Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Home Invasions

My friend Eileen has been invaded by stink bugs--hop on over to her blog to read about it!

My friend Lisa--no blog--has been invaded by raccoons. She came home from a weekend out of town a little over a week ago to find they had made three holes in her roof and had been pulling out the insulation to use as bedding material. Lisa and her hubby will be getting the roof repair people out as well as a raccoon trapper very soon. This past weekend, though, while her hubby was out of town, Lisa and her daughter heard some noise out in the backyard and went out with flashlights to investigate. Raccoons were popping up all over, and Lisa's sure she has an entire raccoon village setting up behind her shed and under her decking. And raccoons--in case you're thinking about the cute cartoon variety--are aggressive and mean! Can you imagine having your roof torn off?!

And us? We have these things.

Termites. Ick! No, this isn't a photo I took of mine--I got it off the internet, but this is the kind we have. Swarmer termites. They make little funnel things that look like these (again, not my photo--off the internet):

The weekend before last, I was cleaning house and found some dirt on the windowsil in the Wild Child's former room. I looked around and didn't see anything, so I thought maybe Hubby had knocked some dirt down from around the window frame when he was attaching something to the side of the house recently. I know it seems unlikely, but that was the only thing that came to mind. Of course, I cleaned it off and thought nothing more about it. Last weekend I was cleaning house and found more dirt on the windowsil. What the heck?! This time when I looked around, I saw one of those funnel things coming down from the top of the window surround. I knew what it was right away. ARGH!

This morning Hubby called the termite and pest guys and they came right out. They only found termites in that small area inside, but they saw evidence outside--and we have in the past too--that there are termites around the yard area, so we opted for the super delux termite treatment package, which means they will treat the termite-infested area as well as pump termite poison into the ground all around the house. Of course, the super delux treatment package will cost us an arm and a leg and we'll have to give them our first born child, but at least it should allow us to keep a roof over our heads until we pay off the mortgage in another seven or eight years. I'm just glad they don't seem to eat fabric!

How about you? Have you been invaded by pests this year? And no, your in-laws coming to visit doesn't count!

Monday, September 29, 2008


Thank you all for the lovely comments about the Happy Jacks tutorial and my decorating ideas. I haven't answered each of you individually, and so many of you are no-reply bloggers too, but I wanted to let you know I really do appreciate your kind words.

And to show my appreciation, I made you some cupcakes. Would you like one?

Chocolate with homemade vanilla buttercream frosting. Yum! I had a little mishap with the mixer though. I THOUGHT I was pushing the "eject" button to release the beaters but instead, the beaters started up again, splattering streaks of chocolate cake mix all over me and all over the kitchen I had just finished cleaning. I hate it when that happens! Hubby didn't seem to mind much, though--he was sitting out in the garage, tinkering around with his creations, when I came out and stripped bare naked--the laundry area/washing machine is in the garage as were some clean clothes. He thought I was going to put on a show for him, but he had to settle for a cupcake instead!

This quilt COULD BE YOURS! If you haven't done so already, and if you'd like to win this Happy Jacks quilt, please leave a comment on yesterday's post. A winner will be announced on October 1st.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Variation, A Thrift Find, and a Giveaway

I wanted to show you another little quilt I made that's a variation on the Happy Jacks quilt. For those of you who prefer plain, old pumpkins to Jack O'Lanterns, perhaps this is the idea for you!

I made this mini the same as I did the Jack O'Lantern quilts but instead of adding faces, I added some green wool leaves. This one will decorate my desk at the office, I think.

When I went to the thrift store the other day, I decided to get something that can be found in most thrift stores--a basket. Look for one that's sturdy and has some character. A basket can easily be turned into a decoration by filling it with some of your favorite seasonal collections.

Here I just tucked a small quilt inside, added a hurricane candle holder, pumpkins, Indian corn, and a few silk leaves, and then I hung a black cat decoration from the basket latch at the top.

Now, the giveaway. Leave a comment and I'll enter you in the drawing for the Happy Jacks II quilt I just finished. I'll announce a winner on October 1st! Good luck!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy Jacks--Quilting and Adding Faces

Are you ready to keep going? I had a lazy morning sleeping in and reading a bit, but I finally got into the Sweat Shop around noon and pinned the quilt.

Once you're ready to start quilting, just outline stitch around the pumpkins and just inside the sashing. Free motion quilting is fastest, but if you're not comfortable with it, a walking foot will work just fine on this part.

After that, I stitched outside the star points and around the edge of the sashing. At that point, I felt ready to start the Jacks faces.

First, I cut a piece of felted wool into the size and shape of a mouth and tried it out on one of the pumpkins.

Then I cut "teeth" into the top and bottom edges.

Eyes were also cut and placed in position. Yep, I think I like it!

Now I'm ready to sew the mouth and the eyes on.

For this, you will need to use free motion quilting. I like a foot with an open toe so I can see where I am. Now, just stitch along the edge of the wool. Nothing fancy--just a straight stitch. And because the thread color matches the wool and sinks down into it, your stitches really don't need to be perfect because they won't show up.

Since the wool tends to stick a bit to the cotton, you shouldn't need to pin it in place--just go slow and make sure the wool stays where you want it.

Once my faces were done, I added some stitching lines in the pumpkins similar to those in real life.

At this point, only the borders remained to be completed. I stitched a straight line just to the inside of the outer border and then I quilted some free-form star shapes in the border to finish it.

I have my binding cut, so while you get started on this, I'll go back to the Sweat Shop and get this one done!

Fatigued Friday

It's a little after 10 p.m., and I'm afraid I'm not going to have the next steps of the Happy Jacks quilt to show you tonight. I'm just too pooped! I hope none of you are anxiously waiting to see what's next--I prefer to believe that those of you making this quilt are trying to catch up on making all your blocks and getting them sewn into a quilt! But, just in case you're sitting there, twiddling your thumbs and toes, here are a few thoughts about using wool for the Jack faces.

Yes, wool will work best, because you can sew it on while quilting and not worry about turning the edges under or ending up with fraying edges. So if you don't already have black wool, force yourself to head down to the quilt shop and get some! You won't need much--a fat quarter will be plenty. If you buy wool from a bolt, make sure you wash and dry it first to get the excess dye out and felt it. That way, you'll be able to wash your quilt later and not worry about the wool. And, if you're not familiar with felting wool and if you just need a small amount, boil some water on the stove or in the microwave, stick your wool into it for a bit, and then toss it into the dryer on high heat. Voila! Felted wool!

If you don't buy wool from the bolt, just make sure the weave is tight. I've seen overdyed wools in the shops that I'm not sure wouldn't unravel a bit with this method.

If you don't have wool or chose not to use it, you could probably just use cotton and Steam-A-Seam or some other fusible material. And although I'm normally a BIG proponent of hand applique, I think it would just be too much work with this project.

As far as making the faces, I mentioned before that I just grabbed my scissors and wool and started cutting eyes and mouths for the Jacks. If you're not comfortable with such lack of planning, another suggestion I have is that you draw your eyes and mouths on freezer paper and iron it onto your wool. Then you can cut your pieces on your drawn lines and peel off the freezer paper.

So there. Even though I'm an awful slacker tonight, I've given you some homework to keep you occupied until I can catch up. I'll try to get the next instructions posted by Saturday afternoon sometime, west coast time.

Also this weekend, I plan to post for you another decorative display using thrift store finds--probably on Saturday night's post. Yes, I sacrificed myself to the thrift stores today on your behalf. The things I do for you because I like you so much! I'll share with you now photos of a couple little needlepoint pieces I found. They'll need to be reframed, but I think they're kind of cute! And please ignore the fact that I haven't even bothered to wipe the price off yet--I just grabbed them out of the bag and took their photos because I thought you might enjoy seeing them.

Finally, remember when I went thrifting a week or two ago and showed you all the stuff out on the bed? Since Halloween's coming, I've meant to get a closer photo of this owl piece because it didn't show up well among all the other things.

Kind of goofy, huh? It sure brings back memories of the 1960s/1970s! But I like goofy, so it came home with me and has been on display in my witch's cabinet.

Now, go get your homework done--I'll be back to check up on you before long!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Happy Jacks, More Cutting and Piecing, Part 2

Did you see THIS story today about how you can clean your house in 19 minutes? I think they're talking about 19 minutes a day, although I admit I haven't read it completely. Too busy cooking, cleaning, working, and sewing, I guess. But I figured I'd pass it on since we could all use a little help to free us up for more quilting time!

Are you ready to continue on with your Happy Jacks project? So here's where I left you last night--some pumpkin blocks done. (Sorry the photo's a bit dark.)

And, of course, you can set your blocks any way you want--but I'll give you directions and cutting instructions for the way I set mine. I like working on a design wall but if you don't have one, just lay out your blocks on the floor or a handy bed or other surface where you won't knock them off while sewing.

First, the cutting instructions for the next step, the sashing.

If you're making a quilt with FOUR PUMPKIN BLOCKS, cut from your main sashing fabric (black for mine):

Four 8" by 2" rectangles
Two 17" by 2" rectangles
Two 20" by 2" rectangles

From the fabric you'll use for the center star (yellow for mine):

One 2" square
Eight 1-1/4" squares

If you're making a quilt with NINE PUMPKIN BLOCKS, cut from your main sashing fabric (black for mine):

Twelve 8" by 2" rectangles
Two 26" by 2" rectangles
Two 29" by 2" rectangles

From the fabric you'll use for the center star (yellow for mine):

Four 2" square
Thirty-Two 1-1/4" squares

Here are all my cut pieces placed into position on the design wall:

The piecing directions I'll give you below apply to the version with four pumpkins. If you're making one with nine pumpkins, refer to the photo of the quilt in my sidebar to determine how many sashing strips will need star points and where to place them. I believe you will need to put star points on both ends of four of your sashing strips and one end of the others.

For setting four pumpkin blocks--making the center star:

First of all, take those little 1-1/4" squares and your four 8" sashing strips over to your sewing machine. Place four of the small squares on the upper right hand corners of your sashing strips and sew on the diagonal as you did with the pumpkin stems and pumpkin corners yesterday.

Press them back.

Now take your remaining four squares and place them on the upper left hand corner. Sew on the diagonal.

Again, press them back. Take your pieces back to the design wall and put them in place.

If every thing looks fine, start sewing your rows together.

I pressed my seams in the "pumpkin rows" toward the pumpkins and in the center "star row" toward the center of the star. Then attach the three rows to one another to make the center of your quilt.

Now add the top and bottom sashing pieces. And then the side sashing pieces.

Are you ready for the borders? Here are cutting measurements for the borders. The first measurements will be for the 4 pumpkin version; in parentheses are the cutting measurements for the 9 pumpkin version.

Inner Border (I used yellow):

Two 1-1/4" by 20" strips (1-1/4" by 29")
Two 1-1/4" by 21-1/2" strips (1-1/4" by 30-1/2")

Outside Border

Two 4" x 21-1/2" strips (4-1/2" by 30-1/2")
Two 4" x 29" strips (4-1/2" x 39")

First stitch on the inner border strips; then the outer border strips. At this point, your top should look something like this (ignore those applique blocks to the sides of the quilt!):

Congrats on finishing your pumpkin top! While you're waiting for the next set of instructions, you may want to select a backing fabric for your quilt or piece leftovers to make a back. Tomorrow we'll pin the quilt and add the "faces" while quilting it. See you back here then!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Jacks--Piecing, Part I

I hope you've decided to sew along with us because otherwise, this might be a very boring post!

First of all, I cut fabric for and pieced five blocks this evening, and it went pretty fast. I dug into my scrap bag for much of the fabric. I know some of you may be wondering about how much fabric you'll need, and of course it depends on how many pumpkins you want in your quilt. The pumpkins and stems are scrappy, so you'll need a fairly small amount. You can make your background scrappy too, but if you want to make it all the same, as I did, then figure on a 2" x WOF (width of fabric) strip for each block. In other words, if you make nine blocks, you should only need about a half yard (18"), although you might want to get 2/3rds of a yard just to be "safe."

I'm pleased to be able to say that the cutting measurements I gave you are correct. Whew! I was soooooo afraid I'd make the blocks tonight and find I had miscalculated something! But, so far, so good! And just for time reference, it took me about 45 minutes or so to cut my fabrics for five blocks and another 1-1/2 hours to piece the five blocks. Four of those will go in the giveaway quilt and I'm using the fifth block for a mini.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that if you don't "do" Halloween, you can always leave the faces off the pumpkins and add wool leaves using the same method I'll show you. Something to think about.

So, here goes. Here's my pile of cut fabrics. I matched up the stem pieces I wanted to use with the pumpkin pieces.

Next, lay your two pumpkin pieces side by side and place one 1-1/4" stem piece on each of the two inner, upper corners as I've shown here:

Now sew on the diagonal of each as shown. You may want to first draw a diagonal pencil line on the backs of the squares so you have a line to follow.

Next, press the corners back along the seam line as shown:

Line up your two pumpkin pieces and sew the center seam. Press open.

Now place a 2" background square on each of the four corners. Sew each on the diagonal as you did with the stem pieces earlier.

And press those corner pieces back:

Time now to work on the rest of the stems.

Sew a background (2" by 2-3/4") piece to each side of a 2" stem square and press.

Now sew the stem strip to the top of the pumpkin. This can be a little tricky because the stem strip doesn't always line up perfectly with the rest of the stem. The best way to get a good result is to line up the centers of the pumpkin and stem strip rather than trying to line up edge to edge and corner to corner. Don't worry if you're a little off on the edges.

Add the bottom background strip--the one that measures 6-1/2":

Then the two side strips (9-1/2"):

Voila! A pumpkin! Now you want to make your pumpkin dance. Sometimes it's hard to make a pumpkin dance. Here's how I do it. And I hope this is clear enough--it's a little difficult to explain.

At this point, your blocks will measure 9-1/2". We want to trim them down to 8". I place my ruler so the intersection of the 1" marks are in the lower right. Now it really doesn't matter that you cut the blocks all at the same angle, but if you really want to--well, see the right edge of the orange pumpkin part? The first "corner" closest to the bottom is on the 2" grid line and it's 1-1/4" in from the edge. The second "corner" up is at the 5" grid line, and it's 3/4" in from the edge. (Sounds a bit like algebra and plotting the x and y axis, doesn't it?!)

Then along the bottom edge of the ruler--the "corner" to the right of the stem is on the 3" grid line and it's 3/4" in from the edge, while the "corner" to the left of the stem is on the 6" grid line and is 1-1/4" in. Does that make some sense? In any event, whether you're precise about the angle or not, you'll want your pumpkin centered in a block that's trimmed to 8". Also, you will probably want to reverse the angle of "dance" in the next block. To do that, assuming you're using my fairly precise method, position the 1" ruler markers at the left side of the stem. See how my pumpkins are dancing at opposite angles?

Tomorrow night, we'll add some sashing. I'll give you directions for making the star intersections I used, but a simpler sashing is just fine too. Until tomorrow . . . .

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy Jacks!

I have a name for my new Jack O'Lantern quilt--Happy Jacks! What do you think? When I was making it, I thought some of the Jack faces were kind of scary, but when I look at it now, they seem pretty happy to me. And why wouldn't they be? Just about everyone seems to like them!

So, yes, I'll give you directions to make the quilt. In fact, I think I'll make a four-patch version along with you and have a giveaway when it's done. This is my 600th post, so that seems like a good reason to celebrate--don't you agree?

But don't start leaving me comments to enter the giveaway just yet--I'll ask for those in a few days. In the meantime, since only one of you can win the giveaway and I know there are more than one of you who would like your own Happy Jack quilt, get out your scraps and sew along with us.

The way I'm going to do this is I'll first give you instructions for making the pumpkin blocks. The cutting and sewing instructions will be for ONE BLOCK. If you want a nine patch, like I made, you'll need to make nine blocks. Of course, you could just make one block and make it into a pillow cover or a treat bag. Or make a four-patch (like I'll be making this time) and have a small wallhanging or table topper. If you make 25 blocks, you'll have a decent sized lap quilt. Clear? So for one block:


From orange (pumpkin) fabric:
2 pieces 6-1/2" by 3-1/2"

From green (stem) fabric:
2 pieces 1-1/4" square
1 piece 2" square

From blue (background) fabric:
2 pieces 2" by 2-3/4"
4 pieces 2" square
1 piece 2" by 6-1/2"
2 pieces 2" by 9-1/2"

Of course, you can use something other than blue for your background fabric--cream, black, or golden yellow are a few suggestions. I liked the blue because I like the orange and blue combination and I plan to use mine in my kitchen--which has a lot of blue.

I'm going to stop here tonight to give you time to cut your pumpkin block pieces. Tomorrow night I'll give you directions and a few photos on piecing the pumpkins. The next night, I'll talk about sashing and tell you how I set mine and give you measurements for that part. Also, either that night or the next, I'll show you how I made the faces and sewed them on as I quilted. I DO hope you'll make a Happy Jack quilt project and either post a photo on your blog or, if you don't have a blog, send me a photo and I'll share it on mine.

Happy quilting!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More About The Last Post--

First, about the Jack O'Lantern quilt. Ratherbquilting left this comment:

". . . I assume you drew up the faces yourself? Surely you didn't hand applique all that just since Friday night. Please say it's machine appliqued. . . ."

Nope, I didn't hand applique the faces. I didn't exactly machine applique them either--not in any traditional way. What I did was pin the quilt and outline quilt the pumpkins and the squares they are in. Then I used black felted wool for the eyes and mouths and just sewed them on as I was quilting. Extremely fast and easy! That was my real goal with this quilt--to make something cute and quick. With all the applique and quilting I've been doing recently, I was Jonesing for a fast, pieced project.

And drawing out the faces? Nope, not that either. I just went at a piece of wool and cut. Kind of like when we carve real Jack O'Lanterns and just start hacking away with a knife. Most "mistakes" could be fixed easily or just left "as is."

Now, my question to you--should I post directions? I can tell you cutting sizes and post a few photos if anyone's interested. My quilt will measure somewhere around 38" square when it's finished, but a four patch of pumpkins--rather than a nine patch--would look equally cute and would be even quicker to make.

Second--the zucchini nut bread, which also drew its fair share of comments. I took a photo of the loaves this a.m.

If you haven't had zucchini nut bread and think it sounds weird, try it. You really don't taste the zucchini much. Want the recipe? Let me get out my old, tattered, stained, much used sheet of binder paper and share it with you. I'd like to tell you it was grandma's recipe, but I might be lying. Truly, I can't remember where I got it, but I've made it many, many times over the years.


3 eggs
1 cup of oil
2-1/2 cups of sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
3 teaspoons of vanilla extract

First grate the zucchini--you'll probably need two to three zucchini. Set the grated zucchini to drain on a couple sheets of paper towels. Now preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

Now, in a medium/large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix lightly but well.

To the wet mixture, add:

1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups flour
1/2 cup nuts (I like nuts, so I add about 1 cup of walnuts. I like them kind of chunky too so I don't chop them much--I just break up the halves a bit.)

Mix until well blended. Pour into prepared pans and bake about one hour or so--use a toothpick to check for doneness.

I love this stuff spread with cream cheese. Yum!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Anything But Lazy Sunday

Sunday's over and I'm plumb tuckered out, but I feel I got everything accomplished I was hoping for.

FINALLY I got all of my summer dishes and decorations put away. Some of you asked where I store everything. I have a couple cupboards in my daughter's former bedroom where I store most of it. We also have an area in the rafters in the garage where we can store some things, but mostly we store Christmas up there. Of course, I can't put anything up there that might melt or be breakable, and Hubby's mighty protective of "his" space, so much of it goes in the cupboards. And you'd be surprised at how much stuff I can cram into them! I'd show you a photo except I'd be terribly embarrassed!

Along with getting everything put away, I cleaned house, so now I can face the work week knowing that everything here at home is as it should be--and I'll enjoy coming home to it at the end of the day.

That wooden tray I bought thrifting? It's now decoupaged. Have a peek:

I have two loaves of zucchini nut bread baking in the oven right now. I'll take at least one loaf to work tomorrow and serve it, with whipped cream cheese, on the new Halloween tray. And that reminds me: I really need to get a photo or two of my "decorations" at my desk--although it's more restrained than my home, my cubicle is decorated for fall too. In fact, a couple of the gals who sit in my part of the building are planning to decorate their areas a little bit in the next month too. I'm looking forward to everyone getting into the act!

Finally, the quilt I've been working on. I know some of you thought I was working on the Thimbleberries panel, and that was my original idea when I went to the quilt shop on Friday and bought it, but as I was checking out, I looked up and spotted a Jack O'Lantern quilt. I loved it and I knew I could do something similar fairly quickly--and I already had all the fabrics I'd need (mostly Thimbleberries except for a couple of the orange pumpkins). So, here it is:

I'm not quite done quilting it, but it's pretty close. I think I really just need to quilt the outside border, trim the quilt, and add the binding unless I decide I need to add any more quilting to the center.

It's nearly time to get the zucchini bread out of the oven--I think there's just enough time to change into my jammies. I hope you've had a productive and happy weekend! I'm glad you could stop by!