Monthly Archives: January 2014

No Steam, No Problem

I have a love/hate relationship with irons.  To start with, I’m left handed, which causes some issues with the cord on many models.  Then, there’s that pesky automatic off feature that makes sure the iron is cool each time I want to press a new seam.  And, as an iron ages, it becomes incontinent, spewing up rusty water all over my light color quilts.

I thought I had solved my problems when I purchased a Black and Decker moderately priced ($40) steam iron.  My problems were indeed solved, for a year.  A few weeks ago the steam dial stopped working.  The iron heated up just fine, but couldn’t deliver steam.  Fortunately, the iron had a 2 year warranty and I had saved my receipt, so I fired off an e-mail complaint to Black and Decker’s customer service.  Three days later I heard back and, after providing more details, was told they would replace my iron after I mailed them the cord from my old iron.  I gather this was to ensure I was not scamming them out of a new iron. I did have to pay a shipping charge.

I mailed the cord on a Friday and on Thursday of the next week received the replacement.  To say I was flabbergasted is an understatement.  Prompt, efficient service without pleas and rants is a rarity.

So, kudos to Black and Decker’s customer service. Now I can stop using our backup iron with its iffy cord.  You have to hold it a certain way for the iron to heat up. My husband thought he could fix it, but found that the screw needed some special type of screwdriver – proprietary, no doubt.


Filed under Commentary

Upscale Challenge Done

I actually finished my Project Quilting challenge entry early, but then I had run out of upscalable materials to use. It finished up at about 13 by 20 inches.

Brillig2As I mentioned earlier, I’ve called this Slithy Toves in Brillig as a tribute to Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky nonsense poem. (One of his other famous nonsense poems is The Hunting of the Snark.)  I’m a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland.

The base is a dyed old tablecloth that was painted with circles (tove eggs) and layered with used laundry color catchers (the wabe) and strips of mylar (gestation chambers.) The plain triangular toves are the juveniles, while the larger, more colorful triangles with tails (bits of old jewelry and crinkled paper strips) are the newly emerged mature (called slithy) toves.  And the hatching process is called brillig.  I’m sure that answers all your questions about this piece, and my sanity.

Here’s a link to all the challenge entries.  You can vote for your four favorites until 9 p.m., CST, Friday, January 31.


Filed under Completed Projects

Amazing Quilts From Japan

Thanks to Luana Rubin of eQuilter, we can see a portion of the quilts displayed at the 2014 Tokyo Quilt Festival.  Here’s the link to her Flickr pictures. She plans to post more of her pictures later.

Luana has painstakingly given the name of each quilt’s maker, so if you do copy or repin any of her photos, please include that information.  To quote her:

One of the things I am doing is editing my photos so they include the name of the quilter one way or the other. Some of the Japanese quilters’ names have been given a transliteration from a Kanji character to Roman letters (known as Romaji) …and some have not. For the quilts whose makers names cannot be spelled out, I am using Photoshop to copy and paste the names/characters on the namecards, into the quilt photos.

Here’s one of the quilts that caught my eye.  I love the interesting setting of all that traditional applique. It’s by Fumiko Miura.

2014 Tokyo Quilt Festival

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Filed under Quilt Shows

Where Guys Quilt

Behind bars at Ohio’s Grafton Correctional Institution is the short answer. Bear with me, because there is a connection between prison and quilting.

A recent talk at my quilt guild by Barbara King, the institution’s Deputy Warden, included a show of quilts made by prisoners.  She started teaching inmates how to quilt as part of the prison’s community service rehabilitation program.  All the quilts are made with donated supplies and are given to charities in Ohio.  No public money is involved.

It seems the inmates started with cardboard templates and plastic children’s scissors.  They now have rotary cutters, but even needles must be carefully checked out and in.

Here are some of the quilts that left our efforts in the dust.

Lorain1This one is waiting for a program volunteer to quilt it.

Lorain17I wonder if any of these flowers have shown up as tattoos.

Lorain18Each piece of this pineapple quilt was individually cut as the maker was intent on accuracy.

Lorain14The accuracy of the piecing here is something I can only dream about.

These guys crank out quilts quickly, not surprising when you have an enforced daily quilting time.  Apparently they also tune into Fons and Porter’s quilting show on Saturday mornings.  I would love to see the reaction of the other prisoners to that.

UPDATE: Photos of more quilts made through this program are on Pinterest.


Filed under Commentary

Progress on Upscale Challenge

This project has introduced me to two materials I’ve come to like – color catchers and that mylar stuff.  The color catchers (once dyed with laundry bleeding) cut well, are easy to sew, can be glued, and also can be drawn on with colored pencils.  The mylar stuff also cuts well and is easy to sew.  For a bonus it crinkles up in a most interesting way when ironed.

I discovered the crinkling by accident and then covered the strips with parchment paper and ironed them with an iron at a synthetic setting to deliberately crinkle them.

crinkled_mylarI’ve been developing patterns on my mature toves with paint, markers, and colored pencils.

raw_materials_tovesAnd I’ve finished quilting and binding the main piece.  I turned under the backing for the top and bottom and sewed crochet edging on the sides.

toves_bindingAll that’s left, I think, is final positioning of my toves.


Filed under In Process

Am I Up To The Upcycle Challenge?

I know lots of folks participate in block exchanges, mystery quilts, quilt alongs, etc., online.  So far I haven’t, but I’m dipping my toe into that unknown body of water by signing up for the Upcycle Challenge run by Kim at Persimon Dreams.

I gather Kim’s Project Quilting challenges have been going on for a few years as this is the fifth cycle.  And there are prizes, always nice, but that’s not why I’m doing this.  I’m doing this because I have some weird “stuff” that I haven’t used but am too thrifty to toss.  I think my “stuff” will work for this challenge.

Here are the challenge rules:

  1. The front, back, borders, binding and embellishments should all be made from materials that have had a previous life as something else.
  2. You may use new thread and batting.
  3. Your project must include at least 2 materials that were never intended for use in a quilt or clothing.

My raw materials are: tablecloths I dyed (damask and homespun), laundry color catchers, bits of old jewelry, paper I marbleized (badly), a gold mylar (I think) sheet, and accordian pleated paper strips from a friend’s gift bag. I believe neither the mylar nor the pleated strips were intended for a quilt or clothing.


So far, I painted and color penciled a 13 by 20 inch piece of homespun tablecloth; I’ve cut up the color catchers and the mylar and sewn them to the homespun; I’ve created slithy toves (more on these later) from the marbleized paper, pleated paper strips, and jewelry bits.


I think my next step will be to quilt the layers, sew on dyed crochet tablecloth edging as binding, and attach my toves with Mistyfuse.  The backing, shown above left, is part of a damask tablecloth I dyed.  I think the result, which looks like a giant bruise, is strange enough for this piece.

About those slithy toves, if you’re a fan of Lewis Carroll’s work no explanation is needed.  Otherwise, check out the poem Jabberwocky.

My deadline is noon on Sunday, January 26.  Hope I make it.


Filed under Commentary, In Process

A Broken Resolution Already

That’s right, I resolved to buy less fabric and use up what I have in 2014.  So, before the confetti was swept up and the party hats put away I was online buying fabric.  My only excuse is that the price was right.

Due to my upbringing I have a Pavlovian response to the word “sale.” And when that word is combined with “fabric” my willpower vanishes like dew in the desert.

Equilter was offering lots of fabric at 60% off and more.  Even accounting for shipping costs, the twelve yards (!) of fabric I bought cost $5/yard.  Much of my purchase is designated for backings.  I had used up most of my backing fabrics and was down to two colors of brown and some blue swirly stuff.

My self-imposed rule is that backing fabric can cost no more than $5/yard.  Why? Because you need so much of it. That means I shop sales. My last big score was at a local quilt shop’s closing sale. I do piece my backings (see below), and many of my current quilts are small, so my backing fabrics go a long way.


What do I look for in backings?  First I go for a pattern, preferably one that’s not strongly directional.  Stripes and squares look awful if they get off kilter.  And solids highlight any less than perfect quilting. Then, I try to avoid reds as they can bleed, usually on a quilt with a lot of white. I look for a range of values so I can better coordinate my top and bobbin quilting threads.  One experience with a black and hot pink top taught me that lesson.  I spent a lot of time touching up pink thread with a black marker.

Finally, my backing choice depends on whether the quilt will hang on a wall or be used on a bed, baby, or lap.  For functional quilts I try to choose an interesting backing as it will be seen a lot.  For a few bed quilts (yes, I’ve made some) I even chose backings that allowed the quilt to be reversed.

I certainly have strayed off topic here.  What was I talking about?  Oh, right. My profligate ways.

Here are my purchases, which finally arrived.

fabric_buys_2014I guess eclectic would be the best word for this group.  The jade on the left, the pale pink on the right, and the yellow and black on the lower right are destined for backing.  I’ve taken a separate photo of the pink (from Valori Wells) as it was overwhelmed by the strong colors in the group shot.

Valori_Wells_fabricTwo of the one yard pieces are almost solids that I hope will add a bit of texture to some backgrounds.  The bold stripe actually goes with a leaf fabric that keeps showing up on my can’t find a use for list.  Maybe having a buddy will get both fabrics into a quilt this year.


Filed under Commentary

The Incredible Shrinking Quilt

No, it didn’t shrink in the washer or dryer, but at its conception.  I began with a design I liked from Zen Chic and developed a freezer paper piecing pattern for it.

prism Knowing I had only one yard of my background fabric I drew blocks that would finish at five inches.


I laid out the rough cut fabrics to make sure my design would work out.  When I’m doing freezer paper piecing with angled pieces I like to precut the shapes to make sure I have the whole area covered.

I knew my quilt would be smaller than the original which looks like it’s at least four feet tall, but that was OK. I don’t have that that large an expanse of uninterrupted wall.


Once I started rough cutting the gray background fabric I realized the angles of the pieces were using up more of the fabric than I had anticipated. An internet search didn’t turn up any more of that 2011 fabric, so my options narrowed to just one – make fewer blocks.  And that meant a smaller quilt.

At that point I felt like the guys in Spinal Tap who had measurement difficulties with their Stonehenge stage prop.  There’s a big difference between inches and feet.

this_is_spinal_tap_mini_stonehengeSo here’s what I could make with the amount of fabric I had.  Unfortunately, any increase in this design requires a lot more blocks to complete a diamond so I couldn’t eke out what little I had. I still have plenty of the fabric for the diamond edges, and may well use the gray circle on white background fabric at the top and bottom to increase the top’s size.


No one can say my quilting process isn’t full of suspense.


Filed under In Process

Typing Lessons

Sometimes I come across fabric that opens up a long dormant memory. A vintage sheet may be the same large daisy pattern I used in my first apartment. And sometimes new fabric can awaken old memories.

Until I saw Julia Rothman’s typewriter print I hadn’t thought of the three months I spent learning to type at the Frankford School of Business in decades. Back in the day when a keyboard was something on a piano, computers were room sized, and IBM had just brought out Selectric typewriters; my mother sent me off to get a typing certificate so I could get summer work.

typewriter fabric

Under the gimlet gaze of the chain-smoking Dolly I pounded out typing exercises on manual machines that must have weighed 25 pounds.  Throwing the carriage return built up muscles and cleaning ink off the keys was a dreaded chore.

All this came back to me at the sight of that fabric, which I had to purchase.  I ended up using a design by Esch House Quilts to make WPM.


I stenciled the letters in a mottled dark gray to simulate the uneven key imprint of a manual typewriter. The letters are deliberately misaligned to show what happened when you didn’t hit the key hard enough.

WPM_letters The solid colors – lemon yellow, canary, light blue, and off white – closely match the colors of the pre-made carbons that we used.  Of course, each copy was fuzzier, with the final white carbon copy practically illegible.  The lighter gray linen border pays homage to linen weave paper.  And the letters spell out a classic typing exercise.


I did land a job with the Veterans’ Administration typing up letters off a Dictabelt. Yes, each letter required lots of carbon copies.


Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects, Inspiration

Bleak Midwinter Dreaming

I just had to cheer myself up with a reminder of what’s to come.


Last summer’s begonias that have continued to bloom indoors and My February Fantasy greet me each time I enter my kitchen and remind me to keep the faith, baby.


Filed under Everything Else