Friday, January 21, 2011

A Newbie's first steps and moving on...

Original 4-sq blocks connected
I am so excited and pleased with my accomplishment. Although it may seem small to some, I cannot believe I was able to create these beautiful blocks! Last time I showed off my work, I placed the blades down and laid the center circle on top to show what I hoped would be my final design for my Dresden blades.
Happily now, I announce...I completed all 36 blocks! With the fabrics and the design that started me down the path of quilting with high hopes, determination, but also trepidation, I have nine 18" Dresden designed blocks in my favorite color combination. 
I began with the 'stack-n-whack' process of cutting with a Dresden ruler. One by one, I stitched all the blades by hand, making center points and then connecting them together in blocks of five on a 9.5 block of white. I made 36 of these blocks. I found I needed to square them before connecting 4 blocks together, making a complete bloom of blades in a circle. I breathed a sigh of relief when the blades made a smooth circle of points, evenly spaced, especially where I had to connect them.
border planned to outline blocks
I finished that task by basting a 1/4" seam around each center circle and hand-stitched them to the Dresden bloom. While watching the snow fall outside, I knotted the last stitch tightly in place!  

Then, I decided to border the squares in the garnet red fabric in order to connect all 9 into one large front.  I cut strips of 1 1/2 inches for this border, and last night, connected the blocks with my new Janome.

my seams match!
the borders crossed exactly square!
Probably it only matters to me, but real delight came as I examined every seam and crossing of border. Everything lined up perfectly and the entire front is square. Here's a couple of photos showing the white block seams matching and the matched crossing borders!

connecting all nine with border
Moving on to the sashing, I'm planning to be very creative and use all the remaining blade fabrics. I've been browsing magazine ideas and patterns, and been having fun imagining some different designs. That will just have to be another post. At least for a couple of days, I want to just enjoy these beautiful blossoms vividly popping off those white blocks outlined in such a dark border. I love the contrast!

So there's future baby steps involved to challenge this newbie to keep piecing and stitching , but the process is just that..."step by step"!
I do admit that I am finding this new path in textiles to be quite fun.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Come "hum"'s FNSI time!

Cracklin fires...snow packed skylights...cinnamon whiffs...a cup of hot tea...comfy jammies and the soft hum of my new sewing machine! Could you imagine anything making an evening even more wonderful?
Well...if you join me, that would be the best! So, here's your invitation! Put it in your planner (January 21)'s time, girls, for another FNSI! I can hardly wait to hear the quiet hum of my machine stitching along on all the projects I long to complete.
You see, I started keeping a journal of all the projects I want to try while I browse through old magazines, purchase fabrics, and even sort through my stash in hopes of organizing!  This journal is getting full of "dreams" and I need this once per month quiet evening just to accomplish something beautiful to the hum of my sewing machine.

So, for our special January Friday night sew-in, I've browsed and think I have what I want to work on that evening. I think I have enough free moments to plan out a design I've seen in a magazine, get the pieces cut and stacked, ready to make some of these popular MUG RUGS with my humming sewing machine. Have you seen these little rugs? Have you tried putting some together? Here's some sites that have energized me:

I absolutely love the MUG RUG project idea on Heidi's blog:
and on Lana's site:

Aren't these things cute for little gifts? What a great project for a cold January evening. So, I've planned my humming tune for my FNSI! Notes of happiness just fill my heart at the thought of hearing the hum of my new sewing machine.
So, this is what I hope to do: as I direct the fabrics at a 1/4 seam, I want to think and pray for the special ladies in my life. There are several who encourage my walk with God, wish me a wonderful week, and genuinely care for my well-being. I want these ladies to know how much I thank God for putting them in my life. With a little care, color, and creativity, I hope my Friday Night Sew-In finds great delight in making these little rugs for my dear friends.

So...what are you planning to do? Please consider joining the group for a warm evening of quilting, sewing, or any needle work you've wanted to work on! I'd love to know what you accomplish!

Please click on the link (FNSI) in my right column and sign up....and may you have a blessed and happy day humming a beautiful song in your heart!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Avatar!

I don't know much about computer technology, and what does happen while I click often is a result of someone's kindness in helping me, directing me, or pointing me to the better path. That's what happened this morning! My new online friend, Blondie, always has such awesome graphics to welcome people on a forum, or greet friends in messages, and so on. I commented on how much I love these, and she helped me make an avatar for my own identity. It is so awesome! It so fits me!
I just know that she took the time to get to know me and probably read something about what I like on this blog! She saw in her search something about how I enjoy a cup of tea with a friend, and how I absolutely love to decorate anything I can with lace, and then, she picked the soft hues of pink that catches the softness of life I enjoy so much. Finally, she chose the rose, a flower I definitely enjoy in gardens and place on a decorated table while readying for tea time!
Well, here is what she chose for me!
Isn't it gorgeous?
And to add a wonderful finishing touch, she added my name!
Oh! Thank you, so much, Blondie! I absolutely love it!

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Kaleidoscope "splash" of lessons...

CUT: 10" BLOCKS of white on white, 7.5 BLADES of black & white designs, and 3.5 QUARTER CIRCLE with a splash of color. 
The Block Swap is about to begin with a deadline in February...and I've already started my part of the project. As a newbie at this quilting thing, I am learning so much by participating in a "community" set up by Missouri Star Quilt Shop website. Not only do I watch and follow all their tutorials, but the friendships online have helped me become better and better with this quilting thing.
ironing basket of blades
This Block Swap is no exception. I've learned vocabulary, just by conversations on the forum and by observing photos posted. I decided to put some up for others who might be a visual learner like me.
clip your corners causes seam to lie flat
Cutting the fabric takes precision, so I looked carefully at the members' cutting board photos. Pressing the fabric may be vital for precise cutting and no wrinkles, but also it helps the fabric stick together and not slip in cutting with a rotary blade. When I started out, I didn't know that the block, blade and 1/4 circle sizes were actual cutting directions, including 1/4" seams. Following these measurements and directions makes it possible to even have a block swap. The forum hostess stayed with me on each step, correcting my perceptions when needed and repeating the measurements often in threads of conversation. Even putting photos up for viewing really helped me, too!
I've always hated fat, clumpy corners which I think shows the seamstress was a little sloppy. Clipping also helps the seam lie flat, and to press the point squarely, it helps to give a crease down the center of the folded blade before turning. This gives you a line to center the point and keeps the measurement the same of each side of the blade and they all  match side by side! Nicely pressed seams make the fabric be the size it should be when completed also.
Then I learned to notice the blades cut at 7.5 inches will be 7.25 inches when sewn. I was confused on this point, but Sewbee and Patticakes corrected my first attempt and by answering questions in the forum, helped me see my mistakes.  I learned that it is important that everyone in the group do them all the exactly same way! Is that redundant? "exactly & same"? O well, emphasis is important, I guess.
quarter of a circle @ 3.5"
Then, when they say quarter circle cut, you are cutting a quarter of a complete circle. So, a 3.5" really means that had you cut a whole circle, it would be 7 inches! I found that if I basted a 1/4 seam around the arc of the circle, it is so easy to press it under along an accurate stitched line. This made a smooth arc lying flat with a constant curve.
Then there is the block - the back of the design you are making.  A 10" block of white on white makes it so pretty! We send raw edged block to the swap to be finished later by those who receive them! See,
measure the diagonal - blade centered
I'm learning because everyone keeps asking GOOD questions on the forum! I keep reading entries on the community thread and all the questions made me constantly check my work. Finally, one of the members took a photo of her sample block taken on a cutting board and I saw her actual measurements. I began to measure all my cuts according to her photo, and was so appreciative of that photo! I began taking my own photos for future references. I think it is fun to take photos for journaling later and keeping a record of my projects!
Here are some of the other photos I took. I noticed that the middle blade point should run along the diagonal of the entire block, and be centered. I could check it on every block, squarely placing the fan. This re-assured me I completed my blocks!
It was easy to sew the blades together and press them on the block, knowing how to center it and the quarter circle fit so well over it, also dividing exactly in half.
So, whew...finally, I can proudly say that my 5 blades fit my block and blocks are ready to send off when the block swap closes membership. Thank you so much to those who patiently worked with us via the forum and helped this newbie immensely!
1st finished block

So, finally, here is my "splash of color" block. When I found this fabric piece of bursts of color, as in fireworks, I just fell in love with the "popping of many colors. Most of the ladies chose a solid color, but the word "splash" of color made this vivid in my imagination.  I hope it works ok with everyone's block. Actually, I hope my blocks are enjoyed as much as my pleasure in putting them together. I have to admit that I am relieved that my pile is ready to label and pack up to send to the hostess. I know that my blocks are ready to join others in making a story of its own as it gives comfort and warmth.

If you've read this, and been encouraged to stretch out of your comfort box to do something new, I would love to know what you did and how did it turn out. Even as I eagerly await the blocks from this swap, I know that I will hold fond memories of all the lessons learned in the "Black & White with a 'Splash of Color' Block Swap". Thank you to those who suggested this project and for allowing me to be a part of your group. I really enjoyed making such a beautiful project and look forward to receiving ones from others for a project of my own.
Happy sewing and quilting...and oh, yes, don't forget the pressing and cutting!

Goodbye dear old friend

My old friend

The pages of my calendar turned a couple of times since I first began this post, but wow! I've been so busy reading the manual unpackaged with my new "tool for sewing"! Actually, it's my new "toy" to enhance hours of crafting joys!
In November, it became necessary to spend my own Christmas gift money because the mending pile was climbing so high, causing me to get lost just entering my craft room. It seemed like each family member needed this little hole mended, or this item hemmed, or a few tucks and darts here or there...and my old friend just couldn't revive enough to help me out.
I made several excursions to the closest sewing machine shop, overwhelmed with all the new possibilities. In a few shops, the prices were staggering, comparing themselves to the ticket on a used car! Decades had passed since I even considered replacing my childhood sewing machine and it was obvious a prosperous economy has influenced even this market! I spent shopping hours in awe over the new possibilities, listening to salesmen expound on the necessities of accessories and buttons, and watched as needles created awesome stitches. I read every brochure I could find, and researched the web for information. After many days of deliberation, I wearily set a price tag in my mind for what I actually needed and wanted, determined not to be swayed or overwhelmed by "bigger and better". Armed with 3 girlfriends and their advice, I marched into the Sewing Machine shop.
My new toy...oops, I mean "tool"! 
It was difficult not to be drawn to a higher price tags, but I knew what I needed and stood firm. I purchased a 3160QDC Janome to replace my aged New Home machine. Oh, yes...a couple of weeks later, 2 of the girlfriends purchased the same model, but I think they found an even better deal!  I hope we can spend time together, learning all the possibilities this little machine can create for us!
She's a beautiful machine & cabinet
Nostalgia still draws my heart to the dear old friend for simplicity and familiarity, but the parts are old and need to retire before I spend too much for repairs. Doesn't she sit in such a beautiful cabinet?
We've spent many hours together while making most of the clothes for my girls. But the time has come to stretch with electronic abilities and join new technology in a reasonable fashion and without too much debt inflicted. My SIL has offered to place her on Craig's list for me so, I'm hoping she finds a wonderful home.
Visions of quilting projects now invade my dreams as I read the manual on my Janome. This little machine has so many beautiful stitches that will be useful and fun. So far, I love the new stretch stitch with double needles for many of the knit tee-shirts that needed mending. Matter of fact, I found mending a breeze with just a touch of a button!
As soon as the mending pile disappeared, I tackled some new pre-washed fabrics on my cutting table and created Christmas gifts for my sisters! It was so much fun to sew on my new Janome!
So, Happy New Year, dear blog friends.
May all your dreams be stitched in time and pleasure be found with your "friend" this year!