Tuesday, October 29, 2019

To Do Tuesday - Moving Along

Last week was my first go at "To Do Tuesday", the weekly to do list linky party hosted by Home Sewn By Us. Focusing on fewer projects did make a difference in moving those projects further along the road to finished.  Even so, I didn't finish the whole list.  

Weekly To Do List (10/22/2019)
1. Vintage Dresses - bind
2. Mosaic Mystery - finish clue 2
3. 2019 Christmas Mystery - finish clue 3
4. Twinkle Stars - finish sewing rows together

Only two check marks, but that's better than none, so I'll take that.  Actually there was good progress on binding Vintage Dresses and I did get the first block of Clue 3 cut out ready for assembly.  It feels nice to check things off the list. I just need to be careful keep the list reasonable each week.  Here's the to do list for this week.  

Weekly To Do List (10/29/2019)

1.  Vintage Dresses - finish binding

The label got made and the binding got sewn to the front, now I just need to finish hand stitching it to the back. I've turned one corner, so that should be doable.  I'd like to get this one finished off by Thursday as it's my October One Monthly Goal. 

2.  Finish Pieced Border for Twinkle Stars

Making the blocks should go pretty fast.  It will take longer to stitch them all together and then stitch them to the quilt.  But as I've got one afternoon and Friday off this week, that should be doable.

3.  Finish Clue 3 for the 2019 Christmas Mystery Quilt. 

The strips are cut, but they aren't pinned correctly (I unpicked two seams before I realized they weren't lined up correctly).  Two blocks will come out of these strip sets and there's a third block to be done this week.  I've picked out the fabrics for it, but haven't cut out the pieces for it yet.  

I'm really tempted to add a #4 to the list, but my goals are to move quilts to the finish line and keep up with current quilt alongs. To do that I need to concentrate my time on just a few projects.  So that's my list for this week. You can see more weekly plans over at Home Sewn by Us

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Bit of This and That

Weekends, even three days one, go pretty fast. The Scientist in Training was home for fall break this weekend.  We did some shopping for black and gold party wear for a themed event we attended Saturday night and some shoe shopping. It was a fun weekend of hanging out and just being together.  

I did get in some sewing room time, mainly yesterday after the SIT headed back to college.  The biggest achievement was getting all the rows of Twinkle Star blocks stitched together. 

Twinkle Stars
Tutorial by Andrea Feldbush of Soscrappy

I'm really happy with how this one is going together.  I need to ramp up my efforts if it's going to get done before Christmas. 

The last stitches were put into clue 2 of the Mosaic Mystery. 

 Mosaic Mystery Quilt
from Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs

Now I'm ready for clue 3 when it comes out.  I'm pretty happy with how my fabrics are working out.   

Vintage Dresses is in the process of being bound and the first half of clue 3 for the 2019 Christmas is cut out ready for assembly.  So overall it was a pretty productive weekend.  

Linking up with the usual Monday show and tell linky parties:  Monday Making and Design Wall Monday.  Also linking up over at Meadow Mist Designs for the clue 2 linky party.  

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Week 43 of Stitching Stuff

It seemed like our autumn only lasted a week.  Beautiful weather for a week and then wet, cold rain.  There's a possibility of snow flurries next week.  November starts at the end of this week, so I suppose it's time for winter to start creeping in.  Is this the time of year you do more or less stitching?  I find it harder to get in my 15 minutes each day, not due to the weather, but due to wind up activities at work. End of year means lots of reports, end of year closing meetings and meetings to talk about objectives for next year, which translates to lot of overtime.  How well do you do at fitting in your 15 minutes with what ever changes happen in life with the end of the year creeping closer? 

I did OK this week on the stitching front, but several nights my 15 minutes happened just before bedtime. 

15 minute days/week = 7/7 days
15 minute days/October = 23/25 days
15 minute days/2019 = 268/298 days
Success rate = 89.93%

My goal for 2019 was to manage at least 15 minutes of stitching time 90% of the time. If you round, I'm there.  Now can I keep it there with end of year stuff at work and the holidays?  That's going to be a challenge. 

Because I'm working on projects where I've either counted the fabric out already or aren't ready to count the fabric used, the stash report looks really anemic.  So I'm just going to wait and give a report for the whole month of October.  

Our fall colors this year are going to be kinda shabby.  We had a hard freeze seemingly out of nowhere after weeks of warm weather. Most of the leaves are just turning brown and falling off the trees. So my fall foliage photos are going to be pretty lean this year.  I did get one nice shot last weekend. 

I'll probably get out for a walk with My Guy this afternoon.  Hopefully I'll find a bit more color when we get out and about.  

So how did your stitchy week work out?  

1. Julie in GA
2. karen
3. Meloney
4. Chrisknits
5. MaryR @Urban Quilter
6. DawnyK
7. Amanda
8. Shasta @ High Road Quilter
9. Christina's Handicrafts

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

To Do Tuesday - Giving it a Go

With the end of the year looming, I'm hoping to move a few more projects to finished.  I finally realized this weekend that I've got way too many projects in the works at the sewing machine. That means I'm making a little progress on a lot, but not enough to move projects to the finish line. It's time to pare back the number of projects in progress and set some weekly priorities.  

I'm going to try something new with the priority setting. Rosanne and Sue, who blog over at Home Sewn By Us, have long shared their weekly to do list on their blog. They recently started a weekly To-Do Tuesday linky party for others to share their to do lists.  I'm usually pretty good about sticking to my priorities if I've publicly committed to them on the blog. So I'm drafting and sharing a weekly to do list to see if it helps me stick to my priorities.  

To Do List for the Week of October 22nd to 28th

1. Vintage Dresses - Bind

 Vintage Dresses
Charise Randell

The quilt is trimmed and the binding is made.  Now it needs to be pressed, sewn to the front and then hand stitched to the back.  I also need to print out the label so it can be sewn in with the binding.  Finishing off Vintage Dresses is October's One Monthly Goal. With a little over a week left in the month, I need to get moving on this one.  

2.    Mosaic Mystery - Finish clue 2. 

Mosaic Mystery Quilt
from Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs

All the gold centered blocks are finished and there are only a few more of the beige centered blocks to finish off. I want to get these done so I'm ready for clue 3. 

3.  2019 Christmas Mystery quilt clue 3. 

2019 Christmas Mystery
designed by Carrie Randall (Quilter's Hideaway)

Clue one and two are finished. I won't pick up clue 3 till Saturday morning, but the weekend is the best chance I'll have to get it finished. 

4.  Twinkle Stars - Finish sewing the rows together.

Twinkle Stars
Tutorial by Andrea Feldbush of Soscrappy

There's just a couple more seams to finish off. But there are lots of points to match up, so it takes a bit of time to get the rows pinned together.  

Fingers crossed that I can focus on these four and move at least one quilt to the finish line this week.  You can check out other to do lists over at Home Sewn by Us To-Do Tuesday Linky Party.  

Monday, October 21, 2019

Side Tracked

There were a number of side tracks in the last week.  I skipped posting last Monday as My Guy was in surgery. He's home now and healing well. He can't drive for the next 3 weeks, nor can he lift anything over 5 lbs.  So we've been adjusting to the new normal.  

Besides tackling new to me care giver duties and chores he normally does, I got side tracked with a new project.  The local quilt shop is sponsoring another Christmas Mystery.  I love a good mystery and couldn't resist playing along.  Clue one came out the Saturday before the surgery, so I didn't get to that till this last weekend.

2019 Christmas Mystery
designed by Carrie Randall (Quilter's Hideaway)

Two gingerbread guys. I may embroider some more "icing" later.    And then this week's block is

2019 Christmas Mystery
designed by Carrie Randall (Quilter's Hideaway)

A mug. I'm not sure I'm really happy with how this one worked out. I may redo it before the next clue comes out.  

Other then these three blocks, not much else got done in the sewing room. I need to get serious about getting Vintage Dresses bound or I'm not going to reach my OMG for October.  I'll get on that tonight.    

Linking up with Monday Making and Design Wall Monday

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Week 42 of 2019: Stitching Stuff

The tenth month of the year is winding down.  I seem to be winding down a bit with it. As the daylight ends earlier and earlier, it's harder and harder to get myself moving to the sewing room to work in even just 15 minutes of sewing time.  How about you, does the decrease in sunlight make you feel like hibernating and not stitching? 

I didn't have a stellar week on the stitching front. Life occasionally throws you curve balls and that's been the case for us this year.  My Guy has been dealing with a pretty serious medical issue for the last two months.  He had surgery last Monday and was in the hospital for a few days, part of the time in ICU. So there were a few days that stitching just didn't happen and that's OK.  In the overall scheme of things missing stitching time is pretty minor, though getting back to the sewing room has helped work off the residual stress.

15 minute days/week = 4/7 days
15 minute days/October = 16/19 days
15 minute days/2019  = 261/292 days
Success rate = 89.38%

Stitching time has been pretty limited.  There's been quite a few errands and chores on my list with My Guy on the disabled list.  I think we've taken care of most of the immediate stuff. Thankfully the cooler temps seemed to have put the grass into dormancy, so I won't have to mow again.

Though I've been getting in my 15 minutes, there's really not much to report on the stash report. So I'm going to skip that this week. 

My Guy's supposed to take long walks as part of his rehabilitation plan. Thankfully the weather has been good and we've taken the opportunity to go walk in places we normally don't.

We came across some female deer grazing along the path. They knew we are there and took off not long after I took this shot. 

There are still lots of Gulf Fritillary butterflies around, taking advantage of the last of the autumn blooms to store up a bit of nectar.

So how did your stitchy week work out? 

1. Libby in TN
2. karen
3. Julie in GA
4. Chrisknits
5. Jennifer in Indy
6. DawnyK
7. Christina's Handicrafts

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Photography Fixes for Blogging Quilters

A few weeks ago Angie (who blogs at A Quilting Reader's Garden) asked me to share how I get my blog photos so bright and sharp.  To be honest, I've never considered my quilting photos for the blog all that wonderful. In part because there's not a lot of staging with my photos. It's pretty much lay out the blocks or the quilt and shoot. My sewing and blogging time is pretty limited these days and I'd so much rather sew.  But I do try hard to ensure that any posted photos are sharp, bright and color balanced. You'll have to be the judge of how successful I am at that. But I promised Angie I would share my tips and tricks, so here's my general process for creating most of the photos that show up on the blog.  I'm not a professional, this is what works for me, I hope it helps you get better photos for your blog.  

Basic Equipment:
     Photoshop Elements

The camera:

 Yes I have a very nice DSLR, which sees a lot of use. But most of my sewing room photos are taken using this Sony Cyper Shot DSC-HX9V.  This point and shoot camera will be 8 years old in December. It's been dropped so many times that the lens doesn't telescope very quickly, but thankfully quilt blocks don't move very fast. My point being, you don't need a fancy, expensive camera to get good blog photos. High resolution isn't important for blog posting, but advanced shooting modes can be really helpful in producing a sharp photo. Low light and macro modes are two I use a lot. Low light mode helps reduce camera shake and macro mode allows the camera to focus at very close range, helpful when you want detail shots. 

The lighting: 

My sewing room has a very small window set back from the rest of the sewing room, so I have to make do with artificial lighting for most of my sewing photos.  Over the years I've accumulated two Slimline Floor lamps to improve the lighting over my sewing machine and my cutting table.

These aren't meant for photography, but they work really well. Both lights contain LEDs that produce light with the characteristics of natural sunlight (that's the important part as far as the photography goes).  You can get sunlight spectrum LED lights for other lamps, but they tend to be rather harsh and industrial looking when used inside, so most the interior lighting uses the softer yellow/pink/peach colored. Shooting under those lights gives the photos the same yellow/pink/peach tint. A flash will counteract most of that tinting, but at close range my point and shoot flash just over exposes the photo resulting in a washed out image. So I don't normally use the flash. 

The photo above shows my typical set up for taking pictures of large quilts in progress on the design wall.  I position the lights to get even illumination across the entire design wall.  

For things like quilt blocks, I use my sewing table and a single floor lamp.

I do use my cutting table, colored cutting mat and a floor lamp occasionally. I really like the white background in my photos, they just look cleaner to my eye. 

Here's the difference lighting can make. 

Light source is the four bulbs in the overhead ceiling fan. 

Light source is the natural daylight LEDs in the Slimline Floor Lamps

The natural daylight shot isn't as yellow, so the blocks look brighter and the colors in the photo are "truer".   My last step in the photography process is post processing, meaning I'm not posting a photo directly from the camera, but using software to further manipulate the image. 

Post Processing: Photoshop Elements

There are other tools out there you can use for post processing, but I'm going to stick with what I use and know.  As we do a fair amount of photography, Photoshop Elements makes sense for us.  It's not cheap software, but it's not outrageously expensive either.  For my blog photos, there are two post processing steps I do routinely: cropping and adjusting levels.

Cropping is pretty straight forward, typically I cut off anything that shows my messy sewing room. The second photo of the four patches was cropped from this image.  

Uncropped block photo

There's a lot of white space, and I did't get as close with this shot as I did the one lit with the ceiling lights. So I cropped to get the images to look similar and to shave off that corner sliver of black in the upper left.  

I use the Auto Levels function in Photoshop Elements frequently. That function adjusts the brightness, contrast and tonal range using the black, complete white and midtones of the photo.  

Auto Levels used to adjust brightness and tonal range

This photo is brighter than the LED image, both the white background and the fabrics. I can manually adjust the levels and tone if I'm not happy with the auto function, but that's another tutorial.  

Depending on the image, there are a few other things I might do. My sewing room lighting and camera combo does weird things to purple. If there's a lot of purple, I'll use the adjust hue/saturation function to adjust how that color shows up in the photo.  I might also straighten an image while cropping it, if I didn't get the shot lined up well. One other feature that sees some use in my blog photos is the clone stamp. That function can be used to remove stray threads from a close up or the reflection of the overhead lamp in the clear plastic part of my sewing table.

 You'll notice that circled reflection in this photo is missing from the one above.  

That's pretty much my set of blogging photo tips and tricks. There's a lot you can do with a DSLR. If you get the settings right you rarely need post processing.  But as quilting is a hobby and I'm bad enough about remembering to get in process shots, setting up a perfect DSLR shot just isn't in me most of the time and I've gotten good enough with Photoshop Elements that post processing usually takes just a few minutes (though color adjustment and removing unwanted parts of the image can take a bit of time). 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Week 41: Stitching Stuff

It's almost the middle of October.  The last two weeks have gone by pretty quickly.  It's getting darker earlier and cooler in the evenings. Getting in an evening walk means getting that in when I'm normally heading to the sewing room.  The change in seasons is the hardest time to keep up the sewing room (and exercise) habits as you have to rearrange your schedule to fit in the new normal.  So far so good on that front for me. Does your sewing time change with the seasons?  

If I head straight up the stairs after our walk, it's not hard to get into the stitching groove.  So far I've navigated the season change pretty well on the sewing front.  

15 minute days/week = 7/7 days
15 minute days/October = 12/12 days
15 minute days/2019 = 257/285 days
Success rate = 90.18%

My goal for 2019 was to manage 15 minutes of stitching time at least 90% of the time. I'm meeting that goal at the moment. I'm not sure how easy that's going to be staying at that level this week. I'm not going to be home at all on Monday, and maybe not Tuesday either.  The plan is to work in some handwork, time allowing.  

In terms of the stash report, there's nothing out at all. The projects under the needle this week have either already had the fabric counted, or it's mystery stuff that I don't count till the blocks are assembled.  So at some point, I'll have a bunch out.  

In the non-stitching stuff category, we met up with the Scientist in Training yesterday and checked out The Gathering Place in Tulsa.  The park is just over a year old and has been generating a lot of buzz.  If you've got kids, it's a great place to spend an afternoon. Apparently the SIT is still kid enough to enough some of the activities. 

The park runs along the river just south of downtown.  It's a wonderful place to just walk and check out nature. 

There's also some fun places to hang out like the Boathouse, which has the coolest lighting. 

It was a fun afternoon.  If you are ever in Tulsa, OK, you should definitely put this place on your "to visit" list. 

So how did your stitchy week work out? 

1. Meloney
2. Julie in GA
3. Chrisknits
4. DawnyK
5. Amanda
6. Shasta @ High Road Quilter
7. Christina's Handicrafts

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Friday, October 11, 2019

2019 Finish Along: 4th Quarter Ambitions

The year of 2019 is winding down way faster then I'd like it too.  Now it's time to decide what can be finished in the three short months left in the year.  My third quarter ambitions for the 2019 Finish Along were a complete bust, zero, nada, zilch finishes for the quarter.  Is there any hope for fourth quarter finishes?

Maybe.  There were no finishes last quarter, but there was good progress on two or three projects. A shoe in finish is Vintage Dresses.

 Vintage Dresses
Charise Randell

It's been quilted and trimmed, it just needs the label and binding.  I ended up ordering a fabric for the binding to finish out the progression of blues. That should be here this weekend, so this one should be an October finish.

Next up is Twinkle Stars.  

Twinkle Stars
Tutorial by Andrea Feldbush of Soscrappy

Just three more seams and this one will be ready for the borders.  I decided to finish out the diamonds along each edge using a pieced border, but those pieces should sew up pretty fast.  A final border of the background fabric to float the blocks and it will be ready for a backing.  This is supposed to be a Christmas gift so it really needs to get done soon. 

Also in the "bordering" stage is the Storm at Sea quilt for my bed.  

Storm at Sea
Paper Piecing Class by Carrie Randell (Quilter's Hideaway)

Just two borders left.  I bought a wide backing for this quilt, so that won't have to be pieced. It would be nice to start the new year with a new quilt on our bed. 

The last possible finish is Daisy Chain. 

 Daisy Chain Mystery
2019 Little Bunny Quilts Mystery
by Alison of Honey, Bunny & Doll Designs

This quilt also just needs borders and a backing.  Borders always take longer than I think they will.  Plus, I'm not sure what I'm going to do on this one. There's not enough of any one fabric to use as a border, nor is there enough to make a scrappy one.  I don't have a lot of those tans in my stash or scraps, so I'll need to do some stash shopping to see what else will work. 

If I can finish all four of these, that will bring the total number of finishes for 2019 to seven, which would be a tie with the most finishes I've had in one year. (Seven finishes happened in 2010, 2011 and 2017, that seems to be my max capacity).  

Linking up the 2019 Finish Along via That's Sew Julie.  Good luck to everyone on reaching their 4th quarter and 2019 quilty goals.  

Monday, October 7, 2019

Slow Going

Cooler temperatures that match the time of year finally showed up this weekend.  So did the rain. It was a good weekend to stay home and spend some time in the sewing room. There was some good progress on a few things.  Vintage Dresses is all trimmed up and ready for binding.  Now I need to find a darker blue in the stash to use for the binding.  

Then there's been progress on the October Clue for the Mosaic Mystery quilt.  

Mosaic Mystery
The Meadow Mist Designs 2019 Mystery Quilt Along
There are a few completed blocks, but those had been already put away in the project box when I remembered to get a photo.

The biggest effort as been to get the rows of Twinkle Star blocks sewn together into a finished flimsy.  There's been progress, but it's been slow going. 

Twinkle Stars
Tutorial by Andrea Feldbush of Soscrappy

The top and bottom 4 rows are sewn together.  The middle two rows are almost there. I hadn't decided on how to finish this project off. Leave it like it is or add a border or two?  After playing around in EQ a bit that's been worked out. 

 Completing the diamonds on the edges makes for a nice finish and then just a plain white border to float the blocks on.  Not sure on the binding color yet.  The pieced border won't be so bad, I've cut 6.5 x 2.5 rectangles and adding the corners to one side of those rather than making the border completely out of 2.5" squares. I'll need just 4 squares for the corners.  A lot fewer seams that way.  

I'm chipping away on my to do list for the month and that feels really good.  Hope your weekend was as productive. 

Linking up with the usual Monday linky parties. 

Monday Making
Monday Design Wall 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Week 40 of 2019: Stitching Stuff

It was a long week, way too many meetings on my calendar.  I spent most of Saturday in my sewing room, so now I feel much, much better.  Fitting in time in the evenings helps, but there's nothing like having the better part of a day to sit and play with fabric.  How did your stitchy week go? 

My Guy was out of town most of the week, which made it a little easier to work in my 15 minutes each evening.  

15 minute days/week = 7/7 days
15 minute days/Sept = 30/30 days
15 minute days/Oct = 5/5 days
Success rate = 89.93%

September was a good month with stitching time every day. I doubt that will be the case in October.  There's too much stuff going on the week of October 14th. Still I'm hoping I can find a way to work in my 15 minutes most days. 

Most of my efforts this week have focused on getting Twinkle Stars assembled, so there's been no fabric out for the week. Writing a stash report just doesn't make sense when there's nothing to report.  

The weather has turned cooler here this weekend, I was out and about last weekend with the camera to take advantage of what may be our last warm weekend. 

The old fashioned roses probably won't last much longer. But they still look pretty at the moment. 

The Monarch butterflies are hurrying south.  This one stopped for lunch on our blue Boneset. 

So how did your stitching go this week?  Was it easy to fit in those 15 minutes or did you struggle with all the other stuff that just seems to magically appear, begging for you to accomplish it when all you want to do is sew? 

1. Julie in GA
2. Chrisknits
3. Meloney
4. Mary-Kay
5. DawnyK
6. Angie in SoCal
7. Angie in SoCal
8. Amanda
9. Shasta @ High Road

Saturday, October 5, 2019

October Already?

We are already five days into the tenth month of the year, the start of the fourth quarter of 2019.  It's the wind down part of the year.  Except if you quilt. Then it's either "what can I finish by the end of the year" or "what Christmas presents do I have left to finish" time of the year. So keeping that in mind, I've been contemplating what the October One Monthly Goal is going to be. 

I try to avoid Christmas gift sewing as it's just stress and pressure I don't need.  However at the beginning of the year, I did commit to the Scientist in Training that I would finish off quilts for her writing group buddies who are graduating from collage. The first is finished, I'm still working on the second, Twinkle Stars.

Getting this quilt into finished flimsy state was my September OMG.  That didn't happen, though I did make a lot of progress with the assembly.  

On the other hand, Vintage Dresses is back from the quilter. 

Each dress has been quilted in matching colors with some great filler swirls in the rest of the block. It looks even better from the front. This quilt just needs to be trimmed up and bound.  That would be a relatively easy finish for the month. 

Also close to being a finished flimsy is Storm at Sea.  

 Storm at Sea
Paper Piecing Class by Carrie Randell (Quilter's Hideaway)

It just needs two more rounds of borders added to make it a finished flimsy. 

I've not accomplished my OMG for the last two months.  My success rate there is 7 of  9 or 78%.  That's actually really good considering that my success rate last year with the OMG was 42%.  The difference is being realistic about what I can get done. Due to some family issues, I'll be out of pocket for up to 2 weeks this month.  Sewing time will likely be limited, so as much as I'd like to pick finishing off Twinkle Stars, that's not likely to happen this month.  Finishing off Vintage Dresses is much more likely to happen as I can hand stitch when I can't get to the machine.  So that's the OMG for this month, finish Vintage Dresses.

Linking up with Elm Street Quilts.  Good luck with your goals for October stitching.