Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Stringing Along

We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

The introduction of a story by Donald Hall relates an old New England tale: 'A man was cleaning an old house in New England and he found a box which was full of tiny pieces of string. On the lid of the box there was an inscription in an old hand: "String too short to be saved".'

My mother loved quoting the punch line whenever something foolish appeared in our cabinets. We deny packrat tendencies but truth will out. What crazy stuff we save because it might be useful one day. The dreadful warning of this tale {occasionally} restrains me from expanding my quilting stash which I already find overwhelming.

It is also the reason I keep a single small bag for scraps although an amazing amount can be crammed into that bag. I won't purchase containers to subdivide the stuff. My point is to use it up, to keep it moving because this insidious fabric propagates nightly. My scrap bag still looks as full as when I started this recent set of scrap quilts; there are just fewer "pretty" fabrics.

How can I sew this mess? Why am I bothering? How small is too small? What's your limit? What's the smallest scrap you keep? What do you do with the waste? {I know Cathy spreads hers as garden compost.} Questions we face daily.

There are still a ton of strings. I'm tired of diamonds, thought about Chinese Coins, but got the brilliant idea to angle the strings. At least it sounded brilliant. In reality it's been a bit of a pain.

The newspaper foundations are 5.5". No idea why except it's less than six inches so it was easier to cut and the smaller squares don't need such long strings - only about eight inches for the main diagonal. I pulled "longer strings" out so the centers would be easier to plan but still find myself coming up short.

Scrap strings are sewn diagonally across the square blocks, narrower at one end and widening at the other.
String blocks

What should be the middle string? How can I highlight the angle? The X? I'm way overthinking this.

The string blocks have darker strings on the center diagonals that create colorful Xs in this layout.

Wow. It looks like I stuck my finger in an electric outlet. Too wild? I need to think it over.

Projects Around the House

Scanning and shredding continues apace. Two more drawers cleared. I'm finding a few things that still need to be retained physically but hope to limit it to one drawer. Once the compost bin filled I attacked our bookcases and culled three bags of books for the next library sale. QS and I laughingly refer to moving junk out of the house as foundational cleaning. I imagine how happy the house is to lose the weight and I certainly love having more room in the rooms.

We enjoyed a quiet holiday weekend at home. All our family called at some point... and we watched Hamilton. DH took me to the stage play a few years ago as a special gift but the many unique angles of the video recording make it almost as remarkable. 


Our national election scheduled for November 3 is 119 days away. The Vote411 website can help any American register, check their registration status, and find out what is on their specific ballot. I find printing a sample ballot before going to vote gives me time to double check all my options. Who can you help register? And get to a polling place? Democracy requires the participation of ALL citizens. 

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

String Star Finished

When presidents lose the trust of the public, I think it's very difficult 
if not impossible for them to govern this country.
~Robert Dallek


Just a matter of curiosity, but do you realize all these string sections are 45 degree isosceles triangles or 45 degree diamonds {which are really two of those isosceles triangles?} It's another way to make a string quilt besides square and rectangular blocks.

Once each larger section was sewn I made four right triangles for the corners. You can see I'm running out of lights. These are getting into the mediums. At this point the quilt is about 54" across but it seems to need a border.

Four right triangles of string pieced light value fabrics add to the previous octagonal shape to make a square quilt of many string pieced diamonds.
Corner triangles added to string star quilt

So I straightened the edges and made a mess. And straightened again. Eventually they were trimmed almost to the star points because I couldn't seem to square it up properly. {Grr. What a fiasco.} With a narrow medium dark blue border, everything looks fine... as long as you don't know how much of the edge I "trimmed" off.

An inch wide dark blue print forms a narrow border around the string pieced star diamonds.
String Star quilt with a narrow border

By this time, I was ready for something easy and chose spiral quilting. I know how to do this well. It's important to hold the quilt square as the needle travels in circles. That way there are no waving edges.

The finished quilt has a light eight pointed star in the center surrounded by 24 dark string pieced diamonds that form a larger eight-pointed star that rest on a background of more light strings.
String Star quilt

Of course, it's even easier with orange peels in the center to keep me from having to turn the quilt in such tight circles.

The back of the quilt shows the two quilting designs on a white print.
View of orange peel and spiral quilting from the back
The back is three white prints. Not much to see in a photo but soft to touch.

The binding didn't need to contrast with the narrow border and there was enough of this navy binding in my leftover box. It made it around the quilt... barely.

Folded quilt highlights front, back, binding, and quilting.
Quilting and binding details of String Star quilt

There are still strings in the scrap bag for at least one more quilt. How can that small bag hold so many of them?

Quilt Specifics
Size: 52" x 52"
Design: String Diamond blocks
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose cotton
Thread: Superior 50 wt grey cotton thread
Quilting: Orange peel center with spiral walking foot
Approximate yardage: 8 yds {a guesstimate of all the strings}

Previous post: String Diamonds

One of the Hatchet quilts was recently gifted to the new son of a coworker. He has a big sister so this slightly larger quilt went to her. I told her it was a star like she is but she decided the center is a lake and she's even found some fish in the water! Kids are so clever.

Projects Around the House

The perfect project has been staring me in the face: scanning and shredding our massive paper files. So many years neatly stored in tall filing cabinets. We never refer to them but feel compelled to keep them. DH bought me a new scanner last year making it very easy to repackage the files into pdf format. The critical path is the composting bin. Once it fills I'm through for the week. Two of twelve drawers are purged. 

I have plans to donate the file cabinets once they are cleared out. Paper copies are so 20th century. 


Our national election scheduled for November is 126 days away. Are you registered to vote? Are all the young people you know registered? Can you help them register? Democracy works when we ALL participate. Change won't happen without votes.

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate) 

This was my only finish in June. Keeping a record points out how many quilt tops are started and how few are finished. I need to move the tops along next month. YTD = 111.75 yards.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

More String Diamonds

When men fear the loss of what they know, 
they will follow any tyrant who promises to restore the old order.
~Barbara Kingsolver in Unsheltered


The scrap bag still looks as full as when I started. More diamonds in the making but this time simply divided into either light or dark. A speaker at our guild showed her elegant Feathered Stars. Some were traditionally set while others were rotated 45 degrees so the points lined up with the cardinal directions.

Twenty-four paper-pieced string diamonds of dark values of blue, black, brown, green, red, and purple surround eight more string diamonds of very light fabrics.
Diamond strings made into a star

With this layout, the backgrounds are just more 45 degree isosceles triangles. Half diamonds as it were. Since they needed contrast with the star outlines, they are made using only lights. The strings are chosen to "look good" next to the previous one. Whatever that means. Just as long as they are light.

Two large isosceles triangles o fpaper-pieced strings rest on a green cutting board.
Triangle strings for a background

I wasn't sure what these would look like arranged around the star but it's not too bad.

Sixteen large, light value isosceles triangles form an octagon around the dark string diamonds.
Triangle strings added to diamond strings 


My mother was a gardener but I've never been very successful. With all the extra time at home this year {and with lots of advice, encouragement, and some seeds from a dear friend} I planted two larger containers with zucchini and bush beans, two window boxes with herbs, and diligently added watermelon radishes between the larger seeds. The idea is that they will be pulled before/as the larger plants need more room. Watermelon radishes are delicious but usually only found at restaurants. Only twice have I found them at the farmers' market and never in our groceries. We'll see how it works out. Pretty good so far but there is a squirrel or cat who comes by regularly to dig certain plants up. Sprinkling lots of pepper around seems to be discouraging this antisocial behavior somewhat.

This morning I noticed a new but smaller hole near the plants. This time I'm getting the red pepper flakes out! And I'm open for more advice. 

Projects Around the House

Like everyone else, I've noticed an uptick in quilting procrastination. I've been reading {mainly rereading  favorites.} That led to a purge of the bookshelf. DH even agreed to discard twenty old reference books that were seriously out of date. AND the related software. Now he's on eBay selling off old DVDs and spare parts. Woo hoo! Not much money but we are both delighted to keep things out of the landfill and I, at least, am delighted to get them out of the house.

This weekend was a clean out of the spice rack. Sad to report one bottle expired in 2006. No wonder it didn't add much taste. 


Our November 3 election is 133 days away. Are you registered to vote?

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Making Fabric

"I do not know how you draw the line between fine art and craft, or 
between the utilitarian and the non-utilitarian... I want to be an artist
... I intend to walk where I choose and not care which country I'm in." 
~June Schwarcz, 
Fourth National Conference of the American Craft Council, 1961

The quote reminds me of a recent well-written post by Kris of Pixeladies. I spend so much time {way too much!} worrying about all sorts of things it's a family joke. But I've decided to quit fretting about quilting. Even though I love stretching myself to make art quilts, the usefulness of bed quilts draws me back again and again. But whenever I've "created" a unique layout for any traditional block a photo of a similar quilt comes to my attention... usually just as mine is finished. Not worrying about that either; I'll just show mine and detail my inspiration. I will "walk where I choose and not care which country I'm in."


I've been thinking about many ways to lengthen the LeMoyne Star quilt - applique, hourglasses, more HSTs - and finally decided to add a row of smaller stars to each end. In red. Except... there's not much red in my stash. One delightfully splashy floral print, two solids, and a handful of tone-on-tone batiks.  Neither inspiring nor extensive. I pulled out all the red HSTs for potential star points then looked at these fabrics again.

A small pile of red batiks and floral prints grouped on a table.
Fabric choices for center of Sawtooth Star blocks

With such a small group of fabrics I again thought of slabs using bits of these and any red scraps in my bag. Everyone else makes lovely slab blocks. Mine get to a certain size and then look terrible. With a four-inch center, this should be about enough to work out even for me. Here are my first two samples. Not bad although the corners of the Sawtooth Stars could/should be changed around.

The centers squares of  these Sawtooth Star blocks are composed of red scraps of fabric.
Sawtooth Star quilt blocks in progress

That was a quick fix. Then I sewed a row together with narrow sashing between the stars. Why? Two reasons. I don't want them as tightly packed as the HSTs and I'm tired of working with odd sizes. These sawtooth stars finish at eight inches, close but not exactly the needed width. Cutting pairs of random sashing in different widths fills out the spacing and gives the quilt a homespun look. {At least that's my story.} Can you tell that each sashing is a different cream print and a different width? 

With one side sewn, it's an adequate length. I could stop now but making a second side will balance it better and the recipient will like it more.

The Sawtooth Stars are added as a row to one end of the LeMoyne Star quilt top
Sawtooth Star blocks added to one end 

I was dismayed after snapping this quick shot when both ends were sewn because the sides look lopped off. Will it need more stars? Oh, golly. Then it will become too big for a lap quilt and too small for a bed quilt. This is where "the need to add borders" started. {It was too large for a baby quilt and too small for a lap quilt.}

Red and blue LeMoyne string star blocks bordered with two rows of HSTs and red sawtooth stars at top and bottom
LeMoyne Star quilt with Sawtooth borders on two sides

In the end I added a narrow border of random strips around all the sides. Enormous improvement from such a tiny change and something to remember.

A narrow third border of cream print surrounds the Sawtooth Stars and HSTs to finish the LeMoyne Star string quilt top.
Final narrow border of cream print

Now there are three largish tops that need quilting. And the scrap bag is still full. 



Election day is November 3 this year. That's 140 days away. Remember you must be registered to vote. Tell everyone!

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Using the Parts Department to Complete a Quilt Top

"Voting versus protest; politics and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action. 
This is not an either/or; this is a both/and. 
To bring about real change we both have to highlight a problem 
and make people in power uncomfortable, 
but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented 
and we can monitor and make sure we're following up on.
~President Barak Obama


Sashing was the next decision. I laid out four choices but secretly thought one of the darkest {vertical} would work best. Instead, that dark grey on the left is it.

Four fabrics are laid out as possible sashing between the LeMoyne stars: two black, one grey, and one lavender print
Sashing possibilities

The sashing is printed with small dots of "non-colors" on dark grey. You know, those nothing neutrals - soft yellow, green, etc. So I looked for fabrics in those values for the posts and immediately like this odd yellow print.

The grey fabric printed with small circles was chosen for the sashing and posted with a pale yellow print that matches some of the circles
Sashing sewn

Now it's larger than baby quilt size but still doesn't look finished. Borders would solve that; however, I want them to be composed of smaller blocks instead of lengths of single fabric. There's already a small pile of HSTs, many already sewn, that could be the first round. The top is currently 51 inches. Divisible by three. Easy. Seventeen on each side.

3" HSTs in red, blue, brown, and black prints paired with cream and yellowish lights form the first border around the LeMoyne Stars in the quilt
LeMoyne string stars with single border of HSTs

A simple spreadsheet divides the current size of the quilt by possible number of blocks to find a block size that will be easy and accurate to cut

But it needs still more. I don't want another round of the same size nor a "matched block of 1.5 or 6 inches. Too planned. A simple spreadsheet came to mind as a quick way to find a good working measurement.

The current size of the top at the top is divided by the number of blocks down the first column to calculate a finished block size. Between 1.5 and 3 inches is what I want and look, 2.375" fits.

This round took a bit longer because of all the trimming. There are 17 large HST and 24 small HSTs {plus the corner blocks.} Since they have no factors in common {just a bit of math} they don't line up until the edge is reached. I like the way that looks. More random.

Four red and blue string LeMoyne stars make the center of this medallion surrounded by sashing and an inner border of dark grey print and a double outer border of HSTs in red, blue, brown, and black prints paired with cream and yellowish lights.
LeMoyne Star with a double border of HSTs

Sixty-one inches is an in between size - too large for a baby quilt and a bit small for a lap quilt. I prefer quilts to cover me from toes to chin. One way to lengthen the top might be to add another border on one or two sides. Pulling some fabrics I was surprised how few lights are left... at least lights in colors that work. Neither of these seems right. Both are a noticeably different style of print.

Two possible fabrics for another border

Obviously this needs more work. And fortunately I have time... next week. So the title of the post is a lie. The top is not complete.


Just 147 days until the US election but you must be registered in order to vote. Please do it now.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

LeMoyne Stars

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its testing point.'
~ C. S. Lewis

With the chunks are out of the way, I'm ready to attack the scrap bag. Still enthused with diamonds, I cut newspaper foundation into five-inch wide diamonds to make LeMoyne Stars. To add some cohesion each started with one common fabric at the widest point of the diamond.

The idea to make a ring inside the star came from several sources. First, traditional Lone Stars {you recall how the tiny diamonds make a circle of each round.} Since this would be strings rather than diamonds, my mind jumped to those beautiful ringed spiderwebs. But even if I was crazy enough to line up all these strings. there wasn't enough of all the fabrics for that idea to work. I vaguely recalled  Gwen Marston's Amish String Star from her book, Liberated String Quilts and pulled it out for another look. It gave me the brilliant idea of making that circle from striped fabric but there wasn't enough in a color that worked. So I pulled out all my fabrics for a closer look. There was just enough of a pink fabric with double rows of dots. {All of this is just to demonstrate how ideas bloom and how constraints guide our choices.}

Lighter fabrics on one side and darker fabrics on the other; most of them are red or blue dark points. Yes, I cherry-picked the strings but as the preferred colors ran out, greens and purples and even brown was added. The inside is whatever light string was available.

Four LeMoyne stars created with a common center strip. The sides of the diamonds are either light or dark fabrics in mostly reds or blues creating two red stars with two blue stars in the opposite corners
LeMoyne Stars in progress

Problems arose with the background(s). After repeated measurements and calculations the four backgrounds require twenty inches for each pair of colors. Just over half a yard. And there's the rub. The print at the top of each of these photos {Background 1} works beautifully for the red stars but only okay for the blues. After pulling more choices, the flamingos looked best here but... there's not enough to make two backgrounds. And the other fabrics won't even finish one background. So all four will have Background 1.

Printed white fabric is set behind a blue LeMoyne star to determine which might make the best background. Three of the choices have insufficient yardage to create the background for both of the blue stars
Background fabric possibilities
String diamonds take a while to construct. This is a week's work. I thought I'd be further along.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

More Hatcheting

Every test in our life makes us bitter or better, every problem comes to break us or make us. The choice is ours whether we become a victim or victor.
~Lorenzo Dozier


Following my usual plan, I made so many of these blocks there's enough for a second quilt. This one  had even more iterations because they blocks had been culled once for the previous Hatchet quilt. First the blocks were laid in the order they were sewn.

Blocks laid out as originally sewn
Hatchet 2 baby quilt original blocks

At first I regrouped some streamers and removed the light blue ones on the right.

Moving peach blocks closer together, exchanging light blue and red blocks for more peach and yellow
Regrouping the Hatchet blocks

Next I switched short blue and yellow streamers.

Swapping placement of short blue and yellow streamers of blocks

Then took out four beige blocks to add yellow and moved the light green to the right. I thought this was it but the digital camera revealed a less than attractive center line dividing left and right, dark and {mostly} light.

Swapping beige blocks for yellow and moving the light green blocks to the right looks better but makes a sharp value division through the middle of the quilt
Still more adjustments to the Hatchet blocks

Tweaking the coral and green streamers resolved that issue.

Moving the coral and green streamers created the final layout of the Hatchet quilt and blurred the value changes across the quilt
Hatchet 2 scrap quilt

Having a few extra blocks made this possible. While not perfect I'm only using the scraps on hand, not going into the stash for more. Babies will like these graphic designs and I like clearing some space in my workroom.

Again the extra/discarded blocks make up part of the back. It always amazes me how well they work with each other and with the main backing choice.

Extra hatchet blocks form a line of Xs through the yellow background fabric
Hatchet 2 scrap quilt back
Parallel quilting lines, of course. The binding is a really bright carnival stripe.

Folded quilt shows parts of front, back, and striped binding of the Hatchet 2 quilt
Hatchet 2 scrap quilt detail

Quilt Specifics
Size: 45" x 45"
Design: Hatchet or Signature block
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose cotton
Thread: Superior 50 wt grey cotton thread
Quilting: Parallel lines with walking foot
Approximate yardage: 5.625 yds

Of course I saved the waste triangles. And sewed them up, too. I'm that crazy. They will wait in the HST box until needed for a border.

Waster triangles from the original squares used to make the hatchet blocks as sewn into smaller HST blocks
Waste triangles sewn into small HSTs

The next troll through the scrap bag pulled strips 2.5" or more to cut into squares for a future Trip Around the World quilt.

2.5" squares cut from remnant of cotton fabrics in the scrap bag. These can be used for many different quilts including Trip Around the World
Squares for a Trip Around the World

A week's work ended with another baby quilt as well as additions to the Parts Department. Now there are just narrow strings ready for my next project which should start next week.

There was even time to sew a few more pillowcases, too. These are more enjoyable than expected. They are useful, look pretty, and use fabric that had become stuck in my stash.


Just in time for an online discussion, I found the History book club through MFAH which meets quarterly. Usually they gather at Bayou Bend or Reinzi but with the stay -at-home order they set up online, at least this time. And guess what? The book was Bill Bryson's At Home! So of course, I joined in. There's a list of previous discussion books here.

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate) 
Nineteen pillowcases, six totes, and two quilts used 41.25 yards for May. Tracking my usage is salutary or at least, educational. YTD = 103.75 yards.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Taking a Hatchet to my Scraps

"The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving."
~Oliver Wendell Holmes


It's way past time to use up my remnants and scraps. I used the largest to make a simple four-patch called Hatchet that is often seen as a signature block. In fact, I used the block for my first guild name tag. My rule was that each fabric had to make between two and seven center squares cut 5.5" each with pairs of 3" cut squares for the triangle sides. Five inches is fairly wide for the scrap bag but I grabbed bits from previous projects that are less than a fat quarter and remnants from clothing construction. After marking the diagonal I sewed that line and cut off the extra.

The  blocks are sewn with two small squares in the corner of a larger square. The outer half of the small squares will be cut away to finish the design
Hatchet blocks sewn but not pressed

By the end of the week I had enough blocks for two tops which finished the widest pieces in the scrap bag. One of Fern Royce's scrap quilts reminded me of the ribbon border on my Strippy Nine Patch. A celebratory quilt of streamers seemed like the perfect plan.

Here's the original layout.

Hatchet blocks for the quilt as originally set on the design wall
Hatchet baby quilt 1
Designs can be tightened by moving the blocks. Extra blocks are so helpful I usually sew enough for a second quilt. {Baby quilts are great for this purpose.} The finished quilt has streamers of red, blue and light green replacing a cream streamer and some darker streamers.

Hatchet blocks form ribbons of color down a quilt
Hatchet 1 scrap quilt

The back of the quilt includes leftover blocks. These were duller blocks that were pulled from the front. They look well with this funny pink fabric.

The quilt back includes a row of extra hatchet blocks inserted in a pink plaid
Hatchet 1 baby quilt back

I used simple parallel quilting lines, one of my favorite ways to quilt. The binding is a yellowish fabric with green polka dots. That creamy yellow matches the plaid in the pink fabric.

Folded quilt shows detail of the front, back,,binding, and quilting design
Hatchet 1 baby quilt detail of quilting and binding

Quilt Specifics
Size: 45" x 45"
Design: Hatchet or Signature block
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose cotton
Thread: Superior 50 wt grey cotton thread
Quilting: Parallel lines with walking foot
Approximate yardage: 5.625 yds


Still at home ourselves, Bill Bryson's book of the same name caught my eye. His premise was that every room in his Victorian Yorkshire parsonage could springboard to the history of domesticity along with the scientific inventions and etymology that define our current way of living. He sets the stage with the year his home was built, using it to discuss the Crystal Palace and the appointment of clergy in the Church of England.

Starting with the hall, which used to be the entire house, Bill discusses how each developed. The addition of fireplaces allowed floors to be built above the ground and promoted the idea of privacy. The kitchen explores gastronomy, nutrition, and the Spice Trade. The scullery leads to the fuse box which leads to a discussion of lighting - one of the points that interested me most. The refrigerator light is stronger than the total amount in most 18th century homes. Those pictures of families working a a table lit by one candle illuminate the utter darkness of night for most of history.

Of course, hygiene is discussed in the bathroom while sex, death and sleep inhabit the bedroom. The study reminds him of the mice, rats, bats, lice, bedbugs, and the many microbes that live on our bodies and in our homes. Why? Because that's the room where they catch most of their mice. Darwin, and the destruction of country homes, and the sale of parsonages by the church conclude the book in the attic where are the ephemera of past glories go to die.

This was an excellent reading choice for self-isolation or any other time.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Snowballs Make a Perfect Border

Coward: One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.
~Ambrose Bierce


The snowball borders are finally sewn on the Wheel quilt. Wheee!

A portion of the Wheel quilt showing some of the wheels with a narrow red and white striped sashing and a border of three rows of low volume snowball blocks
Snowball border on the Wheel quilt

Oh, joy! Not that the quilt is done but at least the top is finished. It's too large to get a full photo right now. Hopefully that can happen once it's quilted. Next will be an excavation of my stash to see what white fabrics lurking there could become a back. I can't remember any right now but am certainly not purchasing more before checking the piles already here.

The quilting plan will also take some time. While the backgrounds are not solid white, they are very low-volume so the stitching will show. What will look good? Does the sashing need any or can it just be SID? Fortunately my trusty vinyl is at hand so sketches should be easy.

Clearing Out my Stash

I pulled fabric for six more totes. Although I'm trying to make some for young men, they all look like a tote for little kids or little old ladies. Perhaps solids will work better for older boys. Next month I'll look for those. Each tote uses two fabrics: one yard that becomes the inside and sides plus half a yard for the front. The print in the top left is in two other totes {middle and left on the bottom row.} It's a beautiful {to me} Rose and Hubble print that's so old my hair wasn't grey when I bought it in Lewisville TX. There wasn't enough for a big shirt and it's been sitting in my stash long enough.

Six blue cotton tote bags use 1.5 yards each
Six tote bags

I also finished a dozen pillowcases which should keep my whole family provided. The king size ones take a yard plus a third for the cuff while the standard take two-thirds of a yard plus a third for the cuff. Most of my one-yard lengths got a serious look to decide whether they would work for either a pillowcase or tote. This batch took twelve and two-thirds yards. Now they are ready to gift throughout the year.

Twelve pillowcases in pinks and whites
Twelve pillowcases

Masks and Gowns

No new masks. Like Robin, I think I'm done until something needs to be replaced but six new isolation gowns this week. In addition, five gowns were sent to me for minor repairs. It's great to have a large group of sewers but would be better if they would read the directions. So that was not so fun but hopefully these were "first round" mistakes. Sewing 4 Good has a small group of paid sewers at a southern California shop but many volunteer sewers. As businesses reopen, I believe we volunteers will fade out; however, all our hospitals and care centers have spent their budget. Some are even laying off staff in the middle of this pandemic. So we will be sewing through the end of the year and probably beyond. Not as fun as quilting but way more important.


I alternate books online with physical copies but almost always am on the waiting list. A whole bunch came due this past week so I chose The Cuckoo's Calling, the first of a series of crime novels by  Robert Galbraith. That is a nom de plume for J.K. Rowling. {I must be the last reader to find out she has a new series.} Her protagonist, private investigator Comoran Strike, is a disabled Afghan vet looking into the death of supermodel, Lula Landry. I enjoyed it and placed a hold on the second one.

Movies, TV, Etc

We just finished the fourth of nine episodes of Home from Apple TV. If DH wasn't so adept I wouldn't have found this series and it's wonderful. Each looks at one builder or architect in one location, what they built, why they built it, how they were inspired. The homes are stunningly different, from a Swedish log cabin inside a greenhouse to the tiniest apartment in Hong Kong. That place had moveable walls. Not like Japanese sliding screen, these move like shelves in my chemistry lab and reconfigure the space for cooking, working, entertaining, or sleeping. If you see it, let me know which episode most intrigued you.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Heading for the Border

Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it comes. If you seek truth, you will not seek victory by dishonorable means; and if you find truth, you will become invincible.


I used a dark brown to post the stripe at the corners of the wheel blocks. The value is quite a bit darker but the pieces are so small they don't overpower the softness of the rest of the top. Well, soft for me.

Wheel composed of four fan blocks with alternating pale red and green blades sashed with tan are in turn sashed with red and white stripe in this low volume quilt
Center of the wheel quilt sewn

Now for the border. My original plan was to create a grey/tan and white hourglass inner border and sew the rest of the wedges as Coins in an outer border. Eventually I noticed that sequence {or at least the Coins} has occurred in several of my quilts, including Chinese Coins II, III, and CCIV, and the Polka Dot. It's time for a new idea.

One that I've wanted to try for a while is the snowball. Again, examples abound in current and vintage work: Sujata's book, Audrey's Scrappy Tulips, Julierose's Autumn Snowballs. A photo of Yoko Saito's glorious taupe Snowballs is here.

Snowballs work as a sixteen-patch as well as a nine-patch. Those definitions just locate the grid a block fits into. Each side divides into four equal parts for a sixteen-patch while a nine-patch divides into three equal parts. Of course, I'm not going to measure my corners. Somewhere between those will work just fine.

The backgrounds are squares of pink, white, cream, tan, and a couple of light yellows. I raided my overflowing scrap bin for corner fabrics and that's where the trouble arose. This first pass included any fabrics that seemed to go but mostly dark values. Too dark. It's overpowering the soft wheels.

In this snowball border, the corners of the blocks are too dark for the center of the quilt
Snowball corners in darker fabrics

So I removed the darkest by pulling out my trusty Value Finder. In years past I always used it to select fabrics but haven't needed it for a while. This helps me calculate the range of values that will work: 8-10 for snowballs, 5-7 for corners {with perhaps a few 4s.} This second iteration is better but still too bright. The corners need to be quieter still.

In this version of the snowball border, the corners of the blocks have too many bright fabrics
Lighter snowball corners with several brights

My next battle was removing the brighter brights - even if they are reds - and the blues. I'm not sure why I thought those would work. Looking carefully at all the wheels, the prints include orange, tan, brown, grey, yellow, purple, and pink in addition to red and green. When the border is reduced to these colors in quiet{er} hues within the value range it starts to work. Boy! Lots of hedging in that previous sentence.

This version of the snowball borders has corners that closely match the colors and values of the Wheel blocks in the center of the quilt
Snowball corners that work with the quilt center

Finally I can start a little production line {because these babies are very fiddly and time-consuming.} That's what happened the rest of the week and I'm only halfway through. Funny how hard it is for me to use scraps in the corners and actually have them fill the entire corner {and have a bit showing once the seam allowances are in, too.}

Improvisational snowball blocks sewn and pressed, waiting to be trimmed
Snowballs sewn and pressed waiting to be trimmed

In order to keep the various fabrics fairly evenly distributed it seemed best to divide them into four groups - one for each side. I'm sewing each on its own. One is done. These are the snowballs for the second side. Slower than molasses in January... and it's May.

Quilt borders of three rows of pale snowball blocks with soft colors in the corners are in the process of being constructed
Snowball borders in progress

Masks and Gowns

My final thirteen masks are made and shared with neighbors; 263 in all... I think. No more lining fabric right now. But work on isolation gowns continues. Six this week for a running total of 19. As I wrote before, they a delivered to a variety of sites: hospitals, social workers doing home health checks. For more information, check Sewing 4 Good.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Choosing Backgrounds

Blessedness is what can be snatched out of the passing day, and put away to think of afterwards.
~Ellis Peters in The Leper of St. Giles


I collaged some photos of different fabric pulls for the next step in the fan quilt.  The top shows choices for posts and possibly a secondary sashing. Bottom left is background and more sashing ideas. Although a bunch of reds and greens were pulled for the wedges, the pile mysteriously decreased over time as other projects took precedence. When the wheels restarted, there were not enough soft reds. The crab prints on the right made me laugh. They might work as wedges; they certainly won't look the same cut into small strips.

Sashing, post, and background fabric choices for the fan/wheel blocks plus detail of crab fabric
Some fabric choices
Eventually I found two two-yard pieces of quietly printed cream fabrics in my stash {bottom left photo.} One includes a girl in a hat fishing. Now is the perfect time to use it.

This is improv so you won't be surprised to find I cut the fans down quite a bit. Why? At the larger size, only three background could be cut from WOF with lots of waste. That wasn't so bad {Scraps!} but I don't have enough fabric to create all the backgrounds. Decreasing the block size let me fit four across. Problem solved.

Paper pattern laid on fan to properly trim down the block
Trimming the fans to a smaller template size

There's also a simple trick to pinning: don't pin the seam allowances. Pinning between or near them lets them move and allows the new seam to curve rather than jerk from point to point.

Pin curves of the fan blades between seam allowances to create a smooth seam line
Pin curves of the fan between seam allowances

As usual, I cut the outer background with half-inch seam allowances on the two straight sides to give me some wiggle room when squaring the block. I find it doesn't help to make every template larger, just that final outer one.

Selectively oversizing the seams of some pieces gives more room to square the block
Squaring a fan quilt block

With the fans sewn it was time to settle the sashing. Another long-held idea was to use the red-and-white stripe. With the wheels were arranged it was too much for all the sashing. So... either between the arcs or around the wheels but not both. A light grey-brown worked as the alternate sashing, contrasting with everything else but not screaming for attention. It's not the same fabric as my original background plan but it's in the same family. So my color idea wasn't completely whacky.

Testing two fabric, red stripe and tan, to determine which looks better between the fan blocks and which looks better between the wheel blocks
Sashing layout choices

Next I had to pick a post and went with the lighter red on the right. Now I can sew the quarter-circle blocks into larger wheel blocks and contemplate a posts for the stripe. {Those reds won't work.} These are not easy blocks for me nor have I seriously worked at low{er} volume before.

Testing a darker and a brighter red for posts in the Wheel quilt
Choosing between two reds for the post


The book cover features the ghostly image a St. Winifred in the foreground with Brother Cadfael under an arch behind her and a line of five monks in the background.I started rereading the Cadfael chronicles, a successful 12th century mystery series by Ellis Peters which also adapted for television. In A Morbid Taste for Bones, Shrewsbury Abbey seeks to increase their prominence by acquiring the bones of a Welsh saint. When the leader of the local community objects, he is soon found murdered and Brother Cadfael must resolve the issues. It's even better than I remembered. This time I appreciated the descriptions of and the differences between the societal structures of the two countries as well as noticing the variations of religious practices, albeit both being Catholic. Of course, I devoured the maps of the region, city and Abbey.

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate)

The 26 yards of isolation gown material did not come from my stash. {I sewed it but am not counting it in my rate.} Masks total 250. This month's total took 7 more yards while the pillowcases used 7.5 yds. April = 14.5 yards. YTD = 62.5 yards.

Enjoy the day, Ann