Jan 312013

Announcing the UFOs4Charity Project!

What is it, you ask? Part one: make charity quilts from my UFOs. I phrase it that way because many of my UFOs are not bed-quilt size projects, so they require some creativity to make bigger quilts from them. Part two: to encourage other quilters to do the same.

The idea for my project began with the urge to clear out all the clutter from my sewing room – projects I’d lost interest in, blocks from swaps that never made it to project status, leftovers from projects, stray blocks, scraps, and cull fabric. I’ve always enjoyed donating quilts to charity, and realized I could combine the two by taking my quilt clutter and turning it into charity quilts. I’ve set a personal goal of 100 quilts donated (yes, I have that much clutter in here), but you don’t have to promise that many to join in. One will do.

For that matter, you don’t have to use your UFOs to make charity quilts. But why not finish up a UFO or three and donate the result? You get the darn thing out of your closet and someone in need gets the warmth and comfort of a quilt. The same goes for the rest of your sewing room clutter. Turn it into charity quilts and you get the warm fuzzies of giving, someone else gets a warm quilt. I call that a win-win. Clearing your clutter also gives you space for new projects. I love new projects, don’t you?

Keep watching this blog for more about this project, I’m still brainstorming. Ideas? Suggestions? Leave a comment (I do moderate to keep spam out, so be patient).

And I will, of course, write about the quilts I make. So I’d better go make some, ttyl.

 January 31, 2013  Posted by at 8:04 pm Charity Quilts No Responses »
Jan 252013

I’ve been quilting! First I finished Spawn with the walking foot. It’s not bound yet, that will wait until a few other projects are quilted. I used a variegated blue thread (Superior’s Rainbow, which neither of my machines liked), although a lot of the blue that shows in the pic (or maybe it doesn’t show) is from the blue chalk I marked the lines with.  

And today, before breakfast, I quilted this quick little quilt – I love a fast project! Yep, all quilted in just over an hour, a record for me. It helps to choose a simple, fast design. And it helps to have a small project – only 25×32 inches. Don’t look too close – my speed shows up in the stitch length. Oh well, you can’t be fast AND perfect.


I am currently quilting Quilter’s Nightmare; did some straight line stitching around the creature, then free-motion quilted the creature itself. I wanted to get that part done before the quilt gets too stiff to reach the center readily. I used Hairball quilting in the body with a multi-color thread. I have more straight-line stitching planned, then more free-motion on the edges.


Also started the green and pink thing (which doesn’t have a working name) which is basted and stay-stitched. I did McTavishing (as demo’d by Leah Day) on one section of pink background. It works, but I decided I don’t like it well enough to do the other sections.

And I took advantage of a narrow window of good lighting and took some pics of older finished quilts. I’ll stick those up on flickr at some point. Not yet done – my year-end inventory.

 January 25, 2013  Posted by at 7:45 pm Quilting, Weekly Review No Responses »
Jan 192013

This is my second progress report for 2013, and the last one was Jan. 8th, so I can’t call it Week 2. Not so much done this time. About 2 days after the last progress report, my husband took a bad fall out in the workshop and injured his ankle. I’ve been playing nurse and doing his chores on top of mine ever since, which has cut severely into my sewing time.

Here are a few of the projects I have managed to work on:

Scrappy blocks, which I wrote about here. I have quilted in the ditch around the center portion on each one. Next up is to change machines and stitch around the outer edge. That’s partly to stabilize the sandwich and partly to see if the other machine still breaks the thread when straight-stitching with poly thread. Cotton thread in free-motion mode did not work well, but I wanted to do a little more testing before giving up on the machine.

Several AAQI quilts. One is all quilted, and I’m thinking of adding a little applique on top. The other two still await basting. I sewed up some green HST units hanging around on my sewing table, and when I ironed them they looked like trees. So I made trees and simple pieced landscapes.  And I’ve got one more little top I haven’t taken a pic of yet, it needs something more but inspiration has not struck.

I wanted to empty and refill the dark green bobbin before I tackled the quilting on the first AAQI piece above, looked around for some scraps to sew up or something, and grabbed three leftover little blocks and some green strips. Sewed the green strips on, still had bobbin thread. Well, let’s see, I could add a yellow frame, I can use dark green thread for that if I’m sewing onto the green. Finished that and still had bobbin thread. Okay, fine, more green, but maybe a light one this time.

Last seam, the bobbin finally gave out an inch from the end. I set the blocks aside and quilted the AAQI piece, but then my machine was sitting there with green thread, and the blocks were calling out to me to finish them. They wanted some pink, just a little bit. I succumbed to the siren song and added the pink.  Then more dark green (I still had that green thread on the machine, an old spool I wanted to use up). Now they looked done, and looked even better together:
I still couldn’t let it go. Four pieces of background and I could have this thing together so fast … I gotta do it. And I couldn’t resist the eye-popping pink polkadot. I don’t really like pink, and I’ve never cared for polkadots, but it sure sets off the blocks in this little piece. Now I need to dig out something for the backing.

And I’m doing another Improvi-Robin from Venus de Hilo. Here’s what I’m sending – found it when digging for some black fabric for Xmas gifts. Leftover shoo-fly blocks from a quilt I made a long time back, I’m guessing 1997, from an online swap. I’m not sure why I picked that swap, I had to go out and buy the fabrics as I had no solids in my stash. Uncharacteristically, I finished the top within a year of getting the blocks back, but then it sat. And sat. And sat. I finally had a longarm quilter quilt the thing about 5 years ago, and it’s done. These leftovers aren’t done, and I had no plan for them.  Then a brainstorm – Improvi-Robin! This will be a great challenge for the other Robiners to get creative. When I went to make the label I grabbed one I’d found on the floor recently when I was cleaning up, which I’d written in 1997 for some swap or other and hadn’t used. I added on to it, providing space for the other players to add their name.

Now I’m feeling the need to get back to doing some actual quilting, in between bouts of organizing my sewing room. I should take some before pics for that project too.

 January 19, 2013  Posted by at 4:57 pm Improvi-Robin, Weekly Review 1 Response »
Jan 152013

I probably should have called this weekly series something other than “of the Week” because I’ve already proven I can’t get my posts out on a weekly schedule. I’ll keep trying, I’ve got plenty more UFOs to write about!

One of my younger UFOs, this one is only 11 months old. But it did get put aside in favor of other projects, which is all it takes to become an UnFinished Object around here. My usual definition is if it goes in a bin, it’s a UFO. If it stays out on my sewing table or on the design wall it’s still a WIP even if I’m working on something else. The grey area is items that get tucked here and there without making it into a bin. And scraps are not UFOs until sewn together and then set aside, like this set. In February of last year they looked like this: 

I started by sewing scraps together, whatever fit. As the chunks got bigger I started aiming for rectangular shapes, and when I ran out of scraps I trimmed them all up with 90º corners. I should note that I wasn’t truly out of scraps. No quilter is ever out of scraps. Just working with scraps generates more scraps. But I’d used up the ones I could readily get my hands on and was ready to work on another project.

Last week I pulled them out, after a little bit of a search during which I found two other sets of scrap blocks, and added the dark framing strips. In true improv style, I cut a bunch of strips without calculating whether I had enough fabric, although I knew I might not and kept my strips narrow so I’d get more of them from my piece of fabric. They ranged from 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch.

Then I dove in and sewed on strips until I ran out of fabric. At that point I went in search of another fabric, and choose the same color but lighter and in a print. I decided one side lighter might look funny so I added an extra strip. Each block has 3 dark strips and 2 lighter strips framing the scrappy part. (Try not to drop that S when writing about your scrappy projects!) In hindsight, I could have left them with framing on just three sides, but I’d had a complete frame in mind at the time. 

Next I switched to light fabrics for the background. If I were sewing the entire top together I would have used the lights as broad sashing but I plan to quilt this one with a quilt-as-you-go method. Cutting 4 1/2 inch wide strips from as many light tan/golds as I could find, I sewed them onto all four sides.

My blocks are now nice and big, of varying sizes ranging from about 14 to 18 inches. Next up is layer and quilt – good fodder to practice my FMQ skills on. I’m leaning toward feathers. 

 January 15, 2013  Posted by at 9:24 am UFO of the Week 1 Response »
Jan 092013

Lots of progress this week! I finished two quilts. One I bragged about yesterday, the other is Big Lattice, aka twin-monster, so named while struggling to quilt it. But I did get it quilted, and Tuesday morning I finished getting the binding on. Here’s a quick snapshot to prove it’s bound, a full picture will await either enough clear weather to clean off the deck railing, or better photo bulbs. After looking at the forecast, I’d better go order the bulbs.

I also threw some scraps together to start what I hope will become donations for the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative. The green HST units were sitting around in a baggie, and I needed a betweener that could take green thread, so I sewed them together. When I ironed them, they looked like trees (one-sided trees, to be sure, but still trees, in a sunlit forest no less). I think these will make two AAQI quilts, with three trees each.

I had to trim the other green one after carefully calculating the layout based on a finished size of 9X12 inches (the maximum for AAQI), while forgetting the outer seam allowance ends up inside the binding. I had calculated based on the finished size of the squares I cut, so my allegedly 9X12 plan ended up 9 3/8 by 12 3/8 (would have been 1/2 with a binding). After some thought, I trimmed it down (photo taken before trimming). You might be wondering why I ended up with 3/8 instead of 1/2 – unless you do it too. Simple, my scant 1/4 inch seam isn’t scant enough. Not that I care.

What else did I do? (One week and I have to consult my journal to remember what I did, is that pitiful or what?)

Okay, I also added framing strips around some random scrap blocks. Ran out of the dark solid fuchsia so I grabbed a coordinating print, then decided they’d look better with at least two sides of the print. I’m not sure they do, but this is destined to be a charity quilt, so it’s good enough. Otherwise I might start adding some blue strips, then some – who knows? I never do.

And I made this little wallhanging, which is ready to quilt, to use up some scraps that were lying around. I pieced together the corners leftover from cutting circles out of squares with pink strips leftover from another project, then found the little stack of split squares when cleaning off a shelf to move it. That stack, and a few other odd tidbits, ended up on my sewing table, so now I’ve either got to turn them into WIPs or toss them all into a box and turn them into UFOs. I’ve got enough of the latter, thank you.

 January 9, 2013  Posted by at 6:43 am Weekly Review No Responses »
Jan 082013

Off to a flying start, I’ve finished the first quilt of 2013 today. It’s been sitting there patiently waiting for a binding, and now it has one. Here it is, all done:

And here’s a closeup to show the binding, (compare to yesterday’s post):

I also washed it and laid it out to dry, as flat as I could get it, backside up:

While I’m showing off my finishes, I might as well show these two as well. I finished them last month, but didn’t get photos until yesterday. First is the horse quilt I worked on all last year (off and on), finally done. It now resides on our couch. (Sorry about the imperfect camera angle.)

And second is Squiggles, which I quilted while following along with Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting Project. The binding waited until I’d bound the horse quilt. It now hangs on the wall in our guest bathroom.

I haven’t been able to get really good photos lately, especially of the bigger quilts. My usual photo setup is to hang the quilts from the deck railing, but for the last several weeks it has looked more or less like this:

My only option is indoors. I have a couple of photo-lights but they have the wrong bulbs in them. When I went to order better (brighter) ones, they were out of stock. Such is life. Someday I will get good photos!

 January 8, 2013  Posted by at 9:23 am Finishing 2 Responses »
Jan 072013

Here’s my list of quilts I intend to finish in the first quarter of 2013 for the Finish-Along (see button in sidebar).

1) Split Bits – basted and ready to quilt. Small wall-hanging, 26X33 inches. The bits were pieced from the corners leftover from cutting circles. (The circles are still waiting for a project to belong to.)

2) SW2 (second of a pair of quilts with a SouthWest theme) – quilted and waiting for binding. About lap size, 47X 58 inches, although I plan to add a hanging sleeve and make it a larger wallhanging. This one and SW1 (still in the UFO bin) were my solution to a pile of blocks from a mystery quilt that did not turn out well. Making two quilts worked, all the blocks together did not work.

3) Quilter’s Nightmare – basted and ready for quilting. Wallhanging size, 34X46 inches. This one was fun. I started with random leftover bits and bobs that had WOW or TOT combined with color. As it grew, the creature appeared, a quilter’s nightmare. I added some needle and thread print fabric as I finished it.

4) Stepchild – working name for another scrap quilt done right after #3 – so I call it the stepchild of Quilter’s Nightmare. I started with blue scraps from trimming the ends of binding scraps I used on some Christmas gifts. Small wallhanging, 20X24 inches. Basted and ready for quilting.

5) Big Lattice – twin size, 74X88. I named it Big because I’ve got a couple more small lattice projects started, stashed away in a plastic bin until I can find time for them. Quilted and waiting for binding.

6) Scrap Blocks Set A – and yes, that means I have several more sets of scrap blocks. I sew scraps together when I need a piecing fix between quilting and binding, but am resisting starting a new project. Of course, the scrap blocks become a project sooner or later. This set is destined for a twin-size quilt, after enlarging and generous sashing. Shown is not the complete set of 24 blocks. Needs more piecing, then will quilt-as-you-go so I don’t have to wrestle with the whole thing in my sewing machine.

7) Fractured – currently 36X42 inches, this top needs some border work to become a crib-size quilt. I want to piece at least a little bit of border to add some more small triangles around it.

That’s enough. I hope to finish more than that in the next 3 months, but I’m not sure yet what I will work on next.

 January 7, 2013  Posted by at 6:27 am Finishing 1 Response »
Jan 062013

To start this new series, UFO of the Week, I’m picking the one I’ve been working on lately. Yep, it’s all quilted and waiting for binding.

I was inspired to make a lattice quilt after seeing a picture of one somewhere, probably flickr. It’s a simple concept – sashing with posts around print squares instead of pieced blocks. And I had some autumn-themed 6 inch squares hanging about begging to be used, so I jumped in. I didn’t pre-plan any of it, just decided what size sashing to use, cut a bunch of fabric, and started sewing.

After I had squares with sashing sewn to one side I put them up on my design wall and worked out a layout that used all my blocks.  I didn’t realize until I went to put the final rows together that I should have had one less diagonal row in the middle. Not a really big deal, but I did have to sew part of one seam, then several other seams, before coming back to finish the first seam.

The alternative would have been to trim the outside posts, as I did to the sashing in this QAYG quilt: but I wanted the sashing to float on the dark background. After all, the sashing is supposed to be the focal point in this style of quilt. It worked, but not as simply as I would have liked.

And the end result was a bit long for its width. As you can see in the top image above, I had to add a strip to each side before the outer border to make the quilt end up twin sized.

Speaking of twin, this one was a pain in the patootie to quilt. My 17 year-old Pfaff has a measly 7 inch throat and I used poly batting. I’d forgotten how lofty most poly batting is, I used to use one of the thin ones before I switched to cotton. It took a lot of squishing to get to the center of the quilt. I swear, from now on, anything bigger than crib is going to be quilted in sections, or rows or blocks, then put together.

Somewhere in a plastic shoebox reside a couple more (much smaller) lattice projects I started from the scraps from this one, hence the name for this one – Big Lattice.

 January 6, 2013  Posted by at 3:27 pm UFO of the Week 3 Responses »
Jan 042013

Now that 2013 is underway, it’s time for the “here’s what I plan to do this year” post. So – here’s what I plan to do this year –

1) Finish at least 24 quilts. I am ever optimistic about how much I can get done in a year, even though years are a lot shorter than they used to be. I managed to finish 12 quilts last year, on top of moving, selling the old house, establishing new gardens and orchard here, and generally a very busy year outside the quilt studio. So this year I should be able to finish twice as many, right? No problem (she says in January).

To help me along in the finish department I plan to do the 2013 Finish-Along, this year hosted by SheCanQuilt.  In fact, I’ve sat on a couple that are waiting for bindings in order to have them qualify as finishes for the Finish-Along.

2) Follow along with Leah Day’s Express Your Love quilt project (with lessons on filler quilting) except I’m going to do a Spirit Horse instead of a goddess. With a lovely flowing mane like the hair on Leah’s goddess, begging for lots of filler quilting. I haven’t actually drawn my horse yet, he’s still in my head. The same post linked above has some other things going on I plan to follow along with, like UFO Sundays.

3) Hoffman Challenge. I did this once before (nah, didn’t win), have toyed with doing it again but most years I don’t think about it until about 3 weeks before the deadline and that’s a little late to order the fabric and get a quilt made. This year I have already ordered it and have an idea how I want to use it. I did break my No New Fabric rule to get it though. Guess I’d better make sure I follow through on this one, make it worth the guilt. All other fabric for it will be from stash.

4) Another Improvi-Robin from Venus de Hilo. I had so much fun with the last one I have to do it again. And I already know what I’m sending for my starter piece – but it will remain a secret until it’s in the mail. Interested? Deadline for joining is Jan. 14.

5) Work entirely from stash. (Except for the 1/2 yard of Hoffman fabric for their challenge, that is.) I have plenty, more than I can comfortably store and organize. I’ve had it in my head to try and use up my ENTIRE stash before buying any new fabric. I decided to make this an aspiration rather than a goal or challenge, because I expect to end up with all darkish browns at some point. That might be more challenge than I want to deal with. Though it does have possibilities – hmmm – well, no rush, I’ve got years yet before I reach that point.

6) Overhaul this website. I want to add a lot more content. First up will be a regular “UFO of the Week” post, which will start as soon as I have a few posts written ahead so I can stay regular. Looks like I’m going to need a Week in Review post every week as well. More tutorials are planned, no promise on when they’ll get posted since they rely on photos, and I tend to get behind on editing. I also need a few piddly little things like a newsletter sign-up. And redo my banner which is a little bit too long. Boring stuff like that.

7) Last but greatest, what should be a big announcement but I’m still working out the details, my newest project – UFOs4Charity. I’m setting a personal goal to finish as many of my UFOs as are suitable, and donating them to charity. I will donate to any charity that accepts quilts, whether long-established like the Linus Project or short-term disaster relief like eQuilter’s Hurricane Sandy drive.  And I want to inspire all the rest of you to follow along and do the same. Those half-done projects buried in the bottom of plastic bins because you no longer like them? Someone else will love them if you only get them finished and shipped. I plan to provide helpful info on how to do that quickly and easily, so look for more about this soon.