Friday, October 30, 2009

Finished Objects

Even though we returned from our holiday trip on the 4th of September, I didn't completely catch up on my blog reading until this week. There was just too much to do! Our little country church celebrated its centennial on October 10, which was Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday. I was committed to finishing these two lovely banners by that week. I had started one of the banners about 9 months ago, but felt that I had loads of time, and dawdled along with it.

Getting ready for our trip I made seven of those inset heart table toppers to give to my cousins as hostess gifts. That was very well received. But it meant that when I got back from holidays, I had to concentrate pretty much on finishing up these banners in time for the celebration. I took the last stitches at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, the 9th. That's really too close for comfort.
I like to be prepared well ahead of time.

The last two weeks, Jan, another quilter and musician in our church offered to help. She ironed on the separate pieces for the Bread of Life banner. Shirley, another quilter, did the stitching on the heads of wheat. I finished the rest of the work on both banners.

We are very pleased with how they turned out. They look lovely up front in the pulpit area. Especially since the walls are painted blue.

My more recent project has been finishing the winter duvet for our bed. This time was about my third try. The first try was the multiple layer batt that was totally too warm for us and went to Daughter #1.
The second try was a single layer of Warm and Natural in a cover of sheeting. That wasn't warm enough for a winter duvet.

The third try was the one in the recent post. I sandwiched the heaviest polyester batt I could find between two layers of white sheets. This picture shows the taped outline on the rug downstairs that helped me know how big to make it. I had ordered a duvet cover from Sears that was 96 x 104" so the batt had to be pretty close to that size.
When I finished stitching 15 seams lengthwise on the batt to hold the polyester stable within the sheeting, I took it downstairs and pinned along the edges just inside the tape on the rug. Then I stitched just inside the pinned line, cut off the extra, and the batt was finished. Someday I might bind the edges, but for now they are secure enough.

Last night we slept under the new duvet for the first time. It felt JUST RIGHT!! Hooray!
The cover is a very smooth, 340 thread count, 100% cotton. The duvet is large enough to reach almost to the floor, and heavy enough, because it's so big, that one person can hardly move it when it's on the bed. But it doesn't feel heavy when you're lying underneath it. I'm SO GLAD!!! This has been a long time coming. Now we're set for winter in Alberta.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More about Duvets and Quilts

Here's a picture of the Pennsylvania Dutch Hex quilt on our bed, right after it was completed. The colours are bright. You can see the lovely pattern of the quilting on the side that hangs down.

Peeking out from under the quilt you can see the new puffy duvet that I made for us to replace the hassle of sheets and blankets. It was wonderful to sleep under in the winter. Lightweight but warm. Now that duvet is history, having been worn out and discarded. The quilt is still on our bed, but the colours have faded terrifically from the sun coming in the window. Too bad!!! I refuse to draw the shades just to protect the quilt. I'm too much of a light and bright lover.

But having found out how peaceful it is to sleep
under a duvet, I decided to make a summer weight duvet for us. With lightweight white cotton for background and left-over red print from an earlier quilt, I made this quilt with a 3 oz. polyester batting for use in the summer. I washed it this morning and hung it on the line. You can see we have gloomy weather again! I pieced this one on machine, but handquilted the perimeter of each square, and then around each of the red print pieces. We've been using this for our summer cover for about nine years now. It's also just wonderful for sleeping in the summer. Lightweight, cool to the touch, and MUCH bigger than the original duvet. We needed the extra width to ensure both of us were still covered in the morning.

When I accuse Jim of hogging the covers, he says he's just helping me not overheat during the night. But I prefer to regulate my covers myself! (Although I do usually spend at least part of the night completely uncovered.)

Our new duvet is not my first try at replacing the original. I had some king sized polyester batts (quite thin) in the closet, having bought them on sale one time. I used two of them and hand stitched them to a layer of warm and natural. I made a "bag" out
of some sheets I had, and put this new compound batt into the bag. Here's a picture of part that I had to cut off, since I had made it huge. In fact, it folded over on the floor on either side of the bed.

It was way too warm from either one of us. But the blooming thing was completely stitched together. What to do?

Daughter #1 complains about trying to keep warm in bed, so I knew who should receive this duvet. I finished it up, bundled it into a plastic zip bag (one of those hardy ones you can buy at SuperStore) and took it along on a plane trip to visit her. She LOVES it. She's warm in bed in the winter now. But that left us without a winter duvet. And that led me to the last post, another try at a winter duvet for us.

At this point I have less than 1/12th of the hand stitching to finish. Then I want to bind the edges, to give them some amount of firmness so they don't fold over in the duvet cover that I bought. When it's finished I'll show you how it turned out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A New Duvet

In 1997 I finished this hand appliqued, hand quilted cover for our bed. I had bought the pattern in 1976, then bought the material and began work on it in 1986. Memorably, the white squares were cut out the day Challenger went down. It was meant to be a leisurely project, and the great fun of it was choosing all the different fabrics for the squares. Some of the squares needed to be redesigned, or changed in size. I chose a theme of three red based squares, three green, three blue and three yellow. The real turkey red of the toothed circles and the binding tied the squares together. Some years there was no progress at all, but eventually the quilt was finished and adorned our bed. I was very pleased with it. It took an estimated 1,000 hours to make. A labor of love indeed.

But now the colours have faded severely, and I am starting on a new quilt. This is the first square of the new quilt. The photo doesn't do justice to the colours, which are much brighter and deeper than in the picture.

For the first 32 years of our marriage we used regular sheets and blankets on our bed. But I hate the feel of the blanket rubbing up against my cheek. I want to have the sheet neatly folded over the blanket. Sad to say, it never stays that way, since Jim rumples up the sheets and blankets together. So 12 years ago I made a duvet to use instead of sheets and blankets.

Why did I bother to make one? Because the one I ordered from Sears was way too hot for me, and too noisy for Jim. Noisy? Yeah, it had a kind of polished cotton cover that crinkled quite loudly whenever one of us moved. It didn't last even one night on the bed. The next morning it was sent back.

So I bought the heaviest batting I could find, plus enough yardage of plain, light weight, white cotton, and made a duvet. It measured 90 x 100 inches, was light weight, gave a nice level of warmth, and quiet. It was too heavy to quilt, so I tied it every six inches. We loved it. Well, Jim would rather have had sheets and blankets, but I said, "After another 32 years we can go back to sheets and blankets." Since I'm the one makes the bed every morning, that's what we're doing.

After ten years of use, the duvet was worn out, mainly from being washed frequently and made a trip to the burning barrel. We limped along with a combination of quilts, sheets, blankets, whatever. When I was in Edmonton to take a knitting class with D.D. #2 from Annie Modesett, we went to a Fabricland and found some of that heavy polyester batting, wide enough that it doesn't need to be seamed.

My first attempt with this new duvet involved making a kind of bag to put the batting in. That way the bag could be washed and the batting wouldn't suffer from going through the wash each time. But it was soon evident that the batting would just roll up inside the bag.

So this is the new formula: I'm channel quilting the batt between sheet material. I've bought a duvet cover (from Sears again), which is 380 threads per inch, but soft. The colour is called "Cracked Wheat" so it should harmonize with the new quilt (whenever that gets done!). It takes a while to stitch all these seams by hand, but I'm not doing the careful, even 10 stitches per inch. Probably about 5 per inch, and not bothering to remove any too big stitches.

I really like the Q Snap quilting frame that I use. It's 2 ft by 3 ft, so it doesn't dominate the room. The clips on the edges go on and off easily, so you can quickly the move the quilt to a new area.

And here are my two indispensable quilting tools. My coin thimble and a scissors-handled tweezer. I find that necessary to pull the loaded needle through the fabric. Don't know if anyone else quilts that way, but that's what works for me.

I'm hoping to finish this up this week, and get on to some other projects. Wish me good speed!

Monday, October 19, 2009

I can't believe I did that!!!

Last Thursday I finished the Halloween table topper at our quilting day at Bethel. BUT when I pressed it, it was evident that there is a major wrinkle in the edge. See on the right hand side there? The edge is just too much bigger than the center. I don't know what I'm going to do about this!

One solution would be to take out the outer half of the seam between each of the eight sections, and resew it, removing a slight bit of fabric from each section. I think I'll take it to the "Pieceful Stitchers" meeting next week Tuesday and see if anyone has a suggestion. That's the group that learned this technique last week. Other than the wrinkle (which is a major problem) it turned out well. The fabrics look great together.

At the Bethel quilting day I cut the first of the Christmas tree skirts, and began piecing the sections together. When the second cut was finished, I realized that the "grout" was not a full inch. That was astounding, as I had cut very carefully. When I checked the ruler I had used, the disheartening discovery was: an inch on that quilting ruler is NOT a full inch. What to do? I opted to remove all the "grout" and cut new grout.

Actually, that was a good idea, because the black "grout" didn't do much for the Christmas fabrics. I have some leftover gold lame from D.D.#2's wedding dress, and wanted to try that as a "grout" for the tree skirts. So this morning, after I had reorganized a few areas of my fabric closet (in order to fit in the 5 meters of Warm and Natural that I bought at the 40% off sale), I sat down and removed all the black "grout."

After dinner I got busy, cutting some gold "grout" and sewing the sections back together. The lame really tends to fray, so it was a delicate operation. I finished by 4 o'clock, and laid the sections out on the dining
room table just for a look. I even took a picture to share the way it looks now. Also decided I had to shift the sections so that reds went next to greens, and vice versa. How come I didn't see my error at this point? Can you spot it? Each of the sections should have four different fabrics. I had neglected to do the switch between cuts.

Taking all the sections, carefully restored to the proper order, 1 through 8, back to the cutting board, I measured and carefully made the third cut. It was at that point that the light dawned. OOOH NOOO!!! What am I going to do about this now? If the "grout" were cotton, I'd probably pick out some seams again, but the lame won't survive that much handling. So I guess I'll just carry on, and use this tree skirt for ourselves, and make a better one for the D.D.'s.

And I guess for supper I'll have a little "humble pie"!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Ridiculous

The weather here, I mean. We had a cold, dry summer. It wasn't until the second half of September that we reached 30C or more (about 85F). Just didn't feel right to have mid-July temperatures in September. Then at the beginning of October, the weather changed and we jumped from July to November. It seems as if the last two weeks we never got above 0C (32F). Now and then we'd have a skiff of snow. But this morning we woke up to a landscape covered with fresh white stuff. Feels like we've been in winter for a month or more. You know how these events always take on epic proportions in your imagination and memory. Calgary has already had 150% of its average October snowfall. And to think I said hopefully to Jim weeks ago, "Maybe we'll have one of those lovely open fall seasons, with clear weather well into November." Didn't happen!

I belong to two quilting groups, one that meets here in town on 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month and another that meets at our little country church every Thursday from 9:30 to about 3:30. We take turns bring lunch, which is usually a real treat.

At our town club last night one of our more accomplished members taught us how to make a "Magic Tiles" Christmas tree skirt. I hadn't had time to get the materials, so I just grabbed a little stack of Halloween fabrics, intending to make a table topper with them.

I've never used this pattern before, and find that there are multiple ways to make mistakes. I scaled the pattern down, to fit the material pieces, and it seems to make the "grouting" too prominent. It would look better with larger tiles, don't you think?

Today I went to the local quilting store, which is having its twice yearly sale (October and March) of descending prices. Monday and Tuesday, all material is 30% off; Wednesday and Thursday all material is 40% off (good enough for me!);Friday and Saturday all material is 50% off. I bought 5 meters of Warm and Natural batting, 2 meters of black broadcloth, 4 pieces of red prints (1/2 meter each) and 4 pieces of green prints (1/2 meter each). The last is for Christmas tree skirts. With the pattern I was given, I can make three Christmas tree skirts in the "Magic Tiles" pattern with the material.

One is already promised to Daughter #2, and the other two will probably go to Daughter#1, and Daughter-in-law. That is, if they would like to have them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

This is the sad sight that greeted us when we drove up on our yard after having been gone for almost four weeks. This elm tree stands next to the driveway, just east of the garage, and is in a particularly windy spot. There's no protection here, and elms are more vulnerable than some other trees, because of the acute angle of the branches from the trunk. This tree has lost limbs before, twice at least. So the next day Jim got out the saw and removed the downed limb. A week or so later we had another heavy wind, and the limb just above the broken limb snapped off in the same way. I didn't bother taking a picture of the second limb, because it was so similar.

Another tree that suffered similar damage was the pear tree that I showed you in blossom this spring. One branch in particular was very heavily loaded with pears, and it also broke during the windstorm while we were away. That branch we left as it was, and last week, when we knew we were in for about 10 degrees of frost overnight, we picked all the pears. They had somehow managed to ripen, even though the limb was partially severed from the tree. Then Jim went back later and removed that dead limb. It's just one of those things that happens here in windy Alberta.

A large elm in front of the garage suffered similar damage. This tree has been there for 12 years now. It's very slow growing, but was doing well, and beginning to provide shade to the garage and our bedroom on hot, sunny summer afternoons and evenings. Do you see the white area about 1/3 of the way from the top? That where the branch broke, and it's hanging down toward you, actually touching the ground. It's so sad when limbs are lost that way, and there's not much you can do here to protect the trees from the heavy winds that we often get. We just don't plant or sell elms anymore, because they are particularly vulnerable to damage.

On a happier note, there wasn't a terrible amount of damage overall. There's a little apple tree in a well protected spot, near the #1 greenhouse. The area to the west of it has lots of trees and shrubs, in particular a tall row of Tower Poplar that provide a lot of protection.
We aren't sure anymore what kind of apple tree this is. From the looks of the apples, I'm guessing it's a Kerr, which is an apple/crab. We have another Kerr in the middle of our backyard deck. That tree produces gallons and gallons of apples, but only every other year. This is an off year for that Kerr, but happens to be the first year that this tree by the #1 greenhouse has produced a crop. I sampled one and found it had such a good flavour that I decided to pick and process all of them. The tree is not very tall; I had to use a step ladder for only the highest branches. The apples came off the branches easily, and filled a large bucket.

The next step was to wash them all, since apples actually become quite dirty. They have a natural wax that seems to make the dirt stick, so I put them in warm soapy water and tumble them around well. Then a few rinses, and they're ready to cut in half, take out the stem and the blossom end and put them on the stove to cook.

I use a French style mill. Once the apples
are soft enough, I scoop them into this mill and take a few turns. The sauce falls into the container, and the pits and skins are left behind. These apples made such nice sauce that I didn't need to add any sugar to sweeten it. When it was all finished, I had seven quarts of applesauce in the freezer.

That's one thing I do love about this fall season, the feeling of bounty stored to provide good eating through the coming winters.
Please excuse the funny things happening with the type, different colors, etc. My computer is misbehaving today. Better luck tomorrow.