Monday, October 28, 2013

A back-up plan

"This would be great for a back."  How many times have you said that? 
            *The quilt shop is having a great sale.
            *It's an estate sale and the stuff is 36" wide -- genuine vintage!
            *All-cotton print sheets at Salvation Army, only $3 each.**
            *The Red Tag miscellany at Joann's includes some really good quality fabric, and it's 50% off, and you have a 10% off-entire-purchase coupon.
            *The garage sale is being held by a quilter who is de-stashing.

Maybe the "you" isn't you. But it certainly is me. 

These tubs hold pieces that are 3 yards and longer.  I discovered pieced backs years ago.  I may use 3 yards of one print and 4 yards of another and a strip of leftover blocks. A back doesn't have to match the front, but I prefer to have some element or theme in common. (One time I had to quilt a batik flimsy in a hurry. I chose a back that was totally unlike the front. It wasn't whimsical, it was just not-right. I am more careful now.)

If you click on the "flimsy completion" tab you'll see that there are only 10 flimsies in the box.  Backs for those won't empty even one of these tubs.  I guess I'd better get busy and make some more flimsies! 

**Who are these profligate people who discard perfectly serviceable, all-cotton, unstained/unripped sheets?  At our house we use sheets until they are so worn that the hems are frayed or they tear. Though I note that most thrift-shop sheets are twin-sized -- a sign of redecorated kids' or guest rooms?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Postage Stamp Stars!

Here it is! I appreciate the advice and encouragement about the borders.  I found the checked fabric at Joann's. It has the balance of red and tan that I wanted. The triangle units in the border fit perfectly.  (72 x 72; 5-5/8 yards used.)

 I stopped at two thrift shops on Saturday.  This long piece was $3.00.  It's cotton lawn from India, lighter than quilting fabric.  It is hemmed at both ends but the selvedges are unfinished.   I'm not an art quilter, but sometimes I need something a bit art-y, and this is that.

Here is a more traditional print: an all-cotton twin-sized sheet....just right for borders or a back. ($3.00)

See what's on other design walls this week at Judy's Patchwork Times.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

DWM: border decisions

This month has been a bust as far as quilting accomplishments go. I gave up on setting the  apple blocks.  

Now I am stuck on the border for Postage Stamp Stars.   I thought that a checkerboard middle border would be great. I spent Saturday evening (TV night) sewing 1.5" squares in 3's (light-dark-light) to intersperse with the dark-light-dark 9 patches I had made in such quantity.  When I pinned the resulting checkerboard strips to the design wall I wasn't pleased -- too many checkers in the checkerboard.

Okay, another idea.  These units are 3.5 x 3.5 (unfinished). The tans are scrappy. The red print is the same throughout. (It is a different red print from what I used in the stars.) 
The red/tan stripe would be ideal -- but there's only 26" of it.  I'll have to cut skinny strips (1.5 to finish at 1") if I want to frame the units on both sides.

Of course I could break down and BUY something similar to that red/tan stripe.  Those of you who are stashbusting scrap quilters know that the challenge and thrill is to make do with what's on hand! 

Buy fabric, did I say?  Here's this week's Salvation Army bargain: a Ralph Lauren all-cotton twin sheet set (the pinstripes) and a piece that's 6.5 yds x 58" (the blue check)  -- total, with tax, $7.66.

"Homespun Knots" is the quilt on my bed right now. I made it in 2007 and Caron Carlson  quilted it. It's still one of my favorites.   Homespun plaids are not much in style these days, but I still have plenty in my stash.

See what un-stuck quilters are working on this Design Wall Monday at Judy's Patchwork Times .

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just my type

(This is my column for the October 24 issue of the Zion-Benton News. I have it finished a week early!)

Hunting and pecking in 1954
 A recent news item in the Chicago Tribune caught my eye.  “Children are learning to use a keyboard as early as kindergarten. A skill taught for generations in middle or high school – first on manual typewriters, then electric, and finally on computer keyboards – is becoming a staple of elementary classrooms.”  The story went on to say that many children begin school with some computer familiarity, but iPads and other tablet devices have many functions that operate by pressing a button or swiping a finger over the screen rather than by typing.   

The story evoked memories for me.  I love to type.  I think that came from subliminal suggestion before I was born.   

When my parents moved to Chicago in the late 1940’s, Mother wanted a typewriter of her own, and she wanted to buy it herself.   In those days mass mailing companies paid people (mostly women) to type envelopes and mailing labels at home.  R. R. Donnelly, the Chicago printer and publisher, offered to sell typewriters on the installment plan – the home-worker would get the machine in exchange for typing.   On Saturday afternoons Mother went Donnelly’s Lakeside Press (which is still on the near South Side, next to McCormick Place) to pick up the next week’s assignment.  She told me that she remembered thinking how fortunate she was. She did the typing to get the typewriter.  The other women in the queue were typing in order to put food on the table or pay the rent.

That Royal typewriter was as much a household appliance as our hi-fi record player or our black-and-white TV.   It was great for practice when I took typing in junior high summer school.   I can still hear the teacher going through the drills.  “D –E –D space! K-I-K space! J-U-J space!” and the DING! of the bells as the classroom of 20 kids reached the end of the row.  Our family went on vacation the week that they taught the top row – numbers.  To this day I have to double-check when I have to reach for that row.  

I took a Smith-Corona Galaxie Deluxe manual typewriter to college.  It churned out many papers and reports.   When I took cataloging in library school the Galaxie typed dozens of catalog cards, where spacing and punctuation were critically important.    Errors were corrected first with a hard rubber eraser with a stiff little brush, then with Ko-Rec-Type, which came on little tabs to insert over the error and strike over, covering the error with a white patch.   That was followed by correction fluid. (Did anyone ever use up an entire bottle of that stuff, or did the contents always dry up first?)  Correcting carbon copies was a real pain.
I’ve used manual, electric, and electronic typewriters in years that I’ve been a librarian.  Once I had to type the entire budget proposal on a manual typewriter fitted with a library keyboard.  It did not have a dollar sign so I improvised by typing a capital S and superimposed a backslash.    The text on bookplates for memorial books was centered by careful backspacing.   Cataloging rules have changed and now all the data entry is online, but I can still tell at a glance what each element of a typed card means.
Tracing a ransom note or other evidence to a specific typewriter has been key to solving the case in more than one mystery novel.  Romance loses out to efficiency with today’s laser printers and copiers that do not tell such tales.   

While today’s kindergarteners are stretching their fingers to reach the ASDF and JKL keys,  I hear the clack clack clack DING! and the crash of the carriage return. Perhaps you do, too!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

DWM: Postage Stamp Stars in progress

Yikes! Mildew! I had to take everything off these shelves and wipe down the wall in the storage room. (The one place that is vulnerable to outside moisture is the northeast corner of the basement. Fortunately the carpet was not damp. I will monitor that corner carefully.)  While I was at it I wiped down the shelving units (which are plastic, up on bricks so air circulates underneath.)  I thought I would go through the boxes, which contain vintage linens (tablecloths, napkins, embroidered pieces, dish towels, and aprons....the hankies are kept elsewhere). Other boxes contain other sewing and crafty things that I have hauled from one house to another, thinking that someday they might be useful.  I didn't have the emotional strength to do any purging, so I just put everything back.

I have just about completed the transfer of summer clothes and shoes to the closet in the storage room.  I brought up the turtlenecks (actually, mock turtlenecks)....the middle-aged librarian's wardrobe staple.  It's been too warm for t-necks but the weather forecast is for cooler temperatures by the end of the week so I'll be wearing them soon.
Here's the work in progress, Postage Stamp Stars.  I'm not sure what I'll do for the border....any ideas?  (I have only 1/4 yard of the red print left.)
 See what other quiltmakers are working on this Columbus Day weekend at Judy's Design Wall Monday.

Seed-saving at the beach

On Thursday I got an email message reminding me that "This Saturday is a work day at Illinois Beach State Park. We will continue to collect native plant seed in the north unit. We will meet at the Nature Center at 9 a.m....Then we will drive to Hosah Prairie in Zion and the north unit to collect seed. The seed will be used for restoring areas where the roads are being removed in the north unit.  The prairie is in its peak fall colors!"

I didn't have a mandatory obligation, so I joined the group on Saturday morning:  volunteer coordinator Don, IBSP naturalist Dwayne, and a dozen other people from Beach Park/Winthrop Harbor/Zion and from farther away (two botany students from Wheaton College). 

Getting instructions
It was a beautiful day to be on the beach prairie.  I was assigned mountain mint, which left a wonderful fragrance on my right hand (the one that did the picking).

Common Mountain Mint / Pycnanthemum virginianum
 "The name 'Mountain Mint' is something of a misnomer, because this plant and the majority of other members in this genus do not usually occur in mountainous habitats.....[There is a] presence of a strong mint fragrance in the crushed leaves of Common Mountain Mint."

Monday, October 7, 2013

DWM: a scrappy gift, guild haul, and something new

When I arrived at the Northern Lake County Quilters Guild meeting on Wednesday Lynn thrust a bag into my hands.  "I thought you'd like these scraps!" she said.  Well, sure!  Here's the photo (at home).

In my capacity as guild president I receive the emails sent to "info @"  A woman who lives near the Antioch Township Center, where the guild meets, wrote to say that her mother-in-law had passed away. She'd been a quilter, and they'd like to donate what was left in her stash to someone who could use it.  Would NLCQG be interested?  I said we'd be happy to take it.  The woman and her husband were right on time Wednesday evening with UFOs on hangers and about a dozen boxes filled with fabric and magazines.  I put out a basket for a free-will offering and NLCQG members rootled away.  (It's a good thing that our meeting place is big because the program presenters brought their *new* fabric to sell.  They were at one end of the room and the freebies were at the other end.) 

What I brought home
What I kept
There were four boxes of magazines, a box of fabric, and a box of batting left over.  Another person took the magazines and I said I'd sort out the fabric remnants.  I took a box to Salvation Army. Here's what I kept.   The teal and blue pieces on the left are bottom-weight -- good for totebags. The stack on the right is quilting cotton.  [The free-will offering was $92! I'll throw in a couple of bucks additional for these left-over leftovers.]

Here's the Design Wall story this week.  I have temporarily given up on the apple blocks (posted the past two weeks) because the 5 x 8 blocks aren't compatible with either the 8 x 8 or the 9 x 9 border blocks I had in mind.  I don't need to frustrate myself! 

I've had it in mind that I would make this quilt from this book.  
The 25-patch blocks and the framed 9-patch blocks with 1.5" postage-stamp squares were leader-and-ender projects for a while. Evelyn's version uses one red and one tan for the setting. That's a lot of tan. 

I've Bonnie-fied the setting "geese" by string piecing them. The problem I created for myself is that Evelyn's geese are a variation -- the rectangles are 3.5x5.5 (unfin.) and the squares are just 3x3 (unfin.). That allows for 3.5" 9-patches in the corners and a little "float" to the geese.

My geese are the usual proportion - 3x5.5 (unfin) -- so they fit around the center section just fine, but the corners are just 2.5x2.5. Not big enough for those 9-patches. I will come up with something else! (Maybe a 4-patch out of neutrals?)  My design won't have the strong diagonal chain.  I'm using the same red print for all the blocks to provide some unity among the scrappiness.

See what other quiltemakers are working on at Judy's Patchwork Times. 
I made more blocks than I needed....easy to do with leaders & enders