Think about this.....

...the only thing scarier then reaching out to the unknown is settling for that with which we are comfortable.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What I Learned Yesterday

I learned that when trying to sew long, skinny pieces together, even when paper piecing, pinning is not an option, but a requirement.

Units 9 are really long and skinny and not to mention, pointy! To keep everything in line, not only am I having to sew, press, fold, and trim, but I am also having to pin/unpin each piece in that sequence.

I neglected to do so on the first few pieces of the 9R section and it is very obvious to me where I went astray. I'm debating on whether or not to pull them apart, but quite honestly, unless you get your face right in on the questionable sections, it's not obvious to anyone but me so maybe they just need to stay put for now.

I completed both 8 sections and the 9R yesterday. I have to complete 9L today and then I think (crossing my fingers) that I actually get to start construction on the actual large pieces.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Space is Good

I have found that when one has room to spread out and is in their familiar surroundings, things go much better. Not that I'm opposed to sewing with all my quilting friends because sewing with them is absolutely wonderful. But, when tackling a large project it seems that space is optimal and extremely more productive.

I completed bags six and seven yesterday. Only three more to go and, after kind of perusing through the directions yesterday to prepare for sewing today, bag 10 is more like a need-it-as-you construct-the-top-together situation rather then an actual set of pieces you need to put together.

Today should be similar to the previous two days in that I should be able to get bags eight and nine completed, but circumstances and life happens, so who knows?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Units 4 and 5. Check!

Our Amazon Star required a lot of pre-work prior to even starting to sew. Sorting of foundation pieces, cutting of templates, organization of fabric, numbering of units, etc. Once everything was completed, we then sorted everything into individual bags. 10 total.

When working with the pattern, it is done by bag number and nicely done in their ascending order. What a concept! After last night, I'm now onto bag #6 today.

Guild members have been joking with me online about completing this thing in time for show and tell on Thursday. Yeah, I don't think that's going to happen. I have been diligent in my work time, but there are just some things even I can not accomplish even if I sew 24/7. This piece requires so much concentration and time and you can not just whip it out in a few sittings.

With that...onward, sew!

Monday, July 28, 2014

What a weekend!

So let's try to keep this short. Mom was transported to the airport without any hitches or hurdles. I hope she's having an excellent time out west!

Arrival to camp (via a few detours along the way) was uneventful, but the weekend was mind-taxing to say the least. Here's my advice for ANYBODY who tries to tackle a Judy Niemeyer pattern. DO NOT, and I will repeat that, DO NOT try a full size piece for your first attempt!!!!!

I am a pretty skilled quilter; been doing it now for 20 years. Have achieved the "professional" status since I now take in money for my work, and I will one more time say, DO NOT try a full sized quilt for your first go at Judy Niemeyer-ing work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I want to thank first, Linda Shafe for showing Cathy and I the correct way through which to maneuver our plastic folding template and Add-A-Quarter rulers to achieve success in trying to get through this pattern. This is paper piecing in a whole different light and requires the use of these two tools to achieve success throughout the workings of this intricate design.

My second thank you goes out to Cathy Singer for co-construction of the beginning of two Amazon Star quilt tops. She and I had many ideas, thoughts, concerns, questions, and general words of praise thrown back and forth for two days straight. Since Cathy went home Sunday, she opted to not work on her piece until she returned home later so I forged ahead without her on Sunday.

My biggest thank you goes out to the whole Across the Square Quilt guild for identifying why I was abnormally quiet the whole weekend while trying to concentrate on said piece. The instant Cathy or I would let ourselves get caught up into all the festivizing and fun at camp, we found ourselves unsewing or recutting pieces of the section we were tackling due to our lack of concentration.

Here is what we accomplished by Friday night. Cathy's is the beautiful harvest colors and I'm in love with her color selection. Mine are the blue/silver combination that I fall further in love with the more I work with it!

Notice all the snacks we pushed aside to make room for our "reveal"

Here is Saturday nights accomplishments. They were so large already we couldn't get them on the table so had to throw the sections together on the floor and take them while standing on a chair.

Cathy's as of Saturday night

Mine on Saturday night

I will continue to diligently work through bag #5 today (you do these by sorted bags and paper pieces that are numbered and lettered) since I have now returned home from the north.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Few Minutes to Spare

Caleb comes home today! I won't get to see him until my return from camp, but from his Facebook post, he made his flight and is en route back to Michigan. I made a sign for him this morning and hung it on the fridge to welcome him back in my absence. Jim will pick him up from the train station this evening; late.

I think I've brought just about anything and everything I need for my trip north. I can't think of anything else to stuff into the Jeep so now I just wait for mom before we head out. While I have the time, I think I'll line up my next quilt to get on the long arm for my return. I won't have time to make backings or anything but I can plan it out and get it ready at least.

The animals and plants are all fed and watered. I've cleaned the house and washed all but a half load of laundry. It amazes me how much preparation it takes to get away even for a few days, and it's not like the guys are inept or anything, but they should be able to enjoy their weekend as well and not have to worry about such trivial stuff.

Until next week, keep quilting!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Quilt camp is always a wonderful thing to look forward to! Packing...not so much. I have all my quilting supplies in the Jeep and most of my clothes in the suitcase. I'll add to the suitcase tomorrow morning after I am done taking my shower and getting ready to leave to Detroit with mom.

Mom is going on a Canadian Rockies bus tour and her flight leaves out early (7:30) from Metro to Spokane on Friday, so we'll be staying in Detroit tomorrow night to refrain from having to get up so early the next morning.

I'm going to get her settled into the airport and then head out somewhere for a leisurely breakfast. From there, quilt shop hopping! So excited for that, except it would be more fun to do it with a friend. I have to plan my route this afternoon to see where I'm going since we can't really check in at camp until after 3pm.

Amazon Star is all cut out and sorted into the proper bags. After reading the directions (again), I'm now all set to start sewing. I have a feeling Cathy has already started hers, but that's okay since I am more settled on having everything I need to make the process a success.

I also cut the Amish Star black sections last night to be ready for those blocks too. These are for a quilt both my father and Jim's mom requested I make for them. I'm thinking while I'm on my "A" game I can work on Amazon and then when I'm about brain dead, will then pull out the Amish Star blocks to work on since they don't require as much thought.

I have also packed a bunch of charm squares Jim purchased for me a while ago should I get through all the Amish Star blocks. I probably won't even get to those, but with all the intense work I do up there, who knows?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What a Mess

Yesterday was spent re-reading the beginning directions for the Amazon Star to make sure I was proceeding in the right direction.

After reading the template cutting portion and then actually diving into cutting the fabrics to prepare for piecing, I'm glad I took the time to peruse the previous sections because some of what I thought I needed to do was not actually the case.

At any rate, we're moving along. However, I'm making a huge mess of my planning table, my desk, my cutting table, and my sewing desk.

Once a color is cut, it is labeled, clipped together with the template, and then placed into a specific bag. I have 10 bags in total with various pieces in each that I can only assume will be used in the piecing progresses.

I was a little leery about the colors we choose because despite having 17 various values, together it only seemed like two; blue and silver/gray. Now that I have sorted them out during the cutting/separating steps, it seems like this may be an absolutely beautiful piece of work. Either that, or it will look like a blue ball of spikes with some gray around the edges.

The pieces also have a left side and a right side to them. Even those have to be labeled and kept straight from all the other pieces in their respective bag.

I think after I finish cutting this out today I may find that getting a basket (from my teaching days) to set everything in gently may be the way to transport this up north for quilt camp. I'm so worried about all of these flying about in the Jeep on the way up and I don't know if they did, what it would take to get them all straightened out again. An ounce of prevention...

Monday, July 21, 2014

No Guilt Quilt Is Finished!

Probably one of the longest times it took me to complete (a whole year) considering how much I really wanted to get it finished. It's such a fun little quilt that I'm sure the grandkids will fight over who will be sleeping under it.

No Guilt Quilt

Close up of some of the quilting
I free motioned the whole quilt (no use of the computer). Each of the treats were echo quilted; I ditch quilted between borders and sashing strips; I swirl quilted in the black border, and the cup of soda, I put in pebbles to resemble bubbles coming off the top of the cup. I did not quilt within the appliqué pieces because I wanted the quilt to be snuggly. If the pieces pucker after the quilt is washed the first time that's okay because comfort food is not really all that perfect.

Next up, quilt camp. I took Laura out of her bag from our sew-in weekend and gave her a good cleaning. I took inventory of my needles and other needed items and added to all the necessary areas. I feel like I'm ready to head north. Now all I have to do is pack my own clothes. 

Jim surprised me yesterday by asking about Amazon Star. A fellow quilter is tackling this very intricate design during camp and she and I are about the same skill level. I have had the pattern for a while and knew the fabric was going to be extremely expensive to purchase, but we found our way down to the Marshall House to look for said fabric and wow, it's going to be gorgeous!

Here's what the general idea is behind the quilt itself.

Amazon Star
The colors we selected will not be like these given colors. My colors will be grey and ice/dark blues. I wanted to mimic the actual stars we look out at each night from our back deck and most everybody who has tackled this project has been too afraid to venture outside of their box. Thankfully, I'm not like everybody.

The directions for this quilt are 26 pages long. Each piece of the pattern and the fabric has to be painstakingly cut prior to even beginning to sew. Once the pattern pieces are cut, they are sorted and put into section bags to keep them straight and organized. The same holds true for the fabric pieces. 

I have had my pattern pieces cut out for a number of months now, so the remainder of today will be cutting my fabric pieces and organizing them. Cathy and I will be "star" buddies throughout camp to lean on and ask questions to when we become confused or frustrated, which, from the look of all the directions, may be very often.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

She won!

Our guild (Across the Square Quilters) had our annual picnic last Thursday. We had a challenge thrown given four criteria. Drawings were made to see what criteria your quilt would require. The criteria were size, theme, technique, and color. I drew: 25"x30", beach, appliqué, and red. I have posted this one before, but since she won the Viewers Choice award, it bears repeating.

The competition was pretty even this year, and quite frankly, I would have pegged mine in at around third or fourth, but the members voted and this was solely their decision. I am honored!

Sew-in for our charity quilts was both yesterday and today, and now that the kids are all gone, life is returning to a bit of a normal state; at least for a few days.

This upcoming weekend is our annual quilting retreat; we call it quilt camp. Four days up north doing nothing but fellowship amongst quilters and while doing what I love to do-make quilts! I have a few patterns in mind to do while I'm up there, but like life, that can change. When Jim's mom and my dad were here during the kids' visit, they both loved my Amish Stars quilt so much they requested one for each so I guess that's what I'm planning for now.

However, I still have my Amazon Star pattern sitting here (has been for over two years now) and would like to tackle that. A fellow guild member is going to tackle hers while we are there and we discussed doing them together. I would like to make a go of it and use the Amish Stars quilt as my "no brainer" sewing after I get tired, but it will depend on whether I can get the batiks purchased beforehand. Hello, Marshall House!

Jim thought at least one person would want to watch me long-arm during their visit whether it be a family member or somebody attending the baby shower Tuesday evening. No one even asked, so No Guilt is still sitting as it was over a week ago on the frame. I think it needs to get finished! Tally-Ho!

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I don't know if I gave you a heads-up, but the past week has been a whirlwind of activity. First, the family reunion. That occupies about four of our days. It takes a long time to inventory, purchase, pack, un pack, set-up, visit, cook, clean, camp, tear down, pack, drive, un pack, clean, sort, make notes, and repack for next year. Except for the deluge of rain on Saturday evening and throughout the night, the reunion went well. My mom even came this year!

When we arrived home from reunion, our son and daughter-in-law (Andrew and Laura) were here waiting for us from California. Actually, they were in Chicago and trained it over this way Sunday morning as we were packing up the camping stuff up north. Right after the kids arrived, Jim's mom arrived as well and my dad was already here.

Monday we toured East Lansing so the kids could see the changes since their last visit and so we could get ice cream at the MSU Dairy Store. The best ice cream ever!!

Monday evening and all day Tuesday were preparations for the baby shower for said kids. Laura is due the first week in October; right before my 50th birthday. Tuesday evening was the shower and many of those who attended the reunion were here to celebrate the upcoming birth of little Tristan.

Wednesday, unfortunately, the kids had to return back home. It's always so hard to say goodbye! By the end of yesterday, my eyes felt like somebody threw sand in them because of all the crying. I'm not normally a very emotional person, but since the flood gates were opened during the departure event, thought it to be a good idea to come home and pack up the Christmas ornaments we've been collecting for Andrew since he was a baby. The box is ready to go and will be shipped out today or tomorrow. Both papa and I shed many tears.

Needless to say, unless I head out to Cali., we won't see the kids again for probably a year. Which way sucks!

This morning, the AT&T guy is coming to switch out the DSL connection to U-Verse. Andrew said it's much better and quite frankly, it can't be much worse. While Andrew and Laura were here, Caleb Skyped a few times and we couldn't even use video to see him because of our sketchy connectivity. Hopefully, all will go well there.

The guild picnic is tonight where my "A Cloudy Day at the Beach" quilt will be judged against 23 (or so) other quilts. No giant prizes or anything; just a feeling of satisfaction if it even bears an honorable mention or an "Oh, or Ah" or two. It will hang in my studio after it returns back home.

Since the house is now quiet and will return back to our normally scheduled program, we return back to the studio to work. My business cards were heading in a forward motion for a while, but then after talking to all the kids and family members, decided I should probably hire a graphic designer to create my logo. I don't know if I really want to get into all of that, so perhaps I'll just settle for a ready-made design from Vista Prints or something. I feel like it can be changed later if I get really big or anything.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Blog Changes

I started to work on changing the look of my blog a few days ago. Did you notice? I think I like the coloring better now and configured the fonts to more of my personality rather then the defaults given in the earlier stages of building my blog.

I'm still working on business card designs (with the assistance of my amazing son and daughter-in-law). Hopefully we'll have something ready to send to the printers by next week.

Meanwhile, it's nearly reunion time. I have packed up the quilt to be auctioned and hope this year it brings more then last. It's a shame to see something you spend so many hours on going for $20. I don't think that even covers the materials, but it's for a good cause, I guess?!?

I've started doing a little weekly project that I don't think I mentioned earlier. Quilters Newsletter is sponsoring a block of the week pattern called "First Snow". Each Tuesday we receive a house block different from the previous week(s) and paper piece it together. Embellishments are completely optional, but the quilt designer gives visual ideas on what she did with her blocks that are so adorable. My second block was completed yesterday.

I want to do a little on No Guilt today, but we'll have to see if I can squeeze in time between packing and organizing for the weekend. Jim should be home after lunch and we need to run and get all the food for the weekend, and that's usually a three hour adventure in of itself.

I will be going to guild this evening despite the fact that my dad is coming to babysit Lily. I have a new display frame and some batting to pick up for the two charity quilts I have sitting here waiting to quilt when I get back home. I guess I should be working on No Guilt so I can get to those sooner rather then later huh?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Decisions and Research

I have never (that I can think of) had to quilt a completely appliquéd quilt. This required me to delve into our wonderful world of technology again to find out the ins and outs and dos and don'ts of how to quilt an appliquéd quilt. Do I just breeze over the appliqués with DW? Do I go around everything only? What happens when I mix and match stitching lines and techniques?

Here's our subject:

No Guilt Quilt
I found out there are no hard and fast rules. I want to emphasize some of the pieces' textures and add to what seems like kind of a flat look about this quilt. I don't think this is going to be one to throw on the frame and get it done in one day. I plan on doing some thread changes and mixture of quilting techniques in each section to give it some dimension and added visual appeal.

But, because of my impending family reunion and visits from my dad, my son and daughter-in-law, a baby shower, and a shopping trip for said family reunion that takes half the day (we feed 80 people for two breakfasts and that's a lot of shopping), I probably won't be able to work on this quilt much over the next week. Arg! I have so many ideas and now this is going to be floating around in my head for the next week.

Maybe while the kids are here, I'll get a little quilting time in. They like to watch me play with DW and time may permit me to get into my studio during their visit.

Oh, I have the binding sewn onto the front of Amish Stars. I decided to hand bind that particular quilt because of its nearly heirloom qualities, so at least I'll have some hand work to work on while everybody is here visiting over the next week.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bee in my Bonnet

The first grandchild is a mixture of emotions for me. I'm so excited to become a grandma, but it just reminds me that my youth is slipping away.

It does provide opportunities to make more quilts though, and of any negativity about my younger years being left behind, this more then makes up for it!

Since our new little grandson-to-be already has his quilt made, you'd think I was done and would move along to that darn No Guilt quilt, right? Wrong!

I decided to mimic a familiar pattern done previously on another quilt for the new little man coming into our lives. While resting after lunch on Saturday, came up with an idea, took an inventory of my stash, and put something together rather quickly on graph paper for my idea.

Something simple. Understated. Yet with emphasis.

How about this?

I think the kids will enjoy it and will probably not let our little guy even use it. I'll present it to them after the first quilt is opened and hope they aren't currently following my blog since they are getting ready to return back to Michigan for a visit in less then a week.

The quilting will follow along the same lines as previously made Spartan quilts with the Sparty head and block "S" randomly quilted throughout. I have incorporated MSU in rounded letters as well as Go Green! Go White! in a Times New Roman font intermixed with the other motifs. It should be a big hit next Tuesday during their baby shower.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

This Weeks Lessons

I have learned three things this week about long arm quilting.

1. Stitching slower, on complicated motifs, when in computer mode, seems to create less stress on all parts involved.
2. Stitching at more stitches per inch creates a smoother motif and this is especially true when stitching complicated motifs.

The pic below can attest to the first two lessons.

This didn't come out so good on the first go-around because I had my standard 12 stitches per inch selected on DW. The above is the result of a 16 spi setting and I think it looks much better!

3. When the computer motors are engaged, it is much easier to "ditch quilt" than when I am just in the free motion setting. It creates a little more drag and is easier to guide the long-arm machine itself doing straight line stitching.

And perhaps a 4th lesson this week is when wanting to complete a quilt by a certain in-my-own-head deadline, don't count on that happening because somebody will either call (Caleb via Skype) or stop by for a visit (mom, right after hanging up the Skype call with Caleb).

This was supposed to be done, at least to my way of thinking, yesterday evening. However, life happens and the deadline chosen was not met. I'll finish this out today so maybe, just maybe, No Guilt will get on the frame yet before the weekend is done.

Baby DeGroot's first quilt

I have another baby quilt in mind for our first grandchild (we have learned it is going to be a boy) but will work on getting this first one done first and then worry about what I have in my head later on.

Friday, July 4, 2014


The absolute final step for me, and one I often overlook or neglect to complete, is sewing the label on the quilt back. This is done to identify the name of the quilt, my name, the city of origin and the year the quilt was completed.

Other information can be included, but this is the basics with which each label should convey.

The five quilts that were given last weekend went without labels. I know, I know, shame on me! I'm trying to get better at this, but it will take some time.

Having learned my lesson from last weekend, here are the two labels for the quilts that will be finding new homes in the next 10 days.

The labels don't have to be fancy or complicated as you can attest with these. It just takes some time to get them made, and then the bummer part is hand stitching them onto the back of the quilt. My hand stitching skills are still being honed and maybe with time, I'll be happy with the quality in which I complete this less-then-desirable task.

The third quilt of last week came off DW and was bound last night. I want to get No Guilt on the frame, but just remembered that I have a short week next week and so should probably get our grandsons quilt started since we have a baby shower scheduled for the kids a week from Tuesday. Currently the quilt is in yardage format so I need to get busy, huh?

Thursday, July 3, 2014


This morning I was able to send a Skype video message to Caleb who is studying abroad in England and Scotland. How cool is it to be able to share our daily discoveries and events nearly instantly where just a few years ago (okay maybe longer then a few years ago, but still...) we had to wait for telephones and snail mail and other slower vehicles to move information?

It's the same with my long-arm. DW and I can do it the manual way with me driving and doing his every move and command, or, I can set up a few measurements or points, select a motif, and send him on his way for a time.

Oddly, when DW is working with technology, he's actually a little slower in the time it takes to accomplish his quilting. While I do have the ability to speed him up in his stitching capabilities, I don't feel like that produces the best quality stitch and feel that slowing him down a few notches is the right thing to do.

When I am free motion quilting, I can speed things along a bit and I don't have to set up measurements or points. I just go where I foresee the next section of quilting needs to be incorporated and jog along on my merry way.

But, this is only true for simpler free motion pieces or those that are relatively easy for me to adapt into various sized spaces. Complicated quilting such as cross hatches or pebbles requires a lot of time using either method you select.

Technology continues to improve my quilting life, but I feel like the quilting industry has hit a plane of sorts. At this point it becomes artistic interpretation and continued improvement using all our available resources; I am lucky enough to be a part of that and I embrace the opportunity to grow further with my skills.

We finally get the third of our little quilts on the frame this morning and I will be using both technology and good old fashioned free motion quilting to complete it. After this one is completed later today I will move on further into the stash to see what I come up with next. I'm thinking I finally get to do the No Guilt quilt (hopefully) and am very excited to spend some time on that one!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Goodbye Lu!

I know this isn't a picture of a quilt, but she was my helper (hinderer) for over eight years. It was after Ben and his new bride, Alisha, become one last year that Lu was able to finally live with her rightful owner.

I still find a few of her hairs in some of the old tops I'm dragging out to be quilted and now that she is no longer with us, rather then me hrmphing and groaning about them, it saddens me instead.

Lu was an interesting cat. I affectionately would tell weekly "stupid cat" stories to my students and family members. Only those who knew her could appreciate all her little quirks and weirdness.

We'll miss her with the huge chapter she filled in our families lives. Her loud purr. Her huge green eyes. Her volcano making skills.

Thank you Lu for bringing smiles and wonder into our being.

March, 2004-July, 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

At Bat, On Deck, and In The Hole

Summer brings warm breezes, sunshine, and Tiger baseball. Whenever Jim is able, he tries to catch a game or two here at the house on TV. Last night he was not home so heard on the radio this morning that the Tigers lost. He later learned, however, that the winning grand slam homer hit at the bottom of the ninth put the Tigers in the lead to win the game.

I feel like that sometimes with my deadlines. A monthly block exchange, between my scrap squad members of last year, caught me with my hands at bat. The deadline was the end of June and with a few hours to spare, squeaked out the block that was due. I hate being late with deadlines and stressing to make a decent project while under the gun. To keep myself from doing that again over the summer I completed the next members block for July.

DW is in a similar situation. He has a lot of work ahead of him and I'm not keeping him nearly busy enough. Here is his current "at bat" quilt top.

At Bat

This top was made down the road a few years ago. Jim and I discussed my starting any new major quilt top projects until I scaled down that long arm pile hanging out in the spare room. DW needs to earn his keep.

This quilt is "on deck". A large wall hanging or lap quilt to be sold or donated. It too was made down the road a few years ago.

On Deck

This cute little Christmas quilt would be nice for some child at Christmas time. Maybe I'll save it for one of the tree babies we have coming due in the next few months and give it away then. But this is the quilt that is "in the hole".

In the hole
I'm still working on the hand binding for Andrew and Laura's quilt. I have just turned the third corner, which means I have about a side and a half yet to go. While DW is edge-to-edge quilting our "batter" quilt I'll work away at that project while jamming to something on the computer.