The Brown Strip story

In the last few posts you have seen bits and pieces of the brown strip-pieced scrap quilt that I have been working on. Now it is time for…….(in your best Paul Harvey voice)……THE REST OF THE STORY!!

Back in September of 2018 I had rotator-cuff surgery on my right shoulder. I knew that I would probably have some time to sew but would be limited in what I could do so I wanted to work on a project that could be cut out and ready to go. I saw this design…..

“Scrap Lattice” by Heather Kojan

….in the September 2018 issue of Modern Patchwork. Sadly this magazine went out of business just after I joined!!!

I was pretty sure that I would be able to push fabrics thru the sewing machine and would be able to iron with my small travel iron…..

So….I spent the week prior to surgery pulling out brown scraps and cutting them into 4.5 inch pieces.

After the surgery I was indeed able to do the piecing even though I had to make sure that my arm didn’t move too far out of the sling…..

But, when I put it up on the design wall…..

….it looked too dark and foreboding!!! It definitely needed something to lighten the color AND the mood.

At this point, I wasn’t able to use my arm to cut fabrics, so I had to put the project away.

Later, I went back to it and cut tons and tons of additional fabrics, adding MANY new colors…..

And then it was put away….to become a dreaded UFO for about 18 months!!!

I had planned to work on it at our May Guild Retreat which, of course, was cancelled!! 😞

But this summer has proven to be the perfect time to get back to it. It was something that I could sew on happily without having to do much planning or thinking about it. It was one of those projects that didn’t take up too much of my brain!!!

For some reason, in the original planning I had decided that I needed 80 blocks and that the quilt would be 8 x 10. Bu that would have been much larger than the Lap quilt that I was going for. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until AFTER I had made over 75 of the blocks!!!

With all of the brown strips made, it was time to think about the corners. In the original pattern the author had use crumb piecing to create the corner triangles. I was NOT interested in that!!!

I made one block using just one background fabric…..

….but it looked pretty plain. So, I was going to have to find something else to bring some sparkle to the blocks.

I decided to create strip sets and cut the triangles out so that there is modified courthouse step look to it.

I would love to say that my process was super accurate but the truth is that I cut everything bigger and just cut the block down to size at the end. I used my 12.5 inch ruler to cut the corners, marking the line with painter’s tape…..

The brown strip sets were cut down to 4.25 inches in width and a triangle was sewn to each side. After a few calculations, I marked my square ruler to show where it should like up against the stripe (the 2nd blue tape)…..

After making this first cut, I used the rule to square up the block to 8.5 inches.

As I started laying these out, I was super excited to see the sparkle that was appearing in the triangle areas….

All of the squares were sewn together…..

….and this quilt was off to a good start.

But what about borders…… more to come!!


Wildlife viewing

During this time of “social distancing” and “abundance of caution” (two phrases that I would love to never hear again), we have noticed that the wildlife seems to be overly active in our neighborhood.

Before our gym opened Michael and I would walk every morning and enjoyed seeing foxes scampering across the road, deer standing on the side of the road watching us and even a family of ducks…..

In the past few weeks we have been seeing lots of deer, including this one feeding out of the bird feeder just outside our kitchen window…..

Michael and I felt sorry for them and bought a protein block for them to feed on. One morning as Michael was walking into his office at the back of our house, he saw 2 twin fawns hiding in the taller grass. Later that day he videoed this sweetie in the rain…..

This is one of the things that we love about living a bit out from a metropolitan area!!!

Why is this happening…..

As I was happily sewing along on my brown stripe quilt, I started noticing that some of the stitching tension wasn’t great……

I worked thru the list of all of the usual suspects….

  • re-threaded the top
  • re-threaded the bobbin
  • adjusted the tension dial
  • cleaned out the bobbin area
  • put a few extra drops of oil in the proper areas

But it did not improve!!

I finally decided that it had to be the needle. For the last two years I have been using Superior brand Titanium coated needles…..

Because of their durability, I do not change the needle nearly as often as I used to. Here is what Superior has to say about them……

“With Superior’s Titanium-coated needles, you will hear a different sound when sewing (a soft, constant thud, thud, thud) when the needle is getting dull. This is because the thin layer of titanium-nitride coating is wearing off. Every time the needle penetrates fabric, there is a microscopic amount of wear on a needle, no matter what it is coated with (nickel, chrome, or titanium).

There are many other cues of a dulling or dull needle that are more recognizable, such as skipped stitches, the top thread shredding, and/or puckering while stitching. If your thread starts to behave strangely and you are experiencing these types of problems whereas you weren’t before, chances are that your needle should be replaced.

So, I replaced the needle and….magically…..the tension issues went away!!!

AH…..much better…..

Now…back to sewing!!!

A few addenda

This summer I started with the idea of doing an end-of-week audit. While this is a great idea to do, blogging about it seemed boring. Also, since each post needed to include a bunch of items it felt overwhelming to do. Consequently, I would put it off until I had TIME….which I never did!!

So, we are back to short posts about happenings through out the week and you can grade me on whether or not I am meeting my summer goals!!!

Now back to quilting….

After I posted about the Numbered Q-pins, I looked at the new packaging and realized that she has removed the “Q” so they are now simply “Marilee’s Numbered Pins”

Also, my friend Karen said that her solution was to buy flower head pins and write her own numbers on!!!

As I thought more about this solution I realized that I could write the row number and the block number on each pin which would make it even easier!!

Quilters always have the BEST solutions.

Dueling Sewing Machines

Yesterday Kaitlynn came over again to sew. While she happily worked on two new blocks…..

……I kept working on the border for my stripe quilt……

It was so much fun to have good music, good conversation and dueling sewing machines…..

And, in case I haven’t said this enough previously…..I LOVE MY NEW STUDIO!!!!

Kaitlynn did work on a third block but I couldn’t remember how to size the strips for quarter square triangles using the Essential Triangle Tool. So, after I had her cut them too large and then too small, I suggested that we stop for the afternoon and start again next week. I promised that I would do my homework and get her off on the right foot next time!!!

Studio Sharing

This past week I have enjoyed getting to share my studio with a couple of friends and, hopefully, get one of them completely hooked on quilting!!!

My friend Kaitlynn is a University of Georgia Senior who is already accomplished in many creative endeavors. A few weeks ago she casually mentioned that she would like to try quilting sometime, so Tuesday was the day!!!

I suggested that we start with a sampler quilt and showed her this wonderful book……

It is a fun book that shows several different ways to make a sampler quilt and also suggests great blocks to add to that quilt.

My suggestion was that we plan to make 4 blocks and see what she thought about the process. If she shook her head and said…”I just don’t get it”, we would turn those four blocks into a big throw pillow and she could go on with her life knowing that she had TRIED quilting.

When we first entered the studio I asked what colors she liked. She said that she was NOT a fan of brights but liked reds, oranges, greens, etc. She spent a few minutes stroking fabric and picked out several handfuls of colors. This is the final color palette that she is working with……

We picked the Hourglass block to work on first…..

It was a good starting point since there were both four-patches and half-square-triangles in the block.

After a quick tutorial on cutting, she was off…….

….quickly mastering the use of the rotary cutter and rulers. AND, even better, all of her fingers were still intact after the session!!

She very quickly finished the first block……

….and moved onto the second one…. “Contrary Wife” this time…..

Since these had been so easy for her, I started trying to find blocks that were more complicated and turned to an old favorite book…..

This was one of the very first quilting books that I ever owned and, as you can tell from the cover and binding, it has been WELL used!!

I picked the “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” block this time and decided that Kaitlyn could learn how to use Bonnie Hunter’s “Essential Triangle Tool” to make all of those half-square triangles. She went to work and quickly finished this third block for the day.

She was particularly pleased with the gradation of the colors thru the block.

As we put the three blocks up on the design wall, it was obvious that it needed “something” and the addition of this blue sashing appears to be the perfect solution…….

When she left the studio, she said that she was hooked already!!! Woo-hoo she’s one of us… of us… of us… of us!!!

Then on Wednesday, my neighbor Kathie came down to learn how to bind a quilt. We spent a fun hour putting binding on a special quilt that she has made for her daughter.

We all know that quilting is an amazing pastime but it is even more enjoyable when you can share it with someone else!!!

Summer Week 3 – Audit

Well, the third week of summer is officially in the books and it was a fun one!!!

On Monday we had a special family come for dinner. They are parents to sweet Bo and 9 month old twins, Patrick and Ellis……

At one point I asked the parents if it was EVER quiet in their house!!!

Tuesday was my birthday and we made our traditional trip to Atlanta to have dinner with all of our kids. It was the first time that we have all been together since Christmas!!! I was given some sweet gifts including a gorgeous necklace and two “anti-fatigue” mats for my studio……

I have already seen an improvement in my lower back pain!!!

Claire and I spent a fun afternoon together working on a charity quilt that will go to the local Battered Women’s Shelter….

She started this quilt about 18 months ago and then we got side tracked with other projects. It was encouraging to see that her technique has improved greatly in that time.

My new recipe for the week was inspired by a birthday present that I gave to myself….. a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker!!!! It is fun how it works…..there is a bowl that has a double wall which is filled with some sort of liquid. You freeze the bowl completely and then add the ice cream mixture to it…..

for the next 20 minutes, the bowl spins around while a paddle scrapes the frozen portion from the side of the bowl…..

I pulled out the dasher and the entire block of ice cream came with it…..

It was creamy and scrumptious….. especially with a chocolate chip cookie……

On the house repair front I was pleased to find new cushions for our deck furniture…..

AND, I replaced the telephone jack, although there is a bit of paint touch up still to come…..

This may not seem like a big deal, but it was a pain!!! In all of the videos about the subject they show the jack pulling out from the wall with 12+ inches of wire. This one only had 3 inches of wire to work with so it was a VERY tight squeeze!!! But it is now done!!!

One night this past week Michael and I watched two foxes playing in our backyard, and while we were enjoying their antics, a big deer walked across our yard!!! It is wildlife central out there!!!

Finally, I discovered a fun podcast hosted by Alan Alda. It is called “CLEAR + VIVID” and is primarily about communication. Alda has been a favorite of ours since his M*A*S*H days and I have really enjoyed listening to him. One of the first recordings that I listened to was an interview with Itzhak Perlman. I loved his comment that when he teaches he never tells the student to “DO IT THIS WAY”. Instead he tells them to try it his way and see what they think, always leaving room for the student to disagree!!

So it was a fun week, although I am a bit sad that the Summer Solstice has come and gone meaning that the days start getting shorter again!!!