Thursday, December 10, 2015

MIA...But only in Blogland!

gwenbru2 on Instagram
It's been an unbelievably long time since I've made a blog entry but there's a good reason for it--I found Instagram! Compared to writing a blog post, Instagram is quick and easy. Take a picture, type a quick comment and boom! You're done! So if you want to keep up with what Laura and I are up to, the place to find us is on Instagram where we're known as @gwenbru2. Not a very creative title, but I kind of jumped right in and that was the first thing that came to mind.

So what have we been up to since March?

Well, one exciting event was the birth of Benjamin in April. I was able to get his mom's diaper bag finished in time and brought it to her in the hospital. She loved it!

Ben has Down's Syndrome, which we had been expecting. The good thing is that he is on the low end of the scale with typical Down's complications. He had some kidney issues, but they seem to be pretty much resolved and he's making lots of progress and doing well. And he came to the right family--with Laura and her deafness and mental challenges, Jennifer with her cerebral palsy and Nathan with his Asperger's, Ben just fits right in!

I had finished grandson, Hunter's hunting and fishing quilt earlier in the year, but Laura and I didn't get it delivered until April. The good news is that Hunter loves it!

Our grandson, Linus broke his leg the end of May, just as summer fun was starting! At a family birthday party, he was wheeled around in a wagon, but before the cast was removed, he learned to crawl with it and then walk with it! He had almost a greater challenge learning to walk again after it was removed! Linus absolutely loves Laura and when he wants to come to our house, he says he wants to go to "Laura's house!"

In between other activities, Laura and I still managed to do plenty of sewing. This was one of several lap and other quilts she made.

I made this simple, small table topper, along with some other patriotic projects for July.

My granddaughter, Belle wanted a horse quilt for her 12th birthday. I scrapped my original plans and instead modified the pattern that came with this particular panel so that it finished as a twin-sized quilt.

I backed it with some of almost every horse fabric I had, knowing that Belle would enjoy laying in bed and looking at all the different horses!

And here she and baby Ben are snuggled together under her new quilt. I think they both like it!

Laura LOVES to swim and so we've almost always had some kind of an above-ground pool since we moved here to the country. She loves swimming even MORE when she has friends swimming with her, so she was excited to have her sister, Mary and Mary's friend join her for an afternoon in the water.

Next to her birthday, probably the most anticipated event of each year for Laura is "Laura Camp," so called because she used to love going to our church's Girls' Camp each summer. When she became too old to go to Girls' Camp, some of our daughters came up with the idea of having a family camping trip, doing fun things similar to what had been done at Girls' Camp, and naming it after Laura. So now we have our annual "Laura Camp" where we have nightly campfires, eat camp food like s'mores and doughboys, the kids do crafts, we make tie-dye t-shirts, go swimming in the lake and biking and of course, camp in tents!

We had another family addition born in July. Our son, David and his wife gave birth to Theodore, bringing our total number of grandchildren to 14!

There's been some overlap here with my posts on Instagram, so I won't repost any more of them. The rest of our year is fairly well documented over there. However, we do have one more bit of good news (and I have to apologize that this has become more family-oriented than about quilting or getting things done!) and that is that our youngest child, Mary will be getting married the end of this month!

We're so excited for Mary and Andy--they seem to be perfect for each other. Mary is going to school to become a nurse and will graduate in May. Until then, the happy couple will be living in our basement, which, fortunately for all of us, has all of its own amenities so we won't have to share unless we want to!

This is such a special time of year and our hearts seem to naturally turn more to giving, as we consider the greatest gift of all that was given to us so long ago, our Savior, Jesus Christ. In the midst of trying to get more done, it's so important to take a few moments and contemplate what was done for us and to express our gratitude for all that we've been given. And I would like to express my thanks TO each of you and FOR each of you and the blessing that you have been in my life and the life of my family. May you have a blessed Christmas and may 2016 see all of us Getting More Done!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Projects for Others

A couple of weeks ago, we received the newest catalog from Connecting Threads in the mail. I got to look at it first and towards the end of the catalog saw a kit for an Easter table runner. When I saw it, I thought it looked simple enough for Laura to make. Then Laura got the catalog and she must have thought the same thing because she pointed it out to me and signed, "Easter!" I think she liked it, so I went ahead and ordered it for her. 

Once the kit came in the mail, I cut out the pieces (as Laura's "sewing elf" while she was sleeping rather than hovering!) The next day she had it sewn together in no time, although I had to give her some extra pieces of background fabric to use as "fillers" where her borders didn't quite reach. 

During another "sewing elf" session, I drew the quilting lines and Laura got that done quickly too. However, when she finished, I was busy working on another project and wasn't ready to trim her quilted project. As usual, she was impatient for the next step, so she just got the scissors and began trimming the edges of her table runner herself. Fortunately, I caught and stopped her before she trimmed the whole thing!

At that point, I realized I needed to stop doing what I was working on and help Laura with her project. So I trimmed off the edges with the rotary cutter and rulers and then machine sewed the binding and gave it to her to hand stitch the binding to the back.

Here's the finished table runner. The kit actually came with red fabric to use in the border, but I replaced it with orange, since I thought that looked more "Easter-y" (and it looked orange in the catalog!) You can see our filler pieces in the top left and bottom right corners. So it's not quite perfect, but Laura is thrilled with it and now we have it all ready for celebrating Easter.

My 2nd daughter, Becca is due to have a baby boy in April. This will be her 6th child, but his coming was a bit of a surprise--she thought she was done after the last one was born! Since she thought she wouldn't be having more children, she had gotten rid of all her baby stuff. I thought she would want a quilt, but she said she'd rather have a diaper bag. So a diaper bag it will be!

Becca chose the fabric and pattern and I bought the fabric a few weeks ago. This week I got busy and got out all the fabric, interfacing and batting. Every piece of fabric, including the lining and trim has either interfacing or batting fused to it. So after cutting everything out, I fused the appropriate pieces to the back of each fabric piece. Fortunately I have an iron press which makes the job SO much easier!

This week has been a busy one with obligations for my church. I'm temporarily working with the 8-11 children at church, doing their activity days with them. We had an activity this week where we cleaned out and organized the closets and cabinet in the children's room at church. On my own, I organized all of the pictures we use in teaching the children and also the music visual aids. I spent so much time working on all that stuff that I never even went in the quilt studio on Wednesday! However, our next activity will be a sewing one, so that one should be lots of fun!

In addition to activities with the children, our women's organization is planning a craft day and they wanted me to do some sewing activities. One of them is to make these Wonder Boxes. They're big pillow-type things that you sew together and then fill with polystyrene beads--bean bag filler. You use them to cook with, sort of a powerless crock pot. I drew up the pattern on heavy poster board and then traced off ten copies of the top and bottom patterns onto newspaper. The ladies will cut out their fabric and bring it to the activity ready to sew.

One last church project this week was for our youth Service Auction. They actually auction goods as well as services and the money they raise helps to pay for them to go to camp in the summer. The auction is a fun activity and this year they also included a spaghetti dinner. Last year, I offered two services--piecing a quilt as one, and quilting a quilt as another. This year I really didn't want to have those kind of obligations hanging over me, so I decided to make something for the auction. And I decided to make something no one probably already had--12"x 18" hot pads--big enough to hold a roasting pan!

I made six of the pads and used both Insul-brite and a layer of cotton batting between the fabric layers. I was able to figure out exactly how long my binding should be and so I sewed it all together before attaching it to each pad. Then I just turned and machine sewed to the other side.

And speaking of other sides--here they are, all turned over. The auction was last night (Friday night) and they all sold very quickly and well, going from $15 to $25 each!

I really didn't get much sewing or work done this week on my own projects, but there's always next week and another opportunity to...Get More Done!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Slowing Down

There was significantly less activity happening this week in our studio, since I definitely caught the cold that Laura threw at me! But we did manage a little bit of sewing time.

Last year I began participating in Shabby Fabric's "C is for Christmas" BOM. Each month for the past 5 months I've been diligently embroidering Christmas designs on two blocks. This month the blocks came for the last row and I decided it was time to put the rows together. There is sashing between each block made of 2-inch quarter-square triangles--60 of them altogether. Four blocks are sewn into strips and then sewn between the blocks. I thought the strips were just lovely, even if something of a pain to sew!

I satin stitched around the letters and added the sashing around those blocks too, in addition to assembling the one pieced block. These are the completed rows. There will be MORE quarter-square triangles to be made in March--162 of them, to be exact!! They will provide sashing between the rows and then a first border around the quilt. In April the fabric will be sent for the final borders and the binding and then this project will be ready for quilting.

While I worked on my Christmas quilt, Laura completed the quilting on the last of the table runners she had made.

It has a really cute fabric on the back!

As the week progressed and I began feeling a little more like sewing, I started working on some other projects. I had cut out two tea cozies--one for me and one for a friend. I'm a budding herbalist and I drink a lot of tea. I had seen this pattern for a tea cozy and bought it because I thought it was so cute! But I didn't have a teapot! I was able to order one through Amazon and now it looks so nicely dressed in its new cozy!

Although February is essentially over, I wanted to finish the heart wall hanging I had cut out at the beginning of the month. I got it all assembled and then began auditioning borders. After rejecting quite a few, I decided this one would work the best. You can't really see it very well in this photo, but the pattern in the border is a diagonal stripe. 

Once she was done with her table runner, I really didn't want Laura starting another project while I wasn't feeling too great. So she entertained herself by ripping out all of the free-form quilting she had done on some muslin and batting. I'm not sure why she has this thing about ripping out previous stitching, but she seems to enjoy doing it and is very pleased with herself as she does it. If it makes her happy (and keeps her entertained) then I'm happy too!

Our Stashbusters' Number Challenge for the month of March are UFOs #7 and #17. This is my #7--a paper-pieced bluebird. It was a free pattern and I thought it was so pretty. Since I love bluebirds I wanted to make it and I did. But meanwhile it's been languishing in with all my orphan blocks. So this month's challenge will be to make it into something I can enjoy seeing more often.

My #17 is this wall hanging that is practically already done. The instructions for it had it framed with barn wood. It's 14 inches square which is an odd size for a frame although I could have it custom-framed. But I think I may just go ahead and add a little extra quilting to it and then bind it and call it done. I would love to have this finally finished and hanging somewhere in my home.

My granddaughter, Belle will be turning 12 in May, so this is her year for a bed-sized birthday quilt. I asked her what she wanted in a quilt and she said she wanted a large picture of a horse in the middle. When I found this panel, I knew it would be perfect! In fact, my daughter, Mary said the horse in the front looks just like HER horse! Belle has ridden Justin many times and she'll be thrilled to imagine him as the lead horse on her quilt! In the meanwhile, however, my great challenge over the next couple of months will be to figure out how best to incorporate the panel and other horse fabrics into a pleasing quilt top for Belle's birthday. Any ideas will be greatly welcomed!

It's such a blessing to be feeling more normal again and the weather is getting nicer too! So I'm looking forward to a new week and a new month and hoping to Get More Done!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Catching Up and UFOs

It's been a few weeks since I've written a blog post, mainly because I've been revamping my schedule and trying to find the best time to sit down and write. Hopefully this schedule will work and I'll be back to posting regularly.

I joined Stashbusters' sister group, Heartstrings, thinking that Laura could easily make string blocks and then we could make them into quilts and donate them. Unfortunately, because of sewing to a foundation, she can't use the magnetic seam guide that helps her sew more accurate seams. So some of her seams were just right, but many others were way too wide or too narrow. Of course, as long as they're holding the fabric together, it really doesn't matter since they become hidden under the foundation! We made a couple of string blocks together and Laura made a couple on her own, but then, for some reason, she lost interest. I think she'll want to do more in the future, probably sewing a few in between in other projects, so I've got some foundations and strips ready and waiting for her.

One of my major goals for this year is finishing up 4 UFOs a month or 48 UFOs for the year. Laura's UFOs are on my list too and she has several table runners that she needs to complete. This is the back of a table runner she decided to mark and quilt on her own! I usually mark diagonal lines for her to quilt, but she got out the ruler and marking pens and drew straight lines going the length of the runner. Then she used the walking foot on her machine and quilted it. I was impressed with how well it turned out! In fact, the lines going across weren't even marked--she just stitched them totally freehand! 

Here is she is with the finished runner. I machine stitched the binding and then she hand-sewed it to the back.

Our Stashbusters numbers challenge for February were UFO #2 and UFO #64. My #2 was a group of orphan blocks left over from making a couple of charity baby quilts. I still had plenty of the blue fabric and found a little more of the print. Since this was just a simple block design, I let Laura put the top together for me.

I had planned to quilt it on my longarm machine, but when I started sewing, it was skipping stitches and had more of the intermittent tension issues that it's had for more than a year. I was SO frustrated! But, I decided that since this quilt was already on the frame, I would go ahead and baste it together,
then I just quilted it on my sewing machine, doing a stitch-in-the-ditch around the blocks and a meander in the outer border. Now we just need to find somewhere to donate it!

I only have 50 UFOs on my list, so this is my #50, instead of #64 in the Numbers Challenge and it's my oldest UFO. In 2007 our local quilt guild was doing a Virginia quilt for their block of the month program to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown. Each block has some connection to the state of Virginia (the upper right block is supposed to be a tobacco plant--there are yo-yo's that will be added after it's quilted!) Unfortunately, while my longarm is out of commission, this quilt won't be worked on. In fact, my pile of flimsies is getting larger all the time! Once we get it fixed, I'll be having a major quilting marathon!

For some reason, my longarm machine worked fine long enough for me to quilt Hunter's quilt (it did start acting up near the end). I added a border of bright orange to represent the "blaze orange" that hunters wear to protect them from shooting each other.

Hunter has a quirky sense of humor and so for fun, I quilted crosshairs on each of the blocks with wildlife. I think he'll get a big kick out of that (and out of Grandma's aim!)

In addition to finishing UFOs this year, I also want to make sure that I don't have any leftover blocks from the projects I complete. With that in mind, I took the extra blocks from Hunter's quilt and had Laura sew them into a matching table runner. I had her quilt it too, although I did all the binding.

There was one remaining block, so I incorporated it into the backing, along with leftover scraps of fabric.

Hunter also gets a matching pillowcase!

I've been wanting to participate in the RSC 15 this year, especially since I LOVE sawtooth star blocks, but I was a little slow getting started. I cut out blocks for both this month (pink) and last month (blue) and finally got them all sewn together this week. I also put together the pink crayon for my playroom quilt.

While I was playing with pink fabrics, I cut out some extra pieces to make a little table topper for my front entry. Then I just quilted it on my sewing machine with a wavy stitch done in a crosshatch and I quilted freehand hearts in the borders. I got it done just in time for Valentine's Day!

A couple of weeks ago, a generous friend sent Laura some really cute 6-inch spring-themed squares of fabric. Laura was thrilled to get a package in the mail addressed to HER, but even more so to have it be a package of fabric! 

In less than a week, she had all the pieces sewn into a top and we'd chosen fabric and added borders. It's now waiting with all the others in my "to-be-quilted" pile! I'll post another picture once it's completely done.

Oh yes, I finally got my Grand Illusion Mystery top completely assembled! There's not much point in posting a picture, since I used the colors Bonnie suggested and my quilt looks almost exactly like hers. But once it's quilted, I'll probably include one anyway, just to show that I actually did it!

On a final note, in my quilt studio I have a treadle machine in a cabinet, but the belt has been removed and I just use the cabinet as a table to hold my laptop. However, that treadle base and wheel are a favorite of the grandkids, who love to come and "drive" the treadle!

Laura has been feeling a bit under-the-weather all week and now I think I'm coming down with her cold! So there won't be quite as much going on in the studio, but I'm sure we'll still somehow manage to...get more done!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Quilt Top Progress

This week was very limited in outside obligations, so Laura and I had more time to sew. However, this week was also Mary's 26th birthday and as I had promised, I made her another jewelry case.

This one has TWO felt strips for earrings--they're purple in this case. The pattern for the jewelry case was a free one on Craftsy and came in a .pdf format. I try not to print out sewing instructions or patterns unless there is something to be traced and cut out. However, sometimes I make changes to the instructions and .pdf files aren't editable.

If the pattern is one I might make again in the future, I create a page for it in my quilting notebook, and make notes on any changes I've made. I also make note of where the pattern is found on my computer so I don't spend hours looking for it.

The jewelry case pattern calls for adding frog closures. I've never done frog closures and although I'm sure I could, I don't have any on hand and didn't want to have to buy any. Instead I used an elastic loop and a button for a closure. You can buy white (and maybe black?) elastic cording, but hair elastics for children (the elastic is more narrow in the ones for children) work perfectly and come in assorted colors.

We've worked on quite a variety of projects here this week. I've been loosely following along with the RSC15 scrappy color challenge. I got this pattern for a crayon quilt and thought it was just adorable! We have a fairly bland, unadorned playroom in our house for the grandkids and I thought this quilt would be a great addition to it.

With both of those in mind, I pulled out my medium blue scraps (the color for the month) and cut out the templates for the quilt and made my first crayon. I thought it turned out really cute! I figured I would just make one crayon each month as each color is announced and by the end of the year, I should have a cute crayon quilt to hang in the playroom!

While I worked on the crayon quilt, I cut out a bunch of blue 2.5-inch squares and gave them to Laura to sew together. You can see in this picture what happens when I'm not overseeing the process! Notice the finger poking up through the middle of the piece? Laura smiled for the camera (mostly because she thought it was funny that I wanted her to poke her finger in the hole!) but she was NOT happy to find there was a hole in her quilt!

All's well that ends well and here's her little table runner. It still needs quilting, but that's work for another week.

My main task for this week was to get to the flimsy stage on Hunter's quilt. If you remember, last week, I had the pieces CAREFULLY placed on the design board. Well...Laura and I went down to the studio Monday morning and I had to leave to do something. When I came back, this is what I found--an empty design board!

Laura had "helped" me by removing all my pieces and neatly stacking them into two separate piles! Gee, thanks, Laura!

After arranging my blocks a SECOND time, I sewed them all together, using the webbing method that Bonnie Hunter uses. It worked really well and I was able to quickly sew the rows together and then assemble the whole top. I was amazed at how fast it all went!

By Saturday morning I had the entire top assembled and all the borders added. The inner border is supposed to be "blaze orange." That's an important color to hunters because it's the color of the vests they wear to keep them from shooting each other rather than a deer!

Meanwhile, Laura worked on her quilt too, carefully sewing the blocks into rows. I've been pleasantly surprised at how much more accurate her seams are and she's even doing better at pressing. Again, she's smiling for the camera, but upset with me because I'm not pinning her rows together for her...

Have you ever heard the story of the shoemaker's elves? A shoemaker and his wife scrape together enough money to buy the materials to make one pair of shoes. They cut them out and then go to bed. During the night, these elves come and sew the shoes together for them. The couple find the shoes in the morning, sell them and buy the materials to make two more pairs of shoes, which they then cut out again and again the elves come and sew them for them...and the story continues. I don't really remember the point of the whole story, BUT, I have figured out that "I" am one of those elves! While Laura is sleeping (in the early morning, not at night) I get up and prepare one or two projects for her to sew. When she wakes up and then it's time for us to go to the quilt studio to sew, she finds a project ready and waiting for her to begin sewing! Here is the first set of rows pinned and waiting next to her machine for her to find and work on that day.

And here is her completed top! As she has reminded me several times, it still needs borders, but that's also another project for next week. This elf needs to find the right fabric and cut it out while she's not around!

Here's a "behind-the-scenes" shot of her holding up the quilt. We both got the giggles as she stepped up on the stool to hold the quilt. She's only 4'10" and so not really tall enough to hold it and keep it from dragging on the floor.

One last note this week, in between pinning the additional rows of Laura's quilt together, I worked on the sashing and cornerstones for the Grand Illusion Mystery quilt. I got the sashing all sewn (correctly!) and I found this really cute teal/turquoise fabric that also has some green and pink that match the colors of the quilt. It seems to be a perfect addition.

And with that, I'll close for this week and plan to Get More Done...tomorrow!