Wednesday, February 26, 2014

52 Photos Project: Where People Gather

The 52 Photos Project prompt this month is Where People Gather.  The drop-dead truth is I generally avoid places people gather as the whole gather procedure is uncomfortable for me 

First of all, I cannot parallel park to save my own life, so unless there is adequate parking I just don't go.  Once I get there, there is the whole bumping into people & being bumped into thing.  I don't mean the casual visiting with people I know but was not expecting to see.  I mean actual bumping.  I am shorter than average & I have rarely made it through a farmer's market without at least one person looking clear over my head & walking into me as though I was not there.  I understand why this happens- your eyes latch onto where you want to go next & then you cut through the crowd; my head being below your eye level means I get shoved.  Let me be clear: I am not a 'little person", I'm just shorter than average.

So even if there is parking, even if milling around is limited or includes obstacles shorter than me (café seating or occasional tables), then there is the fact I don't actually like people all that much.  Please don't misunderstand me:  I have friends, I am not wholly anti-social.  But something has to be "worth it" for me to venture out. 

Mostly I arrange for social events to come to me, bookclub being a good example.  Or I prefer smaller one on one type situations.  Because two people is plenty gathered for me.  & when it gets warm again, this spot next to the coral vine will be my favorite spot.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Bureaucracy

My big plans for the day include two of my favorite public institutions:  a trip to the library & a trip to the post office.  It is astonishing to me how many people bad mouth both of these. 

A week or so ago, I was standing in line at the post office on a busy Saturday morning & the people in line behind me could not stop making unpleasant remarks about the recent postal hike.  Let me be clear that while this was a 15% increase, it amounted to a whopping $.07 & the gist of the remarks was that they should use some of that "big money" to hire more workers.  Seven cents.

As it happens, there WAS a new postal worker at the counter that day & I would be lying if I said I was all that impressed.  Every single transaction she had to call someone out to help her.  It got to the point where people in line were trying to walk her through it & so I do understand their frustration.  Still, it seemed a bit over the top; I honestly could not imagine anyone thinking it was OKay to act this way while in line for fast food or at a bank...

I have encountered similar attitudes at the library & found that even more people are disgruntled that free books, free internet access, free babysitting (I'm sorry, but it kinda is) does not mean the librarian will sit down & do your kids homework for him...or her....or you.  Seriously, I saw an actual mom making this actual complaint at the reference desk.  I am told it is not common, but it happens.  More common is the complaint that the librarians are not more closely supervising check-out choices. 

But this post is about the post office.  Because today in 1792 George Washington signed the RENEWAL of the Post Office as a cabinet department & making the Post Master General a permanent cabinet position.  In a sidebar, I have asked confederate flag fans far & wide to name the particular cabinet position that was wholly symbolic in confederacy as the area covered by this position was being overseen by the union counterpart. In areas controlled by the confederacy, the service was not provided by any agency.  I'm not faulting the rebels; I understand they were busy.  That flag did not redesign itself three times in four years.  Anyway, a handful of people HAVE answered that question.  All but one of them physicists who are avid civil war buffs (my social life is one very sad Venn diagram), the one that wasn't has a confederate flag frame for his license plate &does work on our place as needed.  They all knew that cabinet position & it was:  Post Master General of the Confederate States of America. 

So happy birthday Post Office.  I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that Ben Franklin (also the godfather of the public library) wanted to be sure his newspapers were delivered in a timely way so he could sell more.  I even forgive him for reading other people's mail, specifically, the King's Governor's mail. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

52 Photos Project: Mint

It is week 44 over at 52 Photos Project & I am almost a little bit ready for week 52.  I feel rotten saying this; I know more than most how hard it is to come up with ideas that are broad enough to interest a lot of different people & narrow enough to have some underlying link.  It ain't easy. 

I think my ho-hummed ness has way-more to do with me than anything else.  Before I ever joined, when I first looked through the galleries I was struck by how often (maybe MAYBE twice a year) the prompt was a color & I confess I was kind of meh on that, but again I now how hard it is to  think up something new every time, year in year out.  You can see how people start going all avant-garde-art-fart with themes like Stillness & Bifocal (& to her credit I don't think 52 Photos Project has ever gone this far afield...although I do kind of want to see "bifocal" now that I have mocked it).

Then this week the word was "mint".  An image popped immediately into my head.  It was personal.  It was timely.  It had absolutely nothing to do with the color green.  So now what?  Do I go on a quest to take a green picture?  I live in Fladidah, it is almost always green in some way.  What about green accessories?  I had an irish last name, still have a first name that coupled with it is a bit of an ethnic joke & I grew up in the NY-Boston corridor-that bastion of Irish-Americanism.  It was decades before I could let green creep into my wardrobe.  My kitchen cabinets ARE green, but many people think they are gray.  The tv room is earth tones, including some green but do I really want to post pictures of the doorjambs?

Don't get me wrong, I like green.  Love it even.  Avocado & celery & lime & olive......& celadon & emerald & jade & malachite...& even mint.  But the fact is the word "mint" did not bring any shade of green to my mind (which is in itself absurd my yard is one big mint-hole right now as that is all that can survive the winter & the dogs together). 

What it did bring to mind was a box of nearly mint condition knitting patterns dating back to WWII my mother sent.  I thought about doing a color wash but that seemed silly as this picture is naturally mostly black & white.

& now that I look, I can see that skirt IS mint green.  So it's all good.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wish list (if you could just direct me...)

I am more than a little bit obsessed with Thursday Next.  I have been contemplating a tattoo à la hers from The Woman Who Died A Lot (I would tell you what it is but that would be a spoiler), in the not so secret hope that after I die, whichever med student gets my cadaver (did I skip that bit?  Sorry--after minimal consideration & honestly it is not like we have progeny, me & A both thought we would leave our leftovers to the med school)...which ever med student gets my cadaver might just think I WAS Thursday Next.  Wow, what a great sentence that was! 

In the interest of obsession mash-up (because one good obsession deserves another), I have been quietly acquiring Thursday Next-ish themed fabrics & patterns to make a Thursday Next quilt for myself.  I think the reality that there is no such fabric line makes this more fun (so please, Benartex, Lakehouse & Timeless Treasures et al, I honestly would rather do this without direct input from you; I realize Spoonflower may already have such a collection -they have the Dr. Who & tardis toile, after all- but I am confident they are not trying to lock it down).  Some of the stuff I have had for awhile, yards of rather regency looking characters-ideal to represent that book that disguises JurisFiction HQ for example.  I also bought the Wuthering Heights FQs when they were on clearance way back when & we can pretend it is really Jane Eyre, right?  & there are book fabrics & clock fabrics almost everywhere once you start looking.  I don't need to tell you that nursery crime, erm, I mean Nursery Rhyme fabric abounds.  I even have some rather off-beat generic saint-sort-of fabric that I am happy to call Saint Zvlkx.  Maps of the Crimea present their own challenge, naturally, but I think I can get around that one.  Maybe.  Cheese fabrics abound (who knew?).

But I am running into a wall with a few things & so I am asking:

Has anyone seen any dodo fabric?  What about a line drawing of a dodo for maybe a redwork design?  I have looked through my Dover clip art for same, but all the drawings are more detailed than I can manage.  I am toying with appliqueing a dodo, but that seems like it's own project & maybe not part of this one.

Ditto Porsche line drawings.  I realize I may just have to trace one (I am NEVER gong to find the correct make & model with the specific colors so I have given up on that), but I thought I would ask.

Neanderthals are shockingly neglected in all handwork resources.  There is really nothing more to say on that. 

So if anyone has any thoughts, I would appreciate the feedback, either in comments or message me or whatever.  Also, & I realize the answer is probably "oh hell NO", does anyone else want in...?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A friendlier Friendship Star

I meant to start 2014 with an easy block, but most days I get another message outlining problems people are having with this block.  & the problems are really mostly one problem:  after making the 1/2-square triangle in the manner I outlined, the component they end up with -the 1/2-square triangle that is four of the patches in the nine patch is just a skosh too small.  Sometimes more than a skosh.

The cause of this is almost always the same thing:  an ever-so-deeper than 1/4" seam allowance.  & it is not just this block, this is the most frequent problem block swappers face in any swapped block (say THAT ten times fast!).  It has been more of a problem this time around because only four of the nine patches are pieced; the other are cut to the correct size (3.5" squares) making the mismatch clear almost right away.

There are only two solutions & one of them is practice practice practice.  In general, people who are struggling with seam allowance are not crazy about this suggestion.  Too deep a seam allowance means things don't fit, too shallow they all apart down the road...also they don't fit.  Yes, there are presser feet & sewing machines with that seam allowance marked or guided or whatever but that costs $$ & maybe it isn't worth it to you (it wasn't to me; I eventually bought a 1/4" foot but only because it was grouped with other feet & marked clearance at a quilt shop's going out of business sale; I should have bought it sooner-I love that silly foot). 

As for whether or not the seam being marked on the machine itself, that has more to do with what the manufacturer thought you were going to sew than anything else.  I have hear of people marking the 1/4" themselves either with masking tape or a thickish stack of post-it notes, but I am making a different suggestion:  cut the squares that will become your 1/2-square triangles a bit large.

First, you would need to abandon the make eight at a time method I went over in the original Friendship Star post & go back to the pair of squares makes a pair of 1/2-square triangles method.  You can see the hows of it in many places on the interwebs, including instructional videos etc., but I am sending you instead to a past Facebook Quilt Block Swap group block:  the Massachusetts Star.  Those directions have photos for making the 1/2-square triangle beginning with two 4.5" squares. 

You will also begin with two 4.5" squares, one background (which is limited to white, etc. as per the original Friendship Star post) & one whatever other fabric you have chosen either dark or light red, white &/or blue (again, please refer to the original Friendship Star post). 

After you have made the center line, stitched a slightly too deep 1/4" seam (that is why we are here, after all), pressed the two blocks open THEN take your ruler & cut the 1/2-square triangle to 3.5" square.  I know this is a bit wasteful, but not as wasteful as chucking the whole thing because it is too small.

Now comes the next challenge:  assembling the nine patch without losing more than 1/4" in each seam.  I know this does not feel like a lot, but consider that every block has two seam in each direction.  This means that you are taking up 2x whatever extra you are using in each block.  You would be surprised how much that adds up. 

So this is my suggestion:  after you have pressed etc. the 1/2-square triangle, flip it over & measure the seam allowance.  Make a note of the overage.  Find something to compare it to:  is it maybe the width of a sharpie heavy duty marker line?  Is it the width of the French tip on your manicure?  Find SOMETHING that is equal to the overage. 

& this is where we have no choice but to practice, practice, practice.  Sew some straight strips together moving the fabric way from the place you have been starting in by the width of whatever that familiar thing is (the sharpie marker line or the toothpick or the bobby pin or whatever.  Do this a couple of times.  You should start moving towards a more-better 1/4" seam allowance. 

I might be crazy, but I have always found it easier to add & subtract real things (width of a nickel, head of a glass topped pin) than to try & memorize the numbers, apply them & then manipulate them.  But maybe that's just me.

Friday, February 14, 2014

52 Photos Project: Hearts

Quite some time ago (a year ago this month), I won the low volume hearts over on Block Lotto.  Despite my clear preference for in-your-face colors & patterns, I really enjoyed this block.  I liked making the foundation pieces, mixing up the strings in my string pile.  I really wanted to win because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these hearts.  My plan was to divide them into pairs & to each pair add a heart I had made, making a set of three. Then I would sew them in a row & border them with a strip of fabric also used to frame the heart I had made & included in the set.  I visualized them as bricks & started fantasizing how I would arrange them.  This is how far I have gotten:

So here it is, my week 43 52 Photos Project entry, my oh-so-very sad tale of why I am donating my chances to Block Lotto for the foreseeable future & the lamest jump in on 15 Minutes of Play because I did not even make the hearts blocks I am posting.  Okay, I made a few.  Last year.  I accept that doesn't really count.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

National Pet Adoption Weekend

Starting tomorrow, which I see is just a few minutes away, is the 2014 National Pet Adoption Weekend at PetsMart.  People who know me (or have read this blog for a while) know I am not a big large corporation promoter type.  Most previous posts about big companies have been about why I don't shop at one or another (lucky me, that 2010 Target donation to a Tea Party-esque candidate kept me from using my credit card on their substandard system during my 2013 holiday shopping; it turns out bad decisions are a lot like potatoes chips of legend, there is rarely just the one).  & did I ever mention that kid at Sports Authority who when I asked if they had any not-Nike running gear asked my why & I said Michael Vick & he said & I quote "You people need to get over that".  So while I doubt very much this is the Sports Authority corporate policy, I still have not been back. 
Maybe someday I will get my panties all a twist...  I digress, but for now, I am encouraging everyone who is thinking they might like a furry roommate to take a stroll through their local PetsMart this weekend.
This sleepy girl came from a rescue that does adoptions most weekends at our local PetsMart.  She is an adult female, already spayed & housebroken, almost certainly purebred cocker spaniel.  The rescue pulled her from an overcrowded animal shelter a couple counties over where, if she had not found a home, she would have been euthanized.  Her adoption fee was a whopping $150, mostly because everyone- me, the rescue, the vet that worked with the rescue, everyone -was upfront & clear that she had some dental problems that would need to be addressed.  Soon.  
You can get a puppy from a high end breeder, pay a lot more money, do all that training yourself & have a wonderful companion for your life.  You can also go to PetSmart this weekend. 
& don't worry about having your heart stolen away & ending up with a pet you are not really ready for.  Most rescues make sure there are a few hoops to jump through with good reason.  If the breeder ho sold her had told the obviously pregnant coupe that a barky little mini-dachshund might be a bad fit for their upcoming life, at least one less barky little dachshund would have gone back to same breeder (no refunds, by the by).  We actually suspect something similar happened to make our own barky little dachshund available; she is very nervous whenever she hears a baby cry on TV but could not care less about other louder, more unpleasant TV noises.
So this weekend, at many PetsMarts across the country.  Think about it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let's blog about color

This month's Block Lotto-Linky title is "Let's Blog About Color" & I thought this revisit of an old Block Lotto block would work nicely.  The block (& maybe you can tell) is the one I have called 8:56 (four to nine) & we lottoed them in March 2011. 

I like this block a lot (obviously) & have started mixing it up with other favorite things.  First, I like to use a single fabric for 1/2 of all the blocks (each block has only two fabrics).  I am crazy for oddball novelties & I think they work well in 8:56.

Another thing I like about this block & the quilt pattern is the balance: there are equal parts of each of the two fabrics in every block, but it doesn't always feel that way.  & most of the reason it doesn't feel that way is the colors.  Some colors recede & some stand up & shout.  For a long time that back & forth was enough (you can see my favorite example here).  I made the block more or less as originally described, all blocks exactly the same except for the 2nd fabric. 

This time I thought I would mix it up.  I made many many many large (12.5") 4-patch blocks using a fuchsia & chartreuse rose fabric.  But when I made the second cut, instead of cutting each block in exactly the same way, I cut different size strips from the center.  Each block has either a 1.5". 2", 2.5" or 3" strip cut & flipped (if you are interested in the directions I started with, they are here) making the 9-patch from a 4-patch.  

Although there are some fabric repeats, I made sure to cut them with different center dimensions.  In other words each & every block in the quilt has exactly the same amount of each fabric, but they are all mixed up.  Then I tried to line them up with no two equal-cut blocks next to each other but I was not quite successful because....

Because I don't use a design wall.  I had a design wall & I found I rarely used it.  I forced myself to use it & was very unhappy with the results (but I am not telling which quilt it was, so there!).  My intention is to make quilts that get used, on beds, couches, under dogs...  & I found with a design wall I spent too much time evening things out while my preference is for patterns that are a bit more irregular.  For me, the choppiness works better especially as it is rare that someone get a good look at an entire quilt top anyhow (yes, quilt photos on this blog are an exception); most of the time, you just see a corner, or a band & I make my quilts to be best seen by the person using them.  Choppy is how I work & choppy is how it will be seen ever after.

But back to color.  Because this is a blog about color. 

I like to work with colors that blend together.  Honest, I do.  Which means when I am working with a high volume color (like fuchsia or chartreuse), I more or less limit myself to high volume colors. & then I like to throw in a good old fashioned neutral to make things pop. 

Notice the brightest thing in that quilt top of saturated yellows & acid greens & every variation on hot pink I could locate.  That's right, it is plain old background white.  Because color is all relative, at least to my eye. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

52 Photos Project: Crooked Line

I prefer machine quilting to hand quilting (you would have to look pretty hard to find an example of my hand quilting, in part because I usually disguise it with machine quilting).  My preferred method of machine quilting is not exactly free-motion & not exactly not-free motion.  It has been called -not by me, at least not originally- yoni quilting, but I usually call it free motion with walking foot.

Lately I have been working in sharper angles & aiming for nice straight lines.  I guess practice will make close-to-perfect, but in the meantime I still have plenty of crooked lines

This is the back of a old block lotto block quilt (the front will be revealed later this week).  I have taken to using plain white muslin for quick-backs.  It is well-sized, wears well, etc.  The only drawback is it shows every single mistake, so I am learning to live with them. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Colette v Colette

I remember the first time I saw the movie Gigi, it was at the Prosser Public Library where they used to have a regular Friday night movie (also the first place I saw The Graduate- you just know they don't do this anymore).  I was primed to love this movie for all the usual reasons but also because me & my brothers were quite sure the lyrics to the most famous song began with "Thank Kevin for little girls" & one of use was Kevin!  So thrilling. 

For those of you wondering why I am talking about this is, Gigi (& several other novellas & short stories- run, run to your public library) was written by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette & her connection to today is....extremely tenuous.  Back to Gigi for just a moment:  it is a fairy tale:  young girl in poverty etc. etc. marries the prince & lives happily ever after (I refuse to apologize for the spoiler, if you don't know how Gigi ends, you really need to get out more). 

But today's Colette is an entirely different person...& personage.  Saint Colette was born in 1381, in Corbin, France (a place that is not Googleable or Bingable so either it was spelled wrong, renamed or has Brigadoon-type qualities, guess which story I prefer).  After a while she joined the Poor Claires & began reforming, but before that she was an anchoress.  When I first learned about these women, I was fascinated & I still pretty much stop every time I hear about one.

An anchoress would wall herself into a room with no egress (if ever there was a time for the word "egress" I believe this is it)....with no egress except a window looking into a church.

I have been told I have the soul of an accountant.  I don't think it was meant to be a compliment & my response at the time was I don't have the soul of anything, there is no such thing as a soul which I am sure the other guy thought pretty much proved his point.  But I knew what he meant.  While I like a good yarn as much as anyone, it takes me mere moments to get bogged down in the day-to-dayness of just about anything.  Upon hearing of an anchoress, my first thought was how did she go to the bathroom, but our saint lived in a day of chamber pots so that was a no brainer.  More problematic was how she managed to produce anything to fill a chamber pot.  I picture the priest holding mass while altar boys chuck loaves of bread through the window behind him.  Then there is the whole how did she get in there?  How did she get out (she left the room after four years)?  I cannot be alone in starting to wonder if this is how the whole Rapunzel thing got started. 

Now for the Rapunzel detour:  the Rapunzel story we know is almost certainly a German rip-off of a French story written by an actual known person, a woman as it happens:  Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force.  Mademoiselle de la Force lived...quite the life & was well known in her day.  More than a hundred years later, her stories were still being published in France under her name & then the Grimm Brothers sanitized it & it caught on everywhere else.  Yes, yes de la Force ripped the story off from the legend of Saint Barbara (patroness of among other things firefighters & people who will die a sudden death--what?!?!?!), but she spiced it up plenty. 

So here we are at the other Colette.  She wrote, famously or infamously, under what I was taught was a pseudonym but turned out to be her last name, one of them anyhow.  In fairness, the first stories WERE published under her husband-at-the-time's pen name but no one seems to have ever been confused about who really wrote them.  It seems he often published other writers' works as his own.  This doesn't make it not-plagiarism but does make it maybe a norm for the time. 

Colette was described as a victim of her machinating husband/publisher who took all the credit & kept all the money.  This story also had a Rapunzel ring to it, but it turns out she had a pretty good time herself.  She died in 1954 & it is clear everyone knew who she was.  She had a state funeral after all, having been much lauded while alive for all kinds of artsy & patriotic stuff.  The French people adored her, the catholic church not so much; they refused rites because of her divorces.  Apparently you can hide Jews from Nazis, etc but get two or three little divorces...

To recap:  one Colette lived in a room with a window into a church & the other Colette lived large.  One went on to a life of deprivation & the other did NOT.  That's all I've got.  Except today's word: machination.  & Saint Colette's patronages:  women who are trying to get pregnant, expectant mothers & sick children.  The other Colette was by all accounts, including her own, a disinterested mother.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Well preserved quilt block swap, year round beginner friendly swap

Last year's Rainbow Connection swap was a huge success.  I know I am taking a chance going in a different direction with this year's beginner friendly year long swap but I am hoping it will appeal to a new group of beginners (we have many more members than we did just last year at this time) & maybe not-so-beginners as well.  We will be making...jars. 

I was looking for a very simple block that could support some variety & still forgive typical beginner mistakes.  At the same time, I was seeing (& remembering seeing) a number of "things in jars" quilts crash & burn because it was so much trouble finding enough different things to put in all those jars.  & I understand not everyone wants a quilt of nothing but jars, but these jars can be used with other blocks (among them our June 2014 block Books by the yard) or as a row in the row quilt trend that is exploding right now.

You can make pretty much any jar style or size you like, but I am asking that all jars include the following elements: 
  • for each jar you will need a jar fabric (more on that later).
  • a lid fabric.  For the lid fabric, please use a solid or subtle print of any color or colors except solid white or even mostly white, because that won't show against the background (if that seems obvious, keep in mind this is a beginning quilter swap & nothing is obvious to the inexperienced).  This is not the ideal place for any high contrast pattern as it will hardly be visible; this is not enough space for a large scale pattern to play out, so save that for another project.
  • & a background fabric.  Your background fabric MUST BE WHITE.  Ideally, plain old garden variety bleached muslin, although white broadcloth would be fine.  You could also use a white-on-white (WOW) fabric, but please do not use anything with any other color than white for the background.  This boycott includes fabrics that are mostly white with a subtle, almost invisible cream patterns or white with tiny pastel polka-dots or flowers or whatever.  I am harping on this because there was not-a-lot-but-some confusion last year re: what constituted "white fabric for the background".  A number of the examples in the links below have black backgrounds but please do not be confused:  the background for this block must be white & only white. 

& now the jar fabric.  This was a bit of a dilemma:  should it be limited to only things that are real (no stars in jars)?  or even more specific, as in just bugs?  or should we only have opaque jars (I tossed that one right away because wouldn't that be just too dull)?  In the end I decided anything goes for the jars.  I mean anything.  Anything anything anything.  That being said, please try to put yourself in another person's shoes.  I have some fantastic dachshund fabric & while I love doxies (& I know there are quite a few other doxy lovers in the group), I will not be putting dachshunds in jars because it is unlikely to be generally useful.  I am guessing most people are likely to be working on a Kitchen theme or even a Mother Nature's Pantry theme or Kids Classroom theme or Sorcerer's Apprentice theme or whatever & there are just so many better choices that would work with most if not all of those.  Also little weiner dogs floating in a jar is, in my view, just too creepy. 

For this example jar I looked for something generic jar-wise (like seashells or ladybugs or feathers or flowers or you get the idea), & in the end I choose a neutralish fabric that sort of reminded me of a set of canisters I once saw at Ikea & I am still kicking myself for not buying.  For other (practice) jars, I have used solids & added text from another fabric.  One fat quarter of a fabric with random text was adequate to make labels for six jars with plenty left over to do spines for a few books in Books by the Yard (our swap block for June 2014).  I also made a "conventional" bug jar with ladybugs & so forth.  I have some more off-beat fabrics, but I am keeping them for my own jars & swapping those that are more universally useful.

Now, I am going to make a jar & provide the directions, step by step.  The jar I am making is more or less, but not exactly the same as the basic jar block found here.  The key differences are:  I am using a WHITE BACKGROUND (if it seems like I am harping on this it is because I am), there is no background fabric below the jar (this is so all our jars can line up on a straight line), the background piece at the top is slightly larger (to meet our block height requirement of  12.5" unfinished), & lastly, the background piece on either side of the jar begins with a 1.5" strip (although this is optional UNLIKE the other changes, I strongly recommend you stick with this as it is narrow enough to let the jars line up closely but wide enough to forgive a too-deep seam allowance).

Take your jar fabric (you will only need one piece of jar fabric for each block although you may choose to piece a jar with a label, or applique a label or whatever) & four small squares of background fabric (again not all jars need to have four rounded corners, tis is just my example).  In this example I began with a jar fabric square of 8.5" by 8.5" & four white background squares of 2" by 2".  You can pencil a stitching line on the back of each of the smaller background squares, but they are so small, you might be comfortable just pinning & stitching.  Because you will be stitching along this line, please avoid anything that will bleed through as it will show on your finished block.   Cover each corner of the jar fabric, stitch, flip, press & clip.

Alas, I did all this & forgot to take photos, so these are smaller jars but the exact same technique

Next you will make the lid piece.  Take the lid fabric & add the two background rectangles to each end of the lid.  I cut a piece of lid fabric 5" by 2" but this is the kind of thing you can strip piece as you get more comfortable.  My background pieces were both 4" by 2".

As you can see, this made a strip that is slightly longer than the jar.  Because this is a beginner swap, I left some wiggle room for slightly undercut strips (a common problem with beginners) & too deep seam allowances (another common problem with beginners).  As you get more accurate (or if you are already accurate), you will not need this buffer & you can calculate the exact dimensions for your own jar.  In the interest of being perfectly honest, I rather wish I had gone .5" to .75" longer with the lid fabric, but this is a live-&-learn type block so I am moving forward wit it as is.

After I centered the lid on the jar, I stitched it, pressed it & carefully cut the extra background from the over-long lid strip.  Then I added the 1.5" strip of background to either side of the jar. 

At this point experienced quilters may have noticed that while I have provided a block height (the unfinished height of your block, from the base of the jar to the top of the background should be at least 12.5" & not more than 12.75"), I have not provided a block width.  This is because the widths will vary depending on the kinds of jar you choose to make.  Beginners are likely to make big square jars (I encourage you to start with the big square jar given here), but more advanced quilters are free to challenge themselves with something more elaborate (or something that works better with the fabric they have on hand).  You also do not need to make a square jar like I did, there are plenty taller than they are wide jars out there, jars with handles, jars with nobs on the lid, there are lots & lots & lots of different kinds of jars.

So you have your jar, with 1.5" background strips at the sides.  Press it & measure the height (from the bottom of the jar to the top of the lid).  In the case of this jar, my block was 10" exactly.  If yours is not 10" exactly do not beat yourself up; turn over the block & look at it.  Chances are the problem lies in the seam allowance attaching the lid to the jar.  If this seam allowance is 1/4" or larger go ahead to the next step (yes, yes you want to work on that seam allowance as it will plague you in the future, but you don't need to be perfect here).  However if the seam allowance is less than 1/4" (or if your seam allowance is wobbly & dips bellows 1/4")  you MUST rip it out & redo it.  A seam allowance of less than 1/4" will not stand up to ordinary wear & tear.  Actually, even if your seam allowance is plenty deep, you should still rip it out if it is wobbly; wobbly seams are a curse to work with & no one wants to get a block like that.

In my example, I cut a background strip of 3.5", stitched it to the top of my jar.  After pressing & trimming the edges (being careful not to cut into the background on the side of the jar but instead using that as the guide) I had a block that was taller than it need to be.  I lined up the 12.5" line on my ruler with the bottom of my jar, & cut along the edge of the ruler to get a block that was exactly 12.5" tall.  Please stop & measure & make sure your block is between 12.5" & 12.75" tall.  If it is more than 12.75" double check your measurements & cut it down to size.  If it is less than 12.5" tall rip off the background piece you added to the top of the jar, recut your background piece & try again. 

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES just add a bit more background.  This passes the problem on to the next person.  I have been on the receiving end of blocks with .5" strips around the perimeter to bring them up to size & they are a bear to work with.  So let me be clear, if there are PIECED BACKGROUNDS above or to the side of the jar, you will get your own blocks back.

Now for a few examples.  I found several free jar patterns & most any of them will work for this swap with a few changes.  The Two Bug Jar Quilt Block Pattern offers two different sizes.  Neither jar has the corners at the bottom & that is perfectly fine.  You will need to make the side pieces slightly wider (remember all our side units begin as 1.5" strip) & you will need to add more background to the top (both of these blocks finish at 9" while our block should be 12.5" unfinished).

The Tall Jar Quilt Block, would also work.  It makes a slightly shorter & much narrower block, but again we are aiming for a uniform height & a variety of jars.  You will need to eliminate the background fabric from beneath the jar, be sure to use WHITE for the 1.5" background strips at the side & reconfigure the background piece at the top to give you the correct 12.5" unfinished height we are looking for. 

In addition to these, there are slews of other jar patterns.  Some have more elaborate sides or lids, some are tipped over with contents spilling out (not a great choice for a beginner but might give you something to aim for).  There are ginger jars & mason jars & cookie jars & so long as you meet the requirements (white back ground, no back ground below the jar, 1.5" strip of white background on either side, white background above bring the block to 12.5" unfinished in height) you can go as crazy as you want.  Below are two of the blocks I made, one is the block made with the instructions, the other is made the same way but began with a 5.5" square.  Notice how the smaller jar is a narrower block but just as tall.

You do not have to specify what block you are making when you sign up; there is the distinct possibility that some of the jars will be similar but I am confident there will be plenty of variety. 

As in 2013, I am limiting sign up to six people each swap.  You make six blocks of the same jar, using the same jar fabric, send five & get five different jars back.  You can sign up for more than one swap BUT you must use different jar fabric each time & I would encourage you to try a different jar each time (maybe the same jar but a different size).  Sign up is only through the Facebook group, the deadlines etc. are specified there, but this will be more or less the same as last year.  The six spots for jars due the last Saturday in March 2014 will open ASAP.  Once those are full, the next set due the last Saturday in May will open, etc.  No one can sign up for more than one set in any given month & if you fail to meet the deadline for a swap for which you have signed up, your name will be removed from any future swaps you might be signed up for unless you have a really good reason.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Let them eat cake

The week before this week kind of sucked.  There was stupidity from multiple sources re: the quilt block swap group (I will spare you any more detail, I promise), a gentle but building panic from newly crafted adults just learning they are average when 6 months ago they were the smartest people they knew (for them this is one of the most difficult things that will ever happen, for us it is the week before midterms) & what has come to be run-of-the-mill behavior from members of our extended family (still doesn't make it fun, just means the bar is set really, really low...& we still have to lower it occasionally).  Like I said:  sucked.

& by last Sunday I had kind of had it.  I was so deflated I blew off all my Sunday stuff.  I didn't go to my usual house of worship (the library).  I drank my coffee without cream or sweetener because I could not face the grocery store.  I didn't get gas (yes, I get gas just once a week) or even leave the house for any reason except to do the bare minimum of outside chores, which mostly means feeding & watering.  I just sat & stared at the tv...which was not even on.  You read that right.  In my defense it is a flat screen & it nicely reflects the bird feeders so it is the same thing as looking out the window, except when I move the birds cannot see it. 

At some point, I picked up one of the books that had been recommended & I had dutifully checked out (yes, I go to the library more than once a week).  It changed my whole day.  The book is All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray.  I more or less just planned to look at the pictures, but within the first dozen pages I started rattling around the cupboards.  I didn't own a tube pan (I do now!), so I followed the directions (I usually do, actually.  Mostly.  Sometimes) & halved the recipe & the cooking time & squeaked by with my 4-mini-loaf pan.

Since I was in the kitchen anyhow, I mixed up a batch of unseasoned bread crumbs & Turkish blend, set some chicken breast strips to effectively marinate in a two beaten eggs & boiled & mashed the potatoes that had been sitting on the counter since...I'm actually not sure when.  The timing worked so the potatoes could sit in a warm oven after the cake came out.  By the time the first loaf pan was empty, it was time for dinner.

You might think that two people who had just shoveled down 1/8th of a pound cake could not then put away breaded & fried (in very little oil, I swear) chicken, A LOT of mashed potatoes with the rest of the sour cream (most of it went into the cake) & steamed pole beans (we aren't savages) but you would be wrong.  One of even had seconds on the mashed potatoes (OKay, it was me).  Then we had more cake.  We would have had all the cake but I put away the smallest loaf (it came out the prettiest, honest) to take to W*****. 

A has been walking around since saying it is the best angel food cake he has ever had.  To clarify, it wasn't an angel food cake, it was a pound cake, the first recipe in the book.  To further clarify, he spent a certain portion of his childhood in the bakery/restaurant his uncle managed for the Selinger family for decades.  In short, he has an intimate familiarity with really good cakes & we have the dental bills to prove it, he just doesn't always pull the right word.

On Monday, I bought a tube cake pan.  & my own copy of All Cakes Considered