My Practical Valentine

Sssssshhhhhhh. Don’t tell my husband.  He doesn’t read the blog, so he won’t find out what I made him for Valentine’s Day.

Months ago, he casually asked me if I could make him something to sit in the treadmill tray.  He said he didn’t like the remotes sliding around, banging against one another and getting confused between the channel remote, the DVD remote and, of course, the Netflix remote.

First world problems, no kidding.  I know it.

Nevertheless, I said I would make something and then promptly forgot about it. So many quilts and art projects to make, so many lovely fabrics, so little time for something as unglamorous as a treadmill caddie.

And it’s not like anyone has a pattern already created for our treadmill.  It’s not rocket science but I did have to think it through a little.

I started with a basic pattern for the bottom of the tray.

treadmill caddie1From there, it was easy enough to measure the sides and the depth.  Then I had to think about materials…what should I use as stabilizer?  Would batting be enough?  No, I decided, Soft and Stable would be ideal. 

If you’re not familiar with the product, it’s perfect for bags and wall hangings or anything where you want more body than batting.  Ask for it at your local quilt store…most of them already carry it.

After that, I had to devise a way to add compartments.  I didn’t really know what size the compartments should be, if he wanted the remotes to lay down or stand upright, or just tilt out of the way.  At any rate, I decide to make it flexible.  The partitions can be moved around so that the caddie can hold a drink or just the remotes or different sized things.

I scanned the sewing room for an idea.  Velcro!  That’s the ticket!

treadmill caddie 3I attached one side of velcro to the lining, and the other side to the little dividers for the inside.  Then I created a lining that was the same size as the outside and attached it.

treadmill caddie 2Strangely, free-standing it looks like a little canoe.

But once inserted into the treadmill tray, it fits and makes more sense.

treadmill caddie detailHere, you can see a detail of how the little partitions can be moved around to support different sizes.

treadmill caddie finishedAll set and ready to go.  As you can see, the remotes fit quite nicely in their little compartments and are easy to grab.  I can always add more partitions or move them around.

What would I change?  Well, I used batting on the bottom and Soft and Stable on the sides.  I think I would create the whole thing using the Soft and Stable if I were ever to create another.  The batting is very forgiving in terms of fitting, though.

I think he’ll be happy.  ssshhhh…he won’t get it til Valentine’s Day.  Better than chocolate, right?     hmmm…

Here’s a link to a previous Valentine’s Day post.

 

 

 

My Obsession with Trees

I didn’t realize it until I tried to describe some of my projects to someone, and all the ones that reflected my own art and not just a pattern designed by someone else, usually included trees.

And if not trees, then at least something that grows in the ground.  I can’t tell you what it means, except that I have a deep longing to connect to the earth.

I recently pre-ordered a book that has apparently been wildly popular in Europe:  “The Hidden Life of Trees — What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World, ” by Peter Wohlleben.

An article from the NYTimes  profiles the German forest ranger’s book.

I’ve always known that the natural world — birds, animals, trees, gardens —  have more to teach us than we ever give them credit for.  In the woods, I learned to listen, and look…much more than I ever do in my daily busy-ness.

Art is a struggle.  We are reaching, reaching, always striving to capture the thing beyond ourselves.  I do believe that trees (as well as the rest of nature) try to teach us something. When I break through the barrrier and discover the lesson, I will let you know.

Until then, like most of us, I continue to be a student.

close upIMG_3294

Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

IMG_0742IMG_0741photosnap-carol

Participating in The Splendid Sampler

Why am I participating in this project?

Partly, I think, because I like the designers who are contributing, partly because it sounds like a great way to slowly put together a quilt and share ideas with others.

6 1/2 inch blocks sound doable to me.  Even 2 a week.  But if you were to tell me I need to create 100 blocks and do this sort of “surprise” mystery quilt, I might not have signed on.  But 2 blocks a week sounds like a doable discipline.  Care to join me?

Here are the details for anyone who wants to participate.

Also, here’s a link to the blog.

The project begins Feb 14, so you have plenty of time to get ready.  Although all you really need in order to start is a decent stash of fabric.

I am going back and forth about which color scheme to use.

black tie affair

Black Tie Affair by Basic Grey for Moda

I love the neutrals.  They would make an elegant and timeless quilt.  But another part of me wants to use more colorful fabric and go with more of a “farmgirl” theme.

morningside farm

Morningside Farm by Darlene Zimmerman for Robert Kaufman

Here I would use the scenic fabric as a border with all the other fabric as the piecing in the middle.

What do you think?  They are both so different. I will probably wait til the block patterns start coming in to make a decision.

Dust off your sewing machine, and get ready to join in this creative collaboration.  The project will have a Facebook page too, The Splendid Sampler, moderated by Pat Sloan.

I’m sure you’ll have access to plenty of online show and tell, so why not be a part of it?  All the patterns will be available throughout all of 2016 for free, but then they will be put into a book in 2017.

Even if you never sew a stitch, it’s fun to watch the process.  What are you waiting for?

 

Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em

nickel quiltsQuilting is like gambling.  No, really. Stay with me on this one.

If you’re a typical quilter, as I am, you purchase fabric…maybe you even attend shop hops.  When you’re on vacation, you locate the nearest quilt shop and stop in for ideas and inspiration.  And fabric.

But when you lay down your money, you are placing a bet. You’re betting that you’re going to have the time, energy and inspiration —  in this lifetime — to use that fabric.  And the odds are good.  You, like me, have a history of completed projects, gifts you’ve made, accents around the house, finished, quilted, bound…complete.

You play the odds.  I do too.

But this week, I had to face the fabric.  I found a number of blocks I had started eight years ago (maybe longer).  I have all the fabric to make this into a queen size quilt.  I caressed the blocks.  I lovingly examined the fabric…already cut, by the way, ready for piecing. I inhaled.

I recently took a yoga class for the first time in twelve years.  (A lot has changed in my body.  For one, it’s not that easy now for me to get up and down off the floor.)  But the instructor had a calming voice and at one point she said, “Inhale….exhale…you know CEO’s and other high-powered executives have a hard time with exhale.  They can take long deep breaths in, but have the hardest time releasing, letting go, exhaling.”

And I realized something.  I’m no high-powered executive, but ALL my focus is always on the inhale.  The exhale is something I ignore.  The letting go, the release, is not something I ever think about.  My focus quickly moves to the next inhale.

So this week, I’m honoring the exhale.

It’s not easy. It is very difficult, EXTREMELY difficult, to admit to myself that I’m never ever going to finish that project I started eight years ago.  I gave myself this much wiggle room:  I will make the completed blocks into a lovely table runner.  Assembled, they will be functional, just not grandiose.  I will take it out in the springtime to celebrate their bright colors. But I will let it go at that.

And then I will exhale.

And fold ’em.  And let ’em go.

Something Old (Hand Quilting) and Something New (Kraft-Tex)

I have been working on hand quilting this queen sized quilt for, oh, two years now.  My initial intention was to work on it a little every day and have it done in a year.

Ha.

Months go by between times when I sit down to work on it. Other days, I get a flurry of hand work done.  But my prediction at this point is another two years. Seriously.  I am easily distracted by other more urgent/exciting/interesting/challenging/fresh/you-name-it projects.  Still, I come back to this one when I can.  I would say at this point I am 60% complete. I have hauled this quilt into the bedroom, the family room, the sewing room and back again dozens of times.

hand quilting 1

 

 

hand quilting 2The center is basically quilted.  The outside two rows of blocks are still undone all the way around. And then there’s the border. And then I’ll need to add the binding.  Progress is slow, but I AM making progress.  Those hand stitches are so cozy-looking up close.  Everyone needs a long-term project.  If nothing else, it teaches me patience and perseverance. It reminds me that work done by hand is still precious, still relevant and still worthwhile.

It’s no longer just a quilt.  It’s a commitment.

Below is the type of project that distracts me..and yet still needs to get done!

I really love the Kraft-Tex product, which is a fiber for crafters and sewists and artists, which does not tear.  You cut it up like fabric, it sews and wears like leather.  The more I play with it, the more I like it. I’ve been told that it’s the same fiber as the Levi jeans logo..you can wash it and dry it and it will just get softer!

I needed a new checkbook holder — nothing fancy, just practical. (Yes, I may be the last person on earth who still writes checks, but there you have it.)

checkbook1I selected a decorative stitch and added it to the edge, and finished everything off with a triple stitch.  Because it doesn’t fray, you don’t have to finish the edges.

checkbook2The only caution I would offer is to be careful about the decorative stitching you choose.  Because Kraft-Tex behaves like leather, the stitching causes perforations, and you don’t want to use a very heavy satin stitch as it will separate along the holes.  You want the project to hold together well, so the lighter the stitching, the better.

In this case, I used King Tut variegated thread which adds a little interest.  King Tut, however, calls for a 90/14 topstitch needle.  I used an 80/12 topstitch for fear of making the holes too large. Test all your stitches out on a scrap.

Here’s a link to another project I did using Kraft-Tex.

Something old..and ongoing.  Something new..and done.  Please don’t make me choose.

 

Have Your Sewing Machine Cleaned!

It’s a little frightening, I know.

As I sit here, there’s a giant hole on my sewing table where my machine should be. However, I finally got it together and decided to do the right thing.  Every sewing machine needs to be professionally cleaned and maintained on a regular basis…which means at least once a year.

No matter how good you are at caring for your machine (and I am VERY good at caring for my machine), you still need to get it in front of a professional.  You will never be able to get the dust, fiber and general build-up out of the inside of that machine by yourself.  Don’t try.

Don’t use canned air.  It will only force dust into places it doesn’t belong. When you bring the machine in to your dealer, be sure to include your standard foot and stitch plate, so the tech can check both a straight stitch and a zigzag and usually some decorative stitches.

Bring your foot pedal and cord.

And bring anything else you are having a problem with (buttonhole foot, stitch regulator, walking foot.)  No problem with those?  Don’t bring them.  Your dealer does not want to be responsible for any more loose parts than necessary.

Have you purchased a machine in the last 5 years?  They get updated.  If you aren’t doing it yourself, make sure the tech updates your machine to the current firmware.

I made the decision to bring it in this week, when my family is back at school and work.  I also took the week off…which is a little weird because now I cannot sew.  I did it deliberately as a way to force myself to clean out the basement.  Like many of you, if the sewing machine is in the house, I will come up with a reason to sew.

(Yes, I know I have another smaller machine and a serger just waiting to be used, but with the main machine at the shop, I am more likely to find something else to do.)

That said, while cleaning out the basement, I came across something I picked up at Quilt Market in October.

threads

It’s an inkjet printable cotton poplin fabric. It also comes in cotton twill. For grins, I tested it out with a couple of my photos.

flowersonfabric1flowersonfabric2I’ll admit the quality is better than I expected, and captured  quite a bit of detail.  The fabric then lifts away from the paper backing and can then be used as any other fabric. The poplin is very thin and I would certainly use a woven fusible interfacing on the back.

But if you are in the market for a memory quilt or just want to document your garden, as I do, this is an excellent alternative to products I’ve seen out there.

Happy 2016, Happy Stitching, Happy Clean Machine, and Happy Emptying-Out-Your Basement!

 

 

Ugly or Interesting? Read about it before you decide.

foodquilt4I’ve been working on this quilt for my teenage son.

I’m racing against the clock to get it done for Christmas. All I have left is hand sewing the binding and then I’ll need to make a quilt label (Don’t forget the quilt label!!)

It certainly was not my choice of fabric.  The pattern however, is the disappearing hourglass that I discovered in one of the recent Block magazines from Missouri Star Quilt Co.

The fabric has been the choice of my son, over the course of, oh, 13 years.  If you quilt and have a child, you know what I mean.

For years, basically his whole childhood, I would drag him to quilt shops.  He would slouch into a chair in a corner and wait for me to finish.  Usually.  However, on a number of occasions, he would approach me with a bolt of fabric.  Not a lovely bolt of fabric.

It was usually a bolt of french fries, or pizza, or chocolate chip cookies. Was this child always hungry? And because I wanted to encourage him (and also felt a little guilty for dragging him around), I would purchase a half yard here, a half yard there.

Well over the years, we had assembled quite a collection of food fabric.

And this year, because he’s old enough now, not to be shuffled from quilt shop to quilt shop, I made him a quilt of all the fabric he had selected over the years.

Don’t judge me.  This is not what he eats every day…but apparently what he thinks about while in quilt shops.

foodquilt1I guess what I’m enjoying about the quilt is that up close, you can see the details of the food, but you have to step back a bit to notice the quilt pattern.

foodquilt3foodquilts2foodquilt6It was larger than I expected, hanging over the top of a full size bed, so quilting was a bit of a challenge.

borderThe border is chocolate chips.  My son picked out the binding fabric which I thought was quite hideous against the chocolate chips.

So I added a small flat piping to separate the two fabrics…and miraculously, it looks pretty great.  I would never have selected any of these fabrics, but the random surprises of letting someone else choose turned out to be the best part.

backFinally, I pieced the backing from other fabrics he had selected along the way:  maps, pheasants and computer gear.

Want to know what floats around in your kid’s head?  Bring him (or her) to quilt shops and let them wander and select a few things.

You may or may not be surprised. But I guarantee it will be interesting.

The Neopixel Process

So, with the vest finally complete, thought I would let you see it in action.  I know it’s a little creepy as everything is in shadow so the lights would show.  Actually, they show pretty well in daylight too.  Those little neopixels are quite bright!

You can see that I used the Adafruit book as a reference during every step.

adafruit book

After I had the lining of the vest created, I used an erasable sewing pencil to trace out the pattern of the pixels, making sure to keep power and ground from crossing.

power and ground designI numbered the pixels to keep track.  The next step was to handle all the wiring.

Problems encountered:

  1.  The conductive thread, while it did work, would have lost a lot of power by the time it went through 19 pixels.  So we switched to 22 gauge insulated wire for both power and ground.
  2. We use the thread to attach the accelerometer to the Flora and it did hold up, but did not like the silver solder at all.
  3. Working with wire and Neopixels is tiny, tiny work, much tinier than wool embroidery, or even working with embroidery thread.  Be prepared with a nice set of wire strippers.

power and groundHere is a pic showing power and ground and attached to each pixel with the 22 gauge wire.  White was power, black was ground. Each neopixel was at least temporarily held in place.

solderNext came the one thing I didn’t do.  My husband did all the soldering. Silver solder every place the wires touched the pads on the neopixels, the flora and the accelerometer.

vest sewnThen I brought the whole thing to the sewing machine, and zigzagged down power and ground.  I found that I needed to add a cutaway stabilizer behind all the wire and stitching to support the fabric.  When I finished all the stitching, I went back and trimmed the stabilizer as much as possible.  All of that added a lot of stiffness to the vest, but surprisingly, it still hung pretty well when I added the top layer of fabric.

We repeated the whole process with data in and data out: wire to the neopixels, pin down, solder, stitch.

vest lining1Finally, I created the top layer and attached it to the lining.  It was designed to have serged edges, one of the reasons I chose the pattern.  However, I think if I were to make it again (without any wiring,) I’d do a more traditional lining and finishing technique.

finished vestI’ll say this much about the project.  It’s a big hit at parties.

We worked together on the programming. Actually the Adafruit book is very helpful with that, as everything is done in software and transferred via USB to the Flora.  My vest is programmed to do a number of sequences, based on the movement of the accelerometer.  As you see in the video above, I just have to shake it, and it changes mode.

Actually, I learned a great deal about simple wiring, I am proud that I could get through something like this, even with expert advice!

My next LED project will likely be a bag that lights up.

For now, I need to get back to some simple quilting.  But I have lots of spare parts and I’m excited about the idea of another electronic project!

We’re lit! Neopixil go time!

IMG_4563This is a  shot before I added the outer part of the vest which covers the wires, and before I sewed on the data lines.  You can see they are held on by pins.  I’ll try to capture a video today to show you how we’ve programmed the lights to change, and I’ll do a follow up blog with the details of how we made decisions and problems we overcame.

But it’s working!!  Thankful today for a patient husband, willing to teach me about electronics starting with what is a circuit.  I did all the wiring and sewing but I could not have done it without his 35 years of expertise, guidance and humor. (not to mention his tools, like wire strippers, soldering gun, and stash of wire.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Don’t Cross Power and Ground!

My husband has said that to me now at least 100 times, even though we are not at the point of adding any electronics to our attempt at a twinkling holiday vest.  That said, we have progressed with nary an accusation by either one of us accusing the other of knowing nothing about each other’s field of expertise.

vest2The lining of the vest is ready.

We are getting ready to prep for wires, and so I thought I would share with you some of the baubles we brought in.

neopixel2This is a packet of 20 neopixels.  (A neopixel is a light). They snap apart like plastic toys.

And here is what my husband has been telling me.  As you can see, each neopixel has 4 places for wire.  Power and ground must be on opposite sides and they must never cross as they travel from one neopixel to the next.

neopixeladjusted

The other holes are for the software to speak to each pixel.  Input is info coming in, output is info being passed on to the next neopixel.  It’s all fascinating and new to me since I have never had any experience with electronics…not even the slightest bit.

flora1The “flora” is basically the brains of the operation.  It also has a neopixel in the center.  These things are bright!  However, they may lose some brightness as they move farther away from the power source (battery – which has a limited life).  This explains why my husband suggested using guage wire (covered in plastic) as power and ground, and conductive thread only as data in and out. Still to be determined there.

My next step is to draw up the layout on the vest with each neopixel in position.

I have requested non-leaded solder which for some reason makes my husband want to cry.  Apparently leaded solder melts like butter.  Silver solder requires much more heat and is more difficult to maneuver.

I leave you with this thought, today, which came on the packing slip from Adafruit.

science