Tuesday, March 29, 2016

House for Rent

Our worm (and bug) rich back yard attracts a variety of birds who delight in nesting in our yard, or chowing down on their way to somewhere else. Last spring we bought a regulation birdhouse  and mounted it according to the instructions. The "For Rent" sign went up too late for bluebirds, so an entertaining couple, Mr. and Mrs. Swallow, signed the lease. They were very happy in our bird rental, and it was a hoot watching the babies grow up.

Well, this year, a couple of weeks ago, a delightful couple, Mr. & Mrs. Bluebird, were hanging around the place, obviously shopping for a new apartment. The handsome Mr. Bluebird stuck his head in a few times, but never went inside. The Mrs. seemed to really like it from the outside, so she began to gather nesting material. But before she could start building her nest, the Mr. gave her his famous "not-on-your-life" look. She dropped the nesting stuff, and they flew off. Curious.

This last week, both the Bluebirds and the Swallows hung around it, checking it out again, but as yet, we've had no takers. DH cleaned it out last fall, so we really didn't know why no one seems to want it. Doing some research, we discovered that in addition to removing the abandoned furnishings, we should have hosed it out. Guess what the DH discovered during the hose-down. A WASP's NEST! Yikes! No wonder the house has been rejected!  Now it is REALLY clean. Hopefully we're not too late.

News from the Studio

The Green Thing

Another quilt by Kay, the free spirit designer. She's making quilts for all of the grandkids. She says she has another dozen or so to go. Again, I used the Bolero panto.

 What Knots

This is Theresa's finished What Knots quilt, designed by Sue Jones. I love the rich colors. I used an allover leaf meander on this one.

Petals of Wisdom

Isn't this a darling quilt? Tricia machine appliqued the petals, and I love her color choices! The quilting pattern is a feathered hook.

Tips and Techniques

Quilt Top Preparation:

A well-constructed quilt top will make it easy for your longarmer to do her or his best work for you, and possibly save you money on your bill. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure every seam is secure. Partially open seams, seams that don't catch all of the fabric layers, and seams that un-sew themselves take time to fix at best, and at worse can cause damage to your quilt or to the longarm machine.

If a longarmer is working a pantograph from the back side of her machine, she cannot see the top at all. Even from the front of the machine, she may not notice an open seam before the machine runs into it. The result could be a torn quilt top, a broken needle, or major repairs to the machine.

It is really easy to avoid this problem forever:
  1. First secure each seam start and stop as you go. Here are some options to pick from:
    a. Start and stop each seam with an extra-small stitch length that extends a few stitches inside the seam line.
    b. Start and stop each seam with a quick back-stitch.
    c. Use a smaller stitch length all the time. The smaller the stitch, the less likely for the seam to come apart on it's own. This approach is especially useful when chain-piecing.
  2. Check seams as you piece. Inspect the seam as you are setting it with the iron, and pressing the seam to one side, or open.
  3. Clip ravels rather than just pull on the threads. I've seen seam allowances ravel past the sewn seam. 
That's it. Make these precautions just a natural part of your piecing - and un-secured seams will be a thing of the past.

Have a wonderful week! Now let's go get new nose pads on my glasses and you go quilt something!


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Soar on wings like eagles.

A nesting pair of bald eagles nesting near Johnson City TN
What do you know about eagles? Sad to say, I don't know much. Just that when I see one in flight, I am awestruck. So I snooped in google for information. There were 2 interesting facts I didn't know. First, not only do they hunt for prey with keen vision and great skill, they don't mind a good mugging now and then. Why work, when you can take the spoils of someone else's endeavor? What was really surprising to me, was that eagles love to play. They have been witnessed using various objects, including empty plastic bottles, as toys. One person reported seeing 6 eagles in flight, gleefully passing a stick from one to the other. Cool.

East Tennessee State University is following this darling couple with a live camera feed. They have eggs in the nest that should be hatching soon. When I checked the cam just now, they were eating supper. Check them out at: ETSU Live Eagle Cam.

News from the Studio

Just shoot me!

When it comes to quilting, I am a project buyer. I don't keep a stash. I'm also a one-project-at-a-time kinda girl. At least I thought I was. But, right now there must be 10 or 12 (or more) projects in some state of construction (or hoping to be constructed) sitting around the studio in their plastic project boxes gathering dust.

So, I swore off buying any more fabric until I finish a few of them. But a recent 45% off sale from Craftsy sucked me in.  Check out this gorgeous line from Robert Kaufman. I saw it and my mouth started watering - really! So quick - I designed a super simple twin size Hunter's Star, and ordered 2 layer cakes (and a jelly roll which will be used to decorate the studio for now). Of course, I didn't discover that I only need 1 layer cake for my quilt until I had already drooled on both of them.

On the Frame

I'm about half finished with an edge to edge free motion on T.'s What Knots quilt. Isn't it beautiful! She does nice work. The quilting is a simple leafy meander that the DH calls "poison ivy pattern." Not funny.


Off the Frame

I came to a stopping place on J's lovely Rippling Star quilt. so I took it off the frame for a few days to work in a couple of quick quilts. Doesn't it remind you of a happy french garden?

Tips and Techniques

Are you "scrappy-challenged" like I am? Do you always agonize about what would look great with what, and change your mind a million times per block? Well I have a solution. But first you have to GIVE UP CONTROL and embrace the notion of "random."

  • First, USE A PRE-CUT! It contains all of the fabrics from the same line, and they all already go together!
  • Next, put the pieces you need to join into  separate containers, and jumble them up. 
  • Then, squeeze your eyes shut, refuse to look into the boxes, and pull out one piece from each box. No, no! Do not make a decision about whether they look good together. They DO. They were designed to go together!
  • I do, indeed, give you permission to put a piece back if it EXACTLY matches the other one. 
Try this technique - come on now, be brave. Your quilt will be nice and scrappy, look beautiful, and you will have saved yourself a lot of heartache.

Learning for the Week

Doing taxes makes my head hurt.

Enjoy your weekend, and for Pete's sake, go quilt something!