Reading Fun and a New Tool

This post is a little off the topic of quilting, but I’ll tell you about my new applique toy at the end. Yesterday the second grader came after school with the condition that he read for 30 minutes. However, for some reason his book didn’t make it to his bookbag so we had to find something to read here. At first I didn’t think I would find a chapter book that was right for a second grader, but then I spied my Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic, a favorite. We read 29 pages and it was so much fun to watch that little boy read as he understood the subtle humor and threw his head back and giggled out loud.

My husband reads every night at bedtime. He is a very careful, detailed reader and always goes back and re-reads the last couple of pages before starting new material. For the last few years he has read on a Kindle paperwhite. About a week ago he bought a book on World War I which is over a thousand pages and has lots of pictures and charts. He bought the real book this time rather than a digital book for the Kindle. The first night when he started the book, he reached over to turn out the light and then realized he couldn’t read a real book in the dark. We had a little chuckle over that.

I listen to audiobooks that I get from the public library or from Audible. The best book I’ve “read” in recent weeks was A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean. It is about a young American woman who discovers pictures of her grandmother with a Nazi soldier. The story plays out with her grandmother telling how it happened. It is a fascinating story, and I got a lot of stitching done while listening. This was one of those books that I wanted to know what happened, but didn’t want it to end.

And now for my new “tool”. I bought a Cricut Maker to cut fabric appliques. And I LOVE it. It has a rotary blade and cuts the most beautiful, crisp fabric shapes I have ever seen. The computer software interface is not nearly as nice as the Silhouette interface, but the cutting is better than any other I’ve seen. 
 

ABC Quilt Project

Grandchildren are such a joy. A cute little story about one of the second graders is about his reading. He comes to our house after school on Tuesday and Thursday to play. One of his school assignments is to read 30 minutes every day. For the last two weeks he has found one excuse or another at home to avoid his reading. Yesterday he missed his visit to us because his mother restricted him to no more grandparent visits until his reading was done. We got a message late yesterday afternoon that he sat and read for a solid hour. We had a good chuckle over his motivation and the fact that we can never understand why it’s more fun at grandparents’ house than his own. Nevertheless, he has won a visit to our house today on a rare Wednesday but is required to read with us for 30 minutes of that visit.

This is one of the projects I’m working on right now. It was started about five years ago. The background fabric I chose was pink and as the grandchildren kept coming, they were all boys. At one point I stopped with the last three letters, x, y, and z unfinished. Finally two years ago the last grandchild was born and it was a girl. She’s two now and thinks she’s the queen of a house full of brothers and her dad. So a couple of weeks ago, I finished the last three letters and am in the process of putting this quilt together.

The embroidery designs are an alphabet from Designs by JuJu. I love her embroidery and this makes such a cute quilt with the bright colors. I added a princess crown, carriage, queen bee and castle from another Designs by JuJu embroidery set to make the rows come out even.

I’m still working on a decision as to the border fabric, but I think it’s going to be the batik even though the print looks really good with this.

This is the rug in her room and the turquoise hopefully will coordinate with that as well as the hints of blue in the sashing fabric.

And this is that wild child with her sweet brother.

  
 

Belated Valentine

This is a belated Valentine. Somehow my New Year’s resolution to write several posts a week has not come to fruition. What happens is that I get so involved in projects that the hyperfocus excludes all else.

When my second grader grandson was here on Thursday, Feb 13, making Valentine’s and asked what to write on his Valentine cards, I told him to write “Happy Valentine’s Day” or “Be My Valentine.” He asked me what that means. My response was that it’s like saying “Merry Christmas” at Christmas time. That was not the best explanation but the first thing that came to mind. Children ask the most unexpected questions, and I often wonder how they process and perceive what we say.

And it’s been incredibly busy here. A couple of the projects I can’t tell you about yet, but there are two others that are interesting in that one in my opinion is a complete fail and the other is beginning to shape up into something pretty.

First for the complete fail. I was looking for fabric to go with the pink and purchased the green fabric as I thought it would be perfect and it’s such a cute print. I made one block and thought it looked pretty good so decided to make the rest of the blocks. As I worked, it was very apparent to me that I didn’t like the green but was determined to finish what I had cut. So here’s the block and the quilt top. They definitely are not on my list of winners. The top has to be quilted and I will do that soon and then see if there are any takers among the 10 grandchildren.

The one good thing about this quilt is the blocks I chose to go together. I love the look of the stars framed by the chain. Now the challenge is to make it in colors I love.

I’ll tell you about the second project tomorrow. It’s a much happier story.

 

  
 

Quilting with Minkee

Yesterday I loaded and finished quilting a lap quilt made by my granddaughter, Kes. This is a favorite pattern of ours using a 3-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ rectangle die and the 2″ strip cutter. The blocks are made of a Laurel Burch horse print. I love the fabric designs and this was fabric left over from a larger quilt that I made for Kes.


When Minkee fabric was on sale a few months ago, I bought yardage for quilt backing. I have used it already on the back of one of Ezri’s quilts,  and Kes wanted it for the back of hers.  When I bought the Minkee, the issues related to fuzz simply escaped my mind. For a soft backing, working with flannel or fleece  is a better choice. However, when I started to cut, fuzz was front and center. It’s not the fuzz I mind, it’s the cleanup. Now that this is quilted, the plan is to use the serger to finish the edges to prevent so much fuzz everywhere while binding.

This is a picture of the backing just loaded on the quilt frame. I had cut the lower edge of the backing to even it up before pinning it to the leaders.  I used a lint roller to pick up all of that fuzz.

And as soon as this is finished, I am going to sew the rows together on Ezri’s rail fence quilt that she’s making for Vivi. Vivi wants a quilt with a “soft” back, so it will get quilted with Minkee on the back too. These are real challenges the week before Christmas, but fun ones because of the precious children who are the recipients. The biggest concern I have is that Vance, (Vivi’s twin) will want a quilt with a soft back. My hope is that I have a panel somewhere in the stash that can be quickly bordered and quilted for him.  Will keep you posted. 
 

Sometimes there are No Shortcuts

Once the table runners were finished, I moved on to digitizing embroidery for an AccuQuilt applique die that will be coming out in the next few days. I am sworn to secrecy so can’t tell you what it is, but can say that it’s really cute. What I can tell you is that sometimes there are NO SHORTCUTS! Let me explain. And keep in mind—you’ll get a kick out of this—during my career in clinical research I once had an employee who told me that I was “too process driven.” I’ll admit she was a creative soul even though she didn’t last in clinical research very long.

When doing machine embroidery applique with die cut shapes or with Silhouette machine cut shapes, I sometimes will skip the fusible step, cut the fabric shape and use a glue stick on the background fabric just inside the placement stitches and will work the shape into place and stitch it. That works sometimes with some fabrics and some shapes and looks good. However, the shape I’m working with right now has some tiny little points and little nubs around the edge and while the glue stick works, the end result looks really “homemade”. After a couple of tries, I cut the Steam A Seam Lite and fused it to the back of the fabric and using my mini-iron to secure the shape into place, created some really pretty machine embroidery applique.  This  simply reinforces that saying, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing it well.”

Another tip is that if you are using the tackdown and trim method instead of cutting the shape with a machine, using a fusible on the back of the applique fabric can make the shape easier to trim and will cut down on fraying around the edges. A lot depends on the fabric that is being used.

Since I have no pictures today, I’ll share this one with you. It’s a love note that one of the 4 year old twins left at my house last week. I’m not sure what it says, but usually when one of them writes a note like this, they tell us what it says.  I believe this was from Vance, and he found the magnet and posted this on my refrigerator just at 4-year old height.

 
 

Let It Snow Wall Frame

This blog post was published on the AccuQuilt blog yesterday and has the machine embroidery for the lowercase alphabet die that was recently released as well as my Holiday Elements machine embroidery design set.

As always, if I made this again, I would make snowflakes that showed up just a bit more—a darker thread for the stitches around them would give that little bit of additional contrast that is needed. But I absolutely love those cute snow people as well as the lettering.

This is stretched on a 20″ x 24″ canvas frame and has batting underneath, but does not have quilting stitches through the layers.

 
 

Baby Quilt with Spring Medley Applique Machine Embroidery Tutorial

This is a quilt tutorial that I wrote for AccuQuilt for their blog. It was a lot of fun, but is very simple to do. The Spring Medley applique is cute, but this can also be made with a lot of the other different applique dies.  I used the 10″ Qube, but it will also work with the 9″ and the 12″ blocks too.

 
 

Bear’s Paw Table Runner Tutorial

AccuQuilt has another new die–they just keep releasing more and more–it’s hard to keep up with trying out each new one. This one is a Bear’s Paw die that is a Block on Board (BOB) which means one run through the cutter and you have a complete block ready to stitch. The quarter block of the Bear’s Paw looks like a maple leaf so I used that idea to make this table runner. You can go over to the AccuQuilt blog to see the full tutorial.

 
 

Crazy Quilt Star Throw Quilt

I just finished this Crazy Quilt Star Throw Quilt made with the AccuQuilt GO Crazy Quilt die. I love the Crazy Quilt dies (both Studio and GO!). They are just incredible. There are so many different layouts that one can create with it–and the blocks stitch up faster than almost any other block. I used Square in a Square (aka Economy Block) blocks alternating with Crazy Quilt blocks.  Read the full tutorial on the AccuQuilt blog.

Crazy Quilt Star
Crazy Quilt Star
 
 

Fall Update

Where did summer go? We’re well into the new school year and as busy as ever. The dahlias are blooming with their last hurrah for the warm weather. The hurricane season has brought incredible humidity here in North Carolina but we’ve been fortunate in this part of the state not to have had a lot of rain and wind. This photo of a bouquet that my husband brought in last week was taken a few days later, so the blooms are beginning to lose their initial glory, but they’re still beautiful.

And what about quilting you may ask–as that’s the primary subject of this blog. Well, there have been weeks when quilting has been happening and other weeks when it hasn’t. For the past year or more, I was writing a monthly blog for AccuQuilt. I needed a vacation from writing, but now I am on target to start again in the near future.

Another passion of mine and the “Slap Happy Quilters” group with whom I stitch on a regular basis is making comfort quilts. Hopefully our quilts bring comfort to all the cancer patients at the Alamance Regional Cancer Center. So here are a couple of recent completions. They’re still flimsies as I haven’t had time to quilt recently–I’ll tell you why after these pics.

This is a quilt pattern that we call “Shirley’s Quilt” because it is in memory of one of our quilters who is no longer with us. It always brings back special memories to me when I make this pattern. It is made of bricks cut 3-1/2 x 6-1/2″ and squares cut 3-1/2″. I used Shapes 8 and 5 from the AccuQuilt GO! 12″ Mix and Match Blocks Qube to cut these pieces and the 3-1/2″ strip die to cut the horizontal sashing and border and the 2-1/2″ strip die to cut the vertical border.

And here is another quilt I made using leftover bricks from Shirley’s quilt, but cutting them down to 2-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ bricks. It’s also one of my favorite patterns. I used Shape 8 from the AccuQuilt GO! Mix & Match Blocks 8″ Qube for this one. This one still needs a border and to be quilted.

This is the block for this quilt. What I love most is that it can be made with any size brick and looks wonderful as a scrappy quilt. Every other block in this quilt turns 90 degrees, so the only seams to match are the corners of the blocks. That makes stitching blocks together into a top so easy.

And this is the reason I never get anything done–but they’re so, so cute!