Sharon D's Blog

Longarm heaven and guild update

Wow, what I ride it has been since April and the purchase of my APQS Lenni. Such a simple machine, and for me, and edge to edge free motion quilter - just perfect. I named her Margie to honor my mother who taught me to sew when I was 8 or 9. And my dealer, Sheridan Carter in Hendersonville NC is the BEST.

So I'm in longarm heaven. It has been an uphill journey to get the hang of setting tension, but with help from my dealer, I now have figured out how to do that in a way my machine can understand and respond to well. I've acquired zippers for my leaders and 2 quilt sets - which were easy to install and use, and love my grip lite clamps the extra long measuring tape for quilting frames that I use to alert me when I'm too close to the backing roller. Silly me, I haven't taken any pictures. Well that can be easily remedied.

My challenge is lighting. I've left a post on the quilting questions board, so if you have a suggestion I'd love to hear it. Meantime, I'm doing a lot of the guild's charity quilts, and grateful for a steady stream of quilts I can hone my skills on.

On the guild front --- what am I thinking!!! I love my guild so much that I decided to start become more active. Up until spring, I was so overcome with moving and all, I just couldn't add more to my plate. SO, I took the offer of the VP of programs office for 2014 and 2015. It gives me a chance to get to know the educators in the area as well as the members of the guild. Then I said yes to a couple of committees - which which I hope will not be as overwhelming as I think they will be.

But my biggest and most fun self-obligation for the guild is a Quilt of the Month activity. I discovered Jenny Doan (where have I been all these years?) pre-cuts, and super-fast quilt designs and techniques. So every month I will design a quick quilt using pre-cuts and fast construction techniques. At the meeting I'll show how to make the blocks, and hand out  a little 2-page pattern. Of course, that means I have to make at least 1 quilt each month, hopefully over a weekend, so I can show and tell what the quilt looks like made up.

Life here in NE Tennessee is perfect for me at this time in my life. It's my kinda place.

Shopping for a longarm!

I'm shopping for a longarm! Keep in mind, I am an in-vitro longarmer! Took a class once, fell in love with it, and immediately put on on my bucket list! I talked to Cindy Roth last year (www.longarm.university) as I started my research. I can't afford a brand new machine with all the bells, whistles, and computer, but I don't want to buy someone else's problems either. So I talked to her about the longarm business (as a way to help with the payments) and to get some insight and advice when I am ready to buy. She told me two things that really helped me work through the research.

1. Buy a "Big-Girl" machine. Rather than an off-brand, sewing machine brand, or low-end brand, she advised getting a big-name brand. Her list of suggested brands: A-1, APQS, Gammill, Handi Quilter, Nolting, Prodigy, Tin Lizzie, Innova, and a few others.

2. She asked if I usually buy a new car or a used car. I told her "new car".  So, she said that I would probably be happier with a new longarm. Hmmm. There goes my budget.

As I continued my research, I began to narrow my selection to APQS and Innova (sans computer), based on price, features, reviews, test driving, etc. The proximity of dealers is an issue where I live. There is an HQ dealer, but I didn't hear great reviews about that store. There is a big Innova dealer 4.5 hours from here, and I began a researchy conversation with her, but didn't get the feeling she cared much unless I had my checkbook and pen ready. The conversation with the APQS dealer last year, 2.5 hours away, was wonderful. Great lady, not pushy at all. When the move into the "new" house had came to a close and the sewing studio became operational, I renewed my research.

The Innova dealer ignored my overtures, but the APQS dealer was immediately a big help. Plus she is moving to a location only 1.5 hours from here! Anyway, she reminded me that APQS recently sent out their list of used and demo machines available. So we looked at the list again. The one that caught my eye was the 2013 (less than a year old) Lenni demo with a lifetime warranty! Great price, too. There is an expert sewing/longarm service guy in our area that most people use, so I called him, since he as seen everything. From his perspective, were he to buy a longarm for himself, his priority list would be: 1. Gammill, 2. APQS, 3. Innova. Hmmm. He put the APQS ahead of Innova because of how easy the APQS is to service. That's important to me. So I called the APQS dealer and told her to put a hold on that Lenni.

Well, someone else had it on hold and was about to take delivery. Rats. We agreed that the best machine for me would come along. She called me back in about 30 minutes to tell me that she had contacted the company on another matter, and they told her that the person with the hold on the Lenni had to let it go because she couldn't get funding. It was available! So I plopped down my (refundable) deposit while I line up my own funding. I also had the opportunity to go to an APQS Roadshow in Roanoke VA last week which confirmed that the Lenni is the best model for my needs. So it's just a matter of time, now. Will keep you posted.

Happy quilting!

Sewing Studio ready to stock with quilting "stuff"

We only have pictures left to hang upstairs!! Yea! That in itself will be a project, but a fun one. But, we've been in the house nearly 2 weeks now, and I'm getting desperate to move into the sewing studio. The house has a 1100 sq ft finished basement plus a 20' x 28' unfinished workshop for the DH. The basement has a decent office space that the DH has appropriated, a half bath, and my 21' x 24' studio!! OMG. I just came out of an apartment where I had a whopping 6' x 8' designated area. If I wanted to have the cutting table and the sewing machine set up at the same time, I had to move the dining table into the living room. Anyway - the studio space is a bit overwhelming. My friend Sandy came over to help arrange furniture. She always has great ideas. Here are the results. Use the little black heater to orient yourself in the room.

  The Sewing Workstation. There's a handy ironing board under the window. The make-shift window treatment is an unfinished quilt we taped over the window to keep out the single-digit nighttime lows. Come springtime, it will be converted to a real window treatment. There will be extra shelving in the closet for bolts of fabric and other things too fearsome to mention.

   Across from the sewing workstation is the so-called cutting station. The cabinet will store project boxes and who knows what. And my elementary school student desk will become the "entertainment center", supporting my mp3 player and speakers, and someday maybe a tv. Notice the fancy mounting technique we used on the quilt covering the back door. We even had to put painters' tape over the hinges to keep the frigid air out. I think there is a storm door in our future.

   Picture a long-dreamed-of longarm on the back wall. I'll orient it so that the front of the machine faces the wall. Being from Oklahoma, I have to position myself with my back to the wall so I can see the gunslingers coming into the saloon.

Now the fun begins!

  

Finally, we have moved!

Finally, we moved into the new-to-us house on 1/22/2014. Thankfully, the weather was sunny and dry - but cold! The move went well, nothing damaged or lost. Of course, it was only 3 miles. Very nice experience overall. There have been the usual quandries about what to do with things, especially in the kitchen. Configuration means everything in a kitchen and this one is nothing like what I'm used to. So, ultimately, we may rearrange cabinets a few times before we are done. My office is almost organized. I'm taking delivery on a much-needed 4-hi lateral file today. I haven't even touched the sewing studio yet. My wonderful studio is getting lonely, so my goal is to get busy down there by Thursday this week. But right now the kitchen, my office, and the bedroom have priority.

We have a challenge in the laundry room, though. The 4-prong dryer outlet was installed upside down, and way too high. The cord won't reach! An electrician friend came over and turned the outlet around, and we ordered a longer cord. Meantime, we can wash clothes, and the DH takes the wet cloths to the laundromat to dry them. And, we finally have food in the house, and have stored away all the kitchen stuff that had been parked on the stove. So today, we are going to have a real meal and leave the Lean Cuisines for some other time.

Well, the guys are here with the filing cabinet. Have a great day!

The gift of a quilting studio

As you know, we have recently moved to TN, and have been looking for a new house. Well, all I can say is that Miracles still happen! Late in September we saw a house that is about twice as big as the house we sold in Raleigh. Seems foolish to look at it - since we are both retired and pushing 70! It is a single living area with a mostly finished basement. Almost as soon as we walked in we knew this could be it in spite of the 3 big parrot cages in the living room. The more we saw of it, the better it became. But, when we thought about it - we were amazed that we liked it. It had some big negatives. The paint color was NOT our color palette, the carpets old, the sheet vinyl tacky, aging heating system, no room to eat (eat in kitchen that didn't have room for a dining table!), a "what were they thinking" master bath, an above ground pool dominating the back yard, and to top it off, an active train track a few houses away! Gak, what were WE thinking?

BUT, when God says "This it it," then this is it. None of that became show stoppers because the house had everything that was important to us and then some. The bedrooms upstairs were large by today's standards, separate utility room, 2-car attached garage, flat back yard (for DH's gardening), room in the basement for a quilting room, workshop for DH, big sky, and valley views. If that was all it had, it would have been enough. But no - that wasn't all. It has a screened front porch for DH, ready-go gardening area complete with fruit trees, strawberry patch, and asparagus bed. And the quilting room is HUGE (21' x 24'). Not to mention the small bedroom and 1/2 bath in the basement, storage shelves and 2 workbenches in the workshop, and beautiful kitchen cabinets with roll-out shelves!

And even that's not all. We met the owners one day when went over to meet the home inspector. They were having a yard sale. The wife began to tell us about the landscaping. Wow! All of our favorite plants, well designed, and well cared for. Then we talked with the husband. BIG Wow! It became clear to me that God had been working on this deal since 1977. That year a daughter was born to the owner out of wedlock. Although he was there for the birth, the mother's parents refused to let him have anything to do with the baby, and he never saw her again. He finally gave up and went ahead with his life. In 2011, the daughter began to look for him. She found whom she thought was he on Facebook and sent him a message. It was June 2013 before he accessed FB and saw the message. They began to communicate by FB, email, and phone, and fell in love with each other. She was so excited to find him, that she told Facebook about it. FB was excited, too, and arranged for them to meet face to face in August - on the Today show! A month later the homeowners put their house on the market, and a few days later we had a contract on the house. They now live near the daughter and her family in NM.

Here's a link to the Today Show video: http://www.today.com/video/today/52744157/#52744157 . Grab a tissue.

We arranged a 60 day close to minimize having to make house payments and apartment rent at the same time. We are now in the middle of repainting, replacing the sheet vinyl, making some repairs, and most importantly, replacing the quilting studio carpet with a wood laminate floor. Wish we could replace the carpet upstairs too, but budget being limited, we'll settle for a thorough cleaning.

Now it's about time to start a serious search for a longarm machine!

 

Where have I been?

The answer is simple and complex. I've been moving to TN! It meant starting over with everything from a new mechanic to new friends, and new church - everything. Not to mention finding a house! It has been months of open switches. Thankfully, they are getting closed one by one.

Of course, I got a bit desperate for quilting friends. We are very blessed in this area in NE TN with several active guilds. So I made plans to visit all of them. Now, I am a serious chicken when it comes to going alone to a gathering where I don't know anyone. So I didn't go to any of them for a couple of months. (That's missing 10 opportunities!) I discovered a guild that meets less than 5 minutes from the apartment in a nearby church. So my DH agreed to go with me. It didn't take long for me to discover that not only were the members glad to see us and very friendly, but they were just a goofy as I am. One of the guild members invited me to her home to check out her longarm - I'm in research mode. And one of the founders of the guild (a Christian guild associated with the church) invited us to visit her Sunday School - that met at 8:15 am! The crazy thing is that we actually went!

So in one fell swoop - my life was moving forward with a new Church, a Sunday School, Bible study, guild, quilting community, and great friends. Once that happened, looking for a home became easy. A month or so later, we had a contract on a great home within a mile of at least 3 new friends, and within 10 minutes of the church and guild, and within 15 minutes of a very nice quilt store. The house is a story unto itself, so I'll write a separate post about that.

So now it's time to reconnect with the QCA community - and restart my online life!

Five lessons about spray basting

I LOVE spray basting. It is quick, easy, and works great - usually. Nearly 2 years ago, I sandwiched Milky Way (based on a design by  Georgette Dell'Orco). About that time, we decided we would move to TN. So, while getting the house ready for market in the spring of 2012, all heck broke loose. We discovered a major dishwasher leak in the kitchen that had damaged a lot of the hardwood in the kitchen and living areas. So, quilting came to a halt while we dealt with damage clean up and hired a contractor. It was Jan 2012 before we got started. We also needed to paint the interior so that meant packing everything up so it could all be moved to the center of the rooms. As soon as the work was done, it was a simple task to put 75% of the piles in storage. That quilt stayed in storage for nearly a year and a half!

Now that we are in TN, I've begun to work on the backlog of quilting. That poor quilt has been a challenge. the places I'm having trouble with, are where I was apparently heavy-handed with the spray adhesive. Sometimes the top thread doesn't catch the bobbin thread, or something else happens. When I test everything on a recently sprayed practice sandwich. all my stitches are perfect. So I know the machine is working fine. So, here are the lessons I learned about spray basting. I hope they help you:

  1. Don't be afraid to try it. I still love spray basting.
  2. Spray lightly. Your sandwich will hold together just fine.
  3. Don't bake your top in a storage unit. Keep it at home!
  4. Try to get your quilt sandwich finished within a few months.
  5. If you've been heavy handed and have trouble, try to be patient. I have marked the places that need re-work with safety pins, and am enjoying the rest of the quilting.

Oh, I've finished the Chupah Shalom quilt. The pattern is for sale at www.craftsy.com. Search for "deming" in the patterns section.

 

 Be good to yourself. Quilt!

Happily quilting again!

Finally, our move to TN is complete and the Raleigh house has closed, the money is in the bank, and it's time to begin our life here. A serious search for a "new" home will begin in a couple of months. I haven't found a quilting group or guild yet - I've done some research but haven't yet remembered to put the meetings on the calendar. Thankfully, there are several guilds in the area.  I've carved out a place in the apartment here for my "studio". I have to move the "dining room" (a round table and a couple of chairs) and rearrange the sewing furniture each time I want to spend time with the machine, but it's worth it. Here's the studio:

For the last few days I've been quilting on the Chuppah Shalom quilt. It's been a struggle! Today I finally figured out the right combination! I have a Viking 875Q and love it. This time, I was trying to implement the techniques that Leah Day shares in her Craftsy classes.  My primary issue was major "eye lashes" in the entire first loop of the Paisley design (yes, it's a doodler). After the very first loop - the stitches were beautiful.

 

To start her quilting, Leah likes to bring up the bobbin thread and just start quilting without locking the threads. Then later she ties a knot and buries the knot in the batting. Everytime I used that technique I got the eye lashes. I put in a new needle, no difference. I re-threaded, no difference. Thinking my hand were moving faster than the needle I increased machine speed, no difference. Finally, I decided to go back to my normal method of bringing up the bobbin thread and locking the stitches before sewing. That solved it. It's possible that the much-loved auto tension feature of my machine is at the root of the issue. Frankly, I don't care. I'm more than happy to lock my stitches, and then bless my auto-tension for the beautiful stitches it produces.

Happy quilting!

Moving is the pits!

Moving is the pits! We've been "moving" to TN for over a year now. The DH moved to TN a year ago, and I'm still here baby-sitting the house while it is on the market. Not a bit fun - neat and tidy is not part of my comfort zone. But the time has come - I NEED to be with my husband! We are both much better together, for sure. We travel back and forth to see each other, and when he walks in the door, I light up, calm down, breathe easier, and grin all the time. So I'm moving to TN - whether the house has sold or not.

The thing is, after living in Raleigh for over 30 years, my entire life is here. For 2 years, now, I've gone up and down emotionally over the thought of moving. Although I am now beyond ready to move - my heart is breaking. I've met many, many people at our local Senior Center, who have left their lives of 40-50 years in the same place, to come to Wake Forest NC to be with a daughter or son. They've given up home, friends, volunteer work, hobbies - to live in a tiny apartment - alone, or in a guest room in a relative's house, not knowing a soul their own age, or where anything is. Most of those folks came to the center, desperate for friends and to "get a life." And they did! So I know I can do it too.

Today, I've been communicating with the director of our Senior Center about candidates to take over my Thursday morning line dance class, and the Wed afternoon quilting group, and grief has enveloped me. I develop friends "in context" - work friends and church friends, primarily, and see them within that context. - usually not socially (except for a precious few). When I retired 3 years ago, my beloved little church had disbanded, and suddenly I didn't see my work friends everyday, either. I was pretty lost until I found the Senior Center. So, now my life is centered in my husband and home, and the senior center has been my primary life since Jim moved.

I really don't know how to express my sense of grief, except to say that I'm surprise at its depth, and at the level of importance my line dance friends and quilting friends have been to me. The crazy thing is - I'm filled with gratitude, joy, and grief all at the same time. And I want to embrace and even cherish all of it.

Free motion quilting on my Viking 875

The cherry tree is beginning to bloom, the grass is green and needs mowing, and I don't care. I'm learning to free motion quilt on my wonderful Viking 875Q. In the past, I've done stitch in the ditch, a tense version of stippling, stippling with leaves or hearts, but now it's time to do it right - with instruction and practice. I thought I wanted a longarm machine (actually, I still do), but now I don't have to be frustrated waiting through the process of selling a house, and I will be soon be able to free motion quilt interesting designs on my Viking, and at my dining table.

So, given that I want the process of quilting to be as quick and painless as possible, but still enjoyable - I wanted to find a way to do all-over designs, or even "custom" designs without having to mark or break thread a lot. Since it's expensive to pay someone else to do my quilting, I am highly motivated to get better at doing it myself. Well, halleluiah!, I found Leah Day. She teaches "Free Motion Quilting a Sampler" offered by Craftsy. I must say - worth every penny for me, especially since it was on sale for 1/2 price recently. PLUS, in 2009 she started a blog - The Free Motion Quilting Project. Her goal was to develop, practice and master 365 filler designs - and blog about them. Her many, many instructional videos on the blog (http://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com/) are free, her designs are not copyrighted, and she develops and shares literally hundreds of continuous-line filler designs with a desire to get us all quilting on whatever machine we have.

Since my last blog entry, life has been mostly boring - the house is still on the market, most of the furniture and fun stuff is still in storage. Last year showings were very slow, inventory was high and prices were in the tank. This year showings have increased, inventory is down - but it's still a buyer's market. So, while I keep a neat home, I've decided to stop whining (mostly) and just keep quilting and designing and line dancing and learning anyway. I now have 6 quilt designs for sale on Craftsy and Fat Quarter Shop websites. The one that sells the most is Tennessee Trotter, a quilt-as-you-go project. So I'm going to focus more on QAYG - what a great way to quilt in a small or cramped space.

Here's a quick look at my next project via an EQ7 image. I'm still trying to come up with a name for it. All I can think of are silly names, like cross-eye susans, or owl in pain. If you have any ideas - let me know. It's for my friend Ann.

 

Remember to treat yourself like a queen - you are worth it! Keep on quilting!

 

 

It's All About the Numbers

Aren't you glad that published patterns tell you exactly how to cut each of the patches in your quilt? If you have constructed your own designs, you know what it takes to come up with the numbers! Whether the pattern is going to be published or not, you've still got to do the math. First you have to decide how you want to construct the sub-assemblies of your blocks. Then what you need to cut (squares?, triangles?, strip sets?....). Then how many of each shape you need, how many can you get in a strip, how many strips, what amount of fabric do you need. Are you going to use a template? Do you need extra fabric to fussy cut - how much? Aarrgghh! But it all has to be done.

So do it as carefully and accurately as possible. Check and double check. A mis-calculation can lead to wrong cuts, wrong sizes, needing more fabric, not being able to find it, starting over, or making do. So, persevere, my friends. Resort to an electronic spreadsheet! I have a spreadsheet called Binding Calculator. It not only computes yardage for binding based on width of fabric and width of binding, but it computes the yardage for backing, the size of the backing pieces to cut, and a mirad of other things that I've run into over the years. Most recently it has told me how many strips of each fabric of a strip set I will need.

Quilting technology has come a long way. From paper and pencil, to spreadsheets, to quilt design software. Frankly, I don't know how our fore-sisters did it all by hand without going a little nuts. I am in awe of their creativity, resourcefulness, and intelligence.

Publishing Quilt Patterns

Wow! Who'd a thought I'd be publishing my patterns? Back in June(?), I got an email from Craftsy telling everyone about their support for independent quilt designers who want to sell their patterns. The quilts I design for myself are very simple and easy - I just don't do complicated. I thought they might be easy to document into patterns, so I decided to give it a try. Peek-a-Boo Baby, and Buttons and Bows were my first ones, and I just recently added the pattern for Tennessee Trotter (a quilt-as-you-go design). Much to my surprise, I've sold 3 patterns! Never really thought I'd sell any. Here's the link to my "store" on Craftsy: ttp://www.craftsy.com/user/pattern/store/246412

And, there's more! I've seen the Holiday Flourish line of Christmas fabric in the stores and just fell in love. A Christmas quilt was definitely in order. As I opened up EQ7 to start tinkering on it, I thought of the Christmas star and the host of angels proclaiming "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!".  Heavenly hosts is an inspired design. So, I downloaded the fabric images into EQ7, and was overwhelmed with how lovely they looked on the quilt.

When I received the fabric from FatQuarterShop.com, I replied to the ship notice regarding how much I appreciated their quick service and how beautiful the fabric was. I also included the EQ7 image of the quilt. Sarah at FQS liked it so much she invited me to sell the pattern on the FQS website! So, I am working hard on the pattern, and have the fabric all washed up and ready to press. I'll need to construct at least some of the top to make sure I have the right construction sequences. Here's the EQ7 image:

Flower Blocks Done! TN Here I Come!

Last week I FINISHED 22 FLOWER BLOCKS for the June QCA Smoky Mountain Quilting Retreat. Whew! And I thought I would be struggling with them for another couple of months. What really, really helped was going on vacation with my friend Dorothy to the Quiltfest in Pigeon Forge TN. She insisted I bring my machine and work on my blocks - she gave me no choice. I used Cynthia England' picture piecing technique.The piecing pattern is on freezer paper. You cut the paper into the separate pieces, iron them onto fabric, and trim the edges to about 1/4 inch. So she was busy trimming and I was busy sewing! When we would get back from the show, or eating (check out the Old Mill Grill and Cafe - yum), or shopping, or Parrot Mountain, or whatever, she trimmed and I sewed. We usually got 3-4 hours of work done each day. We were there for a week, so I got LOTS of the block quadrants done.

You can see in the picture below, I was working in my PJ's, bed hair, and that mouth working hard to get the little pieces together. Right in front of the chair on the left is the grocery bag about half full of trimmings. You should have seen it by the time we packed up to leave. It was running over!

I was motivated to get the job done ASAP, so I could get the house on the market and put my sewing away - so the house would be more presentable.  Since all my good sewing furniture was in storage, I used my dining table - Ugh! By the time I was finished with the blocks, I was stiff on the left side of my body from the top of my neck to my thigh. So I hi-tailed it to the chiropractor and she fixed me up. Of course, after the push on the final cleaning of everything - she will soon see me again! Here's a picture of my cute little house while the cherry tree was in bloom.

   

I still am torn. My life has been here for 30 years, BUT I want to move out of my house (new busy road nearby) and get to some cooler weather. So, starting next weekend, I'll start going to Johnson City frequently to look more closely at houses to narrow down my price range and desired features, etc. The DH has already moved there to look for work, so I'll have a place to stay and the cutest tour guide you ever did see. If you have quilting friends in the Johnson City area - I'd love to meet them!

 

Getting Ready to Sell

We are ready to put our house on the market. It is looking pretty good. Amazingly, the listing price will be higher than I thought it would be! However, my real estate agent wants to wait for another 2 or 3 weeks until all of the foliage is out in the woods behind our house. A new road and bridge opened up fairly close to us, and with the foliage out, all of it will be hidden from view. Makes for easy access and some privacy.

The house has been cleared of extra stuff, all of my sewing furniture, all of my stash, and my DH!  Yep, the DH (and he is still a Dear Husband), has moved to TN to look for work. You can't really look for work easily with out living there. Sewing has been simplified a lot. I leave my older machine at the local Senior Center, and sew for a couple of hours on days I teach line dancing there, and on Wed afternoon with the quilting group. That's 3 days a week. Yesterday I set up my new machine on the dining table and worked on my blocks. That works pretty well too. It is easy to put it all away and tidy up when I need to. I'm making better progress with my blocks for the SM Reatreat in June - quite a relief, actually.

Quilts of Valor news. There will be a Sewing and Quilting EXPO in Raleigh early in June. Susan Gordon (QOV Foundation) was offered us the opportunity to have a QOV booth (free!) at the EXPO! Wow! What an opportunity to promote QOV and possibly attract more quilters to work with us. The leader of our group here in Wake Forest/Raleigh area is pondering whether she has the time to pull it all together. I certainly hope so. When she is committed, she can make just about anything happen. My own dance card is full, but I can help man the booth. I'll keep you posted on that.

Meantime,  it's off to Wed. afternoon quilting group - We call it Quilt! Quilt! Stitch and Gab. Fun, fun!

SM Retreat - 26 Flower blocks!! OMG!

Okay, I signed up for the Smokey Mountain Retreat in June, and am very excited - first ever quilting retreat for me. We are going to have a block exchange - a 12x12 (finished) block of your favorite flower, state flower, whatever. 26 of them. 26. That's a bed quilt! So - with time and design skill not on my side, I googled some of my favorite flowers for a quilt block pattern. I needed something SIMPLE. Finally, I bought a foundation-pieced dogwood blossom pattern from a vendor in Switzerland! Thank goodness - it is a pdf file. Well, when I want something, I want it now. Never mind they would email it within 24 hours, I only have 4 months to make 26 blocks - gotta get going, you know.

So, I saved the online block picture as a jpeg, and proceeded to tear my hair out trying to get it into EQ7. For hours, I learned how to import the image, crop the image, and use the image to make "applique" pieces using the patchdraw tools. I have zippo experience with patchdraw, so it was a struggle. Why do I enjoy fighting with my computer??...hmmmm. Anyway, after several hours, I had something that would pass for a decent dogwood blossom block, exactly the size I wanted. It's a little ragged for making a foundation piecing pattern, but it works great to estimate the yardage.

I have never done foundation piecing, so I watched a couple of lessons on QNN.TV and wondered why anyone would choose to quilt in the dark. Maybe if I just try it... But what I DO know is how to do simple picture piecing using Cynthia England's technique. What I have worked out in EQ7 can easily be printed onto freezer paper for picture piecing. I really don't know what to expect out of the pdf file I purchased - it is the wrong size for what I want. But, maybe it will help me.

Here's what I came up with for my retreat block exchange, the Dogwood Blossom:

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