Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Louisa Smith's Swirl Quilt

Isn't this a show-stopper?  I called Louisa Smith to order some templates and books, and we chatted about the "Swirl" template set.  She offered to send me a photo of her sample for this template set.... isn't it gorgeous?  This wall hanging is made of 16 blocks- 4 groups of 4 blocks each.  Each block is made of 3 pieces, cut from the template set.  If you just look at a group of 4 of the blocks (one of the swirls), one color, or color group, is used for the small piece on one block, the middle piece of the next block, and the outside piece of the next block.  Once you see how it works, it's not tricky at all.  Louisa really has an eye for creating amazing art quilts.  Some of the pieces are cut from strip sets and some of the pieces are cut from fabric alone.  Louisa says that she she shows this sample, the Swirl template sets just fly out the door.  I can see why!

A tip I got from Louisa a while back:  For the strip sets, Louisa often uses fabric she really doesn't care for by itself.  Since you only see a small strip of the fabric, the print is much less important than the color.  She looks for COLOR, not for the design the color makes.  That's not the case with the focus fabrics- just for the strip sets.  She finds focus fabrics she loves and then looks for fabrics that go with it based on COLOR.

I always enjoy chatting with Louisa- she's such a nice person.  Check out her blog... I can't believe she has so few followers.  Wouldn't it blow her away if all of you signed up to follow her blog (hint, hint)???  I don't know all of my suppliers personally, but I love marketing and highlighting products designed by really nice people like Louisa. Thanks so much for sharing this photo with me, Louisa!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I've been knitting most of my life, but I've never been much of a blocker... until now.  I recently made this Fishtail Scarf".  It was really lumpy bumpy and the holes looked pretty messy.

I did some reading on blocking, and for this project, I learned that I need to pin the piece in shape on a blocking board.  I went to some yarn shops and saw very nice systems with very high price tags.  I'm happy to spend money at yarn shops, but I want to spend it on YARN!  So here's my brainstorm...

I got these interlocking spongy rubber mats that are used in garages.  I know people who put them around their long arm quilting machines to ease foot and back pain standing for long periods. 

They interlock, like puzzle pieces.  I can change the configuration to make a long mat for a scarf, or a large square for a sweater.  

I put a few towels over them.  I'll probably get some of that flannel fabric with a 1-inch grid to put over it for projects that need to be blocked to a particular measurement.  But for the scarf, the measurements weren't critical.

I soaked my scarf in SOAK.  I have also used a product called EUCLIN.  This was the first time I tried Soak.  (Just follow the directions on the bottle).
Then I gently squeezed the water from the scarf (emphasis on GENTLE and SQUEEZE (not wring)).  Then I put the scarf on a clean towel and rolled it- and gently squeezed the towel roll.  This gets most of the water out of the scarf.

Then I took lots of pins and stretched it and patted it all down where I wanted it.  It's important to put lots of pins in so you don't get funny places where the pin pulls it.  You need enough pins to make it smooth.  The pins go right through the towel and into the squishy floor mats.

Here's my scarf- all pinned on my new "blocking boards".  It's important to just leave the item alone until it's dry.  I visited it in the laundry room a lot-- giving it nice little "pats".

And the finished product!  The Soak made the scarf soft and it smells really nice.  It almost looks like it was ironed, but it's not smushed down like it would have been if I ironed it.  (Not to mention the fact that ironing it would have felted the wool).

And the best part?  The garage floor mats cost $12.95 and the blocking boards in the yarn shop were about $50.  That leaves more money for yarn- yea!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fish Tail Scarf

IT'S DONE!  I've been working on this one since last summer.  I went to the Sock Summit in Portland with my niece, Meredith.  I saw this scarf and fell in love with it.  So... I got the pattern and the yarn and proceeded to cast on.  Hmmm.  That should be the easy part.  Step one... cast on 350 stitches.  Jeez!  I messed up that first row and started over so many times I think I could have knitted a sweater in the same time!  When I did the cast on, I kept losing count.  And then I counted them... and counted again and came up with a different number,,,, and then counted again and came up with a third number.  Then... when I had the right number cast on, I did the first full row and didn't come out right at the end.  You get the idea.  It wasn't pretty.  I learned a lot with this scarf.  The holes were a little different, but hey... I love to learn.  Well... half way through this scarf I was longing for a good ol' garter stitch scarf.  But, by the time I was coming down the homestretch, I was almost wishing it wouldn't be done.  I finally caught on and started to like the pattern.
The yarn is Kauni and the pattern is by Lucy Neatby.  Both the yarn and the designer are top notch, in my book.

When I was finished, the scarf was pretty lumpy bumpy and the holes were all over the place.  I haven't been much of a blocker, but this was clearly a case for blocking.  I used Soak (I also like Euclin).  After blocking, the yarn was so much softer- as if it "relaxed".  And it was all nice and flat and the holes are all lined up.  It looks and feels soooooo nice, and it even smells nice!  I'm now a confirmed blocker!  I made a major discovery about blocking.  I'm going to do a separate post about blocking- I have a great tip to show you!

The only regret I have about this scarf is that I didn't make it longer.  But then... if I wanted to make it longer, I would have had to cast on 450 stitches.... AAAHHHH!!!!!! 

I have a little yarn left over.  I think I might see if I can get some fingerless mitts out of it to match the scarf.

The weather's warming up- guess I'll have to wait for next winter to wear it!

Circle of Geese and Seeing the Possibilites

I have lots of new fun information for you about paper piecing and this great Circle of Geese block.

I posted this yesterday, from the Sometimes Crafter blog.  I heard from Joanne (one of my loyal blog readers) who sent me the link to a quilt made by Linda Frost on Barbara Brackman's blog.  I wrote to the Sometimes Crafter, Christina, and asked for the origin of the block.  She directed me to Beth Maddock's blog.  Whew!  Nothing like a great research project to start the weekend!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading the blogs of all of these very creative women.  Check them ALL out!  Don't miss the gallery photos of the block on Christina's and Beth's blogs.  You will see all of the many ways other quilters have interpreted the block.

Isn't this a great quilt?  Linda did a wonderful job on it.  It never fails to amaze me how different quilters can "see" different things in a block.  The block posted above is bright and colorful.  And this one is warm and rich.  I was especially surprised to see the star in the center stand out in Linda's blocks.  And if you use darker colors under the geese, you get more of a kaleidoscope effect and the geese get lost.  SOOOO many possibilities!  Look at some different coloring options on this page of Beth's blog.

To see the possibilities, draw the bock without adding any color, or make it up with a white fabric.  Look at the lines and see what different shapes and combination of shapes pop out to you.  When I am designing in EQ, I often select the black and white (grayscale) option so color and fabric don't blind me to the possibilities that lie within the shapes.  I'm SUCH a fabric junkie!  The fabric inspires me and takes me in some direction and I overlook the possibilities in the block.  So... try black and white and see what you are missing.

I have a quilt in my mind using this block.  Maybe one of these days, it will materialize, and I'll show it to you. 

Thank you Christina, Linda, Barbara and especially Beth.

Need a lift?

 This video makes me smile every time I hear it.  Enjoy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I've been thinking of the Circle of Geese block I posted about yesterday.  I just HAVE to figure out some way to use that block--- I just love it!  So... I was thinking... geese.... flying.... birds..... and this fabric came to mind.  I just got a small 6 bolt assortment of Nature-ology by Studio-e Fabrics.  It's really pretty and it's nice, soft fabric.  I think I'll try to make a circle of geese block with it.  Maybe I'll do a little research and see how other people have used the block.  I'll keep you posted!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Another Great BOM

Christina at Sometimes Crafter has a wonderful blog.  Whenever I read it, I have an almost uncontrollable urge to head to my sewing machine.

Christina is doing a Sampler Quilt Along on her blog.  Over on the right on her sidebar, you can find about 9 blocks so far.  She just posted this star today.  Each block has some sort of technique for us to learn or practice.

I posted this one several months ago.  I love it!  This particular block is paper piecing practice. Check them all out- they're creative and Christina's tutorials are excellent.

I'm going to teach my friend in NY how to paper piece over the telephone.  I think this is a good block to start with.  Check out Christina's tutorial, Andrea.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cream of Asparagus Soup

It's spring in the US, and fresh asparagus are plentiful and affordable.  I love asparagus, and this is a recipe I like a lot.  It's smooth and creamy, and not too thick.  It you like thicker soup, just up the flour a bit.  The spoon shows the bits of asparagus tips mixed into the creamy soup.  Yum!

Cream of Aparagus Soup

2 pounds fresh asparagus
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups green onions or leaks or a combination of the 2 (chopped)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cans (about 6 cups) chicken broth or you can use vegetable broth or home made stock
1/2 cup half and half
1 tablespoon dried tarragon (or fresh if you have it)
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the asparagus, snap the woody ends off the bottoms and discard.  (My dog loves them for treats).  Then cut the tips off and set aside.  Cut the remaining asparagus stalk into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat the butter in a heavy pan.  Add the onions and/or leaks and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add asparagus pieces (not the tips) and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for about 3-4 minutes.

Add stock or broth.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While soup is simmering, cook the asparagus tips.  You can boil them for a few minutes, or put them in the microwave with a little water.  Don't over-cook, but you do want them soft.  Rough-chop the cooked tips.

Process soup with whatever you have- a food processor, food mill, immersion blender, Magic Bullet, Ninja, blender- just make it smooth somehow.  Be sure to process well-- you don't want any woody stems left. 

You can serve this soup hot or cold.  If serving hot, return the processed soup to the pot and add the tips and the half and half.  Warm just a bit- don't let it boil.  If serving cold,  add the half and half and the tips and store in the refrigerator until chilled.  You can substitute plain yogurt for the half and half if you like.

I like to serve this with a small dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What to do with a man's shirt.....

What to do with a man's shirt.... other than put it on a man.....
you can make a dress!
 Or you could make a skirt.....

 Check out Cubic Dreams for a tutorial on how you, too, can make the dress or the skirt.

It strikes me that you need a fairly large man's shirt unless you're as tiny as the very nice looking lady in these photos... but what a clever idea!  My newly discovered blog and Ravelry buddy, Margi, had this on her blog and I had to share it, too.  Margi has a motto on her blog sidebar...."Put on your big girl panties and deal with it".  Thanks for the chuckle, Margi.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Snowbound BOM

I was enjoying a cup of coffee on a lazy Sunday morning.... browsing some of my favorite blogs... and I stumbled on this cute BOM.  I added it to my sidebar for you to enjoy.  I first saw it on Margi's blog... then I bopped on over to Bunny Hill.  Check them out-- both blogs are enjoyable reads.

I'm hoping for spring... but I have a soft spot for Snow-people.  This looks like a nice project that is cute but won't take forever to complete.  I think I'll add it to my loooooong list of BOM's.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Socks in progress

I participated in a KAL (knit along) during the month of March on Ravelry. For those of you who are on Ravelry and want to be "friends" my user name is SueHauser (original, isn't it?).  If you're a knitter (or if you crochet) and you've never been on Ravelry--- you GOTTA check it out!  The socks are called "Social Butterfly, and were designed by Wendy of Knitters Brewing Company.  These socks are not for the faint of heart!  I did a lot of un-knitting along the way.  This was the first time I have ever knitted beads into a project.  FUN!  Those who finished ONE sock by the end of the KAL were eligible for prizes.  (Congrats to the lucky winners!)  I was hoping to get the pair done, but this is how far I got.  I'm going to keep going because I know that if I put them away, it might be quite a while before they see the light of day again.  Wendy is doing another KAL this month- for her "Vegas" socks.  I'm going to work along on them, but I think I'd rather finish this pair than have 2 started.  If you're interested- it's not too late to join the Vegas Sock KAL.

Friday, April 9, 2010

April Giveaway!

This month's giveaway is for a Smartek mini iron and 2 fat quarters.  The mini iron is oooooooh so cute!  And yes- it really does work.  It has a little cord and everything.  The fat quarters have just a little sparkle in them, in case you have a project that needs a little bling.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post.  That's all there is to it! 

If you want a SECOND entry, tell me that you are following this blog, or start to follow this blog..

For a THIRD entry, mention this giveaway on your blog.  You can post it on your sidebar or link to my blog in a post about the giveaway... whatever you like.  Just give me a shout out.

I'll draw a name at random on May 1st..  I'll post the name of the winner and I'll send you a private email, as well.  If you are a "no reply" blogger (no email in your profile) you will need to check back on May 1st to see if you've won.  If I have no way to contact you, I'll give you a couple of days and then I'll have to draw another name.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Playing with Girl Scouts Fabric


I just had to play with this Girl Scout fabric!  There are some free downloads on my website that use this cute collection.  They are found at the end of the Girl Scouts fabric collection.  There are also some free patterns at the end of the Boy Scouts collection.  All of these easy patterns can certainly be made in other fabrics!

First, I made the Friendship Quilt.  It uses 11 Fat Quarters plus backing and binding.  Two of the 11 FQ's have to be the same.  The Girl Scouts patterns are written for the young sewer so they're great for teaching kids to sew.  My friend, Sandy Pennington, is an amazing longarm quilter and she quilted it for me with flowers.  See the flower in the closeup of the Thin Mint fabric?

I'll be happy to make up kits for any of the downloads on request.

The quilt is a nice sized throw.... just right for a little Girl Scout!  Thanks so much for quilting it Sandy!

Next, I made a pillow case to match.  There's nothing like dreaming of Thin Mints!  The pillow case pattern is with the Boy Scouts fabric.  I also have this one with the little contrasting strip.  If you have trouble finding any of the patterns, let me know.

And finally, I made a rag quilt bag.  The pattern for the bag is on this blog- look over at the dozen bags posts.  This one is just like the pattern, EXCEPT that the squares I started with were only 4 inches and the batting was 3 inches.  I sold a lot of the flannel for mother/daughter bags in the 2 sizes.

If you've made a quilt or any project with the Girl Scouts fabric, send me a picture and I'll post it here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Guild Retreat part 2

I promised more about my weekend retreat.  Some women started new quilts or spent the weekend on one quilt.  Many spent the weekend finishing UFO's.  That's what I did.  It looks like I did a lot, but most of these projects were almost finished and I took them along to put the finishing touches on.  It felt SOOOOO good!

The first thing I did was finish a quilt for my niece, Melanie.  She made the top and I told her to send it to me and I would turn it into a quilt for her for her birthday gift.  I'm such a good aunt.... I even put the binding on for her. (big smile, Mel!).  I really think she did a great job of grading the colors.

If you look closely at my tootsies, I'm walking around in my stocking feet... sporting the socks I finished last month.

And for my next project, I worked on a quilt that I have had 95% finished for at least 3 years.  I finally have my New York Beauty ready to hang!  I added a hanging sleeve and finished the binding.  I put a super skinny binding on it so it took a while to mess with it.  I still want to do a little embellishing with beads and fibers, but I can always take it off the wall and do that in the future.  For now-- it can be hung!  YEA!!!

There's a story that goes with the NYB, and it probably contributed to my hesitation to work on it this past year.  I showed this on my blog more than a year ago.  A customer saw it and asked me how to make it.  She had never paper pieced before.  Over the next month, I tutored her online, through emails, and she learned the basics of paper piecing.  She was working on some NYB blocks when her health failed to the point when she had to stop sewing.  She lost her life to cancer soon after.  Her last finished quilt is on the gallery on my website- it's called Melissa's Matchstick Marimba.  Somewhere along the line she crossed over from being a customer to being a friend.  I miss you, Joanne.

I made a pillow a few years ago and it was held together with a few safety pins in the back.  I took it to the retreat and tacked the back and took out the pins.

I started this table topper 2 years ago.  It's still not done- I've decided to hand quilt it.  But at least I finished up the top.

This was a big hit with the other ladies.  It's from Karla Alexander's new book.  I blogged about taking the class from her a few weeks ago.  I finished the top and it's ready to quilt.  I love this technique.  I'll show it to you again when I get it quilted.

Have you ever hear the term, "Six Degrees of Separation"?  That's the theory that everyone on the planet is separated by everyone else somehow by 6 people.  Well.... out guild seemed to prove the fact that there is something to the 6 degree theory.

First of all.... we had goodie bags and treats and special things for the ladies who attended.  One of my contributions was a cupcake pincushion.   Guild member, Paula, embroidered "WQG Spring Retreat 2010" on fabric pieces and I stitched them into pincushions and put them in silicone cupcake cups.  We made 20 of them.  I put an assortment of pins in them.

  So... here is the start of the coincidences.  I got the idea for the pincushions from Melinda in Georgia.  We read each others' blogs.  We exchange emails from time to time.  I had trouble getting the pincushions to stick (what was I thinking?  Nothing sticks to silicone... that's the POINT!) so I sent Melinda an email the day before I was leaving for the retreat.  She got right back with me.  Anyway.... Kathy (in the picture) spent most of Saturday making these Letty Bags.  They are a simple pattern that really looks a lot more difficult.  They came out absolutely great!  I just HAVE to make one myself!!!  Kathy showed me the pattern, which is by Two Wacky Women.  I remembered that Melinda has a sister who designs patterns.  Sure enough, Melinda's sister, Robin, is the designer of the pattern!  And just to make this a little weirder, I didn't know Kathy, but we discovered that she used to work with my husband at Intel.  SO... a lady I didn't know who knows my husband went to a guild retreat with me in Oregon, where she made a bag designed by a woman in California who is the sister of a lady in Georga who is a blog buddy of mine.

Enough coincidence?  I think not!  My DH and I used to live in Texas, where we were good friends with Karla and Steve Pendleton.  Karla is a well known china painter, teacher and author.  They moved to Silverton, Colorado a few years back.  Now, Silverton is a tiny town WAY up in the mountains, far away from anything else.  Most people never even heard of it.  So... my ears perked up when I overheard the mother of a guild member (who is visiting Oregon and came to the retreat) say that her home is in Silverton.  Since I knew it was a small town, I asked her if she knows Steve and Karla.  I'm thinking you can guess the answer to that!

Then the lady who shared a sewing table with me knows a good friend of mine... not too much of a coincidence, but I was beginning to think we all had some sort of connection.

I can hardly wait for the fall retreat!!!

Westside Quilters Guild 2010 Spring Retreat... part 1

My guild had a retreat this past weekend.  What fun!

These are my "buds".  I knew most of these women, but there are only a few I knew well.  That was BEFORE the retreat.  Now they are all very special to me.  Our guild is relatively new- formed a couple of years ago.  We have about 65 members. Eighteen of us went on the retreat.  We all worked on our own projects.  It was just a weekend to get some UFO's finished, and to spend time doing what we love in the company of others who share our passion for quilting.  We are fortunate to have a retreat center operated by the Sisters of Saint Mary of Oregon.  They feed us VERY well and treat us like their personal house guests.  As my aunt would say, they have the "gift of hospitality".  By the way--- I'm 4th from the left in the top row.

I'll share more about the retreat in another blog post tomorrow night.  For now.... enjoy looking at my friends' projects.  Aren't they great?!?!?!?