Friday, April 17, 2015

Orange you glad to see me?

Progress, we're making progress. We've made an offer on a house here, and had it accepted. We had an inspection yesterday, and found that there are issues. Sigh. The next step will be to go back to the owners to see if they will work with us on the problems.

I must say, though, walking through the house with the inspector, I kept thinking about our Saginaw house and imagining what would be said about our lovely antique. Yikes.

We're living in an Extended Stay hotel. It is not a Residence Inn. We have two rooms for less than sixty dollars a night. (Hey, we're working with engineers here, it's all about billable hours.) As I continually relocate stuff so I can cook (on two burners and a toaster oven that we finally broke down and bought two weeks ago), I keep reminding myself that this is a First World Problem, and that I am blessed that I will have somewhere else to go in just a few weeks.

Mostly I'm writing to let you know that Step Three will be delayed until next week, hopefully by Tuesday. I have worked through the block to make sure the numbers work. I still have diagrams to make and words to write.

The upside is that you'll have a bit more time to catch up on any missed steps before the cost goes up. Just click on the link to my Craftsy store in the side bar to get the pattern downloads.

Meanwhile, here is one of my favorite tips for saving time while piecing.

I am sure that I'm not the only one who has carried a neatly organized stack of units to the sewing machine, somehow twisting them when setting them down. Unfailingly I don't even notice the mistake until I've sewn all the repeats.

What I do to help avoid this (my engineer hubby says "idiot proof" is impossible, the best we can hope for is "idiot resistance"), is sort out my units onto a ruler. If it's tough to tell right from wrong side, I take a moment to make sure all of the pieces are right sides up.

I use assembly line sewing to keep my units organized. By not cutting the thread between the units I can carry the lot over to the ironing board and back without losing any pieces, and everything stays in order.

When it comes time to sew the cross seams, the connecting stitches act as my pins to help get those perfect intersections. I think you can see that there is hardly any thread, maybe one or two stitches between the pieces,

For many years, all of my adult life really, I have hated orange. I was scarred by an early burnt orange and brown quilt incident, a story for another day. Now I love it. It's so cheerful!

But brown, still not so much. And yet practically every house we've looked at in Green Bay is decorated in brown. The house we are buying is painted deep, dark browns, even black, inside. I wonder if there was an ordinance or something. The Green Bay Packers' colors are green and gold, so I suppose it could be worse. Still, the paint mixer at my local hardware store is about to become my new best friend.

Friday, April 3, 2015

My week as a statue

That my work week started on April Fools' Day should have been the first clue. I woke up a little muzzy headed, so I made a bee line for the coffee maker. We have a Keurig thingy, and I knew that I was down to my last precious two pods of coffee. I popped in the pod and pushed brew, hoping I could make it to the end of the cycle before doing something really stupid.

Nope. I forgot to put in a mug to catch the one thing between me and a day of mental missteps. That it took me a second or two to remember what a mug was and where to find one in just testament to my dire need of caffeine.

Finally, the remaining coffee was delivered to my cup. Knowing that I only had one pod left, I decided that I would pour the missed coffee from the tray into my mug. It was then that I knocked the coffee cup off of the counter and down my right leg.

Still lacking that first dose of mind clearing coffee, it took me another second or two to realized that the coffee was damned hot and I really wanted to be out of those pants. I was actually busy wondering how I might gather up the spilled coffee. As I dropped my drawers I wondered if I would break any teeth if I tried to lick coffee up off the counter. I decided against it.

After applying a cool, wet towel to my scalded leg, and finding a clean pair of pants, I managed to make, and consume the last pod of coffee without further bodily harm.

We've finally figured out that we can afford to buy a house in Green Bay without waiting for the house in Saginaw to sell. It will be a stretch, and we won't be having any fun until the other house is sold, but it will be better than living in limbo. So now house hunting has gone into high gear.

While out and about on Wednesday, the magnetic phone holder in my car dropped off the dash board. We live and die by GPS around Green Bay (we just can't get our bearings). And the one day that I spent running around town, where I would really rack up the steps, I realized that I'd lost my Fitbit.

After rummaging through the car, and ransacking our tiny little apartment for forty-five minutes, I realized that I had changed jeans twice after the coffee debacle. The Fitbit was tucked in the pocket the pair of jeans I changed out of after I changed out of the coffee incident. And then mourned all the missed steps that would never be counted. (Kent and I gave each other Fitbits for Christmas. He's down 26 pounds and I'm down 16. It's working for us when nothing else did.)

House hunting is not fun. Suddenly all of the houses we've been considering are being rapidly sold to someone else. We feel a little panicked. We're hoping for a similar rush in Saginaw, but, always being able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, we are certain we are doomed to wait until the zombie apocalypse for the house to sell.

I'm hoping that April is done messing with me. I've given her more than her designated day to play her pranks on me. Since I'm still out of coffee pods, and there is a very busy road between me and the nearest coffee source, I'm not at all certain that I'm in the clear.

This week's motto:
Sometimes you're the pigeon and sometimes you're the statue.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Five shades of grape


We have been, and will be, living between for a while. I feel a little like a secret agent, I can't tell you where I am! I've been splitting my time between Green Bay and Saginaw, but the last thing I want to do is spell out that either place is empty and open for nefarious shopping.

I can tell you that I love Green Bay! They have five, FIVE, quilt shops. FIVE! Each one has a different style and inventory. Being the supportive shopper that I am, I managed to find something wonderful to bring home with me at each shop.

My first quilting mission in GB was to find better purples for my Fine Romance quilt. It seems that I always want the color that isn't on the shelf, the color between the colors there. For this quilt, I wanted a purple that was the color of grape jelly, a rich purple that is not quite magenta, but definitely not a bluey periwinkle. No surprise that it was such a challenge to find. But with all these quilt shops available, I finally managed to find my five shades of grape.

One of my favorite part of designing quilts is figuring out how to use my fabric the most efficiently I can. Being that I consider myself an appliquist first, a piecer second, leaving the largest scraps possible gives me more applique opportunities.

Since we need so little of our fabrics for the pieced blocks I first cut the square for the quarter-square triangles from the end opposite the selvage, which left just enough to cut the strip for our smaller squares.


(I have no idea why these pictures are coming up rotated. A painfully slow internet connection might have something to do with it.)

I just love it when strip cutting ends up with so little waste. The fabric is doubled over in this picture, giving me the four squares that I needed for my hourglass block.

Moving is such an emotional roller coaster. We are excited to start a new chapter, and having tons of fun looking for just the right place to enjoy life as empty nesters. Selling a house is a lot like going to prom without a date. We are helpless wallflowers as we wait for someone else to love the home we've loved for so many years.

My new favorite saying:
They say that God never gives you more than you can handle. God must think I'm a badass.




 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fast Four-Patches


Some call it chain piecing, but I learned it as "assembly-line sewing" from my hero, Eleanor Burns, way back in the dark ages when rotary cutting was new. Quilters often believe that the big benefit from the process is to save on thread, but that is really just a nice side bonus.

I really do practice what I preach when it comes to staying organized. Just as the pattern indicates, I sort my pieces into zip top bags as I cut them.

I hate, hate, hate looking for things, and the more I fumble around looking for the right piece the more the chances improve that I will settle on the wrong one. Sorting the pieces so that I have only the shapes I need for the next step makes it harder to make a mistake.

(My hubby, a mechanical engineer who really does know how to do everything, suggests that "idiot proof" is impossible. The best we can hope for is "idiot resistance".)

Before I start, I set out the parts in the configuration in which they will be sewn. If it's hard to tell right from wrong side on a fabric, I take the time to flip them all right sides up in each of their stacks.

Now, all I have to pay attention to is the quality of my seam allowance. The top pair is sewn together, then the bottom pair, then the top pair and then the bottom pair, all the way to the bottom of the stacks.

My goal is always to have just a single stitch in the air between the pairs. When it comes time to sew the cross seam, the thread will act as my pin, holding the first seam in just the right place for that perfect intersection.

I'll be back in a couple of days with pressing strategies and more sneaky piecing tricks for sewing on the triangles.

In the mean time, I'm working on setting up a Pinterest board, and a linky thingie so we can share our progress. I hope you're working away out there, are you? Once we get these sashing strips out of the way, it's all fun and games.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Open House


The long-awaited other shoe has finally dropped. The job transfer has come through and we finally know where we're headed. There are still some details to work out, but it seems that Kent and I will be moving to Green Bay, Wisconsin sometime this spring.



The time has come to say goodbye to our treasured home. We have lived here nearly twenty years. This wonderful old house is practically a member of the family.

We're hosting an Open House on Sunday, March 1st, from 2 - 4 pm.

Click Here for more information, and a tour of the house.



When the realtor, my mom and I turned the corner into the driveway, all those years ago, it was love at first sight. We hardly got past the back hall and into the kitchen (which was orange and black, for heavens sake!) before I was convinced that this house was the perfect place to raise my four rowdy boys. More than that, though, I felt like the house was choosing us.

We've left our mark on this historic old home, to be sure, a lot of living has gone on here in the past two decades. This house has been filled with love and laughter, even when times were hard. We've celebrated birthdays and graduations. We even had a bride come down the wonderful old staircase, something this mother of boys never expected to see.

It's magic here, it really is. I wonder who the house will choose next.


Monday, February 16, 2015

A Fine Romance - Step One, The Sashing Strips


It's all about between, which perfectly sums up my life since the beginning of the year. Personally, we're still waiting for that other shoe to drop. Any.day.now. And then there are these sashing strips. Simple shapes, right? Easy Peasy. Well, as it turns out, yes and no.

Electric Quilt is just the best for designing quilts, especially the piecing part. I use it all the time to build the framework for my applique designs. One of the functions I love the most is being able to print out rotary cutting instructions for each block. It's terrific! The default setting is to state the sizes to the nearest eighth of an inch, which is just right most of the time.

It wasn't until I'd stitched out all sixty-eight of my four-patches, and then added the half square triangles that it occurred to me to measure the thing. They were about an sixteenth of an inch shy!

I went back to EQ and selected to have the sizes print out to the nearest sixteenth of an inch. (Something I usually do automatically.) Darned if the squares weren't listed as a sixteenth of an inch larger!

Now I know that I already have some quilters shaking in their shoes because there are no many eighth of an inch measurements. For the life of me, I don't understand the fear. The eighths are as clearly marked as the quarters and halves! I could only imagine how heads would explode is I suggested that anything be cut to a sixteenth of an inch. (Even though it's only halfway between the eights, how hard is that?)

So I fussed around and found that by rounding up on some shapes and rounding down on others, and with some careful attention to seam allowance, the sashing strips come out to pretty close to the right size. So, my dear quilting friends, just stay vigilant about seam allowance and all will be well.

What I thought folks would get their knickers in a twist over was the zillions of four-patches. Strip piecing is not my friend, especially the part where I have to cut each segment individually. So I wrote the pattern for both strip piecing and cutting the individual squares.

Step One is posted here. I'll have two more blog posts on piecing strategies in the coming days.

And just because the cold and gray of winter is finally getting to me, and I can't stand how gray and lifeless this post looks, here is a gratuitous picture of preparing the large flower applique pieces.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Fine Romance


Let's do this thing! Because my life just isn't crazy enough, I think it's high time we get this party started!

I've posted the supply list and (fingers crossed) schedule for the release of the pattern steps over on Craftsy.

Click Here

Since things are still unsettled here I'm using the Craftsy Pattern Store to post the blocks. That may change once everything settles down, but for now it's the best I can do.

The introductory step has been posted for free. The individual steps will be posted initially for $1 each and will remain at that price for one month. After that, the price of each step will become $3. (Gotta keep you coming back, right?)


We're going to start with the boring stuff, the pieced sashing strips. I always start by doing my least favorite step. I was chatting with a friend recently who was working on a charming wool applique pattern. She had done all of the special blocks and had only the plain, boring scallop blocks for the edging left. She mentioned that she hoped she could keep with them, seeing how unappealing they were, long enough to finish the project. She gave me such a look when I explained that I would have started with them.

It's just my way of keeping a WIP from becoming a UFO. How many of us have projects that are nearly done? Often there is just one or two steps left to do, but after the interesting parts were done the project just lost all of its steam. Instead, by conquering the less glamorous steps first, while I'm still excited about the project, I can look forward to how much fun the rest of the work will be.

So, meet me back here on Sunday for the first step. I plan to have a stack of pieced sashing strips ready for show and tell. It could happen!