Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lighthouse block

This week, I scaled way back on my piecing--way back to miniature. Years ago, I had a job quilting for a fiber artist who specialized in salvaging old fabric (from decrepit blocks) to make miniature quilts with traditional blocks. I fell in love with tiny quilts, and started making my own, using the edge of my featherweight foot to make perfect 1/8 inch seams. In fact, when I made blocks with 1/4 inch seams, they seemed enormous to me. After awhile, I started experimenting with making miniature blocks with buildings, and I still make them from time to time. Now instead of using 1/8 inch seams, I usually foundation paper piece them. This week I decided that I needed to make a lighthouse block. It's a birthday gift for someone who doesn't know I started this blog, so I sure hope she hasn't stumbled on it. 

First, I got out my Barbie and Skipper Fashion Designer Electric Drawing Set. I've had it since 1965; it's probably the only childhood toy I have that I still play with. But it makes a fun light table. (The box has seen better days.)

I traced the major lines of a photo of Big Red (the lighthouse in Holland, Michigan), paying careful attention to how it could be pieced and lettering sections to represent different elements (such as sky or water) and colors. 

Then, I turned the paper over and retraced it onto another sheet of paper so that I would have a reversed image (necessary for piecing, so that the final project is in the original orientation). 

I figured out where to break down sections so that I could paper piece them, and then retraced each section, adding seam allowance around the outside edge. When I was done, I had 12 sections  I numbered them for the order of piecing and made notes about how to stitch the sections together. They looked like this:

I sorted through my scraps to find the fabrics I wanted. I always do this on the bed in our guest room, where I store my stash. Kind of a mess on top of the busy quilt, but it works for me. (There were lots of rejects for sky and water, and I ended up using the back side of the fabric I picked for the sky so it looked sunny instead of stormy.) Oh, and that other pile of fabric on the bed? That's a potential maple leaf quilt. 

I got so into sewing, that I didn't take any pictures in process, but here's what the block looks like so far:

It will be about 4 1/4 by 3 3/4 inches when trimmed. I still need to add embroidery for windows, railings, a stairway and the flag pole. I can't decide if I'll do that by hand or machine. Do you see the little notch of sky on the right at the base of the tower? I forgot a teeny patch of red, so that will have to be filled in with some thread, too. Before I frame it, I'll make another small block of some sand and dune grass to place below the main block. Hopefully it won't be too long before I have a finished project to show you.  

I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced today for WIP Wednesday.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Little Road Trip

A few weeks ago, I discovered that Ruth B. McDowell (my art quilt idol) is the 2014 Honoree at the Quilters Hall of Fame and that her quilts are on display right now at the Marie Webster House in Marion, Indiana. I knew about the Quilters Hall of Fame but had never really payed much attention to where it was. Then I realized that it was just a short road trip away, and I just had to go. My husband did a little research online and found that the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automotive Museum was on the way, so this week we made the little drive with stops along the way that we could both enjoy. 

I actually really liked the car museum. It is in the restored Auburn Headquarters (in Auburn, Indiana), and many of the cars are in the original showroom, with it's stylish Art Deco design--carved beams, beautiful chandeliers and sconces, and terrazzo floors. Lots of quilty inspiration here. 

And then, this:
 "The Official Auburn Cord Dusenberg Museum Quilt" designed by Thais Heinzeling, made by the Spinning Spools Quilt Guild, and presented to the museum in 1988. We couldn't photograph it straight on because there was a car sitting right in front of it. (Imagine that. A car. In front of a quilt. Oh, that's right, it's a car museum.) Anyway, I could tell that the quilters had the same response I had. The cars were wonderful--but the building? A true work of art--with all the details preserved in quilt fabrics and stitches. I asked if they had a postcard of the quilt or if there was a picture online, and they said no, so consider this my contribution to documenting this quilt on the internet. 

That night, we stayed on the outskirts of Gas City What an unfortunate name for a town. There was a short-lived natural gas boom in the late 1800's, so I guess the name's historic, but just to be safe, we avoided eating burritos. The town is kind of cute, though, and celebrates its history with these street signs:
There's also a pleasant pathway (Cardinal Greenway) that we walked a bit of in the evening.

The next day, was my day--the visit to the quilt museum. I have no pictures of the exhibit of Ruth McDowell's quilts because photos weren't allowed (but you can find them online and in her books), and I don't think I even have words to describe how gorgeous they were. The colors were so much more vibrant than any photo could capture. And the museum is another work of art, a colonial revival home from 1902, lovingly restored to showcase the quilts. We were warmly welcomed and encouraged to take our time admiring the quilts (and the amazing woodwork.) I tried to absorb as much as I could about Ruth's techniques, color sense, and use of fabric prints and scales, and her stunning interpretation of landscapes, flowers, and images of people.  We did get a few pictures of the outside of the museum.

Now, I'll be sure to keep my eye on the schedule of exhibits, because I'm sure I'll want to go back again. 

On our way back home, we stopped at a few antique malls along the way. My husband found 3 (!) old baseball gloves that had to come home with him, and I saw lots of antique quilt tops. We both agreed that the trip was well worth it. I think if we go back, we'll take our bikes so we can ride the trail, too. 

If you are anywhere near Marion, Indiana and want to see Ruth McDowell's work, hurry. The museum is only open Thursday through Saturday, and September 27 is the last day for her exhibit.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quilt for a Big Girl Bed

Not much sewing/quilting going on here lately. I've been on a little vacation to northern Michigan during "shoulder season," which I'm finding is my favorite time of year to get away, although I'm still not sure retirees actually take vacations. (Vacations from what?) But it was a time away from the sewing machine. I did take some hand quilting with me, so there was that. Quilting in the golden light on our balcony overlooking the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay in the evenings after bike riding on the beautiful trails during the day was a real treat. I was working on the quilt I showed here.

Now that I'm back, I've gotten quite a bit done this week on my latest project, a quilt for my granddaughter as she gets ready to move from her crib to a big girl bed. I'm using leftover fabric from her nursery decor and baby quilt along with some purchased white/gray fabric. The pattern is simple--charm-size squares with sashes. Because I'm using several fabrics for the sashes for a kind of scrappy look, I'm making a little more piecing work for myself by using cornerstones. I was going to use gray fabric with a white pattern for the cornerstones, but decided that it looked too dark and a little more traditional than I wanted. It took forever to lay everything out so that it looked random. There is no such thing as random, I guess, unless you dump all your fabric pieces into a paper bag and use whatever you pull out. I just can't let myself do that; I'm always fiddling with the placement. Anyway, here's what it looked like up on the design "wall":

And here's a close-up of that scrappy background:

I kept tweaking the placement after I took these. I did get a little more than half the rows pieced yesterday. The finished quilt will actually be a little bigger, but I'm waiting to add the outer rows until I know the mattress thickness, and then I'll figure out how much needs to hang over the edge. I might do something with some partial blocks. Stay tuned. And then, of course, there will be the fun of piecing a back... 

Today I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts for WIP Wednesday.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Baby E's Zoo Quilt

Okay so this isn't a finish from this week, but I did finish 5 quilts during August and I didn't have a chance to document this one yet. When my niece's family told us they were expecting their third little boy, I decided he needed a zoo quilt. (They live not too far from the National Zoo.) I really enjoy paper piecing and found the perfect patterns for zoo animals in A Quilter's Ark by Margaret Rolfe. I made 29 animal blocks and then designed one of my own based on the ZOO sign at the entrance to the zoological park.

I bought material for the sashing and for the quilt back, but used my stash for all of the blocks except three. For the leopard, zebra and tiger, I bought animal prints and then fussy cut and pieced them so they would fit into my paper patterns. I also used at least 12 of my stash fabrics with the back side up to get the right contrast between the animals and the sashes. Every block had some embroidery for facial features, tails, feet and/or ears. I hadn't done embroidery for years, but it got me to sort through my tangled threads and use some of them up. 

I used a setting from Bonnie K. Hunter's Dancing Nine-Patch. My blocks are 6 inches and the sashes are 2 inches. I added a  border that was about 1 1/2 inches wide (I think). So the whole quilt was about 43 by 51 inches before washing. This is all guessing because I plan on the fly and don't keep good track. I used Quilter's Dream Cotton Select batting, and meander quilted with my Singer treadle and King Tut Cotton in White Linen. After quilting the backgrounds and sashing, I decided the animals needed a little quilting to keep them from puckering too much after washing, so I just did some random squiggles in them. If I did this again, I'd do that differently, but I had to be careful because some of the seams were pretty thick and I didn't want to distort the design too much. The back is just a simple beige with off white dots--I didn't want too many seams, so no fun random piecing. 

Here are close-ups of some of the blocks:

Baby E was born on August 11, about a week early, but I got the quilt done just in time. I'm hoping that when he's a little older, he will have fun walking his little toy people around on the "zoo paths" to see the animals. 

I'm linking up with crazy mom quilts Finish it up Friday today. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fall on the wall

Now that there's a tinge of color on our burning bushes and crapapple trees, it's time to put up my fall quilt. I made this quilt in February 2013--it seems I always  make seasonal quilts at very off times--using a pattern in Ruth B. McDowell's Piecing Workshop. She is one of my favorite quilt artists. I had designed and made quilts using her techniques before, but decided that it would be a good idea to make one directly from her pattern to practice a variety of techniques (Y seams, curved seams, insets, teeny slices, etc). I challenged myself to use only fabrics, batting and thread from my stash. Here's the result:

It's about 24 1/2 by 30 inches, all scraps, with a polyester batting--I think maybe Quilt Light by Mountain Mist. I used very old cotton thread that I've been hoarding for hand quilting. It's Suisse Quilting by the American Thread Company that I bought when I first started quilting many years ago. Sadly, it's no longer made. The back is leftover yardage from another project--nothing special. 
 But here's the cool part: Last fall my husband and I took a trip to Vermont to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. One day we met a couple in a parking lot while we were getting ready to hike a bit of the Long Trail. They invited us to hike a side trail that we would never have known about to a beautiful little lake. As we were hiking Sandra introduced herself as a ceramic artist and we talked a bit about her work. That night I found her website on the internet and found out that she lived just a little way from the cabin we were staying at. I contacted her about buying some of her work, and she invited us to see her studio. While we were there, she mentioned that she was closing out her line of buttons, and I ended up buying what she had left. Anyway, some of those buttons were just the right color and texture to embellish my quilt, so now my fall quilt has become a memory quilt of our trip and the gracious couple who invited us to see a hidden gem on a hike. I used seven of the buttons on the quilt, and have lots more to use. Lately, I've been making quilts for babies who can't have buttons on them, but I have some quilts started that will be perfect for some embellishment. 

If you are interested in seeing some of Sandra's beautiful work click here. She also has an Etsy site with whimsical ornaments. 

Today I'm linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Neverending WIP

Back in 2012, we had a winter of mild weather and almost no snow. In January, my husband and I took a walk on the bike trail of a nearby park and I took some videos. Later I decided to make a quilt to remember the day based on a clip of a picture of this tree. I pieced it by machine using a freezer paper technique and have been hand quilting it ever since, usually when I'm on vacations away from home. It's getting there slowly but hasn't been easy, partly because my threads blend in with the fabric and are hard to see. I've had to pack extension cords and light bulbs so I can sort of see what I'm doing in motels. The best place to work on it is outside. The good news is that it's almost done. I have just the background trees and about 2/3 of the path to go. Maybe it will be ready to hang by winter--and just maybe it will bring back a mild winter unlike what we had last year. I'll post the details of my process when it's done. 
And here's my other WIP this week--something a little more modern. 

My granddaughter needs a bedspread for her new big girl bed. I had left over fabrics from her baby quilt, which I think I will cut into charm size and put together with sashing. Yesterday I stopped by one of my favorite quilt shops, just to look at what might work, and THEY WERE HAVING A SIDEWALK SALE that I didn't even know about. I found these yummy gray and white fabrics that will be just right with the gray walls in her bedroom. Time to get the rotary cutter out. (The flyer about the sale was in my mailbox when I got home.)

I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts WIP Wednesday today. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Baby L's City Traffic Quilt

When the October/November 2012 issue of Quilters Newletter came out with the City Traffic Pattern by Pam Rocco, I knew immediately that I wanted to make it, so when we found out my nephew's family was expecting a baby boy, I got to work. This pattern was so much fun to work on--kind of liberated piecework, but it can be more structured, too, if you want to do it that way. I decided to change the setting a bit. Pam's quilt had three rows of vehicles set vertically. I wanted four rows (two lanes of traffic each way) without it getting too big, so I set them horizontally, which actually makes her quilt horizontal (kind of) and mine vertical if you get what I mean. Hard to explain, but you'll see what I mean if you look at her pattern. 

Before I planned the colors, I looked for some car fabric for the back and picked On Track by P&B textiles. Then I sorted through my stash to find solids to coordinate. Fun, fun, fun, and my sewing room looked like a fabric explosion while I picked through everything. I bought a light gray fabric with some sketchy lines for the background and a darker gray for the sashes and borders. 

The finished rows were 6 inches high and the sashes were 5 inches (I think) with outer borders 6 inches (maybe?) Finished size was probably a little over 45 by a little over 50. When I make quilts, I figure out yardage and block sizes and other things on scrap paper that ends up who knows where when I'm done. Then, if I ever want to make a quilt of the same design, I have to start all over--WHY DO I DO THAT?? (This blog is supposed to make me keep better track, so I hope to do better in the future.)

I used leftovers to extend the backing fabric and used backing fabric for the binding, which is machine sewed since I figure it will get washed a lot. I used Quilter's Dream Cotton Select for batting and meandered quilted on my treadle with Superior King Tut Cotton in Temple. 

I got the quilt done just in time for L's birth on August 7. I picture him when he's a little older racing his toy cars around the borders.