Welcome to my blog

Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Friday, December 31, 2010

NO Junk drawers

Professional organizer Peter Wash says..... "have no junk drawers" and I see his point exactly.  Here's my former junk drawer.  As you can see, I had little plastic organizer boxes for this drawer but didn't use them.  They just didn't work for me.  I couldn't keep them in place.  They were constantly sliding around and coming apart plus nothing seemed to fit correctly in the boxes.  A junk drawer is a burial place to keep stuff you will never use..... well almost.  I do use the hammer.  I do use the alfalfa seeds to sprout something green to eat in the winter.  Or at least I used to grow sprouts.  It's been about a year or two since I did.  Hmm.... what else?  Well, I do need the matches for my emergency preparedness kit.  I don't see anything else I really need from the junk coffin.  Time for a clean out and give the drawer a better use.

Okie dokie, it's empty.  Time to give it a three time cleaning just in case any critters has wandered through there lately. 

I took a little break to create my own custom divider to fit exactly what I want in there.  It took me about an hour to create my drawer divider out of cardboard.  There is actually more room in the drawer beyond the end of the divider.  I chose not to use that area because it's very hard to reach anything back there.  The drawer doesn't come out as far as it should.  These utensils used to live in a basket on the counter.  They have a better home in this drawer next to the stove.  Getting them off the counter frees up more room for mixing and things.   I may change this later if it doesn't work right for me.  I have to give it a fair try out before deciding.  Notice the little white box?  I realized I regularly used the rubber bands that were in the junk coffin. 

While I'm in this area I decided to clear off the top of the fridge.  I removed some stuff before remembering to take a before photo. 

On top of the fridge were these Ramen noodle packages.  I had planned to make a purse and a couple of baskets from those.  The ice cream sticks were in the junk drawer.  I had planned to use those for another craft idea.  Out they go!  If I ever decide I want to make those crafts I can save again. 

So now the top of the fridge is better.  I didn't three times clean the top yet.  I'll do that when I clean the whole fridge, top and all the sides.  I wasn't ready to pull it away from the wall just yet either.  I'm afraid of what might be lurking back there and I was not in the mood for getting into a panicked cleaning frenzy.  I'm busy enough already.  Cleaning the fridge will probably be the last project I do after cleaning out the whole kitchen.

I'm very determined to do a complete house clean out.  I'm hoping I can do most of the kitchen area and part of the studio area by the end of this week.  Next week I'll be a bit slower cleaning stuff out because I have a couple of customer quilts I promised to do right after the holidays.  It's taken me years to let my house get this crowded with STUFF, it's going to take more than one week to do a complete house clean out. 

To be continued.......

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Anonymous comment answer

I tried putting this in the comments as an answer to anonymous but blogger said it was to many words so I cut and pasted it here.

Ok, anonymous, I agree with you.

My post was not meant to judge anyone or to upset anyone. I was only stating my opinion about the people on that particular show... who I thought were actually being portaid as geedy. I heard not one of the extreme couponing people say that most of what they got free was going to charity. Maybe I missed that part. What I saw was stockpiles far greater than one family could use in one lifetime... or two lifetimes and was going to be left in a will rather than give any of it to charity.

I never know how people are going to interpret my written words so I like the option of debating my opinions.  I also knew by posting I might get someone angry with me. It was a chance I had to take. Again, I like the option to debate and defend what I say. Who knows, maybe you will change my opinion and I might change yours.

Yes, I did pick stuff out of other people's trash to earn a few dollars. Back in those days I was probably the ONLY one around doing that in this area. It wasn't until after Michele Easter was on tv that so many became refunders.  Yes, even though I didn't say it, I did donate quite a bit to charity and still do all the time. I'm planning to donate a lot of food from my current stockpile as I do a house clean out. I have way more than I personally need and it should go to those who may need it more than me.

I also get food donated to me quite regularly by the food fairies. I find it sitting on my porch so there's no way for me to turn it down. On occasion over the years I've also had to rely on food bank foods as well. That's the reason I donate as often as I'm able.

If I can't donate food then I donate quilts that can be sold or auctioned to raise money which could be used to buy foods or given to help pay for medications or utility bills and other things. I never ever ask for recognition about the quilts I donate. I sign the donated quilts as "A. Nony Mouse". No one asks my name and I don't offer it.

What I really should have pointed out in my post is that the greedy extreme couponers make it very difficult for the rest of the couponers to buy extra to give as donations. What if a regular couponer went into those stores right after the extreme couponer had left. There would be no products on the shelves for the regular couponer to buy for charity. It was all taken by one person.

If the manufacturer believes thousands and thousands of people will start buying like the extreme couponing people how long do you think the coupons will keep coming? The manufacturers are about earning money. If they see any possibility they won't earn money then they change the marketing strategy.

How long do you think coupons will be offered if the 2-3% of coupons turned in right now suddenly became 60 - 80% turned in? Do you see my point? I've already seen the refunds go away by too many over zealous users.... myself included.... and really hope the coupons don't follow.

It's the shocker shows that get the most people interested in doing the same thing. Gosh, if someone were to have a reality show of how to find the most discount bin finds in one trip then I'd probably be one of the people on the show. (giggle) But then everyone would be looking for the discount stuff and I'd have a much harder time finding it for myself.

If I could find the right coupons, I'd do more couponing. The ones I see in my paper are mostly for junk stuff. Not foods or usable stuff. The coupons I see are for fancy restaurants and $2 bills being sold for $20 but no coupons for oranges and apples. There's coupons for beer and wine products but none for fresh milk for babies.  Do you see these good type coupons in your paper?

Anonymous, I see your point of view, do you see mine? I'm not a professional writer. I'm just a little old lady with an opinion and ideas to share. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. Sometimes I really like discussing things and getting ideas and feed back from others too. Discussing things is how I continually grow and learn so that I can pass it on to others.

Ok, time for me to get back in there and sort something. I've only got a couple days left for extreme organizing before I must get back to quilting.


I watched a show last night on the learning channel (TLC) that brought back memories and at the same time left me really puzzled by the purchases.  It was a show called Extreme Couponing.  The coupon people on this show bought thousands of dollars worth of STUFF for very little money because of their coupons.  The main thing about using coupons in the show was that the store doubled the value of the coupons.  A 50 cent coupon would become a dollar.  A dollar coupon would become two dollars.  The people spent hours and hours gathering coupons, matching the coupons up to sale items, going through the store to fill up several carts, and then going through the register line.

Let me tell ya, I was one of those who could buy several hundred dollars worth of STUFF for mere pennies if I chose to do it.  I first started using coupons in the 60s when there were coupons and refunds (rebates) almost everywhere you looked and only a few people used them.  Back then the stores gave away stamps that we put into books and traded just like money for things like sheets, dishes, appliances, furniture, and just about anything.  The stamp stores had catalogs of stuff very similar to regular catalogs today. 

Back in those days there were coupons for meat, fresh fruits & veggies, milk & bread, and just about anything needed to eat healthy.  We didn't see convenience foods in the stores back then like we see them today either.  I rarely paid more than 10 cents on the dollar for anything I needed.  Often, after coming home with my goods I could mail off packaging parts and get refund checks sent to me for the items I paid only a few pennies for in the first place.  Sometimes I earned thirty or fourty dollars a week by going through other peoples trash for packages offering refunds.  Many times one package had several refunds that could be had by sending different parts.  A top for one refund, a bottom for another, a weight seal for another, and sometimes just for sending a receipt.

Heck, even the stuff I bought for pennies had free stuff inside.  There were bath towels, hand towels, and face cloths in laundry powder boxes.  Glasses and dishes came inside oatmeal and cereal boxes.   Jelly came in drinking glasses.  Free stuff was given away at gas stations too.  Fill up your tank and you got free silverware or other stuff plus they gave you stamps to put into your stamp books in the same transaction.  Gas was from 15 to 30 cents a gallon back then as well.  Oh to have those days again!  If you got the oil changed in your car you got a coin inside every can of oil.  The coins could be traded for stuff just like stamps.  

Did you know Depression Glass dishes were originally free give away items at gas stations?  They were.  I think the whole "give something free for a purchase" phase came from the original free dishes given away during the great depression.  Now those dishes are worth hundreds of dollars to a collector.  I could go on and on about the free stuff and refunds back then but I don't want to bore you any longer with my trip down memory lane.

Ok, back to the people featured on the show.  I don't know what part of the country those folks live in but what they did certainly can't be done here in Kentucky anymore.  My suspicion is that after the manufacturers see the show; those people won't be able to do their extreme shopping anymore either.  The people on the show really went way beyond what the coupons are intended to do.  One man bought 1,000 boxes of cereal which he got for a few pennies.  A Thousand boxes!  No way can one person eat that much cereal in a lifetime.  He bought 300 toothbrushes.  So how many times would he have to brush his teeth to use up all those toothbrushes?  He bought enough food stuff in one single shopping trip that it would last him 150 years or more if he lived that long.  He said he shops like that all the time.  His garage looked like walking into a mega store.

One woman said she was leaving her stockpile of groceries in her will.  Her kids would inherit it.  She bought 60 bottles of soda and almost 2 thousand dollars worth of other stuff for less than 10 dollars on her one shopping trip.  Now come on!  How many large bottles of soda can one family drink in 3 months?  That's how long it would be before the soda is on sale and coupons would come out again.  Ok, some people drink soda all day every day.  But, how long will 500 boxes of pasta and 300 jars of pasta sauce last for a family of 4?  I don't know about you but that would be way too many pasta meals for me before it gets too old to use. 

It's people, like the extreme couponers on the show, that mess the system up for the rest of us.  Back in the 80s there was a lady named Michelle Easter that went on tv and told of her extreme couponing too.  She started a magazine called Refunding Makes Cents that was filled with the latest refunds out all over the country.  People who subscribed to her magazine could trade refund forms with other people and double, triple, or quadruple the rebates they got from one package.  A package they got for free in the first place.  She messed it up for those of us who only took our fair share.  It was only a year or two later that the refund forms started disappearing because the magazine created so many extreme refunding people.  No manufacturer can continue to operate if every dollar they earn is given out in free items plus refunds too.  They would go bankrupt very quickly.

Not long ago I was challenged to live without my coupons.  I agreed to take the challenge but my neighbor continued to bring coupons to me.  I kept them even though I wasn't using them.  I have managed to live quite well without the coupons.  Well, right before my last shopping trip I decided to have a look at my coupons once more.  There are very few really good useful coupons anymore. 

Out of all those coupons, I came up with only these that were actually usable for my purchases.  The rest were for what I call junk items.  Junk items that most other people don't like either. 

After making out my shopping list and matching coupons to sale items..... I didn't use a single one of the coupons.  I found better bargains on items that didn't have coupons out.   For example the 40 cents off on yeast.  Even if it were doubled to 80 cents the store brand would still be a dollar cheaper than one with a coupon.   Stores here in my area stopped doubling and tripling coupons about two years ago.

If you find coupons that really are on products you use; then for heaven sake use some common sense when using them.  For example let's say you use one roll of toilet tissue per week. (Ok your family might use more but this is only an example, K?)   A year's supply would be 52 rolls or about 13 four roll packages.  If the coupon and sale is out every three months then you only need 3 packages to last until the next sale.  If you bought 4 packages every three months then at the end of the year you would have 16 extra rolls in your stock pile to help with any possible financial crisis.

Here's another example.  Let's say you use about one jar of pasta sauce and one box of spaghetti a month.  How many jars of pasta sauce and boxes of spaghetti would you need for a year?  (12)  The sale and coupon comes out every three months so how many do you need to purchase for a three month's supply? (3) How many extra to buy every three months for building your stockpile of emergency food?  (4) 

Ok, I do know there are people who keep up to 20 years worth of food and water in their stockpile.  That's a lot of money tied up in stockpiled foods that could be lost to a disaster.  I can't help but wonder how many of the people lost all their stockpiled food to flooding out west last year.  How many lost their stockpile of food in the fires that swept across an area a few months ago.  How many stockpiles are buried beneath the mud slides in California right now?  You understand what I'm saying?

So if you are going to use coupons and stockpile stuff..... at least buy and keep no more than you can reasonably use and no more than you can afford to loose due to a disaster.  Keep the money saved so you can replace what you need when you need it.  Use coupons wisely and buy only your fair share.

Ok let me sum this whole post up into four simple words that anyone can understand.

God doesn't like greedy!

In my opinion God does want us to have food stored away; but, only enough to last a little beyond a year's supply.  That's why he created the seasons.  In the spring food is planted and farm animals have babies.  During the summer everything grows and matures.  In the fall it's all harvested and preserved to last until the next fall season.  During the winter we start eating our stored up foods.  Spring arrives and it starts all over again. 

Even God's creatures know to store only about a year's worth of foods.  What would it look like if squirrels kept a 20 year supply of nuts in their tree house?   What would a ant hill look like if there were 20 years worth of  dead bugs saved in it?  How fat would a bear be if it stored up 20 years worth of fat for it's hibernation? 

I'm not putting down anybody's religion.  I'm just stating my own thoughts about what should be stored for the future.  If your religon teaches you to keep more that's ok.  We can agree to disagree.

Ok, blogger is acting up.  It must be telling me to stop type-talking and post already!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Freezer cleaned out

The upright freezer was the next thing to be cleaned out.  I had far more food than one person could eat before it got too old.  I bought food like I was feeding a hugh family instead of only me.  Fear about the economy contributed a lot to my over stuffed freezer.  I was also buying food as if I was still shopping only two or three times a year instead of once a month. 

Well, my intentions were good.  Part of the food was supposed to be for my daughter but she rarely took any of it.  I was guilty of not eating it too.  I would get so busy on the quilting machine that I'd forget to cook which was a contributing factor in my health problems. 

I've lost everything in the freezer three times in a row due to power failure.  I was heart broken each time I watched all the food go into a garbage can.  My insurance company refused to pay for the food because I couldn't document the purchases.  DUH!  Why didn't I keep receipts after the first time loosing the foods?  Hmm.... never thought it would happen again so soon.

I asked myself a really DUH question a few days ago.  If I'm afraid of loosing a whole year's worth of food again due to loss of power, then why am I keeping a year's worth of food in the freezer?  Why not keep only a three month supply of  frozen food and bank enough money to restock if I loose it again?  It will be much easier and cheaper to restock a three month supply than it would be to restock a year's supply.  Three months should be enough to see me through any financial crisis if I ever have one.  If not, there is always the money saved in the bank.  It's also easier to get an insurance payment for a three month supply of food than it is for a year's supply.

I got this as an early birthday present.  I debated a long time about returning it.  I decided to keep it even though I feel the bags will be too expensive.  I can offset the cost of the bags by reusing them.  There is also a really neat gadget I plan to buy to go with this.  It's a jar sealer attachment.  I will use canning jars to vacuum seal food I dehydrate. 

Here is the freezer before the clean out. 

My daughter came to get enough of it to fill her own freezer and a neighbor came to get a lot too.  Some of the food is thawing out in the fridge.  I plan to make a few heat and serve meals.     

There is still more than a three month supply for one person left in there.  I won't buy any freezer foods until I've used most of these.  Everything except the veggies got repackaged into vacuum sealed bags. Then the vacuum sealed bags got put back inside numbered bags again.  I'm still using the numbered bags because I really like being able to look at my inventory sheet and quickly pull out what I want by it's number.

The freezer is much emptier now. 

Hmm... the new readers may not know about how I use numbered bags and keep an inventory list on my freezer.  Here is what my inventory sheet looks like.  The columns are:  bag number; date put into the freezer; what is in the bag; weight; original pricet; and actual price I paid for it.

Once a month I update the sheet by deleting what has been removed and add new items going into the freezer.  The numbered bags are reused over and over again.  I line my foods up like books on a shelf to make it easier to find a numbered bag and remove it.   I used to update the inventory sheet on the computer once a week but found this was not necessary since I shop once a month. 

Once a week I look at the inventory sheet, decide what I plan to cook for the week, open the freezer to take out all the bags for that week, and move those to the fridge freezer.  I use the oldest items first and this keeps the inventory rotating.  When I move something to the fridge freezer I remove the numbered bag so that it's ready to reuse when I shop again and mark through the number on the inventory sheet.

I keep my grocery receipts and an updated inventory list in my bug out binder just in case I have to leave my house during an emergency.  The list and receipts are enough documentation for insurance purposes.

I'll keep the old inventory sheets to know how much is being used, how much it cost me, how much I saved, and so forth.  If you want to read more about my freezer inventory you can read about it in this post.  The post is a little confusing.  I do use packing tape to make the labels but the tape must be put onto the bags before using them.  The tape labels should be attached to the bags right out of the box other wise it may not stick. 

To be continued......

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kitchen is next

I decided to move to a different area for the house clean out and leave the office for another day.  I could have kept working on the office but changed because I had some help for the afternoon.  I got out these sorter boxes I had in a closet.  I put a numbered label on them from 1 to 10.  I put these on the floor of the empty room.  This room is going to be my sorting area for a little while.  I'll create a list of what is in each box and use these for food storage until I come up with something better.

I put my helper to work clearing out the hard to reach cabinets.  Well, she is closer to the floor than me so it's easier for her to clean out bottom cabinets don't you think? 

Na Na carried the heavy bags to the sorting room where Ladybug unloaded them into the sorting boxes.  It really doesn't matter which box anything goes into for now.  I'll do a better sort after I do some major kitchen cleaning. The tops should keep the critters out if there are any more lingering around.

As a reward for all that hard work of climbing inside cabinets and putting food into sorting boxes it was time for a  tea party.  She really wasn't happy to have chocolate all over her hands.  She was saying eeeewww Na Na.

Later, after Ladybug went home, I moved the cabinets from the corner so I could do a thorough cleaning behind and underneath them.  You really don't want to see pictures of the black pellets left on the floor by wandering mice or rats.  I wish I had a better place to store those ladders.

You know how the hoarder shows always have photo close ups of the spiders and other creatures living in the hoarder houses?  Well, here's one of mine.  It's a black widow.  One of two that met their death by fly swatter.  It's finding critters like this that make me even more determined to keep going with my house clean out.

I did a really good cleaning in this area.  Washed walls, baseboards, and floor.  Then cleaned the cabinets inside and out.  Top and bottom too.  Everything got cleaned three times.  Once with bleach and soap.  A second time with peroxide and a third time with vinegar.  Any germs that might be left are surely doomed after all that cleaning.  

It was just a small area to clean.  It felt really good though. I put some cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil into each cabinet hoping to keep the mice and rats away.  Smells really good in the cabinets. I also put a box of Dcon and a box of Tomcat behind them too.  I'll not put anything back into the cabinets just yet.  The food can stay in the sorter boxes until I'm sure where I want things to go when put back. 

Critters really don't like clean places to live.  They prefer dirty, dusty, dark, and smelly places to set up homes.  If the critters live fairly well in an area then they leave a message to other critters before moving on.   Mice leave black pellets and urine, spiders leave their webs, and so forth.  Hopefully, a good cleaning and the smell of peppermint will tell all the critters my home is too clean for them to live.  Gosh, every time I walk near those cabinets it smells like candy. 

To be continued.....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Office clean up

I couldn't wait to get started with simplifying my life. In the past I would be out the day after Christmas looking for bargains.  Not this year.... I have enough!  It wouldn't make any sense to go get more STUFF when I'm doing my best to get rid of a lot of what I already have.  There will be time enough to look for bargains later IF I think I need something.

I decided to start my 2011 house clean out with my office.  I really don't like doing paper work so I tend to put it off.  Well, this year, I figured since I really need to do the end of year reports and filing anyway, I might as well start my house clean out with what must be done.  So this is my office.  Yes, it's dark.  This was at about 4 am. 

I think this closet has been my office for about 20 years.  About once a year I straightened it.  Every year or two I made an attempt to clean it out.  Somehow not much got tossed.  It seemed like everything had a value so I saved everything year after year.  Looking up and to the left you can see dated boxes of papers and stuff.

Up and to the right you can see some of my books and genealogy binders.

Down below you can see more binders and other stuff.  Hmm... I wonder why I've been keeping the box for my 4 year old printer?  Gee what a mess my office is.

 I got started with the old papers.  I brought boxes of papers to the intake table to sort.  That's the place with the most room for spreading everything out, making stacks, and sorting.  I got out the paper shredder and went to work. 

It was kind of fun going through old waiting lists and remembering the people.  No reason to keep these anymore though so I shredded them. I had more than 15 years of waiting lists to shred. 

Next I went through lots and lots of notes I had made for myself as well as old reminder letters and stuff.

By the time I had finished I had 2 bags of old envelopes and 5 bags of shredded papers. 

The office is starting to look much better.  Empty I mean.  I'll paint in there eventually.  It will be after I've done the house clean out and decided which direction to go next. 

While I was busy going through old papers I kept thinking about the hoarder shows.  Often the people helping with a clean out don't want the hoarder to go through things.  Well, I would have hated to have someone tell me not to go through my stuff before it was shredded or tossed.  I found some valuable items while going through the papers.  Some of the papers I found were the birth certificates and death certificates for my sons.  I can't figure out why I had those in the office unless I was putting information into the genealogy files.  Those got put away with the family photo albums.

To be continued......

Friday, December 24, 2010

Where are the chairs

A few years ago I was talking with my friend Martha.  She lives in Indianapolis.  During our conversation I happen to mention.... I was much happier when I had no customers and had very little money.  Don't get me wrong, I really like all my customers.  I was remembering the time before I had customers.  The time when I had no quilting income and a lot less stress in my life.

Not long after that I was type-talking with my friend Kathi.  Kathi is my long time internet friend.  I happened to mention..... I was so much happier when money was so tight I had to be very creative to clothe and feed us.   That's when the thought of giving up my income as a machine quilter really started to take hold of me.  

In the time before I had customers, I had to be very creative in order to survive.  I created my own patterns and sewed clothes or other things we needed.  I made cardboard furniture and found object art to decorate my home.  I cooked creative meals based on what I could find in discount bins or what I got from the food bank.  In other words, I had fun because I was creating everyday.  Being creative is happiness for me.

A few weeks later I was looking through some older photos when I came across these.  This is my DIL and two grandsons. 

This is my son standing at the window.

This is when Ladybug was just learning to walk.  It's taken at my daughter's apartment before she got a house.  My daughter is getting her hair done by the sister who works at a hair salon. 

This is another sister with her daughter.

Did you notice how my DIL and son are standing and not sitting?  That's because it was the only room of my house with chairs.  Only two chairs.  The rest of the house was filled with STUFF.  I went to my daughter's apartment that day because there wasn't any place at my house for company to sit.

I have a another son and his family living right here in Kentucky but none of the grand kids or the DIL have ever been to my house.  I've been to their house but not the other way around.  I have grand kids living in Alaska.  Only one of those grand kids has ever been to my house.  He slept in my bed and I slept on the floor when he was here visiting because there is no bed for company to sleep on.

If I were to cook a big holiday meal for lots of company, they'd have to eat at the intake table standing up.  I ask myself some really difficult questions after looking at the photos.  Why is it that no one is setting down?  Why have I let my life get to this point?  Where did my life go?  Why have I surrounded myself with STUFF when I'd rather be surrounded by kids and grand kids?

I drove them all away by surrounding myself with stuff.  I neglected what really should have mattered in my life; all for the sake of being a really good professional machine quilter.  It wasn't my customers fault, it was mine.  I became a workaholic. While being a really good business person, I let my kids and grand kids.... my life..... slip away from me.  That's when I decided to take this backward journey to my life before.  It's too late to get back what I've lost; but, I can surely simplify my life.  If I can tell my story, and in doing so, prevent just one single person from making the same mistakes I did, then the story is worth telling. 

True, not every person going into or already in the business of machine quilting will go to the extremes I did.  Definitely, most have much more sense about it than me.  Still, I read whats talked about by other machine quilters and I can see small glimpses of what happened to me starting to happen to them.  I read about the over booking because it's hard to say no to a customer or turn down the extra money.  I see some machine quilters talking about the need to figure out which quilts must be finished by Christmas and what can be left until after.  I see where machine quilters are running two machines and still aren't ahead of the tops waiting.  These could be just fleeting times of holiday rush stress or it could be warning signs of what could happen. 

Now that I've started my backward journey, my goal is to clear the clutter from my house.  I'm talking about quilting stuff in every room except the one room where it should be located... the studio.  I'm talking about the need to clear up the rest of the clutter blocking the path to a people friendly home.  That means other craft stuff and food storage stuff too.  I'm clearing out anything that gets in the way of me having a people friendly home again. 

To be continued....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It ends up square

Over the years I've quilted a lot of customer quilts.  Toppers (customers) would bring tops with issues and expect ask me to wave my magic quilting fairy needle to return it back to them contest ready perfectly square.  If you could have seen some of the issues you would know how very difficult it was to get those quilt tops quilted. 

Never the less, I did my best to accommodate their wishes by learning how to work around the issues to return a top anyone could be proud of.  One of the issues I often dealt with was where the measurements at the top and bottom edges would be off as much as 4 inches sometimes.  I'm going to show you how I take a wonky quilt with friendly borders and quilt it square.

First I measure the quilt top in three places.  Across the top edge, through the middle, and across the bottom edge.  Add the figures together then divide by three to get the "average" width.   For demonstration purposes I'll use 45 as the average number. 

Let me explain that I do what is called a full float of the tops when quilting.  How happy I was that day, many years ago, when I found out about floating tops!  I prefer this method because it gives me much, much better control to get a really square quilt.  There are quilters that do a partial float which is attaching only the bottom edge of the top to the leader.  There are other quilters who don't do either type of float, preferring to attach both top and bottom edge to the leaders.  If they could only see the difference a full float gives they would start doing it too.

First, I attach the backing to the machine leaders making sure it's centered.  I lay the batting on the backing getting it centered as well.  I put the channel lock on and sew a straight line across.  This holds the batting in place as well as give me a straight line to follow when attaching the top.

Next, find the center of the sewn line.  This would be at the center of the backing.  This mark is where the center of the quilt top will be placed.  I make a mark on the batting with a wash out marker.  (Ignore the extra quilt you see in the photos.  I often quilt more than one at a time without removing from the machine. Just look at the lower half of the photos.)

I measure out from the center mark going to the right.  At 22 1/2 inches I make another mark.  That's the first half of the 45.

I measure out from the center mark going to the left and make a mark at 22 1/2 inches.  That's the other half of the 45.

Next I put the center of the top at the center mark on the batting making sure the edge of the top is right at the sewn line.  The sewn line will help me keep the top edge straight.

Put the right side of the top at the right mark.  Sometimes I put a pin to hold it there, sometimes not.  If there is a lot of fullness to be worked in I use pins.  The more friendliness, the more pins needed.  This top has very little fullness to work in so I'm not pinning.

Move to the left and put the other side of the top there.

You can see the top has just a bit of wave to it.  I would either pin to ease in the fullness or simply work it in as I stitch this edge down. 

As I advance the quilt I want to be sure the quilt top stays the same all the way through the quilting and end up with the same 45 inch measurement at the bottom edge.  The way I do this is by measuring from the end of the belly bar.  I have velcro attached to the very end of the bar.  My measuring tape has a bit of velcro on the back.  I attach the tape measure then......

go to the edge of the top.  This one is at the 19 inch mark on the tape measure.  It's not actually 19 inches from the end of the bar.  I put the velcro on the wrong end of the tape measure.  I didn't want to change it so I left it that way.  It still works. 

I write this number on a bit of tape on the bar so I don't forget it.

I have the same velcro set up on the other end of the belly bar.  This time my measurement is at 9 inches from the end of the bar.  Yup, it is a backward measurement too.   

I write this number on another bit of tape.  The reason for the difference in the two side measurements on this quilt is because I actually off centered it.  I want to keep as much of the extra backing in one piece as I can so it can be used later.  I shifted everything to the right allowing more of the backing to be in one piece.  It doesn't change the way this technique is done.

Now I'm ready to tack stitch (or pin) the top edge along the straight sewn line.  Notice the extra fullness along the side?  Each time I advance the top, I will work this fullness in and tack or pin it down.

As I quilt and advance the top, I am able to lift and shift the top as necessary to keep the edges at the correct side measurements..... because of the full float.  Keeping the side measurements the same will show where the extra border fullness is and allow me to work it in as I quilt.  Another thing to remember is that as the top is quilted it will draw up while the rest of the top doesn't.  The side measurements help me keep the top at the correct width no matter how much the quilted part draws up.  This prevents hour glass shifting.

Why do I sew a straight line to follow?  For a couple of reasons.  Just looking at the machine you might think it's perfectly square but it's not.  On my machine the bars are farther apart at one end of the table than the other end.   I realized this when I kept observing tops shifting sideways during the quilting process.  On my machine the bars are farther apart by 1 1/4 inch at one end than the other end.

Also leader fabric pulls and stretches.  With use and stretching the leader can be off by an inch or more from one side to the other or in the middle.  Looking at the machine the bars appear to be perfectly level but they aren't.  The long expanse of the bar is impossible to hold level, it's going to sag a bit in the center from the sheer length.  Sewing the straight line assures me, right from the start, I have the top on the machine as straight and even as I can get it.

My previous machine, a shortarm, didn't have channel locks.  What I did back then was to use a piece of cardboard, with a binder clip holding it onto the tracks, behind the forward and back motion wheels.  This prevented the forward and back motion wheels from moving allowing me to sew a straight side to side line.  Hmm.... I think I've explained everything. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Attaching borders

Very few toppers make quilt borders correctly.  Toppers are people who make only the top of a quilt then have someone else quilt it.  Most toppers will simply cut long strips then sit down to sew these to the top.  Without ever measuring or pinning they sew the long strips along the side of the top until they get to the end then whack it off.  What they don't realize is that the fabric is being fed through at two different rates.  The feed dogs are pulling the bottom fabric in at one rate and their hand is guiding the top fabric at a different rate. 

That is a technique used in garment making to "ease in" extra fullness between two pattern pieces.  In making a garment, say for example, the sleeve is larger than the arm hole it is attached to.  In order to work in the extra fullness the sleeve is on the bottom so the feed dogs pull it more and the arm opening is on top so the sewer can pull or stretch it to fit the sleeve.

The easing technique really should not be used when attaching borders to a quilt top because it creates a very friendly border.   A friendly border is one that waves a lot.  Here's my way of attaching borders to prevent the waves.  I learned it from someone years ago and don't remember who. 

Measure across one end.

Measure across the middle.

Measure across the top.

Average these three measurements together and cut the strips to that length.  My average came out to be 41 1/2 inches.  I cut two strips this length.  One for the top edge and one for the bottom edge.

Lay one strip along the bottom edge.  Pin in the center and at both ends.  Then easing in the fullness, start pinning the rest of the border to the top.  I use lots of pins.  I pin about every two inches.  Sew these borders on making sure that the beginning and the ending remains even.  

After you have the two borders sewn onto the top.  Press them out.  Turn the top to once again measure the quilt across the top, middle, and bottom but adding the previously sewn borders into the measurement.  Average the three figures to get your new measurement.  This technique is not the same as it would be for mitered corners. 

Repeat the steps for pinning.... center, right end, left end..... and pin in between.  If you measure and use an average instead of just sewing long strips, you end up with a top and bottom border of the exact same length.  The same is true with the side borders.  If the borders are cut the same exact size, you end up with a fairly square quilt and no friendliness.

Without measuring and cutting borders first it's extremely rare the borders end up the same size.  Once in awhile someone gets lucky and the borders end up the same size.  Fabric stretches and will not behave.  Even on grain fabric has a small bit of stretch to it.  At least if you cut the borders the same size you know they will be the same size when sewn to the top.  You will also make your quilter much happier.  Even if that quilter is you.  It's very difficult to make a really square quilt if one border is larger (friendlier) than the other.