Finish It Up Friday: Auction Quilt (& Silent Auction) !!!

I’m back! Sorry for the long hiatus. Due to some personal stuff, I haven’t been posting and commenting in awhile. Nothing major, and certainly no cause for alarm, but my life suddenly got busy. Sometimes something has to give—and in this case it was the blog. But everything should be good now and I should be back for awhile. Hooray! And I’ve been sewing! Double hooray! The biggest thing I’ve finished, by far, is the Auction Quilt.

Auction quilt front

It’s now officially named United in Faith, which is part of the parish motto of the church I’m donating it to. But, honestly, I think that title’s kind of cheesy. In my head, it will always be Auction Quilt.

This was the project that would never end. It wasn’t even particularly difficult … I just kept miscalculating things. I finished the top back in June. I used the scraps to make a jelly roll race center. I had the binding cut, ironed, and rolled up for later use. Everything was going so well.

Then I realized I didn’t have nearly enough scraps to finish a queen-sized jelly roll race backing. Not a problem—after all, what a great excuse to visit my local quilt shop! After buying more scraps, I still needed one more trip to get some yardage to pull it together. Then I had to go back one more time because I didn’t like the yardage I bought before when I put it next to the jelly roll race center. By the time I had it spread out in the living room and determined I had enough to cover the front plus 8˝ on every side, I was so beyond ready to be done with the stupid thing. Thankfully, my good friend Ruthmary agreed to do the longarm quilting for me. Such a lifesaver!

Also, quilter confession time: I hate jelly roll races. Why are these things so popular? Okay, they’re fast. But … but … ugh. Maybe if I actually used jelly roll strips instead of 1˝ leftover scraps it would have been better. Maybe. But that strip was all the way down the hall, twisting every which way, and then the dog sat on it (which I only realized because suddenly the strip wouldn’t feed into my sewing machine any more) …

Anyway, here’s the finished quilt back. Most of the people I’ve shown it to like the back better than the front! Not quite what I intended, but I’ll take it!

Auction Quilt back

 

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts. So happy to be finished!


Silent auction time!

The live auction coordinator and I decided to open bidding with a silent auction. And I further decided to open it up to my readers. (Unfortunately, for shipping reasons I can only take bids from those in the continental U.S.A.—sorry!). If anyone out there is interested (or knows someone interested) in bidding, send me a private message with your contact info (address, phone #, email) and the amount. Bidding concludes on October 18th at midnight. The quilt is 80˝ x 90˝ (queen size) and comes in a reusable eco-tote bag (this one, if you’re curious). Minimum bid is $150. All proceeds go to St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church. Good luck!

And since I like to make sure Penny is featured somewhere in every post, here’s a picture of her with my pastor at the annual Blessing of the Animals last week. She was a good girl, too—minimal growling this year! :)

Penny at Blessing of the Animals

Father Robert Rien with Penny at Blessing of the Animals

Finish It Up Friday: Upcycled Sweater Felt Tote

Upcycled sweater tote

It’s finally Friday! This week’s finished project is a DIY refashioning of an ugly old sweater into a cute felted tote bag. The best part? Because I only used material from the sweater (and a few scrap bits of yarn floating around), the whole think only cost about $2.50 and a half hour of time. Sweet!

Last year I got really into felting. I bought needle-felting tools (my favorite being this needle-felting pen by Clover) and some roving and went to town. For those who aren’t familiar, needle felting involves taking wool and stabbing it over and over with a barbed needle. It’s almost therapeutic … . Someone cut you out and almost clipped your car during the commute? *punch, punch, punch* A coworker came to work sick and now you’ve got a cold? *punch, punch, punch* Friends not appreciating your unique brand of genius? *punch, punch, punch*

Anyway, I had picked up a couple of 100% wool sweaters on sale at the ARF thrift store and then proceeded to felt them by throwing them in the washer and dryer a couple of times. Suddenly that extra large cardigan-style sweater was toddler size. I cut it up and made a basic tote with gussets. The handles are from the strip where the buttons were. The flower is needle-punched on using yarn scraps of questionable content (I thought it was wool, but it wasn’t sticking to the felt very well so it probably had a good amount of synthetic fiber too). Oh, and the button is from the sweater, too.

Really not a whole lot more to say about it, except that it’s a lot smaller than I envisioned. Makes a great lunch bag, though.

lunch tucked inside an upcycled sweater tote

Nothing says summer like a juicy nectarine. :)

It turned out more or less exactly how I wanted (just, you know, smaller). I’ll make a few more, for sure. Might ditch the lining as it’s kind of superfluous.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts. Also, would anyone be interested in a tutorial on this? It’s a simple project, but fun. And it’s helpful to know how to cut the sweater to preserve that “cuff” of ribbing along the top.

Fresh Sewing Day

Lily's Quilts

Oh wow, it’s June. When did that happen? It can’t be June yet because that means that craft fair season is coming–and I’m not ready!

I missed May’s Fresh Sewing Day, but that wasn’t going to happen this month. No, this time I was going for gusto!  Here’s what I did in May:

  • I bought a bunch of fabric from my local quilt store and I finally got a Clover Mini Iron II for small seams. (I plan to write a review for the iron later.) Keep in mind, I’m supposed to be on a fabric diet. But I needed it. Really. *Ahem* Moving on …
stack of quilting cotton fabric

New fabrics for my stash

  • I pieced the top of a mystery gift quilt, and practiced matching points (which I admit I still need to work on).
  • I found a foundation-pieced purple quilt from 2013 that I had forgotten about in my work-in-progress pile. Joined a few rows. Four blocks to go!
  • I pieced the top of my auction quilt for my church. Wahoo! So glad to get this one off my plate, and with time to spare. Now to think up creative ways to raise more money with it.
dog on rail fence quilt

Penny approved of the auction quilt

  • I started piecing the back of my auction quilt using scraps leftover from the front. The jelly roll race section ended up being more work than I thought, but waste not, want not. (More on this in a future post, too.)
  • I became addicted to hexagons.
  • I forced myself to step away from the hexagons.
  • I remembered that I’m a knitter. Seriously. Sometimes I think I’m a quilter from January to May and a knitter from June to December. I wonder why that is? Worked on my sweater a bit, then started making a bunch of washcloths for the craft fair junket. I want the blue one for myself. Is it bad business to hope your favorites don’t sell so you can keep them?

knitting washcloth with basket weave pattern

  • Total number of photos ruined by Penny jumping in the shot (just this month): 6
dog jumping into photo shoot

Well it was a nice shot …

That should be about it. Busy month! This was my first full month of blogging, and I just want to say thank-you to all those who have left comments, liked my posts, and followed me. From the knitters to the crocheters, from the dog lovers to the quilt lovers, you guys are all the best, and I’m humbled that you keep reading my work. (And I love that I get to check out and be inspired by your work, too!)

Finish It Up Friday: Quilting Bee Blocks

It’s Finish It Up Friday and I am officially done with my freelance editing project. Hooray! …

… Oh, right. This is a craft blog. I’m supposed to be blogging about my finished craft projects. Unfortunately, most of my crafting time this week was postponed for freelance work. I DID, however, manage to finish some blocks that I owed the members of my quilting bee. This was a good thing because I was starting to fall behind. I hate when I get behind on bee blocks, thus contributing to other people’s unfinished project piles.

quilting bee blocks pinned to wall

Cubicle wall = design wall! Adds a pop of color to the office…

The May “queen bee” chose a pattern from the book Fresh Family Traditions by Sherri McConnell. I love the fabric in the middle square of the blue block. Took me awhile to realize they were little candles. Two blocks done, checked off the to-do list, and turned in.

I was also hoping to finish the block for the “queen bee” from some time last year (!), but that didn’t happen. She asked us to make two house blocks of our own imagining for a neighborhood quilt she’s planning; her guides were  “anything goes, but don’t make cookie cutter houses.”  The blocks she got back included a zoo, a hospital, a Victorian, an igloo, a tepee, and a house on fire (that last one’s from me). I just need to complete this mansion, which is based on the Southern plantation architecture of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction. Silly me, I forgot just how much wrought iron the facade has. It’s a lot more embroidery than I anticipated.

mansion quilt block

Embroidering wrought iron onto this mansion block

haunted mansion disneyland

For comparison, here’s one of my favorite shots of the Haunted Mansion. If you squint, you can see all the green wrought iron.

I’ve learned two things. 1.) Always use some sort of stitch stabilizer (I’m partial to Wash-Away Stitch Stabilizer); and 2.) I love working with COSMO embroidery thread. Which is good because I’m going to be backstitching for awhile.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday. Also, I’m probably going to the county fair this weekend for the first time in decades. Should be fun. Anyone else have interesting summer weekend plans? Tell me in the comments!

My Fear Aggressive Dog and Me

Dog wearing muzzle and Gentle Leader

Penny wearing her muzzle and Gentle Leader (she was having a bad day)

Usually on Wednesdays I focus on my work-in-progress crafts, but today I wanted to do something different. Aggression in dogs not an easy subject to discuss in general, and it’s certainly not one that most dog owners like to acknowledge. But, I think it’s important.

Penny has fear aggression.

This surprises people. They hear “aggressive” and think pit bull, not cocker spaniel. They don’t understand how a “good dog” (which Penny most assuredly is) can be aggressive in any way.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I am not a vet, animal behaviorist, animal trainer, or any other sort of professional who deals with animals, aggressive or otherwise. If you have a dog you think is aggressive , seek the advice of a professional immediately.

I adopted Penny from South Los Angeles animal shelter in 2008. She was a 3-year-old stray. At intake, she was underweight, had scabs that looked like they were from cage wires, and had recently nursed puppies. I later learned she wasn’t sure what windows were, was scared of things like brooms and frying pans (!), and was so terrified of having accidents that the one time I came home to a mess she was hiding in the closet. Then Penny started getting sick from chronic, untreated stomach issues and ear infections. The first five months, she was in and out of vets several times a month.

The fear aggression was a surprise. On our first walk, we were at a crosswalk and she turned into a growling, snapping monster when she saw the person across the street. Later, it was the clerk at the pet store. Pretty much any time she was unsure of her surroundings, she would lash out. With the vet bills rising, I couldn’t afford a consultation with a behaviorist; so, I started reading books on fear aggression. Lots of them. And I began training her myself. I made a lot of mistakes, too.

After 5 years of counter-conditioning, Penny is a much happier dog. She’s still learning how to trust, but she tries. She can even spend the day at work with me without growling. But fear aggression is something you can’t just “fix” once. I learned that when I took her to the ARF  fundraiser walk two Sundays ago. I put her in a situation where there were several hundred strange people and dogs and she responded by being stressed and reactive. I should have known better than to put her through that. It was a good reminder that even now I need to be mindful of her nerves and her reactions. It’s a process.

10 Tips for Working with Fear Aggression

For those with fear aggressive dogs, here are 10 things that worked for Penny. I don’t know that they’ll work for your dog, but they may be worth trying.

  1. Know your dog’s triggers. I had a white board on my fridge where I wrote every specific thing Penny reacted to. Eventually I narrowed it down to people approaching Penny straight on, Hispanic men, wheelchairs, hyper dogs, and children. The list gives you an idea of what to work on—and what to avoid. Don’t try “flooding” your dog with trigger exposure … it doesn’t work.
  2. Learn your dog’s body language. The ASPCA has a helpful list of dog body language with pictures. One of the things that helped the most with Penny was realizing how she freezes up right before a freak out. If I can catch it before the fear really sinks in, I can distract her (read: I can bribe her with treats).
  3. Read up on fear aggression. The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell is my favorite resource for fear aggressive dogs. It’s a small pamphlet (about 60 pages) that focuses, step by step, on how to recondition your dog in a positive way. Get it, read it, love it. I also really like this website.
  4. Use a muzzle. Yeah, I know they’re controversial. But you can’t control every situation, and you can’t train your dog if you’re scared of what she might do during the training. Her muzzle has saved us from some close calls. (Also, parents, don’t tell your kids to “go run and pet the muzzled dog.” Seriously, people.)
  5. Train with a Gentle Leader head harness. A lot of dogs—including Penny— don’t like a head collar, but it makes her so much easier to control. If she tries to lunge, it turns her in a little circle. I usually only use it for training now, but it helped a lot in the beginning.
  6. Let her growl. A growling dog may be embarrassing for you, but let her growl! Growling warns people that she’s not comfortable. Fear aggressive dogs trained to not growl often jump straight to lunging, snapping, or biting without warning. Trust me, you want warning.
  7. Provide a different behavior that’s accepted. For Penny, this was down/stay. Sit wasn’t enough. It needed to be something she could really focus on instead of the scary thing. And then, when she’d calmly lie there, I’d praise her like crazy. Eventually, whenever she got nervous she’d automatically lie down … much better than lunging!
  8. Train in a controlled environment. You want to build up to the scary stuff. Friends are a great help with this—I had Penny approach them on her own terms as they sat with treats. Early morning at the pet store was also decent  practice because it wasn’t crowded at that hour. Tell people about the fear aggression, by name, before they approach. I sometimes lie a little and tell people Penny was abused. I don’t know if the abuse part is true or not, but people respect Penny’s space more if they hear that (go figure).
  9. Go to the vet and rule out health problems. Penny’s ear issues made it so that she couldn’t hear people approaching. Some of her more erratic fear behaviors calmed once her ears were healthy.
  10. Be calm. Be patient. Know your (and your dog’s) limits. This is going to be a long process, and it doesn’t let up. You have to always “be on” whenever your dog is in public. You have to be the calm, patient leader. There’s probably years of bad behavior that you’re trying to overcome as quickly as possible. You’re going to get lots of dirty looks. People will say things, like how your dog should be put down, that will make you cry. Penny still has bad days, and there are things that Penny will probably never be comfortable with. That’s okay. And, hard as it is, if you can’t handle a dog with fear aggression or don’t have the time, the most loving thing you can do is place them with someone who can. It’s not admitting defeat.

So those are my 1o tips. Now, I appeal to my readers. Anyone have experience with fear aggressive dogs? What are your tips and stories? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could build up a list of resources in the comments for fear aggressive dogs and their people?

Finish It Up Friday: More Hexagon Flowers!

 

hexagon flowers in various colors

Hexies, hexies, everywhere!

Hooray, not only is it finally Friday, but it’s the Friday before a three-day weekend! (Happy early Memorial Day to my American readers.) I’ll probably be spending the whole weekend, including the extra day, on a couple of freelance projects that snuck up on me … but it’s still something to celebrate. And I even managed to finish something, despite my schedule crunch. Yet more things to celebrate! :)

I mentioned two Fridays ago that I have become addicted to hexagons. This week, I finished six, count ‘em, six hexagon flowers. Aren’t they pretty? I don’t know what I’m doing with them yet, but when I do decide, they’ll be ready to use. I think a few will turn into pincushions, coasters, or teal towel appliquès to sell at my craft fair booth. Little gifts like that tend to sell.

Basted hexagons and Sulky thread

I’m never quite happy with the amount of thread you can see after you whipstitch the hexagons together, so I decided to use some of my Sulky Holoshimmer thread. It has just the right amount of sparkle to it that if a stitch or two shows it looks like it was an “on purpose” embellishment. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. It’s pretty thin though, so I haven’t had too much trouble with stitches showing. As for the inside, I tried plastic template pieces, wash away stitch stabilizers, and a few other things that escape me, but I’ve decided cardstock templates are my favorite.

As the stack of basted hexagons got taller, they reminded me of a stack of poker chips. So, here’s a bit of Friday silliness for you:

poker game using hexagons as chips

Best. Poker game. Ever.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

WIP Wednesday: Dog Collars!

two sewn dog collars

At ARF’s Animals on Broadway fundraising walk and pet fair last Sunday, I saw lots of awesome dog items for sale. It gave me a hankering to make some collars. Thus, today’s works-in-progress (work-in-progresses?) are dog collars–3 of them to be exact. The first is fabric, the second is nylon web, and the third is knit. With bells. Collars need bells.

The fabric collar is the Olive’s Collar pattern from the book Liberty Love. I actually blogged about making it before on the Stash Books blog, but I feel like making another. The best part is that the pattern is available for free! You can download it using the link at the bottom of the Stash post. I know many local dog rescues appreciate when volunteers make collars for them; perhaps you might consider making one. I’m thinking of making two (one for Penny, one for the rescues) using a polka dot or geometric print. Maybe something in lime green? I’m feeling the lime green today.

This nylon web collar has been a UFO since 2008. It was supposed to be a gift for my mom’s {then)new dog, using a free pattern recommended by Camp Cocker dog rescue, but my old sewing machine didn’t like the nylon (it didn’t like much of any fabric really). I was so disgusted with the nasty-looking seams that I shoved the whole thing in my sewing basket and forgot about it.  Now that I have a nice, reliable Janome sewing machine, it’s time to revisit that mess of a collar. First step is ripping out all those old seams! You can even see them sticking out in my main image above–ick!

pom-pom yarn knit dog collar

Finally, knit dog collars are one of my staples for the craft fair junket come December. I keep them simple–just a little knit bit of color to slip on over the dog’s existing collar. I sew on a button for the closure. Easy peasy. This particular one is made of a pom-pom yarn that I think is discontinued now. I like how it looks like little snowballs (maybe I can cash in on the crazy popularity of the Frozen movie?). I have tons of these to make before November, so now’s a good time to get started. Too bad most of the dogs hate the bells (or maybe not too bad … bugging pets is fun!).

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts.

 

dog sniffing collar

Penny approves of these new collars.