Friday, February 25, 2011

The Hunt for the Perfect Iron

Ever since my old General Electric iron died many years ago (you know they don't make irons like they used to!), I 've been on the hunt for the perfect iron.  I've bought expensive irons and I've bought cheap irons.  I'm still looking, and I just got another one.  I'll give you the run down on my current iron collection.

A few years ago I saw the new Digital Velocity steam iron by Reliable Corp.  I saw it on the internet and heard wonderful things about.  I love steam and boy, does this baby give you steam.  It was very expensive (to me anyway) at about $130 but I also figured I could use it to steam my clothes since it does vertical steaming, so it would be a good deal.  My husband gave me some gift points from a credit card he had accumulated and I purchased one.  I was so excited when it arrived.  It IS a great iron, but I discovered a few things...I discovered that for pressing while I'm piecing I like a small, light iron.  This iron is so heavy and bulky that I was afraid my wrist would give out!  I also discovered I don't like the auto-shut off.  It shuts off way too soon and takes a long time to heat back up (and to heat up initially), not practical for my sew-a-little, press-a-little piecing.  But this iron was expensive - - and DH knows it - LOL -- but I really couldn't use this iron for everyday piecing.  For ironing yardage however, it is da bomb (and probably also for ironing clothes, but I don't do that very often). 

So, on the sly, I was on the hunt for a smaller iron.  I then happened upon the Rowenta craft steam iron.  Great!  It was small, light and had great steam.  And, it didn't shut off on me!  I also loved the vertical slide to turn it on and off.  And with my 50%  off coupon from Joanns, it was very reasonable.  I now had the best of both worlds!  For a while.  Then it broke (I forget if it just died or leaked or what happened to it).  Oh well, it wasn't that expensive, I'll just get another one.  Except they don't make that model any more.  The new model has a dial inside of a slider.  I really, really liked that slider.  But, it will do.  Then, I noticed a couple of months ago my new baby Rowenta wasn't putting out any steam unless I hit the steam button.  Bummer. 

Then I started reading about these Oliso irons. They didn't appear to be anywhere near as heavy as the Reliable and although they have an auto-shut off, it doesn't shut off for 8 minutes. I can live with that. It also has that cool auto lift. You leave the iron in the horizontal position and as soon as you touch the handle, it goes down. As soon as you move your hand, it goes back up. I thought that was cool until I used it - drives you crazy (particularly the noise it makes)!!! Up, down, up, down, up down. There is very definitely a knack to it so it isn't always going up and down, which I'm slowing getting the hang of. Also, try to not automatically put your iron back in a vertical position after doing it for how many years -very hard to get used to! Also, it's not quite as light as I thought it would be. It also doesn't steam enough for me.  Do I like it? Yes. But I still want my small craft Rowenta.

So, I am actually using all three irons.  The Reliable for heaving duty yardage ironing and steaming.  The Oliso for ironing smaller pieces of fabric before I cut and the Rowenta for pressing seams.  I really wish I could put my favorite features of all of these into one perfect iron.  Why can't I have it all??????

Monday, February 21, 2011

Second Time's a Charm!

We had our mug rug swap at the Philly Modern Quilt Guild meeting last Tuesday.  As soon as I heard we were doing a mug rug swap and as a challenge we were to incorporate something we hadn't tried  before.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I'd been want to try out my EZ Dresden ruler and I thought a little dresden plate on the mug rug would be cute.  I'm not very good at spatial relations...even a very small dresden wasn't going to fit on the mug rug.  I got 5 wedges cut and pieced before I realized THAT'S not going to work - LOL!  But, I enjoyed the process so I know I'll have fun using the ruler for a real project.
 So, what to do?  I'd also been wanting to try English paper piecing and I had some small template papers.  This worked!  And it was fun - I can see how these hexies can be addicting.

Just the one hexagon flower looked a little lonely on the rug, so I added some strips on the right.  I cheated and instead of hand appliqueing these down, I used monofilament and a blind hem stitch.  I think it turned out cute.  I hope the winner liked it.
You can see all the mug rugs made by the guild members here.  I won this lovely below...very elegant.  Thanks Susan!

Our next swap is a pillow.  I've already got some ideas brewing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shop Hop Success!

Well, the weather cooperated and the shop hop with my mom finally happened!  What a fun day we had.  We hit two of the three shops (we're saving The Little Shop for another outing) and had a wonderful lunch over looking the river (and the snow-LOL).  We first hit The Village Quilter.  Susan, the owner, is in my guild, the Philly Modern Quilt Guild, (and who was so kind to hand deliver to me at our meeting on Tuesday the kit I DIDN'T buy at the shop and called two days later and ordered over the phone).  This was the first time I visited her shop.  If I was closer, I'd practically be living there - her shop is that awesome!  I told her that at our Tuesday meeting and said you'd get sick of me I'd be there so much - or I'd have to get a part-time job there - LOL!    Anyway, I picked up two of these Central Park charm squares just because the colors were so happy.  I've already got something in my for them.

My mom and I both went nuts over these placements when we walked in....I bought enough fabric to make four and made them all up within days - they were that quick and fun.  I've already ordered 3 more yards of each of the two fabrics - folks are getting these for Christmas!

I love the mitered borders on them...
I also got the Sewline mechanical fabric pencil (forgot to take a photo).  I'm always on the hunt for a good marking pencil that comes out easily.  I've heard about these and when we were at the shop I was pondering them, another customer saw me looking at them and said they really worked so I bought one.  She was right.  They are great!  The marks come right out with either the provided eraser or with a damp cloth.  I just bought the single pen, but they come in a multi where you can have 3 colors of lead.  Of course, I should have spent the few extra $$$ and bought that one, but I may just pick it up if I see it at the next quilt show.  That way I can use all 4 colors.  They have leads in black, white, teal, and pink - a color for every fabric!

We also went to Olde City Quilts - a much bigger shop - they actually had three or four long-arms on the floor!  Wow.  I think I only bought fabric for a baby quilt there but didn't take a photo.  My mom was sitting in their machine area waiting for me and of course shop staff would come up to her and ask if they could help her with something and she would keep saying "no, I don't do this..I'm just waiting for my daughter".  It was so funny - she is so NOT crafty, but she cleans a mean house!  She does appreicate the fruits of my labors though and we do have fun on our outings.  She's been to quilt shows with me too and is more than happy to tag along.  Who wouldn't like looking at beautiful fabrics and quilts!

The next day I went to my quilting buddy from work's house to get her going on her new HQ Avante (boy is that a nice machine!).  What a fun day we had too.  She's about an hour away from me, and it was raining/sleeting but she really needed to get her quilt done to take to her daughter this weekend, so I ventured out and made it safely.  I wish I took some photos of us working at the machine - some of them would have been really comical - like the two of us on the floor under the machine with a flashlight to check out the stitch tension!  She made a wonderful quiche lunch with some Early Grey Lavender tea (was that ever delicious!).  And, of course, we had to make the trek to her local quilt shop, Cloth and Bobbin.  A very nice shop - not very big, but certainly well stocked.  Johanna, the owner, stocks a lot of modern designers' fabrics (Amy Butler, Kaffe Fasset, etc.), as well as lots of other stuff, but I did find her shop to be on the modern side.  Very colorful and fun.  I bought the sets of fabrics below.  It was funny because my friend Lindsay told me later that she had gone back to the shop on Sunday and while they were discussing our Saturday visit, Johanna mentioned to her that she noticed I chose very traditional fabrics.  I thought that was an interesting comment.  She was right.  Out of all that mod stuff (which I do like), I guess I know where my heart lies....

Another thing I didn't realize, until I looked at the photos - there's a theme going on here.  Both of these groupings include birds!  Didn't notice that when I bought them though.  Funny.

So, I hit three new shops all together during my shop hop weekend and I must say each was different.  They each stocked different styles of fabrics and notions, etc.  I thought that was nice - it wasn't just same old, same old.  I did notice they all had those new Cotton Laminates.  They really are nice.  I'm sure I'll cave and get some at some point!

I'm hoping to have a very productive quilty weekend again this nice long 3-day weekend!  But for now, I'm going to start our dinner for tonight - a smoky pulled pork dish with pappardelle. Yum!  I've never made it before, but the ingredients are intriguing - they include honey, a Granny Smith apple, white wine, garlic, Champagne vinegar. tomato paste, thyme, parlsey.  Like my husband said, "There's nothing in there I don't like!".  It also calls for Smoked Sea Salt.  I sure hope we like it, because I went to our local Italian Market to buy it and the container cost me $5.99 (choke!).  Maybe I could have done without the smoke.  We'll see.

725 pm - Dinner's over.  The Smoked Sea Salt was worth it!  This meal was excellent.  Hubby and I declared it a keeper and will go in the Wallace Family cookbook (when I get around to compiling it).  If you're interested, you can find the recipe here.  I served it with green beans and a bottle of Conundrum white was the perfect complement!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Very Productive Weekend!

It's Sunday night and I've had a very productive weekend!  I love weekends like this - when I don't have to stick my nose out the door (well, except to take Lilly out), and can quilt to my heart's content.  I got a lot done, granted some were little things...finishing up my mug rug for the swap at the Philly Modern Quilt Guild meeting on Tuesday night (which I'll show - and tell the story, because there's usually always a story - LOL!) after the meeting.  Finished up the four placements with the fabric bought with my Mom during last Friday's shop hop (which I'll also blog about later), finished the borders on all of my Birdies Stitches BOM blocks and caught up by finishing block's my progress so far...
 Block two...
 Block one...
When I first started this quilt, I thought I'd use my great find from a couple of years ago.  I hate tracing the embroidery motifs onto the fabric and when I saw this Transfer-Eze at a quilt show, I thought my biggest embroidery problem was solved.  And it pretty much was.  I used it for the remaining Winter Wonderland (by Crabapple Hill) blocks and it worked great.  With the Transfer -Eze, all you do is put an 8-1/2 x 11" piece in your copy machine and copy your embroidery motif onto it.  Then you peel off the water soluble film with the embroidery motif and stick it to your fabric, stitch and immerse it in water when done and it just dissolves. Easy peasy and works great!!  I used it for the first Birdie Stitches block and found the lines were a bit too thick and I could still see some dark marks after I was done.  I guess it didn't dissolve enough under the thread or something.  So, I decided to do the second block the old fashioned way and traced it.  The blocks are small so I think I'll continue this way, but will still continue to use Transfer-Eze for other projects where the lines are smaller - it really does work!  I'm using a DMC cotton perle floss #5.  It's a little thick for these small blocks. If I was starting over I'd just use the regular DMC embroidery floss, but since I've already purchased all of the floss I need, I'll just work with it. It is looking cute!


And, I finished the quilting and made and put on the binding on the now very overdue (because the baby was NOT overdue!) Night Night Will quilt...
 I quilted loops in the inner border...
 Cross Hatching in the borders...
 And stippled around the appliques...
 I love the way this came out.  It's going to be hard to part with - I'm so glad I bought enough fabric to make another one.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Well THAT Resolution didn't last long...

So, after last year's buying spree, I really was going on 'no-buy' in 2011.  Or at least no buy unless it was required to finish a quilt or for a backing.  And, another resolution was not getting involved in new things - i.e., BoMs, quilt-alongs, etc., until I got some stuff D.O.N.E.!!!

Yeah, well neither lasted too soon as I saw Little Miss Shabby's Birdie Stitches BoM, I was hooked.  Those little birdies did me in. 

And, of course, I had to do it in the new Sunkissed line by Moda, just like Little Miss Shabby, hence my first purchase of 2011:

But, isn't it scrumptious??  It Spring-y and fun and I need that right about now in the Great Northern Tundra (I mean, Philadelphia).

Then, Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill Designs decided she didn't want to cut fabric anymore and blogged that she was selling all her yardage for half price.  HALF PRICE you say???  For Lilly & Will, my favoriate baby fabric of all time???  Well, of course I have to help take some off your hands Anne...
And, know what you get besides your fabric wrapped up in a pretty little package with a little pink bow?  You get get this cute little package of taffy...Awesome.
I've already got all the blocks prepped for the Birdie Stitches and I'm finished stitching the first month's block, so it will not languish in UFO land!  And, I know exactly what I'm going to do with that pink Lily & Will.  I found a great, simple nine-patch with lattice pattern on the internet and it will show off these fabric really nicely.  I'll have a few baby quilts all ready to go when needed!

My New Jersey Quilt Shop Hop with my Mom got postponed last Friday.  With the blizzard of last week keeping me home from work for two days, I figured I'd better go to work instead of gallivanting around.  So, we're shooting for this Friday.  We should be okay since we've already had our storm for this week (ice this time instead snow - loads of fun!) out of the way and should be clear on Friday.  I'm also supposed to go to my quilting buddy from work's house on Saturday to help her with her new longarm, but we're supposed to get another round of snow then too, so we may have to postpone that.  I've seriously had enough of this weather!