Waggons West Etsy Shop

Sunday, January 25, 2015

PQ 6.2 Land of the Midnight Sun

Voting for Round 2 quilts is now open.     Scroll down the post to the pictures.   Click on the gray heart in the upper right hand corner of the picture to register your vote.   Mine is number 56.

I was fortunate enough this past summer to travel to Alaska with several members of my family.  It was a wonderful trip full of fishing and taking in all the sights.  I had been warned that it would be difficult to sleep with the near round the clock sunshine.  In fact, I found I adapted to it quite nicely.  I was very happy to have that much sunshine.  And I appreciated having only near dusk dusk darkness on the middle of the night walk to the restrooms at the fishing camp!  I am quite certain that I would not do equally well in the darkness they have at this time of the year.

Our primary goal was fishing.  However, I did my research and identified the ONE quilt shop in Anchorage that I did not want to miss. We worked out a plan and I ended up in Alaskan quilt shop heaven.  There was everything there from Russian influenced applique to Alaskan themed novelty prints to Alaskan batiks.  Oh my... the Alaskan batiks.  Oh mine... the Alaskan batiks.  I was restrained.  I knew how much room I had in my suitcase and how many pairs of socks and underwear I could reasonably abandon in order to stuff a bit more in. I did pick up a bit of fabric for the pattern Delectable Dog Sled by Lisa Moore. 

When I read that Project Quilting Challenge was sunrise sunset, I immediately thought of my trip to the Land of the Midnight Sun and decided to put together my Alaskan Souvenir.  I pulled out my dog sled batik and the matching swirling stars and started to look at the pattern.  There was one problem with that picture. I neglected to even consider, let alone purchase any background fabric.  The pattern has a beautiful swirling stars in complimentary colors.  What was I going to do?  A quick panicked look at the quilt shop website showed that they had the fabric in stock. But seriously, there was no way it would arrive in time for me to finish the quilt in time to meet the challenge deadline

I went to my stash and started looking.  Front and center in the batik tray was this strange gray and black and orange and gold piece of fabric.  It is completely not my style or color choice.  I don't know where I bought it or for what project it was intended.  It was however the perfect complement to the colors in my Alaskan prize fabric.  More importantly, there was enough of it to complete the background and the binding.  What are the odds?

The funny thing is that while I knew the colors matched, I just wasn't sure it would work.  But given the deadline and my determination to use stash material I went ahead and got started.  This is probably the only quilt I've ever worked on where every time I put two pieces of fabric side by side I marveled at how well they went together.

This pattern is based on the Delectable Mountain block.  I could easily see the musher's dashing through the dark mountain side.  But as I worked, I could also see the hints of the Aurora and perhaps the looming season of sunshine peeking out from behind those mountains.

This quilt measures 19 x 50 inches.  It is the pattern Delectable Dog Sled by Lisa Moore.  The fabric is batik from Alaska and parts unknown.  The batting is cotton and the backing is black quilter's cotton.  It was machine pieced and quilted on my domestic sewing machine.  The binding was finished by hand.

View all of the lovely quilts submitted for Project Quilting season 6 Challenge at Persimon Dreams. You can also follow the quilter's project each week on the Challenge Quilts Facebook page. Project Quilting is the brain child of Kim Lapacek.  The challenges come from the evil genius of her mother-in-law Dianne.

A couple of side notes about this quilt.
 1. After many years of telling my quilty friends they could part from the pattern and free themselves from the chosen fabrics I followed a pattern using the fabrics in the picture.  Well mostly.

2.  I departed from the pattern a bit.  Mine doesn't look entirely like the picture.  That is my fault and not the pattern's.

3. I think this is technically the best quilt I've done.  That leaves a lot of room for improvement but I am very happy with my progress on stitching even seams and on making consistent and straight cuts.

4.  I love my June Taylor shape cut ruler.

That is all.  Now go view the quilts and vote for yours truly if you are so inclined.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Practicing my digitizing.  Making new stuffies for the Spring Show season. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ranking the Most Common Initials in the United States


One of the common problems for people who do craft shows is figuring out what to sell.  This gets to be really complicated when you create items with names or monograms.  One way around it is to do single letter monograms.  With 26 letters in the alphabet, it can be expensive to prepare items in all 26 letters and in all colors and styles.  I ran into this problem with the embroidered toilet paper I was making before the holidays. 

I decided to do a bit of research and see if I could come up with a rough ranking for the most common single letter initials  I figured that some people will buy their first initial and others will purchase their last initial.  So a combination of both initials seemed in order.  I found lists of the most common last name in the US today as well as lists of the most common first names, male and female, over the last 100 years.  I did a quick count of the number of names in each category that started with each letter.  

Last Name          Male First Name             Female First Name
R                               J                                           J  
M                              R                                         M
W, B, C                     A                                       A, D
S, P                            B                                       C, S
G, H                        S, D                                     K, L
T                                P                                         B
J, L                        C, E,G, H                            E, R, T
A, F                         K, T, W                                 H
D, K, E, N                   N                                   G, N, P, V
Y, O                         Z, V, F                                 F, O

I didn't include numbers because, honestly, I didn't spend the time cross checking to  make sure they added up properly.  Remember, this is just a quick attempt to score monograms for likely popularity.    Out of 100 names in each category the top letter represents 11 - 18 percent.  The second row is 10 - 11 percent.  The bottom numbers represent one percent.  

The letters I, Q, U and X do not appear on any of these lists.

In order to get a better picture of which letters are relatively more common, I made up a ranking system.  I weighted each letter each column in the order they occur top to bottom.  I used 10 for the top row and 1 for last row.  I did that simply because there are 10 rows of letters.  This isn't entirely fair because the R in last names represents 11 percent of last name initials while the J in male names is 18 percent.  I could go back and to a percent ranking but that would take another sheet of paper in my notebook or I'd have to go all modern and set up a spread sheet.  So, I made it up.  We are talking relative numbers here and no one is going to bet the farm on using these as more than kinda sorta guidelines..  right?

I then added up the rank score for each letter.   For example:

R = 10 + 9 + 4  = 23
10 for being in the first row of last name initials
9 for being in the second row of male names
4 for being in the sixth row of female names
= a ranked score of 23.

Thus the top letters for monogrammed items should* be:

B, S
A, C
G, T
K, W
E, L
Y, Z

With no requests for I, Q, U, X

*Should assumes that people purchase lettered items in direct proportion to their occurrence in the list of first and last male and female names.  However, one might imagine that Tiffany in row 7 of the female names might be more likely to purchase a letter key chain than Joe in row 1 of the male names or vice versa.  I have no way to account for those variables.  

If your audience is primarily female you might choose to use the order for female first initials or use the following ranking which combines last names with female first initials.

J, R, S
D, L
H, P, T
G, K
and no I, Q, U, W,  X, Y, or Z 

That does shift things around quite a bit. Remember, the data I started with were the common names for last 100 years.  That means it includes popular names from ALL generations.  If you have a young customer base, these initials are going to be weighted with names like Mary and Ruth that are not as common today.  You will have to look at lists of common baby names from the correct era to get a closer approximation of the letters that are in the realm of likely to sell.  Other factors that will certainly have an impact on the letters your customers buy will be regional and ethnic differences.  A look at local

 Perhaps this will help in determining how to spend your time when making single initial items.  Perhaps not  Prepping for a craft show is something of crap shoot.  So take this 'research' for what it is worth and certainly don't bet the farm.  Just because I think these might be common letters does NOT in any way shape or form mean that these are the monograms that will sell. 

A Thumb on the Scale

Some one, probably my grandmother told me to always watch the butcher.  A dishonest one will put his thumb on the scale when he weighs out the best cuts. 

Likewise I was told to pay attention when getting fabric cut.  A crooked cut can mean that you get less than you paid for and don't have enough fabric for your project. 

As some one who tries to be a savvy shopper, I pay attention.  I greatly appreciate the old school shops that measure past the mark.  They understand the fabric isn't square and the cutting isn't always straight.  Having the leeway is always a good thing. 

I have noticed, however, that a large chain with a certain name has started cutting on the mark.  If I order 18 inches, they cut on the 18 inch line.  If they can tell the previous cut is crooked, they trim it up, throw the scrap away (hello!?!) and then cut precisely 18 inches.  HOWEVER... they don't cut precisely.  They can vary by as much as an inch.  Yes, the lovely ladies at my local version of this very large ubiquitous shop known first an foremost for its fabrics are better than they used to be.  But they 'ain't' laser cutters!

When I order 18 inches of fabric, I want to get home and have 18 full inches of useable fabric.  I'm not even worrying about after squaring the grain or heaven forbid after shrinkage.  I am talking about having a full 18 inches of fabric from selvage to selvage.  Not 17 and 7/8.  Not 17.  Not 16.9.  18!  Eighteen inches of fabric. 

More and more often, I get home and find that after I trim up the crooked cuts, I have less than the amount I ordered and paid for.  The smaller the cut, the worse it gets.  I don't appreciate that.  I don't want to have to order 5/8 of a yard to get a full half yard.  I'm not building a stash anymore.  I don't need the scraps.

 I don't want to even try to ask for 19 inches of fabric so that I get my half yard.  I don't want to have to do the math to make sure the price is right on 19 inches of fabric.  I want to walk out of the store with 18 inches of useable fabric.

Yes,  I can and do go to the Local Quilt Shops.  I am fortunate enough to have several within easy distance and am also fortunate enough to be able to afford a bit of fabric that I love from them. One lovely lady precision rips the fabric.  I know that I am getting a straight of grain accurate cut.  Most of them cut an extra half inch or so.  Again, I know I am getting a fully useful piece.  Unfortunately, they aren't always open when I need a wee bit.  And sometimes I don't have the resources to pay their prices. So I go to the local large franchise store with the lady's name and buy a bit or two. 

But I am seriously re-thinking that strategy.  I have too many pieces that were cut too poorly for me to use them in the intended project.  I am getting very tired of trimming 1/8 of an inch off one side only to realize that there is a divot in the other side that means I've got to cut off another eigth on that side.  And now I have a bit that 17 and 3/4 of an inch.  I need, I paid for 18 inches. 

Yes I am a bit crabby about it.  I only have so much I can reasonably spend on fabric. Like everyone else, I need to get the most out of my fabric dollars.  I don't like being the customer who remeasures every cut before I accept it.  I don't like being the customer who refuses a cut piece because it is an inch short.  I don't like holding up the line because I simply want what I am paying for. No more and no less.  I don't blame the lovely ladies at the cut counter. I've known some of them for years.  I blame the corporate policy that ignores the realities of human beings interacting with flexible, slippy, slidey, fabric.

The bean counters or managers who instituted this policy of "precision" cutting might want to rethink it.  Is it better to sell me 18 and 1/4 inches of fabric for the price of 18?  Or is it better to sell me no fabric at any price?  Because if this keeps up, that is what they are going to sell me.  Precisely nothing.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

PQ 6.1: Trees No Purple Trees in this Forest

This is the first week of Project Quilting Season 6.  This is the third full year I've been doing my best to keep up with Kim Lapacek's brain child challenge.  You can keep up with all of the Project Quilting challenges and quilts here.

The challenge for this week was trees. I have done some variations on trees in the past so I wanted to try something new.  I love Birch trees.  Growing up there was a cluster outside my bedroom window.  They were beautiful.  There are about a million variations of Birch tree quilts on the internet. This pattern by Crazy Mama Quilts was appealing because of its simplicity.  I could easily see this done in black and white on backgrounds of greens.  I changed things up a bit by making the blocks much larger more rectangular to emphasize the heights of the trees.  I also used printed fabrics to provide texture. 

So far, so good.  Except that this has been a strange week and I haven't been able to get much done.  I finished 12 blocks by Saturday evening.  This is a decent size quilt.  It would make a good lap quilt or a large wall hanging.  I really wanted to have 20 blocks and make it a bed quilt.  I'm still debating on the size.

It became clear that there was no way I was going to finish the quilt the way I wanted to in time for the Noon Sunday deadline.  Now here is where the story takes a twist...

You've probably read about the spuds before.  All three of them have a fantastic eye and some pretty amazing skills when they want to admit it.  I always ask for their opinions about projects.  And if they don't give me the 'meh, I'm busy' look, they have some pretty good input.  But then sometimes I wonder if they are just messing with me.  Clearly Spud 1's suggestion that I use gummy bear fabric for the backing was an attempt to push the limits.  However, before he got to that one, he suggested that the quilt needed one block of purple trees.  He even went to the stash and found the purple.  I made the block.  It seemed reasonable.

While I was still hopeful of finishing the larger quilt, I asked Spud 3 to  come and work his block arranging magic.  (I set things up they way I think they should be and then he comes along and tweaks here and there.  It always amazes me to see what a difference he can make in the overall flow and feel of the quilt by changing a couple blocks here and there.  His perspective is unique.)  I had all 12 green blocks and the one purple.  Spud 3 rejected the purple out of hand, much to the disgust of Spud 1. 

So, the blocks are arranged and it is even more clear to me that I love this quilt and there is no way I am going to be able to finish it to the standard it deserves in the time allotted.  Looking around for a mini quilt idea that I finish in a couple hours I spy the orphan purple block.  A couple more trees, backing, quilting and binding and I have a complete quilt to submit!

The trees are pieced from scraps of black and white quilter's cotton.  I Love the eyes peeking out from this scrap from a Halloween quilt!  The binding is left over from a PQ season 3 challenge.

It is machine quilted.  My machine was being derpy and my FMQ skills are rusty.  This was a good practice piece and I am very happy I didn't try to force finish the big quilt under these conditions!  The quilt has fast finish triangles for hanging.   The batting is a generic synthetic and the backing in cotton muslin.  The overall dimensions are 25 x 17.5 inches.

Be sure to check out Project Quilting on Flickr and you can also follow along with Challenge Quilts on Facebook.  Voting for the viewer's choice award starts soon so I will post a link for that. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chopping Party

Each year we have a large party on the Saturday after New Year.  It was pretty tight this year.  One of the things we do in preparation is have our annual chopping party.  It takes place the night before.  We chop all the veggies and fruits and prep any last dishes that require them.  It is pretty crazy. Here is Spud 1 showing proper form as he slices the jicama.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


My word of the year is FOCUS.  We'll see how that turns out.