Friday, February 28, 2014

Tea Towel Challenge Update and March Goal

Earlier today, I included the Tea Towel Challenge among my February Failures. My ideas for a quilt based on the Fairy Tale Calendar Towel keep circling in my head, but just haven't come together enough for me to make any real progress.

This morning, I decided to follow my own best advice to myself and work on something else–in this case, another, less complex, tea towel idea. And, to give myself an extra little push, I'm making this project my goal for a Lovely Finish in March.

This pair of hot air balloon-themed tea towels were one of my purchases last fall, when I first started thinking about making another tea towel quilt and ended up collecting a few of them

They are new, 100% cotton, made in India and very VERY thin.  Backed with some lightweight fusible interfacing, I think they'll be OK.  In the last couple days, an idea for using them in a quilt popped and, this morning,  I pulled these fabrics from my stash as possibilities for the new quilt. 

Whether it's really because Mercury has been retrograde or something else, I've decided to extend the time periods in the linky tool for the in-progress and show & tell updates ... just in case, I'm not the only one who has been a little stuck in February:

In-progress:  February 1 - March 31
Show & tell: March 1 - May 31 

I am optimistic that by following my own best advice to my self, working on this new tea towel project will shake loose the ideas in my head for my first choice and I'll make progress on both projects ... stay tuned. 

February Finishes and Failures

In February, some quilting happened ... but I made ZERO progress on a couple projects that were goals for this month.  With my 20-20 hindsight, I can see that perhaps my recent obsession with espresso machines was one way to avoid those projects ... hmm.

I DID make scrappy pink blocks for four ongoing rainbow scraps projects.

Pink scraps also found their way into two new projects.

I made a basket of string-pieced heart pins and sent them to dozen quilters to thank them for their support of the Block Lotto site.

Then I used the left-over bits of string fabric to make liberated star blocks for a future to-be-determined project.

I am joining the February NewFO Challenge linky party with these two new projects.

I spent a lot of time watching the Olympics coverage on TV in February, which allowed me to finish up the stitching for a pair of large Redwork pillow covers.

I also made a whole lot of Bead-on-a-String blocks: for the lotto and for two Mod-Mod quilts.

BUT ... because I failed to put a single stitch into my designated goal for a Lovely Finish, nor get much beyond creating a pattern for the Tea Towel Challenge, I am feeling pretty pathetic on this last day of the month ...

Can I blame my failures on a retrograde Mercury?  It seems as soon as Mercury started moving forward again, I had an idea for something completely different for my Tea Towel challenge quilt–I am still hopeful I will be able to make that happen.

Or maybe my optimism for March is fueled by a return to my routine and a first-thing-in-the-morning coffee?  As it turns out, after serving up the best cappuccino that I've ever made, the Goodwill bargain refused to make another.  After spending too much time trying to make it work and talking with the manufacturer (who offered to service it for $400), back to Goodwill it went.  the experience helped me decide on a replacement, which I did find locally. I'm not sure how a single cup of coffee in the morning can make things feel more ordered and normal around here, but it has.  I am ready to march on to March.

Monday, February 24, 2014


Yesterday morning, my trusty little espresso machine died. While I don't drink a lot of coffee, I start each day with a latté, which is, for me, is a lot of steamed milk with a shot of espresso.

It was small and functional and probably at least 15 years old.  When I moved from California to Michigan, and drove across the country, through blizzards and ice storms, it travelled with me, so I could always start my day with that morning latté in the hotel, wherever I found myself.

There had been indications that it was beginning to fail and I had started looking around for a replacement, but found the product landscape has changed a lot with bigger, better, all-singing-and-dancing machines at one end and convenient K-cup style machines at the other.  Simple espresso machines seemed to have gone out of fashion.

My first inclination yesterday morning was to go out and buy a replacement, but since I'd already been looking, I knew I wasn't going to be happy with what I found locally.   Even online, it was slim pickin's, but I did find something that I thought might work and ordered it ... with an estimated delivery in 5 days.

I routinely give up caffeine once or twice a year for at least a month; I thought I'd be able to manage a week ... but I woke up this morning, lying in bed, wishing I could go downstairs and make my morning latté.    The soundtrack in my head was under the influence, too.  Yesterday, I was making up lyrics for  The Day the Espresso Machine Died and today in the car, I kept singing Patty Larkin's Caffeine.

While I was out running errands and feeling pathetically sorry for my un-caffeinated self, I decided to see if I might find a thrift store coffeemaker to see me through the week.

Goodwill offered lots of options. No espresso machines, nor options for steaming milk,  but lots of way to turn ground coffee into liquid caffeine for a modest price.  And it was 25% discount day, which made it seem even more reasonable to buy a "backup coffeemaker" ... in case this should happen to me again in another 15 years–it seems the caffeine withdrawal might have been effecting my thoughts a bit.

I selected a small model designed to make enough for a travel mug–the mug was no longer included, but that was OK. Then, as I was on my way toward the cashier, I noticed a monster of a coffee maker on the bottom shelf.

After checking that I could return it if it didn't work, I brought it home. I have three days to figure out if it works and return it if it doesn't.

It's one of those all-singing-and-dancing machines that I always thought weren't worth all the counter space and knew that I didn't need because I really don't consume that much coffee.  But, the price was right and with it I could steam milk.

A used model is selling for $599 on Amazon: Jura Capresso C1000 Super-Automatic Coffee and Espresso Center

I confess, I was doubtful it would work.  At the Goodwill store, I noticed that there was still water in the water tank.  Ewww. I wondered about the person who wouldn't empty it before they donated it and why Goodwill would put it on the shelf that way.  When I got it home, I saw that it also still had coffee beans inside.

I easily found the very detailed user manual online.  I dumped the old water and beans, cleaned it and took it for a spin. While some lights indicate that it isn't entirely happy and it's making a noise that may or may not be normal, it still made a lovely cappuccino.  While I figure out if it can be made happy or should be returned, I will, at least, be able to enjoy my morning cup of caffeine coffee.

Who knows? It may even turn out to be my first ever thrift store bargain.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Last of February's Scrappy Pink Projects

These are  bits of string fabric that were left after I made the pink string-pieced heart pins I shared a week ago.

Most of the rectangles were in the neighborhood of 2 by 2 1/2-inches.

Maybe if I had tossed them right away, they wouldn't have kept calling my name until I DID something with them.

I used them as centers for these scrappy pink liberated star blocks.

I have some ideas but no real plans for these–suggestions welcome.  For the moment, they are just decorating my design wall while the remaining string-pieced scraps continue to call to me and say, "let's play" ... and I cannot believe I seem to have started yet another new project.

I'm joining Angela's list for the Last Pink Saturday and, a little burnt out on pink, waiting to read what color scraps I'll but pulling out and playing with in March.

In Other News ... Redwork completed

I finished stitching my redwork project Wednesday evening. Here are both pieces–complete with wrinkles and cat hair.

Each redwork design fills an area that is approximately 19-inches square. At some time in the future, I will add borders and quilting and turn them into a pair of 24-inch pillow covers.  

While I think about what those borders and quilting design will be, I'm starting another bit of stitchery ... as part of what I'm adding to the Cotton Robin center I received.  It will see me through another night of Olympics-watching, then maybe I'll start hand-quilting the project I thought was going to be my Olympian project ;-) 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tiny Strings - My Quilt for Another Little Quilt Swap

Finished in early January, I waited to share this little 15 inch quilt until after swap decisions were made for Another Little Quilt Swap and it was sent on it's way.

I called it Tiny Strings because of those triangles which began as bits of string quilt fabric left after cutting shapes for a bed-size quilt.  They each measure 7/8 inch and contain 2-to-4 fabrics.  This quilt began when I came across a small ziplock containing a bunch of these sweet triangles that, I guess, I was unable to toss.

This photo, taken just after I began quilting it, shows some of the tiny strings and gives a little feeling of the scale.

I took a few other detail photos while I quilted it.  This quilt was made before Double Dare and you can see that the doodle-y style quilting in that quilt started here. 

1. Beginning to Quilt, 2. Doodle-y Quilting Design Fill, 3. Tiny Strings - Quilting Detail, 4. Tiny Strings - Border Quilting Detail

I'm happy to be able to share this secret project and am joining these link parties:

Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts
FMQ Project Linkup at The Free Motion Quilting Project
Link a  finish Friday at Richard and Tanya Quilts
TGIFF on Amy's Crafty Shenanigans
Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bead (Block) Making in Progress

I've been working on that 6-minute circle technique.  All but three of these were made that way ...  I may now be close to actually being able to make one in 6 minutes :-)

The 7 inch (finished size) Bead-on-a-String block is the February block pattern for the Block Lotto.

You can download my free block pattern here:

Bead on a String Quilt Block Directions

The six yellow-orange-maroon blocks on the left are my blocks for the lotto.  The pink blocks on the right were made for the Rainbow Scraps Challenge (RSC) this month and will be part of a throw-size version of the Mod-Mod Quilt.  Here's how they look with last month's blue Double Chevron blocks.

This diagram shows their actual placement in the throw-size quilt.

The bead blocks are mostly sewn into rows of three and usually are adjacent to the chevron blocks.

It will be interesting to see what happens as blocks with a pre-determined placement in the quilt are made in colors chosen by Angela for the RSC.  I am beginning to see this as a color-block version of the quilt.  Even though I know what blocks are coming, I am looking forward to seeing them in colors not chosen by me.

The rest of the blocks in the middle are for a bed-sized (full/queen) version of my Mod-Mod quilt design.

Here's the diagram showing the block placement for this size and how my January and February blocks look together on the design wall.

You can find the information and layouts for all six sizes of the Mod-Mod quilt on the Block Lotto here:

February Update - Mod-Mod Quilt-Along

Edited to add some additional info about the 6 minute circle technique–if you google Dale Fleming 6-Minute Circle you’ll find links to Dale Fleming demonstrating her technique on Simply Quilts (on HGTV site) and a longer version (with other shapes and examples)  from her on The Quilt Show (if you are a member) and lots of bloggers blogging tutorials about the technique.

I'm joining the lists for WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced and Esther's Blog.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Redwork–More of the Same

My handwork basket looks much the same as it did when I shared a photo of it three weeks ago ... with one small difference–the first piece, rolled up in one side of the basket is finished and work has begun on the second piece.

The flowers, buds and leaves on Good Night are different, which adds a little interest as I learn the new shapes and figure out how to neatly stitch them.

I took a break from the redwork to stuff and stitch and add a bit of embroidery to the string hearts ... now I am pushing myself a little to keep picking this up and working on it in the evenings until it's done.

I have quite a ways to go. Slow Stitch Sundays are always a good day for me to make progress.

I don't know how long I thought it would take to stitch these ... but I didn't think I'd still be working on them almost a month later. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Scrappy Heart Pins for St. Valentine's Day

Earlier this week, I cleaned out my pink scraps of the smallest bits, made the string pieced fabric that I shared when it was on my design wall, cut it up and made these.

Each of the twelve hearts has a few pale pink lazy daisies embroidered on the front and a pin back sewn to the back. 

The hearts are small, each about 3 by 4-inches. Small enough to hold in your hand, pin onto a collar or bag or use as a small pincushion.

I pinned them onto Thank You notes and sent them on their way in the post a few days ago.   I keep thinking about making these 5 or 6 times larger and using them for pillows. 

If you would like to make your Valentine a little heart pinnie, here's how they are made. 

12. Ready for embellishment and hardware

This will be my update for Scrap Happy Saturday.  I'm also joining the lists for Finish It Up Friday, Richard and Tanya's Link a  Finish Friday  and Whoop Whoop Friday.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

I'm Counting Down

Thanks to Olympics TV watching, I'm getting close to finishing the first of two redwork pieces that will become pillow covers.  I have begun counting the elements that are left: I have four flowers, two buds, two tendrils, a leaf and Morning left to stitch before I move onto Good Night.

It's unlikely I'll finish today/tonight during Slow Stitching Sunday, but I will be working on it and I think I might finish sometime this week. The redwork is designed to fit in an 18 inch square. I will add a pieced border to make a 24 inch square pillow cover.

I planned to leave the text for last, but couldn't resist stitching that crazy-looking G earlier this week.

I'm sure it's based on a very old style font ... can anyone identify it?

I may take a break from the redwork,   More hand stitching will be required as part of my plan for the string foundations I made yesterday. The string rectangles were made from some of the small pink scraps that were left over after making the blocks I posted yesterday.

Each of the four rectangles measures 4 by 12 inches.

I'll share more about the string project later this week. They are intended for a small gift.

Updated Monday morning to share that my design wall still looks like this EXCEPT ... I got a little obsessed yesterday and finished the redwork for Good Morning. It might take an Olympian effort to start and finish the second piece before the closing ceremony of the Olympics, but I am going to try.

Most of the images on my blog posts are posted on Flickr ... and lately, Flickr is having problems.  If you get the "Bad, bad panda" or other error message, refreshing the page usually fixes the problem.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Scrappy Pink Blocks for 4 Projects

I went to bed last night wondering how I suddenly find myself making four quilts from blocks from the Rainbow Scrap challenge this year and wondering how did that happen?

Two were existing projects, but for some reason, that wasn't enough ... and I started two more quilts last month.

The Bead-on-a-String blocks are for one of the two quilts I am making as part of the Mod-Mod Quilt-Along.  Each month I am making the Block Lotto block of the month in the designated Rainbow Scrap Challenge (RSC) color. 

I used Dale Fleming's 6-minute circle technique to piece the pink "beads."  If you google Dale Fleming 6-Minute Circle you’ll find links to Dale Fleming demonstrating her technique on Simply Quilts (on the HGTV website) and a longer version (with other shapes and examples)  from her on The Quilt Show (if you are a member).  

The book contains a lot of information on color and design principles and how to use the technique with different shapes. It was published almost 10 years ago, but I noticed that Amazon has it available on Kindle.  Clicking the book image will take you there. 

Last month, I also started making a single, large (10 x 15-inch) scrappy oak leaf block each month.

The Briar Patch blocks aren't a new project ... in fact, it's a very old–almost 10 years old– scrap-busting project that was packed away and forgotten, not long after beginning it in a workshop.

I blogged about the origins of this project with links to the pattern here: It was a dark and scrappy Saturday night.

The RSC color-of-the-month will be combined with black and white prints in these blocks.  I have now made 16 of the 80 blocks needed for this quilt.

Pink purists probably noticed that there are some red triangles mixed in with my "pink" broken dishes on my design wall.  Because I had included pink fabrics in my "red" blocks when I started making these blocks two years ago, I decided to mix in some of red triangle squares I had left over in these.

When mixed together with the existing mostly red blocks, they play nicely together.

These four blocks make a total of 21 of the red/pink blocks.

I plan to make a total of 126 of the 8-inch blocks from rainbow scraps.  I'm a little over half-way with 67 blocks made from red/pink, green, blue and purple.

I'm joining the other tickled pink quilters for the Scrap Happy Saturday party on Angela's SoScrappy blog.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Thinking about Color and Composition

For those who wondered, yes,  washing the Silly Strings quilt and letting it relax and dry flat on the work table did eliminate the waving sides created by the spiral quilting.

I celebrated the finish Monday morning by putting it on the table and enjoying a cuppa in my lime green mug.  Then I threw it on the floor and took a straight on photo.

It might not be obvious, but the colors in this quilt are the same as the one I made a year ago, using the April and December blocks from the 2012 Block Lotto.  

This month the Linky Party topic on the Block Lotto is Color.  These two little quilts have me thinking about how the proportions of the colors you use in a palette can make a big difference. The quilt on top is mostly cream with a dash of turquoise; the quilt on the bottom is pretty much the opposite, mostly turquoise with cream as an accent.  They both have a orangey brick red, yellow green and pale blue. The older quilt has one additional color, a medium blue. 

You can see a sliver of the sisal rug that originally inspired my color choices in the lower left corner of the photo. (Note to self: you really need to vacuum!) When I chose fabrics for the Silly Strings quilt with a plan to put it on the table, I decided to stick with the rug-inspired palette, but use it in different proportions. You can see the (clean) rug, better in this photo from last year (with the photo-bombing cat, Johnny Be Good).

I remember being told or reading rules somewhere about how much of any specific color you should use in a quilt; I think for yellow it was no more than 30%.  It's possible one of the table-topping quilts breaks the old rules for color proportions, but I like them both.  And ever since we used yellow and gold as a background for some liberated basket blocks for the Block Lotto, I've been dying to make a yellow quilt ... sometimes, some rules really are meant to be broken.  If nothing else, the experience is a great way to learn.

I have been asking quilters to suggest (and show) color combinations for the Block Lotto–coming up with new blocks is easy for me, but choosing color ways outside my own taste is a challenge.   I wonder what would happen if we used Sophie's Sisal Rug for color inspiration for a future lotto block color palette?

I am joining the February Linky Party on the Block Lotto with this post.  I'd love for you to blog about color and share your ideas, too.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Tea Towel on my Design Wall

The progress on MY tea towel challenge quilt has been non-existent.

But, a funny thing happened when I stuck it up on my empty design wall today ... some of the ideas that have been floating around in my head organized themselves and I think I know where I'm going now.  I suppose that is progress ... if only in my own head :-)

Others have made much progress.  It's been fun to follow the links and see where you're taking YOUR tea towel challenge quilts.

I'll be back to join the Linky Party when I have made some actual progress with fabric and thread. Please also share your progress sometime this month by blogging your progress and sharing a link at the bottom of this post.

This Linky list will be shared on the Tea Towel Challenge Page, too–it's the one stop shop for the challenge and contains the basic guidelines and all the Linky parties for the challenge.  If you have just discovered the challenge and the idea interests you,  it's not too late to grab a towel and jump in. If you're just here for the eye candy, going through the previous linky parties on the challenge page can be inspiring and entertaining, too.

A RED Letter Day

The color of the day is RED at Sophie Junction.  Later today, I'll be adding red binding to the Silly Strings quilt.

I thought this 30-inch square quilt was a good candidate to try quilting in a giant spiral. I used free-motion quilting in the center (which is placed off center, over one of the cream squares) and then switched to the walking foot to quilt round and round and round from there.

It's not perfect. I will probably try it again and use what I learned from the experience. One thing that I didn't expect was that this style of quilting would turn my perfectly flat, square quilt top into a quilt with waving sides ... so I decided to wash it and let it dry flat to regain it's shape.  I'm waiting for it to completely dry now.

For my Slow Stitch Sunday later today, I probably won't be watching the Super Bowl, but I will be stitching along with Downton Abbey and whatever else I find on TV.

After the little quilt is dry and off the big work table, I will be layering and basting my red and white sampler quilt–one of my Finish-Along goals.

After the binding is stitched down on the quilt, it will be back to redwork for me.

Speaking of redwork, anyone know how to teach autocorrect new words?  Redwork is not rework, nor red wok ... and no matter how many times I type it and refuse to allow it to be auto-corrected ... the battle continues.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Sew Along with Me - Bead on a String

The Bead-on-a-String block is the February block for the Block Lotto. It's seven inches square (finished size). You can find the block directions here:

Bead-on-a-String Quilt Block Pattern

Here's how I approached making my blocks.

The color way for this month was suggested by Debbie: yellow, orange, maroon, black and white.  I started by looking in my stash for some yellow, orange and maroon fabrics that I thought would work for the beads.


I printed the circle template on the second page of the block directions (on purple paper), glued it to some lightweight cardboard and cut out the circle shape to create the template I used to prepare the circle appliqué.

Using my template, I traced the circle on the wrong side of one of the bead fabrics, then cut the fabric, adding a generous 1/4-inch seam allowance.  Once I cut the first circle, I used the cut fabric as a guide for cutting more.

Using a needle and thread, make a running stitch around the edge of the cut circles.  Place the fabric right side down, lay the template inside the circle and pull the thread tight to create a perfect circle appliqué with a turned under edge.

Take the circle appliqué with the template inside to the ironing board and press the edges so they will stay in place when, after it's cooled, you remove the template and have a perfect circle ready to stitch in place.

To make each block a unique combination of yellow, orange and maroon fabrics, I made them three at a time.

Once the circles are prepared, I found matching thread to use for the machine appliqué.

The white background squares are cut slightly oversized because sometimes appliqué can pull the block in slightly making it smaller.

I folded the circles evenly in quarters and finger pressed the creases.  I did the same with the background squares.  Using these creases, it was easy to line them up and center the circle on the background square.

I used a buttonhole stitch to appliqué the circles to the background. As you sew and pivot around the circle, it's important to remember to stop and pivot when the needle is "outside" the circle and in the background.

After the appliqué is finished, the block is squared up and trimmed to 7 1/2 inches.  I could still see the crossed creases in my circle, which made it easy to keep the circle centered in the block–the center will be 3 3/4 inches from the edge in the trimmed block.

To assemble the block, cut them in half, rearrange the halves and insert the long black rectangle to form the string.  I found it easiest to cut away the background behind the bead after the block was cut in half. 

1. Slice circle appliqué in half, 2. Cut away background, 3. Laying out the Bead block

My three finished blocks are at the top of the post.  To see more examples, check out virtual quilt in this post on the Block Lotto. 

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