Sunday, March 29, 2020

The One Where Rebecca Performs an Emergency Rhinoplasty on a Stuffed Unicorn

Keeping Me Sane: My Husband (Bernie) and My Puppy (Sam)
Greetings, y'all.  Happy Sunday.  I wish I had something fabulous to share with you today, but I am not one of those people who is productive and thriving under the current circumstances.  I have not deep-cleaned my home, reorganized my closets, or remodeled any bathrooms.  I have not been sewing masks or other PPE for medical personnel.  I am not creating gourmet meals from scratch, nor is my family enjoying idyllic, Rockwellesque "family time" together as we play board games, engage in craft projects, or worship together online.  (Tried that last one this morning -- my husband refused to participate, and my sons were cracking jokes and talking and generally making fun of the whole idea of online worship to the extent that I could not even hear the prayers).  Both of my sons are supposed to be doing "online learning," one for his college courses and the other for his high school classes, so I'm stressed out about how all of that is going and how it will impact them academically, yet they are too old for me to really be "in the loop" and know what's going on, let alone for me to be creating schedules (that no one would follow anyway) or attempting to "home school" them.  In short, I am NOT the Martha Stewart of COVID-19.

I Am Not an Instagram Mom (photo from lindsaycz via Instagram)

From what I see on social media, it looks as though a lot of people are using the unexpected extra time on their hands to tackle home improvement projects or to be productive in their sewing rooms.  I'm personally feeling a lot of stress and anxiety that has sapped my motivation, making me feel like showering and putting on clean clothes is a huge accomplishment.  

Channeling My Inner Roseanne Barr Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

I've got nothing against those Instagram supermoms; it's just way more than I can muster right now.  And I know that everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, is experiencing stress, uncertainty  and disruptions in their lives right now, and I do appreciate that many people are going through much worse than what we're experiencing.  We don't have job loss, no one in my family is sick, and we have plenty of food and toilet paper.  Our biggest stressors are probably too much TV news and too much "together time."  Nevertheless, when I dragged my sorry self into my studio yesterday to mend a stuffed unicorn toy for my dog, it felt like a major victory against ennui and inertia.

Emergency Unicorn Rhinoplasty in Progress
This is one of Sam's favorite plush squeaky toys.  He likes to grab it, shake it, tug with it (when I'm holding the other end of it) and chase it around the kitchen when I toss it just out of his reach.  He had chewed the toy open at the front of its face and was pulling stuffing out through the nose when I took it away from him -- eating that stuffing is dangerous and could result in emergency veterinary surgery.

What the Unicorn's Face Looked Like Before He Met My Puppy
By the way, this particular unicorn is one of those toys that are advertised as being "virtually indestructible," and invariably there is a picture of a Rottweiler on the packaging to make shoppers think that this is a toy that a Rottweiler won't destroy.  

False Advertising!!!

Hahahaha...  Maybe that's why they call it the "Mighty Liar" Unicorn!

I considered sewing up the unicorn's face with the sewing machine, which would be a stronger seam than a hand stitched repair, but I decided against that because machine sewing would create a seam allowance ridge protruding on the outside of the unicorn like a scar.  I'm pretty sure that my dog would be attracted to that ridge and would deliberately chew the new line of stitching, so that's why I opted to hand sew the hole shut instead.  I used some heavy duty polyester upholstery thread and sewed the hole shut as tight as possible, with all of the loose fabric tucked inside of the plushie for a smooth seam on the outside of the toy.

Unicorn After Receiving Major Nose Job Surgery

So the unicorn looks pretty disfigured now, but puppy Sam was very happy to have him back again:
First Sam Batts the Unicorn With His Paw...

...and then, CHOMP!!!
Methinks the unicorn be not long for this world.

How are all of YOU coping with this pandemic situation that we all find ourselves living with?    Have you found something that helps to keep you sane or that helps you hold on to a little bit of normalcy in these bizarre times?  Anyone else, like me, feeling like their feet are stuck in cement and they just can't seem to put a plan into action lately?  I have GOT to get away from the news but my husband keeps checking the TV multiple times throughout the day, and even if I leave the room to get away from it, he has to report to me about how it's all getting WORSE AND WORSE by the minute...  This just feeds my anxiety because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it!

So I take a deep breath, and play with my dog.  My big sewing goal for this afternoon will be to cut the backing fabric for Spirit Song and seam the lengths together, maybe even get the backing loaded on the longarm.  Wish me luck!

-- Hey, by the way -- today is the 10th anniversary of my blog!  If you're interested, you can read that very first blog post, "Gardens of Deceipt," right here.

I'm linking up with
·       Slow Sunday Stitching at  
·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Path to Hell is Paved With My Tuesday Intentions... In Which I Am Inspired By Coronavirus, and Make a Plethora of Excuses

Was yesterday Tuesday again?  I'm not entirely sure -- the days are just melting into one another, now that my schedule is wiped clean and there's nothing to distinguish a Monday from a Sunday from a Saturday anymore.  Supposing that it IS/WAS Tuesday, it's time to revisit the goals I set for myself last week and to consider what I hope to accomplish in the coming week.

Last Week's To-Do List for March 17-24
  1. Add borders to Spirit Song to complete quilt top.
  2. Piece Spirit Song backing
  3. Make Spirit Song binding and set aside
  4. Paper piece next block for Anders' Beware the Ishmaelites sampler quilt
  5. Load SOMETHING on my frame -- either a practice piece, a charity top, or the Spirit Song quilt -- and START QUILTING!
As you can see, I only accomplished one of the 5 goals I set last Tuesday. In my defense, when I set those goals I had no recollection of the 16 Y-seams awaiting me in that vintage Nancy Cabot block for Anders' sampler quilt.  I think I worked on that over three or four days, and I wrote up a Y-seam tutorial here on my blog so I can refresh my memory next time I tackle one of these challenging vintage blocks.  Also the news has been distracting and worrisome, having both boys at home and starting "online learning" experiments has been distracting and worrisome (and expensive -- just had to buy a new laptop for Son the Elder because his previous laptop had a design flaw that caused it to continually disconnect from the Internet while he was trying to participate in an online class).  And of course Samwise, a.k.a. Mister Puppy-Pants, demands lots of time and attention while providing an exquisitely appreciated distraction from the worries of the day...

Samwise PuppyPants (Great Aunt Lulu in the Background)
The microscopic images of the novel coronavirus are fascinating to me.  How can something so beautiful be so deadly?  Some of the images popping up on the news look like batik fabrics or digital prints.  I can just imagine the wildly recolored version that would be "COVID-19 in Chartreuse by Kaffe Fassett Collective", can't you?

Doesn't This Look Like Quilt Backing Fabric?  COVID-19
Doesn't this one look like one of those green styrofoam balls sold at craft stores that you can cover with beaded and sequined stick pins to create Christmas ornaments?  Or like some kind of anemone in someone's saltwater fish tank.  Where's the clown fish in all of this?  As the song from A Little Night Music goes, "Send in the clowns..."

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Under a Microscope
Just last night, a 21-day Stay-at-Home Order was announced for the entire Mecklenburg County where I live, encompassing all of the Charlotte metropolitan area.  Although I'm not aware of anyone I know personally in my community who has tested positive for Covid-19, it was distressing to see that our zip code 28277 (the South Charlotte suburban and mixed use "Live-Work-Play" community of Ballantyne) is among those with the highest number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in the county.  

Bubble Tip Anemone, Doppelganger to COVID-19 virus
I know a lot of you are sewing face masks right now.  I'm not, but I've donated 150+ yards of quarter inch elastic that I had stashed away to some friends who are making masks for local hospitals.  I'm not good at fast-and-furious sewing projects, and I know they are putting that elastic to much better use than I could.   Those who have been following along with my projects here know that I sew at the speed of glaciers (about 25 cm per day) -- by the time I finished making a few masks, the pandemic would probably be over anyway.  Which is why I had all that elastic in the first place, by the way -- grand intentions of sewing all of my own bras and underwear that never materialized, or maybe I bought that roll when I was pregnant with Lars in 2000 and deluded myself that I was going to sew all of his baby clothes?  I don't remember exactly why I bought the elastic, but it has been mocking me from the shelf in my studio for decades.  I was glad to see it depart from my house and be put to good use.

And so, when I'm not traveling from grocery store to grocery store (one of the only places we're allowed to go under the Stay-at-Home Order) in search of meat and toilet paper, and when I'm not busy with the puppy or with laundry or disinfecting surfaces or obsessively checking in with news updates, what do I hope to be sewing this week?

My Spirit Song Quilt Top, Patiently Awaiting Borders

This Week's To-Do List for March 25-31

  1. Procure batting for my Spirit Song quilt
  2. Add borders to Spirit Song to complete quilt top.
  3. Piece Spirit Song backing
  4. Make Spirit Song binding and set aside
  5. Load SOMETHING on my frame -- either a practice piece, a charity top, or the Spirit Song quilt -- and START QUILTING!
It's especially poignant to be working on my Spirit Song quilt right now, which I named after my church's contemporary music group due to its color palette -- the pink/orange/coral with khaki that is almost always our dress code for Easter Sunday.  We moved to online worship only on March 15th, and that was my last opportunity to sing with the choir for a live-streamed service with no one sitting in the pews.  Now that the mandatory Stay-at-Home order is in place -- through April 16th! -- who knows when I'll be singing with Spirit Song again?

Rather than dwell on all of the things we're giving up right now and cannot do, I need to focus on the things I enjoy that are still available to me.  I enjoy creating; I enjoy learning; I enjoy a good challenge -- so the overarching Goal of All Goals is #5 on that list: getting a quilt on my frame and firing up my longarm for some quilting time!  I have an added incentive to get to the quilting sooner rather than later, because I want to have something to link up for Karin's Ruler Work linky party next Tuesday at The Quilt Yarn!

What's keeping YOU busy during these days of disconnection and social distancing?  Is your community under mandatory restrictions, and if not, are folks following the guidelines requested by the CDC?

I'm linking up today's post with:
·       Colour and Inspiration Tuesday at Clever Chameleon
·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us
·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

·       Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Victory! Nancy Cabot Cathedral Window Block Completed for Anders' Quilt

Ta-DONE!  I have not been this proud of finishing a single block in a long time, but this one was a bruiser.  It's a vintage block pattern called Cathedral Window, designed by Nancy Cabot and originally published in the Chicago Tribune in 1933.  I foundation paper pieced as much of it as I could, and then there were SIXTEEN Y-seams of traditional piecing to assemble those FPP'd units into the finished block you see below.  The points are sharp, the block is flat, and it measures EXACTLY 20 1/2" square.  That makes me quite a happy camper.

20 Inch Vintage Cathedral Window Block Completed
This block is destined for my version of the Moda Modern Building Blocks quilt, although this block is not one of the ones Moda chose -- it's one of several blocks that I swapped out to make my version more interesting (to me, anyway).  Here's what my version of this quilt will look like if I ever get it finished:

94 x 104 Beware the Ishmaelites Sampler for Anders
I cut the pieces out for this block months ago, then got distracted by other projects and the pieces got buried on my cutting table...  So it felt good to get the block sewn together rather than just shifting the pile of pieces somewhere else.

My Design Wall of Distraction
So as you can see on the overcrowded design wall, I've got four of the blocks done for Anders' sampler quilt now.  Per the Moda instructions, I am working my way from the largest blocks down to the smallest, so the five 15" blocks will be next.  But alas, this gets set aside again because now that my cutting table has been cleared off, I'm going back to my Spirit Song Birds in the Air top that you see on the left side of the design wall.  That one needs the backing seamed, the borders cut and sewn, and then it's getting loaded onto my longarm for quilting before anything else gets pieced!

Spirit Song Borders and Backing Fabric, Ready to Go
Piecing that vintage block for Anders' sampler quilt was actually one of my Tuesday To-Do items last week, but so were the borders, backing, and binding prep work for Spirit Song.  With my schedule completely cleared thanks to COVID-19, the odds are in my favor, don't you think?

Stay safe, everyone, and happy stitching!  I'm linking up with:

·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts  

The Beastly Y-Seam Block Has a Name: Cathedral Window by Nancy Cabot, 1933 Chicago Tribune

When I was recreating, resizing, recoloring and revising the Moda Modern Building Blocks Sampler in EQ8 Quilt Design Software, swapping out some of the blocks for others in my EQ Block Library, I didn't pay much attention to the information contained in the software "notecard" for each block.  After toiling away at all of these Y-seams, however, I was curious about where this block I'm making came from and I went back to my software to find out.

Cathedral Window by Nancy Cabot, Originally Published in 1933 Chicago Tribune

The 20" block I'm currently working on was designed by Loretta Leitner Rising (under the pen name Nancy Cabot) and it was originally published in the Chicago Tribune in 1933.  Per the newspaper column, she named the block Cathedral Window because it was inspired by the first cathedral built in Kentucky that year, and Cabot suggested "pastel pink or blue with white" as colorways.  I've recolored the block above using a reproduction 1930s fabric so you can see it as the pattern designer envisioned it.  

In Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns this block is given reference number 1953, and it's also in the EQ Blockbase program that can either tie into EQ8 software or be used alone to identify block patterns and/or print templates and foundation paper piecing patterns in whatever size you need.  

Cathedral Window is Reference No. 1953 in Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns
A lot of the quilt block patterns that were published early in the last century involved challenging construction methods such as curved piecing, Y-seams, and partial seams.  Most American quilters would have had strong needlework skills at that time, when sewing machine sales were just beginning to take off and readymade clothing was not yet affordable for most families.  Y-seam construction would not have been as intimidating to the Tribune's readers in 1933 as it is to quilters today.  

Sixteen Y-Seams!
Even so, I was not able to locate a single example of an entire quilt made from this block on the Internet -- but maybe the images are out there, just not associated with the pattern name or designer's name that I was using as keywords?  If anyone knows of a vintage quilt -- or ANY quilt -- made from this block pattern, please let me know in the comments so I can add that to this post.  I'm all about giving design credit where it's due.

Of course, my own color choices for this block are very different:

My Version of Nancy Cabot's Cathedral Window Block in Kona Solids
I love how the exact same block can look completely different in different fabrics, don't you? Here's as far as I got with this block yesterday:

My Cathedral Window Block In Progress
I have completed eight of the sixteen Y-seams in this block, and in case anyone is interested, I wrote a step-by-step tutorial for Y-seam patchwork in yesterday's post here.  

Dashed Yellow Lines Indicate Seams Remaining to be Sewn
Even so, I can't imagine making an entire bed sized quilt from this block, can you?!  I'm linking today's post with:

·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework
·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts  

·       Colour and Inspiration Tuesday at Clever Chameleon

Friday, March 20, 2020

Y-Seam Reality Check and a Refresher Tutorial

You guys, how did I look at this block yesterday and think there were only 8 Y-seams?  

My 20" Block
There are SIXTEEN Y-seams in this block!  See below.  Ugh.  I liked the Y-seams better when I thought there were only going to be eight of them.

The Wicked Block Diagram
So this block is kind of like the news lately -- it's twice as bad today as it was last night, and the only way to get through it is to just focus on ONE seam at a time instead of worrying about the whole block at once.  

I'm Piecing These Corner Squares First

This shot is for my own future benefit, because I never remember how I decided to press the seam allowances:

How Did I Press Those Seams?
You know, as I'm looking at this, I'm thinking that those Y-seam points would be crisper and flatter if I pressed these two seams towards the outside of the block instead of pressing them towards the red center square.  I was thinking "Press to the Dark Side" but now I'm second guessing myself...

Okay.  Two Y-seams waiting to be sewn:

Ready for Y-Seams
As you see in the photo above, I did NOT sew all the way to the raw edge of the fabric when I attached the green triangles to the white pieces.  I stopped 1/4" in, right where those seams are all going to meet up.  I also removed the stitches from that last 1/4" in the seam where the dark blue and red fabrics are joined in the foundation pieced unit.

The Piece In My Hand Gets Sewn On First
Just one seam at a time...  Pinning the first bit up to the Y-junction, with my final pin exactly where the seams are all meeting up and the green triangle folded neatly out of the way so it can't get caught in my stitching:

Here's How I've Pinned It
These are extremely fine pins (Clover Extra Fine Patchwork Pins) that I'm using, by the way, so I have no qualms sewing over them, especially as slowly as I'm running the machine for this precision work.  It's kind of like hand piecing with a machine needle.  If my sewing machine needle does strike one of these hair-thin pins, it shifts out of the way or maybe bends; nothing breaks and definitely no timing disasters!  

You Can See the Stitching Better Here
In the photo above, you can see how that previous line of stitching ends precisely where the next stitching will meet up with it.  After stitching along the pinned white side, I take out the pins, flip the seam allowance the other way, and tuck the white fabric out of the way so it doesn't get caught in the next line of stitching.  Pins are repositioned along the green triangle edge like so:

Ready to Stitch the Next Bit
Stitching down the next side, I backstitch right up to the previous seamline without crossing it, adjusting where that final stitch lands with the hand wheel if necessary.  This is why I'm using my Featherweight for the Y-seams instead of a modern computerized machine -- the manual Featherweight never takes an extra stitch when I'm reversing directions.

This is SLOW Stitching, Not Full Speed Ahead!
By the way, I've got a vintage Singer "cloth guide" screwed into the bed of the machine exactly 1/4" from the needle so I can use the original Singer multipurpose foot that came with the machine for piecing instead of a generic foot.  I have almost identical Patchwork Seam Guides for my modern Berninas that I also position exactly 1/4" from the needle on those machines, enabling me to switch back and forth between any of my sewing machines on the same project, knowing that my seam allowance and finished block sizes will be identical regardless of which machine was used.

After Stitching
The backstitching is necessary because we can't cross the seams to secure stitching lines with a Y-seam.  Since we're sewing right up to the seam intersection but not a single stitch beyond, the backstitching ensures that those stitches don't come loose.

One Down, One To Go (For This Corner Section, Anyway!)
Then the other side goes on the same way.  One of the reasons I pressed that red/white seam allowance toward the red square was so these two seam allowances (Red/white and white/teal) would nest together nicely, but I could have reversed the seam allowance on the white/teal...)

Same Process As Before
Sewing the first leg, you can see how I connect my new line of stitching to exactly where the previous stitching line left off.  From there I took 2-3 back stitches before pulling the work out of the machine, clipping the threads, and repositioning for the second leg of the seam:

Sewing Right Up To Connect to the Previous Stitching Line, then Backstitch to Secure
Pinning the Second Leg
...And then the threads are clipped, the work comes out of the machine, and the seam allowance is flipped out of the way so you can sew the second side.  I start a few stitches beyond that seam junction, backstitch right up to the point where all three seams converge, and then continue sewing forwards the rest of the seam.  At the Y-seam intersection, all three seam allowances are completely free from the seams.

Ready to Sew
Again, I've very carefully folded and positioned the white fabric out of the way so none of it gets inadvertently caught in the next leg of the seam.

Stitching Lines Meeting Up Nicely!
In the photo above, I've just stitched the left side of that green triangle.  Next I pull out those two pins from the green fabric, pull the green fabric out of the way to the left, and flip that seam allowance to the left so I can sew the next leg of the seam in the white fabric.  

Ready For the Last Side
See how that seam allowance on the left is still loose?  That's the whole Secret Magic of the Y-Seam.  You sew right up to the seam allowance but never INTO the seam allowance, and then you get a nice, smooth, pucker free finish on the right side of your block.

Two Y-Seams Later, This Is What I've Got
There are a couple of inexpensive gadgets that I use to make Y-seams easier.  First, in addition to printing foundation paper piecing patterns on newsprint from my EQ8 software, I also printed traditional piecing templates (with 1/4" seam allowances) for these chisel and quarter square triangle shapes onto heavy card stock.  Then I used a 1/16" hole punch to cut tiny holes in my templates at the corner points of the seamlines, just big enough to fit the point of my Sewline mechanical pencil.

Sewline Pencil and Mini Hole Punch for Marking Start/Stop Points
My yellow Sewline ceramic pencil shows up nicely on the dark fabrics.  For my light colored fabrics, I mark that start/stop point where the seams match up with a single dot from a Frixxion heat erasable pen.  (The dot is on the wrong side of the fabric right where the seams all meet up, and it disappears as soon as I iron the finished block unit.). You could also use a dot of regular graphite mechanical pencil instead.

Black Dot On Pale Blue Fabric is Frixxion Heat Erasable Ink Pen
What you want is a very tiny, very distinct dot that will not smudge with handling, indicating EXACTLY where that first/last stitch needs to land.  The black Frixxion dot above is very easy to see on light fabrics, and the same is true for the yellow Sewline dot on the darker fabrics, as seen below.  My final stitch will sink directly into the center of that dot, then I'll sew in reverse for 2-3 stitches to secure the seam.

Yellow Dot on Green Fabric is Sewline Ceramic Fabric Pencil
So anyway, I finished all four of these corner sections today.  I'm not sue which seams should be sewn next, and that's okay.  One day -- and one seam -- at a time, remember?  I will figure out which seam to sew tomorrow!

Stay safe everyone, and happy stitching!  I'm linking today's post with: ·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland