Telephones

I’ve always had an affinity for telephones. My mom and dad started dating while they were both working at the local phone company. Mom was an operator and knows a lot about area codes and geography because of it. Dad was a cable repair technician and retired from the phone company after over 35 years. He would call the house sometimes while he was checking a customer’s phone for a daytime chat.

So I have a tendency to notice telephone quilt patterns. There are several cute ones, but this paper-piecing pattern by Cynthia Frenette struck a cord (ha!) because it looks just like I remember the phones at our house looking.

I decided to try my hand at the pattern by making a mug rug for Mom. The phone is red, of course.

It’s really a fun block to make. The finished block is 10 inches square, so most of the pieces are large and even the small ones are manageable. It’s also a great way to use up scrap fabric. The circles for the dial need to be appliquéd on. I wasn’t trying to make a masterpiece, so I just fused them on for raw-edge appliqué. Easy enough.

The block was so fun that I decided to make a wall hanging for myself. I picked solids from my stash in some of my favorite colors. I used two different fabrics for the dials. Neither has numbers, but I think they get the idea across.

Next, I needed to figure out how to quilt it. I really prefer simple quilting that emphasizes the piecing, so I ended up just outlining the phones.

I did a tiny zigzag around the circles to keep them from fraying too much.

And look! There’s the outline of the phone on the back!

I did the same quilting on the wall hanging. I used quilting to separate the earpiece and mouthpiece from the handle because, as a kid, I liked unscrewing those pieces and looking inside.

I was looking for an easy project that would make me happy. And these telephones definitely did the trick for me.

 

Star Wars and the Power of Costume

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Star Wars. I remember seeing the first movie in the theater, and I have seen all the original movies and the latest ones, too. I remember being very, very scared of Stormtroopers (or the White Guys, as I called them). But when I started hanging out with Greg, Star Wars became much more a part of my life. He was a total Star Wars kid. He had/has all the toys. He has watched all the movies many times (including the prequels). He inserts a Star Wars quote into normal conversation at least once a week.

So when the Star Wars the Power of Costume exhibit came to the Cincinnati Museum Center, there was no doubt we would go. And because Greg’s parents were very much a part of his Star Wars history, the four of us went together.

It was pretty great. The exhibit included actual costumes that were used in the filming of the seven episodes: the original three, the three prequels, and 2015’s The Force Awakens. Many of the costumes were in open displays so you could get a close look at them without glass in the way. And it included just about everything a fan like me would want to see.

It was so exciting to turn a corner and see old friends.

And new friends, too.

It was fun to see the Princess Leia costumes and have a better sense of just how tiny Carrie Fisher was.

Even though I never saw the prequels, I always enjoy looking at pretty dresses, so I spent a good bit of time admiring all the Queen Amidala costumes they had on display.

I love the buttons on the sleeves of this one.

I saw this one from the back first and admired the single line of stitching. Then I saw it from the front. Beautiful.

Her wedding dress was made from an old Italian bedspread. The costume designer spent the whole night before filming adding pearls to the dress to make it extra special.

This wonderful dress was worn by one of the handmaidens. The fabric accordions so it clings to the body and then expands down at the floor.

The exhibit included many of the bad guys, too, of course, including the scariest in my mind: Stormtroopers and Sand People.

The exhibit made nice use of platforms. In this example, they show how Emperor Palpatine went from good guy to bad guy.

My favorite part of the exhibit was the concept art that was sprinkled throughout. Amazing stuff.

Like this original art by John Mollo for the Cantina scene.

And the evolution of a Wookiee images.

The exhibit was light on creatures. I guess foam rubber doesn’t hold up well over time. But Chewie was there, an Ewok, and of course, Yoda.

At the end was a bonus exhibit of Star Wars toys! Kenner, the company that made all the figures and play sets, was based in Cincinnati, so this exhibit included a history of the company and lot of toys, many of which we have in our basement.

I was pretty sure I needed a photo of Greg and his parents at this point.

The exhibit is at the Museum Center until October 1, 2107, and I highly recommend it. There are interactive elements throughout to keep the kids engaged. And if you’re as lucky as we were, you might get to see the look of awe on an eight-year-old boy’s face as he stares up at a towering Darth Vader. Pretty cool stuff.

Quilt for Mom

As I mentioned in a previous post, my bright idea for Christmas gifts was to make coordinating quilts for my mom and dad. Dad’s was shipped and arrived at the beginning of March. Since then, it’s been keeping him—and the occasional visitor—toasty warm.

In April, I finished Mom’s quilt and delivered it to her in person. It’s the same pattern and has the same background as Dad’s quilt, but I made it with the Kaffe Fassett fabrics my mom loves.

I actually started Mom’s quilt first, so I have some of process shots to share. The block pattern I used is Falling Triangles. The tutorial in the link starts with two 10-inch squares of fabric for the quarter square triangles, but I made mine with 8-inch squares, which resulted in 6-inch finished blocks once the additional background strips were sewn on.

I made 84 blocks for the quilt center, 7 across and 12 down. With most of the fabrics, I cut just one 8-inch square, resulting in 4 blocks of that fabric. For other fabrics, I cut two squares. I didn’t end up using all the blocks I made, however.

Many of the fabrics were pulled from my stash; I bought the two polka-dot fabrics, the stripe, and a couple others to round out the selection.

Once I had the layout set, I had a hard time keeping my triangles oriented correctly as I sewed. So I marked every other one with a V for vertical, which made sense at the time.

With the center sewn, I added a border of squares and rectangles using all the center fabrics. The math didn’t turn out right to have all 4-inch (finished) squares, so I threw in a few 2 x 4-inch (finished) rectangles to make it work.

Next I added a border of the background to bring things down a notch. And then I amped it back up with the border fabric. It turned out so bright and fun!

Rather than try to quilt this giant quilt (it ended up being about 70 x 100 inches) myself, I asked Holly Seever to longarm it for me. She and I talked a bit about what I had in mind, and then Holly came back with a plan.

She quilted swirls with tails all over the center, Xs and figure 8s on the squares and rectangles, smaller swirls in the background border, and finally, feathers with swirls on the border.

The quilting looks great on the back, too. For that I used a Kaffe Fassett wide fabric and some leftover fabrics from the front. (A note of warning about wide/backing fabrics: Since the fabric is around 108 inches wide [instead of the usual 42 inches], the fabric has to be folded more times to fit on a similar size bolt. That folding makes it harder to cut a straight cut of fabric. Tearing the fabric [with the grain] would result in straight edges, but cutting can get really skewed. In fact, Holly said this backing was skewed about 10 inches, so she had to be careful of how she loaded it on her longarm.)

I bound the quilt with the border fabric. And, of course, added a quick label, too.

Even though Mom is a quilter herself, she appreciated having a quilt made just for her. And I enjoyed making it for her. I had never made a quilt with fabrics from just one designer, so it was fun to see how well they went together even though they were designed years apart. Even the backing fabric has many of the exact colors as the binding fabric.

 

February Hive Doings

myhiveblocks4At the February meeting of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild, the members of my Hive gave me the blocks they made. (Read all about the Hive Swap and my quilt blocks here.) It was so fun to see how everyone’s blocks turned out! Christy did some major fussy cutting on the blocks above.myhiveblocks3As did Abby, who managed to work in some book fabric in the left-hand block and the word “Wisconsin.” Pretty cool.

myhiveblocks2

myhiveblocks1All of the blocks turned out great. And the good news is there’s more to come. Three people weren’t able to get their blocks to me in February, so I’ll have Scrappy Improv blocks coming for the next few months. Once I get them all, the quilt should come together very quickly (one would think, anyway).

At the meeting, my Hive received our instructions for the February block. Yo is the February Hive Queen, and she designed her block. She provided instructions for it and asked that the wider fabric be a large print and the narrower fabric be a solid.

febhiveblock

I tried to use colors that I thought were in Yo’s typical palette, which isn’t really my typical palette. So that’s always a gamble. But hopefully she likes it!

Quilt for Dad

dadquilt2Back in November, I decided to make quilts for both my mom and my dad for Christmas. In November. For Christmas. Yeah, that was a bit ambitious. I decided to use the same block—falling triangles— for each and the same background fabric, a batik from Me+You. But for Mom’s quilt I used Kaffe Fassett fabrics in bright reds, pink, and purples. And for Dad’s quilt I used blues.

Dad and I have a long history of blue. His eyes are clear blue, and I can’t help but give him blue shirts for gifts to set off his eyes. I can’t even tell you how many blue shirts I’ve given that man over the years. A lot. Plaid shirts, denim shirts, a very occasional striped shirt if it’s not too flashy. A lot of blue shirts. So when it came time to choose a color for his quilt, of course it would be blue. And because I’m a bit of a blue girl myself, every fabric came from my stash.

dadquilt5

Come Christmas morning, Mom opened up a bright, colorful quilt top (more to come on that one in a later post). And Dad opened a partial top made with blue fabrics. The look in those blue eyes when he opened that partial quilt was pretty priceless. You see, despite my mom being a quilter, he had only one quilt that was his own, and it was on its last legs. He really needed a new quilt.

So, while my plan had been to finish Mom’s quilt first, Dad’s got moved to the front of the line. He didn’t want the quilt as large as I had intended to make it (he just wanted a nap quilt rather than a bed quilt), so that was easy. And he didn’t want cotton batting, which isn’t quite warm enough for a Wisconsin winter nap. After a bit of discussion, Mom and I decided I should try wool batting.

I brought the two quilts home from Christmas and started working again on Dad’s. The center of the quilt was done, so I just added the scrappy border. For the back I used a few pieces larger pieces of fabric from the front.

dadquilt6

I pin baste my quilts, and basting the wool batting was a breeze. That batting stuck to the fabric like nothing I’d ever seen, so there was no shifting of the layers while I basted.

And quilting it was a lot easier than I thought, too. Wool is very lightweight, so it was easier to move around my domestic sewing machine than cotton quilts of that size. Wool batting is lofty, and so the quilt is puffier than a cotton quilt, too.

dadquilt4I kept the quilting very minimal, just echo quilting the triangles and a square design in the border. It was the fastest way to quilt it, in my mind, and honestly, I knew Dad wouldn’t care too much about the quilting.

dadquilt8And I added a label, of course.

dadquilt7

A few technical notes about the quilt: I used 8″ squares for the falling triangle blocks instead of the 10″ squares in the tutorial. This resulted in the 6.5″ blocks that I used in the quilt. The quilt finished at 61″ wide and 77.5″ high.

dadquilt3When I washed the quilt, the fabric (which I hadn’t prewashed) shrunk up and made the quilt extra crinkly and puffy.

dadquilt_washedThe quilt should arrive today—a bit late for Christmas and a bit late for his birthday, but hopefully in time for some more winter naps.

Scrappy Improv Blocks Tutorial

improv10As 2017 begins, so does the next Bee Hive Swap at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. The hive has eleven members, and each month one member presents a block. The other members of the hive make the block and give it to the member who presented it at the next meeting. I learned so much last time, making blocks that I wouldn’t think to make for myself, so I signed up again this year. And I was selected to lead it off by presenting my blocks at the January meeting!

I struggled to come up with a block that I liked, so I kind of came up with two of my own. These blocks are scrappy and improv-y, and the common fabric that I supplied will help to give the quilt a cohesive look. Below are instructions if you’d like to make these blocks yourself.

Materials for two 12½˝ blocks

  • Fabric scraps at least 4˝ long
  • 1 square 6½˝ × 6½˝ neutral fabric for Block A
  • 2 strips 3½˝ × 6½˝ neutral fabric for Block B
  • 2 strips 3½˝ × 12½˝ neutral fabric for Block B

improv11. Cut scrap fabric into pieces about 4˝ long and various widths between ¾˝ and 2˝. Feel free to cut these without a ruler for a more improv look. Sew pieces long edges together. Again, feel free to sew in an improv fashion, following the lines of the cut edges. Press the seams to the side, but either side is fine.

improv2a2. Continue to sew strips together. After you have 4 or 5 pieces together, spray with starch or a product like Flatter to keep the sewn strip flat.

improv33. You’ll need a total of 51˝ of sewn strips to make both blocks, but I recommend making multiple strips, rather than one really long one. See strip lengths below. Trim the sewn strips to 3½˝ wide.

Block A

improv44. Sew two 3½˝ wide scrappy strips to the top and bottom of the neutral 6½˝ square. Trim ends. Press seams to the center.

improv5As you can see, the back is tidy, but the strip seams aren’t all going in the same direction. That’s just fine.

imrpov65. Sew two trimmed scrappy strips at least 12½˝ long to the sides of the 6½˝ square. Press seams to center. Trim to 12½˝ square.

Here’s what one of my longer strips looked like before I trimmed it to 3½˝. It’s getting a little crooked already, making trimming to 3½˝ wide tricky. That’s why I don’t recommend trying to sew one strip the full 51˝ long.

 

improv7Block A is complete.

Block B

improv86. Cut two trimmed scrappy strips 6½˝ long. Sew these long edges together for the center of Block B.
7. Sew one neutral 3½˝ × 6½˝ strip to the top of the pieced center and one to the bottom. Press seams toward the neutral fabric.
8. Sew one neutral 3½˝ × 12½˝ strip to each side of the center. Press seams toward neutral fabric.

improv9Block B is complete.

Once I get all the blocks from my hive members, I plan to alternate the A and B blocks for the finished top. I can’t wait to see how the blocks turn out!

Christmas 2016: Gifts Given and Received

tattoosHappy 2017, everyone! Before I start blogging about new projects, let’s do a bit of catching up from over the holidays.

Greg and I traveled up to Wisconsin to spend time with my family for Christmas. It was fun and busy with lots of game-playing and food-making. Christmas eve day was a bit slow around the house, so I let my niece Stella open one of my gifts for her: tattoo markers!

Tattoo-U markers allow budding tattoo artists to draw images on skin. The drawings wash off easily at first, but once the images set for about three hours, it takes a bit of scrubbing to remove them.

The first tattoo I received from Stella was a lovely rainbow with purple clouds. She wrote the S in the center when I asked her to sign it.

rainbow-tattoo

For my second tattoo, I asked for one of her fancy lady drawings. She drew her with red hair just for me.

lady-tattooOther family members received tattoos of Christmas trees, video game controllers, and more. I love getting gifts for that sweet, creative girl.

We didn’t exchange names this year among the sisters and husbands. Instead we were to bring a gender-specific gift valued at about $15. Since all the females in the mix were my sisters, I wanted to make something family-centric that any of them would enjoy. After a good bit of brainstorming, I finally came upon the idea of making a mug rug featuring The Horse We Forgot.

When we were little, my dad got my sisters and me a horse named King. With four daughters, how could a horse not be a huge hit? Well, none of us really took to the horse. And he kept getting out while my dad was at work, so Mom wasn’t too crazy about him either. Before long, King got shipped off to my grandfather’s farm where he lived a happy life being ridden by my cousins.

One day when we were in our twenties, we were sitting around, talking with my brother-in-law Craig, and someone said, “Didn’t we have a horse once?” After a good bit of discussion, we were 90% sure that yes, we did have a horse at one time. Craig, of course, could not believe anyone would forget having a horse. But we had.

Since then, it’s been a bit of a running joke. So I decided to make King the focus of my sister Christmas gift. I found a paper-pieced horse pattern and tracked down a picture of King for color reference. (Note: While it appears not to be the case, King did, in fact, have four legs.)

chrissy-and-our-horseI put the block together with fabrics from my stash. And then I embroidered “Never forget” at the top.

king_paperpiecingI quilted it with some simple lines and tried to make the words pop a bit more.

king-mug-rugFor the backing, I used a cool horse print that Mom and I got during my tour of Wisconsin fabric stores in October.

king_backMy youngest sister, Jenny, ended up with the gift. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite get the joke because she had forgotten, again, that we’d had a horse.

On the receiving side of things, my Mom did a little fabric shopping for me! One of the women at the OHCraft Sew-In this year got this Carolyn Friedlander layer cake, and I was totally jealous, so I was pretty excited to open it on Christmas morning along with other fun fabrics.

fabricAnd my silent-auction-loving sister, Carrie, gave me this pretty (and super soft) cowl.

cowlIn upcoming blog posts, I’ll share with you the quilts I gave to my Mom and Dad for Christmas. (Well, Mom got a quilt top, and Dad got a partial quilt top.) Plus I’m hoping to have those quilts displayed on the super fancy quilt photography rack I got from Greg.

Zippered Pouch Swap

Last night was the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild holiday party, and part of that was the Zippered Pouch Swap. We were assigned a fellow guild member to make a zippered pouch for back in October, and we received a list of the kinds of fabrics they like and ideas for a few small gifts to put in the zippered pouch.

I was to make a pouch for Natalie, who said she likes “bright colors, some Moda Christmas, Cotton + Steel, and Riley Blake.” She also likes Russell Stover Chocolate Marshmallow Santas.

zippered-pouch-swapSo I picked up some Cotton + Steel Christmas fabric at Fiberge and used the Noodlehead Gathered Clutch tutorial. The band is an older Amy Bulter fabric from my stash that I thought added a bit of festivity to the pouch. I packed the pouch with a seam ripper, a fancy chocolate bar, a fat quarter, and of course, a Russell Stover Chocolate Marshmallow Santa (which has already been consumed as of this writing).

In return, I received a pouch and goodies from Abby. Poor Abby saw my post about selling zippered pouches, and I think she may have felt backed into a corner as to what style pouch to make for me (sorry about that, Abby).

zippered-pouch-swap2She made a super cute Petal Pouch, also a Noodlehead pattern, and included pins, lip balm (which is propping up the pouch in this photo) and some great items for my hexie obsession. The pre-cut fabric squares are just the right size for my 1-inch hexie templates. And the fabric glue pen will make basting a snap. Neither of these handy items ever occurred to me, so thank you, Abby!

zippered-pouch-swap3Here’s a close-up of the pouch. I love the metal zipper and the classy leather strip she added as a pull. The purse that I’m working on for winter doesn’t have as many zippered pockets as I’m used to, so this little guy is going to be perfect.

The party was a potluck, and I brought my favorite Texas Caviar, which has an unusual, sweet dressing. Here’s the recipe for Annie and anyone else who may be interested.

Texas Caviar

2 cans shoepeg corn, drained

1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed

1 can sliced olives, drained

2 cups chopped bell peppers, mix of red, yellow, and green

1 cup chopped green onions

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

Combine vegetable oil, sugar, and vinegar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Let cool.

Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl. Add cooled dressing mixture and marinate overnight.

Drain dressing mixture and serve with Frito scoops.

Recipe courtesy of Corrie, a former co-worker

 

Charley Harper Coloring Cards

harper-birdsIf you’re looking for a gift for a creative type or anyone who likes to color, I’d like to suggest Charley Harper Birds Color Cards. I bought this pack at a park gift shop earlier this year, and I love them.

They cards come in a metal tin, and I’ll buy just about anything that comes in a metal tin. The paper is very nice quality and the printing is nice and bold. I like, too, that it comes with photos of the original bird images.

harper-birds-2

I use my trusty colored pencils for coloring, but they come with a pack of crayons, too. I find that I use them when I want to put in a bit more effort than a regular greeting card, maybe for someone who is sick or feeling blue. There’s even a place on the back of the card for your signature!

EnterTRAINment Junction

ej_9Greg and I were looking for something fun to do the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. He had the afternoon off, and we hated to waste it. In brainstorming, the fact that I needed to get my glasses adjusted came up. My eye doctor is up in Mason, so it’s a bit of a trek and not that fun. But then I remembered the signs I see each time I go for a place called EnterTRAINment Junction. Now that sounded fun!

Since it was our first time, I purchased the Do-It-All package, which included the Train Journey, A-Maze-N Funhouse, and the special Christmas events.

We started out with the Train Journey, the main attraction of which was an amazing model train setup. It was huge. There were three separate displays showing different time periods in train history.

ej_14The first period was the 1860s. The displays were filled with interesting details and there was a list of items to find in the displays to encourage you to really look at them closely.

ej_1I loved the color of this little house, and that bear on the rock in the river was one of the items to find. The trains are all G-scale (1/24th of actual size), so all the houses and features were nice and big.

ej_2The next time period was the 1940s and 50s. I loved the views down the city streets. The street cars that you see were all running, too.

ej_3The details were really very cool. That Woolworths is full of figures and merchandise!

ej_10Here’s my attempt at showing the scale. Seriously huge.

ej_6The final time period was the 1970s. The buildings all looked more modern, and I liked the sculptures they included in the cityscapes.

ej_13A large portion of the display was bluffs and tunnels. Red buttons, like the one you see here, were scattered throughout the display. When you pressed them, you’d hear the noises that you’d hear in that place and time.

ej_8The whole time we were there I was keeping an eye out for a Milwaukee Road train car. My grandfather worked for them, and in one of the last scenes, I finally found one.

ej_11Signs like this were on the floor in some areas to give visitors a bit of an idea of what went into this. It took over a year to build, and it’s continuously updated.

ej_5The Train Journey also included some history about the railway system in the United States. I can’t pass up a picture of old travel posters.

ej_12Separate from the timeline, there was a replica of Cincinnati’s Coney Island as it appeared in 1965. All the rides were moving, including those tram cars you can see in the sky.

ej_7This display also included photos and memorabilia from Coney Island’s history.

ej_4Next we made our way to the Christmas train displays, which were not as impressive. Greg said that they were what he feared the whole thing would be like. That area did include Neil Young’s traveling train display (yes, the singer Neil Young). I liked his use of driftwood for this desert scene.

The funhouse was next, which included a lot of things that I’m sure a kid would enjoy. I insisted we go through the Mirror Maze, and led the way for a while, but then I got freaked out, so Greg had to take over to get us out of there. That’s the way things go with us sometimes.

Finally, we took the North Pole path that ended up in a kitchen with Mrs. Claus, where there was the promise of cookies. However, there were only three cookies left and three kids in the room with us, so guess who didn’t get a cookie. We bailed before we actually got to Santa.

It ended up being a really fun and kind of wacky way to spend the afternoon. Greg and I were both super impressed by the Train Journey. It is just really well done, and I can definitely see coming back when we have guests in town.