Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Flower Block Embellishment

Embellishing all of the flower blocks on "While The Cat's Away" BOM was my plan for last week then I went to the dentist for an easy (according to the dentist) procedure.  One week later I finally picked up needle and thread after days of pain pills, antibiotic reaction and a swollen face.

All of the blocks have the stem appliqued and the small leaf stitched.  Instead of the suggested straight strip of wool for the stem, I chose to use Rousseau Ric Rac, by Painter's Threads.  This is really a fun trim with a tiny sparkle.  The small inner leaf was stitched according to BOM directions with a Herringbone Stitch and I selected Valdani M26 Pearl Cotton #8 which I also used to add Bullion Knots around both the inner and outer leaves.  A back stitch with Sea Grass, color Crush Crush adds a bit of color.

The flower center is a fussy-cut cotton print and my first stitch is Italian Knotted Border Stitch which looks a lot like Fly Stitch with a knot at the bottom of the "V".  I used Thread Gatherer Silken Pearl size 5 (SP5), color Phoenix Rising and then with SP5, color Sprite Grass added a Lazy Daisy Stitch.

Now I'm really excited about the next stitch around the pink wool.  I used Painter's Thread Silk Gimp, color Marianne to stitch Knotted Pearl Stitch.  The Gimp is a silk thread twisted around an inner core that almost resembles a flexible wire.  A size 15 Milleners needle is just what you need for this amazing fiber.

The outline around the orange wool is my go-to, reliable Bullion Knot in Painter's Thread Pearl Cotton #8, color Mary C.

Today was going to be an all-day stitch-a-thon but....... construction guys were in and out all day helping us with remodeling the bathrooms.  I'm holding out hope for this evening.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Colors To Dye For

The phone rings:  Hi, what are you doing?
Me:  I'm dying

Geez, don't panic!  I'm fine!  I'm dying wool, and talking on the phone.

I get a lot of questions about dying wool as it seems many of you are interested in giving it a try.  And, why wouldn't you be?  Frankly, I can't believe the price of high quality, hand-dyed wool.  A quick trip through the internet shows prices upwards of $80.00 a yard.  I don't know about you but that kills my budget.  You can expect to save about 75% by dying your own which means hand dyed wool is not that much more than today's cotton prices.

For any of you that are interested in dying your own, I've written, "Colors to Dye For, A Guide to Hand-Dying Wool" that is now available for $15.00 in my Etsy Shop, just click HERE.

My guide includes sources for purchasing high quality wool and dyes along with a step-by-step description of my quick method and recipes for 20 colors.  

Did I say "quick" method?  Yes I did.  If you follow my set up, which takes about 3 minutes, you can expect to dye about 4 colors an hour.  I'm not telling a fib here - last time I dyed 20 yards it took just a little over 5 hours and there might have been a coffee or bathroom break included.

One of my secrets is felting the wool ahead of time in my washing machine to reduce time in the dye bath.  Another tip is that I use my turkey roaster right next to the sink so there isn't any heavy lifting or spilling.

The recipes include a good range of bright, but not neon, colors ranging through yellow, orange, blue, green, pink and purple.  

Here are just a few:

Spend a little, save a lot, and impress all your friends!

p.s.  If you ever have turkey dinner at my house don't worry.  I'll cook it in a different pot.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Life seems to come in bunches and it appears that classes do too.  I haven't taught since the Small Town Quilt Retreat last June but suddenly I had 3 groups call and want to schedule my Crazy For Embellishment class.  Crazy For Embellishment is what I call my "Beginner" class and everyone is amazed, and sometimes a little nervous when I announce that we are going to learn a dozen stitches before noon.

Each student is given a kit containing wool, a variety of threads including pearl cotton, silken pearl and sea grass plus the needles needed.  I love seeing everyone so excited when they finish their first perfect Bullion Knot, whip the Back Stitch, laugh at a Drizzle and realize that yes, they can do it!

I began my trio of classes with the Midway Heritage Quilt Guild.  I have taught for this group before and always have a good time.  This photo is my Crazy For Embellishment sampler stitched by Susan Turpin, a member of the Midway Guild.  Susan does lovely work, finishing several of my patterns.

The very next week a group of friends invited me to teach at a private home and because there were only 4 students it was a very relaxed time with the most amazing lunch.  They were so nice that I immediately felt like I was just spending the day with friends.  And you know, within a short time, I was.

This past weekend found me teaching just a few blocks from home.  Hazel Rimmasch arranged everything for the class and even prepared a fantastic lunch.  Hazel and I met at the Small Town Quilt Retreat when we had vendor booths next to each other.  She loved the threads and stitching and was determined to learn.  The class was comprised of Hazel's friends, several of my friends from my quilt group, and women we met at the Retreat.

A day filled with friends and stitching.  Now that's hard to beat.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Circles Made Easy

The Sunburst Block I showed yesterday has a large center circle and 8 smaller circles cut from cotton.  I've tried many techniques for making my appliqued circles perfect and found a new one while browsing my Pinterest feed.  

Yes, that is aluminum foil on my ironing board and this new (to me) technique is explained by Sarah Fielke in a YouTube video that you can watch by clicking HERE  (sorry if there is an annoying ad, just skip it and get to the good part).

For the large center circle I pressed 4 layers of freezer paper together to make my circle template and used Perfect Circles for the smaller flower centers.  The foil paper method worked great for both sizes.  They kind of look like Hershey's Kisses making it easier to hide chocolate in the sewing room.  An unexpected bonus! 

If you would like to follow me on Pinterest just click HERE or on the icon on top of the right-hand column of this blog. 

Go forth and make circles.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Progress Notes

There are so many wonderful patterns, colors, threads, fabrics... oh my..... that I've been a bit distracted.  Since I couldn't decide what to work on next that little demon inside of me that wants to knit sneaked out and I spent a few days knitting on a kit that I purchased a year ago.  Surprisingly, it was going quite well until the addition of a color that just isn't working for me.  Perfect excuse to put it aside and get back to quilting.

Here is another Enchantment bird with a Woven Picot beak and Double Cast-on head feathers.
Chain Stitch defines the inner wing using Silken Pearl #5, Hollyhocks and Hummingbirds.  The lower edge of the wing is bordered by Cast-On stitch using Silken Pearl #5, Midsummer Vineyard which is held in place with a Fly Stitch in Pearl Cotton (some color of yellow) and Lazy Daisy in the Midsummer Vineyard.  

Feather Stitch seamed appropriate for the tail feathers using Silken Pearl #5 in Grape Soda.  Between the tail feathers is a very long drizzle stitch using Silken Pearl #5, Hollyhocks and Hummingbirds with a bead at the end.  The eye is from a hand-made bead (made by my sister, Lynda) that looks just like an eye.  A light lavender Sea Grass outlines the top of the bird using Back Stitch and Fly Stitch along the bird's belly.  Sorry, I don't have all the colors but some of the threads in my bag have lost their name-tags.

Yesterday I spent the entire day in my sewing room and loved it.  I didn't even cook - our Sunday dinner was scrambled eggs and waffles that my husband cooked.  He makes the best pancakes and waffles from scratch.  I don't know the recipe and don't want to learn it.

These blocks are Month 1 of the "When The Cat's Away" block of the month that I'm enrolled in.  I think these are really clever flowers made with half-square triangles.  Since the felt circles were already cut and stitched together I'm going to use them.  The leaves are felted wool from my stash and the stems are probably going to change to something more exciting.

Month 2 is a Sunburst block that is the first of 4 and I've been warned that this is the easy one.  It's a large 24"x24" block and is absolutely beautiful.  I used felted wool from my stash in place of the felt that was included in the kit.  

The 8 flower blocks and the Sunburst now need to be appliqued and embroidered.  Month 3 is already here and is 8 pieced blocks.

I'm really excited about this quilt and the BOM program.  The instructions have been very clear and there is plenty of fabric included.

With such a good start it will be difficult to put everything away to design and stitch a project for an upcoming retreat.  Saturday will find me teaching embellishment in an art studio near my home.

I think there are some more waffle dinners in my near future.

Check back tomorrow so I can tell you about a new trick I learned for making circles.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Don't Like Bologna

My Mom fixed bologna sandwiches for my school lunch and I ate them even though I didn't like them.  But, there was no choice - eat or be hungry.  So I know from experience that bologna can be a meal, even if it's not your "meat" of choice.  

Are you wondering yet why I'm sharing my feelings about bologna?  Well, I've come to the conclusion that felt is the bologna of the fabric world.  Little things chopped up, mushed together and pressed down flat.  That's how both bologna and felt are made.

I know I'm going to get in trouble for this.... but felt, even if it is 100% wool felt, IS NOT the same as felted wool. Do you remember last year when I made the Urban Owls quilt designed by Wendy Williams as a block-of-the-month project?  Felt was included in the kit and in the spirit of learning new things, I used it and blogged about the pros and cons.

Wendy has designed another beautiful quilt, "While The Cat's Away", offered as a BOM through Material Obsessions and I enrolled.  The first month included felt to make flower centers and once again I cut them out, appliqued them together and haven't added any embroidery stitches.  Why? Because other than the bright colors they look really flat, just like the bologna.  And now that I'm a grown-up I have choices.

I'm going to substitute the bologna, I mean felt, with lovely, soft, textural, felted wool.  After the final month of the BOM I will have a give-away here of colorful felt that you can use for a sandwich or a craft project.

The kits are expensive and there is part of me that thinks I should use what is in the kit but my justification is that I don't like it and I'm not going to work on a beautiful quilt with fabric I don't like.  (at this point imagine me with hands on hips and a pout on my lips.)

Hopefully I will get some blocks finished next week that I can share.

p.s.  for all of you that are offended because you love felt and/or bologna, sorry.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Honey Flow

In early spring beekeepers ready their hives for the upcoming summer months in anticipation of sunny days and flowers in bloom.  When the fruit trees and flowers bloom there is an abundance of pollen and nectar for the bees to gather and store – more than they need for their food supply.  This abundance is called the “Honey Flow” which I thought was the perfect name for my quilt with the abundance of blooms, birds, butterflies and yes, a few little bees.

There are 59 Hexie Flowers  appliqued onto a dotted fabric surrounded by the appliqued border.   I used a variety of Kaffe and Kaffe-like fabrics, fussy cutting some for the applique.

 I thought my quilt was beautiful until I took it to Cindy Paulsen at Quilted Connection to work her magic.  Cindy's quilting is amazing and I just wish the photos could show it better.

Gather your bright fabrics and during those dark, cold winter days start creating your own garden to welcome spring with The Honey Flow.

Patterns are available in my Etsy shop by clicking HERE.

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