Monday, December 26, 2011

Decisions, Decisions...

It is time to decide whether or not I am going to make a St. Patrick’s Day quilt. I have a small wall hanging to make, but not sure whether I can get a quilt done before then; as the Mystery quilt has 1 ½ sides of border to finish quilting (that last trip around is long), and there is still the patchwork pennies to finish.  

I have decided to tie the patchwork pennies, but have a new BOM to start with my Church class…decisions, decisions.  There are also the two prayer shawls to finish. Some doll clothes for the Granddaughters’ birthday, she was born on St. Patrick’s Day.  Maybe just some pillow covers…well, I will finish these two then decide…

Hope you all have a Happy and safe New Year Celebration. We stay home, and work a very large or very complicated Jigsaw puzzle (or two) with clam dip and chips and lots of coffee J

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Teaching, Sharing and Learning.

Teaching is about sharing. As a teacher I always learn something from my students. I believe all teaching should work in this manner, and yes that is especially true with children.

So the church sewing class went well. One cute, tiny skirt was completed by a newbie. The class has decided to do a friendship quilt for a project. They will be bringing pictures of blocks to share and decide what to do for a quilt at our next class in January. They are also supposed to be finding the manuals for their machines and getting servicing if possible. Many of them were headed off to get some new machine needles.

Obviously this close to Christmas it is busy. This year I am behind. I normally have everything done and wrapped and under the tree by now. Not done, not wrapped, not under the tree. That would be the reason for no blogs recently.

The Mystery Quilt –I am quilting the last border. Then all that is left is binding and washing. Then it will be ready for my couch. The patchwork pennies is all cut, marked and sorted into block, but has been sidelined a bit by Christmas stuff and two prayer shawls that needs to get done.

I hope everyone has a Very Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wish there was a quilt-top marking robot….

I just have the quarter squares and border of the mystery quilt to finish quilting…yep, you guessed it—I have to mark them first. I use a pounce chalk applicator to mark mine with. Make sure to check around for pricing, I found mine cheapest locally. It is not difficult, but it still has to be done. Then I can bind it, wash and it will be ready for use. Since the weather man says we are headed for single digit overnight temperatures, it will be good timing.

And the patchwork pennies...still marking the backs of 2” squares, then I have some 5” ones to do and then that marking task will be done—I use tailors chalk for this task. I usually find it cheapest at Nancy’s Notions…and wait for a sale and buy in bulk, like 3 or 4 boxes at a time.

Once the marking is done I can start sewing this one, trying to decide whether to hoop another before Christmas or not…guess we’ll see when the quilting on the actual mystery quilt gets completed. Also still deciding whether to quilt or tie the flannel quilt…decisions decisions…

Well, back to quilt top marking…

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Part 1 of Patchwork Pennies is done

Patchwork Pennies is all cut! I still have to mark the backs of 384 squares (I think) for half-square triangles and snowball corners--but it is all cut.

 Two more links quilted on the mystery quilt!

Those 1/2 hours add up!!

Got to hunt through boxes for prayer shawl fabric--I have seen it, just don't remember which box/storage will be found after Christmas decorations are up--as for that--lights are on the tree...Garland next....waiting for daughter to help make final decision on which garland this year.

You have choices when you have 35 years of collecting..kinda like with fabric; although I have collected fabric longer, since Grammy passed the quilt bug on long before I got married :-)

Prayer Shawls

Prayer shawls can be powerful things.  I have just learned that a prayer shawl I made for a friend was destroyed in a fire.  She was fighting cancer; the design was inspired by the 1000 Cranes of Hope project. I am hopeful that I have enough fabric to recreate it, and can find the pattern (I have moved since I made it and not everything is unpacked). If not I guess it will be a new design… and some different fabrics, but still cranes.
They do not just get sewn together. Active prayer is part of the making. That does not mean they cannot be done quickly, if needed they can be done very quickly, they can be exhausting, but extremely satisfying for the maker, at least in my experience.
So off to make some brunch, check and string the Christmas tree lights, then a hunt for the crane pattern and fabric...wish me luck!

And both the Mystery quilt and the Patchwork Pennies are making forward progress (just a bit slower due to holiday activities). A bit more than a half an hour a day, because ther is always time to quilt

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Yes you really do have time to Quilt/Sew…

Time and project management are the technical/business terms for how you can. But what does that mean in non technical/business terms? YOU CAN DO IT!

I have a very set schedule. I normally get up at the same time every day (5:30am for inquiring minds); and then the structured day starts. The structure varies over time, depending on the demands on my time. If there is a large project at work, or church; significant family event, or holiday…those make changes in the “standard” schedule.

There are some mostly non-negotiable items: A cup of coffee alone in the morning, meditation/prayer time morning and night, that darn treadmill or some replacement activity…AND….no less than ½ an hour of quilting/sewing time a day.

Now I hear the humph chorus all together saying—“yeah, and what can you get done in half an hour!” A LOT!  One half hour a day is forward progress. Forward progress is a good thing—and even seam ripping counts as forward progress because errors must be cured to prevent future frustration and sometimes project catastrophes. Not fixing them as soon as you find them means more time intensive work –a-rounds or more extensive fixes (likely to require even more ripping.)

In half an hour, fabric can be ironed and cut, or blocks sewn. One block a night gets a thirty block quilt top pieced in a month. All but the most intricate blocks can normally be done in half an hour if the fabric is already cut.

I cut 40 2½” blocks while on the phone for 45 minutes on a customer service issue (me being the customer, who actually had wonderful service from Fidelity Investments-thank you Kate!)

 I hand quilt most of my quilts, so I tend to quilt while “watching” TV with my family. We share the show and I get quilting done.  Remember why I quilt? And the Mystery Quilt is now about 2/3rds quilted, and the Patchwork Pennies flannel quilt  by All Through the Night-Folk Art designs with a bit of Whimsy-Designed by Bonnie Sullivan is about that far in the cutting.

Now, there are times I schedule more than ½ hour a day to quilt. For classes, both those I give and take, and around the holidays. I try to make as many gifts by hand as I can, I want the people I gift to know they are worth my time, not just my money. And there have been times in life, when there was no money, and it has been a wonderful ability to have, to be able to create handmade gifts.
And now it is time to make dinner, followed by family TV time while quilting…

Saturday, November 12, 2011


 3 sets of curtains—the last being the kitchen finally (we moved in the beginning of May).

Back of Mystery Quilt

The mystery quilt is about 1/3 quilted….now that summer is gone the lighting does not come in as well-will have to find a different picture taking solution. But here is a bit of front and back.

The Patchwork Pennies by All Through the Night-Folk Art designs with a bit of Whimsy-Designed by Bonnie Sullivan is about 1/3 the way cut..working on 2 ½ inch squares now.

Have a few wall hangings to do, and some candle mats to do when my 8” & 6” circles for my Accuquilt Go cutter  get here…hopefully this next week.

I am also still working on a prayer shawl. I had intended to go in one direction and about mid-way through prayer directed I needed to change to a different one.

Be sure to do lots of web surfing—lots of free sweepstakes out there right now.  Some really great prizes are being offered.

I’ve never won anything (besides the free quilt patterns) from it, but I love doing the fabshophop, it’s really cool to see all the neat fabrics and tools. Different parts of the country have different stocks of materials. There are lots of neat stories and ideas too. And the recipes…well there is no lack of sharing of deliciousness.

WARNING, fail to head at your own peril: If you do not have very high will power, keep the credit/debit card away from the computer, put a post-it-up to remind yourself not to use PayPal or Google checkout—unless you have set a budget and/or are buying for a specific project…my experience at this, like many sewers/quilters = epicfail! I have found many “favorite” online stores that carry things my local stores (even my favorite Sierra Sewing Center) doesn’t and can’t…so…a girl always “needs” something….

Well—back to cutting for a bit, the fabric is sooo incredibly yummy I can’t wait to get it (Patchwrok Pennies) done

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mystery Quilt Top

 Well, the mystery quilt top is finally done.  It was a project begun during an in-house quilt retreat offered by my favorite shop in Reno, Sierra Sewing.  The instructions were to bring ¼ yard solid accent, 2 yards background and 2 ¼ yards focus fabric (of course I bought extra), along with all the normal scissors, rotary cutter, cutting board, etc.

What a nice retreat. The retreat was limited, but enough to make it social. The participants were mothers and daughters, neighbors, sisters, friends. They fed us snacks, meals (killer lasagna made by the owner!) Oh, and there is a coffee place/smoothie place right across the parking lot. What more could you ask for? Well we asked to have a sleepover in the store the next time  J Big girl pajama party! Not that anyone really plans on much sleeping!

The pattern turned out to be the Chained Nine-Patch from Twisted Classics by Jeannie Stauffer and Sandra L Hatch. This was my first go at paper piecing. I will give it another try, but not a fan at this point—removing the papers is a bit aggravating to me.

Michelle HIbbitt was the instructor. She was very good, and helped with ironing and seam ripping <sigh>. She had the clues (steps) cleverly done, and paced them well to the tenor of our particular group. Everyone got their picture taken with the finished portion of their quilt. We all brought an apple recipe and are anxiously awaiting our class recipe/scrap book.

It did turn out so nice that I wanted to make it bigger, so the delay has been that I have been agonizing over the borders. I finally decided on those, and ta-dah!! Now it is on to backing it and then basting it together.  I will be hand quilting it, not quite decided how yet. Some ideas, but I don’t have to make that decision until it is basted and ready for marking. Probably get to this over the weekend.

I think the next project is a flannel quilt that is not a rag quilt. Patchwork Pennies by All Through the Night-Folk Art designs with a bit of Whimsy-Designed by Bonnie Sullivan. Seems we have been forecast a   long, wet (in the form of snow) winter  L I am not a fan of snow. At least you do not have to shovel rain!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

To Pin or not to pin...

This is one of those no right answer questions. But I pin. Why? Because that is the way my Grammy taught me. Like measure twice cut once, she and many others believe it reduces errors. Some people think it is a waste of time. I made this very protest to my Grammy, her answer was: Well, you can pin now or seam rip later, that takes much more time. Which if you make a mistake is true. Rip the seam, pull all the threads, re-iron…time time time. So I pin.

This rule saved me a lot of time last night. I was sewing the last row of blocks on the mystery quilt. And I pinned the row to the wrong side…luckily the quilt was not yet square so it was obvious when I had a whole block left; so I just had to unpin instead of rip a whole seam out. My daughter exclaimed that my Grammy was looking down laughing her head was pretty funny. Such a silly mistake.

But on the subject of pins and pinning….like all things in sewing there are different pins for different purposes. It really does make a difference. Pin sets area an easy was to try different ones.

Some machines do not like to sew over pins… broken pins can hurt your machine. I always try to pull the pin before I get there, but accidents happen. I have to wear glasses all the time so never had to worry much about the chance of a broken piece hitting the eyes. But make sure if you break a pin or needle you account for all the pieces. On the floor, if you sew barefoot like many of us, they hurt when you foot finds them. In your machine they can do major damage. I use a magnetized telescoping pick-up tool to make sure.

Also, if you nick a pin—throw it away (make sure you know your areas sharps disposal rules—sewing needles and pins count as sharps.) I also change my needle (if it didn’t break), because nicking a pin will normally cause a rough spot on the needle that can snag your fabric and break your thread. Replacing the needle is better than replacing the fabric. You will always see the snag, even if no one else does

And the mystery quilt from a retreat class my favorite sewing store in Reno, Sierra Sewing Center is getting its borders now, so closer to a picture.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tools, tools, and more tools!

In general, Men have nothing on us when it comes to tools—unless you are just starting out. Words of warning; you sewing/quilting tools can become targets of acquisition to others in your household.

Scissors are the most obvious. I mark utility scissors-for paper and all other non-sewing activities with a sharpie “Utility” or “Paper.” Family members know these are safe for them to use without incurring sewing only wrath. I also keep a pair of marked “paper” scissors in the sewing room to keep myself from doing a dumb thing with a good pair of sewing scissors. I also have a full set of paper crafting scissors for making nice gift cards and such to go with my creations. And no, I could not get them all back into the plastic container they came in…they now live in a Tupperware tabs container.

That buttonhole spacer—well it works very well for spacing nails for many purposes. Rulers and T-squares are often subject to “borrowing.”  If you find them being “borrowed” very often, purchase them their own. You’ll be much happier.

Since I have been sewing, quilting and jewelry making for a long time, I have a lot of tools, as evidenced by today’s pictures (no that is not all of them.) If you are new to this hobby, do not try to buy them all at once. Try before you buy if at all possible. The best place to do this is at your favorite sewing store. Even if they do not have a demo, they will probably still have an opinion. And PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE. Do not assume because you don’t see it they don’t like it, don’t have it or won’t/can’t get it. ASK if you do not see something. If you do not support your local store and let them support you; they will end up going out of business and that is bad for both of you.  Having lived in a small town where the nearest sewing/fabric store was more than a three hour drive, mail order was the only option; please do not take your local stores for granted.

Classes are also a great way to try things. Sometimes the instructor will actually be demonstrating new (or new to you) tools and techniques. But the other great source is your fellow classmates. Everyone has their favorites and there is always a good selection of tools. I have NEVER been to a clad where someone would not let you try out their favorite.

My newest tool is an Accuquilt Go cutter  I have not had a chance to really put it through its paces yet, but I am expecting to as soon as I begin making candle mats for holiday gifts. I can’t wait to cut my felt on it instead of having to cut it by hand! And why did I decide I wanted it? Because I tried it several times at my favorite sewing store.

Rulers—I have MANY. But still I have found a set I want to make roman squares without paper piecing, it’s a Flip N Set Tool. My favorite rulers are Nifty Notions rulers. They are fantastic rulers, but they also support Komen for the cure, which is one of the charities I strongly support.

And life being what it sometimes is no real progress has occurred on the Mystery quilt. Hopefully it will get borders tonight and you’ll get to see pictures of the top soon.

What is your favorite sewing/quilting tool?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Buy good ones or you will end up spending more buying lots of cheap ones. Also, find a good sharpening service. I use a mobile one. Depending on my project list (and completion) I usually have him come twice a year. It usually costs about $100/per visit. I have a lot of scissors.  I keep a plastic tray to put the ones that need sharpened before use in.  When the scissor man comes, I round up all the scissors; kitchen, utility, first aid, etc. so everything is sharp when he leaves.

Yes I use a rotary cutter for most cutting. But you always need good scissors. And you need different scissors for different things. I even found the need to buy a few more pairs when I got this new sewing machine that can embroider- the bent ones to get under the hoop. I have the standard dressmaking shears, pinking shears, appliqué scissor (my Grammy called them duck bill scissors), a pair that I use for fussy cuts, and on and on.

One quirky thing; I have my Grammys old pinking shears; they are an OLD pair of WISS, and they have a different “pink” than my newer Fiskars.  They both work, I just noticed that they are different.  I do prefer the heaviness of the WISS ones on wool and felt.

I have many pairs of thread nipper type scissors…you always need them one pair at each machine, one pair at the ironing board, one on the cutting table, one by my chair where I quilt….almost everywhere.

Do you have a favorite pair/type of scissor? Which one(s) and why?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Quilting is pretty math

Don’t believe me?  Do you do piece work, take away the pretty fabric and put it on graph paper, or in a program like ElectricQuilt ( my favorite)—remind you of geometry in school—yep it is.  Oh, you only do appliqué? How do you figure out how much fabric to use, or how to miter a corner? Math.

Personally I love math. Eventually I want to do a quilt based on the Fibonacci Sequence, I just haven’t figured out how. I do have an entire color way of a fabric I intend to use. We all know that may change. How many times have you thought you would do a particular quilt in one set of fabrics, only to change your mind, sometimes even after you start?

Many new tools and techniques make the math easier for quilting. Invest in good rulers; it will make for better outcomes. There are other things that help, but those are for a later blog.

You know all those intersections that get a bit bulky? I use a seam whacker, and a heavy espresso tamper to tame them. Of course a hot iron first is helpful. I press as I go with a bamboo finger pressure tool that my Grammy made. You can buy them in many shapes and materials. I have others, but prefer her bamboo one.

Now back to that mystery quilt…

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Thread is so important. If you are using really old thread please stop. It’s not good for your project or your machine.  You will be sadly sorry.

I found some REALLY old thread after our recent move. It had been my Grammy’s, it was on wooden spools. The thread was seriously CRUNCHY. A Xacto knife made short work of de-threading the spools so my granddaughter could string them with her beads.

Again it is important to match the thread you are using with what you are doing. Embroidery thread is not really very good for garment construction. Serger (yep—got one of these too) cones, not so great for embroidery.

I have in my limited machine embroidery experience, learned to love pre-wound bobbins.  Good value for the money—they get way more thread on that bobbin than I do.

And storing your thread is important. Those wall racks that you used (or might still be using), unless it is covered it collects dust. That dust ends up in your sewing machine. You will end up paying for more servicing of your machine. Except what I am actively using, mine thread is now all in plastic cases of one sort or another.

So what am I working on? I am finishing a mystery quilt top, which I decided to change a little bit. Hopefully the top will be done soon and I will share a picture or two…and then the hand quilting will begin  J

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Best First Steps

Find a good fabric/quilt/machine store. Unless you already have a found one…shop around. Talk to the owners. Talk to the service tech(s). Talk to their customers. Look at their classroom(s), newsletter, fabric and notion selections.

If you already have a machine, it’s important to take care of it.  When is the last time you had it serviced? Servicing once a year really is a must, but more often if it’s heavily used. If you can’t remember the last time you had your machine serviced—it is long overdue.

When is the last time you changed your needle? Has it been in so long it’s stuck? With normal use (not leather or upholstery, rip-stop, fur, etc) they usually last about 8 hours. Titanium needles sometimes will last longer. Many sewing issues are due to dull needles, or needles that are wrong for the type of fabric being used. Sewing machine needles, like hand sewing needles come in different kinds for different jobs. It is far easier to change your needle then end up replacing expensive fabric or with a costly repair when your machine eats a piece of a broken needle.

If you don’t have a machine, or have one you want to replace…go try all the different machines you can! Go back more than once, get the right fit-this is a big decision. I learned on my Grammy’s Singer (I still have it and it still works.) Then I used my mom’s Kenmore until I was in high school and bought my own, gently USED machine.  It cost me a whole month’s wages (tips included). I t lasted for 20 years (and died.) Then I got a Pfaff Creative 1471-still have it. Last year I bought a New Pfaff Creative 2170. First NEW machine I have ever owned.

I tried them all; Brother, Signer, Viking, Janome, Bernina, and some other off brands. I tried them all more than once, some stores were not happy to have me come back in a third time and not buy (and with that any chance of getting my business was gone.) The deciding factors—the store, technical staff, the Pfaff walking foot—and I already had LOTS of bobbins that I could use with it. Oh, and it was on sale. I do most of my sewing/quilting/crafting purchases only if they are on sale. So if you find a machine(s) you like and you’re not in a hurry—put it at the top of your wish list and watch for a sale.

After you buy your machine—at least take all the free classes that come with your machine. You will kick yourself later if you don’t. You will learn new things, things you have forgotten, and probably a few things you don’t really care about. But remember, things change over time, and one day you’ll probably be glad you learned it. You’ll also meet new people and develop a relationship with your store if you don’t already have one.

Not directly machine related--I am hunting a new seam ripper. They do need to be replaced on occasion; they don’t rip seams as cleanly when they are dull. And yes, we all need them.  Over time I have become picky over my tools, and I don’t have to settle for the one from the dollar store right now (but a sharp one from the dollar store is better than a dull one), so I am looking for an ergonomic one that is the right fit for my hand…I’ll let you know when I find it. Suggestions are always welcome.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yes—I still take classes

I have been sewing, quilting and crafting in general for a very long time. I still take classes. I take classes to learn new skills, share my skills, see and use new tools or techniques. They help you see things through different lenses, get inspired, inspire others. They can also sometimes provide a social interaction with very different people with whom you have something in common, providing an opportunity for personal growth. It is amazing sometimes how a total stranger can provide you with the answer to something in your life, or provide a missing link.

Some classes I take online and some in person. Both are useful to me. Some people do not like online classes, I find them different, and if it is a recorded one as opposed to a webcast or other live online class; you can watch the same part over and over and over again….as many times as you need or want to.  Some people don’t like online classes due to a lack of social interaction. Depending on the type of online class, this can be the case, but if you take an interactive online class, there is social interaction; it is just a different type of social interaction. Different is sometimes good. In person classes obviously give you the human touch.  I find them very enjoyable learning experiences. Even if you don’t learn a new skill, you can always learn something.

How do I pick classes? Well, it has to fit into the family schedule and budget of course. I get newsletters from my local fabric shops, they always have class listings. I have developed a list of favorite teachers and techniques. I belong to national groups such as American Sewing Guild and Quilters Club of America that routinely schedule events. Also, having taken several Scrap Therapy  classes, they are always high on my list. And no, I do not have all my scrap fabric cut and neatly organized—not yet, but I am working on it. I had a lot of scraps to start with.

Treat yourself, take a class. Take your daughter, mother, friend, or go it alone. But test the water. I think you will like it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why I Quilt, Sew and Craft

For family: Family tree quilts, to preserve family memories. Christmas quilts to celebrate the Holy Day, and we use them for “sick-day” quilts. Somehow they are the most comforting when the family is sick. Wall quilts to dress up the house, some seasonal some not.

Clothing when it’s cheaper; my kids loved that during the parachute pant craze—theirs were always one of a kind.  And pieces of that leftover fabric have made its way into other quilts over the years. They see quilts every now again and see a toy I made or a piece of clothing I had made them in the past. My granddaughter now plays with cloth dinosaurs that I made for them. It is such an awesome feeling it defies description.

For friends: I love the feeling I get when giving something I have handmade. They signify for me, and I hope for the recipient; that I willingly and joyfully gave my time and talent to make them something so they could feel special, for more than just an instant.

For Service: My particular calling is making prayer shawls. They are a very intense personal experience for me, and I have been told that they have provided strength and comfort to those who receive them. I have also made preemie quilts& blankets, and chemo hats. I like to make jewelry, quilts, and other handmade items for charity raffles. I am a Komen for the Cure supporter.

Stress Relief:  Half an hour a day will suffice, but more is always better. Whether working on something for family, friends, service, or even for myself; creating is satisfying.  I hand quilt most all of my quilts, the moving of the needle in and out, through the fabric is soothing. It also brings back very fond memories of time spent with my Grammy.

Inspiration: Inspiration, like smiling, is contagious. At least that has always been the case for me. I love to share, and I love when other people share. Some of my best ideas have been born from someone else’s work, or thought, or conversation. Watching a child, especially a grandchild and share, it will inspire someone about something. Walk through the park, or a museum. Live life to its fullest and share it with other, especially people you don’t know. It makes the good times better and the not-so-good times much easier.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You named your blog what?!

What do fiddlesticks and humility have in common? My Grammy. I have been thinking about her a lot lately. As life turns, the lessons that she taught on many levels, are all relevant, helpful, and comforting.

"Fiddlesticks" was the only "expletive" I ever heard my Grammy use. It was usually followed by the need for a seam ripper. She taught me to sew, quilt, have proper tea, serve others, be thrifty, kind, gentle, and humble. On every quilt she purposefully made an error  as a reminder that we, people, are not and can never be perfect (real errors didn't count.) The error was normally a mis-set block that she called a humility square. Thus the name of the blog--Fiddlesticks and Humility.

She was always willing to share knowledge with anyone who asked. She also shared her talents and provided what she could to those in need. Whether sewing a quilt for someone who lost a home to a tornado, or making school uniforms for those who could not afford them, she always did what she could.

She had a passion for life. From riding in an open cockpit plane with cloth wings, trying my dad's skateboard when he was in school (in a dress with gloves on--she ALWAYS wore gloves), to getting mad at the doctor who would  not clear her to fly on the Concord.

As times get tough and money tight, many people have asked for knowledge sharing on sewing, quiting, and a host of other things. Life still moves way too fast for most people to quickly learn the thrifty, useful traditions of the past. Many have asked for classes, some have no time or money for classes. So a blog seemed the easiest way to share the most knowledge with the most people quickly.

Passion and inspiration are enhanced when shared. We can all learn something from one another. Hopefully this blog will allow some of that to happen.