Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making Quilt Club Blocks

Every month I make the five blocks we use in Grandma's Quilt Club. I choose simple, 16 grid blocks, because I want to make sure that the over 600 participants in our club can complete these blocks regardless of skill level.

Recently, club members have asked me to tell them about the tools I use when I am constructing the blocks. Here's a run-down of what I use in order to make these blocks.

The sewing machine I use is a Husqvarna Viking Sapphire that I got from Whitlocks Vacuum and Sewing Center in Salem, Oregon. My grandmother would call it a "new fangled" machine. I like it because it has a built-in 1/4" stitch and is easy to use. (Easy is good when it comes to making quilt blocks--why make yourself crazy when sewing is supposed to be relaxing??) I thread the machine with Swiss-Mettler Art. 104 thread in a neutral color.

I like to use a the small Olfa 28mm Rotary Cutter and a 1" x 12" omnigrid ruler to make the first cuts from the fabric that is provided in the quilt kits. (If I was cutting from the bolt, I would use a larger Omnigrip Ruler.)

Most of the quilt club block patterns call for making a half square triangle. In order to do that, I start with two 4" squares of fabric that have been placed right sides together. I then draw a line down the middle (for cutting) with lines on either side 1/4" away from the cutting line (for sewing lines). This can be done very easily with the Quick Quarter II marking tool. I like to use this little tool because it helps with accuracy.

Once I have all the squares cut and marked, I start sewing my half square triangles together. I square them up (from 4") using the little rotary cutter and the 6-1/2" square Omnigrip Ruler to 3-1/2". When I have all 16 units sewn, squared and pressed, I lay the squares out to look like the picture on the pattern, then sew them together. My favorite pins are the red and white pins by Clover. They glide through the fabric like butter and are very nice to use. If you don't have a box of these pins, I recommend you purchase a box or two. I love them! You will too.

For clipping threads and cutting in general, I use a pair of Mundial Titanium Scissors--5-1/2" hobby/craft size. I like these scissors because they are smaller than the knife edge. I don't know why, but I seem to use smaller tools when constructing quilt blocks than I do when putting the quilt blocks together into a quilt top.

Of course, there are times when things don't go exactly as planned making these blocks. That's when I get out the Clover White Handled seam ripper and start "frog stitching"--you know, ripp-it, ripp-it! If you're still using the seam ripper that you got for your high school sewing class, it's time for a new one! My personal rule on seam ripping is that it's part of the process and can happen from time to time; however, if you've ripped out the same seam three times already, you clearly need to relax a bit and start over. (Ever have one of those days when you feel like you should be locked out of your sewing room because everything you touch is going to go badly? I've had a few of those myself.)

Once my block is sewn up and looking beautiful, I press it with my iron (I buy inexpensive ones that I don't mind replacing from time to time), and then I square it up with another Omnigrip ruler--the 12-1/2" square.

And that's all there is to it! Sewing simple quilt blocks is fun. I like being able to put different fabric combinations together to see what the blocks will look like. Sewing easy blocks is also great practice for perfecting those 1/4" seams. Sewing also helps ease any tension you might be feeling from all the other "stuff" going on in your life. Just cut, sew, press and square. A little of your favorite music in the background and you have the makings for your own special retreat.

My family knows they can find me in the sewing room, sewing up quilt blocks after a busy day at the shop. I've already sewn up the blocks I need for next month's club sessions. Guess it's time to start working on the other block projects I'm dreaming up! What will you be sewing this week?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Leah's Brain Surgery

Leah had her brain surgery October 22 at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon. This surgery was to remove a portion of her brain (right hippocampus, amygdala, and surrounding area). This is the part of her brain which was severely damaged in her car accident 11 years ago. It was also the part that was responsible for her subsequent seizure disorder. The seizure disorder was getting worse and her doctors said if she continued to have uncontrolled seizures she would deteriorate to the point where her quality of life would be severely affected.

As scary as the thought of surgery was, Leah decided that she wanted to go through with it because she was so tired of having seizures. Her surgery lasted a little over five hours. The team of doctors said that they were able to remove almost all of the affected area. They said they were “very aggressive” and took out an area of the brain approximately the size of a small kiwi fruit. (They weren’t expecting to take out this much.) Since Leah has already been functioning almost exclusively with the left side of her brain, they were certain that there would be very minimal deficits. They did say that she might lose some peripheral vision in her left eye and might have trouble “finding her words” for a while.

It's been about two weeks since Leah's surgery and I am happy to report that she is doing just great. The home health care nurse said Leah's recovery is "a miracle" and we are totally thrilled to report that she is herself, knows who everyone is, and is oriented and cognizant of her surroundings. She's getting a lot of sleep these days but otherwise recovering well.

I’ll keep you posted on how she is doing. Thank you so much for all of your prayers, concerns and good thoughts. I know that she is very encouraged by them all. Leah has made many friends here at Grandma's Attic and enjoys talking to our mail order customers on the phone. Hopefully, she'll be back at work at the beginning of the year, only this time she'll be seizure free!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Class Schedule

We've just added Fall Class Listings to our website. We think it's another great line-up of classes, offered by some of your favorite teachers: Denise Clausen, Marge McCanse, Donna Wetter, Peggy Gelbrich, Arlene Kovash, Tracy Byers, Judy Hillman, Lindy Perry, Terrie Kygar and Michele Byrum.

In addition, the new session of the $5 Quilt Club begins Sept. 4-6. Denise is bringing back her lettering class. Michele has a fabulous fall leaves project planned. Marge is presenting her scrap quilt techniques with a variety of classes. Peggy Gelbrich is teaching a fun way to combine Jacob's Ladder and Snails Trail blocks and a pineapple quilt. Donna has some new beginner projects. Arlene is busy showing you how to make triangles without ever having to sew more than a square. Tracy Byers is offering her machine quilting class again. There are new classes by Linda Perry and Terrie Kygar, and Judy Hillman will be entertaining you with the Clothesline Club, a new club by Darlene Zimmerman of 1930s reproduction fabric fame.

If you live anywhere near the shop, you should definitely treat yourself to a class or two. It's amazing what you can learn in a few short hours that will help you gain skills and make fantastic projects. So come on in and enjoy the fun!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Dream Green

What does drinking soda and quilting have in common? Batting! Hard to believe, but the new Dream Green batting by Quilters Dream is made 100% out of recycled plastic bottles. In fact, every pound of this batting keeps 10 plastic bottles out of landfills.

Seems hard to imagine that you could get a nice soft batting out of a soda bottle; however, it's entirely true. The recycled bottles are cut into chips, washed, melted and extruded into fine polyester fibers. These fibers are completely indistinguisable from virgin polyester fibers, yet they are made without depleting precious natural resources. And even though the batting has a sort of green cast from green colored plastic bottles, the batting itself is color fast. Needles glide through this batting with ease.

Quilters Dream says their new product is wrinkle free, can be machine washed and dried with little shrinkage, and can be machine or hand quilted up to 12" apart. It has been carded, crosslapped and needlepunched for uniformity, strength, and resiliency, with no scrim or resins.

Available in select loft, I'm using a twin sized batt for the quilt I'm currently sending off to be machine quilted. According to the package, that means I'm saving 13 plastic bottles from a landfill. And get this, all the left overs are completely recyclable too! I can tell you that this batting feels just as soft as Dream Poly batting, with the added benefit of being earth-friendly. I'll keep you posted as to how the quilt turns out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Vintage Butterflies

While I was at Quilt Market in May (a wholesale show for shop owners), I ran into Connie Cerdena of Jenny Creek Designs. We carry many of her patterns and I was anxious to see her newest quilt, Vintage Butterflies, which she had on display in her booth.

She told me that she had been in an antique shop one day and came across 30 butterflies that had been cut from 1930s-era fabric. After purchasing them, she said she appliqued and button-hole stitched the butterflies, then combined with them a striking strip-pieced scalloped border in blue. When I saw this quilt at Market, I was also impressed with Connie's exquisite quilting. The cool thing is that Connie let us borrow it and we currently have this totally gorgeous quilt on display in our shop. Come see it if you are in the area!

This really is one beautiful quilt. We carry the pattern, Vintage Butterflies, so that you can make one of your own! I'm going to start gathering some fabrics to make one myself! If you like 1930s style quilts and butterflies, you will really enjoy putting this quilt together. The blocks will show off your 1930s reproduction fabric collection, and you will also like learning how to put the border together. This spectacular quilt measures 73-1/2" x 84-1/2". I personally can't wait to start making the butterfly blocks!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Patriotic All-Stars Two! Block of the Month

Hurray for the Red, White and Blue! Summer is nearly here and we're getting excited about picnics in the park, vacation days, and of course, the upcoming celebration of America's Independence Day! We thought to ourselves, "what could be more appropriate for the summer than combining our popular First Ladies of America series with our Patriotic All-Stars Block of the Month Club to bring you our new (and improved) Block of the Month Club!" Therefore, we're proud to announce our new Block of the Month program: Patriotic All-Stars Two!

Each month, you receive all the fabric you need to construct a 12" star block, plus a redwork embroidery pattern of a featured First Lady, and a brief biography about her. As you stitch your block and embroider the redwork pattern, you can read about the trials and triumphs of each First Lady's residency in the White House, and how she influenced her country and the lives of female citizens. You're sure to be impressed and interested by each First Lady's life as she played her part helping to steer all Americans along the broad and diverse path of this nation.

When you've assembled all of your month's blocks and embroidered these influential ladies, you'll be sent a finishing kit detailing how to assemble all your blocks together into a final quilt. The final quilt is finished with beautiful flag fabric and will ultimately measure approximately 57" x 72". What a great fabric piece to add to your home's decor! It is the perfect project for the summer months and, of course, the upcoming election season. You're sure to love making it and owning a storied creation of your own handiwork.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Where Does the Time Go?

It's been AGES since we posted a message; however, we've had a very busy spring and wanted to tell you all about it. First, as you can see from the photo, our daughter Dannielle got married on June 7th. We haven't received the proofs back from the official photographer yet; however, here is a picture that Michael took of Dannielle and her husband Isaac with famiy members. We'll put "official" pictures up for everyone to see as soon as the proofs are back and we have more to share.

The wedding took place at a Lavender Farm near Mt. Shasta, California. The setting was breathtakingly beautiful and so were girls--as you can see in this picture that Michael took of Melissa and Dannielle just before the wedding.

After we got back from the wedding, we had time to work on our new shop remodel and to review all the items we picked up at Quilt Market in May. If you live close enough to visit Grandma's Attic, you'll want to come in and our shop make-over. We closed over Memorial Day weekend and took the shop apart--right down to the walls--then put it all back together again. The brick and mortar store seems so much more roomy now. We moved the cutting area up closer to the front and arranged things in a little more logical manner. We kept all the contemporary fabrics and items on one side of the shop, and the reproduction fabrics and goodies on the other side. You'll have to come and take a peek. And yes, pictures of the remodel will be posted soon too!

So now you know why we were silent for so long--Quilt Market, a shop remodel, and a wedding all in the space of a few weeks. It kept us more than busy. We'll start posting items from Quilt Market really soon!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Party is Starting

Patchwork Party begins in just a few hours! (Patchwork Party Summer Edition 2008 officially begins on midnight tonight, April 1.) Our Summer Edition 2008 blocks are absolutely gorgeous and you are going to love collecting and working with them.

This season's quilt blocks were created by Marti Michell using her Template Sets A and C, and the fabric is from Moda's "Prairie Paisley" collection by Minick & Simpson. It features beautiful paisleys and floral motifs exemplifying a timeless rural sophistication. Victorian ornamentation gives way to clean prairie lines, creating a wide open landscape full of rich textures and patriotic hues.

If you been to our previous patchwork parties, you may already know how the fun works, but if you're a newcomer, you might need a party introduction! The way the party operates is simple: you collect all 12 of these beautiful blocks by visiting the 12 online stores participating in the program. Each store hosts one of the particular blocks necessary for the beautiful quilt you'll be making. This season, our exclusive block is "Hudson Station." In addition to our exclusive block kit, we've created a way for you to turn your blocks into a stunning quilt titled "Glory." Our finishing kit includes the pattern and all of the fabric you need to create a lovely 93" x 117" quilt using the blocks you collected during the party. We even created a coordinating wall-hanging and a set matching pillowcases to accent your finished quilt perfectly.

To see all of the beautiful quilts done by each of the twelve participating shops, click on the patchwork party logo on April 1st (or later) on the front page of our store. That link will take you to the official patchwork party site where you can get a planning guide, as well as tips on quilting and sewing your blocks.

We've been so busy behind the scenes these past few weeks getting everything in order to have a fabulous party this season, and we're very excited that it will finally launching tonight at midnight. No need to RSVP to this party because everyone is invited! We hope to see you soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Everything from Soup to Nuts

Things just keep hopping around here, and it is sometimes hard to simply stop, catch our breath, and write a new post on our blog to all our friends on the web. Thankfully, in between classes and our quilt club, we've found a few moments to update everyone on how things are going.

At the beginning of February, we had one of charity events--Souper Bowl Sunday. Our great customers generously brought in a can or two of food for the local food bank and received a discount on fabric. My own grandmother was a cook for several years, and the thought of anyone going hungry was very distressing to her. If there was something she could do about feeding a hungry person, you can bet she would. (My son reports that his own memories of his great-grandmother mostly revolve around food: his eating the plums off of her prized plum-tree, or her asking him to try yet another piece of pie after Thanksgiving dinner.) With hunger still a big problem in today's world, we knew that we had to do something for our community. Our customers helped us meet a tremendous challenge with their terrific generosity. (Leah, in the photo above, poses with just some of the donated food we had received that day.)

On another note, our door is finally fixed! You may remember how someone drove their car or truck into the back our store on New Year's Eve. The temporary patches have been replaced with new cinder blocks and sturdy door that we hope no one will crash into this time! We know people just have to have their fabric sometimes, but we hope they'll remember we're open 24 hours on the web and that our door can't take too many vehicles hitting it! :)

St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow. Since both Stephen and I have some Irish heritage, we thought it would be nice to share some Irish Blessings and Quotes to help get into the festive spirit. Here are some of our favorites:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His Hand.

May you live as long as you want,
And never want as long as you live.

Always remember to forget the things that made you sad,
But never forget to remember the things that made you glad.

May you live to be a hundred year,
With one extra year to repent!

May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
and heaven accept you.

We hope that everyone has a fun and safe holiday. As always, we'll be busy at the shop working on projects behind the scenes. About that, let's just say that we're really looking forward to the start of a new Patchwork Party program in a week or so, and we're getting more and more excited as we draw closer to that date. (Be sure to leave some room in your own fabric collections and time to work on what promises to be a fantastic event this year!)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

It's Snowing Again!

We live in the middle of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Everyone knows it rains and rains and rains in this area; however, lately it's been snowing and snowing and snowing.

This is a picture of our barn. You can see that the sun came out briefly and the snow started to slide off the roof, but then it started snowing again. Pretty soon, we had over a foot of snow and it was hard for Stephen to get back and forth to check on his chickens. It was even harder to get the car out of the driveway and get down to town.

Even though we're only 3-1/2 miles from town, we're up in elevation. That means it can be raining in town and snowing here in the foothills of the Coast Range. I can call work and say "I'm snowed in," and they will think I'm making it up because it's only raining where they are.

Fortunately, it hasn't snowed as much here as it has in other parts of Oregon. I heard that they had 150 inches of snow in Idanha and Detroit, both of which are in the foothills of the Cascade Range, approximately an hour's drive from here. That translates to about 12-1/2 feet of snow. I can't even imagine it!

My idea of snow is to look out the window at Mt. Hood in the distance, gleaming white in the beautiful sun, and know that if I wanted to go there, I could. It's not my idea to have to wade through it to get to the car!

Here's another photo of the trees outside our living room window that Stephen took. Even though the film is black and white, it's beautiful, don't you think? Since it's time for me to go to work, I think I'll call and say, "I'm snowed in again!" Then I can sit back with a cup of tea, relax, and enjoy the view.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Where Have You Been?

My grandmother used to tell me that bad luck comes in threes. Her philosophy was that if you made it through three trying incidents, you could move on and things would be good again. I've thought a lot about Grandma these past few weeks because we have indeed had three different difficulties to overcome.

Because we produce many of our own books and patterns here at Grandma's Attic, we have a state-of-the-art copy machine that looks like it belongs in a copy or print shop. We use it every day and keep a schedule of when various items need to be copied. In mid-December, this machine was down for a week and a half. Bev and I kept telling each other that it'd soon be repaired and we'd be able to move on and catch up. To make a long story short about the problems we had getting it fixed, let's just say that we wound up receiving a replacement that is faster and capable of more complicated tasks than the old one. By the time we had the new one up and running, we were over two weeks behind and unsure how we were ever going to catch up.

Right about the time the copy machine problems were resolved, my computer crashed. That's also when I discovered that the back up system wasn't working correctly. Unless you've had your computer crash, it may be difficult to imagine the sense of loss you go through when you realize that everything you've put on that system over the past several years is now inaccessible. In describing the feelings that I went through, I can honestly say it was almost like having a stroke. The information may have been in the machine but there was no way of accessing any of it. I really did go through most of the stages of grief, although I never did get to acceptance. And since this occurred right at the Christmas holidays, no one was available to help me out. After a couple of weeks without access to the items on my computer, PC America in Monmouth, Oregon, was able to correct the initial problems, recover ALL 11 gigabytes of information (28,800 files!), and provide us with a great back up system, a great maintenance program, and all the support we need from this point forward. What a nightmare to go through and what a relief to have behind us!

By New Year's Day, Stephen and I were ready for a break from all the stress of December. He was going to go play golf, and I was going to work at the shop to straighten up after inventory. Imagine my surprise when I pulled up to the back door and discovered that our shop had been plowed into by a car! There was a huge hole in the brick and mortar, and I could see clear into the back of the shop. On top of that, the back door was bent and jammed and could no longer be used. Needless to say, Stephen never did get to play golf and lunch was clearly cancelled. The police could find no evidence to go on about who might have done this, but we all believe that the culprit was someone who had had entirely too much to drink at one of the local "establishments," then climbed into their car, backed up, and rammed right into the building. It will take a few weeks to rebuild the wall and replace the door; however, we are very fortunate in that no merchandise was damaged and the vintage quilt hanging on the inside of the wall was still in perfect condition.

Now that our "three things" are behind us, we're looking forward to projects and activities that we have planned for the rest of this New Year. If our luck holds, you'll be hearing from us in the very near future!

Left: This is what our back wall looked like on New Year's Day when I came to work. What a mess! Below: This is what the inside of the shop wall looked like after the accident. We moved the fabric rack that was in front of the hole; then Stephen stuffed some insulation into the opening. After we took the picture, he covered the wall with boards until it can be repaired.