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Wednesday
Nov212018

The Improved Self-Binding Baby Blanket Tutorial

Is it the baby blanket or the tutorial that is "improved"? I'll leave you to decide. I think it's a bit of both. I got this done sooner than anticipated so I went ahead and posted it. Happy Thanksgiving!

[I wanted to make a downloadable PDF of this tutorial available. I was able to make the PDF, but making it downloadable is a clunky process on this version of my blog software. Because I am migrating to a new platform soon, it's easier for the moment just to e-mail me at Janet at BigSkyKnitting dot com and I'll be happy to e-mail you the PDF.]

For these baby blankets, you will need a piece of flannel and a piece of minky. I am not going to give specific dimensions; I often make these from remnants and have to work with what I've got. In general, a piece of flannel 3/4 of a yard or larger makes a decent-sized blanket. These blankets do not have to be square, although we will assume that for this tutorial. I've done rectangular ones using a piece of flannel 24" x 42". (Flannel is generally 42" wide. Minky usually runs 58"-60" wide.) The key is having a piece of minky that is larger all around than the piece of flannel. 

PRE-WASH THE FLANNEL. I pre-wash everything, but that's just because I do not like the smell or the feel of chemical sizing. Also, flannel shrinks. A lot. You don't want the baby blanket to become distorted the first time it's washed. I pre-wash the minky, too, but it doesn't tend to shrink much. 

Cut the selvedges off all pieces. 

Make sure the grain is straight on your pre-washed flannel. We want to avoid elephants marching crookedly across the front of the blanket. Cut a square.

For this next part, I tend to work on the floor of my bedroom so I can spread things out. I have a large cutting table, but I like the floor better. Place the piece of minky right-side down on the floor and fold up a triangle shape approximately 3" wider on each side than your piece of flannel (which you've also folded into a triangle). Place the flannel on top, like this:

I should have chosen something with a bit more contrast than the gray, but I think you can see what I am getting at. Measure each edge to make sure that the minky is at least 3" larger on each side than the flannel. You can see I've slid my cutting mat underneath. 

Carefully place the ruler so it's marking a 3" width of minky from the edge of the flannel and start cutting. You can do this with scissors if you don't have a mat and rotary cutter, but it's a bit more difficult to cut accurately:

I had to move my ruler and mat up as I went along:

I did the second side the same way. However you choose to cut your fabric, try to be as precise as possible. Accurate measuring and cutting in this step will make the rest of the blanket go smoothly. 

You'll have to figure out the best settings for your machine, but I'll give you mine as a guide. First, put in a new needle. I like to use an 80/12 universal needle. Universal needles are hybrids; they have a blunter point than the needles usually used for wovens, but not as blunt a point as the ballpoint needles used for knit fabrics. Because we're sewing a knit (minky) to a woven (flannel), the universal needle is a good choice. 

I am using my Janome 6600P with the dual-feed (walking) foot engaged and the quarter-inch foot that requires that I move the needle to the right (the 5.5 setting). I lengthen the stitch to a 3.0 or thereabouts. 

If you have a different setup, don't despair. The walking foot isn't essential, but it helps. Pin generously if you don't have a walking foot. You don't have to sew a quarter-inch seam, either. If it works better on your machine to sew a 1/2" seam, you probably can do it that way, but you'll have to make the appropriate adjustments in the next couple of steps. I have never had a lot of success sewing minky on Vittorio or my other vintage machines. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try; it just means that you need to be prepared for possible shifting and stretching. When in doubt, test, test, test on a piece of scrap fabric. Or try making this blanket with two pieces of flannel, first, to get a feel for how it goes together. 

Now comes the critical part in the construction. Place the piece of minky down on a flat surface and measure in 3" from the edge:

Insert a pin at that spot:

Line up the edge of the flannel with the pin, right sides of fabric together, then put a pin into both the minky and the flannel a quarter-inch in from the edge (I simply used the same pin and moved it over):

Go to the other end and do the same thing:

Again, line up the flannel with the pin and then pin it one-quarter inch in from the edge. 

The process of measuring in from the edge exactly 3" is where my instructions differ from most of the instructions out there. Every other pattern I have seen has you fold the piece of minky in half, fold the piece of flannel in half, match the fold lines, and then start pinning from the center out. My first few blankets were done that way and I couldn't figure out why I had such trouble getting the binding to lie flat when I turned the blanket inside out. The problem with pinning from the center out is that if your cutting is off in the slightest, you may end up with the minky overhanging one edge by 3" and overhanging the other edge by 3-1/4" or possibly more. That difference in measurement will propagate itself through the rest of the construction and make you go in search of a pint of Hagen-Dazs ice cream. The way I've shown you here, your corners will be precise—where it matters most—and any difference in lengths of the piece of minky and piece of flannel can be eased into the seam. (Hopefully it won't be much.) 

The ends of each piece will already be pinned together, with 3" of minky hanging off. I carefully pin the rest of the seam together, starting in the middle and pinning "by halves"—that is, put a pin in the center, then find the center point between that pin and one of the pins at the outer edges and pin there, etc., etc., until the entire side is pinned together and any excess of either fabric is eased in. (On my blankets, sometimes it's the minky and sometimes it is the flannel, although it's never more than about 1/2" that needs to be eased in. Accurate cutting, remember?) As much as I love Wonder Clips, I really prefer pins here, spaced about 2" apart:

If you find that you do have to ease one of the fabrics in, put that fabric next to the feed dogs. My machine doesn't seem to care which fabric is on top or bottom although it is easier to sew the seam with the flannel on top so you can see the beginning and ending spots more clearly. 

Do not begin sewing your seam at the edge of the flannel! We put a pin 1/4" inch in from the edge and that was to mark the beginning of the seam. For later steps to happen correctly, there has to be 1/4" of fabric left unsewn at the beginning and end of this seam:

Sew to the pin at the end of the seam (please do not sew over pins—that is asking for possible damage to your machine), again leaving 1/4" there unsewn:

Repeat those same steps to sew the seams on the other three sides of the blanket, with the exception that you will need to leave an opening on the fourth side for turning. It doesn't have to be a big opening, just big enough for you to slide your hand in and turn the blanket inside out. 

Don't turn the blanket inside out just yet. We still have a few more seams to sew. 

Now we need to make the mitered corners that will force part of the minky fabric to the front of the blanket and make the self-binding. You are going to pinch each corner of the minky—what was left hanging beyond the flannel—into a "bunny ear," like so:

Sew a seam perpendicular to the fold line, like this, just at the spot where the other seam stopped:

Trim your threads! No need to be sloppy. I should have trimmed mine. Sometimes I rely too much on the auto thread cutter on my machine. 

Trim off the bunny ear, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance:

Repeat for the other three corners. Now you may turn the blanket inside out and marvel at the self-binding and those lovely mitered corners that lie flat because you measured in 3" from each edge:

The binding should arrange itself evenly around the edge of the blanket, but you may have to adjust it slightly so that it measures 1-1/2" wide on all sides. (I seem to have more of a problem getting it even with the dimple minky than with other kinds of minky.) Again, I like to pin here. We're going to be adding a line of stitching to keep the layers from shifting and to close the opening we used for turning. Make sure you pay special attention to those few inches that remain open; you need to arrange the two layers so they get sewn closed in the next step. 

How you choose to secure the two layers is completely up to you and the capabilities of your machine. I like to use a stretch zig-zag. A regular zig-zag works, too, but because the minky is a knit, I like the extra give that the stretch stitch provides. Your machine may have other stretch stitches, like a serpentine stitch or lightning stitch:

I set my zig-zag stitch to be a bit wider and a bit longer than the default, catching the binding and the body of the blanket as I go. You'll have to navigate the corners. 

And just to show you that losing at bobbin chicken happens to all of us:

Only 2" to go and I ran out! You might want to make a note to yourself to start this step with a full bobbin. I remembered about halfway through this step that my bobbin was getting low on thread. 

Tuesday
Nov202018

My Standards Are Too High

I've been working on setting up a profile on FlexJobs.com, which is a database/clearinghouse for telecommuting and freelance jobs. They offer a wide variety of skills assessment tests, and if you score higher than a certain level, that skills assessment is added to your profile, presumably to help illustrate proficiency in a particular area. I decided to take a couple of the skills assessments just to see what they were like. I started with the two medical transcription tests: drug names and body parts. 

I am conversant in drug names, especially hematology/oncology drugs. They made up a large part of my work as a transcriptionist. The test consisted of a drug name—both generic and brand name, if available—and I was to choose its use from four options. This was the very first question:

Heparin:

a) Anticlotting
b) Antidepressant
c) Anticoagulant
d) Antibiotic

Both "a" and "c" could be considered correct. Heparin is an anticoagulant that slows clotting by competing with vitamin K. If choice "a" had been "antiplatelet," the question might possibly have made more sense as heparin isn't really considered an antiplatelet agent. Still, the test was not so sophisticated that I thought they were trying to make that kind of distinction. 

It gets better. A few questions later, I got to this:

Hytrin (terazosin):

a) Antibiotic
b) Antiviral
c) Bronchodilator
d) Anticancer

Hytrin is an antihypertensive drug that is also used to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy (enlarged prostate). Do you see that as one of the options? Nope, neither did I. I even did a Google search to see if it had some off-label use as something else. I couldn't find one. 

The icing on the cake was when I got to the question about adriamycin. That's a well-established chemotherapy drug that has been used for decades, especially in treating breast cancer. This was the question:

Adriamycin

a) Antiviral
b) Antibiotic
c) Antihypertensive
d) Bronchodilator

IT'S NOT USED AS ANY OF THOSE THINGS. It's a chemo drug, plain and simple. 

I scored a 97 on that test. Fortunately, there is a form at the end of the test for sending feedback, which I did. 

Just to be thorough, I took two of the tests in English language and grammar. I thought I nailed the vocabulary one, but the score was lower than I expected. (You are not told which questions you answered incorrectly on any of these tests, by the way.) Based on the errors I found in that drug name test, however, I wouldn't be surprised if there were errors in other tests, too. I found the following question particularly annoying, and provided feedback on it, as well:

Identify the way the underlined word is used in each sentence:

a) We have not seen him since he left town.
b) Since we don't have enough help, we'll have to do the job ourselves. 

I am old school enough (thank you, Mr. Reynolds) that I do not believe that the word "since" should be used as a conjunction in the same way that "because" is. "Since" implies time, not cause. I am aware that its usage that way has crept into the English language informally over the years, but that doesn't make it correct. (From the "get off my lawn" department, I had the fleeting thought that these tests were being compiled by millennials who had never cracked a style guide.) 

I'll finish my profile and post it to see if subscribing to this job service is worthwhile, but I don't think I'll take any further skills assessments. I'm curious to see if I get a response to the feedback I sent. 

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I made another baby blanket yesterday and photographed each step of the process. I'll work on making up a tutorial and get that posted, probably next week. I also had a great conversation with my computer guru, Greg. He has serviced all my Macs for about 20 years and is familiar with what I need and what I don't need. I asked him to put a proposed system together. I talked it over with the husband last night and it dawned on me that we hadn't purchased a computer for any of our businesses since I bought my Mac desktop in 2008. (I'm not counting the PC I bought for transcription in 2011 because we use Macs for everything else.) He is using a Mac Mini that he inherited from DD#2. I'll call Greg today and ask him to go ahead and order the new system for me. 

I sometimes think we're one small step away from being Luddites. but mostly it's that I don't like to spend money on gadgets. We're still using the same large-screen TV that my mother bought us for Christmas in 2008. I think I need to replace our answering machine, though. Several people have told me that it's not working. 

I probably won't get another blog entry posted this week, so I leave you with a wish for a Happy Thanksgiving if you are in the US. Despite how it looks out there, we have a lot to be grateful for. 

Thanksgiving vector created by Freepik

Monday
Nov192018

Getting Back Up to Speed

This unexpected hiatus from a job has provided the opportunity to go back and give some attention to the work I produced as a knitting designer. I sell my patterns through Ravelry. Most of my book sales come through Amazon. All of that has been on autopilot for the past couple of years. 

[I have no plans to go back to designing knitted items right now. That ship has sailed and isn't coming back to the harbor any time soon.]

When I was working as a knitting designer, I used to joke that I was never in the right place at the right time. I started out in the mid-90s, just before the Internet really took off. Does anyone remember the KnitList? Sadly, Joan Hamer and Janet Johnson Stephens, both core members of that early group, passed away this year. Janet Johnson Stephens made me a knitted Mr. Jingeling ornament that has a place of honor on my Christmas tree every year. Mr Jingeling was a fixture of the Christmas season in Cleveland, where I grew up. Janet was part of the guild there and we became friends. 

Anyway, when I began my knitting career, the industry looked a lot different than it does now. I would go to teach at knitting conferences and my classes would be filled, overwhelmingly, by women several decades older than me. I was asked several times if I was the teacher's assistant. There seemed to be an expectation that anyone qualified to teach knitting had to be of a certain age. As we got into the early 2000s, though, the demographics shifted and suddenly I was the old one. My classes were filled, increasingly, with younger and younger students. We were smack in the middle of the "hip and trendy" and "not your grandmother's knitting" phases. (Why is it that any new movement seeking to legitimize itself feels the need to do so by tearing down what came before it? I know some grandmothers who are very accomplished knitters and designers.)

At the same time, I was trying to navigate the transition from print media, where I started, to digital media. Looking back, I remember how exhausting that process was. I think we've reached a place of stability, finally; digital media is well established as a product. If I were starting out as a knitting designer now, I likely would go about the process much differently, but I had to work within the constraints of the time period in which I found myself. But some things need to be updated. Inertia only works as a business model (or a gardening model, for that matter) for so long. What I produced as a knitting designer has provided a significant amount of passive income and I want that to continue. 

However, I haven't kept up with technological advances. I am still using the same Mac desktop—now over 10 years old—on which I wrote my knitting books and produced Twists and Turns. My computer guy has done a great job of rebuilding it as needed but I am several operating systems behind. I am going to have to bite the bullet and get a new setup soon. I wouldn't try to build a website myself at this point. I know that I need some updated blogging software. I need to study Etsy further if I am going to consider opening up an Etsy shop, and I found out just recently that Amazon has launched Amazon Handmade, which looks like it is intended to compete directly with Etsy. 

[Amazon Handmade came up in a thread on one of the bagmaking lists I belong to, but several people who tried it said that it was complicated and hard to use. That is the same complaint I have with selling books through Amazon. Their Amazon Advantage interface works really well if you are selling in high volume, but it's clunky and hard to navigate for smaller vendors. It took me months to get them to understand that I was not going to ship one book at a time to six or eight different fulfillment centers around the country as that was a recipe for losing money. We've gotten past that problem, thankfully, and now I ship in case quantities to one fulfillment center in California. I'll have to keep an eye on Amazon Handmade to see if it becomes a viable outlet.]

It's a different world out there than it was just a short decade ago. Figuring out what I can do myself and what is best farmed out to somebody else will take some effort on my part. It's all part of the process. 

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No sewing yesterday; we had church, a fellowship meal, and a congregational business meeting, and I had a part in that as the chairman of our church council. Shortly after I got home, Ali came over to put the snow tires on her car. It's easiest for her to do that in our garage as the husband has an air compressor and all the tools. Her little guy came inside with me and we ate dinner and watched heavy equipment videos on YouTube. He wanted to watch a video—an hour and fifteen minutes long!—that was nothing but garbage trucks emptying garbage bins. The funny thing was that the husband was just as memsmerized by it as the little guy was. Boys. You can't tell me that some of this stuff isn't hard wired. 

I found the cutest line of fabric this morning, though. It's called Farm Fresh by Stacie Bloomfield for Gingiber. How adorable is this?

It's full of pigs, chickens and cows. Obviously I am their target demographic. 

I am going to work on that photo tutorial for the baby blanket today. At some point, I should probably also consider getting a new digital camera. I am using an old Canon PowerShot that I inherited from one of my kids.  

Sunday
Nov182018

Making Minky Baby Blankets

I finished two baby blankets and started a third yesterday afternoon. Polka dots:

And elephants:

I prefer to make gender-neutral blankets as these are kept in reserve for when they are needed, not made for specific babies. These two were fashioned from minky and flannel I had in my stash. I much prefer the newer styles of minky, like the light green in the top photo, to the embossed minky in the bottom photo. That embossed minky is also called "dimple minky," and while the dimples add a bit of texture, they distort the fabric and make it more difficult to measure accurately. I never can get that binding to lie perfectly flat with the dimple minky like I can with the other kinds of minky. Oh well, it's in my stash and needs to be used up, but I'll avoid it in the future.

You may notice that I am also very careful to cut the flannel so it is straight and on grain. Off-grain prints in projects rank right up there with unpressed fabric on the list of things that annoy me. Just because you cut it square doesn't mean it is square. I see off-grain prints even in patterns and tutorials produced by people who are supposed to be professionals. That green baby blanket looks as nice as something you might find in an upscale boutique. Handmade does not have to equal homemade. 

I might do a photo tutorial of the next blanket I put together. Heaven knows there are plenty of tutorials out there on self-binding baby blankets, but I've developed some tips for making these blankets that may help someone else. 

[Speaking of tutorials, knitters might be interested in the Stitch Maps series of videos on YouTube. Stitch Maps was developed by my friend and former tech editor, JC Briar. If you work from knitting charts at all, you owe it to yourself to check out the Stitch Maps software. It will make your life a whole lot easier, trust me.]

I also cut out a whole bunch of pieces parts for more canvas grocery bags. We still need to move the industrial serger down to the basement; it has been living in the foyer since I brought it home. We need to find another strong guy to help the husband move the table downstairs. That clutch motor is heavy and I don't think I can handle even the lighter end of the table. I don't want to unbolt the clutch motor from the table because I think getting it all back together with the belts lined up properly will be a problem if we do that. It'll happen, but it needs to happen soon because the foyer is where the Christmas tree lives for a few weeks. 

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I started reading The Indigo Girl last night. It's a fictionalized biography of Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793), who was responsible for making indigo one of South Carolina's largest cash crops. The story is made even more amazing by the fact that her father left her in charge of his three plantations when she was only 16 years old. (He went back to Antigua, where she had been born, to fulfill a military commission.) 

The poor husband has been the primary audience for my philosophical commentaries over breakfast and dinner lately as I work through the ramifications of not having a job. I said to him yesterday that it is interesting (and somewhat distressing) to me how much of my thinking has been influenced by 50 years of feminisim. Don't get me wrong—I am fully aware of the positive things that feminism did for women. I am reminded of the story in Nancy Zieman's autobiography, Seams Unlikely, where she talks about going to the local bank to apply for a loan to expand her business when it outgrew her in-laws' basement. She was summarily dismissed by the loan officer, who assumed that because she was a woman, she couldn't possibly have a successful business. If I remember the story correctly, her mother-in-law marched into the bank the following day and demanded that the loan officer review how much money had flowed through that bank from Nancy's business in the previous years. She got the loan. Many of the benefits of seeking equal rights for women are obvious. 

The problem I have with feminism is that the whole movement insisted that women had to behave like men to become successful. I understand that that seemed like the logical course; if you want to emulate someone's success, you emulate the qualities that made them successful in the first place. However, the demand that women seek success by behaving like men came with the unfortunate side effect of denigrating all the qualities that make women unique. I can't spatial percept my way out of a paper bag, no, but I am a wicked multitasker. The husband can only do one thing at a time or he gets flustered. His business is successful because of his hard work, but also because I keep track of all the numbers, which is a job he hates. If you ask my kids, they will laugh and say that "Daddy likes being married" because it means that he has someone to share the load. (What they really mean is that he likes coming home to a hot meal every night, LOL.) He and I have split up the tasks according to the things we are good at, and together, we are far more than the sum of our parts. 

But I am stuck over here trying to reconcile the fact that the stuff that I do well—and furthermore, the things that I truly enjoy doing—are all the "household economy" tasks (I love that term), but 50 years of feminism is whispering in my ear that those activities are not as worthy as having a job and making lots of money. So the husband has to remind me that what I am doing here is important. Canning and preserving all the food we grow is money we don't have to spend at the grocery store. The fact that I am here every day means that we don't have to worry that someone is going to try to break in and rob us. (Occasionally, we'll get the kind of phone calls that make me think that someone is checking to see if anyone is home, and I am always alert to people driving slowly back and forth past our house. I am a one woman and two dogs security system.) He has made it plain that he would prefer I not get a job in town. 

I taught at a knitting workshop some years ago in northern Virginia. My hostess and I were pulling out of her garage one morning and had to wait for two women pushing strollers to walk past. My hostess snorted derisively and said, "I didn't work so hard for women to have a choice whether to work or not for them to choose to stay home with their kids!" I didn't think it was polite to correct her, but I thought to myself, "It's not a choice if you're demanding that they make the same choice you did. You're simply exchanging one set of chains for another." I really wish that feminism could have created a world that enabled women to have a real choice and—more imporantly—supported whatever choice that was instead of demeaning the ones it didn't deem worthy. Career women should be celebrated. Stay-at-home moms should be celebrated. Women who choose not to have kids should be celebrated. Women who choose to have kids should be celebrated. People should be supported and encouraged to become the best humans they can possibly be. Women aren't men and they shouldn't be expected to act like them. 

Perhaps this book about Eliza Lucas Pinckney appeared at a time when I need it. The universe has a sense of humor, after all. 

Friday
Nov162018

Montana Is Not Disneyland

HGTVs 2019 Dream Home is being built up on Big Mountain, the ski resort near Whitefish. The husband and I were talking about it over dinner last night. He actually bid on that job as the concrete sub to the general contractor. That GC didn't get the job, which was perfectly fine with the husband. He is currently working on a different home in the same area, designed by the same architect. 

We watched the video associated with the project and my first reaction upon seeing it was, "Montana isn't Disneyland!" I know the marketing people have to do their jobs, but portraying Montana as an endless string of beautiful summer and winter days does no one any favors. It's how people end up dying in Glacier National Park. Tourists come here from other parts of the country and aren't prepared for the reality of wilderness. Last spring I sat here in my office working and listening to the scanner as emergency services attempted to rescue someone out of the mountains—the mountains I can see from my office window. A hiker had been caught in bad weather (which had been predicted) and was suffering from exposure. The cloud deck was low enough that even though they had his lat/long coordinates from his cell phone, neither the medical helicopter nor the search and rescue helicopter could get to him. I think he finally was rescued, but I am sure he spent an uncomfortable period of time in the cold and snow wondering if he would be. 

The husband sometimes points out that even I make Montana sound more idyllic than it is in my blog posts. I refer to it as "summer syndrome"—tourists visit over the summer and think that what they are experiencing is what Montana is like the other 10 months out of the year. They don't know the joy of trying to get around in March when everything thaws during the day and freezes over again at night, creating one gigantic skating rink. They haven't driven in freezing fog that makes the roads ice over without warning. They don't understand the gloom associated with six weeks of being locked in under an inversion in January and February, when sunshine is but a distant memory. They haven't looked out the window on June 10 to see 3" of snow in the yard. They haven't been out at midnight in October trying to screw down roofing to keep it from blowing off in a huge windstorm. They haven't had bears breaking into their chicken coop in the middle of the night or mountain lions prowling their property.

Montana is not for the faint of heart, despite what the marketing people want you to believe. 

When my kids were younger, we would drive by Target and I would tell them about how that spot used to be a gravel pit. Now it's part of a huge shopping complex that just keeps getting bigger. REI had its grand opening last weekend. We have a Panera now and Mod Pizza is set to open next to it. I used to have to go to Spokane to shop and eat at these places. 

I have such mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, we are benefiting directly from the building happening here—the husband has steady work. On the other hand, real estate has become terribly overpriced and has locked younger people out of the market. Our fire chief noted in the department newsletter a few weeks ago that young people who want to join our fire department are having trouble finding affordable housing in our fire district, and he appealed to residents to consider how they could help. I can tell that I have lived here for two and a half decades when I start waxing poetic about how things used to be in the days when the only big box store in town was KMart. 

We are far enough out that most of the time, I can pretend that a lot of this growth isn't happening. I walked out into the yard one night a few weeks ago, though, and realized that there is a lot more light coming from the west than there used to be. We don't see as many stars. And it makes me sad. 

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This Ritzville quilt is not going to be a quick-and-dirty project like the subway blocks quilt was. I sliced up another stack of 8" squares yesterday and did some rough calculations. Each 10" block requires 32 half-square triangles, so I need four Magic 8 squares per block. The original pattern calls for 32 blocks; I am making more than that. Exactly how many more remains to be seen, but I am going to need more fabric. I checked at all the quilt stores in town and was disappointed in the selection of white background fabrics. I need what are known as "shirtings"—white or cream-colored fabrics with tiny prints on them—and the selection of shirtings here is pretty abysmal. I was also dismayed to see that the one quilt store that used to have all the fat quarters for sale has a lot fewer now. They will cut fat quarters from the bolts, but I feel kind of silly taking 10 bolts of fabric up to the cutting table and asking them to cut fat quarters for me, not that they had many shirting fabrics. 

I'll slice up what I've pulled from my stash and get more the next time I am in Spokane. I know that the big quilting store there has a good selection of shirtings (and fat quarters).

I'll leave you with a picture of my loopy quilting:

I am reasonably good at this now—good enough that I don't want to pick out any spots and re-do them. And done is better than perfect.