Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009


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In Which I Stop Reading Big Name Quilting Blogs

So, certain persons online host contests. Do this, follow that, comment, make, and otherwise jump through hoops for this chance and that chance. Let’s be honest, most of them have sponsorships of some sort that provide the prizes. At least that’s the case for the big name bloggers. You can bet your rotary cutter that they aren’t out any money for the giveaway (or a great portion of the fabric they use to make their quilts). They’re selling something just like Target, WalMart, and Kraft. It’s every bit a business, except instead of selling a product or service, they are selling themselves. The blogger is the brand.

I find it just the tiny bit ironic then, when the folks selling their brand and hosting contests, declare some grand community purpose or some other such nonsense. As if somehow contests and giveaways aren’t that important. Chastise is probably the better word for it, and yes big blogger, I am aware that your comment was directed at me. Sometimes reading your blog or participating in your contest (and driving traffic to your blog) is just a means to an end. And really, can’t we be honest, since this is your business, isn’t that really the point? And, no I didn’t let your comment through on the original post because it seemed to me more the quilty equivalent of “well, bless your heart.”

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but when I enter a contest I kind of want to win otherwise I wouldn’t enter. I guess in this case I did sort of win. Sadly it was insight rather than fabric which would have been nice since we don’t all have access to the same fountain of free stuff (like sewing machines and fabric).

And that, big blogger, is the point at which I stopped reading big name quilting blogs just as sure as I stopped reading the pioneer gal. That sort of “community” isn’t for me. Too bad it cost me money to find out.


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Shelburne Falling Star

A few weeks ago I saw an announcement on Stitched in Color for a Shelburne Falls contest. I wasn’t going to participate, but then, while shopping for fabric to finish the picnic blanket, a couple of half yards of fabric found their way into my basket.

Buying fabric? Easy.

Figuring out what to make with the fabric? That’s an entirely different puzzle altogether. My mom asked me how I came up with the idea. Honestly? I have no idea. I read quite a few blogs (by which I mean I skim through them while focusing on the ones that most catch my eye) so it’s more than likely that someone made something with stars. From there it’s a Google image search for quilted stars, barn stars, free stars, paper pieced stars. I looked at patterns (free, Etsy, Craftsy), but none of them really seemed like the thing.

Carol Doak’s “50 Fabulous Paper-Pieced Stars” made its way home from the library, mostly for the Colorado star, but when it arrived I fell in love with her Wisconsin star. Heh, I live in Wisconsin, is that too kitschy?

A week ago today we had our local quilt guild’s sew day and seeing as the husband was off, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on this quilt. While brushing my teeth it dawned on me – stars…falling stars….Shelburne Falls….Shelburne Falling Star. This, dear reader, is how inspiration is born.

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I could have done the traditional thing. Four stars matched up with a neat little square of HSTs in the middle. Yeah. I never follow a recipe as written and likely couldn’t even if I tried, why would I follow a pattern as written?

One week, two Shelburne Falls fabrics, four Kona solids, a full Saturday, some Diet Coke, just about the entire third season of NCIS, and countless hours later my kitchen is a mess, the children have had pizza for dinner more than once. Oh, and the quilt is finished.

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It’s perfect, yes? I can’t say that it’s exactly how I thought it would turn out because to be honest my vision before beginning was fuzzy. I love the way things evolve. Mistakes become focal points. Pieces are shuffled. While I enjoy the finished project, I think I prefer the process a great deal more than the finishing. Wrestling this quilt through my domestic machine was no picnic not to mention how I feel about hand stitching binding, but there is a certain satisfaction with having arrived even if it’s a little bittersweet.

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Speaking of binding…I will now bind all of my quilts in stripes. I just love the way the stripes look marching all in a row down the edge of the quilt. Perfect.

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I’m off to link up with Stitched in Color. Fingers crossed, dear reader. We’ll know on Monday (I think) whether or not I made it to the next round.


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WIP Wednesday – A Little of This and a Little of That

But mostly this:

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I added in another Dear Stella fabric to finish out the piecing, opting for larger pieces on the inside of the quilt rather than putting borders on it – mostly because borders always give me trouble. The top ended up finishing out at 64 1/2″ square (just shy of my target 65″ square).

Now all I have to do is piece the back, cut the batting to size, and get it basted. I’m pondering whether or not I’ll do the quilting on this one. When they’re larger than a wall hanging or table runner I usually send them out to my quilter (also known as my mom). I did the same with Shattered, which is quite a bit smaller than this one. My only excuse being that I was thinking of straight line quilting which I think will work well with the top and that’s something I like to think I can handle.

I feel like I should mention a disclaimer here because if you read here long enough you’re probably thinking that Shattered been out for a long time, but we’re on a “I’m not in a hurry” understanding. She’s just waiting on my say so and I’m thinking I like the process a great deal more than the finishing. Not so coincidentally, it helps me avoid putting the binding on which is precisely what I will continue to do once it comes back. I hate doing the binding.

Well, mostly I hate hand stitching. It makes my hands cramp up all funny. On the other hand, I don’t like the way binding looks when folks machine stitch it on.

So.

There you go.

Anyway…

Also Finished This Week:

Quick Finishes (or the “finish it already!!” group):

Waiting:

  • Shattered – needs quilting and binding
  • fleece quilt (pictured here) – need to finish sewing nine patch blocks, need to finish sewing together rows and then needs some sort of binding to help keep it square-ish – but mostly waiting on inspiration.

In Progress:

The Great Big Wish/To Do List:

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From “Sewing in No Time” by Emma Hardy:

  • fireplace screen
  • drawstring toy bags
  • fabric covered storage box
  • floor pillows
  • floral pillow with ties

From “Quilt Revival” by Nancy Mahoney:

  • 30′s Shadow Star

From “Oliver+S Little Things to Sew by Liesl Gibson:

  • tutu (x2)
  • reversible bucket hat (x3)

From Oliver+S:

From “Little Stitches” by Aneela Hoey:

  • Empire State Building Needle Case
  • Rain, Rain Go Away Hanging Hoop

From “Liberty Book of Home Sewing” by Liberty of London:

  • Sugar Bag Doorstop
  • Toiletry Bag
  • Bean Bag
  • Keepsake Board
  • Lampshade

WIP Wednesday at Freshly PiecedI’m linking up with Lee @ Freshly Pieced!


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WIP Wednesday – Long Time Coming

IMG_1681If the pile of trimmings on my cutting board are any indication, Herbert and I have been making much needed progress on my WIP list. Yes, it has been since January that I wrote a WIP Wednesday post and yes, I did spend most of February doing nothing. Well, not nothing, but certainly very little sewing. I tried to get things going with a rather easy sort of project. It was meant to be a quick finish so that I could get back into sewing after having struggled a bit with more precise piecing for my version of Empty Bobbin’s “Seeing Squares.” In my mind I wanted something like Amanda Blake Soule’s beach blanket from “Handmade Home,” but I didn’t have the yardage necessary for something exactly like it. Time to improvise, yes?

Famous last words.

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I ended up with something like this. If you read the “Design Friday” post on this you’ll remember how I ended up here and where I thought I’d be headed. Simple borders on the top and bottom. Simple. Except it wasn’t. I had wings. The seams were straight on the inside and every single one of my attempts to “fix” it without taking it apart only made things worse. The damn problem kept reoccurring. Tears, dear reader, lots of tears. My brave husband even tried to help me sort it out.

House and Country” broke me. I wanted to ship it out to someone’s house in the country and bury it in the pasture. I put it away for a day at which point I decided that the issue was something my rotary cutter could fix (and it would be faster than the seam ripper). Break me? I’ll break you down instead “simple” quilt.

I cut the fabric up into the largest squares I could get from each portion of the quilt and re-pieced. Only I was still having difficulties with finished block sizes. My cutting? My sewing? Both? After having my far more talented mother double-check my block sizes we determined that it was more than likely the seam allowances. More seam ripping. More sewing and piecing. New sewing machine. A living room floor layout to see what the next step would be. More fabric.

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New iron. The nicely pressed big blocks are hanging up on my design wall now waiting for the new fabric and more piecing so that I can finish the top of this “easy” quilt. Dear reader, never declare a project to be “easy” before beginning. Bad idea.

IMG_1629Sunbonnet Sue still sits patiently on the back of the glider in my studio waiting for the day that I feel like finishing her. On the other hand, at least the binding is most of the way finished. I just need to finish the hand stitching. I predict she’ll be finished in time for Yule this year.

IMG_1684If you remember this slightly cryptic post, then you’ve seen at least a portion of this quilt. I’m using Art Gallery Blenders and Kona solids in my rainbow-tastic version of Empty Bobbin’s “Seeing Squares.” So far. So good, but I still have a long way to go.

IMG_1632This pile of strips is being pieced using Rayna Gillman’s book “Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts.” I’ve been using the leftovers from the Batik Squares quilt I gave to my mom plus another fat quarter I picked up at JoAnns a few weeks ago.

IMG_1690I’m taking the strips, sewing them together, and then cutting and piecing them together in what will one day be my very own Batik Squares quilt. I’m trying to decide if I will stick to the same form as the last Batik Squares I made, or if I will follow Gillman’s directions in the book more closely.

Quick Finishes (or the “finish it already!!” group):

Waiting:

  • Shattered – needs quilting and binding
  • fleece quilt (pictured here) – need to finish sewing nine patch blocks, need to finish sewing together rows and then needs some sort of binding to help keep it square-ish – but mostly waiting on inspiration.
  • The beach blanket from “Handmade Home” by Amanda Blake Soule – waiting on fabric to finish the top

In Progress:

The Great Big Wish/To Do List:

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From “Sewing in No Time” by Emma Hardy:

  • fireplace screen
  • drawstring toy bags
  • fabric covered storage box
  • floor pillows
  • floral pillow with ties

From “Quilt Revival” by Nancy Mahoney:

  • 30′s Shadow Star

From “Oliver+S Little Things to Sew by Liesl Gibson:

  • tutu (x2)
  • reversible bucket hat (x3)

From Oliver+S:

From “Little Stitches” by Aneela Hoey:

  • Empire State Building Needle Case
  • Rain, Rain Go Away Hanging Hoop

From “Liberty Book of Home Sewing” by Liberty of London:

  • Sugar Bag Doorstop
  • Toiletry Bag
  • Bean Bag
  • Keepsake Board
  • Lampshade

WIP Wednesday at Freshly PiecedI haven’t done this in a loooong time, but today I’m linking up with Lee @ Freshly Pieced!


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In which I inadvertently become a collector…

…of sorts.

I’ve been sewing for awhile on a Brother Innovis-40 – mostly practical sorts of sewing projects. A purse. A bag. Some pot holders. Simple stuff. I’ve fixed more than a few items of clothing. Snow pants. My son’s winter jacket because, dear reader, he’s a growing boy and it’s almost the end of the season. Please, child of mine, be more careful when taking your coat out of your locker!

If it doesn’t require a great deal of accuracy my Brother works just fine. For quilting, though, one requires some accuracy at least some of the time. The alternative, your standard (and bulky) walking foot, didn’t really appeal to me. Not to mention there’s only 40 stitches and no low bobbin warning. I’ve made it to the end of a row of quilting only to discover that I was out of bobbin thread for most of it more than a time or two.

That wasn’t what did it, though. I bought my machine from a local dealer and wanted to take it in for your average tune-up/cleaning sort of thing. When I called I was told that I would have to leave it with them for five weeks. I might get it back sooner than that, but it’s really hard to say. When I balked at the length of time (I may have said that it was “unacceptable”), the lady on the other end of the phone laughed and said, “I know.”

Reader, this is not something I took into account when buying my machine. You buy it, they service it. It can’t be all that different from a car, right? I mean, I can make an appointment with my dealership, sometimes you might have to wait for a part, but generally speaking they can plan for this sort of thing. Not so with this particular place and the nearest Brother dealer is 40-ish minutes or more away.

Rule number one when shopping for a sewing machine? Ask the store about their turnaround time on repairs.

I decided to go with a different machine after a bit of coaxing from the husband (I believe he threatened to buy one on his own if I didn’t). I went with a different local sewing machine dealer with a very reasonable repair time frame. My mom took her Pfaff (1475 CD) there to have them give it a once over and had a very positive experience. She loves her Pfaff. I love her Pfaff. Perhaps it’s time to get a Pfaff of my own?

Enter Herbert Pfaff.

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Why call the machine Herbert? Because the machine reminds me a crotchety old man. Temperamental. Fussy. Easily confused. Touchy. Whereas my Brother had no personality (and no name), Herbert Pfaff reminds me of my grandmother. He’s got personality oozing out of every gear.

It’s bittersweet, really. There’s so much I like about the machine (IDT, automatic tie-off, plenty of stitches, more than one light, bigger harp space, a free arm) and a few things I’m not too thrilled with, but can accept (the bobbin winder, the bobbin thread path, pushing reverse does not automatically reverse like my Brother did, tie off button requires that you actively be sewing while pushing the button which means forecasting where the machine will end up in time). The other things I’m hoping are just user error.

For instance, why ,when I ask him to always end needle down, does he sometimes end with the needle up even though the light is lit on the button? If I push the button again the light stays lit and the needle goes down. I’ve been using this to my advantage, but it’s puzzling to me. Is this a feature or a flaw?

Why is he prone to getting all tangled up on the bottom of the fabric? I have re-threaded both ends, switched bobbins, tried longer tails and shorter tails, used a startie/stopie and yet he still persists. He does so less often than he did at first, but why does he keep doing this?

How come when I ask him to automatically tie off at the end of a seam, he can never figure out where that is? End of seam, no tie off. Hit the button. No tie off. Sometimes I get the feeling that he interprets this like I’m asking him to rub his belly and pat his head at the same time.

Why is the cover so darn difficult to get on the machine?

Still, he’s accurate and the IDT is pretty freaking fantastic. I’m hopeful that a lesson or two with the dealer might help us work together better, but please Herbert, don’t make me regret buying you. The last machine that I regretted buying, Selma Singer (and I was a great deal more fond of her at first), found a second life as an end table, but you’re far too pricey for that sort of thing.

Not to mention completely the wrong shape.

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Thank goodness for Petunia Decker. She’s the recent purchase that I don’t regret in the slightest. I’ve been using a Panasonic iron my other grandmother gave me when I graduated from high school. It works great for clothing and most sewing projects, but not so much for quilting – it didn’t get near as hot as my mom’s Rowenta, there was no steam pulse, and you could never really shut the steam off all the way. I had been eyeing up this iron for several months. It’s reasonably priced, well rated on Amazon, and then the Snarky Quilter wrote about hers awhile back. It seemed like the best value for the cost. The husband’s been working more overtime than I care to really think about so why not?

Petunia made her way home yesterday afternoon. After opening the box, I immediately put her through her paces. In short? She’s perfect – ample heat, ginormous water reservoir, auto shut-off, self-cleaning, steam pulse, water spray, and steam that shuts off completely. Simply lovely.

*sigh* I guess you can’t win them all.