These are a few of my favorite things...

Tammy asked about marking pencils the other day.  So, I thought I'd take a minute to talk about my favorites.  And, my not so favorites.  I know everyone has a favorite.  This isn't meant as any kind of endorsement or a technical study to try to find the best tool.  It's just my experimenting with the tools I encountered and deciding which ones worked. 

I've left the pounce out.  And, I've left tissue paper out.  These are two favorites.  The pounce requires a template.  You lay the template down and glide the pounce over it.  The pounce leaves a chalk residue in all the holes in the template.  It does pretty good, but you can't mark a large section at one time because the chalk wipes off.  The tissue paper requires pre-needle punching and is GREAT for repeated patterns.  I've talked about it here a ton of times, including the DWR quilt.  I've used it to mark sections as large as the 2'x3' sheet of tissue.  The only drawback is that if you pull it too hard, it will tear along the perforated needle punch lines. 

But, as far as pencils and pens go, these are the ones I keep near my machine.   

Let's go from right to left.  Regular black mechanical pencil.  Efficient, effective, cheap.  But, the marks can be hard to remove.  I usually use it when the marks will be hidden, like in a seam allowance. 

Frixion pen...okay, I got this last year as a gift for teaching a class.  I could never figure out how to extend the tip to use it.  Til this morning.  I happened to grab it just right and something moved and I figured it out.  I've never used the pen.  From what I hear, you draw it on and heat removes it.  I can't give a recommendation because it only made it into the picture so I could ask someone how to get the point to come out.  But, I'm very leery of a pen where the ink is removed by heat.  I'll study this one before I try it.

Ceramic pencil.  This is a huge favorite of mine.  It's great for marking just about anything.  The lead comes in green, pink, and white (and probably a lot of other colors, but those three are the ones I've used and enjoy.)  The only drawback I've ever seen is that when the end of the ceramic becomes smooth, the pencil doesn't make a good mark.  You need a rough edge to get a mark out of it, so sometimes, I have to break the tip off the lead to get that rough surface. 

Sharpie!  The clearest, darkest, easiest mark.  But PERMANENT!  So, only use it on places that will be covered. 

Blue water erasable marker by Clover...What a disappointment.  I used to use these pens all the time.  Then, the manufacturer decided to only put two drops of ink in each pen, and increase the price.  They last about 12 minutes.  I won't be buying any more of these. 

White water erasable marker by Dritz.  This is a great idea.  But, when I tried to mark on the dark olive fabric of the wedding quilt, I never got the mark to show up.  I drew over and over and over the same spot.  But, the white mark never showed up.  So, won't be wasting money on those anymore.  The ceramic pencil is much better for marking in white.

Blue water erasable marker by Dritz...I buy these by the handful.  They will mark on anything but medium to dark blues and black.  They even show up on that dark olive fabric in the DWR.  It's the best.  Spritz it with water and it's gone.  I've heard that the ink is permanent if it gets heat set.  But, I've done experiments and if you put the fabric in the sun, it fades the ink.  I've heard vinegar will do the same, but haven't tried.  The pens are expensive.  BUT, I still have some that are years old.  And, they still write.  The ink gets lighter over time, so the older pens need to be used on white fabrics.  And, the point will dry out, but then I set it aside and pick up another one and use it for a while, switching off between two or three.  But, the ink just keeps going on and on.  Store these point down so the ink always runs toward the point, keeping it charged with ink. 

The white thing on the end is an eraser pen.  It has water in it.  Theoretically, you can use it to draw over a water erasable line and it should erase it, and it should be usable on a single line instead of spritzing a large area.  Does it work?  Eh.  Wanna know what really works?  A cotton swab dipped in a bowl of water.  Now, that's effective at erasing water soluble ink, one line at a time.  Be sure to squeeze extra water out before you use it to erase or it will spread across an area larger than you're trying to erase.  And, Q-tips are cheap. 

Between the ceramic pencil, the blue water soluble ink, the pounce and the tissue paper, I've never run into anything I couldn't mark for quilting.  The regular black mechanical pencil is what I use for piecing. 

Okay, that's it for me today.  Everybody have a great Thursday.  I've got feathers to draw.  Tons and tons of feathers.



Quilting through the heat

This is the season for inside work.  I told Rob the other day that before I met him, this is the time of year I would have been painting and doing small repairs inside, in the air conditioning.  But, who wants to be locked up in the house with paint fumes???  I'm older now, and I can wait until autumn. 

So, I do other things inside now. 

I finished the melons.  There were 103 total. 

When those were done, I moved out into the border. 

The line furthest to the right is the line I hope to attach the binding at.  So, there will be a line a quarter inch in from that edge and another a quarter inch in from the left.  The line down the center is the spine for a feather, and I've decided to draw all my feathers instead of free hand them.  I'm going to be drawing for a while.  But, it's worth it. 

Speaking of drawing, I thought I'd show how I drew those feathers in the melons. 

First, I divided them in quarters. 

I base my feathers on four "tear drops".  The first two are the largest and they are in the center.  The two smaller tear drops are at the points.  I wanted a uniform size to the larger ones so I drew borders to fit them inside. 

And then, I started to draw.  Here are the four drops. 

And, then I drew the feathers to fill the space. 


And, because I can't sit still, I've also started a Linus quilt.  Just a little something to play with that Kenmore sewing machine I pulled out last week.  It's loud and I'm hoping to work on that. 

This is that Barbed Wire pattern I enjoy so much.  But, in blues and yellow, I'm feeling like starry night.  I took this pic just to make sure that I could see the stars...it's a color test.  That light blue is the lightest blue I can use and make this work...or I could pull some of the darker yellows, but I have more blue scraps than yellow. 

As I sorted scraps for this one, I was paying attention to what is left in the scrap bins.  There are a lot of bright, mixed color fabrics.  Things that have so many colors in the print that they don't read as any one color.  Those are the fabrics I'm going to start cutting into squares.  I also have a lot of light blue left.  I'm thinking a light blue one in this pattern with red and white stars would work nicely, too. 

Everybody have a great Monday.  Tons of stuff going on at work.  And, I didn't sleep well last night, so it's a good thing there's excitement at the office, or I might spend the day catching my head before it can hit the desk.

Sydney worked all weekend.  We didn't see her from Tuesday evening until Saturday morning.  It was weird.  Rob and I both felt a little loneliness.  Then, we saw her for a few minutes Saturday morning and a few more minutes Sunday morning and she worked the rest of the weekend.  The girl is growing up.  And, she is getting a good lesson in what it's like to have to go to work 5 days in a row. 

Poor thing.

See ya'!  Lane


A little garden time

Not much happening on the quilting front.  Just more melons to quilt.  And, more after that.  And, then some more.  It might even be growing more melons around the edges for me to quilt.  yay.

But, the only way to get them done is to keep doing them, right?

But, that doesn't keep me out of the garden.    Where I mostly water.  And, pull out dead leaves.  Which is exactly as much effort as I can put in during the heat. 

Someone told me they thought this was a Dog's Face Iris.  It blooms these stalks, each with many very cute small orange flowers.  Have to watch this one though.  It's a tiny bit invasive.  I got it from a field in Arkansas.  It's habit is to lay over and drop seeds at the ends of those long stalks to spread.  So, I try to keep it staked and tied. 

A yellow shrimp plant.  Shrimp plant loves the heat, and we've got plenty of that.  I nearly killed this one off a couple years ago, but have slowly nursed it back to health. 

Daylily, Yaba-Daba-Doo.  We love this one.  This is a really late bloom, even for this plant.  But, I noticed a couple other scapes up yesterday on other daylilies, so I guess they're not really done quite yet. 

Firecracker fern, not to be confused with firecracker plant.  Firecracker plant loves the heat and sun.  Firecracker fern likes dark and damp.  But, the flowers are still bright red. 

Ixora.  I love Ixora for the organized chaos of the tiny flowers that make the flower heads.  Plus, that orange color is just about as cheerful as it gets. 

The last of the Phlox.  I cut them back this weekend, hoping I'll get a new set of bloom.  They tend to put out smaller heads from the leaf joints, if deadheaded.  We will see.  It's kind of late.  But, there's a ton of this and that lavender color is bright and feels cool in the heat.  I have it planted around the small patio and glider.  It really sets the space off. 

Bougainvillea.  This one always amazes me that it comes back every year.  Every year, we think we've lost it.  And, every year it comes back.  We have three. Unfortunately, this is the only one blooming right now. 

And, finally, back to some yellow.  This little daylily was on the $3 rack at Lowe's the other day.  I love to buy their markdowns.  I actually bought 7 or 8 plants at $1 each and this daylily at $3.  All because they had gotten leggy.  I do love a bargain!!

Everybody have a great Wednesday.  Sydney had orientation at the college the other day.  She had a longer bus ride than she'd ever taken before.  Had her first transfer.  I was so proud of how she handled herself.  And, I helped her laugh about getting on the wrong bus and having to get off and then try again.  And, how important it is to pay attention to your route number BEFORE you get on the bus.  She is truly growing up.  And, making mistakes is part of growing up.  The best thing I can help her do is laugh at the ones that are funny and don't matter so she can take he others seriously.  Because not every mistake is of equal weight...even though that's what I was taught. 

The restaurant finally fired their bad egg, and Sydney is getting his hours.  At least temporarily.  So, she's working evenings the rest of the week and most of the weekend.  It's going to be nice.  But, I'm also going to miss her at dinnertime.  And, more especially when it's time to do the dishes. 



Another Linus finish

We've hit that time of year when it is just too hot to move.  We work in the yard, or cleaning around the house very early in the morning.  And, then, we sit.  Siestas were invented in this kind of weather. 

I don't really sit very well, but luckily, my hobbies can be tailored to sitting.  Yesterday, I "sat" and finished this afghan for Linus.  Unfortunately, it didn't make nearly as much of a dent in my yarn stash as I was hoping for. 

There is enough yarn out there for at least two more afghans.  I want to make another scrappy one like this one...I still have small balls of yarn.  I quickly learned that I didn't really want to just go until I ran out.  I like a bit more of a pattern than that.  You can see it in the center of this one, and if you look, you can see when I decided I didn't like that.  So, I ended up with smaller balls, but almost as many as I had before.  To get to a good size, I made the two granny squares and used them as the center.  I saw this in a book I have from the 70's.  When I got to the width I liked, I just added rows to the two long ends to make it longer.  I added about eight inches that way, then went all the way around with a red border.  It's very cute and if the scale of whether it's a good donation is "would I like to keep it?", then this one is another success. 

I changed out machines in the studio this weekend.  I'd been sewing on my Grandmother's 15-91 for over a year.  I'd used other machines, but that was the one set up as my go-to.  I have a lot of machines...enough that my husband is starting to make comments to our friends...and I like to use them.  It's not enough to collect them if they just sit and rust.  So, I keep them in good working order, repaired, oiled, and ready to use.  I brought in the Kenmore Rotary. 

This is another powerful machine and it's by far the most masculine machine I own, with it's sharp edges and flat planes. 

It has a detached motor that connects through a friction pulley.  Lots of people don't like these because if you don't use it, the pulley, which is rubber, gets a flat spot and that flat spot makes a terrible roaring noise when you use the machine.  I just make sure the pulley and the handwheel don't come in contact when not in use.  I usually just slip a bobbin between the motor and the machine.  The pulley is held against the handwheel by a spring, so don't go crazy and wedge a piece of lumber in there, but something small that just keeps them from making contact is perfect.  It keeps the flat spot from developing when the machine is stored and I can easily take it out when I want to sew. 

I had some trouble with this one when I moved it out last time.  The needle bar wasn't lined up and I kept breaking needles.  So, first thing I did was fix that...somehow, I just knew how this time even though I didn't know how when I was using the machine last.  My mind works like that.  But, I could not get the machine to make a stitch.  Everything looked perfect.  So, I checked out the hook to see if the timing had gotten messed up. 

Nope.  The handwheel on this one turns backward.  D'oh!

The barbecue went well on Friday.  It was rough to watch...four teenage girls...like animals, circling one another, but never making contact.  You could almost feel the hackles up in the room.  The other Mom kept trying to do something about it.  And, it likely helped as sort of an ice breaker.  But, it was very awkward and after they'd do something, like tour the house, they'd come back to the kitchen and into their corners.  I stayed out of it.  If I had tried anything, Syd would have dug her heels in and that would have been the end of that.  So, I talked to her and drew her into the conversation a little.  Then, I watched as Syd started to talk to the other adults.  She sort of came out of her shell with the other adults first, then, that gave the girls a chance to see her and then they all got in the pool together and the adults went in the house and I think there are plans for a daytime event this week. 

Sometimes, things just have to take their course. 

I made a remarkable amount of progress on the Double Wedding Ring.  I'm almost 3/4 done with the melons.  I did all of them in one direction first, and now I'm going in the other direction.  I've drawn each one with a blue washout pen first, then quilted them in.  Both jobs together take about 15 minutes a melon.  I do that until I get bored.  There's a whole bunch of melons.  I'm trying to decide whether to quilt something in the rings or just leave them plain.  And, what to do with the border. 

Decisions, decisions.  Believe me, making decision is much easier than getting up and doing anything right now. 



Drawing, reading, and making pies

I've moved into the melons on the DWR quilt.  I decided what I wanted, picked up my white pencil and started to draw.  The first couple shapes didn't fit.  They were too small...the feather elements were out of size with the feathers in the diamonds.  Quilting is all about the relationship of one element to another.  These relate well.  I didn't think of it in these terms until I received feedback after a show, but since then, it's stuck with me.  Is entire surface of quilt evenly quilted?  I've received feedback in that section before, but only to note that uneven quilting was used as a design element on one of my whole cloth quilts.  I'm real careful to keep my quilting even, after a few disasters that drew up in sections that were more densely quilted than others. 

Is it reading when I listen to an audio book?  I don't know, but I'm going to keep calling it reading because...well, that's one of those things I'm just too old to care about being precise about.  I use the Audible app to listen to books.  Audible offers a "daily deal" which is a book, really cheap.  They're often a teaser, like the first in a series, but there are also classics and radioplays and a lot of variety.  Most of what I read comes from there, and I only pay "full price" to make sure the credits I earn for my membership don't expire without being spent.  A few months back, there was a book by author Catherine Ryan Hyde.  The title was Where we Belong.  Excellent novel about a girl with an autistic sister and a flaky mom who befriends a curmudgeon that saves her family.  Recently, they ran another, and I recognized the author's name.  Another excellent book titled Take Me With You, about a mature man whose son has died and he befriends two young boys.  Catherine Ryan Hyde takes some very uncomfortable situations...I mean things that make me feel really squeamish when I'm reading them...and she turns them into these really wonderful stories.  Now that I've read two, I'm planning to spend some of my credits on more of her novels. 

We're going to a barbecue tonight.  Friends up the street have teenage girls.  We have one too.  We're going to introduce them and see what happens.  Pray for us all!  Anyway, I'm taking dessert.  Last night, Rob and I had sandwiches and I spent the evening making pies. 

Chocolate and apple.  I'm out of practice making meringue.  I used to make beautiful meringue.  Oh, well.  The meringue is just to keep that chocolatey goodness from drying out on top, and once they get a taste of that, they won't care about the meringue anymore. 

Everybody have a great Friday!  I'm looking forward to the weekend. 



42 done

These went faster than I thought they would.  After the first dozen or so, I got so I could run the machine pretty fast.  I had to slow down for the tracking back...it's always harder to quilt back over a line of quilting.  That's a mark that doesn't wash out, so if you're off the line, it's gonna show.

Unfortunately, I still have half the papers to pull out, so it's going to be a while before I move on to the next step. 

That paper is well perforated.  And, I'm very careful to slide my finger along perforations, tearing the paper along the lines.  But, there's always some left; little bits where a stitch was too long or for some other reason, the paper didn't tear just right.  And, that gets pulled with tweezers.  I'd say it takes six or seven minutes to do that, per square.  And, there are 42 squares.  I've already made my plans for the little melon shapes.  I don't plan to mark them with paper.  I plan to draw lines on them and use those lines as a grid to quilt in some simple feathers.  Just something loose, and in kind with what I put in the squares.  I have a new white pen to try.  And, there's always my old reliable ceramic pencil. 

While I was working on this, I kept thinking about what I'd tell a new quilter.  One of the things we'd practice would be learning what the needle looks like.  Sounds weird, but hear me out.  I do this whenever I try to quilt on a new machine.  It's not just the mechanics of how the machine works that makes the quilt.  There's also getting the stitch in the right place.  To do that, you have to know what the needle looks like if it is in the exact right spot to put a stitch where I want it to be.  I make a stitch, move the fabric to the next spot, make another stitch.  Just like I'd do if I was quilting fast.  But, this is slow.  Like make a stitch, take my foot off the pedal, move the fabric, maybe adjust it with the hand wheel to make sure it's the right spot.  Then, make one stitch and take my foot off the pedal.  The needle may travel downward as much as an inch before it encounters the fabric surface.  So, what does the exact right spot look like from an inch above?  If you're just making one stitch, you can move the fabric around to get it in the right spot.  And, your eye learns to see that line and tells your mind where the stitch is going to happen.  Do it slow, one stitch at a time til you can see it in your sleep.  Then, speed up the machine. 

And, don't hunch.  The ideal spot for your head to be is not down near the needle.  It's at the top of your extended shoulders and your shoulders should not be anywhere near your ears.  You should be looking down at an angle so the needle is like a sighting line. 

And, the most valuable piece of advice I think I give new quilters is "don't fix your mistakes".  Wait til the end.  Wait until you're done, or they would interfere with the next step of quilting.  Then, fix every one you can find.  When the quilt is finished, you won't find all of them.  They just won't end up being that big of a mistake.  When you're looking at a 6" square of your quilt and you see a mistake, that's a big deal.  But, when you're looking at the whole quilt, will you even be able to see that mistake again?  I don't recommend this on show quilts.  On something you're quilting for show, fix every one you see.  It's worth the effort.  But, for a wall hanging or a baby quilt, you'll be surprised how much less time you'll spend "unquilting". 

I know this is true in a lot of the country, but it's soooo hot here.  Between the heat and humidity, I'm just drained at the end of the day and I want food that's cold for dinner.  Cold and simple to prepare.  No heavy meals.  Yesterday, I needed to work in the yard real bad.  I was able to get out there from 6 to 8 am, and by then, I was drenched and my yard work was over. 

Definitely quilting season around here.  I can do that inside, in the air conditioning, with minimal effort and movement.  I barely break a sweat.

Everybody have a great Monday.  The start of another long week here. 



A wonderful long weekend

It was our second first anniversary yesterday; the anniversary of the day we got married in front of the state capital.  It was too dang hot to do too much after 9am, so we stayed in and watched patriotic movies and ate good food and did family time.  Syd was off work.  And we all sat around and visited.

I couldn't sit there all day, so I got up in the afternoon and made a block for the Westering Women quilt from Barbara Brackman. 

I'm having so much trouble with this quilt.  At first, I thought it was because I was choosing my fabrics too quickly; not giving enough time to make good choices.  So, I took two days on this one...and I'm still not happy.  The quilt lies flat.

Believe me, that photo is flattering.  Hopefully, before the thing is finished, I'll get my color legs under me and manage to pull something exciting out of this.  Or at least "more exciting". 

I also managed to spend a good bit of time in the yard, trimming back trees and branches and tying things up.  Creating some order out of the chaos so things can get some sun and bloom.  Unfortunately, I might have cut one limb too many, so I'm watching a section of shade garden to see how much sun it's getting at the end of the day. 

I also got the idea in my head to start an afghan for Project Linus.  All scraps.  I started with the smallest balls of leftover scrap and am working my way up to the larger balls as the granny square gets bigger and bigger.  Crochet til I run out of that ball and then change to another. 

And, of course, I quilted on the DWR quilt.  I just keep going and going and going.  I've noticed I'm leaving a trail of scraps behind me, in every room I work.  The piper's going to call and sooner or later, I'm going to have to clean that up.  I'm not looking forward to it. 

I love Independence Day.  The barbecue and the fireworks and the patriotism and all the flags flying.  It seems there's hope for our country when we are all celebrating it instead of fighting over it.  I'm sure that today, some politician will say some stupid thing that will get me shaking my fist at the TV screen again.  But, for now, I'm basking in the patriotism and the freedoms we enjoy. 

Everybody have a great Tuesday!  Lane