Monday, June 30, 2014

Free to a good home--

Anyone need a handy husband? I have one and I love him dearly but, darn it, he is too good at some things.  For example, he is a great gardener.  He can fix up just about any thing that can break. He's mechanically inclined, pays the bills, can do math, and knows how to clean, wash clothes, do dishes. In other words, I'm giving away a pretty good guy.  You probably won't find another as good.  Nope, not even his sons.

I bet you're thinking, "Me, me, I'll take him."  You'll change your mind.  I did.

Here's the problem: he's too good at some things.  Want a few tomatoes...he grows only a hundred pounds of tomatoes at one time.  No kidding.  And he can do that with about anything he puts his mind to.  Like corn?  Oh, here you are more corn than you can count or cut.  Want to do something fun?  Sure thing...let's go away for hours and hours and hours.

See the problem here?  He's cutting into my sewing time with everything he does well.  Everything.  And since he does everything well, well, everything becomes a problem.  I'm done.  

Done.  D-O-N-E.  Done.  With tomatoes and corn.  There's only okra, squash, and peas left.  By the time I'm done with those I'll be back in school.  

I am just tired of all this canning and putting up veggies.  Sure, I like them all. Lots. But I do not want to be spending my time doing that when I could be sewing or quilting.  I mean, last week alone I canned 50 pints of tomatoes.  50!  

Therefore, I'm giving away the cause of the problem--a pretty good husband.  He's both: pretty and good.  Now you know why I expect you to return him around August or when the veggies are finished. 

He'll come back.  You'll want him to.  So this should work out really well.  Let me know when and where I should send him.

Happy Quilting,

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Quilt Inspiration: W I N

Generally, Sunday Quilt Inspiration is a grouping of photos meant to help us become inspired to quilt or to try new techniques.  Or just to see how ordinary, everyday objects can inspire our quilts.

Today though, I want to inspire you to win a new APQS Freedom longarm machine!  There is only one day left, so thank goodness I discovered the giveaway yesterday afternoon. Click here to go to the page.  Once there, scroll down to the form, complete it and click ENTER!  It's that easy and costs nothing.  See you there!

Tutorial: Making Letters for Applique

Another little quilt is finished.  I added John David's name applique, quilted and added the binding.  Even the label is on!  

Today I have a tutorial for making and using a base stencil so that you can create letters for applique and paper crafts.  

First, you'll have to make the stencil. It's relatively simple but you need a few supplies: paper, ruler, pencil and eraser, and good cardboard (such as the cardboard from a cereal box) and something round for drawing circles.

Decide on the height of your letters.  I chose four inches but it's possible to make your stencil any size.  You'll make the shape in the picture, which I think of as an overlapping "N" and "P."  If you want to try a cursive shape, by all means do.  
The width of each line is 3/4 inch, except the slanted line.  I always make that line just a smidge smaller.  In this case, probably 1/8 inch smaller.  I can't draw a circle, so I just use something round that is about the size I need.  

I use the ruler to draw the straight lines first, connecting them with the slanted line.  Then I draw in the half circle using a cup or bottle.  If you have some other circle-making tool that will work also.  

You'll use the stencil for every letter, so once it's made the letters will all look the same. This stencil has been used for several letters in the two days since I made it, so it looks pretty rough.  After drawing the shape, I glue it to cardboard to give it stability.

(Note: I will occasionally write letters without the quotes just speed things along. Forgive me, please.)

Ready to begin making letters? Of course, it's easy to make the straight lined letters: E, F, I, H, L, etc.  The way to make these letters is to use the stencil's straight lines, moving, turning, and adjusting them as necessary.  For the H, first draw the two vertical lines, then connect them with a horizontal line.  I use the same stencil "leg" for all of the lines to ensure that I have the exact same size for all parts of the letter.

The letters with a slanted line are also easy since you have the slanted line to work with.  "N" is made exactly as is in the stencil. "M" is made first with the left most side and half of the slanted line.  Then flip it over and make the mirror image.  In the picture above, the middle letter is separated so you can see how it's formed.  I generally make the M about the same width as N.  

"A" may be a little difficult since you may want to adjust the angle a bit.  I don't like the look with slanted lines spread to far apart.  Once the angled lines look good, just add the crosspiece.  

Now let's work on a few difficult letters: the round ones.  B, C, D, G, O and so on.  You're going to depend on two major the parts of the stencil, the rounded part and one straight line.  The rounded part, of course, will make the top and bottom of the O, but they are connected using the straight line.  P, naturally, is on the stencil so it's easy.  

Flip the P and you easily have the lower half of a B.  If you use just the top of the rounded part to form all but the middle of the B, you can connect them to form a D.  

So how to make the really rounded ones, like O?  It takes a minute or two.  Use the rounded part to form the four corners, then connect the top and bottom halves with the straight line, just as you did with the D.  

Letters and numbers are basically the same.  I made a sign for Richard that included his full name and phone number using just this stencil.  I also used the stencil to form the letters for John David's applique quilt.  

Of course, you can always buy stencils for your applique letters, but this is much more fun, and you don't even have to leave home.

Happy Quilting,

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Goodbye Catfish

Our weather has been absolutely nuts.  Rain and stormy one day, sweltering hot the next, cool fronts followed by sunshine that heats up everything so that handrails cause pain when touched.  What to do?  Very little.  Stay indoors.  Run the AC on blast.  Eat ice and popscicles.  

Then we started getting rain.  Rain.  More rain.  Rain for days. Cloudy, gloomy days of rain.  The overcast sky and run-off from the rain caused a roll-over in the pond.  That means that the catfish are dying from lack of oxygen.  Well, by now they are all gone.  The biggest ones go first since they require the most oxygen, then the medium ones and, by this morning, the small fish were floating.  It's horrible to see and there is nothing to be done. 

Our pond.
Ponds get oxygen naturally 
from the sunshine and the splashing movement in the water.  We have a pump that sprays water to help replenish oxygen, but the sun does the most work.  When the sky is overcast for days, it becomes a problem.  

However, the run-off of water from the rain churns up the bottom muck, which in turns sucks out more oxygen.  The pump can't handle the extra drain and the fish begin dying.  By the time we realize the problem, it's too late for the fish and every one is lost.  

Of course, it's horrible and gets worse as the fish begin to decompose.  It will take about a month for the water to stabilize but we'll wait even longer before buying fingerlings (baby fish) to replace the ones we've lost.  That means at least a year before we have fish that are big enough to catch.  

Probably the worst is that Rich is pretty attached to his fish. He loves to feed them and to go out to the pond where it's quiet and peaceful.  He really enjoys fishing and loves it when the boys come by with their rod and reels.  

We also lucky to have had a couple of white, or albino, catfish. We could see them feeding along the edges of the pond and occasionally when we were fishing. They were easy to spot and recognize from their markings.  They were special. 

They are gone, though, and buying fingerlings does not guarantee getting albino fish.  We'd had these for several years since no one would even consider catching them.  They are like pets to us, so their loss is really disheartening.  All from a bit of rain and clouds.

All images from Google images unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pin It Weekly #71

Let's file these pins under "I could do this" 
(but I don't see it happening in this Louisiana heat)

Lace Crazy: Garden Art & Yard Decor Ideas...

Adirondack chairs! SO CUTE!

Lovely ! Awesome with Christmas decos

rustic and beautiful and would look great in an entrance way or front it

so glad we have trees now.

paint patio pavers ($2 - $4 each) with exterior acrylic paints topped with a clear sealer HOPSCOTCH

Outdoor Wall Art

Most important elements of garden and patio design


Interesting Garden water features

Interesting garden fence design ideas

Transform old chairs with flower pots

Garden design  the basic elements and some cool ideas

I love the garden, but surprisingly my thumbs are brown  unless planting natives. Maybe this could happen in my yard...

#Garden #Gates

Pressure-treated wood left over from a building project turned into shadow boxes to hang on a fence. They’re strong enough to support a gallon-size plant in a ceramic pot.

Did you notice how many pins have chairs in them?  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Recycle More Tees

You know what happens when you make something for a couple of grandchildren and other grandchildren come along and discover your doings?  

They ask questions and make requests and before you're ready, you're recycling even more tee shirts than you originally planned.  
That's how it goes.  Especially with the older ones.  They know which buttons to press.  They have experience manipulating Grandmay.  Older grandchildren have a history of spoilage.   

Well, that's what we grandmothers do--spoilage.  So, spoil I did.  I showed Dusti and Jolie the shorts I made for the little grands and in two short seconds I was hunting down some tees big enough to make big shorts.  The problem is that I didn't have a big pattern.  I had to draft patterns, but that is a little glitch to big grandchildren. 

Now I'm waiting on two big girls to come back and try on these shorts before I make more.  I know from experience that cute is not enough with these grands. They expect perfection....spoilage, remember?  

Those little ones?  Oh, they are easy! They like every thing that Grandmay makes.  Everything!  And they wear it.

Sometimes too much.  

I say this after I spent part of the afternoon repairing Queen Elsa's Ice Queen dress.  Imagine wearing this satin dress with the long sheer train for 24 straight hours.  Yes, all day and all night. Is it any wonder that the sheer fabric ripped along a seam?  

Eventually she took it off to go swimming.  While she was in the pool, I sneaked the dress away.

After making repairs for Queen Elsa, I added pockets to the LSU shorts.  Aren't they cute?  I love the white pocket with its gathered top.  The other one?  Oh, that was a pocket on a tee shirt.  I stole it, rounded the bottom point and stitched it onto the shorts.  Quick and easy.  

After repairing Queen Elsa's dress and adding pockets, I finished the last four of the little shorts.  Then Jolie saw these shorts.  She started jumping up and down, dancing to the tune of "make me some, make me some."  She's 11. That's almost too old to want to wear something "homemade."  But hey, if the shorts are cute enough and the kid is spoiled enough...

After repairing Queen Elsa's dress, adding pockets, and finishing the last four of the little shorts--that would be the shorts in red, pink, solid purple and another LSU--well, I was on a roll...

So I rolled right into the big girls' shorts.   

After repairing Queen Elsa's dress, adding pockets to the LSU shorts, finishing the last four of the little shorts, and designing and making shorts for two of the big girls . . . I think I should be tired. 

At least I'm sure that I did my grandmotherly duties of spoiling my grandchildren.  They should be absolutely rotten in a few days--at least as rotten as the tomatoes that I did not can this afternoon!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Recycling Tees

I have some old tee shirt freebies that are too big, not my style, or just finished tees.  Plus there are other tees left over from tee shirt quilts that I've made for others.  In that case only part of the shirt is used, but I hate the idea of tossing out the rest.  Knit is not cheap.  So, I've been hoarding the left overs for a while, wondering what to do with it all.  Yes, I agree, it's just a matter of time till I'm shame-faced on a popular tv show.

But!  I had an aha moment!  I've begun making shorts for the little granddaughters with the leftover knit.  Since the girls are still small, it doesn't take much in the way of fabric to make a pair of shorts.

Then I remembered that we have a couple of tees from Adam's home improvement business.  It was really easy to turn one tee into a couple pairs of shorts for his little girl.  I can barely wait til she sees them.

The whole process takes very little time.  I cut out and sew the shorts exactly as I would were I using regular knit fabric. Well, I did make one change: I tried to get the whole MHI advertisement on the shorts.  This means that the pattern for the front and back had to be altered just a little, I taped them together along the side seams so that they become one piece.  This, of course, means that there are only two pieces: a right and a left side.

Some of the other tees were left over from an LSU student's quilt. I think Caki and Soph will like their purple and gold shorts.  I decided today that I will add a little girly pocket to the solid color shorts.  I decided to use a color-block design but they are rather boyish looking and that won't do.  So tomorrow I'll get back to these little shorts and add some girly embellishments then finish the others that are waiting.  All together I have nine pairs, giving the girls each three.  Half are done, so it won't take long to finish the other half.

Of course, this is assuming that my tomato interruption is also over--18 pints of canned tomatoes takes an entire afternoon, so I didn't even go into the studio today.  Ripe tomatoes will not wait long, you know.  It's really disappointing to come home ready to sew and find pounds of some veggie sitting on the counter needing attention.  

Last week, corn.  This week, tomatoes.  Next week, okra.  I mean, really?  No wonder I never make as many quilts as I have plans for.  I'm spending an average of two days per week canning or freezing vegetables.  My husband's green thumb is getting in the way of quilting.

Happy Quilting?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Basic Quilting Tutorial: PIECING

I promised to write a quilt tutorial for a reader who asked that I help her to get started with a small, easy quilt. Read that post here.
I'm publishing this now with the hopes that anyone who sees an error or has a suggestion or tip will chime in.  Email me at and I'll add your ideas or make changes.

Chain stitching
I been think it's probably necessary to include a little of everything: basic piecing, applique, quilting, and finishing; but I've decided that to make things easy I should divide the tutorial into the four sections. Today I begin with piecing.  For the neutrals quilt that I'm working on, I cut four and a half inch squares. 

Any size squares will work, but I'm doing the math for the 4 1/2 squares.  Because I want this quilt to be a little larger than crib size, I've chosen to make 12 strips of 10 blocks each for a 40 x 48 inch quilt.  (Crib size is generally 36 x 40).

Once you have the 120 blocks cut, begin stitching by chain piecing the squares.  Put two squares together right sides facing and stitch the first pair, then get the second pair, make 2-3 stitches with no fabric under the needle, and slide the square under the needle.  Continue in this fashion until you have a long chain of pairs all connected by the thread.  Cutting them apart takes only seconds and your ready to begin the second chain. 

Snip the thread so the pairs are separated and you're ready to begin the next chain.  Open two sets of squares and place side by side.

When you sew the two sets together, you will get a row of four squares all lined up in one line.  You should sew up several of these.  For your first quilt, don't worry too much about keeping all the fabrics in a particular order...that can drive a girl nuts!  Instead, just have fun matching pairs and rows so that there aren't two of the same next to each other.  Eventually you'll have just rows of four.  

Repeat the process to get rows of eight.  But wait!  Don't sew everything into eights!  You need 10 rows of eight.  Then you'll add another four set to an eight set to make a row of twelve squares.  That's your goal, remember?  10 rows with 12 squares each.  

The easiest way to arrange your rows is to put them on a design wall, but arranging them on the floor or a large table works also.  First press the rows so that the seams are all going one way.  ONE way: all to the left or all to the right.  

Once they are pressed, begin placing them side by side making sure the seams now alternate directions.  The seams on row 1 go right, then the seams on row 2 go left and so on until all the strips are arranged.  This will match up the seams so that you will be able to stitch quickly and efficiently and the quilt will look neatly put together.  I put it all together then check the seams one more time because it's easy to get mixed up when moving the strips around.  

Now it gets interesting.  You have the strips in order but you need to get them to the sewing machine without mixing everything up.  This is what I do--keep in mind that you sew on the right side of the fabric--take the top strip and fold it down over the adjacent strip and pin.  The trick is to put the pin in the right the top of the strip with the head of the pin pointing to the right side.  So take the strips in your hand as though you are going to put them under the needle.  Pin them together near the top and make sure the head of the pin is on the side that will go under the needle.  Your pin is always your way of knowing where to begin.

Now you're ready to arrange the next set of strips.  Ah, how do you keep them in order?  I number them.  A sticky will do, but I don't trust anything that is supposed to keep me in order, so the same pin holds the paper slips, tells me which way is up and which side to sew on.  Here they are all stacked neatly and ready to sew.  Notice that the pins are not in the way of the needle so that they can stay in the fabric while all the strips are sewn.

I don't pin anywhere else on the fabric.  Instead, I hold the strips together at the first seam.  Remember all that arranging so that seams are going in different directions?  Now it pays off.  Hold the first seams (seam allowance going away from each other) with your right hand and begin sewing at the edge going all the way into the seams.  Needle down, let the machine do the work of holding that seam in place while you catch the next one.  Again, seam allowances going away from each hold the seams and sew through the seam.  I let go of the seam when it's going under the presser foot.  (I'm not at all afraid of my's my friend!)

It takes a while for this chore.  There are six sets of long strips, but goodness it's beautiful when it's done.  Notice that I've moved my paper numbers to the front of the strips.  Now they are pinned near the seam that I just finished.  I won't move them again till the quilt is finished.  

Notice also that they are numbered backwards.  #1 is all the way to the right and #6 is all the way to the left.   That's correct!  Remember we sew on the right side, so I'll flip #1 to the left on top of #2 and pin.  #3 flips over left on top of #4.  And that leaves #5 to flip over left on top of #6.  I pin each one as I flip and place it on the other one and my pins tell me which end is the top; the pin head tells me which side I'm going to sew on just like before.  No other pins needed, I just sew exactly the way I did before: hold the seam and sew.  

At this time I leave the chain-stitches intact.  Since I always sew in the order of the numbers, the chain-stitching is just another way to make sure that I don't mix up the order of things.  Later, when you make a trip around the world or some other pattern that requires keeping everything in exact order, you'll be glad you've practiced this.

By the time you've finished stitching this set, you'll be ready for the final round.  Do it all over again, but this time you're working with three sets of four strips and, once you stitch the first two together, you will add the third set to it.  And you've got a completed quilt top!

Again, email me if you see an error or have a tip for our new quilters.  
Happy Quilting,