Quilted, Bound, Labeled, and Ready for Hanging

A Gardener's Journal is completely finished and ready for the Stitches in Bloom quilt show in January.

This morning I printed and attached the quilt label. It's fused to the quilt back, but I used three strands of embroidery floss to stitch it down with a running stitch. Since it's going into a show, I wanted to be sure that label was firmly attached.

I recognize that won't prevent thievery if someone gets a mind to steal one of my quilts. On the other hand, a burglar alarm won't prevent burglary. It does make it a little harder, however.

When I wrote about how long I'd been working on this quilt, I misread my notes. This was actually started on December 6, 2012, and so I've been working on it for over two years. It's not my oldest WIP, but it's certainly close. Embroidered quilts always take a long time, but the finished quilt is so worth the effort.

While I was taking little breaks from stitching yesterday, I did indeed make the Gingerbread Biscotti I was planning. It turned out so pretty.

I linked to the recipe yesterday, but as I was making it, I realized I hadn't shared with you how to cut the half-baked biscotti without breaking it. This method works like a charm, and it works for any biscotti recipe you choose. Here's how you do it:

First, chop any nuts or other added solid particles (crystalized ginger, in this case) fairly finely.  The large hunks are difficult to cut through and cause the cookies to break. Second, when taking the logs out of the oven to cool before slicing them, cover them with a dishtowel so that they cool more slowly.  The sudden change in temperature makes them brittle and the dishtowel will help with this.
Third, cut them with a large butcher knife rather than a serrated blade, and do not saw.  Rather, lean into it with your body weight and cut straight through.

The baking gingerbread filled the house with the most heavenly aroma, and that really had us in the Christmas spirit. We decided to literally turn to spirits by making some hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. Yum.

And, as you might guess, I've been having too much fun over the past several days, and so it's time to buckle down and do some housework today. The Laundry Beast needs taming once again, and I have a couple of other chores on my list. If I can get that done, then I'm going to start on my Let's Book It project for December, this Quilter's Helper:

from this book:

Betcha can't guess the inspiration for this project.

And if I'm gonna have any more time for sewing today, I'd better get at those other items on today's to-do list. 


Slow Stitching and Sew Forth

The binding is on the Gardener's Journal quilt, and I've wasted no time starting to stitch it down.

It's always so gratifying to start stitching a binding, and then to flip it back to see how it's going to look when it's all finished.

I like to start near a corner so that I can turn the first corner right away and then announce, "Wow! I'm really making progress!" In all honesty, I've actually stitched one whole side, and two corners. I can only say I'm 25% finished with the binding, but I'm 50% finished with the corners! At this rate, I'll be finished in mere hours!

Oh, but then I'll have to stitch down the sleeve. Since this one is destined for at least two shows, I was smart and sewed the hanging sleeve on when I stitched on the binding. I can see at least two drawbacks with this method: First, if I want to remove the sleeve, it will be no small task, and will require first removing the binding. Second, it's important to take my stitches rather deep to be sure I'm anchoring the binding into the quilt back, and not just the quilt sleeve. I'm afraid a the act of hanging the quilt would put too much stress on the hand-stitched binding otherwise, and it might pull out. Nevertheless, it's going to save me some time to do it this way...not to mention a row of stitching across the top of the sleeve.

I'll still have to stitch across the bottom, however.

Also this morning, I created a label for the quilt. I still need to print it off, but this is what I came up with:

So it's going to be slow stitching all the time this weekend. I'm also working feverishly to finish up my latest embroidery piece. I need it by next Saturday. The embroidery is only half the job because I'll need to back it and finish it off once the stitchery is completed. Still, I'm off to a very good start, and I should have plenty of time to get it ready to go.

For now, I'm putting my Quilting Snowladies aside. I imagine that has their carrot noses a little bit out of joint. I'll get back to them soon enough.

Tomorrow I'll be linking this post to:

It's a dark and stormy day out. We, here in Oregon, are the glad recipients of a Pineapple Express weather system this weekend. It's going to be raining hard and blowing all weekend. I just took this picture out my office window. It's noon, and dark, dark, dark from thick cloud cover.

It's a good day to stay inside. I'm going to take a little break from my sewing now and bake some Gingerbread Biscotti. We are both coffee lovers, and biscotti is such a nice treat with a cup of espresso in the afternoon. I gave Mike the choice between biscotti and Cranberry Bliss Bars. Of course, it's easy for him to choose because he knows the Cranberry Bliss Bars will just get baked another day. Here's the picture of the biscotti I baked last year:

They have crystallized ginger baked into them which gives them the nicest gooey chewiness. They are supposed to have their ends dipped in the white chocolate, but I opted for drizzling instead. I've never had much luck dipping them.  The chocolate seems too wet and clingy, and it takes too long to harden afterward.  If you like biscotti, I can recommend this recipe with the changes I made; i.e., use slivered almonds, roughly chopped, and drizzle rather than dip the chocolate. Aside from those changes, I made the recipe just as you see it here:  Gingerbread Biscotti.

So with all of that going on, I'd better get going. Biscotti waits for no woman.

Furrnal Exam

Hey, Smitty! Come downstairs! Mom laid her quilt on the floor and it's time fur us to examine it.

So, I've given it a cursory walk-through. Looks like everything is in order.

I've already done the snugglability test.

I'm a stickler for snugglability, you know. This one is roly AND poly! 

You don't often find both together, so I'm giving it an A+ on snugglability.

Check it out for yourself, Smitty. See what you think.

Geez, Smitty. Have you been hunting gophers in the compost pile again?

Man, you need to do some work on your furs there, my friend. You've got some serious stinkum going there, Bud.

So, Gracie, there's something bothering me about this quilt.

Did you see this cat?

Mom quilted stripes onto it, but that's just wrong. Whoever heard of a stripedy cat? Just think about those other cats we know. Take Uno, for example.

He has patches like you, Gracie, although I'm saying that's one seriously butt-ugly cat.

And think about that big cat, Bob.

You know the one who caught and ate the red dot and then grew gargantuan? Yeah, that one. He has spots like me. So what's up with Mom quilting stripes on that garden cat? That's just wrong. Weird, man. Whoever heard of that?

I see what you mean, Smitty. Obviously, an impropurr use of stripes. She said she wants to enter this one in the next Oregon State Fur. We should probably let her know furst.

Do you think Mom's been hitting the holiday eggnog too hard?


Epic Quilting Coming to a Close

It would be accurate and appropriate to say I'm closing out an epoch since I've been working on this quilt since February of 2013.

Let's think of it as the Gardener's Journal Quiltstocene Epoch. That works.

This morning I got right to work quilting the border of the Gardener's Journal quilt. After so much quilting in tiny little patches with designs that required some precision and slow stitching, it was liberating to be quilting a big flowing loopy design in the wide open spaces of my quilt border. It felt as if I were going at warp speed. I used this same design that I'd used in a small area in another part of the quilt.

My border fabric is busy, and my thread a neutral color. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to get too carried away doing something very intricate since it really isn't going to show. Here's how the finished quilt looks. The picture is a little off kilter...sorry.

Here's how it looks from the back:

When I started on the quilting, I unwrapped a spool of thread identical to the one on the right. Now it's slimmed down to the one you see on the left.

If only I could slim my own body down so easily. On the other hand, that would mean giving up baking, so never mind.

I wanted to show you a little trick I learned while watching some videos by Paula Storm. Her videos are excellent, and she quilts on a machine identical to mine...only the brand names have been changed to protect the innocent. Anyway, in one of her videos she talks some about tension, and as you know, I've had some tension headaches myself. She suggested flipping the excess backing fabric over the edge of the excess batting when you start and check the tension there. It was a "now-why-didn't-I-think-of-that" moment. 

So obviously the quilt isn't finished yet since I still need to sew on the binding and then hand-stitch it. Also, I'm going to add a hanging sleeve to this quilt since I'm planning to enter it in the 2015 Oregon State Fair. If I get busy, I can make the deadline for the Stitches in Bloom show in January. That's what I'll be doing for the rest of the afternoon and probably on into the weekend.

Still, for finishing up the quilting, what do you say?

And as long as I was taking pictures, I wanted to show you the little sewing space I've built for Eliza. If you've been following along, then you know I put her in my office upstairs next to a window. You can see our famous Oregon liquid sunshine through the glass there.

Eliza has a nice size Koala table to work on. That's her bobbin winder off to the left there, and her stitch regulator off to the right. (I haven't used the stitch regulator except when I'm practicing. I'm finding I don't really need it, and I might just disconnect it and put it away.) Also, I have my Ott light set up there, which gives me a nice bright space to work.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been purging books from the bookshelves behind my chair, and I've moved all my free motion quilting books upstairs. Obviously, I need more books. Look at that gaping hole! How can that be allowed to stand?

My Koala table has a little bit of storage directly below the work surface in the form of some narrow cubbies, but no good place for scissors, etc. We were happy to find this craft chest at our local megamart. It was inexpensive, and it serves my needs nicely.

We put a magnetic strip on the top drawer.

That's for sticking needles that still have some mileage left in them when I switch to a different size. I have one downstairs as well, more heavily populated since I use more different kinds of needles. Here's how the one from downstairs looks.

I got this idea from an article in Creative Machine Embroidery a while back. It's worked out well downstairs. I got my strip from The Container Store. At one end, I keep a needle nanny with the needle I use to bury the ends of my threads. It's a good secure way to keep a loose needle handy and safe for bare feet.

Above the window Mike hung a clock he got for me. I think he was tired of me yelling, "What time is it?" Problem solved. His mother didn't raise any dummies.

Also, last weekend, we hung a thread rack. I've moved the small amount of actual quilting thread that I own upstairs. In the way my book shelf needs more books, it obviously needs more thread. Look at all those empty pegs with no protection. They could get broken off, or worse. Obviously, I have my work cut out for me.

Speaking of having my work cut out for me, my walls are still needing some quilty-related art, which brings me to the next quilt on my quilting machine, the Never Underestimate quilt.

But that will have to wait a bit. I think I'll take a little break from quilting for a while and let Eliza catch her breath.


On the Border

All the interior quilting for the Gardener's Journal is finished now. The only thing remaining is the outer border. I'm planning to leave the stop border open. This quilt is so densely quilted already, I figure I deserve a break on that little one-inch strip. Here's what I did today:

I quilted around the edges of the butterfly, and then filled in the square next to him with one of Angela Walters' designs.

Then I took my cue from the circles on the ladybug and pebbled around her.

The snail's shell made me decide to just follow that spiral around.

Here I did a sort of feathery fern. As you know, I'm not a fan of traditional feathers, but these ferny ones seem okay to me.

This next one is hard to see, and so I've turned down the brightness and bumped up the contrast some. It's a sunflower with pebbling in the center.

And just by happy accident, this flower ended up in the middle of the square beside it, so I just followed the lines on the fabric for that.

Here I did some back and forth chevrons, and just for grins, I switched direction halfway through.

This heart motif was easier to do than I thought it would be. Wish I'd thought of it earlier in the process.

The lady with the potted plants didn't get much quilting...a little cross-hatching in her hat and some cracks in her pots.

The last section was the garden shed where I quilted some siding into the walls and door just to give it some texture.

Also this morning, I finished up the bottom section of the blackwork project I started a few days ago. The pattern has the entire piece done in black floss, but I kind of like those little red accents.

I need to have this finished by the 27th. At the rate I'm going, I should have it finished in plenty of time.

So with only the border left to do on my quilt, I should have it finished by tomorrow at the latest. I wonder where my little cat will nap once it's off the quilting machine.

The next quilt up is too small for catnaps, but he'll probably find a way.