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!