Ode to an underrated tool

Of course I am talking about your seam ripper.    This little gem of a gadget is ubiquitous.   Most people have one,  those of us who sew and quilt have lots,  and have probably lost lots of them over the years.    They are so indispensable to the process of making with fabric that sewing machines come with one.   You can get one for about a dollar,  you can spend some serious cash on one with a fancy handle.     My beautiful maple wood turned one that matches the wood on one of my guitars was a gift.     A nice comfy handle is helpful if you need to remove machine quiltIMG_2231ing.   That usually takes a long time and is accompanied with a great deal of frustration and sometimes even anger.   A good tool helps make it better.    But a seam ripper for more than just undoing poorly executed stitches.    It splits apart chain pieced units faster than scissors with less chance of snipping something critical and it opens up seam allowances when you need to spiral a bulky intersection.     It can be used to keep you from burning your fingers when pressing a seam by holding it in place.   At the machine it can help guide materials under the foot, once again keeping your fingers safe.     So here’s to the lowly seam ripper.    Be sure you have one is every sewing bag and box,  and I even have them attached to each machine.    Oh and just like scissors, needles and pins,  they lose their sharpness over time.    Is it time to treat yourself to a new one?

On March 2,  we will have the final meeting for barbara Brackmans Civil War Quilt.    50 blocks,  Five possible settings,   I promise that as finishes come in I will post photos.    It has been an amazing project.      Our next Block of the Month is called Alaska,  by Laundry Basket Quilts,  and hopefully it will begin in April.   There are still spaces to join so check out the details on the Alaska page.     You will also want to mark your calendars for our annual Mardi Gras celebration,  Fat Quarter Tuesday!!   This year it is March 5.   If you wear beads to the shoppe you can have your fat quarters for a dollar each!!   I play some jazz,  and if anyone has a good slow cooker gumbo recipe I would love to have it.    See you soon!!!

 

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Our inner critic

Once more this week the discussion in the shoppe turned to our own voice being the harshest one during a critique.    It is often also the first one to offer criticism.  We have all battled with our inner critic,  and many times we wish we could banish it completely.   This would not be a good plan.   The inner voice that rings alarm bells can help prevent mistakes,  help us fix issues,  and also help us learn new things.    It is when it gets harsh that we need to moderate it.

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Jake loves you even if the points don’t match

It can help to quiet it down by refusing to compare your own output to what anyone else produces.   It can also help to keep in mind the ultimate reason you created your project.   Did you do it to learn something?   Did you need the finished product for some purpose?  Did you do it to show love to the recipient?   Did you do it because someone paid you to do it?   Maybe the best reason,  I did it because I love to make quilts ( insert any noun in that sentence by the way )

The other day I experienced this in a profound way.   As many of you know I play

acoustic acoustic guitar classic close up

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classical guitar.       The local guitar society is having a concert on Feb 24, and I am going to play a piece.   At an informal gathering of the group we had a dress rehearsal of sorts.   Usually as the others play and I await my turn my thoughts are comparative.    Things like, wow I could never play that,   How come when I play that piece it doesn’t sound like that,  and perhaps worst of all,  why can’t I play that well?    I know the practical answers to these kinds of questions,  and yes I am currently the only one in the group who hasn’t been playing for decades, or even making a living at guitar in some way.    But the thought that calmed my nerves better than any other strategy I have tried is simply to remember that I want to share a beautiful piece of music with anyone who will listen.   Any time I had one of those negative thoughts I added to it in my head,  “But I just want to play this pretty song for them.”    It did take some effort,  but it worked.   So I share my experience with you hoping that it will enrich your own experience and allow your inner critic to whisper instead of shout.

Tomorrow is Crazy Quilt Club,    Tuesday is the rescheduled Hand stitchers club,  and on Wednesday we will have the traditional Kaleidoscope workshop.   There is still room call to register.    You can also still register for Alaska,  the Block of the month that will start in April.    I had thought it would be March, but the fabrics are still not in so we will have to wait.     Hopefully we will miss all the bad weather by starting a little later in the year.   Come join us!!!

 

 

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Love is in the air

I promised to tell you more about the next Block of the Month Program but first I thought I should address Love.   Valentine’s Day is next week.   My husband and I have been a couple for 30 years,  and Valentine’s Day has always been important to us.  Our second Date, where he met my family for the first time ( and brought chocolate and roses ) was on Valentine’s.   As we dated we always made each other cards.  Over the years it got a IMG_2191little out of hand,  but once we were parents the handmade cards had a different character.      I received the one pictured here yesterday from my nephews.      I think every Mom, Aunt and Grandma has one or more like this tucked away somewhere,   But this game is not just for kids.    To help you out all next week,   our heart and Key shaped buttons are buy 2 get one free,  and all other buttons, ribbons and lace by the yard are 15% off.

And Now off to Alaska.   No really,  our next Block of the Month is called Alaska.   It is from Laundry Basket Quilts and Edyta Sitar.   The blue and cream Batiks are by Andover.     The six month program is scheduled to begin in March and will be done before the Holidays.   How nice is that?    The focus in this one is on connecting designs from one block to the next and creating secondary pattern.    The straight line piecing creates the illusion of curves, and the results will impress even the grumpiest critic.    I am taking registrations now.   I so can’t wait to get started on this one.   Alaska

We will run it in our usual manner,  meeting on the first Saturday of the month,  where you will get your paperwork, fabrics and any other instruction needed.  Then you can stay and stitch or go and get on with your day.     If you miss a meeting just let me know and you can come in later and pick up your materials.     My job as the teacher/mentor is to get you working on and finishing projects that you love.     If you need some other type of customization of the program please ask and we will do our best to work it out.    I love sharing exciting projects with you, so please join us for this one.   All you have to do now is tell me you want in and give me your contact info.    Easy.    All the nitty-gritty stuff is on a handout you can pick up in store,  or I will be making the Alaska BOM page public by the end of today.

Be Happy and spend some time with someone or something you love this week.

 

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Anticipation

Mountain Star MedallionThis has been a frigid and snowy week.   Our workshop,  Mountain Star Medallion will now start on Tuesday February 5.  Hopefully it will be a bit warmer.   If you want to join us bring your neutral colored scraps,  small rotary setup and a chunk of template material, as well as your machine sewing setup.    We will make the string blocks on Tuesday and set them the following session, dates TBA.    If you have not done string piecing before,  you should try it.     It can completely change your outlook on scraps.    I have seen people get completely obsessed, and nearly use up the scrap piles in their sewing rooms.

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This was early morning Wednesday,  from my kitchen window.    It is one of my favorite photos I have taken recently.   It caught the early morning light that comes streaming over the top of my house and hits the edge of the woods in the back.   I love that fleeting time of day all year,  but the change in light is particularly obvious when there is a fresh snowfall.   The sense that something good is coming just flows down the edge of the woods as the sun gets higher.   It usually happens as I have that first cup of coffee so the caffeine could have something to do with it.     I was just a little too slow to get the deer in the shot,  but you can see the tracks in the middle ground.   There is a sense of hope and anticipation of a warm happy day to come.   I may make a quilt from this one,  but not till the summer.     This time of year I need brighter and bolder fabrics to play with.

Which is why I am having such a hard time waiting.    My fabric sales rep from Benartex and Northcott was here Wednesday and I am super excited for the new fabrics to start arriving.     I know I have chosen things that you will love because as I sat at dinner I couldn’t stop thinking of all the exciting projects we can make with them.    As I mentioned last week,  the excitement of a new project is hard to resist.    SO lets all use the sense of anticipation ( and some snow day time ) to finish a current project or two so there is room for the new ones to come.

Next week I’ll tell you all about the next block of the month.    I am super excited for that too.    —   Ok now everybody sing,—-    An-ti-ci-pa-a-a-tion,  it’s makin’ me wait.

 

 

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Finish Line

This week I helped a very new quilter finish her first quilt.   A baby quilt for a grand-daughter,  made from Mom’s T-shirts.   Our new quilter faced several challenges along the way and found some steps particularly tricky.    However vocal she was about how she thought it was difficult and had she known she might not have started the project,  she finished it.     When the quilting was done and I picked it up off the table to look at it she expressed happy surprise that it did not fall apart.   ( I knew it was sound but she was full of doubts ) I helped her trim the excess batting and backing and we turned the back to the front and sewed it down.   She nearly jumped for joy.    She has asked me not to post photos yet so I can’t show it to you,   but I will guess that you know the sense of

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Four Square,  a great first quilt

triumph that comes going when a job is hard.   Once you have felt it,   the anticipation of it can carry us through.    It is especially important for as beginner to get that at the conclusion of their first project.

 

It has been my experience that if the first project isn’t finished that there will be no more projects.   So why do we as quilters end up with so many WIPs,  UFOs,  and TOADs??   ( Works in Progress,   UnFinished Objects,   Trashed Objects Abandoned in Disgust )   We have gotten very creative in giving them names,  which tells us just how common they are.   Why?   Because we have forgotten the joy at the finish line.    We are seduced by the new fabrics, the new patterns,  the coolest new class, tool, or video,  and the possibility of a spectacular finish like we see in the ads.    That excitement is easy.   The finish can be hard,  it requires work,  time,  money,  learning something new (which is really good for us but hard) so we forget the joy at the finish line and opt for the excitement of the new because it is easier.

This unfortunate situation is not new.   I have a now huge collection of vintage projects that are not finished.   It is also a situation that can be remedied somewhat by having a good support group.   Sewing circles at church,   Guilds,  and yes your local fabric Shoppe.    We started doing Work in Progress Wednesdays in part to help you get that high from crossing the finish line.    Mountain Star Medallion

The workshop for Mountain Star is Tuesday,   there is room so you can come join us if you would enjoy.   This lovely piece is just a top at the moment, I reached a place where I like it very much and want to make it bigger,  to set it like an Amish diamond in the square,  but I just don’t have the place to hang it if it gets bigger and I don’t want to go so big it fits my queen size mattress.   SO it has not been done yet.   Of course as a class sample I will happily tell you that without batting I can store it easier and of course I need to show you the back in class to illustrate a point.    Just imagine how happy I will be some day in the future when I do get it finished and it hangs in my home.

Crazy Quilt Club will meet tomorrow.   It is a week later than usual, but the weather last week was a problem.    So come out and get the nudge you need to finish something,  or g ahead and start something new,  it should lead to a nice finish!!!

 

 

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Bells and Whistles

As I watch the snow flurries this morning I am glad that I live close to the shoppe,  and also glad that I have some great things to be working on right now.    If you have ever talked about sewing machines with me you know that I tell beginners on a regular basis that they don’t need the extra bells and whistles to get a machine that will help them learn quilting.   That most quilts simply require a machine that makes a good stitch with the proper tension,  and everything else is an add on that can cost cash.    In this philosophy,   there are several of my regular customers who use featherweight machines as their primary machine.   I even have one lady who regularly uses her treadle.    Not too many people these days think of electricity as an extra.

If you got a new machine for the holidays, or if you have one that has features on it that you haven’t ever used, I urge you to spend some time in the spirit of curiosity and play to get out some extra fabric  ( I know that you all have lots of fabric )  and try out those funky decorative stitches.   If you use a light colored fabric and a dark colored thread you can even write on the sampler what the settings are so you can use it for real more easily.    I do this kind of thing whenever I get a new or new to me machine.    It’s how I discovered that the buttonhole attachment that is as big as the featherweight machine it goes with makes the best buttonhole hands down of any machine I have sewn on.   Go figure.    Those bells and whistles on our machines drive the price up and so many of us don’t use them once we have the machine home.     In our Make friends with your Machine class we make a stitched out sampler as the first part of the workshop.    It is a workshop designed for beginners,  but there is benefit to a stitched out sampler any time you get a new machine.    You can see that I have left lots of room on the one pictures because my new to me machine is a Viking Designer One,  and it has lots of bells and whistles.   Please ignore the date stamp,  don’t know where that came from,  I took the pictures this morning.      Thank you Thank You to the person who gave this machine to me.   I am having a great time with it.    img_7151

Once you have gotten the basics down,   don’t hesitate to jump in with a bigger project.    There is really no better way to learn than to jump in and do it.   So I am quilting a hundred year old quilt top that is queen sized.    Drunkards path,   hand guided in the ditch.   Yes there is a learning curve with any new features, but it is a joy to see something come together so nicely.

So my point today is that when you are ready and you know you will enjoy them,  indulge in those bells and whistles for your machine,  and be sure to put them through their paces.      If you need a project to play with check our offerings for the semester on the showcase page,  or even just come in on a Work in progress Wednesday and I will give you all the encouragement you need.

Just quickly I want to remind you that if you are planning on attending the Crazy Quilt Club meeting tomorrow be sure that Diane Johnson knows.   If snow becomes an issue she will be contacting you in the morning.     Also, regardless of the weather we will be closed on Tuesday to drive my daughter back to school.   Lets hope the weather is good that day,  it’s a lot of driving to do in the snow.

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Mountain Star

When it happens that without even trying you have done something 3 times,  it is a safe bet to say that you like it.    When that thing is a quilt block it is about time we did a workshop so I can share it with you.     It is related to our showcase in that it has a very similar geometry,  but with slightly different Mountain Star Medallionproportions and the inclusion of string piecing.     The group lesson on it is January 29,  and February 5.   At the first session we will do the string piecing and choose colors that set off your own personal scraps and

strings,  and we will assemble the rest of the top in session two.   The photo is a little dark but the nice glow from the light-colored strings really shows.   As shown it finishes at 40 inches square but there are two ways to enlarge the project if desired.    Talk to me about it and I’ll adjust the yardages for you.      If those days don’t work for you we can do this by appointment too.

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Detail of Mountain Star Medallion

So I did mention that I have done this block several times,   The other two times I used it very differently.    If you put the units together with the skinny point at the center,  it makes a stunning alternate block with a snowball.    I did one with blues and greens for a quilt called Beautiful Valley,  and I did a second version with less blocks in Beautiful Valley in Redwork.      Those of you who know me well understand how much I must love a block to make the same quilt twice.     But this is how I feel about Kaleidoscopes and their cousins.    Having so much fun with this showcase.        Details and materials lists are on the Spring Showcase page.   Be sure to let me know you are planning to attend.

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Detail, Beautiful Valley

Beautiful Valley - redwork

Beautiful Valley in Rework

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