Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Stitch in Time

Remember when Holly Anderson came to our guild and I made a vow to put a little more effort into my quilts?

Yeah, well. What a pain.

You might be wondering why you haven't had an update on Orange Crush recently. I mean, way back in January I had all of the steps done, and the top only lacked borders. What the heck is taking so long?

Truth be told, I put the skinny orange border on right away. Unfortunately (there's that word again!) I took the lazy way out and just cut long border strips, sewed them on, and whacked off the ends. Now, for some quilts that might work. For some quilts you'd never even notice. But for this quilt - this scrappy, triangle-y quilt - it was a disaster in the making. This is what it looked like:

So I went to the Wanna Bees and whined and cried and asked for help. They all agreed that my fatal flaw was failing to measure the quilt and the borders and pin it to death before connecting them. They all agreed that I would have to take the orange border off and start again. You know how I feel about ripping stitches.

Jodi said to iron the hell out of it. With starch. Ben wondered if blocking it would work. Lynn mentioned something about interfacing (I stopped listening after that word), and Lene said I needed to stitch around the edge of the quilt before trying to reattach the borders. Jackie confessed that she'd be tempted to do what I wanted to do - stick it in the UFO pile and forget about it.

But no! I remembered my vow to Holly. I carefully ripped out all of the orange border. I pressed the hell out of it. I stitched around the border. I measured the quilt in about 10 places and took the average and measured the binding and cut it carefully. I pinned it to death before starting to sew again. I whispered a little prayer and asked Rene to use the IDT to help me.

You know what? It worked! Even my fellow Wanna Bees were impressed with how flat the quilt lays and that there are no puckers. When I think of the time I could have saved if I had just taken the time to do it right the first time it is embarrassing, but what a lesson learned.

This is what the finished top looks like now:

I am so happy I took the time to fix it. What a feeling of accomplishment! Now I'm off to piece the back and, hopefully, give some of those orphan blocks a home there.

I wish you a sense of accomplishment today too!

Update: Apparently none of my orphan blocks are suitable even for the back of this wild quilt. The Wanna Bees gave them a resounding thumbs down. All of them. I guess they are orphans for a reason. Is there any point when you just throw them away?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #121

My answers are in bold.

1. Apparently there's some sort of magnetic pull on this weekend.

2. Nothing lifts my mood like a sunny day.

3. 2009 has been a whirlwind so far.

4. If only that was it.

5. For too long I've been avoiding cleaning my office.

6. I am not obsessed with facebook; I am not!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to wishing Fred a happy birthday, tomorrow my plans include lots of LAX and Sunday, I want to enjoy a beautiful day at our mother-daughter tea party!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Quilt Festival

In case you are living under a rock and haven't heard about Amy's Spring Quilt Festival, then thank you because mine is obviously the only quilt blog you read. Either you know me and don't really care about quilting or - seriously - you need to get out more. There are soooo many other, better blogs that I hope mine will be like when it grows up!

Anyway, I'm late to the party but couldn't resist joining in. While I'd be hard pressed to pick my favorite quilt ever, I decided that my favorite that I could easily find a photo of is my Circle of Love quilt that I made last summer for Piper (can you believe she's almost 1? Me neither!).
I wrote all about it here but the reason I picked it is because it is so bright and happy. Also, because it was made 100% from my stash AND I designed the layout myself. I had always wanted to do a Jacob's Ladder block, but I didn't actually have a pattern for the quilt. I was so pleased with how it all came together, and so happy to pass it along to Piper.

Also, I think the name "Circle of Love" kind of goes with the theme of Amy's quilt festival - all of the different blogs showing off their favorite quilts and linking back to one another is like our own circle of quilting love. But now I'm getting sappy...

So I'm off to lose time daydreaming over all of the other gorgeous quilts. You should really swing by for a look. They are FABULOUS! Thanks, Amy, for pulling it together. You rock!

A Pain in the Boston Butt

Do you ever have days that just feel like a magnet for activities? Like your calendar is already full, and the sheer weight of it all is attracting every other appointment, birthday party, detention, and make up lacrosse game (from that weekend that it snowed and you were so thankful for the respite - yeah, it's payback time.)?? Like a black hole??? What a pain.

I have about one of those a week, and have finally come up with a foolproof dinner that everyone will eat and beats the drive-through lane on calories, cost, and mommy guilt hands down. So, being the nice blogger that I am, I thought I'd share.

It's my "famous" pulled pork, which just might be the easiest crock pot recipe on the planet. I did this one day in desperation, and it has become one of my family's favorite meals. Add that to the fact that it is easy and Boston Butt goes on sale about every third week, and we have a winner! Serve with nice rolls to make pulled pork sandwiches, some coleslaw or a tossed salad, and whatever other fixin's are in the pantry or fridge. I have wandered every end of the spectrum, from gourmet Asian coleslaw to a lame half-empty bag of potato chips. It's still their favorite.

The secret to getting that smoky flavor, normally missing from slow cooker pulled pork, is to put a little bit of Liquid Smoke and water in the bottom of your crock pot before you put in the Boston Butt (3-4lbs). Then top with your favorite barbecue sauce, either bottled or homemade. I have tried both and honestly cannot tell the difference. Our favorite is honey barbecue flavor, but I have gotten to the point where I just buy whatever is on sale. No one seems to care. I put about half the bottle in and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Cole slaw is a must, and my 14 year old will gladly show you how to top your pulled pork sandwich with it. Here's a recipe I got from Lynn in case you don't have a favorite of your own:

Lynn's Coleslaw
2 bags broccoli slaw mix
2 Tbsp grated onion
2 cups mayonnaise
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cups Dijon style mustard
1/4 cider vineger
1 or 2 Tbsp celery seed
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper

Mix dressing ingredients, then add to slaw. Serve after 2 hours or next day.

If you're looking for more slow cooker recipes for the rest of your insane days, try A Year of CrockPotting for literally hundreds more.

Here's hoping we all have a nice, uneventful day!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hosting the Wanna Bees

I love my bee group!

The creativity in the room, the spark of an idea, and the willingness of everyone to share feedback and advice is priceless. Totally worth packing up your machine and dragging it to someone else's house.

But my favorite day is hosting. Now some folks might think it is a hassle to have a (mostly) clean house and get all your quilty stuff set up to make room for everyone to work in the public areas. I, however, am like a puppy; I'm a pack animal. I love to be in my own environment with all my people around.

Speaking of puppies, this was Daisy's first chance to meet everyone. She was very well behaved except for one moment when she walked on my quilt and a little bit on Lene's. Luckily everyone in my bee has at least one dog and is very canine tolerant.

Anyway, we had a great day. My mom even stopped by for some advice on a baby quilt she is working on.
Lene was doing the most tedious paper piecing I can imagine, although it is gorgeous.
Lynn was working on her bright quilt, and Ben was creating another masterpiece that can only come from the artist's mind.
I was busy rearranging my Bento Box blocks, and had lots of help with the layout. This is one of my favorite things about the bee group - the input when you just aren't sure where to go next. I decided on a design and got more than half of the blocks put together already. I'm also trying to write the tutorial for this method as I go so that, when the quilt is complete, I can just click "post" and you will all get to see how it worked. So far I have to give it an A++ for easy (a beginner could do it) but only a B- for my fabric choices and the variety you get from using this method.

I hope to take the motivation and inspiration from yesterday and use it to propel me through a weekend of sewing. What are you working on?

Thursday, April 9, 2009


The thing I hate most about quilting - this is a no-brainer! Isn't it the same for everyone? I hate ripping out when I've made a mistake. Faced with too much of it, I have been known to abandon a project completely or, if fabric is plentiful, chuck the messed up piece and start over. Wasteful and lazy, but I HATE it.

Sometimes in my impatience and desperation I resort to this:

At the same time, the thing I love most is figuring out a way to do something better, faster, and more economically. I don't just mean financially by using less fabric and saving actual cash, but also economy of time and movement. That is why, when I was trying to figure out a Bento Box pattern, I was excited to find this tutorial that saved several sewing and cutting steps.

I figured out how much fabric I needed to make a twin sized quilt, and how to cut the pieces out so that I could get the exact number I needed from a half-yard of each fabric. It came together so perfectly once I did it that I will definitely put it all into a post when I am done (or at least done enough to post a picture of the quilt top). It is easy enough for a beginner and - without time for my mistakes and ripping out - would be such a quick quilt if you needed a gift.

I love when the lightbulb goes on so I can get back to this:

I hope your day is frustration free!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Going to Guild - April

It's that time of the month again - guild night, that is!

This month was another one of those rare occasions when Gracie didn't have school the next day so she could join Mom and me for three generations of bonding. Unfortunately the topic was a little dry for an 8-year-old, but at least there was lots of chocolate.

First, last year's president, Sharon Bessom, showed off her finished President's Quilt. It is gorgeous and HUGE!

True confession: I am green with envy. Mine is unquilted in the UFO pile.For our program, Holly Anderson visited. Holly is an AQS certified judge and appraiser, the only one in Georgia. We are so lucky to have her just up the road. While Gracie wasn't exactly entranced, the rest of us were hanging on Holly's every word as she described how quilt show judges examine quilts, hold and release them, and what she does to keep her binding "full." She even generously answered questions about appraising quilts, although that was a topic for another night.
Below, Holly compares two quilts in the game "You Be the Judge." Does the quilt on the right look familiar? Yep. I fell in love with it and took a picture at the Bulloch Hall Show. Love those blues! Holly says the one on the left would win because the triangles are a higher level of difficulty. Just goes to show that I wouldn't make a good judge. In my opinion the blue wins hands down just for WOW factor.
Remind me to show you the great quilt from Show and Tell later. I started to put up a picture and tell you all about it before I remembered that it is a gift and a surprise. It is amazing, and I would hate for the recipient to accidentally stumble across it just because I showed it to you! I don't think that could happen, but I would feel awful if it did after hearing the lengths this person has gone to to keep it a secret. Trust me, it is breathtaking. I hope the quilter will create a class or pattern for it after the gift is given.

As always, guild night is incredibly inspirational and gets me in the mood to create all manner of new things. Holly's program also made me resolve to raise my standards. If I'm going to buy quality fabric and a fabulous new machine, put my time and effort and creativity into a piece, then I might as well do it right.

I hope you all have a great week!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sewing Machine Shopping

I finally got down to the nitty-gritty of buying my new sewing machine. After 17 years with my trusty New Home My Excel, it was a daunting task to find her replacement.

I started by doing research online and by asking my Yahoo group mates at Stashbusters and Mystery Quilters. They helped narrow down the field to Janome, Pfaff, and Bernina. Unfortunately, none of these brands allow dealers to advertise prices online, so I had no way of comparing machines in my price range without driving all over Hell's Half Acre to see them. The good news is that I got to touch and sew on each machine before making my choice.

My first stop was Ashby Sewing Center. They represent Janome and Pfaff, among other lines. They were incredibly helpful and informative! They let me sew on several machines, and even let Gracie try out the variety of decorative stitches on the Janome. Although I really love the Janome machine, the Pfaff has some incredible features for a very similar price, so that moved up to the top of my list.

Right around the corner is the Atlanta Sewing Center where I could see the Bernina. Although the Bernina is a fabulous machine and the hands down favorite in my guild, they are much more expensive. To stay within the budget I had established - which covered the top of the line quilting machines by both Janome and Pfaff - I would have to go to the most basic Bernina with the knee lift option and the least number of stitches. It was missing several key features I was looking for. To get the same features I was looking at in the Janome and Pfaff would cost me more than DOUBLE in the Bernina. I just couldn't do it.

This morning I decided to call around to other dealers to see if the prices were pretty standard across the board. Imagine my shock when I found a Discover Sewing almost 30 minutes closer to my home (I didn't even know they sold Pfaffs until I went online.) who had the same machine for almost $400 less! It was too great of a bargain to pass up, so I got right in my car and drove down to get it. Even better, they matched the deal offered by Ashby to throw in the Fab-u-Motion kit. With her 10" throat, I foresee lots of free motion quilting on this machine.
So without further ado, I'd like to introduce Rene, my new Pfaff Quilt Expressions 4.0, named in honor of my late grandmother.
Gram didn't have a creative, quilty or stitchin' bone in her body - I don't ever remember her knitting or crocheting or doing anything even remotely crafty. No, she was a party girl who loved to celebrate and be with her family and friends. She was famous for demanding a second drink (well into her 90s) with the classic line, "A girl can't fly on one wing!"

When she died in November, she left her grandchildren a small inheritance to be used for something fun. While a sewing machine might not have been fun in her book, this Pfaff with all of her bells and whistles is the ultimate indulgence as far as I'm concerned. So here's to you, Gram. I miss you and love you so much. Thanks for the memories, and all the ones yet to be made.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

And the Winners are...!

Thanks to those of you who played my Blogoversary game this week. What fun!

I've had my darling Gracie pull the numbers out of a hat, and the winners are:

Day 1: Moda Six Pack - Liz A., who wrote, "Congrats on your Blogoversary! Isn't it amazing how quickly time flies. The older we get, the faster it seems to fly by."

Day 2:
Playful Patterns - Colleen formerly of South Africa said her biggest quilting challenge is "I am fairly new to longarming and learning tension and the quirks of a used machine takes getting used to. Love the quilting though and so excited to try new things."

Day 3: Lighthouse Pattern and Sky Fabric - Melissa said her suggestion for a guild challenge is "a Dinner and a Movie challenge with a size requirement of 12"x60"....ha...just had to get that in." Obviously she is teasing me about an old challenge, and NO, those weren't the actual size requirements!

Day 4-6: No winners - did you forget about me or just not like the prizes?

Day 7:
The grand finale! Gemstones pattern and hand dyed fabric - Melissa! who begged, "PICK ME, PICK ME! I sew hoping I win!"

Congratulations to my winners and thanks so much for playing!

Please email me your snail mail address to jenggreer AT gmail DOT com and I will get your prizes to you right away. Melissa, I will just bring yours to guild so you can show off a little.

Another lovely giveaway is going on at Quilting on the Run right now for this adorable Fiskars scissor sharpener. Isn't he cute! Check it out.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Blogoversary Grand Finale

It's the last day of the Blogoversary Giveaway. I wanted today's gift to be a little extra special, but I had a tough time deciding what it should be.

I found this pattern called Gemstones that I bought at the Gulf Coast Quilt Expo in Panama City Beach with my best quilting buddy a few years ago. I don't know why I never made the quilt, but the pattern is unopened. The picture doesn't do it justice, but I remember being totally wowed by the sample.

To jazz it up, I decided to include three squares of my own hand-dyed fabric from our program with Marquetta Johnson. It was very hard to part with, but I know it will have a good home and that surely the winner will come back and post a link to whatever may be made with it!

This has been a fun week, and I hope you have enjoyed it. Tomorrow I'll draw names from each post and send a quick note to the winners. Remember to link to your blog, follow me in the sidebar at the right, and today be sure to tell me about your favorite quilt show - link if you can!

Have a terrific weekend and thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Blogoversary Day 6

We're winding down on the Blogoversary Giveaway, and today's gift is an assortment of goodies. I have a copy of Jennifer Chiaverini's book, The New Year's Quilt; a fat quarter of flip flop fabric; a package of betweens needles, and a little bag of hand-dyed buttons.

I hope this will put the winner in a quilty mood! Don't forget to link to your blog, add your name to my followers in the sidebar at right, and today I want to know what your favorite book is.

Tomorrow is the last day of Blogoversary Week. It's been so much fun! Thanks for playing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Blogoversary Giveaway Day 5

For the fifth day of blogoversary giveaway week, my true love gave to meeeeeeee...this Peace sign necklace from

My friend, Mary, has been making jewelry for several years now, and most of my daily favorites come from her. She has some wonderful gifts, especially at this time of year for Mother's Day, First Holy Communion, teacher gifts, and graduations.

I am a very lucky girl because Mary has been known to give my husband a call and let him know when I admire a new piece of hers. He appreciates the help and I love a gift that I will wear frequently.

Remember to link back to your blog, sign in as one of my followers in the sidebar, and today tell me about your favorite piece of jewelry. I would say mine (besides my wedding and engagement rings!) is this, also by Mary.

Happy Wednesday! The weekend is in sight!
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