What a Difference a Month Makes

I am desperately trying to figure out where the month of April went. It really seems to have flown by. But not without something to show for it. I have completed 5 out of 12 of the triangle units for the next section of Dan’s quilt and started on the sixth. As I’ve mentioned before, I am loving the colors.

At one point in the last month, I decided I missed doing applique and went looking for the started panel of the blue and white reverse applique project that has remained unfinished for way too long. I searched high and low and couldn’t find it. When I eventually did locate it, under my sewing table, my husband said that I needed to finish it right away since that was the second time I’d misplaced it since I started that section. Well, I didn’t complete it immediately, but I did get it done this month. I have two more of these blocks to finish before I can piece them together for a wall hanging for my sewing/writing room.

And the visual that really prompted this post is the growth in my garden. I looked back at the picture I posted at the beginning of April and was amazed by the progress since then. I have a nasty tendency to check on the garden multiple times every day. So I lose the perspective of how much progress has been made over time. But as you can see, the vegetables are doing quite well. The peas have some pods that will be ready for harvest before long. We have started harvesting the lettuce. (I chose a “Cut and Come Again” mix of leaf lettuces.) The broccoli is setting and the beans have sprouted. I am hoping that beneath the ground the radishes are beginning to plump up. I also planted the tomato, eggplant and herb seedlings out in their beds today. It is amazing to me that I actually started nearly everything in the garden from seed within the last month and a half! I don’t normally have a green thumb and am certainly a novice gardener in this location. But things are looking good for some yummy veg over the coming months!

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I Love Color

As usual, progress on Dan’s quilt is moving more slowly than I’d like. I did, however, choose the fabrics for the 12 starburst blocks for the outer section of the quilt. The pieces are all cut and I’ve begun construction of the blocks. I am sewing all the bands of triangles first before coming back to piece the curved seams. I’ve laid out what will be the bottom left corner of the quilt, so you can begin to see how the colors will work together. I am really liking how the colors and patterns are coming together.

Speaking of wonderful colors, here are more colors of Spring. It was time to thin the leaf lettuce in the garden. I usually hate thinning the seedlings, though I do know how necessary it is. This time I am looking forward to having some baby lettuce greens with dinner. Also for dinner, baked beet and feta salad with walnuts using fresh local beets we bought this morning at the opening day of our farmer’s market. Yummmmmm!

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Quilting Meets Library

This week, I truly got to be the Quilting Librarian. Or at least the Sewing Librarian. The children’s departments of our library system have Early Literacy Centers with educational toys for the children to play with while visiting the library. As you can imagine, these toys get some hard use!

I arrived at the library early Friday morning and decided to work on piecing a block while listening to an audio book until it was time to go inside. My supervisor saw me through the car window and asked me to bring my sewing kit in with me. We quickly determined that my sewing skills were much better than hers. So I now have an additional duty: toy repair. This poor puppet’s stethoscope had lost the silver end piece and the bean bag had a split seam that leaked plastic beads. Both are now ready to face the rigors of playing children again. And I now have to be sure that I keep a sewing kit with me for future toy emergencies.

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Signs of Spring

Here in Northern Virginia, we’ve been enjoying an early Spring. My hyacinths have come and gone, and the tulips are nearly over. The Canadian Red Cherry tree in our back yard is in bloom. As we move toward summer, the green leaves will start to turn red.

One side effect of the early warm weather was that I couldn’t wait to get started on the vegetable garden. As you can see, the peas I planted are eagerly reaching for the trellis and the radishes have sprouted. The leaf lettuce, broccolini, and carrots have also sprouted. Indoors, I have tomato, eggplant and leek seedlings growing as well as thyme, oregano and parsley. There is a lot of satisfaction in watching the seeds sprout. Now if I can only keep them alive inside until it is time to plant them outside. I have a notorious brown thumb for anything planted indoors.

All of this gardening has added yet another distraction from my quilting. But I have not been completely idle. I finished the flying geese border around the center medallion of Dan’s quilt and added another narrow green border. It now measures 34 inches square, and it is time for me to start cutting the pieces for the outer ring of blocks. I had hoped to get started on that today. But I have book reviews to write, so I am afraid it will get postponed yet again.

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Where has the last month gone?

Red amaryllisThe last month has been absolutely crazy, almost as bad the serious of natural disasters at the end of last summer. One bright spot in my winter days was this lovely amaryllis that was a Christmas gift from my favorite quilting buddy anywhere. Thank you, Connye!!! (Apologies for the awful, blurry picture.)

Just as I was settling into my new routines, everything changed. We’d been trying for some time to get insurance approval for knee surgery for our daughter. The approval came through days after my last post. Looking at available appointments and her schedule at school, we realized that the best date was also the earliest, just 4 days away. And so began a whirlwind of arrangements, both travel and medical since the doctor is just outside DC, we live about 2 hours from the office and our daughter is at school in NY. She couldn’t afford to miss more than a couple of days of school, so she had to head back almost immediately. The catch was that she can’t fly for 4 weeks after surgery. Plus she had to be back down in a week for a post-op checkup. All in all, that killed the first two weeks of February for me. The good news is that after almost 3 years of constant pain, her knee is recovering beautifully!

Then I got to celebrate Valentine’s Day by arranging towing for my car to the dealer. Last April I bought a diesel VW Golf that I absolutely love. But when I went out to the car that day and turned the key, it wouldn’t start. Thank goodness VW covered the full repair because they had to replace the entire fuel system. They also provided a rental car. But my car spent about a week and a half in the shop. Why don’t they put ice scrapers in rental cars? Yes, my scraper was sitting in my car in the shop along with my umbrella, GPS cradle and sundry other useful things.

Progress on piecing the flying geese borderIn and around all of the craziness, I did make some progress on the quilt top. All of the flying geese units are pieced. Since this picture was taken, I have finished piecing two sides. I haven’t decided what to use for the corner blocks yet. The yellow and green marbled fabric sticking out from under the lower left corner is one I’m “auditioning” for the next border. I think it’s time for more green.

Now I’m on to my next design decisions. I’d like to use more of my pale blues in the next series of blocks along with some of the deep, stunning greens. I’m thinking darker greens where the royal blue corner pieces are in the center and paler blue batiks in place of the pale greens there.

from Simple to Sensational BatiksI’m also running into more issues with my decision to enlarge the design by 25 percent. I did that with the center medallion and my piecing must not have been accurate enough. So I had to refigure the size of the flying geese units so that the border would fit evenly. The units are more than 25 percent larger than the original. That means that if I use the same size blocks as in the center, they result won’t be long enough to match the now larger border. My current plan is to widen the blocks in the center of the outer section to make up the increased side length. I’ll have to see how it looks before I decide whether or not to enlarge the half circles, elongate them into ovals, or just let more background fabric show. First things first – I need to finish that flying geese border! Maybe life will calm down enough to let me focus on making progress. Probably not!

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Curves, Curves and More Curves

Too many curves!What was I thinking when I let my son choose a pattern with so many curves and tiny points? After my success with my daughter’s quilt and my sampler, I was just a tad bit over-confident. Surely with the control I get by hand-piecing, I would be able to handle this without a problem. Well, I am making progress – slowly.

It looks better in the picture than it does in real life. It doesn’t lie as flat as I would like. So the next step will be to press it carefully and adjust the seams to secure the pressing. Otherwise it will only get worse, especially once I start to quilt it. But every quilt is a learning experience. And I am quite pleased with the color combinations. The next steps are straight borders alternating with a flying geese border before moving to the outer blocks that echo the sunburst of the center. I guess it’s time to cut some more fabric!

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It’s All About the Contrast

Progress on color and fabric choices.Having gotten over the first hurdle of beginning to cut fabric, I’m now making some progress on this quilt for my son. He wanted greens and blues. I’m pretty happy with the level of contrast I’m getting here. I haven’t cut the dark blue outer frame yet. I just laid it out to see how it looks. I think I like the way it works with the blue-greens in the center star. I still need to piece the other half of this center medallion. But I am happy with the progress I’m making, especially since I was working a lot the last two weeks. Funny how everyone wanted a sub so they could take vacation time over the holidays. . .

I’m feeling a little uncomfortable because I haven’t planned out all of the fabric choices for the quilt. But I think that in this case it will be better to piece parts of it and then see how they work with other fabrics, much like I did here. I really want to be sure I keep the contrast high. I love it when the strong colors really pop!

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Why is starting to cut fabric so hard?

Newly cut pieces for the center panel of the quiltI always have a hard time making the first cuts for a new quilt, especially when it is largely my own design. It implies a commitment to my design decisions and fabric choices. But I have finally gotten over the hump and started cutting for my son’s quilt, the one I posted fabric choices for this past summer. (Have I mentioned that I really am slow?) Part of what prompted me to take the plunge was a shipment of new fabric that arrived. I used a gift certificate that has been sitting on my desk for way too long and some of the new fabrics seemed perfect for this project. And with finishing school and the New Year looming, it seemed like a good time for a new beginning. The colors in this picture are a bit off. What looks like yellow is really more of a lime green. And the brownish fabric on the edge is really closer to the color of the other outer fabric, while that fabric is a bit lighter and bluer.

from Simple to Sensational BatiksThis is pattern my son chose, several years ago, though of course I am completely changing the color scheme. The obvious next step is to cut out the rays that surround the center circles. I am a bit nervous about getting the color values to contrast and pop the way this quilt does. But I’ve given myself permission to make mistakes and recut and redo sections as necessary to get it right. Usually I’m so averse to waste that I can’t bear to have to discard something I’ve cut – probably another reason I have so much trouble starting to cut out the pieces. If I’m wrong, I’m wasting that piece of fabric.

Reverse side of the Christmas Candles wall hanging showing quiltingQuilting on the back of the Christmas Candles wall hanging

I promised pictures of the back of my Christmas wall hanging, and here they are. I did finish quilting it, but I still need to trim and bind it. I’m working a lot of extra hours this week and next, covering for folks taking a vacation over the holidays, so it doesn’t look like it will actually be finished for Christmas. To add further complication, our daughter is home for the holidays (a very good thing!) and my sewing room reverts to her room when she is home. So I am displaced from my work space. I’ve carried everything out into the dining room, so I can make do and hopefully finish the hanging by New Years Day. Otherwise, it will be finished in time to get packed up with the other holiday decorations so it is ready and waiting for next year.

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School’s Out!

Christmas candles applique wallhangingI admit the picture doesn’t quite match the headline. But it does make sense in a slightly round about way. I have finally turned in my last assignment for my last class. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the grades to be posted and the administrative paperwork to be completed and I will be able to add the initials MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) after my name! Since I’m still only working part time, that means a lot more time for quilting. This wall hanging is the project I chose to finish first, with the hope of being able to display it for this year’s holiday season.

I knew I loved my kitchen island for cooking. But for this quilt project, it proved to be the perfect size for layering and basting. That’s right – no painful crawling around on my knees on the floor. I’m quilting this by just following the outlines, something I almost never do. But I really just want to accent the shapes, not compete with the overall effect. I am quilting the background with cream thread and inside the patterned areas with red. It really makes the back interesting. Too bad nobody but me will ever see, except once I post pictures here. I’m about half finished with the quilting. So completing it before Christmas really is possible.

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Donate a book with just a click!

Here’s a chance for you to promote literacy at no cost to yourself. Random House Children’s Books division has offered to donate one book for everyone who likes or follows the charity First Book on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr. Access to books makes a huge difference in kids’ literacy development. Please consider joining this effort to create a brighter future for kids in low-income families. For more information, check out this entry on the First Book blog. Please hurry. Today is the last day!

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