Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quilter Confessions: I’m not always THAT organized!

Since I started blogging about my quilting obsession and sharing my projects on Instagram, I’ve had several (very nice) people comment to me that I must be super organized . . . or that a certain project has inspired them to make something similar.  But I’ve also had a couple (again very nice) people who have said that I make them feel like a slug because I seem to get so much done.  I thought it might be a good time to post a few quilter confessions.

I do sew a lot.  I love it.  My sister-in-law Betsy said it must be my drug.  She’s right.  It’s the thing I do when I have free/alone time.  It’s the thing I turn to if I’m feeling blue.  It’s the thing in my life that makes me feel the most like me . . . just Taunja.  Not a mom or a wife or an employee.  Just me.

And I am a fairly organized person, so that does help.  However, I also have some confessions . . .
  1. For the past 10 months I have had a quilt hanging in my guest room with the binding half done.  Yep, hanging on the wall for all the guests to see . . . a really pretty quilt with red polka dot binding flapping in the breeze because the quilter in the house hadn’t found the time to tack down the binding.
  2. My husband is a terrific cook, and he enjoys cooking.  So, if I get into a weekend sewing trance, he is the one who pulls me back to reality with a good meal.  It’s so nice of him to keep me fueled for more sewing.
  3. I rarely watch TV.  There are only two things I will make sure I watch on TV: Fixer Upper on HGTV and the Minnesota Vikings football games.  TV for me is mostly background music for sewing. That’s a good thing.
  4. I haven’t read a book in months.  That’s a bad thing.  I love to read and have several good books on my night stand.  But I’m in quilt addiction mode right now.  No time to read.
  5. My multi-tasking abilities probably aren’t a good thing.  I start and stop a lot of projects.  I can easily get all hyped up reading through a pattern and then cutting out the pieces, only to set the project aside for months.  Oops!
  6. My house is probably 75% clean at any given time.  But hey, that’s good enough.
  7. I water my potted plants daily in the warm summer months.  I only weed the flower beds once every couple of weeks.  (And that may be an exaggeration.)  I expect my perennials to grow really thick and close together so they choke out the weeds for me.
  8. My windows haven’t been washed in 2 years.
  9. If my husband and the kids go fishing for a weekend and I don’t make plans with family or friends, I might sew from sun up to sun down.  I will have a bowl of cereal for lunch and popcorn for supper.  I might not even leave the house. I will shower each morning, but I may put pajamas back on and wear them all day.

So now you know.  When I am excitedly sharing pictures of a recent project, there are quite possibly dirty dishes in my sink, forgotten laundry in the dryer, and a couple of two-year-old unfinished sewing projects sleeping in my fabric dresser.

That being confessed, I am happy to share that this weekend I did finish the binding on that quilt hanging in the guest room . . . my beautiful Fig Tree Sail Away quilt!

And here’s one more confession . . . I purchased this Sail Away kit from the Fig Tree 12 Days of Christmas Sale in DECEMBER OF 2012!  Yep, she’s finally completely complete today, August 30, 2015!  Now that sure makes me feel like a slug.  But look at her . . . she is totally worth it!

I want to give a little shout out to my friend Nancy Jolene Quilting for her stellar custom quilting on this piece.  Nancy, you are wonderfully talented! 

Thanks again for reading!  I'm really hoping you get carried away as often as I do!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Our little pillowcase workshop

Tonight I was thrilled to have a little pillowcase making party at my house with two lovely young ladies . . . my daughter Haley and our family friend McKenna.  About a week ago, McKenna had told me she wanted to learn to sew and to “perfect her sewing skills.”  Wow . . . now that’s a girl after my own heart.  She’s a busy 12 year old involved in lots of activities, but she wanted to make time to add sewing to her hobbies. So we marked a date on the calendar to have a sewing evening.  When I mentioned this to my daughter Haley, she jumped right in and said she would join us.  And just like that, the first Carried Away Quilting workshop was born!

After talking to McKenna, I thought a lot about which project we should tackle first.  My old “teacher training” was starting to kick in.  I ran through the skills we should touch on . . . pressing, using rulers, cutting, and basic machine use.  In my mind, the top sewing skill to be mastered would be achieving a consistent seam allowance.  But I also wanted this workshop to be easy and fun.  I wanted McKenna to complete a project in one night, be proud of her work, and be inspired to continue to sew more.  Making a pillowcase seemed like just the ticket. 

We gathered at our house shortly after supper, and after a little giggling (mostly on my part) we got right to work.  We used a free tutorial by called “The Easiest & Cutest Pillowcase Ever.”  

McKenna concentrating on that seam allowance!  Great work!

It actually was very easy and they really did turn out cute!  In fact, I can see myself making some of these for gifts.  Holiday pillowcases would be really fun stocking stuffers!  McKenna chose a basketball fabric with a polka dot cuff.  Haley’s pillowcase features the beautiful “TrueLuck” line by Stephanie Ryan for Moda.  The girls even did a french seam, creating a nice finished product. Didn’t they turn out great?

I also had the opportunity to give McKenna the “Hour Basket” I made for her. We girls can never have enough storage solutions! She has already tucked some of her fat quarters in the basket.   The “Hour Basket” is a super quick and fun project.  The free tutorial is available on the Kelby Sews blog.  If you are on Instagram, you can check out hundreds of samples of hour baskets using the hashtag #hourbasket.  Tons of fun!  

Thanks for reading!  Here’s hoping you get carried away quilting often!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ironing Board Makeover & Companion Pressing Mat

About three years ago I bought myself a terrific birthday present  . . . one of those mega ironing board tops for quilters, made from plywood and covered in fabric.  If you own one of these, you know how handy they are.

You also know that after a few years of pressing quilt blocks, the top will get stained (scorched) and tough looking.  It also doesn’t help when your teenage daughter (who presses her own clothes) accidentally leaves the iron face down to do a little “slow scorch” until the iron cools down.  And so, after three years of good use, mine was in need of a makeover.

I’m sure there are many tutorials and tips online for how to do this.  I will share my transformation with you in hopes that you find it useful.  I also made a little companion pressing mat that I really love.  It was pretty easy.  I finished both projects on a rainy Saturday morning, and the end result is SO worth it.

All of the supplies I used were things I had on hand.  With the exception of the heat resistant fabric, I bet the same may be true for you!

  • Cotton quilter’s fabric (I used some lovely Fig Tree & Company yardage I had on hand.)
  • Therma-Flec Heat Resistant Silver Fabric
  • Spray Adhesive (I used 505 Spray & Fix Temporary Fabric Adhesive Spray)
  • 80/20 cotton batting
  • Staple gun and ¼ inch staples
  • A marking tool (I used my Dritz purple disappearing marking pen)

Ironing Board Makeover
I will begin with an ugly picture.  Yes, this was the dismal state of my ironing board prior to the makeover.  Embarrassing!

My first step was to remove the ironing board top and place it on the floor to take measurements.  I would suggest working on a hard surface rather than carpeting.  Since most of these tops are custom or homemade, your measurements may vary. My board measures 60 by 22 inches.  

I cut my batting to the same size as the top.  Because the board was already covered with batting and fabric, I used only one layer of batting.  I sprayed a light layer of adhesive onto the old fabric and put the batting on.  It works best to start in the middle and then roll the fabric out, smoothing it out as it unrolls.  You can pull up the batting and reposition it if you need to.

Next I cut my new fabric approximately 4 inches larger (on all four sides) than the ironing board top.  At this point I also pressed my fabric really well.

I then laid the fabric right side down on the floor and centered the ironing board top onto it.

Then I began the process of pulling the fabric taut, folding the raw edge under a bit and stapling it in place.  I began in the middle of the long edges and worked my way out on both sides.  Then I did the same on the two short ends. 

On the corners, I simply did a bit of tucking and folding, similar to doing binding, and then stapled the fabric into place.

I had made a skirt for my ironing board about a year ago.  So at this point I reattached that skirt.  My skirt is made of old curtains that matched my d├ęcor.  The skirt is attached to the underside of the ironing board top with Velcro.  The old curtains were the right length, had a nice hemmed bottom, and were a great solution for hiding the ugly ironing board legs.

Companion Pressing Mat
The new top looked so pretty and clean that I hated the thought of using it.  I decided that although this was a utilitarian piece, I could still do something to keep it looking fresh.  After all, it does take up quite a bit of space in a sewing room.  It ought to look cute.  Because most of the heat discoloration comes from heavy pressing on small blocks with bulky seams, I decided to make a small pressing mat.  This was really easy and quite fun.

I actually had a 28 x 22 inch piece of silver heat resistant fabric on hand.  It was tucked in an iron caddy kit I purchased years ago and never completed -- imagine that!  This seemed to be a nice size, so I cut a piece of cotton fabric and two pieces of 80/20 batting the same size.

I decided to use a combination of spray adhesive and quilting to secure these layers.

First, I put the heat resistant fabric silver side down, and then laid down one piece of batting on top of it.  Starting on the left hand side I rolled the batting back to the middle, used a light spray of fabric adhesive and then rolled it back down and smoothed it out.  I repeated these steps on the right hand side.  Rolling up, spraying, and rolling back down is much easier than spraying the entire piece and trying to position the next piece on top of it.  Trust me on this!

I followed the same method with the second piece of batting and once again for the top piece of cotton fabric.  You do not need to use much spray.  This is just a temporary hold for the quilting that will be done to permanently keep the layers together.

After all four layers were together, I used my purple disappearing ink pen to mark a quilting grid.  I first marked the center, and then marked lines three inches out from center, both vertically and horizontally. I sewed the units together on the marked grid.

When the quilting was complete, I just squared up the edges.

Finally, I cut enough 2 ¼ inch binding to finish the mat in the same manner you would bind and finish a quilt.  I machine sewed the binding to the heat resistant fabric side, and then hand sewed my binding down on the pretty side.

I have used this mat several times already and I just love it!  It is the perfect pressing solution for those small blocks with a lot of bulk.

I hope that sharing my project was helpful to you.  My final tips would be to change your needle and clean out your bobbin area after this project!

Thanks for reading my blog.  I hope you get carried away quilting . . . or sprucing up your ironing board!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Farm Girl Vintage Sew Along: A Tractor for Dad

I can’t believe how quickly the summer has gone, and now we are well into the first week of August. I hope your summer months brought you good times with family and friends . . . and your sewing machine. ;)

We are now on Week 15 of the Farm Girl Vintage Sew Along led by Lori Holt of Bee In My Bonnet.  The last time I posted an update was on Friday, June 19 when we had just completed Week 8.  This sew along continues to be a blessing to me.  I’ve learned new techniques, created fresh and fun blocks, and enjoyed the process of pulling from my scrap piles. I look forward to it each week.  It's never to late for you to join!  The Farm Girl Vintage book is published by It's Sew Emma, a division of Fat Quarter Shop. 

Working from this book and thinking about the blocks and their farm-related names has also caused me to reminisce about my childhood on the farm.  (I shared some of those memories in my June 5 post.) From the first evening that I began turning the pages of Lori’s book, I have been drawn to the tractor quilt.  It reminded me of the small Ford tractor (ours was blue) that we would use to pick rocks in the springtime.  It also brought to mind the bigger red IH tractors that I remember my dad driving when I was little, several years before his tractors became big, green, and fancy.  And I wished I could make this tractor quilt for my dad, but it seemed too late.  My dad has Alzheimer’s.

My dad was officially diagnosed with having some form of Dementia in 2011.  It was labeled Alzheimer’s last year.  During that time, my mom has been the primary caregiver and the two of them soldiered on . . . doing their best, making their days count, treasuring as many moments as they could.  But in the spring of this year, Dad’s disease progressed to the point that he had to move into a memory care unit.  All of Dad’s physical and therapeutic needs are now being handled by caring professionals, and Mom can focus on being his wife and his friend.  She spends time with him daily.

Dad has a very nice room, decorated with pictures of family.  Whenever I visit, I look around and feel somewhat comforted by the fact that his surroundings are pleasant.  It seems peaceful.  Although Dad rarely talks anymore, once or twice he has said to Mom that he sure is in a nice hotel, or on another occasion, a nice hospital.  It’s comforting to us to know he has those thoughts.  You take comfort in very small things.

Several times this summer, my thoughts came back to that tractor quilt and if I should make a small wall hanging for Dad’s room.  Would he find comfort in that?  Or would it be just about me, doing something for him so that I felt better about this situation?  I didn’t want it to be about me, so I kept putting it off.

And then one evening, it came to me.  It seemed like one of those moments where God puts a thought in your head and you are finally quiet enough to hear it.

Back in the spring when everything changed for Dad, I was present with Mom during a hospital evaluation done by an Occupational Therapist. The interview/question session lasted about 25 minutes.  Many of the questions were simple.  Some of them required complex reasoning or problem solving.  Dad scored very poorly.  I remember the heavy feeling in my heart as we listened to Dad do his best to answer her questions with confidence. 

“What year is it?”   1968
“What month is it?”  October
“What time does it say on the clock?”  Another wrong answer
It went on like this for quite a while, with Mom and I looking across the room at each other, feeling hopeless.  

But then about halfway through the interview she asked, “What was your profession, Lee?  What did you do for a living before you retired?”  Farmer

Alzheimer’s has robbed my dad of many things, but he still remembers family, that his wife is “the love of his life,” and that he was a farmer.

So I made that tractor wall hanging for my dad, and my LAQ Barb at Quilts on Broadway put it on her machine and turned it back to me within a business day, bless her heart.  I was able to give that to my dad this past weekend, when we celebrated his 70th birthday by taking him to his cabin and spending a day in the sunshine surrounded by family. When he opened his gift, my mom said, “Well . . . look what Taunja made you.”  Dad looked at the tractor, found me with his eyes, and quietly said, “Thank you.”  A very small sentence, but we take comfort in those small things.  When we took Dad back to his room that evening, he was so tired he settled right into bed.  Mom and I hung the tractor where he can see it.  I hope when he looks at it, it takes his mind to farming and his own childhood, and those long-term memories he seems better able to hold on to.

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share what is on my heart.  I hope my post didn't make you blue.  I will end with some cheerful images of my Farm Girl Vintage blocks to date.   Here’s hoping you get carried away quilting often!


Week 9: Feed & Seed Block, Fresh Pears Block


Week 10: Furrows Block, Gingham Block


Week 11: Haystack Block, Grandma's Quilt Block


Week 12: Kettle's On Block, Kitchen Window Block


Week 13: Mama Hen Block, Milking Day Block


Week 14: Old Glory Block,  Old Red Barn Block


Week 15: Out to Pasture Block, Patchwork Pumpkin Block


Progress through Week 15

Brag alert . . . I really LOVE how these all look together.  Farm girl, woo hoo!