Friday, December 13, 2013

Utah, I'm a coming!

So, I don't think I've mentioned that I've signed up for Pamela's fabulous 2014 Quiltbliss retreat in Utah. Yay!

I left Utah mid-summer, not sure of when I'd be back, so I'm really excited to be able to come back to catch up with all my quilty friends!

And what could be a better way of catching up than a four-day modern quilting retreat right in the middle of my favorite snowy season?!

Just look at these funky and fabulous accommodations!

Queen-sized bunk beds!! Totally fabulous, right??

I'm already starting to collect the projects I'll be bringing. Lots to sew, lots to sew, my friends! I've been kind of in a sewing funk of late, as I'm still trying to figure out and settle into my sewing space here. Being back among my sewing friends will be so fabulous! And there will be amazing classes with talented folks like Amy Smart, Anna Morrison, Emily Sessions, and many more!

Maybe I'll finally get around to that table runner that I've been meaning to tackle . . .

Monday, November 11, 2013

Back in the Groove

I think I'm hot on the trail of my sew-jo at last! I was wandering through blogs and found a great tutorial from Amy at Diary of a Quilter for a modern take on the pinwheel. I had some charm squares looking for a home, so I got busy and fell in love with this pattern!

It took no time at all to whip up, even with the addition of the border with 1 inch squares and rectangles. 

Now I just have to figure out how to quilt it. Any suggestions? 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Looking for my sew-jo

So, I'm in search of my sewing mo-jo (my sew-jo, as I call it), as it seems to have wandered off somewhere recently. I love sewing and making things. I want to sew. I spend time thinking about which projects I want to work on. I just can't seem to get myself up and going.

Part of it is that I still haven't fully settled into my sewing room. I need to install shelves so that I can put everything away. Until then, I have piles upon piles of loose fabric and such. I also haven't figured out my set-up at my sewing table. Like where do I put my laptop so that I can follow along on tutorials and such? Right now, it's piled up on top of a plastic basket that started out holding feet and supplies for my Juki, but now has become a catch-all for all things that wander by. If I want to baste a quilt I need to clomp downstairs (in my boot for my injured foot), lugging the quilt, and giant roll of batting, where I can lay it out properly on the dining room table. Then I can either lug it all back upstairs to quilt, or have the machine dragged downstairs for me to work on.

I think the other part of it is this pesky boot I'm lugging around on my right foot. I feel clumsy, I have to use my left foot on the pedal, which is awkward, and my sewing room feels even smaller with this enormous boot.

In my search for my sew-jo, I wander in and out of my sewing room, sort of wistfully visiting my neat fabric piles organized in color order. I just can't seem to turn the ignition!

Not all is lost, of course. I did finish a baby quilt for a former neighbor's new baby girl, Rosy:

The quilting took no time . . . not counting the SIX HOURS I spent sorting out the tension issues. Apparently both my needle and bobbin tension were off, so I kept going back and forth trying to get it right. Still not perfect, but much better.

I also sat down this morning and whipped off these, using Threading My Way's helpful tutorial. There are a ton of great tutorials for these drawstring bags out there. I adjusted the pattern to make a slightly larger bag. These bags are going to be goodie bags for . . . I can't say yet!

So, still looking to get back in my groove, but making a little progress!

Now I'll leave you with some gratuitous puppy pictures from this summer at the beach in New Jersey:

Oh, and by the way, I'm now on Instagram . . . You can find me there at maggieb016

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fabric Hoarding

So, I can't be the only one reluctant to cut into my favorite fabrics, can I? I've been hoarding some of my most treasured collections, afraid to either do something with the fabric and then regret it or to use it up and not have it left. Take my Heather Ross/Munki Munki collection:

I do occasionally cut into these fabrics for my baby quilts—the poplin Munki Munki is just so soft and the images so amazingly cute. But I most definitely hoard it. However, I've recently been so inspired by Susan at Canadian Abroad, who just showcased her gorgeous Heather Ross quilt. I love what she's done, and it's made me consider cutting into and using my HR prints a bit less stingily (is that a word?).

My most prized HR is this fabulous wahini/surfer girls print that's just impossible to find. But what good is fabric if you never use it, and instead just visit it occasionally and stroke it lovingly?!

I did, once upon a time, actually surf (badly), so I particularly love these adorable surfer girls. While I have given away a lot of the things I've sewn, I'm not sure I could give away whatever item contains this. But the more I think about Susan's great quilt, I think this would look fabulous in a quilt mixed with other HR fabrics.

Just picture it, this surfing fabric, alongside HR's Mendocino collection, with its mermaids and sea horses!

A while back, I scored a great deal on a whole luscious yard of HR's pink with VW vans—definitely the right transportation for my surfer girls!

In addition to my Heather Ross, I've also been been hoarding, er, holding onto my Melody Miller Viewfinder fabric. I think I bought the last two yards off of Etsy about 9 months ago, and I've been reluctant to cut into it.

I think it's time, however. I think I'm going to make a shopping tote, using this great grey textured fabric from Architextures. I typically follow Bijou Lovely's tutorial for making the bag. More on this as I get going on it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Free Motion Quilting Practice

So I have a love-hate relationship with FMQ'ing—I want to be able to do it and I love those (rare) moments when I seem to be challenging an actual, real-life quilter and it works, but I find the learning curve to be slower than I'd like. Let's face it, as adults, who likes to have to learn to be competent at something? But since I've had to do that for sewing and quilting, I guess it makes sense that I have to be patient and keep working on my free motion quilting!

My friend April recommended a Craftsy class by Angela Walters, who is a quilting superstar. For those not familiar with Craftsy, it's a great site for craft-sters, complete with patterns, projects, and online classes. While a lot of the classes and patterns are for sale, there are also some for free. April had recommended the "dot to dot" class that Angela teaches, so I signed up. One of the benefits of these online classes is that once you buy it, you can keep going back to it and replaying the parts you need.

My FMQ efforts to date have been mostly my attempts to replicate what I see out there on other people's amazing quilts. The difficult aspect of that, however, is that it means I'm trying to get mine to look like the others without necessarily knowing how to get there. Also, I started by practicing circles and stippling. While my stippling is coming along, circles are hard for me overall. What I really like about Angela's class is that she's easy to understand and provides great tips for improving my skill. The first lessons are on straight lines—which, despite some waviness here and there, seems to be more forgiving than the circles are.

Here's what I worked on today for practice:

They're the same essential shape—triangles—but used in different ways achieve a different effect. Angela's class provides the pattern for a quilt to use as a test quilting surface, but I didn't want to go to that effort of making a quilt I like only to put quilting on it that I don't like, so I just made a quilt sandwich from leftover batting and some old fabric that's faded and I won't otherwise use. Clearly, I still need to work on straightening my lines, but it's getting better! I also feel fairly proud of being able to do all of this with my left foot on the pedal, since my right foot will be out of commission until December! My left quad is so tired! Funny the muscles you don't realize you use until you change feet!

Angela had a great tip that has really helped me: don't stare at the needle when I'm quilting; instead, focus on where I want the needle to go. She gives the analogy of driving: when you drive, you don't stare at the hood of the car (at least you shouldn't!); instead you should look 2 car lengths ahead.

Check out Angela's blog, Quilting is My Therapy, for some great patterns and tutorials, including some video clips!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Perils of Sewing

Don't worry! This is not a post where I show you gory photos of rotary cut or sewing machine needle injuries! I decided to go big on my sewing-related injury:

Yup, that's right, I took out my ankle while simply walking across the hall from the bathroom to the sewing room. I sprained my ankle, and ended up rupturing a tendon. Big woops!

When I went to the doctor I was expecting to get an ace bandage, not a monster boot that I'd be stuck with for 3 months!

I appreciate April's suggestion that I go as a storm trooper from Star Wars for Halloween:

For those that might actually want to talk about sewing and not the state of my health, check out what I think will be my next project. It's a fabulous Hummingbird quilt pattern from the always great Red Pepper Quilts. Check out her site: she's offering a free pattern and a giveaway for EQ7!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

X+ Quilt Top Finished!

I finished this a little while ago, but haven't shown the finished top. After countless hours and hours of putting together these blocks . . .

I have finally sewn all 99 of them together into this . . . .

I began this one way back in February at Emily Herrick's great Cabin Fever retreat, and only finished up the last 99th block in July.

Now you might (reasonably) ask me why I have 99 blocks in a quilt—the answer is that I started the blocks before I decided to make a queen-sized quilt, and the pattern I was following used 10" squares. Oops! Given that I wanted a range of fabrics used together, it meant that I had to look long and hard for enough fabrics to provide good variation. Although I love the kind of wild X+ quilts that use a wide variety of colors, I wanted something less busy, so I decided to focus mine by using grey, aqua, green, and orange. I then used Architexture's Grey Crosshatch fabric to pull together all the blocks.

(by the way, please excuse my bad photo—In the chaos of my move across country I've misplaced the cord that connects my camera to the computer, so I'm relying on my trusty iPhone for photos. Not quite as good!)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Heading North . . .

I'm so impressed by Quilt Smart! I've spent the past hour working on my mini mariner's compass, and I'm 1/4 the way through:

It was so so easy! A little tedious in terms of cutting out the fabric in preparation for the sewing, and a bit of a walkabout—sew, go to ironing board in one room to press the seam, go to cutting board in another room to trim the fabric, repeat. I know, I know, it would make more sense to have all those things in the same room, but I haven't yet figured out a way to make that all happen! The sewing room is still in progress and it sadly won't fit my large cutting board (which is currently dominating the dining room table).

Six more pie slices and I'll have a full compass!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mariner's Compass

So, almost a year ago, Hurricane Sandy came whomping up the east coast and flooded or completely destroyed countless homes. I have some friends whose homes (and the sand beneath them) are now totally gone. Others suffered severe flooding and mold damage. My mother is quite a ways inland in northern NJ, but the wind was so bad that it knocked out transformers that took almost 3 weeks to be repaired (meaning that she was without heat or power into November).

My aunt and uncle's home was one of those damaged, but fortunately, because they happen to be at a wider part of the barrier island where their home is located, and because of the capricious nature of storms, the damage was relatively minor. Newer construction on this (and many) barrier islands/beaches require that homes be built on pilings, so that the living space is on the second (and third) floor, while the first floor is just an entrance and storage. They got quite a lot of flooding and resulting mold, but thankfully their home is still standing.

I felt helpless back in Utah, neither able to lend a hand with the clean-up at my uncle and aunt's home, nor able to help out my mother who was without power for so long. So I did the one thing I could do (after sending my mother a care package with batteries, flashlight, and the ever critical coffee!): I began to sew.

My dear friend Sue gave me a wonderful fat quarter bundle from Emily Herrick's Going Coastal collection, and it seeded an idea. What if I made a quilt for my aunt and uncle's home, using coastal-themed fabric? I added some of Emily's Shore Thing fabric to the Going Coastal fabric, and I began to quilt. You may remember my talking about this quilt last year—although I don't think I gave the background on why I was making it.

Here's a picture of the pattern I used (although this one uses different fabric):

I finished this pictured quilt last November using my scraps. I used the same pattern for my aunt and uncle's quilt, but with Emily's great Going Coastal and Shore Thing fabric. The pattern is from Red Pepper Quilts' tutorial. It's her pieced scrap border quilt. I thought I had a photo of the beach quilt, but apparently not yet! I'll take a photo and include it tomorrow.

It's an involved quilt, even with strip piecing, so I was pretty pleased with myself just for finishing the top. I was all set to put a matching back on, quilt and bind it, and send it on its way . . . and then Robyn came along! She had just finished a fabulous mini mariner's compass, using Quilt Smart, and she had an extra kit, which she so thoughtfully gave to me!!

I was overwhelmed by her generosity (and the thought of figuring out how to tackle what seemed like a tricky project), but I knew in that moment that I wanted to make the mini mariner's compass the center of the quilt back.

And then I began the horrible process of packing up my house and moving across country, and the project came to a standstill. Now that I'm (sort of) settled into my new house and my sewing room is (sort of) organized, I thought it was time to get back to this project.

Essentially, the kit comes with a fusible interfacing, with the pattern printed on it. It has 8 "pies," with corresponding bits and bobs that, when put together, makes a beautiful mariner's compass. Here's what the pie piece looks like:

I spent the LONGEST time trying to figure out which fabrics to put in the compass. I knew I wanted to use Emily's fabric for the back as well, but wasn't sure how to put them together. Here's what I've decided to do. I'm using these fabrics for the top triangles:

I'm going to use the madras (total beachy summer, right?? It certainly is here on the east coast!) for the downward facing triangles (kinda like the stalactites), and I'm going to use the blue and green kelp for the stalagmites (the upward facing triangles). 

I'm then going to use these fabrics for the pizza wedge that's at the bottom of the triangles (this actually is in two parts, which is why I've chosen two fabrics): 

For the compass points (north, south, east, west), I'm planning on using these fabrics:

I love love love the starfish, but I'm not sure I have enough of it. I'm within inches of having enough, but I can't find any more on Etsy. Oh noes! Anyone have any out there I could buy from?

I wanted to make sure that I fully understood the pattern, and I was lucky enough to find a great tutorial on Youtube (where else?!) that walked me right through it. It seems pretty straightforward. Here's the link to the tutorial:

Mini mariner's compass tutorial

I've cut out a lot of the fabric, and am ready to start sewing, so more pictures coming soon!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Don't read this post Marion or Emily!

Now I'm hoping that Marion and Emily have greater restraint than I would with such a post title. For me, that's an invitation to keep reading! But then again, I was the child who would do some "research" once the Christmas presents started appearing beneath the tree!

I'm following Mischelle's great advice to just warn off Marion and Emily in the title so that I can actually show y'all what I'm working on. Especially since that's the only sewing I've done in ages!

First, you remember Emily and Marion's great medallion centers with the gorgeous work done by the other ladies in our round robin? Marion's is the one on top with the adorable Matryoshka dolls all in a circle and Emily's is the gorgeous star in reds and blues. 

Here's what I did with Marion's:

Given all that was going on with this quilt so far, I thought I might just add a quiet border that pulls from what others have already done. So I added this cute material from the Sew Mama Sew collection:

This is the material that Marion used in the very center of the quilt (at the feet of the nesting dolls). It's also what is in some of the lighter colored squares in the great purple and black checkerboard border. 

I love the center and I love Jeanette's phenomenal appliqué, so I wanted to do something that would highlight them by not distracting from them. I figured something too busy might not be good right next to the birds. 

I added a 3 inch border (not including seam allowance). That's the minimum border we're supposed to add in each round. 

And here's what I did with Emily's quilt:

Excuse the lack of pressing! I added the red and blue borders. Jeanette again did her magic with her appliqué on either side of the square. I decided to square it up by adding an imbalanced red border (which mirrors the fabric used in the center of the star), and then added blue to frame it all and to mirror the blue checkerboard border surrounding Emily's medallion. Emily said that she wanted to emphasize blues and reds, so hopefully this is what she was thinking!

For those interested in the house progress, we've finished stripping wallpaper and ripping up carpeting, and we've repainted the stairwell, upstairs hall, and den Coastal Vista blue:

We were still finishing touching up the upper part of the stairwell, so that's why the handrail is blue (tape) and the banister is covered with a plastic bag. 

And for those who have requested puppy photos, I will leave you with a picture of Sophie in her and Zoey's favorite spot in the house (on an ottoman in the den). Isn't she cute with her chin resting on the window sill?!

My stripping days are over!

At last! We've finished stripping the wallpaper off the walls. Yay!

We've now washed down the plaster walls with sponges to get the residual wallpaper paste off, so now we need to spackle the dings in the plaster walls . . .  and then we get to PAINT!

This is the color we've chosen for the upstairs hallway, stairwell, and our downstairs den. It's Behr's Coastal Vista:

Isn't it yummy? We thought it'd go really well both with our upstairs paint (Behr's Manhattan Mist)

. . . and with the downstairs color (Behr's Wheat Bread):

By a strange turn of events, the Wheat Bread is the exact same color as the color my mom chose for her kitchen cabinets (although she's using Martha Stewart paint, and she calls it Sharkey Gray). We saw the color and thought it'd be the perfect neutral yet rich tone for our downstairs.

This will be such a nice switch from the salmon orange that is currently in the kitchen!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Going Round and Round

Am I blowing you all away with my renewed blogging vim and vigor?!! Now that I'm ensconced in my new home and not driving cross-country or living out of my mom's house (which we did for weeks waiting to get into our house—thanks mom!), I'm actually able to sit down a little bit every day to blog. Yay! I've missed chatting with you all!

One of the project I started with my friends back in Utah was a round robin. We each made our own 18 inch square medallion center, then passed it along to the next person on the list. A new talented person every month. I thought I took a picture of my center before I passed it along, but now I can't find it. Sigh. So picture this: I made an extra large spool using selvedges from favorite fabrics. I then waved it goodbye and handed it over to the ever-talented Ella to work on before she passes it down the line. Each person adds at least a 3 inch border, so when we get it back (sometime at the end of the year), we'll have a finished quilt. I'm not sure what size. It'll be so amazing to have a quilt collectively made by such special and talented friends. Oh wait! I already have a quilt like that (see my Gratitude post!), but now I'll have another!

I've been so so amazed and humbled by the incredible talent of the women in this round robin! I don't want to give anything away about what others have done, but let's just say that everyone has set a high bar and I'm a bit freaked out about keeping up with the quality and creativity!

I totally want to write about what I'm doing on this round robin, but have to find a way to do it without giving it away for anyone who might be involved and reading this . . . any ideas? I'll at least show you some of the centers that people have done, editing out the borders that have been added.

Here are two that I'm about to work on:

Aren't these just gorgeous?! So different and each so creative!

Monday, September 16, 2013


Alright, no house updates in this blog, I promise! I'm taking a break to talk about my wonderful quilty friends and wonderful quilty things!

So, because I was a bit preoccupied with my packing up and getting out of Utah (which was quite a feat, given the 28 foot long truck we filled!), I have neglected to tell you all about the most amazing group of friends I have.

Almost two years ago I began to sew, learning most everything from blogs and the internet in general. One of the blogs I was following was Pamela's French Knots, which I found charming and full of great information. One day, I read about a retreat that Pam was hosting about 45 minutes away from where I live, and I decided on a whim to go. I didn't know Pam, and didn't know anyone going to the retreat. In fact, I had never even gone to a sewing retreat before and was still fairly self-conscious and nervous about my sewing skills—or lack thereof! Nonetheless, I gathered up my sewing things (feeling like I was packing to run away from home, I brought so much!) and headed to Utah County for the several day retreat. It was so great! I met the most amazing group of women and learned so much in the few days I was there! Pam threw a great retreat, with yummy food and a terrific class on appliqué.

It was at that retreat that I met Ella, Pamela, Kristen, Sue, April, Emily, and Amy. I'm not sure how it developed, but next thing I knew we were getting together regularly for sew days and retreats. At those days I met many other great people, including Marion and Jenny. Now it's been almost two full years, and I regard these women as great friends who made my time in Utah so special. I think I may have shared this story before, because last time I moved—then it was "just" across town—they showed up at my door with mop and pail (and wearing cute little bandanas) and cleaned our house from top to bottom with us. What a special gift it was!

When it came time for me to move east, I knew that the hardest part would be to leave my friends. I plan to return for retreats and such, but it's still not the same as being in the 'hood! Sweet Ella hosted a lovely farewell party for me the week before I moved, and they surprised me with the most wonderful, gorgeous churn dash quilt. So amazing! Just look at it—here's the front:

And here's the back:

Do you see? It has my first initial in the middle! The pink fabric is puppies from Ella's amazing stash. I had admired it once, and she generously gave me some of the fabric with a blue background. I was so delighted to have that fabric then, but to then discover the same fabric in pink on the quilt . . . so wonderful!

Everyone contributed a square, or binding, or quilting, and then signed it. What a special gift! I always think about my friends back in Utah anyway, but this is a particularly dear reminder. In fact, as I write this post I'm snuggled up in this great quilt.

April, in addition to her contributions to the quilt, made me an amazing, ever-coveted weekender bag. We had talked about making one, but I never dreamed she'd make one for me! I've been wanting one for so long, but they're such a project to make that I was a bit too daunted to try it myself.

Here's the bag in all her glory:

And here's the other side:

Here's the closeup on the front—the clothespin dolls are from my ever favorite Heather Ross:

And here's the closeup on the back—It's so so special, it even has a car pulling a teardrop trailer, just like we did driving across country!

Do you see the great Denyse Schmidt Flea Market Fancy on the bottom? April knows I love my Denyse Schmidt, so she used her fabric throughout. This was my "to go" bag on my trek cross country. You can fit a small country in here!

I miss everyone so much, but I can curl up with my quilt and use my weekender bag and feel so close!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Strip Tease

So the battle continues against the pervasive cigarette smells in our new house. We have officially waged war! The wallpaper is coming down, and not a moment too soon! It looks innocent enough, but waves of cigarette odors are emanating from the wallpaper as it's ripped off. So so gross! Fortunately, because there's plaster beneath the wallpaper, it's a hard, less porous surface than if it were dry wall. Plus, it also seems to come off a bit easier than I remember wallpaper coming off of dry wall. We've just needed to use a razor blade to pull off the top layer of wallpaper and a spray of water to loosen the second, backing layer of wallpaper to get back to the base plaster foundation.

I know, I know, I sound as if I'm a total anti-smoking fanatic! I really don't care if other people smoke, but going through this process of trying to clean up all the tar residue has made me truly appreciate what non-smokers breathe in when around cigarettes!

We're continuing to battle the gunk on the banisters, but it looks as if it may actually be the old varnish aging and clumping together—overlain with a layer of tar. Unfortunately, I think the only solution for this is to strip and revarnish the banister. Sigh.

Once we finish stripping and prepping the wallpaper, we're going to paint the upstairs hallway and stairwell a gorgeous rich blue that will play off the grey/blue in the bedrooms and more taupe-y grey downstairs. I can't wait—both for the elimination of the odor and the replacement of the wallpaper with a much nicer, rich color! We'd love to return the baseboards and trim to the original finished wood, but there are so many layers of paint on them right now, that we're going to simply paint them white and leave the refinishing for another phase of home decoration.

The more we clean the house (woodwork, trim, windows, etc.), the more we narrow down the offending sources of the cigarette odor. We've removed all window treatments (which weren't to our taste anyway), are working on the wallpaper, have painted over a lot already, so the only thing left is . . . the carpet! Fortunately, only the stairway and upstairs hallway are carpeted, and when we peeked we discovered beautiful hardwood beneath. We'll need to refinish the floors ultimately, but for now just getting the carpeting up will be a huge benefit!

Just look at how good the floor looks now that the burgundy carpeting is gone!

(the greenish, splotchy wall behind the stairs is the bare plaster that was beneath the wallpaper. Still some more to strip off, but we're almost there!)

Because it hasn't been as much a priority as battling cigarette smells and unpacking things like the kitchen and clothes, I haven't been able to do much in the Sewing Room yet, but I'm excited to have a sewing room in this new house. It's quite a bit smaller than my last one (where I was really spoiled). Do you remember that scene in Star Wars (the first one) where Princess Leia and Luke (and maybe Hans Solo?) were in the garbage room that was compacting and getting smaller and smaller? My sewing room kind of feels like that. The walls are definitely closer together than they were in Utah! Nonetheless, once I get my fabric unpacked and settled in I think I'll have a great space. I started to unpack my fabric, but then worried that it would pick up the cigarette odor (my fabric is sealed in huge plastic bags), so I've left almost all my fabric still packed safely away.

Here's a picture of the space, with only the bookcases set up and plenty of boxes to unpack:

Okay, enough on cigarette smells! We live only 6 miles from the beach, so we've already taken some great, early morning walks on the beach. I love the salty smell of the air and feel of sand beneath my bare feet! So, I'll leave you with a little bit of the beach . . .

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back from the dead!

Hi y'all!

I know, I know, it's been MONTHS since I last posted anything, and I may well be posting this just for me to read, as everyone may have long given up on me!

Things have been busy here in Shortcookie's world, so it's not as if I don't have an excuse for my extended radio silence! Since we last chatted, I've moved across country to New York, just outside the big city! Yup, that's right! A Utah girl no more! I've returned to the East Coast at last! My partner got a fabulous job as a professor at a university located close to our new home, so we packed up and left the Intermountain West.

We found a wonderful and sweet little home here in New York, which was built in 1927 and has been in the same family since it was built! It has the most amazing big yard with a gorgeous garden. It has hydrangeas (my favorites!), azaleas, peonies (also my favorites!), and stunning rosebushes, among other great plants and shrubs. Just look at these roses:

I'm going to have my work cut out for me with all the weeding and gardening! We met with the sellers before we took possession of the house and they walked us through all the various stages of weedkiller and fertilizer and such. It was a bit overwhelming! It was definitely helpful to have them give us an overview of everything. Less of a blessing, however, was the large (3 feet high) white metal windmill they left us in the yard. Now I'm open to yard ornaments (to a point), but this one looks like it's right out of a mini golf course! I had been thinking the yard was perfect for croquet, but I may decide instead to build a miniature golf course out there! Not only did the sellers leave the windmill, but also a gigantic (definitely larger than life) white and red mushroom patch. No gnomes, though! 

We're having a good time settling into the house and have already begun putting our touches on the place. When we initially walked through the house we were stunned by how pristine the house was--the basement and attic looked as if they were regularly vacuumed out and every bit of maintenance has been done on the house. We apparently had buyers' goggles on, however, because we somehow didn't notice that the whole house is covered with a coat of tar from the seller's longterm smoking habit. We knew that the house was  bit smoky, and we anticipated having to air it out and clean the carpets and drapes and such, but we had no idea of how bad the tar was going to be. In case you're blessed not to know, when smokers exhale, they breathe out tar (yuck!) which, over time, accumulates on every surface it touches. It has a yellowish cast and is sticky to the touch. We spent the first days in the house washing down the walls. Here's what we've learned about cleaning tar off surfaces: First, leave bowls filled with vinegar throughout the house to absorb and kill the cigarette odor. Next, wash down the walls, trim, and baseboards with a solution of one part vinegar and one part water (you can also add some dish detergent for some added cleaning power). We did that, but the smell persisted. So we washed down the walls with TSP, which is an all-purpose cleaning agent and degreaser. Be sure you get the phosphate-free kind, because the original kind is terrible for the environment. 

The house still smelled just a bit . . . AND we had already decided we hated the wall colors, so we painted and we painted and we painted. Here's a picture of our girl Sophie against the awful wallpaper that ran throughout the living room, up the stairs, and in the upstairs hallway. 

If you can't tell, there's a weird background to the wallpaper that looks like dirt stains, but is apparently a deliberate part of the design. Go figure. Do you see the white baseboard behind Sophie? That was already that way when we arrived. Do you see the baseboard on the left by the painted wall? That was painted off white. Seriously, an off white baseboard just ran right into the white baseboard. This is the case throughout the house. Wackiness, right?

With the exception of the wallpaper behind Sophie and on part of the living room wall, most of the downstairs is wallpaper that was painted over in the past. Looks funky, but we just weren't up to pulling off all the wallpaper (dining room, large living room, staircase, upper hallway) and then possibly having to repair the plaster wall beneath it. Instead, we just painted right over the previously painted over wallpaper. Not a perfect solution, but the color is so much better than what was there before! And it has totally taken care of the cigarette smell! Yay! For those that care, we painted the downstairs Martha Stewart's Sharkey Gray. Yes, I succumbed to Martha's charms. 

The very first thing we painted was the master bedroom, which had been painted an appalling two tones of light and royal/aqua-ish blue. It was truly awful. The room has beautiful baseboards, and they were painted a dark blue! We painted this room Manhattan Mist. It's a grey with light blue tones. We really love it, especially with the white trim!

 My current project is to try to get the tar off of the stunning1927 cherry banister. It's a gorgeous architectural piece, but look how disgusting it's become (the orange peeking out is the natural cherry stain; the black speckles and clumps are tar. Really).

I've tried Murphy's Oil, which has helped quite a bit, but I think I would need gallons of the stuff to get this clean. Furthermore, the black speckly parts are actually rock hard, so won't just wipe off like it did on the walls. We've tried sandpaper, and it seems to work--it sands off the tar without even getting down to the stain. Does anyone out there have any other recommendations? CLR makes a product (Stain Magnet) which is described as safe for wood furniture and good for getting off bad stains and such, but the cherry wood is so nice I don't want to risk it.

Okay, that's enough for now . . . back to work and unpacking! My sewing room is still completely packed up (although we did paint it before the movers came--it had been an awful taffy pink), so no sewing updates for now, but hopefully by the weekend, because I have to cracking on my round robin sewing!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Some Finishes!

Done! Finished! Fini! I have at last finished Twisted! The quilt that I thought would kill me! Here she is in all her twisted glory:


Here are a few critical lessons I've learned during this process:
1. Don't assume that all twin sized quilt sizes are the same, so don't go with the first (HUGE) dimensions you find on the internet. This one is 78x98 and easily covers my queen bed. Apparently I could have made this as small as 65x88. Oy!
2. Just give up the fantasy that I'm Marion and can machine quilt mammoth-sized quilts on a small-throated sewing machine! I straight-line quilted this entire quilt, all the while checking my work, yet somehow only discovered at the end that my basting was @#$$% and had to have my dear, sweet better half pick out ALL of my stitches! Double quilting drat!
3. Be extremely grateful for the generosity of great friends like Ella who rescued me with her amazing quilting skills (and amazing Gammill longarm machine). 
4. Using up stash is sooooo satisfying! This quilt is made up 100% from stash. It is actually from the very first fabric I have ever bought--almost 15 years ago (which many of you can probably tell since it is so so different from the fabric I'm currently using in my quilts!). 

This fabric is what I call "weirdsucker;" it looks kind of like a seersucker, but it's not, but it's not quite a quilting cotton either. It's a fabric I inherited from my aunt who had an album business that made custom wedding and baby albums with lots of different fabrics. When she closed up shop, she gave me a ton of her leftover fabric for my stash. Little by little, I'm making my way through it!

In addition to Twisted, I'm almost finished with the baby quilt I'm making for my friend Jill's brother's baby quilt. I was hoping to finish it time for their baby shower a few weekends ago, but you know how those things go!! While I was at Ella's she showed me her cool pantograph feature on her Gammill and she quilted dog bones on the quilt. So awesome! Thank you Ella! 

I used my usual favorite rainbow pattern from hooked on needles:

Sorry the color isn't better, but it's a rainy day and the lightbulbs are a bit yellow . . . I'm calling this one my Color Munki.

This quilt uses some of my favorite Heather Ross Munki Munki (you can see in this picture the bicycles, the chickens, and seahorses), as well as Sarah Jane, Laurie Wisbrun and others. I think of it as an elevated "I Spy." I want to have interesting fabrics for the babies to look at, but I also want it to be pretty for the grown-ups too (rather than having SpongeBob on it!). 

Here's one of my favorite, really hard-to-find Munki Munki fabrics from Heather Ross: The Chickens:

 It's poplin, so it's wicked soft. I would love to have jammies made out of this material!