Friday, January 29, 2010

Quilt washing hangups

Thanks for all your suggestions about cleaning my quilt yesterday. The gummy stuff came off with some gentle scrubbing and left no stain, just the smell, but once I'd rubbed off the gummy stuff, I had to get the kids from school. When I returned the patches had dried and I had trouble finding all the patches needing odour treatment. I could smell the fish but had trouble pinpointing exactly where I should be treating. So in the end, I went with Katie and Christine's suggestion, took a deep breath and dumped the whole thing in the washer and dryer after all.

Here's what I discovered. I lack confidence in my workmanship. I'm always sure that when I put a quilt in the washer, even on the gentlest cycle, all those stitches, both machine piecing and hand quilting, will just pull apart. I'm always convinced that I'll find tatters when I pull the quilt out of the washer. Maybe the colours will all bleed, even if I pre-washed the fabrics (and did I forget to pre-wash some?). When that doesn't happen, I dread the dryer because maybe the batting will shrink too much, or the weight of the wet quilt tumbling around will pull the stitches apart... You get the idea.

I blame all those quilting books that I love to read, that all have a section on "care of quilts" that insists on gentle hand-washing and laying flat to dry, and expounds on the dangers of regular laundry detergent and the necessity of supporting the massive weight of a wet quilt, and so on and so forth. There were no quilters in my family, so no quilts, so no other experience to go on. So I stressed about washing my quilts.

I'm over that now :) . My quilt survived its washing and drying just fine. Maybe it won't last a hundred years and be passed down to generations to come (or maybe it will!). I've decided that I make my quilts to be used and enjoyed now, and any longevity is a bonus. If I didn't care about the sun bleaching and the LEGO wearing down the fabric in my son's first quilt as it lay on his bed for 5 straight years, why should I worry about using the washing machine and the clothes dryer?

For those of you who might be wondering, the dog is still alive and well and we are friends again. He really is beautifully behaved most of the time - which is good because otherwise relations with my mom might be a tad strained when she comes back in the spring and collects her pooch. Did I mention we're only dog-sitting?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dogs, quilts and fish food

Trust me, all three are related.

This dog disappeared today while I put away groceries. Since he is usually a little shadow, following me around every step I take, I thought his disappearance was suspicious. I went looking and found him, with a broken plastic jar of fish food and very little food left. I'm guessing he was just finishing up what he started while I was out getting the groceries. Doesn't he just have "guilty" written all over his face?

Here's where the quilt part comes in. Not satisfied with destroying the jar of fish food and consuming the contents, he decided to do it on my bed, on my quilt.

For those of you who don't keep pet fish, let me say that fish food doesn't only feed your fish, it also smells very strongly of fish. And the dog's licking it to get it up off the quilt made it nice and gummy and worked it right into the fabric. So, does anyone have any idea how to spot clean a fishy smelling spot? Washing the whole thing is a bit problematic. I have nowhere to spread it out to dry while the backyard is covered in snow.

Would you believe I took this dog for a lovely walk before taking the groceries out of the car, blissfully unaware of his mischief?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wishful thinking...

Last weekend the winter blahs took over so I tried to inject a touch of spring into my living room.

I made new pillow covers for all four tired throw pillows on the couch. My daughter helped with the striped one until she pricked her finger on a pin. That rather dampened her enthusiasm for the actual sewing part. She did choose all the fabric strips and line them up in order. "We" sewed them directly to a backing and batting sandwich, sort of like foundation piecing, doing the piecing and quilting all in one step.

I made the swirl pillow the same way. I found measurements for a 9" Snail's Trail block here. I wanted mine to keep swirling a bit more so I calculated the triangle size needed for just one more round, cut one out and found it much too small. I had been quite sure all my logic and use of geometry and Mr. Pythagorus' theorum were correct. I'd allowed for seam allowances and everything. I puzzled quite a while before I finally found the problem. It turns out that all my reasoning was correct after all, but it would seem that 6.72+0.35=7.07, not 6.07. Sigh. So proud of all my fine reasoning, then tripped up on simple addition. You'd think I should have noticed that my sum ended up smaller than one of the parts! In case any of you want the dimensions, cut that largest half-square triangle from a 7-1/16 inch square.

Since the backing is hidden inside the pillow covers I didn't care what it looked like, so I used up more of this fabric. I'm not sure what possessed me to buy a couple of yards of it for a quilt backing a few years back. I'm sure someone somewhere has made a quilt with it that they absolutely love. there's a fabric for everyone! This one just isn't for me, and I never could bring myself to back the quilt with it, so I've been using it up piece by piece anywhere that it won't show. So far, it has been backing for several quilted pillow fronts, and inner bags of rice heat packs. I'm sure I'll find more hidden uses for the remaining yard or so.

Incidentally, though the new pillows have brightened up the living room, they didn't do much to hurry spring along. The kids are home today, yet another day off due to "inclement weather", an ice storm to be precise. So far, they have 5 days to make up at the end of the school year, and the novelty of having surprise days off is wearing thin!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Astro Quilt

Here's a peek at what I've been working on for my husband. When he pointed out last spring that both kids have "fun" quilts to snuggle under when they watch TV but he didn't, I went out and bought a bit of this fabric as a joke. I didn't actually think that after working as an astronomer all day he'd want more of it at home. Apparently he has chosen to work at what he loves, because his eyes lit up when he saw the fabric.

So, I went back to the quilt shop and came home with this:

I had a star quilt pattern in mind, but realized before I cut into the fabric that the tiny pieces wouldn't do the space print justice. I pulled out graph paper instead to come up with something new. I decided I wanted large swaths of the space fabric. It took a while for me to remember that there is no rule that says a quilt has to have blocks all the same size lined up in rows, but once I clued in I just sprinkled stars across the graph paper. I spent a few hours figuring out the best way to link them all together with the background fabric. I suppose applique would have been the simpler way to scatter stars across a fabric, but I'm not skilled at that, so piecing it was!

These plans then sat in a box with the fabrics for 8 months while I finished my son's quilt, started my daughter's, made a few table runners....

I've been wondering if the fabric version would live up to the picture in my mind, and last week I finally pulled it all out. I hesitated before cutting in, because I just might have calculated wrong, but finally cut some fabric and started piecing.

It turned out I had figured a few things wrong, but I'll post about lessons learned next time. For now, here are some of the star blocks.

Once I started placing them on my design wall (a big piece of batting thumb tacked to the wall, but "design wall" sounds much more grand!) I wasn't a hundred percent happy with the layout I had on paper. I'm still playing around with it. I'm not sure I'll ever be completely happy with it, but my husband is a very agreeable man who tells me he likes it, please finish it :) I'll post pictures when the top is done in a few days. I'll want your ideas about what to do for borders.

Meanwhile, happy quilting!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Welcome to my new quilting blog. I've posted a bit on APQ, and certainly lurked there quite a bit. Changes happening at that site were just the nudge I needed to try a blog of my own.

I started my first quilt back in 2000.
I had a friend who walked me through paper piecing this first quilt, but I was on my own to figure out how to quilt it. Let's just say my brother and his wife received their wedding gift a year late:) I've gotten a bit speedier since then, though hand quilting bed quilts still takes me a while.

This is the last one I finished, just last fall. This was for my son, and my daughter is now patiently (less patiently some days) waiting for her new quilt. It may be ready by the end of 2010 - or not! :) I'll share my progress when there is some to show.

Meanwhile I started something completely different, just for a change of pace. It's a throw for my astronomer husband, and isn't my usual fare of similar sized blocks or rows joined with sashing. I'll take pictures and post about it soon.

In the meantime, happy quilting! I hope to meet many of you through your blogs as well!