD Anderson turned down my aunt in 2010 because her cancer (another rare one) was too far advanced by the time it was detected. He was scheduled for the surgery in June. In the meantime, he had the chemo at his home medical center. Instead of my idyllic summer at home, I now had to spend 6 weeks or so away from home with my brother during the surgery and initial recovery period.

Window at MD Anderson. Reminds me of a lot of the chunck quilts I’ve seen a lot of lately.

The surgeon removed everything that looked like it could possibly be tumor or that could hide tumor, including, of all things, the belly button. When we told my brother about that, he said “I guess that means my modelling career is over.” All of the pathology came back as no tumor found. So, the chemo seems to have done the trick although there was no way to know that without the surgery. His doctors were shocked. His chemo oncologist said he was unusally responsive to chemotherapy.

The happy ending – going from stage 4 in January to cancer-free in June. If he hadn’t gone to Houston for the surgery, he would be having chemo that he didn’t need. The lesson I learned is if you have a cancer that your medical center doesn’t see a lot of, go somewhere that does.

The entry hall floor in my brother’s house.

How do you pack to be away for 4-6 weeks or longer? Fortunately, I was able to do all my flights on Southwest. They allow 2 checked bags without a fee. Plus you can change your flight without a fee if needed. I don’t know how this happened but I was TSP pre-check for all 3 flights. Much quicker trip through security – no long lines.

I made sure I had plenty of hand sewing to work on. I worked on 3 different hexagon projects. I didn’t do as much as I could/should have because the light wasn’t bright enough, especially at my brother’s house. He only has mood lighting.

A couple days before I left, I met up with a friend and we took the Chicago river and lake cruise.

Portion of Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan.

Chicago flag. The 4 stars represent major events in the city’s history. They say that a 5th star will be added if the Cubs ever win the World Series again.

Sidewalk in front of an historic building in the Loop.

Decoration over entrance to building.

I did a little hand sewing while I was gone.

A pile of hexagon flowers.

A pile of hexagon flowers.

Some hexagon border units for a sidelined project.

Some hexagon border units for a sidelined project.

I worked on Hex on the Beach. I’m not entirely happy doing English paper piecing with the 1″ pieces. I’ve used 3 different techniques on these 4 rows – some basted through the paper, some basted only through the fabric and some glue basted to the paper. This project is on hiatus until I figure out how to proceed from here.

The first 4 rows of Tula Pink's Hex on the Beach.

The first 4 rows of Tula Pink’s Hex on the Beach.


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