3/29/15

Slow Saturday, Slower Sunday

My energy level seems to have taken a dive lately. Not getting good sleep isn't helping. I'm not one to whine about the change to daylight savings time because I happen to like that extra hour of daylight at the end of the day. Mike and I love eating out on the patio in the summer, and it's nice to have the daylight. Here in the Northwest, it can be light until after 10:00 p.m. during the longest days of the year. Nevertheless, I'll admit that my sleep has been off for the past week or so. Coincidence? Probably not.

Either way, I don't have a lot to tell you. We picked up wine from two wineries yesterday, and so that little chore is checked off the list. Today we're going to go pick up a treadmill from Erik. Is it just me, or is there something humorous about me being tired coupled with the anticipation of a treadmill coming to live at our house? Something to ponder. The weather is better today, and so this afternoon I'm hopeful we'll have time left in the day to clean out the greenhouse.


The little tomato seedlings are doing well. It's interesting to me how identical seeds can grow at such different rates. Some are a full foot tall, while others are mere inches. The tallest ones are getting kind of leggy, and so they're needing to be propped up to keep them from falling over. Their stems are a little fragile for using string or wire or anything else to stake them. Usually, I try to have things moved out to the greenhouse by April 1st, and so the time is approaching fast. Also, I'd like to get my lettuce seeds started. And all of that to say that cleaning the greenhouse is moving quickly to the top of our list of priorities.

The only other thing I've done this morning (aside from embroidery, which is always a given), is to start looking at the next block for Lisa's quilt. I've started just taking them from the top of the pile. At the top of the pile this morning was this poem and artwork from Lisa's former student Hannah:


The original fills an entire 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, and so the challenge with this block is to fit the rectangular design into a square quilt block. As an experiment, I simply scanned it, changed its proportions, cropped it to the size I want, and Voila! One quilt block pattern created:


Also, I put Hannah's signature at the bottom. To my eye, it doesn't look so different squished down as it is unless I hold the two side by side. I'm running it by Lisa just to be sure she's okay with the squishiness, but this seems doable to me. I'll probably machine stitch the blue and green background lines, just because it's faster than hand-stitching. Then, I'll hand stitch the rest.

Before I do that, however, I want to finish up my next door for the Doors of Ireland. This door:


The biggest challenge with this one will be to make the lettering at the top. However, I've done it with other blocks, and I'll get it done with this one. Getting started is always the biggest challenge.

So there you go...my Sunday in a nutshell. Guess I'll get to it.

3/28/15

Slow Saturday

We're moving slow here at the Three Cat's Ranch. We have a few things on our agenda for the weekend: pick up a wine shipment at one of the local wineries, pick up a treadmill from Erik and Mae (they're not using it, and so they're giving it to us...yay!), clean out the greenhouse, switch out the snow tires on Mike's truck for regular tires, and, of course, sew. And pet cats. And feed cats. And otherwise attend to any needs the cats might have.

The weather isn't really cooperating for a cleaning out the greenhouse. It's not a hard job, but it's kind of a dirty job. We're hoping we can get that done tomorrow. We'll probably wait until tomorrow to pick up the treadmill since Erik works on Saturday. As for the tires, that gets a big check mark for "Complete". As for the cats...all day, every day. As for sewing, I did accomplish some already this morning.

I fused the label to the back of Sew Helpful. That one is finished except to hang it on the Wall of Cats.


Also, I made and finished the stitching for the block Cory submitted for Lisa's retirement quilt. Here is the block pattern created from Cory's illustration.


Cory wanted the block on denim, but I ended up choosing a quilter's cotton with the look of worn blue denim. I had chosen a couple of fabrics, and the Resident Engineer helped me settle on this one. It's actually the wrong side of a darker blue.


The school and the "W" in the center are machine stitched using my machine's triple stitch. The remainder is hand-stitched. Cory was a student of Lisa's.

And that's pretty much all I've done this morning. I'm going to get ready to go and I think we'll head down to the winery for our wine shipment.

Tomorrow I'll probably get a start on my next door for the Doors of Ireland. When I said that was the last thing on my to-do list for the month, I was wrong. I forgot that I'd committed to getting a start on my guild challenge quilt this month. There's still time left to do both things, and so that's where my sewing is headed next. I'll say more about the guild challenge when I get going on it.

3/27/15

Springy

Having finished all but one item on my to-do list, I'm thinking of taking a break from sewing today. I have a few housekeeping items to catch up on, and of course I'm chomping at the bit...chomping, I tell you...to get at those.

Yesterday I took another walk around the yard after filling the birdfeeders. Also, I put new "attractant" in our four yellow jacket traps. We've been told that if you put the attractant out early, you get the yellow jacket queens. The first summer we lived here, it was impossible to eat outside because of the yellow jackets pestering us. And those suckers are aggressive. Since we started putting the attractant out in March, we've had way, way, way fewer yellow jackets. The first couple of years, the traps would fill up with yellow jacket corpses, and we had to empty them fairly frequently. Now, we get almost none at all.

So in my wandering, I noticed a few little things. For one thing, the first buds are appearing on the azaleas. We have these in all colors, and they are covered in flowers when they bloom.


Also, the first blossoms are opening on the two cherry trees.


Then I noticed this one at the edge of the woods. This is a red-flowering currant. They are a native species to Oregon. We just happen to have one growing wild at the edge of our woods, and they are so pretty when they bloom. 


I suppose every part of the country has its own problems with invasive species. We have ours here in Oregon too. I think the worst offender is English Ivy. Volunteers come out in droves to eradicate it from our parks, but I'm afraid it's a losing battle. In any case, we are encouraged to plant native species. Until recently, nobody paid any attention to the wild red-flowering currant, but I've noticed them for sale in nurseries over the past five years or so. We are lucky to have our own volunteer.

Oh! Hello there!


Recall that I've been worried about one of our clematis. I thought the ice might have done it in, but yesterday I noticed signs of life. Yay! Now to get out there and nurture this little darling. A little fertilizer would probably be welcome.


And I noticed the first buds on the hydrangea that Erik and Mae gave me for Mother's Day last year. Can't wait to see what color it will be when it flowers. Hydrangeas are very sensitive to the soil they are planted in. Soil high in iron will produce blue flowers. We've planted them in all colors, but eventually, they all turn blue. This one was a wine color when Erik and Mae gave it to me, so it'll be interesting to see what flowers it produces now that it's grown in our own soil.


And the dogwood tree has flower buds on it. When we planted this little tree, it only came up to my waist. We didn't realize how much deer relish dogwood, and they ate it practically down to the ground the first night it was planted. Oy. It was protected with a wire fence for years, but we took the fence off last year. Now it's grown way over my head. So far, we've been disappointed with the number of flowers it produces, and so we're hopeful it will do better this year. A new neighbor moved in about a year ago with five dogs. We've noticed a decrease in both deer and coyotes (not a bad thing at all), and so maybe this is the year of the dogwood.


Just because I'm not going to do any sewing today doesn't mean I'm not thinking about sewing. I'm getting ready to make the next block for Lisa's retirement quilt. This is what I have to work with, submitted by Cory.


Ah yes. Quilt blocks from non-quilters. It's a beautiful thing. Cory wants me to reproduce this block on an old pair of jeans. He even sent along the cut-off leg of some, um, unwashed jeans. I'm a little worried about using one denim block on an otherwise all quilter's cotton quilt, and so I'm afraid that's not going to happen. Nevertheless, I did go digging through my stash of blues yesterday and came up with a "layer cake" piece that sort of looked like worn out jeans. Then, this morning, I scanned, resized, and printed off my block template.


If you can read the original up above, you can see that Cory also asked me to change the "S" in his design to a "W". So with that done, my next challenge is how to reproduce this design onto a dark blue fabric. The only way to do that, I'm afraid, is by using Sticky Fabri-Solvy. Since the "layer cake" fabric is pinked at the edges, I can leave it at it's current 12-inch size and still be able to wash out the Sticky Fabri-Solvy when I'm finished without a problem. (Okay, that's problem #1 solved.) But here's the other problem: What color floss will show up on that dark blue fabric? Cory hasn't really given me any instruction for colors, and so I guess I'll just stitch it all in pastels. I can probably do those straight lines for the school on my sewing machine. The rest will need to be hand-stitched.

The blocks are challenging in these many ways, but I'm finding that puzzling out the problems is part of the fun. When I pull them out of the stack, I always heave a big sigh wondering how I'm going to do each one, but so far, they've turned out better than I expected. And that, of course, makes it a gratifying project to work on.

Do you want to know what the last thing on my to-do list is? It's this Irish door:


Just as I posted that picture, I was thinking I might be able to print those posters onto fabric and include them in the window. I will NOT be including the graffiti. Sheesh. This will be the 10th of twelve blocks. I can usually make one in a day, and I still have 4-1/2 days left in the month. Looks like I might earn my Bonus Points this month.

Okay, so I'm going to get back to my chomping now. Can't wait to get at that housework. Always a pleasure. Not.

3/26/15

Charmed, I'm Sure

If the third time's a charm, then I'm here to charm you because this is my third finished quilt this month. Granted, two of them were small, but they still count, right? This morning I got to work early quilting the "Sew Helpful" quilt. It took me practically no time at all, and it was finished. 


I used a design I had pinned on Pinterest. It's just a series of loops that start small and get larger. For my design, I tried doing a ascending series of six before going back to small. It was easy to do, and fairly easy to change direction, although I had to sort of turn my brain around whenever I tried. You know what I mean? 


Interestingly, this design is for sale in a pantograph form on a website that shall remain nameless. Really? I've been using this design for decades whenever I want to get the ink started in a ball point pen. So, really? It's actually for sale? It's reminds me of the time I got on a rant about a fabric company copyrighting polka dots. Really? (You can read my rant right here, if you like.)

Anyway...I used this variegated thread color. The gray batik was used on a larger quilt, and so I'm using scraps. I used this thread once before on the same fabric, and I liked the looks of it. And, honestly, who am I to tamper with success?


And once I had it quilted, I sewed on the binding, and Voila! Three finished quilts for March.


Here's how it looks from the back. I simply outlined the center applique.


This was my January Let's Book It Project. The pattern was called "Quilter's Helper" and it appears on the cover of this book by Carol Armstrong:


I did mine in Smitty colors.

While I was sewing on the binding, I was trying to decide whether I was going to make a label for it. When I uploaded my pictures, I discovered one I'd already made one day when I was apparently in a labeling mood. 


Now that's printed off and so I just need to fuse it to the back. This one is destined for the Wall of Cats in my stairwell.

Speaking of cats, Bob the Bobcat made his first appearance of the season the other day. He just strolled through the lower edge of the field out front, big as you please. He was hunting for little furry mammals, much like someone else I know...only bigger.


I figure with that bobbed tail of his, he's pretty envious of Smitty's longish one. You know how male cats are about the length of their...er, never mind.


We were hand-holding the camera from quite a distance away, and so the pictures aren't as sharp as they might be. Mike managed to sneak outside and used the digital zoom for these. They aren't bad.


Now that we've seen him, it's tempting to mount my SLR camera with a telephoto lens and leave it set up on a tripod. It makes me nervous, however, with the catdemonium we often have going on around here. 

It's supposed to reach 74°F here today, but at nearly 1:00 p.m., we're still at 58°. The day is going to have to go some to reach that lofty temperature. We'll see. Nevertheless, it's a beautiful day of sunshine, and I'm going to get out and enjoy it while it lasts.

3/25/15

Stitching in the Wee Hours

It was one of those nights when I woke up and then couldn't get back to sleep. This may seem strange, but I actually think sewing is keeping me awake in the same way my job used to. When I wake up, I start thinking about a project I'm working on (particularly if it is challenging me in some way). Then, I just keep thinking about it until I've been awake for more than an hour. At that point, I figure I might as well get up and work on it. Fortunately, my time is my own on all but rare occasions, and so I can go back to bed after Mike leaves for work.

So what was keeping me awake last night? It was the latest block for Lisa's Retirement Quilt. Of all the blocks, I think this one has challenged me the most. Here is the block. This one was submitted by Natalie M. and her four children, Ty, Alex, Destiny, and Allyah. This is what Natalie said about the block design:

It is a butterfly on a sunflower. The wings of the butterfly have the stages of the butterfly on each heart; eggs, caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly. On the edges on the wings it says "loving education transforming generations" all four of my children have been in Lisa's class and they all combined their ideas to make this design. 



It was challenging for a number of reasons. I've been relying on embroidery and applique to recreate these more often than not. In this case, I was trying to figure out how I was going to get all of the layers included and still have something I could actually hand embroider through. I scanned the original design as it was submitted and then resized and cropped it to the size I wanted. For the past several days, I've had it sitting out in view where I could study it and plan my attack. Finally, it came to me that I could applique the orange and the white fabrics, leaving a gap for the yellow background to show in between. That way, I had no more than one layer of applique to stitch through on any part of the block. (I hope that makes sense.) 

Here it is rendered into fabric.


The block was completely constructed before I went to bed last night, and I'd started on the embroidery. Still, while lying awake, I was thinking about stitching it and that I could finish it today, etc., etc., etc. Finally, I just got up and did it. It's hot off the needle as you see it here.

But that's not all the sewing I did yesterday. I finished my project for Let's Book It and Another Little Quilt Swap 9. This is free motion machine embroidery. 


It's really no different from free motion quilting. The lines of stitching are just closer together. Here's a close-up of the stitching.


Here's how it looks from the back.


The pattern is from this book by Ann Fahl.


She went into quite a bit of detailed and helpful instruction about how to stitch, what threads to use, what stabilizers, etc. She also suggested hooping the design to stitch it. I didn't do that. I just did it the same way I do free motion quilting, except instead of using batting, I was using a stablizer.

Today I'm going to go to the grocery store, but I'm hoping I'll have some time to start quilting the little Sew Helpful quilt. It shouldn't take long.


That's next on my list of things to do for the month. There is still a week left in the month, and I have just two things left on my to-do list. I think I'm going to make it easily. And hopefully, I'll be able to get some more sleep.

Do you have any projects keeping you awake at night? It isn't necessarily a bad thing.

3/24/15

Budding Spring

It rained most of the day yesterday, and so I didn't venture out to fill the bird feeders until this morning. The sun was shining for a little while, but I notice that it's clouding up again now, and I believe more rain is expected. That's okay. No complaints from this blogger about the lovely warm winter we just had.

While I was out, I wandered around a little to get a look at what the beginning of Sping hath wrought. Lots of things are budding out, just on the verge of blooming. A nice warm day will bring those flowers out. For one thing, the wisteria at the front door is loaded with buds, and this one is just starting to open.


Our one surviving clematis is covered in purple blossoms now. This is about as much as these do...staying as little purple pouches. I'm afraid the clematis around the corner from this one has died. Oh well. They're pretty fragile, and I'm pretty sure the ice back in November did it in. That just means this one will have to bloom harder to make up for it.


If you've been following for a while, then you know all about my tulip woes. What the deer didn't eat, the squirrels did...except for a few clumps of white ones. Nobody seems to bother those, for some strange reason, and so I have a few white ones that bloom year after year.


This is the hydrangea that Erik and Mae gave me last Mother's Day/Birthday. It's one of the prettiest ones I've ever seen. When it finished blooming last year, we planted it outside. This is always risky, of course, because often our winter weather will kill fresh plantings. We had a week of ice in November, and I worried about it, but here it is...all lush and healthy.


 Here's how it looks when it blooms...the flowers are the most beautiful wine color:


I don't see any flowers on it, but I don't see any on the more established ones either. I'm thinking this one is a go. 

Also, the Daphne has some flowers on it. This one is always knocked back severely by cold weather. Despite the ice, it seems pretty good this year. Probably it's the extended cold temperatures that hurt it more than a short stint. It was planted several years ago, and it never makes more than a few flowers. I keep hoping it will take off one of these years. 


Then there is this lilac, which was planted several years back. It too was a Mother's Day gift. We were out to breakfast and some women were selling these dug up ones from their yard for $10. Ours at home had died, and so we bought one and planted it. It hasn't yet bloomed profusely, but it always blooms a little. I keep hoping it will take off and be a better bloomer one of these springs.


Oh! Here's the newest yard art piece. It's a little stained glass cat I found while shopping on Etsy one day. I wasn't looking for it, but cats have a way of finding me. Anyway, I put it where the catnip grows, although the catnip has yet to make an appearance this year. I might need to replant.


Just a few weeks ago, I showed you a picture of the Bleeding Heart just peeking above ground. Now it has its first flowers. I'm absolutely amazed at how well this one does despite being neglected terribly.


The Andromeda is getting ready to put on its best show of the year. It has its white flowers, but the red leaves have yet to open. A warm day is all it needs at this point.


And the rosemary is blooming. I've had difficulty getting these to come back year after year, although in warmer climates and lower elevations, it is a perennial. I cultivate rosemary in my culinary herb garden year after year, and it almost always dies over the winter. For some reason, the hardy soul has lived on three years running now.


Let's see...what else? Oh. The cherry trees are getting ready to bloom. Very soon now they'll be covered in pink flowers.


Speaking of hardy souls, here's a cat outstanding in his field. (Ha! An old joke, but I'm old too, so who cares?)


Okay, so that's the end of the garden tour for one day. I couldn't end it without showing you my blooming cat, now could I? 

Yesterday, I cleaned up my wreck of a house. It looks pretty good now. There was a little time at the end of the day, and so I put the label on the Psycatdelic quilt. It still needs a hanging sleeve because I'm entering it in the fair this year. Fortunately, I still have a little of that Laurel Burch fabric left.


I'm very happy with a new product I've found for printing labels on fabric. It's this one by Blumenthal Lansing. It comes on a roll 8.5 inches wide and 100 inches long. I cut strips 6 inches wide, and then cut them in half for a piece 4.25 x 6 inches, and that will fit in the photo paper tray of my ink jet printer. It comes in a cotton twill...

and a cotton poplin. When I first tried this, I didn't realize there were two different kinds, and so I purchased the twill. It's a little heavier and less dense than the poplin, and so it's a little easier to hand stitch through. I bought another roll of the poplin as well, just to give it a try. There isn't a lot of difference between the two. The poplin is a more dense weave like a batik. It really just comes down to the look and feel you prefer.


After printing the picture, I attach these to a fusing medium (I like Heat 'n Bond Lite), trim them with a pinking blade and then they're ready to fuse to the back of your quilt. Interestingly, the first time I tried the poplin variety, the fusing medium didn't take. It stuck to the back of the poplin all right; but when I tried to fuse it to my quilt back, the sticky stuff stuck to the quilt, but came clean off the poplin. I had a nice little fabric label in my hand and fusing medium on my quilt. Well. That was disconcerting, and I haven't wanted to try it again.

Which brings me to my next product review, this 606 spray, cousin of 505. I like 505 for binding quilts when they are small enough. This 606 is actually a heavier fusible that sprays to the back of the piece you want to fuse. Then you iron it like anything else. It works like a champ, and so that's what I've been using for these labels. It's also an excellent emergency back-up product when your fusing medium just doesn't work like it's supposed to.


I'll warn you, however, that unless you absolutely don't care about the surface you're spraying on, you'll want to put down newspaper, or parchment, or something. I sprayed this on our back patio once, and it left a mark all around the edges of the piece. That stuff is still there a year later. Needless to say, don't eat it either.

So with that done, I was ready to get started on my Let's Book It project for the month.


And since I'm running seriously short on time, I'm hopeful I can use this as my project for


as well. I need to submit my project by April 7th. This month, I'm trying a project from this book by Ann Fahl:


I have tons of variegated threads, and so I'm doing this project:


Yesterday, I finished all the applique, and I got a good start on the stitching. This is essentially free motion embroidery. I finished the leaves, stems, and the blue flower. Today, I should be able to finish the remaining two flowers and then I'll be able to get it ready for quilting.


In her example, it looks as if she chose a more multi-colored thread. I've chosen threads that are more or less the color of the applique piece. No reason, other than using the threads I have. It's going pretty well so far, I think.

And that's all I have for you today. I'm just going to get on with my stitching and possibly get this near to a finish. 

What's on your Tuesday agenda?