Monday, November 30, 2009

Joint Project Completed and Mailed

Dad H and I had a great time doing this project together. Last Spring, he purchased a Decco 340 and has been making wonderful designs with it on a very regular basis. This quilt represents the second set of blocks that we worked on together. The first set is of Noah's Ark ---I had already made some, but Dad finished them up. I have not made the quilt yet, but today I found the perfect piece of fabric to finish it up. Hopefully, the top will be posted for you to see before the end of the week.
As I stated earlier, we both learned about what happens when you pull the fabric a little to tight and in too many directions as you hoop it. There is some pull around the designs, so I decided to force the blocks to fit even though the inner borders are not even in the blocks. Then I cut all the blocks to the same size and pieced them together. Because of the pull, I decided this might be a very challenging quilt to work through on the longarm, so I used high loft batting and I tied the quilt together with white floss, and then I put a double fold binding on it. It will be a fun quilt for snugglingbecause it is lightweight yet warm. I enjoyed my time sitting with it on my lap while I did the hand sewing on the binding. Believe me it says "CHRISTMAS" all over it!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lefse, anyone?

Although I spend a good deal of every day quilting, today we will spend the full evening making our winter's supply of lefse. For the past 34 years, I have partaken in this annual tradition courtesy of my husband's Norwegian heritage. (I only have a little bit of it in me.) At first it was simply eating it at the family gatherings and discussing whether Grandpa or Grammie did the better part of preparing it. While living in Maine, we bought our own lefse grill and were assisted by Mom and Dad with our very first batch. As the kids grew, so did the fun and the flour involved in making it. The folks had been more serious about the process, but I don't take anything to do with food too seriously. The biggest clean up messes of the year involved getting the flour out of all the nooks and crannies and off all the kitchen surfaces. Now it is back to just the two of us, so we make half a batch and share a little with the kids. Jamie has her own grill now.

The test piece was the best we have ever made, so I guess the weather conditions were just right! The pieces were very crisp almost as soon as they were removed from the grill.

Are you asking what lefse is? Lefse takes the place of bread at our holiday meals. It resembles a tortilla in appearance, but is much thinner if it is done right and is the flour type. There are two types of lefse - flour and potato. Potato lefse is stored in the refrigerator or freezer. We make the flour version because it is family tradition and because it can sit on the shelf in an air tight container for months. It is like a brittle cracker while sitting on the shelf. About an hour before the meal we sprinkle it with water and lay it between the folds of a dish towel, and it becomes pliable like a warn tortilla ---that is when the fun begins.

When we sit to the table we explain to our guests that they may put whatever they want on the lefse, but we generally put a little butter and sugar on ours. When I lift off the lace tablecloth at the end of the meal, I know exactly who chose the sprinked sugar version. Several relatives love to put their potatoes and gravy inside, and sometimes I opt for cranberries. Once you decide what to put on it, you roll it up like a crepe and enjoy. However, folding up a little bit of the end before rolling helps to keep the trimmings inside. Even for those unfamiliar with lefse, I plan 2-3 pieces. One of my brother-in-laws claimed that he was half Norwegian simply because he wanted more of the lefse.

What do we do with the leftovers? Well, I actually make planned-overs and try to hide them until the meal is over. These pieces are made into klings. I layer about 6-10 pieces, covering them with various toppings: butter, jelly, peanut butter, honey, and sugar. Instead of rolling them I cut them into bite sized squares and place them in a small container for later. When my husband was a kid Grammie would make them to take ice fishing. Delicious and decadent!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tops and tops....oh my!

I am trying to set a different kind of goal for myself for the rest of November. I am going to complete all the tops I have actually started and if the body is willing and time allows, I will then see just how many I can also quilt. None of the tops that are actually cut out are spectacular, but they want to be finished just like any ideas in my head. The third one has been in the works for about 5 years, but it is all hand pieced, so....
Yesterday I pieced the first of Dad's embroidered blocks. They are snowpeople. Because he was still very new at using the embroidery machine, he did stretch and distort the fabric some, but they are fun blocks, so I decided to piece them and then use a high loft batting with white floss ties. It should be a fun one for cuddling up.

Today, I am finishing a transportation quilt using blocks that I had made for another project. It will be just right for use in a crib. I have a great piece of transportation fabric to use as backing. I am going to attempt using the wavy ruler to outline the blocks, and then I will add a red binding.

Tomorrow I am going to piece together the hand sewn blocks I made using a pre-cut kit, but use the sewing machine. At one time I was really psyched about the quilt, but then when I started sorting the finishing kit I found that I was short to border strips. Really takes away from the overall look, so I tried to find something that could be substituted. Nothing works, which tells me that I should really finish projects in a more timely fashion. I will just use a different setting. I do know that the backing I have planned is beautiful and still available. It will make a nice cuddle quilt.
There are probably others that I need to uncover, but I am finishing these tops first and then I will search.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I have completed the center of my Christmas Quilt Block of the Month. (pattern by Jeana Kimball and published by Oxmoor House, Inc, 1995-1996) It will now be put away until after Christmas. I plan to add 3-5 borders and then hand quilt it. This is not the best photo of the top, but I just want you to see what it looks like. Once I get the borders on, I will take another photo with Kevin's assistance.

Did every seem line up as shown in the diagram? No, but every strip was the right size. With the spacer pieces that were added in the original, I was a little nervous, but all in all it turned out to be something I will treasure for a lifetime. The top was pieced in chunks and then fitted together leaving me to consider y-seams, etc. I was a little anxious with the hourglasses, Santa, the train and Noah's ark, but they actually went together with ease.

Would I do it again? Not certain on that one, but I did learn a lot about different kinds of piecing and color choices. I would switch out some of the colors, if I did it again, but then these are all scraps I have had for years, including some scraps from my mom's stash . I did not purchase one piece of fabric for this during the piecing process, but I have been thinking about this quilt for years and probably stockpiling certain ones.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Christmas Block of the Month Quilt

As many of you have read, I have been working on the blocks for this quilt since January, 2009, but I have had the pattern since I purchased the blocks in 1995. My daughter asked how long did it take, but I think she was just asking about the wreath block. That block took about 20 hours. Other blocks did not take an hour, for one but generally those had multiple blocks to make. I would not want to venture an exact amount of time on the blocks but I am going to keep track of how long it takes to hand quilt it. That part will not start until after the holidays, but I am tentatively planning to piece the top by the end of 2009 (if there is enough time left between all the other things I have planned. This is one of the most involved quilts I have ever made. Some of the blocks were challenging because of all the points and pieces. I learned a great deal about turn-turn applique and know that my skills have greatly improved.

Would I ever do another block of the month? Yes, I am starting two different ones. My guild is doing a Fat Quarter Sampler quilt that is scheduled to take until March of 2011, but I think I may work ahead because I get anxious to see the final outcome. I have to choose the 28 fat quarts and 2 border prints this week so that I will have my first 4 blocks done before Dec. 8.

I am also going to do as snowman (non-Christmas colored) family reunion quilt from Pearl Louise Designs. I will be starting that one in December and plan to have it done by December of next year ----- It is basically a single applique block each month, plus a few filler blocks which could be done at anytime on the machine. I want to do more needle-turning so these blocks should be perfect.

Stay tuned for all of these exciting adventures!!

Last....But Not Least!!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I am currently working on the last block for my Christmas BOM quilt. It is almost 1/2 way done, so I should be able to show it before the end of the week. I love the Santa and the row houses, but the Christmas block is one of my favorites. I am not certain that I love all the fabric choices, but I loved putting it together. The saw tooth blocks appear to be easy, but the first set of points were a little bit of a challenge until I realized they were flying geese. This is going to be an amazing quilt---not necessarily a perfect quilt, but one that is perfectly enjoyable to the one who is completing it. I am also certain that my grandchildren will enjoy the finish project next December. I AM SO EXCITED!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quilts of Valor

On Veterans' Day it seems appropriate to share something about Quilts of Valor. I am one of the lucky ones. My husband, a military man for over 28 years, has been in several hot spots around the world but has always returned unharmed. As a way of expressing my gratitude, I am quilting a number of Quilts of Valor to recognize the sacrifices of many less fortunate service members and to let each of them know they are appreciated for what they do. To date I have only quilted 5, but I just brought home 6 mores that I intend to quilt before the end of the year. Yes, I will have them done by Dec. 31. I am using a meander design rather than something more complex. We have lots of people who have pieced tops for this group, but the quilting part bogs down. I know the holidays are drawing near, but I will make the time in my schedule simply to say "Thank you" to all those who serve.

***Want to know more about Quilts of Valor, check out the website (It is under reconstruction, but there is still good information on it.)

What have you done for fun,today?

I just finished serging the last of 70 double-sided napkins made of Christmas fabric. When they are folded they make Christmas trees. The longest part was marking the 14 1/2 inch circle on each of the light fabrics. I have not folded them all, but evenings in front of the TV are made for such tasks. The ones in the photo have only been tentatively pressed to give you an idea. (Quick. easy gifts or simply use to add a little fun to your Christmas gatherings.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My New Business Card

Thought I would share the front of my new business card. I uploaded it from Paint. I made two kinds: one opens and has pricing guidelines. The other is just the normal card. What do you think? Should I make changes? Suggestions?

Advertising My Quilting Services

I write mostly about the actual making of the whole quilts rather than focusing on the quilting, but today I am writing about the whole idea of my quilting services business. I have been quilting for people for a few years, but only by word of mouth, which means I have been quilting for friends and family in Texas, Tennessee, and Iowa. I have not done anything for anyone in Minnesota, but then I have not shared what I do very often with those I have met here.

I have written about how I really do appreciate custom and heirloom quilting, but I have also been very clear that the type of quilting I do is more for the quilts that will be loved and used by infants, toddlers, teens, and people in need of a hug. I see my role as helping to make sure that the whole quilt stays together through many washings, tent making, and cuddling on the couch. I have chosen to work with meandering, loops, loops and stars, loops and hearts, and swirls. I will probably branch out in the months and years to come, but I think my versions of these designs have worked well on the quilts I have quilted. I am always practicing to develop my skills with other designs, but I do not aspire to earn "The Best Machine Quilting" awards at large quilting venues. My preference is to help the quilt top maker turn a wonderful top into a quilt that will be loved and used for many years to come.

I have received many positive comments from those of you who have been given a quilt that I have quilted. Even so, I see my role as the background player so that the quilt top maker receives the applause and praise for a beautiful treasure. After all, every quilt begins with the creative thought from the top designer. Without them, there would be nothing for me to quilt.

If you are interested in my rates and services, please contact me through my email: Currently, I have only one quilt waiting to be finished, so you could still have your quilt finished before Christmas.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How Does It Happen?

I try to keep my studio semi-organized all the time, but somehow every time I finish a couple of big projects, I not only need to do a quick clean but somehow find myself doing a major overhaul. I understand the need to dust and vacuum on a very regular basis, but what draws me to sort out other fabrics, cut blocks, and, most interestingly, break out the iron? This process always seems to take a couple of days and brings me to the point of having 3 or more new projects in the planning stages. (I generally have 5 or 6 projects brewing already.)

Yesterday morning before work, I cut up my scraps and made 4 1/2 inch blocks, 2 inch and 1 1/2 inch strips, then sorted them into color places for more cousin quilts, etc. or into their light and dark strip boxes. When I got home from work I reorganized my embroidery software and quilting books (did not look inside) and started restocking my thread trays until I got distracted with another idea when I saw a rug pattern which I started thinking about this flannel that I have had for more than 10 years.

I decided that the flannel I still have from my mom's stash would not be used for a quilt back, but rather for a rag rug using a toothbrush handle as my needle (something I have been wanting to make for several years.) So, in the middle of all my cleaning and sorting, I stood in the studio and tore 9 yards of fabric into 2 inch strips. I think it will be one of my non-quilting projects for the winter. The pattern says it will make a 18x36 inch oval rug. I am proud to say that I did nothing more than place the strips, the pattern and toothbrush needles in my travel basket and set it by my chair in the family room. Then I went back to cleaning and organizing.

I have 3 hours before I need to get ready for work, so I am going to head into the studio and see just how much more TROUBLE I can get into before running the vacuum. If I did not have so much fabric or love touching it so much, I would probably be done much sooner, but this is one of those tasks that I love!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Under the Weather, BUT the Sewing Machine Is Working

I have been keeping a very low profile today because of some abdominal upsets, but I have continued to cut and sew. I am not working on a quilt today, but rather I made 31 charity fleece stocking hats and 2 more pairs of mittens for children to donate to a non-profit group in the area. While making them I learned a lot about the different types of fleece. Two of colors are a little stretchy and two are just stable and somewhat fuzzy. I was given the pattern and some verbal instructions but did not really pay attention to the directions. The green hats have pointy tops and are really cute, alas they are probably not the correct version. However, they will still keep heads warm and may be hot items for little girls. The others have rounded tops and went together much more quickly. For less than $20 and a day of sewing, I was able to make 31 hats for kids that would otherwise be cold this winter. Living in Minnesota has given me a greater understanding of the importance of having your head covered on cold days. When I make more I will use the fleece with the stretch so that they will be able to fit more head sizes.

I also played with an old sweatshirt that had already been started toward becoming a cardigan. I learned a lot about doing this and may attempt another down the road. For now it will keep me warm in my studio, but will probably never travel upstairs to become part of my regular wear. I guess that I thought that binding the sweatshirt edge should have been as simple as binding a quilt, but I say it is not anything like it. The miters are not things of beauty!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Swirls- fun little practice project

I had some fabric left after making Henry's baby quilt, so I made a simple little quilt to use for changing diapers on my bed. I wanted to practice doing swirls before working on the quilts for the twins, too, so it was practical to make this little quilt in several ways. The other side is flannel, simply because I had a piece the right size. I tried to photograph with and without a flash so that you could see the colors and the swirls.

Wonderful, Well-Loved Gifts for Small Children

One of the things that I like to make for a baby gift is a flannel comforter. It is great for laying on the floor or for snuggling a baby on the cold walk to the car. Several of these have been mailed to new great nieces and nephews as well as a few grandma friends' grandchildren so these may look familiar to some of you. One of these will be headed to Tennessee in the next week for another friend's baby.

SPECIAL NOTE: I have made a few of these comforters for teenagers and adults, as well. Everyone loves the warm, but light feel of the flannel comforters. You can also tie the comforters with yarn, but after many washings I, personally, think the yarn looks rather matted.

How do I make mine?

  1. Buy 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 yards of flannel or two different pieces of flannel at 2/3 or 3/4 each.

  2. In hot water, wash the fabric using the quick setting without fabric softener(Flannel tends to shrink, so I try to take care of the shrinkage upfront.) and tumble dry.

  3. Fold in half or lay the two pieces together so that the right sides of the fabric face each other.

  4. Square up the fabric. (Let me know if you need me to explain this concept.)

  5. Take a large round template (substitute a dinner plate) and trace around the edge of each corner to get a little bit of a curve and trim off the corner. It is so much nicer for turning and looks good when finished.

  6. After that make a sandwich of the flannel and a piece of high loft poly batting. The batting is laid down first, then add the two pieces of flannel just like they were when you cut them.

  7. Pin the flannel pieces to the batting, leaving about 10 inches unpinned.

  8. Feel free to trim off most of the excess batting, but don't cut right up to the edge.

  9. With the sewing machine, make about a 1 inch seam starting with a few back stitches near the opening. Sew all the way around to the pin on the other side of the opening.

  10. Remove ALL pins (Experience is a great reminder.)

  11. Turn the comforter inside out. You should have the two right sides of the flannel on the outside.

  12. Use a blunt object to help push all the seams out. If you feel more comfortable, you can then pin the edges down before sewing.

  13. Hand sew the opening using a blind stitch.

  14. With the sewing machine, sew around the outside again using the same 1 inch seam. The edge is puffy and adds to the finished look.

  15. Lay the comforter on a hard flat surface, and place safety pins (quilter's pins work well) to mark off the top of the comforter. Pin through all three layers. You can lay out a grid with yarn or simply use a ruler to or measuring square to keep things in line. I generally use a 4 inch grid unless the batting tells me to quilt or tie a smaller distance apart. the tying keeps the batting from shifting and pulling apart from repeated washings.

  16. Use embroidery floss to tie square knots through all 3 layers, and then remove the pins.

  17. Trim the floss to no more than 1 inch in length if giving the comforter to a small child or baby.

  18. Feel free to launder before sending the comforter, but you can also just toss it in the dryer to add to the fluffy look.

  19. After the comforter is made, I recommend that the new owner wash using regular settings and use fabric softener as desired.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Quick Thoughts...or maybe not so Quick

Kevin and I spent the week with the kids and grandbabies. What a wonderful thing to be grandparents. It is also handy that they all live close to each other so our trips are always 2 for 1.

During the first half of the visit, Aleah had to work quite a few hours so while Kevin and Jon painted, pounded, measured, hammered and drilled, I was center-stage with Dean and Bryson. We went full-tilt right up to nap time. However, only the boys had naps. I did some dishes, restoration of the living spaces, and of course a little sewing. The boys are so loving and sweet, but they are also quite opposite in their personalities - Dean's middle name should be "Full Speed Ahead" Bryson's could be "Chilly with my Homies".

On Wednesday we celebrated Zoe's 3rd birthday and Dean's 2nd birthday. How thrilling it is to have them all together at one time. Can't wait for them to reach the age when they can really interact with each other. They are all interested in each other, but there is more observation than interaction.

Our son-in-law was busy helping his friend celebrate his upcoming wedding , so we whisked Jamie and babies off for a long weekend. We went to the AQS Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. We share one room with two beds and the porta-crib. Interesting concept, but I think everyone would have slept better the first night if we had separate rooms. (Second night was much more restful for all of us!!!) We rode a bus to the Expo - a first for Zoe and Henry. Obviously Zoe was much more excited about all of it. The quilt show was fabulous as always and if money were no object, Jamie and I would have purchased more gadgets and fabric than we would ever have time to use. But sensibility won this time. I spent less than $200 and part of that was all of our admissions plus a Sunday present for Jamie. (I will tell you about my purchases in a later post.) Zoe got a measuring tape and was entertained for hours while we walked around. She also loved riding the escalator with Grandpa and then with Grandma and then with Grandpa...... Henry slept in a snuggly sling nestled close to his mommy and away from the well intentioned ooos and awwwws of our fellow quilters. After 6 hours of walking around, riding the escalator, and having lunch, we had another bus ride back to the hotel where Jamie and babies chilled out. Kevin and I took the skywalk(8-10 blocks) back to the show and wandered around for a couple of more hours. We followed that up with pizza in the room. After swimming and chasing around in the pool Zoe had some down time with a little bit of Green Eggs and Ham; Kevin finished a book; I tied a second baby comforter; Henry chilled on the bed; and Jamie tried to get all the blocks trimmed for a friend's wedding quilt.

What a glorious way to spend time. I could not ask for something better than time with family. Throwing fabric and gadgets into the mix just added a little more to the enjoyment. Of course, Kevin and I slept in when we got back home, but neither of us has any complaints about how the time was spent!!!

NOTE: On the way to and from seeing the kids I worked on several quilting projects, but I have a lot more sewing on the last applique block for my Christmas quilt. I am way ahead of schedule though, so................ Now I need to get my hand quilting skills upgraded from extremely rusty to at least much improved. That is how I am going to quilt the Christmas Quilt.