Monday, December 28, 2015

Old fabric, new project

About 40 years ago my family lived in England and my mother was nibbled by the quilting bug while living there. She managed to collect some Laura Ashley prints, some of which were off-cuts from the clothing line that they did. One pile was blue - I think this was made into a grandmother's fan design and finished a few years back.

For years, there was a pile of red fabrics cut into diamonds, hidden away in a box. The last time I was at my mother's house I found them and imagined that I could do something interesting with them. I was inspired by the recent red and white quilt exhibits, but red really isn't my thing.

I think my mother planned to do 8-pointed Le Moyen stars. She partially pieced 1 or 2 and some of the other cut pieces showed signs of being sewn and then unpicked. I admit that some of the 'old school' methods were much harder than those we use today - like tracing out templates, using scissors to cut, marking seam allowances, etc.

After having a play with the diamonds, I decided to use them to make a large medallion - I know it as a Lone Star, but I've seen a few other names as well: Star of Bethlehem and Blazing Star. Usually it's made by creating strip sets of the fabrics and then cutting across them at a 45 degree angle to make the component pieces. I've never done this, but it looks to be pretty straight forward. There are two disadvantages to this method: firstly, you have to start with strips and I have pre-cut diamonds. The second disadvantage is a little less obvious.

If you look closely at my mother's diamonds, you can see that all of the swans are fussy cut and the directional print (red on white) has all of the flower motifs lined up along the diamond. If you cut strips on the grain, all of the patterns are leaning and you lose the lovely radial effect when the pieces are laid out. If you look on the internet, most quilts like this are made from solids or prints that don't have an obvious direction.

So, after a bit of experimentation, I worked out that if the strips are cut at 22.5 degrees, the patterns line up. You'd think this would be a big fabric waster, but I managed to get 14-15 diamonds from a fat quarter no matter which way I cut the strips.

I pulled a few fabrics from my stash including some corals (yuck), oranges, and greens. Usually I would not go with green and red (think Christmas) but one of the original fabrics has orange and lime (or is it avocado?) green flowers. The plain red is actually a shot fabric with red in one direction and white and orange in the other, so more orange there too.

I found a template on Jinny Beyer's website that I could color in to trial some designs. After about 5 tries, I settled on a design that makes the best use of the pre-cut pieces and 3 fabrics from my stash. I've had to order yard lengths - one green print and one orange one for the biggest rings which require 40+ pieces. I was careful to pick patterns that were not directional so I can cut them on the grain.

So far, so good. I'm really enjoying this process of making a design work with some limitations (the pre-cut vintage fabrics). I never would have mixed these colors, but in the end, I think it's a nice combination. No idea if there will be pieced borders outside of the center medallion (finish at 42.5") - I will cross that bridge when I get there.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A pillow for a favorite teacher

My daughter's favorite teacher, Ms. J, announced that she was leaving at the end of this year, so I was naturally enlisted to create a gift. Coincidentally, Robyn had a paper pieced dolphin pattern that she needed testing, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. This was especially true since Ms. J was the organizer of the school Eco Warriors - what Eco Warrior doesn't love dolphins?

The last pattern test I did for Robyn was my arctic hare which I made using fabric from the scrap basket. This time I thought I'd be a bit more refined and just use one fabric for the dolphin and another for the background.

I admit I started late (Sunday, day before last day of school), but I figured I'd get through it pretty quickly. I confess I was being very optimistic. I think my main problem was lack of planning; I had not really worked through what I was going to do besides the dolphin and probably should have considered all aspects of the project beforehand. This is especially true in a country where shops are not open for extended hours - on a Sunday they would all be closed before 5.

Usually I would have made an overlapped flap in the back to take the cover off easily for cleaning but since I didn't have much backing fabric and was concerned about the timing, I thought I'd forgo that and just sew the inner into the pillow for all eternity. Turns out this is not as easy as it sounds and the time it took to shove the inner into the too-small gap and then hand sew the opening shut (especially with the added piping) almost undid me (besides, it was after midnight by this time).

For the quilting I chose a pattern that would go quickly, and it did. The water ripples on the back took about 20 minutes and the wavy lines around the dolphin on the front took about the same. My daughter thought the orange piping would be a good option, and I agree it was the right choice. Next time, I'll start just a bit earlier when I have a gift to make - I admit I'd do a few things differently if I had more time. Still, I think it was a nice gift for a great teacher - I only wish she wasn't leaving.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Finished baby quilt

I finished the green wedge baby quilt last night. I struggled finding a good binding fabric and came up short on my first 5 choices. Since the whole thing was made from fabric in my stash and some pieced together batting, I wasn't going to let the binding break my make-do streak. I ended up with a fabric with a good shade of green that I initially rejected because of the bright aqua blue. I realized when re-trialing it that the blue wasn't a bad match and would be less noticeable in the 3/8" that shows on the binding and I'm happy that it's done.

The quilting is very simple with 45 degree diagonal lines in one direction. I marked out 4 of the lines through the center circles of the blocks and then eyeballed the others in between. Although I'm not a fan of straight quilting like this, it took little time and works well.

It's definitely on the big side for a baby (51" x 37"), but since few parents actually use blankets on newborns, it will hopefully be useful (and loved) well into childhood.

This one is being gifted tomorrow at lunchtime, so it's just in time.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

New project - a baby quilt

I've been flagging a little on the quilting front. Yes, there have been round robins and Block Lotto blocks, and a few other bits and pieces, but nothing that qualifies as a "project". This is partly due to a natural winding down on my part as I've packed away my quilting frame and an (hopefully) preparing to pack out a lot more in preparation for house renovations in the new year. Another limitation is that I am determined to use up some of the fabrics in my stash and frankly, I don't like some of them or at least I don't know what to do with them.

But creative salvation came in the form of a pregnant co-worker. I haven't known her that long, but she is sweet and has been such a great help in recent weeks. I thought a baby quilt was just the thing to get me motivated to do something small and manageable.

Ages ago I toyed with the idea of a doing a modern inspired Dresden quilt. Some of the Monday Modern girls recently attended a Modern Wedge workshop with Kathy Doughty and have been making some beautiful blocks. In my usual way, I could not just follow that pattern, so I did some online browsing and designed a block that suited my purposes.

I did a few things to make this block: I only used 12 wedges (30-degree angle) which meant less pieces to deal with and a better size wedge to feature the fabrics. Half of the wedges are in the feature fabrics and the others are cut from a strip of white with a 1" lime green insert. I put the lime green in a different position on each white strip and then cut the triangles by flip-flopping them to end up with 2 sets of white wedges from each strip. I used a similar method for my Hexa-bee quilt.

The other thing I did was add setting triangles to the corners to square up the block so that I only had to trim a bit off.

The feature fabrics are from my stash. My friend does not know the gender of her baby, so I had to pick something that would work for a boy or girl. My girl loves blue and green and I seem to have many blue/green animal prints in my drawers. Once I picked them out, the green was a natural partner and I was off and running.

I have made 6 blocks that each finish at 15-1/2". I think that 31" X 46-1/2" is not a bad size, but I wonder if a border or sashing might be needed to break things up a bit. Or maybe just a border to make it a touch bigger.

I admit that I like these blocks so much that I was tempted to keep them for myself and start something else for my friend. I know that I can always replicate this block, but I never do the same thing twice, so it seems unlikely.

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Monday Modern round robin progress

We are in the process of adding the third borders to our little quilts after making the swap last Monday. I have two to work on since one of the girls has dropped out and being the organizer I felt a little guilty and decided to at least add her last border so that she could quilt it.

The second border that I did last month was a bit of a mishmash after I ran into a few design issues. I made the paper pieced diamonds first with a very dark navy background and then with a grey background. I thought one was too dark and the other too light, so I decided to balance it out and do half and half. I had to ponder the corners for quite a while and admit that it I'd planned it out, I would have just mitered the stripes in the corner. But I didn't make them long enough to do that and wasn't sure I had enough fabric to re-cut the strips.

Even with these hurdles, I liked the results and (as usual) I always enjoy a challenge.

This weekend I worked on the third border for one of the two I have. The original block was a tiny Seminole-style piece in green, orange, and mustard. I think it only measured 3" x 9". I wanted to refer back to that original piecing and added 4 patches on point in those colors with the navy thrown in. The background fabric is an odd color, but seems to go (I hope).

My original plan had 2 rows on the top and bottom, but it was too much so I removed one row - not easy when they are on point. I was determined not to re-piece the whole row so I ended up inserting the background triangles using y-seams. Tricky, but quicker once I worked out what I was doing.

I debated adding a final plain border, but it was necessary because in my re-work I had to use some HST on the edges instead of the QST I should have. With the bias on the edge it was at risk of getting really mis-shapen. This was the best option that I had enough of. The owner can reduce it down to minimize the effect, if she likes.

My last 'victim' is a fantastic piece with a huge variety of animals and colors. I already have some ideas on what I am going to do. I definitely want to make it taller and envision some reed-like vertical elements. But, I don't know if I want to add to the happy chaos or try to calm it all down. I'm leaning towards more color because the original block with the frog is so bright. We'll find out next weekend...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pink Cats finished

This quilt has been 'almost' done for a while. It took me about 5 weeks to tidy up all of the loose threads and get the binding on. Getting a good photo is always a challenge and the wind wasn't being very cooperative yesterday afternoon either.

I designed the blocks around the cat prints and took my cue from the prints to choose a selection of pinks including fuchsia, baby pink, and coral. I like the mix and particularly like the coral to prevent it from all getting too pinky-purple.

I tried to keep the quilting fairly simple and like the end result even though some of the lines are a bit wonky. I kept saying to myself that I would go back and 'fix' a few of the mishaps, but you know, life is too short for that!

I did the back-to-front binding and machine stitched it using a black and white thread and a blanket stitch. Usually I hand stitch it to the back, but sometimes I am lazy and do it by machine. I don't have strong feelings either way.

Now that this one is done, there's not much on my radar. I've convinced my mother to send me a very old UFO that she started about 35-40 years ago - I'm keen to modernize it and mix the vintage fabrics with some new ones.

Linking up with Adrienne at On The Windy Side for Q3 of the 2015 Finish-Along.

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Arctic Hare finished cushion

I have (just about) finished my Arctic Hare cushion. There are a few things to tidy up like threads and some basting and one little mistake that needs fixing. I'm happy with the finished product and Toffee has given it the dog seal of approval.

I decided to try making my own piping to go around the edge. I made bias strips with a piece of old yellow fabric (c. 1988). I thought I had some cording that was specifically for piping which would have given a better result, but I made do with some cord that I've had for ages purchased for some project long forgotten. The cord worked okay, but given the size of the cushion I probably would have preferred beefier piping.

I do not have a purpose-built cording foot so I used a zipper foot. This worked fine, so I won't be rushing out to get a special foot for this job any time soon. Making the piping was pretty easy, but putting it all together was tricky, especially with all of the layers (I counted 12 layers of fabric and 3 layers of batting when crossing the overlapped backing that was bound on the edge). Both of my machines coped fine with the layers, I just think that when a 1/4 inch seam is taller than it is wide, there's a bit of slippage. In hindsight, a 1/2 inch seam would have been a good idea.

The back is made using the same grey fabric as the narrow border on the front. I did some wavy cross-hatched quilting using the walking foot just to hold the layers together and give it some texture. The overlapped edges are bound in a blue stripe that I used on the front as well. This whole project was an exercise in making-do. I did buy an inner (a bit too puffy, I think); everything else was hanging around my studio.

This is the first of my finishes for this quarter's 2015 finish-along - and a month before the deadline!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Modern round robin

We've started a round robin at Monday Modern quilters and I am organising it. I've been wanting to do one for a while, so 9 of us have joined in. After 4 years of participating in the Cotton Robin, I'm pleased to be doing one with this group. Unlike the Cotton Robin, we are sharing our work along the way - some of the girls were a bit nervous about the process and I think seeing each other's progress has helped with this.

My starting block is a red/pink and white checkerboard with two appliqued circles that I fussy cut from a Christmas fabric I had in my stash. I debated doing something a bit more avant-garde (or at least more modern), but decided that having a mix of styles would make it more interesting.

I have Melanie's starting block which she managed to put together after being overseas for the lead-up discussions. She used the cutest fabrics (my 11-year old announced "Adorable!" when she saw them). I had it hanging on the wall for a week before diving in this weekend. I was determined to use fabrics from my stash but really struggled with the green and the navy. I think I managed to find some fabrics that work without being exactly the same.

The flying geese (Melanie's go to pattern) were my inspiration. I decided to stack them up for some variety and drafted a paper pieced pattern to do this. I had to add the cute cat fabric, but am wondering if I will re-do the corner piece because I don't like the direction the cats are facing (which way is up?) and think it should be a bit larger. I may need to fussy cut that one to get it to work better but I have 3 more weeks to play with it, so who knows?

I only added to two sides which I think balances well. There will be 2 more borders added to this one, so it will be interesting to see if the asymmetry continues.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Chilly rabbit

A few months ago I did a pattern test for my friend Robyn (see her blog here). It's been hanging around for a while on the design wall but is one of my candidates for this quarter's finish along.

I decided to make it a bit bigger with some snowballs and corner stars - this turned my rabbit into an arctic hare. My plan was for a pillow, but it seems to be a bit bigger than expected. At 20 inches it's still possible, but I don't think I have an inner for it. Although I have been known to make them from a few recycled cushions, I'm not feeling particularly resourceful right now.

When I finished the piecing it looked very pale. I wish I had used a background with more contrast. My solution was to use a much darker quilting thread and do some dense quilting on all of the blue bits - this has worked well and the blue has more depth now. I also used scrap of puffy polyester batting which has given the hare some dimension that I like.

There are still a lot of threads to deal with, but that's a job that I really dislike, so I'm putting it off. Whether this ends up as a pillow or just a mini quilt / wall hanging, I will add yellow binding or piping to the edges. Now it's time to attached a few other projects...

Linking up with Lee this week at Freshly Pieced.

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).