Trying to re-enter the quilting world with limited success

So my last post was entitled “Survived my first week” and then you didn’t hear from me again. I guess that’s about as descriptive as I can be about life in my new job. Still loving it, but it has been busy! I took yesterday (Friday) as a comp day for the fact I’d worked most of the last weekend and realized it was probably the third full day off I’d had since I started five weeks ago. I’m slowly learning how to control my schedule better. Yesterday I spent running some errands and doing some Christmas decorating.

I decided to bag doing housework and such today (which has also fallen behind a bit) and focus on reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming (loving it!), and getting back into my sewing room.

Unfortunately, the sewing room part has been a bit frustrating. I have been sadly reminded of why I gave up doing blocks of the month. The first one I tried many years ago kept sending me incorrrect sizes of fabric to cut my pieces out of, and I ended up giving up and cancelling about four months into it. This time around, last year I bit on the Cotton Cuts puzzle mystery quilt. I loved the fabrics and the idea of everything being die-cut so all I had to do was assemble seemed tailor-made for my busy schedule while I was finishing my doctoral work.

However, I’ve had multiple go-arounds with Kim at Cotton Cuts trying to correct mistakes—I was sent the wrong size piece for month 6, then when she sent me the correction I received the same wrongly-sized pieces. We finally got that straightened out but, today when I went to finally assemble the quilt, I’ve discovered I was actually sent the wrong month 6 altogether. Each month we were instructed to label our completed pieces by some letter/number combination, which I did faithfully. The layout for the size I’m working on requires blocks labeled F. I looked over my stacks of blocks. “F? Where’s F? I have no F!”

I spent about 15 minutes going back through everything, laying them out in the order of the months I received (I did always keep the instructions each month, thank God, or I’d have been totally lost), and came to the conclusion that nope, I was never instructed to make blocks labeled F. Also fortunately, the last layout “clue” includes a list of which months we were supposed to make which blocks, so I could pinpoint the exact month that went awry—yep, the one I kept getting the wrong sized pieces for. Strangely, though, my instructions for month 6 are labeled for the correct size quilt I’m making, but the blocks are distinctly not what’s needed. Stranger and stranger.

I’ve sent yet another email to Kim at Cotton Cuts with photos of the two blocks I ended up with and instructions for month 6 to point out how messed up all this is, and then said that I had originally been thinking I’d join the new BOM mystery puzzle quilt that just opened this week but am now hesitant to do so because of these problems. It’s frustrating that something I was enjoying should have this kind of an end-story. Especially frustrating that I get so little time to sew and I was stymied at the get-go.

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So I have it all laid out on my design wall with big gaps where block F is supposed to go. I can certainly start sewing together the pieces that form the borders and such so I’m ready to finish it when I get the corrected month, but at this point I’m already a little worried they’ll be out of the fabrics needed. Fingers crossed I won’t end up with a slew of orphan blocks all for want of month 6.

At the moment, I’m also not keen on the fabric they sent for the binding. I’m going to wait until I get everything assembled and then decide final steps. But that’s a small thing. I would just love to finally be able to have a finish under my belt, for the first time in months!


Meanwhile, I am happy to say that my desk got assembled and my office is finally put together!

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The panoramic style makes it look a little bigger than it is, but it’s a comfortable space for me now. Note the space heater—the radiator under the windows is finicky and often needs help.

The quilt on the wall is one my mother made. I don’t know the origin story although it’s a sampler that smacks of a block of the month or class or something. But one of the blocks is a church and most of the rest are either crosses or biblically-related blocks (ie Jacob’s Ladder), and the office really needed some warmth and color in it, so it seemed fitting.

And no, I can’t put an area rug under the conference table because it’s strategically placed over a large old-fashioned metal outlet box that protrudes up from the middle of the floor. I do now (after this pic was taken) have a small quilted Christmas table-topper on the round wooden table at the side. Eventually more little bits and pieces may make their way into the office but for now I’m comfortable for working and have room for people to come visit and drink tea or coffee with me. And that’s happened a lot!

After 17 years of working from home, I have to confess that I’m enjoying having an office.

Now, back to my sewing table and figuring out what I might actually be able to accomplish today, that’s not under the control of external forces!

Making it Monday on Tuesday

How I get 'em...

How I get 'em...

I was out of town from Thursday through Monday morning around 10a, having taken a red-eye flight back from my work trip on the West coast. Therefore, Monday was a total loss. Well, not total. I did a couple of "mindsweeps" for work and home and got a bunch of tasks plunked into my list for the next few weeks. So there is that. 

Today, however, although still pretty fried (as of this writing in the afternoon I'm still debating if I'm up to going to my guild meeting tonight), I did get some necessary errands run and I unpacked. After that, I figure anything else I actually get done is gravy. I got my Cotton Cuts Puzzle Mystery block of the month in today's mail and, since those aren't overly challenging, decided to stick to my "get it done immediately" record from the last two weeks. And sure 'nuff, an hour later I had the blocks done. The only unsewing I had to do was when I ran out of bobbin thread halfway through a piece. Given how exhausted I am, I consider that a serious win.

Completed blocks

Completed blocks

To recap: This is Cotton Cut's Puzzle Mystery Block of the Month, and I'm doing the Portofino Colorway. I'm part of the Facebook group for this mystery quilt and it's wonderful to see all the different colorways (I almost jumped on the bandwagon to do a second one once I saw some of the other fabrics being used, but sanity won the day). It's also available as a large or small size--I'm doing the small, if I recall, and it's a throw size. But the blocks aren't identical between the two sizes so I can't wait to see the difference in the two quilts once they're put together. 

This BOM is already closed, although they do suggest you can email them (email address is at the link I've given above) to find out if there are still any available in any of the colorways. Sign-up for their fall quilt opens on May 25, and the first block ships in July. I'm already pretty sure I'll be signing up for that one--I've been averaging about an hour a month putting these blocks together so it's extremely do-able, no matter how busy I get!

I think I'm going to risk doing a little more sewing. I'll probably last another 15 minutes before the tired-dumb kicks in. Then I'll go back to things that don't involve sharp objects.

Cotton Cuts Mystery Quilt--Month 1 Done!

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You may recall me mentioning awhile back (and on my podcast episode too, I believe) that I'd signed up for the mystery quilt available through Cotton Cuts. I had in my head that I wouldn't get it until the middle of February but it shipped on February 2nd and I got it Monday! 

I didn't have anything on my schedule Monday evening and had already planned on spending some time sewing. I confess to some "Squirrel"ing, however, as I really should've been focused on the 9-Patch Pizzazz (aka 9PP). However, I was excited to break open the Cotton Cuts bright pink padded envelope, plus I really don't want to get behind in this thing, so I sat right down and got to it.

As you can see from the photo, the first month included a pattern page, the die-cut pieces, and a little package of doo-dads.

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At first glance, I thought the doo-dads were embellishments for the quilt that I'd have to put away and keep track of. Then I realized...wait, they're snackies!

And very tasty, too, especially since I was doing all of this in the hour before dinner. Ahem. They're like little slices of fruity candy-canes. Yum.


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Anyway, back to the sewing. This mystery quilt BOM is all pre-cut. All you have to do is follow the directions to put the blocks together. It's about as fool-proof as you can get, although I did still manage to have to do a little reverse sewing a couple of times. I'm rusty. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

They provide this very handy swatch sheet to use. Since there were something like 12 possible colorways, this allows us to all follow the instructions easily. They only send this swatch sheet once, though, so they warn you to make sure to keep track of it. 

I chose the Portofino colorway, which makes me #teamportofino. Woo--I'm on a team! I love these colors even more in person than when I chose them on the website. This is going to be so bright and cheery.

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And here are my finished blocks for month 1. 

All in, it probably took me about an hour, including the reverse sewing. I had to unstitch one set of half-square triangles because the stacks of fabric pieces were obviously packaged "as-is" from when they were die-cut. In other words, each stack had one piece right-side up followed by the next piece wrong-side up, then right-side up, wrong-side up, etc. I noticed it on the print fabrics right away as they're really obvious which side is which. I had already sewn one of the background pieces in wrong-side up, though, before catching myself. It's a tone-on-tone and not as obvious...until you do it wrong. The other unstitching was just because I didn't like the way one of my long strips had gone on. I knew I could do better.

Boy, it felt good to get one "assignment" for the month done. And this one wasn't even on my list! Now it's back to the 9PP.

Making It Monday

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Thanks to a couple of sick days and a major power outage in the same week, Block 5 is now done.

This one went really smoothly. The only issue was that one of the third little kitty's french-knot eyeballs started hanging on by a thread as I stitched the rest of the block. Although that has an appropriately-Halloween-y feel to it, it was a bit more gruesome than this project requires.

So I had to stab him right through the middle of his eye with a sharp needle to tack it back down again.

Gruesome.

Pretty Mail (AKA: Like I Really Have Time for This)

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Yesterday I got the first couple of installments of the embroidery Block of the Month (BOM) that I signed up for at The Quilt Block, Inc., when I was in Exton, PA, in April. Woot!

I ended up getting month 1 and 2 at the same time due to some delays around getting my payment info to them, etc., which is part of the fun-tricky part of doing a LQS BOM from a distance. Still, we worked it out, and it's all good. It was a kick getting a box filled with goodies!

 

The BOM is "Postcard Cuties for Halloween," from Bunny Hill Designs. My package included all sorts of great stuff to get me rolling!

Even candy corn for a mid-project sugar fix!

 

 

There's a jelly roll of fabrics to work with--Moda's Spooky Delights by Bunny Hill Designs.

As you can see if you use the link for the whole project above, ultimately this finishes to a 38" x 36" finished wallhanging. To date, I've never made a Halloween quilted decor item of any kind, although I do have a few patterns I've collected over the years. As I told my daughter yesterday when she was admiring my pretty mail with me, this isn't my usual style. But even if I don't love it when it's done, it would only be hanging up for, at most, a couple of weeks a year. (More likely, the way I usually forget to decorate until the last moment, a couple of days a year.) 

I do the cutting for each block as I work on them, and it looks like I can choose which fabric I want to use each time, so that'll be fun too. The only thing I'm a little worried about is whether I'd end up with two fabrics sitting next to each other in the finished wallhanging (which would bug me no end) so I may end up, for simplicity's sake, just following her picture. That's not normally like me, either, but much of the time I'll be working on this I'll be deeply enmeshed in work travel and schoolwork again and won't want to unduly stress myself out for what's supposed to be a fun project.

I know my limits.

 

 

The package also included some Tulip embroidery needles. This is a Japanese brand made in Hiroshima. According to the packaging, they're made in such a way as to make them slide more easily through the fabric. I bought some Tulip needles when I was at the shop but I made the mistake of opening the package and dumping them into my usual magnetic needle case with all the rest, so I have no idea now which is which to compare. I'll keep these needles separate with this project to make it easier for me to get a feel for them.

 

And then there's the embroidery thread--everything I'll need for the project. This is Cosmo embroidery floss, another product from Japan. I noticed that it's also sold on the Bunny Hill Designs website so she must be a fan of this floss; hence, it's use in her project. 

I'm not familiar with Cosmo, but since it's from Japan, and since Bunny Hill Designs is Australian, I'm thinking maybe Cosmo is more common in Australia...? Any of my Australian/New Zealander buddies want to comment on that? I'm looking forward to using it to compare it with DMC and the other threads I'm used to working with. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Error here--sorry. I had Bunny Hill Designs and Lynette Anderson Designs mixed up in my head. Bunny Hill is not in Australia, Lynnette Anderson is. So Australian/New Zealanders would have no more reason to be familiar with Cosmo thread than I do!

 

And just to be extra nice, they included a water soluble marking pen. I already use this type and really like it, so I'm glad to have another!

 

Month 1 will be fun--I get to start out embroidering bats. Woot! I need to make five bat blocks altogether, but it's a really simple design so I don't think it'll take too long. I will have to practice my satin stitch a little more--I've not gotten that one really smooth yet and it's used for the bats' eyes. The bats are scattered throughout the finished wallhanging on that orange dot fabric included with the package. The official first block includes a cat and spider (on the off-white background). It's got a little more going on, especially in the satin stitch department. If I'm not good at that satin stitch now, I will be by the time this puppy is finished!

 

Month 2 is another cat block with some lettering. That one is simple enough that again, it should go pretty quickly. (I know, I know: "Famous last words.")

Month 3 comes in July, but I do have a few other projects I really ought to get done before starting on this so I may end up with Month 3 arriving before I've managed to get both 1 and 2 done. I'm determined not to fall too far behind, though!

I'm thinking I may have found the ultimate use for the Annie Unrein toiletries bag--I feel like it would be the perfect project bag for this BOM. It would easily hold all the supplies, so it's just a matter of what size hoop I'll need for the blocks. I'll keep you posted...