All posts in the Quilting category

Appliance hell

Published February 12, 2018 by livinggraciously

My washer and dryer failing me is a nightmare I don’t want to visit. You see, my current set came with the house 17 years ago, and were already 5 years old. The one set of appliances I’ve never bought is a washer and dryer–I’ve always purchased houses where they’d been left behind by the former owner, leaving me with comfortable but forgettable machines.

For the first time in my life, I’ve lived in a house for more than three years. Until now, I skedaddled before my washer/dryer had a chance to wear out. Now? I’ve been in this house for 17 years. Seventeen. Talk about things I never thought could happen! And since the “average life expectancy” of such appliances is about 15 years, I was alarmed when my dryer buzzer refused to stop buzzing–was it going to cost me money, and would it cost enough that replacement made more sense?! Fortunately, I was able to enact a minor repair and avoid a crisis.

But it made me think, for the first time, about the end of the useful life of those two appliances. For most people, that’s an unfortunate expense–maybe even a time to be excited about getting something new for the household. But not for me.

Because I am a fabric dyer. And fabric dying means handling a lot of dye in my laundry room area. Dye is messy. Dye looks like a wee drop of something, but when you swipe a damp rag over it becomes a swath of intense color that requires multiple rinsings to expunge. Dye means that even after you’ve done what you think is a commendable job of cleaning up the mess, you are likely to come across surprise disaster bombs of color–one teeny speck of concentrated dye on the back of a glove translates into large smears of mess.

I am blessed with a big, double laundry room sink, but I have no real work table in the laundry room. So the top of my old, white enamel washer and dryer end up serving as a work surface. This works well. They are relatively easy to clean, durable under the force of water, and large enough to hold a multitude of process containers.

It also means they are regularly a mess of dye. When a process is finished, they get a washing down. But there are streaks down their sides that refuse to come off, things I missed despite a careful inspection. And I shrug that off as okay, since they are my old and battered appliances.

The new ones are SO SHINY!!!! Stainless steel lunar launch vehicles that stand on their own podiums. Sometimes the podiums are, themselves, separate washing machines. Or spaces to store away unsightly cleaning supplies. Or maybe tanning booths and spas–it’s hard to tell these days. How could I possibly splatter such temples with dye and soda ash and Synthrapol? It borders on a mortal sin.

Oh yes, I do know that I could buy some baseline white enamel machines. But it’s like car shopping–the stainless steel model that looks less like a washer and more like a jet engine is SO TEMPTING!!! Buying the white enamel ones that would make more sense–flat tops to serve as good work areas like my current ones–seems like buying a Studebaker when for just a few dollars more I could get a Tesla. I’m not sure I’m up to resisting the temptation.

And so, for the moment, I will be relieved that my appliances still function. And hold onto them as long as I can.



I am the camel

Published January 17, 2018 by livinggraciously

At the very end of 2017, I wrote about my lovely new sewing space and how much more work I’m getting done in there. One of the pictures I did not include was the view into the rest of the family room:


As you can see, there is lots of lovely space in our library.

I want more of it.

Like the camel with its nose in the tent, I look at this and see opportunity. Currently, it’s a bit of a squeeze right behind my sewing machine. And I don’t really have a place for a design wall. So I’d like to move two of the bookcases further down the room and gain that extra three feet of floor space. That doesn’t seem that unreasonable.

But secretly, I covet a long arm frame to really go to town on free motion quilting. That’s another twelve feet (yes, 12 FEET) of floor space. It’s also somewhere north of $5000 to actually get a setup worth having, so I don’t anticipate that happening any time soon. Nevertheless, I daydream about it. In case, you know, I look into the pocket of an old coat and find a young fortune I forgot that I’d stashed there.


All this means that Ferrett sees me eyeing the bookcases and starts getting worried. He loves our library. It’s filled with things that give him comfort. He looks at it and sees happy memory.

I look at it and see real estate.

I am sure that happy compromise can be reached. I will, perhaps, move the bookcases around. I have ideas involving that cedar chest. But they all take time and energy to enact, and right now my time and energy is focused on actually sewing.

I’m still going to make him nervous, though, checking them out….

Slow success, many changes

Published December 31, 2017 by livinggraciously

I feel a bit embarrassed, trying to revitalize this blog. I’ve attempted resuscitation previously and failed. But one last attempt, then I will hang the DNR tag on its dead toe.

What inspired me to try again was coming across my New Years Eve entry from two years ago, in which I said I was going to try and finish off the UFOs (UnFinished Objects) hanging around in my sewing room. A lot has changed in my sewing room since that entry. For one thing, it entirely changed locations, migrating from the unfinished (and frankly depressing, no matter how hard I tried to spruce it up) laundry room to the downstairs family room, a much brighter and more pleasant–and larger, since I get three walls–space.

I am much more inspired to work in this space than I was in the other.


The second big change is my lovely new sewing machine, which is like working on a dream.

This lovely creature makes everything about my life easier. Seriously. I sometimes just go downstairs and pet it.

Anyway, New Years Eve of 2015, I made a resolution to finish off my UFOs. In 2015, I only managed to finish one: this quilt that went to my dear friends Kat and Eric.

It was one of four Lone Star samples that I’d made back when I was teaching a class on it in Fairbanks. In fact, all of my UFOs were the result of samples for classes. I have been known to toss out unsuccessful projects in the past, but these weren’t unsuccessful; just orphaned after I stopped teaching. Like this one, the four Lone Star were nothing but the pieced center, needing a lot of borders to make them work.

The second one just went to my mother-in-law for Christmas.

It’s not in the color palette I usually use, so it was especially challenging. I am really happy with the way it came out.

Number 3, I am finishing as a wall piece, partly because it’s got so much white that I can’t imagine anyone I know every wanting it for their bed, partly because I am now learning to do real surface quilting and want to use it for practice. And I have a perfect wall waiting for it when I finish.

The final one is still just a partial top. It, like the others above, was made with fabric that is LONG out of print, and a color scheme that’s going to be a bit of a challenge. I will have to take it to the quilt shop and work with the lovely ladies there to choose colors and figure out a way to deal with it.

I’m hoping that this year will see it, the last of my very old UFOs finished.

The other UFO was a compilation of the many steps it took to make another kind of block–strips, then squares, then triangles, then actual blocks–for a quick piecing class. These were a scrambled mess and could easily have been tossed, but I decided to lay them out and see if they could become a top. They could. Then it sat around, unfinished, for the better part of a decade. Now, it’s done.

It’s the purple quilt on the left. The one on the right consists of blocks for an idea that I decided was far too white and abandoned. But I’d made this many blocks, and we really needed another quilt. So rather than letting it languish as a UFO, I whipped it together and made a quilt that Amy and Ferrett both LOVE. It only has the barest minimum of in-the-seam stitching to hold it together right now; it’s going to be another practice project before I get to the real project for this year.

I also dyed a lot of fabric and experimented with some of my results. This wall piece went together over a weekend, the first quilt to be completed pieced and quilted on my new machine. It now lives with our friends Laura and Jeremiah.

And I’m practicing making free-motion feathers on a very old and decrepit quilt. After I finish with it, I will move through all the quilts in the house, adding interest and beauty on them while I practice in anticipation of undertaking Erin’s wedding quilt. This is the first picture of the blocks, laid out but not sewn together yet.

It’s called “Let it Snow,” because the swirling reminds me of snow, and snowboarding is deepest passion that Erin and Matty share.

So, this coming year I will concentrate on improving my free motion quilting skills and on paper piecing. And most evenings you will find me at my lovely machine, stitching together tiny pieces of fabric that I made from large pieces of fabric, so that they can be large pieces of fabric once again.

Warm and cuddly quilts: No one sees the blood, sweat, tears, and swearing

Published March 5, 2012 by livinggraciously

I owe quilts to many people. Many, many people. Some of them are partially done, some are still just gleams of ideas in my head. And part of my project to live more graciously is to get back to my fiber arts, my creative and giving side.

On Sunday, I attacked my sewing room, the last room in the house that had not been uncluttered in my “Hubby’s out of town, let’s spring clean” week. I got my work table and sewing table all cleaned up and found the fabric with which I intended to back a baby quilt that has been in the works since baby arrived.

He’s walking now.

Go ahead and laugh, but I know crafters who are working on “baby quilts” that might be high school graduation presents. So I’m not that hopelessly behind.

No, really.

Having all the pieces in one place, and being “on a roll,” I decided to sandwich and pin baste the baby quilt. For those who don’t know, a quilt consists of a top, generally pieced in a pattern, a fabric backing, and between these some kind of batting that gives it loft and warmth. In order to get these three layers to stay together, they must be stitched through with a topstitch that can either be functionally placed in the seams of the pieced top or decoratively sewn in a pattern on the surface–otherwise known as “quilting.”

Like the toilet paper.

In order to accomplish this permanent quilting, the layers must be temporarily basted together so that they don’t shift and wrinkle. The easiest way to do this is with safety pins pinned about every six inches all over the surface. Even in a small project, it’s a lot of safety pins. Generally this project is undertaken on large enough floorspace for the entire quilt to lie flat, and the quilter crawling about on her knees, trying not to wrinkle the portions she hasn’t pinned yet. With a king sized quilt it can take two days and hundreds of pins.

If you want to make a quilter laugh, innocently ask her if she has a safety pin handy.

I was almost 2/3 of the way through the pin basting when I realized that I’d misaligned the quilt and half of the top row was pinned only to batting, with the backing laid out too far down. In other words, the top layer of the sandwich had slid completely out of alignment and was not over the bottom layer at all. A hundred safety pins, and all of it was out of whack and had to be redone.

I’m quite proud of myself that I dismissed my first two reactions:

  • Reaction one was, “I’ll just cut off the top half of the blocks! He’s a baby; he’ll never know!
  • Reaction two was, “Kerosene and a match!”

But no, I took a deep breath, sighed, and unpinned all the work I’d done.

I’d like to say that I didn’t even swear, but I can only say that I don’t remember swearing, so it must have been minimal.

Once it was unpinned, I even realigned it and repinned it right. Tomorrow I’m hoping to actually get the machine quilting done. When it’s finished, it will go to a child who will never know the headaches that it caused me.

And almost every hand-made project has at least one headache/heartache moment. You may never learn the story, but when you are gifted with a piece of craft made by a friend, take a moment to consider the soul of the gift. It’s already been the source of joy and frustration to someone who cares enough about you to project their heart through their hands and make something of beauty for you.

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