Saturday, December 19, 2015

2016, Year of the UFO

I'm very excited about the new year. In 2011 I finished 12 UFOs, one per month. They can be seen on the 2011 page of this blog. Now, five years later, it's time to do it again. This time I'll be working by myself, but I'll have my crochet friends on Instagram to show the finished products.

I chose 12 UFOs (out of many more, sad to say) and listed them in a spreadsheet. In another column, I added 12 random numbers using the rand() function. This function refreshes with new random numbers every time something changes. So I sort by the random number column, and the first quilt in the list is the one that I will finish in the next month. The sort changes the random numbers, so every time I sort, I will get a new order.

The first quilt that came up was my irregular pinwheel quilt. Amazingly, it was in a bin together with the right size backing and the right batting! A while ago I matched lots of batting and backing to many of my quilt tops. So it will be a breeze to finish.

At the same time I intend to keep working on my giant trip around the world and to have my Boston Commons quilt professionally quilted.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Raffle Quilt Blocks

After a long stretch of crocheting, I finally used my sewing machine again. In two days I have to turn in my raffle quilt blocks, so I had to actually make them. I had taken home three packets, but I wanted four so that I could make better use of the leftovers, so the blue-violet star is extra. I hope it works for the raffle quilt. The block is basically a nine-patch, with the star points being the sides and the center the same color as the star points. Little triangles are generated in the process of making the star points, and I used these to make two bonus blocks.

The colors didn't come out true in this picture, in spite of my efforts at post- processing. But these are the blocks, a very nice way to make LeMoyne stars without having eight points in the middle.
The first step is to mark a 2 1/4 inch colored square on the diagonal, place it on the corner of a 3 inch black square, sew along the diagonal, and trim away the triangles outside of the seam. I sew the triangles together before I cut them off to get little half-square triangles. Sixteen of them make this block. (The colors here are much closer to the actual colors.)
The next step is to mark another 2 1/4 inch colored square on the diagonal, place it on the left bottom corner of the square from step 1, then sew and trim as before. These little half-square triangles include a little corner of the first triangle. So I made pinwheel blocks with diamonds in the middle.

Paintbrush holder

This paintbrush holder was very easy to make. I bought this fabric in St. Thomas the year we went to Tortola with my mother-in-law and all her kids and grandkids. The ribbon is lovely, but it was only by chance that it was the one that most closely matched the colors in the fabric.

It's hard to see exactly what I did here, but I'll try to explain. I used a decorator-width fabric (54 inches rather than 42) about 25 inches wide. I folded it in half right sides together, lengthwise, selvage edges touching. I folded back the selvages about an inch and sewed the side seams. Then I turned it inside out, sort of like a pillowcase. Then I sewed the open end shut. That is what you see on the top. This was a unique piece of fabric. It was only printed up to a certain point. So it looks like it's lined. I made a similar small pocket for the little brushes, except for that I didn't fold the raw edges under. I just sewed it onto the big piece so that the raw edges are covered.
Then I folded up about nine inches to form the pockets, sewed up the sides, and sewed eight interior lines from the bottom to the opening to make nine compartments. I used my brushes as a guide. They were mostly 12 inches long. If I make another one of these, I'll take pictures and provide more detailed directions. I sewed the ribbon just through the middle of the ribbon to the right side only. When I roll up the holder, I fold the top down over the brushes and then roll it up starting from the left side where the smaller brushes are. When it is all rolled up, the ribbon is on the outside and I just tie it around. When I'm using the brushes, I fold the top back and tie the ribbon to the easel. The whole thing just hangs there with a little slant so that the brushes don't fall out, and I can pull out whatever size brush I need. For this to happen the ribbon has to be closer to the top than to the bottom.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Glacial progress

I've sewn together 50 sets of squares to make 25 sets of pairs and 7 sets of squares. So now I'm starting phase 2 where I sew together 32 sets of pairs and squares to make 16 sets of 2, 3, or 4 squares. Then these 16 will be sewn together to make 8 sets, then 4, etc. It's taken me forever but it will be so worth it when it's done. In the top left corner is one set of pairs already sewn together. It takes less time to sew these than it does the single squares, because I've already figured out the orientation and pulled off the stray threads. But the progress is still slow. Not quite like a glacier, but it's hard for me to work on something that takes so long to finish.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Haste Makes Waste

Having finished 12 squares with wavy edges, I now understand why the edges were wavy. I have to rework those 12 squares. I've reworked three (outsides only) and have now made one correctly from the start.

I don't know how I got it in my head that I should add six stitches to each side for every round of double crochet and four for every round of single crochet. It's more like four for a round of double and two for a round of single. I made a sample swatch with different stitches, measured, did the math, and figured out that all my edges were wavy and all my corners were sharp points because I was adding too many stitches.

In this picture, left to right and top to bottom, are cosmos, carrots, poppy and daisy. The first three have been reworked. I have total of nine more squares to rework. It doesn't take long. The problem was only with the outer rounds that I added on to the squares to make them bigger. The directions in the book (Granny Square Flowers) don't produce wavy results, but I wanted 6 1/2 inch squares, so I've had to extend most of them, and that's where I went wrong.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Yesterday's projects

Yarn basket from a gleefulthings pattern, using scraps of bulky yarn.
Start of cherry blossom granny square, from Granny Square Flowers by Margaret Hubert.

Friday, July 24, 2015


I took a break from the botanical granny squares to make this mandala in memory of Marinke Slump. I found out about her tragic suicide while searching the internet for a Black-eyed Susan granny square pattern. There is a project to raise awareness of depression that will feature the colorful mandalas that she was known for. More information can be found here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Flowery Granny Squares

I first saw these botanical granny squares on a jigsaw puzzle that I got at Piece Time Puzzles in New Hampshire last week on vacation. I found the book on the internet and ordered it right away. These are the first four squares. More to come. They are: Strawberries, Queen Anne's lace, some kind of dahlia, and a red day lily. It will be an afghan for my mom.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


When we moved to Sherborn, I went to Bloomingdale's furniture department and asked to work with an interior designer. They assigned me Andrew Reczkowski. Eventually they let him go because he was not interested in selling me furniture from Bloomingdale's. He went to work at Zimman's in Lynn and for a while continued to find us rugs and furniture that fit our lifestyle. One day he showed up with two large shopping bags filled with strips of upholstery, because, of course, I make quilts, so I could do something with it. Eventually I put the strips in a giant cylindrical basket, and as the years went by the basket moved from room to room and became one of those things you don't notice anymore.

How I came to make this pouf now is a long story. Briefly, a couple of months ago I walked around my sewing room making a list of things that I needed to deal with—piles of clutter, old projects, etc. The cylindrical basket went onto the list. Every few weeks, I would choose an item at random from the list and deal with it. The many-square Trip Around the World quilt that I'm working on now is one such project. I wanted a break from that project, so I chose another one at random. The choice was the basket of upholstery strips. I chose again. Randomly, the basket came up again. (My list is in an Excel spreadsheet, and I use the random number generator to sort the list. The first entry after a new sort is the choice.) I chose a third time, and the result was something else that I didn't want to work on either. So I decided to search the internet to find a pattern to make exactly this pouf, which is more or less what I had in mind originally. The pattern was easy to cut and sew, and the pouf is stuffed with all kinds of otherwise useless fabric that people give me because they think I can make a quilt with it.

I went back to Zimman's last year to get the sofa reupholstered that Andrew had had reupholstered for us all those years ago. I found out he had moved to Los Angeles and that he had died. He was only 59 years old when he died in 2007. He had a wife and kids, and he was from Chelsea, Massachusetts. That's all I know. RIP Andrew. I miss you.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Progress on the Big Trip Around the World

I spent many hours today picking up 2 1/2 inch squares off of the floor. Many hours.

Here's the final layout, before I picked it up off the floor:

1/4 of the quilt is visible. Each small square is actually a pile of four similar squares. The center is at the lower right. Here's what it looks like now, ready to start sewing:

Initially I sorted the squares into color groups on pieces of card stock. The groups on the left are missing a few squares, because when I took the picture, I had already started arranging the layout. The cards on the right have all the squares for each color group - 112 total.

Here's what the layout looked like when I started - note the magenta square in the corner that stands out like a sore thumb. I had arranged the 29 color groups in a color wheel. I could have chosen any color to go in the corner, but I had one particular set of squares that separated exactly into 8 and 20 groups of four, so that set became #8 in the scheme. That gave me two choices for #9, and one of them made more sense. This made bright magenta be the #1 color. In the first picture, it repeats right next to the main diagonal, and that's great, but eventually I found some more subdued colors for the outside corners.

These are mostly scraps from other projects I've made over the years. In a few cases, the set of squares was sort of awful, so I cut some new ones from my fabric stockpile. In other cases I needed one or two more squares to match what I had, and I was able to piece together squares from two bits of 1 1/2 inch wide scraps.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Next Project

Here is the design for my next quilt. I have approximately 3435 2 1/2 inch squares. The next lowest odd square is 3249, 57 * 57. So if I make a Trip Around the World with those dimensions, using 1/4 inch seam, it will be 114 x 114 inches. This is slightly too big. So I could use the wider presser foot as a guide, and the squares would work down to 1 29/32 inches (I did this and measured). 57 times this is 108 plus a fraction. This will do - it will make a quilt 9 feet x 9 feet. I think it should actually end up a bit smaller than this.

57 is a magic number for me this year, it is how old I am right now, and it is the year I was born. So time to start. In the diagram above we can see we need 4 x 28 (112) loops with 29 different colors each, plus one extra square for the middle. So I need 112 each of 29 different colors.

I think rather than go through the exercise of sewing 112 loops and then picking them apart at different points and creating four panels with rows going in different directions, I will use this diagram to arrange each quadrant and then make piles of squares for each column. I'll have 57 columns. I want the first pass to yield 32 columns, so I'll sew together 25 pairs of columns. Then 7 left over makes 32. Then I'll sew pairwise sets until I have all 57 rows.

Then sew together 25 rows, then sew rows pairwise until the thing is finished. Done! Easy.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The rest of the triangles and squares

One by one I am getting rid of my boxes of fabric scraps. I've used up pretty much all of the contents of my old box of triangles and large squares. I haven't finished anything, but I've sewn together five tops in the last few weeks. These are the last three. Previously I made this top out of all of the pinwheels in the box, and then this smaller one out of the medium triangles.

I really love this one. I took all of my six-inch squares and paired them up. Then sewed them around the edges, face to face, and cut them through the diagonal into four half-square triangles. Then made the four squares into pinwheels. Of course when you do this the edges are on the bias. So I thought, why not do an on-point setting? I've done this before. I had exactly enough squares to make 51 pinwheels. The one I left out was dark blue and light purple solid. Maybe I should have left out the pastel solid one that stands out like a sore thumb, but it has a friend in the top row. The edges were constructed from scratch. Here is another one that I made this way.

I was going to make all of my four-inch squares into half-square triangles, the usual way. However this would have been foolish. I like this layout. It's not a full-sized quilt top, but I could add a border. At any rate it is going to live in the UFO bin for a while.
Finally here is what I did with the half-square triangles already made, plus a few more that I made out of 3 1/2 inch squares and a few 4 inch squares that I didn't use in the previous quilt top. I think it's really ugly but the goal was to take 121 half-square triangles regardless of whether they match or not and squeeze them into an 11 x 11 quilt. It's small, will fit on a wall somewhere if I ever finish it, and if anyone can stand to look at it. The goal of a work of art is to draw the viewer in and capture their eyes (and imagination). You don't want the eye to lock in on any one part of the work. But in this case the eye wanders around looking for something that doesn't make you want to run away.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Using up the small triangles

I made this out of pretty much all of the 2 1/2 inch half-square triangles that I had in the triangle box. The goal is to get rid of the triangle box and beyond that to stop saving small bits of fabric. The pattern is called broken dishes.

I made eccentric star blocks out of the 2 inch triangles. I like the creative use of odd scraps, but it feels a little crazy. So this is part of a campaign to rid myself of the scrap collection. I have enough to last a while longer anyway.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Snow days project

There have been quite a few snow days in Massachusetts this month. We got about five feet of snow - as I write there is more to come. So I took a few piles of kid prints that I acquired by buying a grab bag (never again). I had grouped the prints into "compatible" colorways (some may disagree), and I cut them out and added a few of my own fabrics to complete them. There are two additional tops that still need a border. Of course they are only tops. They are now UFOs that I can add to my growing collection of quilt tops that need to be quilted.

I used up the wild animal prints for this top. I added the other fabrics from my stash. All of these tops are about 39" square.

Here I combined some quasi-pastel cat prints and an assortment of sea animals and halloween frogs. I only added the floral fabric adjacent to the whales and the faux batik magenta print in the corners.

This one was the hardest - the only fabric I had in this pile was some red and blue prints with numbers, cats on numbers and a large piece of a teddy bear print with quite a few teddy bears already removed by someone else. I had chosen the pencil pattern border print to go with it. It took me a while to figure out that I should cut 3 inch squares and add a border. Once I did that, I had to use five of my own red and blue prints to fill in the gaps. I considered just throwing out the kid print fabric, because there was so little of it, but in the end I think I did the right thing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I had 20 pinwheel blocks of different sizes. I tried to arrange them on the design wall. Then I looked at math problems of this type, and got some ideas. I computed how to fit together five blocks, two small the same size, two medium different sizes, and one large. This only required basic arithmetic, and I figured out how to fit together about 26 rectangles using the block sizes that I had. I put the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet and then in a very convoluted way I figured out how to put four such rectangles together. It wasn't easy. If I knew how to use my C compiler I could have optimized it better and probably saved a lot of time. I had to trim down most of the pinwheels, but in the end I'm very happy with the result. It's going in the UFO bin because I don't think I have any spare batting, and I have a few other quilts I want to finish. When I finish it I'm going to call it "Friends."