Before and after the sepia editing.

These are  some of the images I was working from... I didn't have much leeway as I have been collecting them for several years and I only had these and 3 more.  Three of them were either too grainy or too small to use or not the right pose...  As you can see they were either black and white or various shades of sepia...
  I cropped them so the girls were about the same size, discarded the two lower right because they didn't fit....  Than I entered them individually into Picasa.  After I made them all sepia and   I used the color temperature bar to get them as close as possible to the same shade of sepia.  Here is what I ended up with.
When you see the before and after below you can see it was well worth the time it took to do the editing.  Not hard but time consuming with this many photos...  If I can find a replacement I will discard the lower right photo...not my favorite as it has a kinda   greenish tinge I could not get rid of entirely...  I just love the photos tho....aren't just sweet as well as saucy!!!!


More Ribbon Magic!

Marilyn Nepper in Canada really got busy on her computer and found some great sites with even greater instructions...

  She even found another book which I have on order...  Another reader gave me the names of two Dover books which were reprints of ribbon work from Victorian times. When they come I will give you a review.   Right now I'm on overload and as I get it all sorted I will share with you.
Here are a few sites Marilyn found and you can see they are from Threads magazine. http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/33810/the-box-pleat-experiments-part-2-cross-drape-trim/page/all

But I did want to share how fabulous the folding becomes when you use striped, plaid or variegated ribbon


One of the sites Marilyn found showed this pleated ribbon trim on the cuff of a Victorian dress and gave directions how to reproduce it and I love the lace under it.

And another book I  ordered (or maybe it was the same one) had a chapter on braiding and weaving ribbon.  I have bags and bags of 1/4" ribbon from thrift stores and except for weaving it into lace, there not much more I do with it.

What I really need of course is more ribbon...  Remember this ribbon and trim store in LA in 2012?  At that time I was just shopping for velvet ribbon...

Hail my Romertopf collection...thanks to Allie

On my visit  to Allie last spring another life altering thing happened.....  Her husband Robert was baking bread using a Romertopf (clay baking pot) and getting the most wonderful crust of rustic artisanal breads which DH adores...

I learned to bake bread in the 50s and it has been a lifelong passion... I love the smell of yeast, the feel of kneading the dough and the smell of it baking.... but alas some time  in the late 90s DH started buying the  artisanal breads at Costco...  I bought special artisanal bread cookbooks, used a baking stone and experimented with ways to inject moisture into the baking process but never could get it "right." Finally just gave up but I surely missed baking bread...

Now Romertopfs are a pretty pricy new ($50+) so they were at the top of my thrift store list.  It took a while but I found the deep round one  (back left) and it makes a large round loaf.  It was a 50% discount  day so I got it for $3.. I kept looking for a loaf shaped one  and found it for $5 and then I had seen the shallow round several times and passed it over...  Finally the light came on and I realized that it would be perfect for Tuscan flat breads so it now part of my collection ($5). I even found one for a friend.

You preheat the Romertopf in a 425 degree oven.  Mix dough of your choice and do the final rising in a bread pan lined with baking parchment.  When it is risen you use the baking parchment as a carrier and drop the dough (paper and all) into the hot Romertopf and cover. 

But do they make the best crust EVER...  I'm now looking for someone with a well seasoned sour dough starter...  I have one going but one aged years  is better.... I'll keep looking...   I am now baking bread  a couple times a week... Husband is over-the-moon happy and me too!!! 


Skills for the CQJP 2015

Addendum:  Here are a couple websites with tutorials... 

I picked 2 skills to improve as a personal challenge  during the CQJP2015.... One   I had for 2012 but going further with it... ribbon trim folding..  I fell in love the first time I saw ribbon manipulated for trim and it was a display by Candace King and unfortunately it wasn't the class she was offering...

 She does have a schedule of where she teaches. I would love to take her ribbon folding class and Candace does get to Seattle several times a year but the class and my schedule have never worked.   I love these trims because they are so unique and can be done with inexpensive ribbon..  When you do them for CQ there is the bonus that you can do them with a small amount of ribbon...

I  determined that they are my #1 skill for my  CQJP2015 blocks.

 I did buy a book, "Ribbon Trims" by Nancy Nehring to try my hand at it in 2012 and I did do three folded ribbon trims in the Morris book...

I could handle the easy ones in the book but I have to admit I had trouble following her directions for the trims she had marked as "challenging"..  I'm taking the book with me when I see Susie again and see if between the two of us, we can get some more figured out...

The second skill is going to be paisleys of all types.  Paisleys (Persian Pickles) arrived in the US via Scotland in 1888 and were immediately embraced by crazy quilters.    I have done a few over the years but this year is going to be studying them in depth... I can see this developing into a major tutorial.

This is Betty Pillsbury's award winning quilt entitled "Paisley" and you can see two prominent ones on it...


The "Good Stuff" and all is not lost.

I know I'm not the only one who saves the "good stuff"  Stuff so good that you will most likely die saving it... I have a drawer for special laces that are very fine and very old....all exceptionally delicate    Well now they are seeing the light of day.  These CQJP blocks are going to be finished in 4s and are for my 3 oldest granddaughters...  So NOW it's time for the good stuff..
And this lace is precious because it is handmade from Italy and belonged to a relative of an Italian friend.  There are 8 of them and they were made for use on the corners of linen napkins.

All this lace is made from very fine thread and I'm so glad to be finally using it.  Every so often I would get it out and fondle it...  I will probably antique it all but not dye it any colors.

On another note.... I had saved paisley ties to use on this project and the one on this block is way too strong... But all is not lost.  I can cover it with a piece of fine lace and forge ahead.


Final steps before embellishments begin..

This is the last in this series of blogs about preparation of blocks for stitching... 

If I'm doing one block or larger blocks, sometimes I will flip and sew the patches to the foundation as I go.  But when making so many blocks at once, I just piece  the blocks as you see upper left and then put them on a foundation.  For block foundation I LOVE old well-washed sheets.

Then I pin a block to the foundation and do a long stitch on the machine to hold it in place.  If I had a machine which did zigzag I'd probably do that.  But since my machine only does straight stitch...  that works also. I always make my foundation at least 1-2" larger than the block because I often want to use a hoop.

I use  home-made squares to mark my basting lines on the BACK of the block.  I started cutting these squares out of old matt boards years ago and I now have every size from 6" to 12" in 1/2" increments. They make this part easier and I can recommend adding them to your list of tools.  They come in handy for other tasks also...  I use them over and over.

On the BACK of the block I trace the exact size of the finished block and inside that I trace the square that is 1/2" size smaller.  I use two different colors and run a basting line along each line. 

When you turn it over this is what you see.

This is one step that I do on EVERY block whether I'm working on it or if it's for an RR.  I grit my teeth whenever I receive a block that has only allowed 1/4" seam allowance.  First, we mostly use fabrics that fray and that edge is the most vulnerable point. Second,  if there is NOT ample allowance outside the exact size of the block, you are continually having to handle the edges which can easily get soiled as well as frayed..

Without the inner line marked I see people beading right up to the edge of the actual block size...which means you will have to remove beads to finish off the block.

If I have not explained this well, please please please let me know and I will edit.  I think that this step is that important.

I only did a couple of the blocks tonight.  Once they are at this stage it will be easy to finish the basting steps as I go along.  I did start pulling my ring of thread colors I want to use.  Next I will finish  the images and think about the challenges I want to include....


Sepia photos..a few tips

Many times  you are going to be using photos that you might want to convert to sepia tones... Most photo editing programs allow you to do that. 

First you don't need to rush out and buy Photo Express or some expensive program...  I always recommend Picasa.  It is Google's photo program and it is free to download and does just amazing things...  Last summer they changed the icons which I thought was a mistake but it is still the best around for free..

But you may have  something already on your computer that you are not even aware of.... a program that came with your printer or camera.  You can easily find out.  Go to your picture file and RIGHT CLICK  on any picture and a little menu will pop up and one choice is OPEN WITH.  When you click on that it will tell you your options... You will probably have a basic program with your word program along with others.  It turns out one of my favorite is the photo editing program that came with my HP printer and I had it for years before I accidentally discovered it. It is simple and easy to use... So take some time to experiment with what already you have...

Even though they do a lot of the same things, they often have different terminology for the same action... Most have a tools for adjusting the overall color in a photo.... Some refer to saturation, others refer to  color temperature and Google calls theirs "warmify" (weird). I like the ones with a little bar you can adjust and see the change as you do it..  Both my printer program and Picasa have that feature... Sometimes converting a photo will be listed under "special effects"

Most often the photos you want to convert are black and white and they are easily converted..  I do NOT recommend converting colored photos directly to sepia without an intermediate step.  Convert them to black and white first..

For some reason the color in the photo affects the results of the sepia.. It's not all that obvious but if you are doing a series, it makes a big difference.

Here  I first changed the colored image to black and white and then to sepia. As a rule the colors in a photograph greatly affect the sepia tomes when you convert it.

When I put the one I changed directly  from color next to the one I changed from black and white you can see the difference.  The one on the right is B&W to sepia... look at the difference in the background and type... It is softer, smoother and the sepia tones are much more pleasant.  For one photo you may not care but if you are working with a series of photos, it makes a big difference.

Even if the  photo you want to use is already a sepia, it may be darker (or lighter)  than you want... Photo editing programs usually have a control for "saturation" and it will usually be a little bar that you adjust either darker or lighter.  I wanted this photograph to be lighter to go with the one above.

Most programs allow you to adjust the temperature as well... With sepia prints, the warmer the tones the older they look... Here you can see the effect of adjusting the temperature.  It is what Goggle calls "warmify".

This is not complex photo editing.  Once you find the tool it is quite easy....The first step is familiarizing yourself with what's on your computer.. and remember Picasa is FREE and free is good.

I confess... I did it AGAIN!!!

Yes indeed...walking through Costco I again put a big bag of lemons in my cart.  Since I blog about this foolhardy compulsion about once a year, you would think I would remember just how much baking I had to do to use up a whole bag of lemons. 

So I began this morning and made a Lemon Sour Cream Pie.... and tonight we'll have lemon risotto for dinner..  That takes 3 lemons...which leaves about 10 large ones left.

I always do my favorite Lemon Sponge tart....this dirties about 6 bowls and makes a disaster area of the kitchen.

 And then I make mini-loaves of Sour Cream Lemon Pound cake...
I usually do a couple batches of these and freeze them.. But my freezer died just before I left for Houston. and I haven't replaced it yet... That will use 4 more lemons... 6 left

I have yet to find the perfect recipe for lemon cookies,.  Last year I made Pecan-oatmeal-lemon cookies....good but not real lemony.. If you have a good recipe for lemon cookies...send it to me..

Then there will have to be some lemon curd and lemon gelato (whoops..no freezer - no gelato).    I just might  use them up as always.... It always happens in the winter... I think it is a seasonal disorder... On a grey day a bag of yellow lemons looks the solution to all my problems...


Choosing and editing images....


I have about 50 images to narrow down to 12 and to edit (cropping and resizing) .. Some are already shades of sepia like this one on the left but I prefer a warmer toned sepia.

Some are more black and white like this one on the on the right..

 And some are colored.  After working  with the suffrage photos and lots of trial and errors, I found ways to get the best results and I will share the steps with you as I go along...

Then there are the media ads....   which are   either black and white or various shades of antiqued paper.

I never try to hurry through this process as I know unless I take my time with it, I'll never be happy with it.  The first step will be finalizing my choices which will not be easy because I have some great ones.  I started collected these in 2011 so there are many.


Piecing multiple blocks the easy way!!!

(I combined two previous posts into this one.) I know many people love piecing blocks but for me it is a tedious chore at  best.  So whenever I am doing a batch I do a couple extra.  Since I have the whole mess out, it not that hard to do a couple more.  I keep a bag of the extras and sometimes I use them when I join a round robin or give them to a student to get them going...  I just want to get the blocks done as soon as I'm able and get to the fun part...

I've tried the Martha Green's crumb method,  Allie's curve method, and Judith Montano method's of piecing.  But I always go back to just paper piecing and mostly use the same pattern over and over... This time  I'm using  Sharon Boggin's block pattern - #28.  This means every single block is #28.  Once you rotate the blocks and embellish, no one ever notices that they are all the same pattern...  Believe me!!!! I  enlarged it a bit so I will have an 8" square block when done.  If want some advice on choosing a paper pattern I posted some here.

I don't even pay any attention to what colors are going to go where on a block when cutting.  Once I have my pile of fabrics I just start stacking and cutting at random ... trying to get as many different fabrics per patch as possible...  Then I will sorta deal them out at random, making any necessary adjustments.  Of course this works the best when you have a large selection of fabric like I did this time..


If you did a good job gathering fabrics which  are harmonious, it is nearly impossible to mess up from that point on.  If you look at your fabrics in a pile and like them, toss them around and still like them, they are going to look good on a block no matter what you do... This the "pile test".  I do this with trims with students even before they pick fabric because it you assemble a pile of trims that work together, you can work backwards and pick the fabric last..

Now I had several choices.. I could make blocks one each month, or in smaller batches or do all 12 at once.  Doing them all at once will give you a more consistent look if you plan to use them together.. I chose all at once because piecing is not my favorite and I wanted it over with.  Here is how I go about it.

First I had cut 14 assorted of each pattern piece.. no plan.  I just stacked random fabrics from the pile five at a time and cut.  You can see the pile of patches on the left. I put up two card tables and laid out 14 squares of card stock.

Then I took a pile of each pattern piece and just randomly put it on a square. Trying not to put two of the same fabric adjacent to each other.

Until I had them all out... Then I stepped back and tweeked a few here and there.  I try to balance out color, value, and patterns at this point...I'm not too fussy.  I had a lot of   patches from paisley ties and I wanted some on each block..  This goes VERY fast because I try to not overthink this at this point...  Any goofs I make at this point can be dealt with when I start embellishing.

The pieces of card stock act like trays and I can just pile them up and head to the sewing machine.

I set a small folding table next to the sewing machine, put a towel and my little travel steam iron on it so I can press each seam as sewn.  And off I go with the pieces already on the paper trays  next to the machine

Within no time I have them 14 done.
Although I pressed seams as I went along, at this point they need a good press and put on a foundation but the piecing is done for the entire year..

These are very rich blocks in this winter pastel palette.  Lots of silk, taffetas, and velvets. Most of the silk patterned patches are from a day we hit a thrift store with an overstock of ties that were only 49 cents a piece.

And what's a perfect day...?.  A cold wintry day with a fire, a white chocolate mocha and a dear friend to stitch with....


Tips on picking a CQ paper pattern...

In the previous post I mentioned that for my CQJP2015 project I had chosen Sharon Boggin's Block 28 from the "I dropped the button box quilt".   All these block patterns can be found here   They are a fabulous resource and Sharon is so generous to make them available..    She has by far been the biggest influence on my crazy quilting and I can never say enough kind words about her.
I received a comment this morning from a newby that she was overwhelmed by the number of patterns available and thought she just might pick a number at random... NO NO NO... There are things to consider. First I chose number 28 because it has more patches than I usually do.... (because I have so many fabrics for this project).  It is also a very balanced block with the patches at random to each other..

If it were my first block I might chose one with fewer patches.  This block is also well balanced with a random layout.   In fact this is very similar to the one I used for my Morris block. For that  I had very wild graphic fabrics and lots of images so I chose a simpler block  ...

But there are other factors also... and many times it is just a personal preference.  I mentioned I liked the patches in a random pattern so I would not pick this block with all the patches in a row.... 

There are two things I always avoid  and that are patterns that will end up with small awkward corner patches... like patch #8 here..  If I were to use this pattern I would make that patch larger to begin with.  In fact I just worked on a block in a recent RR that had 3 tiny difficult corner patches.  I think I blogged about it..   So just be sure to look at all patches when considering a pattern....

The second  thing to be aware of is where seams intersect.  I try to avoid blocks where several seams come together like where pieces 4 & 5 meet at piece 6.  Depending on your fabrics and your skill level, this could be problematic.

Here your have seam 5 & 4 coming to piece 7 dangerously close to where you are also most likely have a seam allowance.  Multiple converging seams often have bulk that is hard to conceal and stitch through...  Keep an eye out for them.

This is a great block but I would divide both pieces 5 and 6 into two sections to make it more balanced... Keep in mind that you can always do that to any of the patches if you think ahead.

My second choice when I was choosing for this project was # 52 except I would divide piece 6 into two pieces...  I have printed it to use in the future...

Janet Stauffacher also  posts crazy quilt patterns.  Her blocks have allowed for an image.  She has a Free Crazy Quilt Block Patterns board at Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/j…/free-crazy-quilt-block-patterns/  Be sure to check hers also..

I did this post for Mary Ann, but  if you think you are going to be a paper piecer like me, this post is for you also...

p.s.  I actually have seen IN PERSON the "I dropped the button box" quilt and have endless photos of it...

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