Monday, December 10, 2018

The Latest Update on the Good Fortune Mystery and my Quiltville Projects

The next installment of Bonnie Hunter's latest mystery dropped Friday!  Part 3 of "Good Fortune" has the mystery quilters making these units -- Bonnie is calling them "half chevron units".

 We made a similar unit last year for "On Ringo Lake" called "Diamond in a Rectangle".

  You can see how far everyone got by checking out Bonnie's link-up today.

Edited To Add:  Ooh, quilters are starting to play with the Good Fortune units!  Check out some of the block ideas Chris Simon has laid out on her design wall over on Instagram!  Very cool ideas!  Let's see if any of these match up to Bonnie's final design in January.

I'm not doing this year's mystery but my Quiltville fun still continues.  First off I've finished my "Scrappy Trips" top.

Right now it's slated to finish at 60 x 72 for a lap quilt.  However, I'm debating about whether to add borders (plain or pieced) or just layer quilt and bind which is the way I've seen most of them finished.  Deanne Eisenman of Snuggles Quilts recently did a great post  about fun pieced borders that has me considering that option.  Judy Laquidara had a great book on that a few years back as well.

Can't debate long on that one though because I'd like to make this another finish for this year.

So what's my next Quiltville mystery piecing adventure?  I had put together a stash of Civil War Repros to make one of Bonnie's early mysteries called "Double Delight".

So my new leader/ender project will be the parts for that.  I managed to get all the cutting done for Part 1 of that mystery and will be making the Square-In-A-Square units for it.

I'd love to keep up with "Good Fortune" and have this old mystery finished when the new one is revealed.  However, at this point I'm way behind what the current mystery is up to.  To help move things forward a bit, while doing the cutting for this part, I also started cutting for some of the future parts if they use the same fabric.

We'll see if I can catch up to them at some point!  Hopefully, I can get a good start on this project this week.  Enjoy yours!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Fanny Featherweight has worked so hard, she deserves something for herself!

Up until recently, I had been using Fanny Featherweight as my primary machine since right before Christmas last year.  Since that time, she successfully pieced the tops for both Bonnie Hunter's "Ringo Lake" and "En Provence" mysteries.

When the mysteries were done and after giving her a little over due TLC, it was now time that I finally got around to doing a little something special just for her.  When I originally got the machine fourteen years ago it didn't come with a case.  Since I had hopes for this to one day be my travel sewing machine, I wanted to get or make a carry bag for her.  Actual Featherweight cases can be bought but new ones can be expensive and you have to worry about old ones being musty. 

There are also generic carry bags around.  Rebecca over at the Cheeky Cognoscenti blog wrote about the case she got and showed you how to give it a wonderful personalized spin with a custom embroidered monogram.  I also want to point out that she wrote an absolutely fabulous post about her *two* Featherweights and some history of the machines and how to use them --- check that out here

When I put my machine back in working condition in 2016,  I began to look around for a bag in earnest.  Fortunately in this internet age, whatever you can think of is usually already out there!  I found Jeni Baker's post about how she created her Sew Portable Travel Set for her Featherweight.  I love that it not only provides a bag for the machine but one for the foot controller and a cover for the extension bed.  The pattern is available on her website or from the Singer Featherweight Shop.  You can see her tutorial for constructing it here and see it made up in fabrics from the Singer Featherweight line from Robert Kaufman here.

I was lucky enough to get the pattern and some fabrics in a clearance kit from Connecting Threads.  When I pulled out the kit, I decided it needed something so I too decided to add a little of the Singer Featherweight fabrics to it!  At the time, it was perfect timing because they were on sale right at that moment  at The Singer Featherweight Shop.   Eventually, I also purchased some webbing for the handles (there are two sizes in the picture because while shopping I wasn't sure which I preferred) and then finally got started on it at the end of the Summer.

I had to make changes to some of the supplies --- the pattern called for using canvas and interfacing inside the bag to provide stability.  Of course, wanting to get right to work on it, I didn't have either.  But I did have some Pellon Peltex (701 single-sided fusible) that I thought would make a great substitute.  I tested it out....

Top:  Exterior fabric, Batting and Peltex, Bottom: Fabric and Peltex only
... and found I like the combination of the batting and Peltex on the exterior and batting quilted to the interior so that there was both padding on the outside and next to the machine plus a bit of stiffness to the bag exterior.  During the testing I got to try out doing free motion quilting on my Featherweight although I actually ended up quilting the bag parts in straight lines with a walking foot which also went fine.  I had purchased a few special quilting feet for her awhile back so this was my chance to finally try them out.  The Peltex is so stiff  that when I cut out the pieces that would make up the bag exterior, I cut them an inch smaller to leave the required half inch seam allowance (per the pattern) exposed all around.

However, after that I got stuck!  The first problem was that I didn't read the directions through and carefully enough.  When I read further down in the directions, it turned out that the body pieces were actually cut oversize and supposed to be trimmed down after quilting!  Yikes!!  So now I was concerned about having the stiff Peltex in the seam allowances if I did cut it down or if I didn't cut it down, that the bag wouldn't be a snug as it looked in the pattern.  I rolled around ideas in my head for about a week on how to make that work.

When I thought I had one,  I tried moving forward to the next step which is to join the ends of the webbing cut for the straps to connect them.  Uh oh!  The pattern called for something normally very simple:  zigzagging the ends together with the join and the whole strap to be covered later with a strip of a coordinating print.  Yeah, simple unless you are working on a straight-stitch only machine and both of your other zigzag machines need repair!  Unfortunately this just shut me down completely as this project was really the thing I wanted to get done.  I did try moving on to making a runner for Halloween but ran into some issues with that too and then just seemed to walk away from the studio for too long a while.

But with the year winding down and realizing that so many things I had wanted to get done for the year were sitting idle, I really had to push myself back into the game.  Added to that there was talk of a potential trip go to visit a friend and I wanted to be able to bring this machine so once again this bag became a priority project.  But how to move forward?  Well, I could go fix my electronic machines but I admit, I have been reluctant to do that.  Looking at Fanny, I began to think about the possibility of buying another vintage machine one that could stitch zig zag but was old enough where I could maintain it myself like I have been able to do with her.  After doing some research I found what I was looking for in my new Singer 401A.

She hasn't been named yet (I'm still rolling around a couple of options), but she has already been tested and put to work.  I was able to use her to join those strap ends...

....and  to cover the strap with the decorative trim fabric and attach it to the  exterior.  In the end, I did cut down the exterior pieces as per the pattern, cutting away as much of the Peltex from the seam allowance as I could.  However, suddenly the 401 seemed to not like stitching on or even next to the Peltex!  Everything I had read about the 401 said it was a workhorse and was good at sewing through heavy materials.  I was getting really frustrated (frequent thread breakage and uneven tension) and thought I was going to have to throw in the towel on this project.  But as a last shot,  I pulled Fanny back down and she came to the rescue!  She had no problem stitching through or around the layers and I was able to finally get the bag body done!  Whew!!

Concerned that the 401 had now developed operating problems, when I went to construct the remaining accessories, I went back to her to see if she'd stitch.  Would you believe it  -- this time, no problems at all!  So I used her to quilt (once again trying both free motion for the interior and walking foot for the exterior) and sew up the extension bed cover and the drawstring bag that will carry the foot pedal and cord.  So here they finally are in all their glory!

The 401A is only four years younger than my Featherweight so how cool is that little Sis got to help finish making a comfy travel home for her older Sister!  This also notches my first finish for the year.  Hopefully it won't be the only one!

Friday, November 30, 2018

It's Friday so it's a Bonnie Day!

"Bonnie" meaning good and Bonnie meaning it's time for Part 2 of Bonnie Hunter's newest Quiltville mystery "Good Fortune".

The instructions for this week's units --- blue and neutral half square triangle squares --- are here.  Bonnie says the colors for this week's units were influenced by the beautiful painted ceiling beams in the courtyard of the Temple of Heaven in Bejing (be sure to check out her post for the pictures of them!).  It's interesting to note that most of Bonnie's mysteries start with simple basic units like the nine patches from last week and the HSTs today.  If you are working on the mystery, don't forget to link-up on Bonnie's blog on Monday and show everyone how far you've gotten -- no pressure!

I don't have the "Good Fortune" to be working on the mystery but rest assured I've downloaded the instructions.  However, like many of you my sentiments for today are that....

Quiltville Mystery mugs available from 

For the first time in weeks, I've got a day with no errands, appointments or commitments so it'll be a Quilt-A-Thon day for sure!  My Bonnie Project for today is to continue working on "Scrappy Trips" blocks.  Last week I was here with them:

This week started with a plan to make a block a day for the next two weeks.  I got the blocks done for the first three days this week so am now here:

After adding the new blocks to the layout, I counted to see where making blocks over the weekend and next week would leave me.  While it would be enough blocks for the size quilt I want (generous lap size), I realized I'd need another week after that to complete the top and then more time beyond that if I want to get it layered and possibly quilted.  So change of  plans:  I've now decided that since I want to stay within the two week time frame to get this to a top (because I've got other things to get to as well), I'm going to bump it up to making two blocks a day from here on in.  This way I can have the blocks and the top completed within the two weeks.  As for the layering and quilting?  Well, I'll see how busy it gets as we go into the final leg of the holiday season and make a decision on that in the coming weeks.

Yesterday after a day in our community garden (they came to take out our Port-A-Potty until the Spring), I got two more set up for the finishing stitching:

I'll finish those and then make the two for today.  After that, I can move on to one of those "other things":

This was the project I was working on back in the summer when I realized I needed to move beyond the capabilities of my Featherweight machine if I was going to complete it.  Now that I have the 401, I've already done some work on that project and would like to bring it to completion.  With a whole day to devote to quilting I should be able to get that done.  Wish me luck!

Monday, November 26, 2018

It Has Begun...And So Have I!

Today is the first link-up for Bonnie Hunter's new mystery "Good Fortune"!

When I last looked there was almost 120 people with scads of four patches (the first units) already pieced -- yikes!  I was most interested in those that were working in alternate color schemes and clicked over to see why they chose the colors they did.  The most common reasons: a quilt intended for someone specific (so needing a particular color scheme) or "it's what I had the most of in stash".  As always, at the reveal we'll see just how interesting those color schemes work out to be.

No, you won't see me there, as I noted on the last post, I'm sitting this one out because one of the things I want to focus on finishing are the last two mysteries ("En Provence" and "On Ringo Lake").  Both are tops but need their backings (and labels!!) prepared.  At this point in my planning, those are projects for next year.

Oh and yesterday, Bonnie shared a virtual trunk show of all the quilts from her new book "String Frenzy".  Ohhh, I already see a few I'd like to make!   Given the list of Bonnie projects I'm already planning to work on (for that too you can see my last post), I expected to wait awhile before getting the book.  Yeah, well now that the fires of interests have been stoked (or is that a "Squirrel Moment" has been been ignited?!?), we'll see how long I can hold out before I feel compelled to buy it!

For today though, it was time to get back on the horse.  So first up, after the Thanksgiving holiday is over....

 ...the quilt studio (a.k.a. the dining room) goes back to its previous condition.

Well almost it's previous condition --- there's a lot of stuff that was under that cutting table that had to go  upstairs until company left!  I'm going to keep it all up there for a while and only bring down what I want to focus on each week until the end of the year.  One of those right now is my "Scrappy Trips" blocks.  My goal with this now is to make blocks daily for at least the next two weeks and then try to get them to a top.  What I had so far went back up on the design wall:

This is as far as I got on the block for today:

Well, hopefully I can make up for that tomorrow by sewing this together and then getting another block completely done.  I really need to try to stay on track with this one because I've got quite a few other projects I'd like to also tackle before the year ends!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

It's Time For the Annual Quiltville Mystery!

Now that Thanksgiving is over (and I hope you enjoyed yours!) that only means one thing:  No, not Black Friday --- well it DID mean that but it also means.....'s time for the latest Bonnie Hunter Quiltville mystery which this year is called "Good Fortune".  Inspired by her her trip to China last year, you can see the color palette she is using in the Introductory post here and the first set of piecing instructions which came out yesterday and are here.  If you've always wanted to try picking alternate colors for her mysteries and wondered (as I have) how to try that, Bonnie did a great Facebook live chat with Holly Anne of String and Story which you can pick up the link for from Bonnie's post here.

Having completed the tops for the last two mysteries (and still needing to make backings for them), I'm sitting this one out although I look forward to downloading the latest one as the clues are released each week.
The mugs are available from

But this doesn't mean I won't be having any Bonnie-style fun while the new mystery is running.  First off, my primary leader/ender project at the moment is "Scrappy Trips".   I'm hoping to keep making blocks through the end of the year and get a top finished before 2019 rings in.

On the mystery front, I've really admired Maggie Fellow's (of the Making A Lather blog) quest to complete all of the Quiltville mysteries by the time this latest one was released.  Of the fifteen mysteries to date, she has completed eleven and has an alternate color version of two of the mysteries also in progress. While I'm not interested in making all of Bonnie's mysteries, I was inspired by Maggie's challenge to consider making a few of the ones that I've always liked.  As of right now, I have stash either fully funded or started for three of them:

Old Tobacco Road:  I've got a stash of dark bricks which started off with "On Ringo Lake" leftovers and then I added additional scrap and stash injections.  Scrap dark and neutral strips, squares and triangles have also been set aside for when I'm ready to work on this one.  The only reason I haven't already started it is because I'm holding this very easy piecing project as a travel project in the event I finally get to travel to see my friend in GA.  I even found a great deal on some grey gridded flannel that I can tack up and use as a design wall while away.  My friend and I just recently talked again about making meet up arrangements but with the holidays now upon us that may go on hold for awhile once again.

Double Delight:   I've fully funded a stash for making this mystery from 2008.  I think I didn't like this one when it was originally released.  However, seeing it recently and realizing that its base is of double pinks and indigo fabrics so of course it now tantalized me as a potential quilt to be made up in Civil War reproduction fabrics.  That's all it took to get me started!  Once I'm finished with Scrappy Trips, this goes into the queue as the next leader/ender.

Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll:  Also doing a Quiltville challenge this year was Jo Kramer over at Jo's Country Junction blog.  She had set out to make all of the quilts from Bonnie's String Fling book before her latest book "String Frenzy" was released.  That book is now out (and can be purchased from Bonnie here or C&T Publishers here) and Jo is down to the last quilt which only needs borders and to be quilted.

12/10/18 Update:  Jo finished that last quilt and posted her "parade of quilts" from the book here

I would also like to make one of Bonnie's string quilt designs and for a long time debated about which one to do.  Falling in love with "Double Delight" reminded me that I've also always loved "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll".

The good news there was that I was able to dig up a bunch of neutral strings and grab phone book paper for piecing foundations for this one as a starting point.  That project can also use leftover pinks from "Double Delight" and greens from "Tobacco Road" and "Emeralds" (a Fons & Porter project that's also been stashed from the stash).  If this ever gets up to the front of the leader/ender queue, I should be well on my way to having what I need for it.

So I hope you have fun plans for this year's mystery season.  Whether it'll be sewing along with Bonnie on the new mystery or working on some of her other mysteries or another project (there's still time to get some holiday sewing done), any day spent with your machine will be a good one!

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Warm Welcome To A New Member of My Quilt Studio Family!

The thing that stopped me most recently was the loss of my Featherweight machine for two weeks.  No it wasn't broken -- it was a featured star!

For a while now I've been sewing on Fanny my Centennial Featherweight.  A friend in my complex got a grant to host a series of Oral History nights for the Tenants Association of her building.  She recruited seniors in her building born between the years 1920 and 1950 to come down and share stories of their lives or how they came to live in our community (which, by the way, is Co-op City, which has been said to be the largest affordable housing complex in the world).   She had the idea to decorate various areas in her Association room with "nostalgia stations".

When she started telling me about a sewing themed one she wanted to do, I asked her:  "do you have a machine?".  She didn't so I volunteered mine.  When we brought together our stuff, I realized she actually didn't have much in the way of iconic sewing items so a lot of what you see on the table is from my stash of family sewing items.  As I've related before, the Featherweight came to me through my mother whose boyfriend had been a tailor.  The forged cast iron on the table is real and belonged to my great grandmother, the pinking shears, tracing wheel, sock darner and tape measure were from my grandmother's sewing stash along with the Poinsettia hankie displayed.  I have a bunch of my grandmother's hankies and we were able to use them to accent each of the other displays in the room as well.  It was fun to work with her on these first two events and I was pleased to get to share some of my own family history in the process.

Another part of my loss of momentum was getting stuck on another project (and hopefully more on that in another post).  Getting stuck led me to re-evaluating my equipment needs.  I've long needed to fix my two electronic machines but admit I've been reluctant to do so.  Both were serviced in the last year and yet the problems I'm having with them have reoccurred making me wonder if it's time for an upgrade.  I'd really like to trade in both of them for one new upgraded machine but admit that the cost of that, even with the trade-in, is at the moment prohibitive.  This led me to think about what I really needed at this moment.  Fanny the Featherweight has been a champ and I love that I can maintain it myself for the most part.  The two limits have been the 5" throat space and that it doesn't do zig zag.  Actually the throat space is not a huge issue considering that it's still possible to quilt on it for small projects like mug rugs and runners.  For the first eight years of this quilty life I quilted even queen size quilts on my Euro-Pro which is a standard 7" throat space machine.  Also, some years ago I bought Marti Michell's "Machine Quilting in Sections" book.

She also has a class and DVDs on Craftsy/Blueprint on the same topic.  I've never tried this technique formally but had already planned to try it with a Christmas top I want to get quilted before the year ends.  So it occurred to me that for the cost of servicing these two machines, maybe I could consider investing in another vintage machine if I could find one that had zigzag capabilities.  I did some research focusing on the all metal Singer models.  I narrowed it down to the machines in the 400 - 500 series (this and this are two of the many posts and YouTube videos on the various machines in this series).  After scouring listings on eBay, Crigslist and Etsy, I just recently came across this beauty.

So now there's a new equipment addition to the quilt studio!  It's a Singer 401A from 1956 purchased from Etsy vendor Ed Hurston of Stitches 'N Bobbins in nearby Connecticut.  She came Saturday and I've already had a chance to test out her zigzag and decorative stitch capabilities which allowed me to give my stalled project a boost.  I'll do a full post on her once I've had a chance to put her through her paces.  But I'm really looking forward to establishing this new relationship!

P.S.: I think I'm starting a new quilt addiction:  vintage machines.  I swear if I had the display space, I'd get this one just for show!

Do you own or covet vintage machines?  Do you like them better than modern electronic machines?  Inquiring quilt minds want to know!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

More Decorating For the Season

I'm embarrassed to say that the dining room decorations haven't budged since last Christmas!  This is what's been on the sideboard (really my husband's childhood dresser) all year:

Since we'll be hosting Thanksgiving this year, it's definitely time to change that out -- even if I'll be putting put it back next month!  I'll swap it out for the only other runner I've made for this space so far:  the one I call Autumn Leaf Dance:

This is Gerdrun Erla's Abundance pattern (also available from her as a PDF).  Mine was made from a batik kit from Connecting Threads.  Along with that change I needed to make a non-quilty one.  I have this narrow bookcase that was my mother's (and made for her by her sister-in-law's husband) that holds my collection of some of her crystal and Lladro statuetttes:

I fill the vase with bouquet's of fake flowers cued to the season.  So it was time to change out the bouquet from the holiday one..... the autumn one.  Presto chango!  I also have a Spring/Summer combo bouquet which obviously didn't get put in place at all this year.  The flowers for these bouquets are gathered from the Dollar Store and I store them bundled together so I can just pop them in the vase when the time comes.

I've always liked the idea of making more runners.  The Christmas runner came from this book:

I do have a few more books with ideas galore.  Back in the Spring, Jinny Beyer had a sale on Quilter's Dream batting (both Select and Request lofts) in the 18" width just made for making runners.  She has it on sale again here, now until Tuesday.  I bought a few yards since I hate to cut up a good twin batt to supply a piece for a runner.  The top of our "sideboard" is 17 inches wide x 50 inches long so a craft batt would have to be pieced together to make an appropriate sized filling.

Are you making any new runners for the Fall/Holiday season?  If you have any favorite designs, please share!