Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why cats don't quilt

A week or two ago I finally mounted the pink kitty quilt onto the Swiftquilter frame. I thought I'd try an experiment and use a different machine than my trusty Juki TL-98P based on a request from someone about using another machine on the frame. I know that the TL-98P is the one for the job, but it's always worth trying new things. I won't go into my experience using another machine, because I doubt many of you are interested in that.

I do know that everyone loves a good cat photo, so let's get to the cute stuff...

I have taken to using staples to attach my quilts to the leaders (fabric attached to the roller bars) rather than pins. The staples are quick and easy to use and I flip around the base plate thingy so that the staples ends go outward rather than inward - this makes them really easy to pull out - too easy, apparently.

Here's my nice tidy setup before I started quilting. Notice the nice flat surface for quilting?

I did just a little bit of the quilting as a trial and then was planning to switch machines to really get going. Before I managed to do this, Sammy decided that the quilt made the perfect hammock for a heavier-than-he-looks cat. As you can see, where there used to be a nice flat quilt, is now a ginger-colored trouble-maker.

I'm sure if I had used pins instead of staples, this would not have happened. Then again, if I had a pet iguana, this would not have happened.

I have not yet sorted out this problem and instead have made a few more blocks from my scraps. So far, so good, but finding and trimming/cutting the scraps is a little tedious. Still, it's a nice distraction to do a block every few days. They are big (14") so should progress into a quilt without needing to make too many blocks. I haven't decided the finished size yet - I figure I'll keep going until I run out of scraps or get tired of making them.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Cotton Robin finish

For the fourth year in a row I have finished up another Cotton Robin round robin organised by the lovely Julie. This year we were challenged to use a color for our center block that wasn't one we had used. I chose purple after I noticed that I had very little in my stash and did not have a purple (or even partially-purple) quilt in my pile. Don't get me wrong - I love the color and often wear it, but I don't quilt with it.

My center block was not the most creative - next year I'm going to have to think outside of the box a bit more. I think I wanted to see what would happen with the borders if I started with a design that wouldn't be considered a centerpiece. My quilt was added onto by Kate (first border), Nan (second border), and Terri (quilting and binding). I love that Kate started in an asymmetrical direction - this was a great idea. Nan also went asymmetrical, leaving the finished quilt just off center and rectangular. I loved the piecing in the borders and the quilting by Terri was nicely done - I especially like the little spiral flowers and leaves.

My only surprise was this: it is REALLY PURPLE! Of course, I am to blame for setting the stage, and everyone followed my lead.

I worked on three other quilts along the way. The first was a sweet little applique block to which I added a circular pieced border. I made this using scrappy narrow strips of off white with little squares of brights forming the circle. I paper pieced the strips onto a template I made with the circle on it so that they all lined up. I was really pleased with the end result and the final border matched so perfectly.

The second quilt had an intricately pieced center block and a first border of flying geese. The second border introduced fuchsia and between the center and the border it was getting quite busy. This is why I enjoy doing round robins because you just don't know what you will receive and how you will add to it. I decided to just add detail to the corners of the second border with some tiny log cabins and use some solids to tie the color scheme together. I was hoping whoever did the quilting would take advantage of the plain sections and use it for some nice quilting - and she did.

The last quilt I worked on arrived with a note: something about keeping it monochromatic and small. It was very yellow (perhaps more yellow than mine is purple) and just over 10" square. I didn't want to overwhelm it with quilting, so I did wiggly lines in the center portion and some straight diagonal lines through the 2 borders.

You can see all of the finishes at the Cotton Robin website. It's always so exciting to see all of the finished quilts and to pick out my favorites, but disappointing that it's all over and we will need to wait until next year to do it again.

Luckily, my Monday Modern friends have agreed to do a round robin with 3 borders. I'm organizing it, and am quite excited to get started. Watch this space...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Q3 finish along goals

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

I can't believe the year is half-way through. Where has the time gone? I managed to complete 2 quilts last quarter and there was one unfinished that I had on my list of hopefuls - so that one is on this quarter's list again.

It's the pink kitty quilt, which is now a flimsy made up of 25 blocks. This one needs to go onto the frame and get quilted. I am having a bit of a creative block and don't know how I want to quilt this one and I've packed up my frame because my 'studio' (actually, a basement apartment) is currently occupied.

Believe it or not, I have nothing else on the go. So this weekend I started 'analyzing' my scraps. Everyone has a different definition of a scrap. Mine are mostly small and fill up a basket in my sewing room. The more I dig through it, the bigger it gets. Sometimes, when I am feeling industrious, I trim and sort them into 4 piles: 1-1/2" squares, 2-1/2" squares, biggish pieces (5" or more), and strips.

I've decided to do a block that I did in March 2014 with Block Lotto - it's called star chain and it's a 14" block. I've reworked the instructions slightly and am using only fabric from the scrap basket. The center stars will be hot colors (red, orange, bright pink), the chains will be cool colors (blue, green), and the background will be low volume (mostly white, cream, and light gray). I made one block as a prototype, so we will see how it goes.

The third project is to do something with my paper pieced rabbit. It's been hanging on the wall for a while now, so it's time to make it up into a pillow (or something).

Linking up with Adrianne at On The Windy Side for this quarters finish along.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Green folly - another finish

I can't believe that I have finished two quilts this month. It seems like so long since I've actually accomplished anything.

This one has been years in the making. It has been packed away a number of times and brought back out when I'm in the right mood. And now it's done, kind of sad really since it's been with me for 4 years. In fact, my first post about this project was on July 16, 2011.

The quilt started out as a handful of 'bonus triangles' trimmed off of a Block Lotto block and turned into a massive project comprising 3,200 triangles. I used every shade of green imaginable from scraps and purchased fat quarters. There's a bit of grey in there too to cut down on the green-ness and a mix of white and cream too (who says you can't mix white and cream).

The finished quilt is about 76 inches square. I used a wool blend batting which is lightweight but is really warm and slightly puffy. This is a heavy quilt, even though the quilting is not very dense. All of those little triangles have seams and I figure that almost doubles the weight of the top compared to a similar sized quilt with less piecing.

The back is pieced from necessity - I did not have enough of any one thing to use for the backing. I refuse to go buy 'good' fabric for this purpose, so I found what I could and made it work. I admit I am quite fond of the back and the quilted feathers forming the squares look good on the plain background.

I'm linking up to Adrienne's 2015 finish along - I managed to finish 2/3 of my proposed finishes. I admit that I have barely touched the third one in the past 3 months. It will be top of the list for the next quarter.

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunshine - a finshed quilt

This quilt is made from 15 1/2 sun blocks that I won from Block Lotto a year ago. I was determined to finish it before the year was up and I have achieved my goal. I won the blocks in June last year and they started to arrive during July. As I recall the weather was cold and grey, so these blocks were a sunny addition to the design wall.

I started out by making an additional 1/2 sun block so that I had 8 pairs to match up. I made the large center sun by enlarging a pattern that I found here.

Then I was a bit stuck and couldn't decide what to do in the corners. I was too lazy to make 8 more of the 1/2 sun blocks, so I ended up making an enlarged and simplified 1/4 sun using another pattern from the same site that I used for the center.

I had debated doing quilting around all of the detail, but I know that this takes me a lot longer and I wanted to do something quick. So, I designed a geometric spiral pattern to use for the quilting that would create a kind of grid of spirals connected with lines. I had also picked out a very fine aqua polyester thread - it's the same thread that I always use in the bobbin for quilting and I thought I'd try using it on the top as well. It's so fine it practically disappears and I thought this was a good idea. But, it was not to be.

I had a lot of trouble with breakages and also decided that my spiral grid was ugly and uneven. So out came the seam ripper. I might add that it is not easy to unpick stitches while a quilt is mounted on a frame, but I persevered and it took me a few weeks to undo the 1/2 row that I had completed.

When I finally started again with a new design and new thread, it was all smooth running and I finished it in one day. I always swear by Superior threads - I use King Tut a lot, but this one was done with Magnifico in white and it was magnificent to work with. Too bad I have to order the big spools from the US, but it's always worth it.

The design is a meandering spiral, sun-rays, and bouncy echo combo that I came up with on paper. It's a variation of something I've done before and it was really quick and well-suited to using the frame. I also think that the all-over design slightly softens the bright colors and doesn't detract from the graphic suns.

I tried a new method for the binding using instructions that I found here for a piped binding. This proved to be a good solution because I didn't have enough of either color to bind it, but I had enough to create this two color binding. I like the effect, but need to practice my stitch in the ditch (probably why I like organic quilting and rarely use straight lines).

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Blogger's Quit Festival Entry - Blue Snowflakes

I remember thinking this quilt would be ready for the last Blogger's Quilt Festival, but it was not. It was finished shortly after in early November 2014, so I'm entering it this year in the applique category.

I started this quilt in a class at Symposium in Queenstown - I think that was in 2011. I took a class with Chris Kenna, I don't recall the exact name but it included the term scherenschnitte which is a paper-cutting technique. From my perspective it was an introduction to needle turned applique using freezer paper - I confess I did not develop a love for hand applique and it was a struggle for me to get this one finished.

My daughter loves blue and loves snow, so this one is for her. I have not actually given it to her or let her put it on her bed because the dog and cat are often sleeping there too. I think it may end up on the wall instead.

I quilted it using my Juki TL-98 on a Swiftquilter frame. I tried a few experiments with scale and different patterns. I love the effect, but it may be a while before I use tiny pebbles again as a filler.

How the Block Lotto has changed my (quilting) life

Join me on the Block Lotto Blog

A couple of months ago I was lamenting that I had not participated in the Block Lotto in February and I was debating if I should make a block in March. Maybe it was just bad timing - I'm busy and these recent blocks did not appeal.

Ever since I started playing in December 2010, I have made at least one block each month. Back then I had just started getting into quilting and was looking for ideas and inspiration when I found the site. I was attracted by the variety and the possibility of sending and receiving blocks to and from around the world. Each month Sophie came up with something new and interesting and even those blocks made with colours or fabrics that weren't my cup of tea taught me something.

Here are a few favourites:

I started thinking about the projects that I have on the go right now and realised that each one was influenced by the Block Lotto, some directly and others in more subtle ways. I realised that even if I am no longer making every block that comes along each month, I am carrying the spirit of the Block Lotto in the work that I do and I am thankful of the community and what it has given me. So, it's time to share that thanks.

My green and white quilt has been years in the making and it's almost done. Believe it or not, it started out with some bonus triangles trimmed off of this block that the Block Lotto did in April 2011. I think I had about 12 HST units in green and cream and I just started playing with them.

They eventually turned into 1,600 HST units in a mix of greens, greys, whites, and creams. I am currently putting on the binding so it should be done soon.

My next current project is more obviously from the Block lotto - this quilt is made up of 15 sunrise blocks I won in June 2014. It's ready to start quilting (this weekend I hope).

My most recent quilt is my pink cat quilt. This started with a cute cat fabric that was gifted to me by Jude when she sent me her sunrise blocks (centre of bottom right block). I thought that it was so sweet that I had to buy some more cat fabrics and design/make a quilt. After I designed the block, I used Sophie's instructions for 8-at-a-time HST blocks and the no-waste flying geese method, also using Sophie's instructions. I've done 11 of the 25 blocks, so it's coming along well.

I have won blocks three times all together and these have resulted in 3 finished quilts (and one in progress). I also used one of the block patterns from December 2012 to make a wedding gift for some friends.

I'm sure there's more that I could tell you about, but I think you get the idea. So, even when I'm not thrilled with a block one month, I am still thankful that I have been involved with the Block Lotto and hope that I can continue to be inspired by its leader Sophie and all of the other wonderful quilters who contribute each month.