31 August 2020

September, Stash-Busting & Some Tuesday To-Do's

September, how I love thee,
let me count the ways!

It's finally pumpkin time!
I welcomed September by picking just a few--a little green,
yes, but you never know when the squirrels or mice
will find them so it's a good idea to start grabbing early.
They'll finish ripening just fine.
Let the porch decorating and pumpkin baking begin!

How did everyone do this past week?
I'm pretty happy with my productivity!  Here's
what I got done:

1) Finish [Squirrel in] The Secret Garden
(I should make up my mind about that name!)

I finally decided to order more coordinating fabric
for the outer border but I first squeezed in a small
yellow one.  Pardon the late-evening-lighting pic:

So you can get a better idea of how it looks, I tossed it
on our bed in the daylight--no "staging", just a quick pic.

After deliberating too long, I thought there was no way
I'd get this thing finished by Tuesday especially waiting on
 fabric to arrive in the mail but the Etsy shop owner shipped
it immediately and it arrived in two days--from New York!
I actually had this completed by Sunday and went on to
make up the backing and cut out the batting.  This
one is 100% ready to quilt. 

I also started piecing together tiny HSTs from the trimmings
from this quilt.  I have 165+ made but even more to go.
All will need to be trimmed down to 1 1/2 inches.
What will I make with these?
No idea but it'll be cool.
Maybe a pillow (or three?) to go with the quilt.

2) Make Garlic Knot Blocks

Can you believe it?  I finished all 120 blocks!
And did some decent stash busting!

3) Get one of my tops loaded and begin quilting
I didn't get this done but I did make the backing and cut out
the batting for the West Point quilt after I did the same for the
Secret Garden so I now have 3 quilts completely prepped.
That's a lot of "boring part of quilting" to get done so I
think it more than makes up for my not getting #3 done.
I think I'll get one loaded and begin quilting today.

4) Garden work
Picked some pumpkins.
Harvested more herbs (chives, thyme).
Pruned roses; dried petals for chicken mix.
Picked tomatoes; continued to prune.

Made 10 bags "chili starter" from tomatoes, onions
and Anaheim green chilis and poblano peppers.
These are so easy and handy!
I figure if I'm going to freeze peppers, why not save some
steps and freeze them how I'm going to use them?  A bonus
is that I can just pulse them in the blender with the tomatoes.
No chopping needed.

I'm in a bit of a hurry today so here are my
to-do's for next week:

1) Quilt one, or more, of the 3 finished tops.

2) Sew garlic knot blocks together.
Also, choose borders and come up with a name.

3) Garden work
Roast and freeze peppers
Prune, can tomatoes

4) Enjoy September!!!

5) Just maybe:  choose and start a new quilt

A little stash-busting note:
I emptied two bolts of fabric (about 14 yards) this week in
making the backings.  I moved out some smaller pieces that
have been hanging out in my cabinet for too long so I'm
feeling really good about the stash-busting progress so far.
Just a month to go before shop hop so I'm off to put
the pedal to the metal carpet.

Happy Quilting!

Linking up to:

27 August 2020

August Monthly Goal Completed

To share my August finish, today I'm linking up to

Elm Street Quilt's One Monthly Goal

I easily completed my goal--to finish this top--but

for weeks I've been confused about how to quilt it.

I am a pantograph quilter but this requires me to choose
one thread and one design for the entire quilt--but I
can't see that really working.  I think my only option is to
use a light gray or tan in the center part of the quilt and
save the outer parts for some simple FMQ in black.
If I use gray, I could include the gray border but I
have a feeling a light tan would look better.
And, I don't think black would look good in the gray border.

I should note that West Point takes great pride in
The Long Gray Line, a reference to the tie that binds all cadets
who have graduated from there in the past and all who will in the
future so having a gray thread throughout would have meaning.

(Shameless photo op/mom brag moment:  my cadet)

Certainly it's a candidate for some great FMQ but
as much as I'd finally like to try my hand at some
designs throughout, this quilt needs to be done well.
It's not the time for trying things out.

August has been very productive so far but I'm starting
to get a pile of quilt tops.  Not necessarily a bad problem
but this West Point top is holding everything up in the 
machine quilting department so I would love any
opinions, help, motivation, commands, bribes,
whatever it will take to get me in there to get
this thing quilted!

Happy quilting!


24 August 2020

Tuesday To-Do

Hello Tuesday.
You sure have a way of creeping up on us,
you know?  But you also keep us in line so
I guess it's all good.

Last time we hung out, I said I was going to
work on the following things:

1)  Finish all blocks, maybe get them into rows.
I'm so happy with all I got done here!
I got all 80 blocks completed but I couldn't
just leave them hanging, literally, so I kept at it
till I got the entire inside of this quilt done.
(Not bad for, what, about a week and a half?)

So I then made a run for the borders...

...aaaand here I sit.
I had hoped to use some of the yellow but, in laying
it all out on the bed, I do not like it one bit.
I might order yardage of a dark blue floral in this
collection to finish it out but I'm still mulling it over.
I really wanted this to be all from my stash!

2) Pick out my next quilt
For my next trick quilt, I've chosen to make a
Garlic Knot.  This will check off another one from
the "Ooh, I Wanna Make That Someday" bucket list.

We've been super lucky to have pretty mild weather for August.
Waking up to 68 degrees is a great reprieve from the heat;
waking up to 80 degrees and humidity just wears me out.
Anyway, with the cool mornings and September just around
the corner, hallelujah--it's time to play with fall fabrics!
And these scrappy garlic knots should be perfect!
I don't have a pattern so I spent a some time working out
the cutting and strip piecing plans for 6" blocks.
I already have 6 blocks on the design wall but I'm
holding off on any pics till next Tuesday.  It's just
hard to get a feel for a scrappy quilt when there
are so few blocks done.

(In case you're keeping track of these things,
no I have not forgotten my Farmer's Wife quilt!)

3) Can more tomatoes
I made 4 qts of marinara instead and some with
a couple of the kids who visited.  All of us now
 have some to cook with for the week.
(Hubs has requested manicotti).
Speaking of yumminess...

On the food front:
We're in the "cherry tomato surplus days" and while
they're yummy on salads, you can only fit so many
in a meal that way so I'm always after other ways.

My favorite way to use them is to roast them:
a little olive oil, salt and pepper and voila,
a yummy side-dish all on their own.  Nom.

is super versatile.  Above, I added in a bit of zucchini
(gotta use those up, too!)
and served it over pasta, topped with a little parmesan
and some fresh basil.  Super-easy, light summer fare.
If you don't like shrimp, leave it out.  Or try chicken.
Or maybe a sausage.  Let your imagination run.
It's all about those homegrown, oven-roasted tomatoes.
This is the whole reason I grow them.

Out in the Garden:

Nature is beginning to do my favorite decorating so I've
been bringing some inside where I can enjoy it even more.
Daily I see more orange showing up on the pumpkins.
Great timing--when September hits, they'll be ready to
become part of the fall front porch decor.
The biggest jack-o-lantern is almost 14" wide and 14.5" tall.
Years ago, I wrote that my 56.4-pounder was
"just under two feet tall and about 19 inches wide"
so there is still quite a bit of growing to do if we're
going to break any records.

Just one picking from that crazy year.  I so miss this!

One year (above), I filled 13 bushel baskets with gourds and
small pumpkins, yet this year I hardly have any gourds at all.
This has never happened.  Why didn't they grow??

And sadly, Charlotte the Garden Spider disappeared right
after I posted her pic.  Either she moved because didn't
enjoy the press or a bird (ahem) "moved" her.  I'm keeping
an eye on "Charlotte II" over in the pepper patch.

To-Do's For This Week:

1) Finish [Squirrel in] The Secret Garden
I need to make a decision on the border issue asap.
Fabric needs to be ordered--or if I keep to my stash,
then this top should be completed by next week.
Stay tuned on this one.

2) Make Garlic Knots blocks
Keep going and make a dent in that stash.
As God is my witness, this stash will diminish!

If you've followed me for awhile, you know how I really
try to ramp things up in this department this time of year
because that quilt shop hop is coming up.  This is
the day I allow myself to buy fabric in abandon, though
I'm sure I'll never top last year's insanity.
Or even half of that.  But oh what a grand time that was!
I don't mean to get off-topic; I just want everyone
to understand my drive this next month or two.
I expect my next several quilts will be some-what scrappy.

3) Get one of my quilt tops loaded and start quilting
I still have those two smaller quilts to get quilted up
and the cooler days make me feel a little more like
working in our sunroom on the longarm.

4)  Garden work
 Prune the tomatoes (again!) and get "chili starter"
(Anaheim chilis, tomatoes and onions) and diced
green chilis into the freezer for the year ahead.

Well, that's a wrap.

Happy quilting!

Linking up to:

19 August 2020

How to Choose Pantographs

Hello, longarmers and all quilters!
Today I'm linking up to
Long Arm Learning #3.

Today I'm going to share a little about how I learned to pick
out pantographs that I could actually do as a beginner.
Like so much of what I've learned of sewing in general,
it was all by trial and error.  But, I think that this can
be one of the most effective ways of learning.
And it keeps me humble!  Ha!

First off, this was a very hard the hardest post to write.
I've done a lot of writing--and a lot of deleting.
I'd love to help with every single little issue that
I've encountered but I also don't want to overwhelm
anyone with too much information, especially when
so much of it is, as I said, best learned with doing.
I hope I've found the happy medium but if something
is confusing or you'd like more info,
please just ask and I'll see if I can offer any help.

If you missed my intro last week (see it here), I
love, love, love pantographs.  For so many years I was
confined to a regular machine doing free-motion, when all
I dreamed about were the beautiful and uniform designs that
I would see on the quilts hanging up in shops and online.
I have not felt creative enough yet to do the more artistic
FMQ.  I did a lot of meandering:  swirls, loops, stippling,
leaves (lots and lots of leafy vines!), hearts etc.
And pumpkins.

Pumpkins are one thing I can do freehand.  Go figure!
If you know me and my love of all things fall and pumpkin
(I was pumpkin waaay before pumpkin was cool!)
this all makes perfect sense. 

 There are just some things that I can be so excited
 about that I will push and push till I get it.
Pantographs are one of those things.

Pantographs are perfect and I wanted that perfection on
my quilts.  Eventually I became a longarm owner and
spent hours going over every pantograph available.
I ordered up some beautiful, flowing designs and
I was going to be perfect!
Instead, I was....kind of disappointed.
All of my passion and excitement was not enough to make
me instantly good at them.  Not even after some warming up.
Those suckers are a lot harder than they looked, darn them!
All those years of teasing me!

But as with any learning, it just takes practice.
And patience.

I didn't choose a very easy design for my first but in my
love for fall things, I was stubborn and wanted this one:

Really this wasn't too bad of a beginner's choice
as I'll get to in a minute but there's a lot of detail.
But, having a lot of detail can help hide mistakes
so I had that going for me.

I remember getting frustrated with those shells at the bottom
of the acorns.  I don't think I got a single one right--and I still
find them a bit of a struggle.  And I think you'll find exactly that:
there are just some shapes that you will struggle with
This quilt was just for me so, with no pressure,
I loaded it up and off I went.

In looking back, I have to be kind to myself and note that I
was also learning to use my longarm.  I bought it
slightly-used and had received no instruction at all.  

Scarier than a horror film!

I had some things to learn about needles and threads,
and tension was a four-letter word for probably the first
two years of owning my machine!  

But I stumbled through it and today it is still a favorite.
It will always be "my first longarm quilt"!

Everytime the grandkids come over, it is spread over our
living room floor for them to play on.  I also use it to work
on garden-y things, like prepping herbs for drying,
 while I'm watching tv with the hubs. 

So, here's the first pantograph tip:
If you are a new LA owner, learn as much as you can
about your machine first!
It is so hard to get into that rhythm when that thread
breaks every 2 seconds.  I know you're excited and
this isn't what you wanted to hear--you want to go!
But getting ahead of yourself can delay things later.
Relax and just get to know each other.

For those of us that know our machine well,
 head over to a pantograph site and--okay,
you've already done that, right?
I use Urban Elementz and Quilts Complete but I'm
sure there are others.  By the way, right before
and during the holidays, they usually have sales
like 20% off (free shipping at $50).  That's 
a little off-topic but we'll call it tip #2!

my pantographs listed.  I just found this an easy
reference for me to see what I have if I'm not at
home, or to let, ie, my sister know what I have for
when she comes to visit me my longarm.  In the
three years I've had my machine, I've tried to grow
a solid stash that covers all the basic quilt themes.
Right now I feel like I have everything I need along
with a few fun ones--like the tea/coffee theme.
For the record, I have 26.  I've only used 2/3 of them.
My point is, you really don't need a lot!

If you start with just a few general ones--leaves,
flowers, feathers, swirls--you'll have all you really need.
These are usually the easiest and the most forgiving.
Plus, working to master these will tell you what you
struggle with for when you begin to choose more
complicated designs.

"Apple Orchard" Urban Elementz

I'm not sure the order but this was another design
I did in those first few months.

Leaves really are so easy and fun to quilt up!
They come in all shapes and sizes so if yours
end up that way, you're just mimicking nature!

By the way, this "Apple Orchard" has a really neat
happy-ending that goes with it:  read it here.

I was super happy with this one, though these kind of 
"ribbon swirls" can still challenge me in any pantograph.
This is something I learned about my quilting right away.

I'm going to throw out a few other tips I have learned
for choosing easy designs for beginners--but whenever
you feel up for challenge, don't be afraid to branch out.
Remember, no matter what you try, you'll only get
better at it.  It's all about that muscle-memory, as 
 has often coached and encouraged me.

For your first pantographs: 
Look for random, forgiving designs.
By "forgiving," I mean that you can deviate a little
(or call it "making it your own"!) and it won't
hurt a thing.  Flowers and leaves grow all over, right?

"Linda's Daisy" Urban Elementz

This is one of the easiest pantos that I have.  Even if the
circular-center of the flower or the ribbon/vine curls have you
struggling, there is so much going on here, and if you've chosen
a fairly busy quilt design (and backing fabric!) for your first
quilt or twono one is gonna see that your circles aren't perfect.

"Autumn Oaks" Clothwerx/Willow Leaf Studio

The fall leaves and acorns that I showed earlier is another
fairly forgiving pattern, though it does have some equidistant
lines that caused me some issue: the shells that "hug"
the acorns and the stems.  But there's nothing 
symmetrical here and, though you would have
to go slowly and patiently, I think it's a good
design for, say, a 3rd or 4th quilt?
Remember, random is your friend.

Anything with equidistant lines or mirror-ing designs
 is going to require you to be so SPOT-ON to make it
 look good. It is going to take any deviation and put it right
out there on exhibit.  In neon.

This above one looks like a simple design but I would rather
use a ruler or some other method than try to follow this
to a "T" on a pantograph. 

"Star Dance" Urban Elementz

However, straight lines in short bursts, as in this panto,
are certainly doable once you have a little "panto time" logged.
The stars are even a little bit wonky (forgiving!) and
embedded among lots of random.  Score!

Now right there with straight v. curvy lines, try to
go for designs that "wave" across your quilt.

"Monstera" Urban Elementz

This wave will also camouflage any deviations.

Not only do these hearts have equidistant lines but any
quilting "off the path" will be easily seen.
Also, using this on a quilt design that already has straight lines
(ie, blocks & sashing) will only help advertise any, ahem,
"free-flowing expression" in your quilting.
(That means flaws but you call it what you want.)
As a beginner, I would avoid this for now.

And one last thought when looking for your first
pantographs:  Look for a design that you can follow
easily with your eye.
The above Star Dance and Monstera are both
examples of ones you can follow easily.

"Bossa Nova"

Loops and curls, oh my!  This one is fun and fast but if I
get distracted (thread break, sneeze, phone ring, etc.)
I can lose where I'm at in those curls.
Now, on this, it kind of doesn't matter because it's doubtful
anyone will see it but there are more complicated designs that
can have you suddenly going backwards if you
so much as blink at the wrong time.   If you can't
follow it easily with your eyes, and with a little
distraction, you'll likely struggle with it as a panto.
This is when I feel like a cat chasing the laser light, btw.
While you could choose to avoid these as a beginner,
don't feel like you have to.  These are really about learning
where you can safely stop without losing your place.
And you can make yourself little notes when you set
up your pantograph.
But that, my quilty friends, is coming up next time.
Also under that category is:  Training Your Family.

Hopefully this has clarified rather than confused
some of you new-to-pantographs quilters out there.
Again, I'd love to help--if I can!--with any questions
or even if just want a second opinion on a panto(s)
you're thinking about trying.

Happy quilting!
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